Sports metaphors are overused in our industry and in corporate America generally, but I’m going to use one here anyway–since I don’t know a better way to express the concept of “keeping score,” and my partners have dibs on the military metaphors. Too often in our industry, people “keep score” in unhelpful–or even unhealthy–ways. If the one with the best score “wins,” then winners in our industry are most often determined by who has the best title, strikes the biggest deal, makes the highest salary, has the largest equity stake, manages the most staff, and so forth.
It’s helpful to examine how you keep score and see if it lines up with what you’re really trying to accomplish and whom you want to be as an employee, a boss, a co-worker, and a person.
These tough economic times present us all with a great opportunity to reflect on our values and our way of keeping score. Everyone needs to make money and pay the bills, and everyone hopes to have a sense of forward progress and professional growth. So it’s perfectly natural to want get that raise or that promotion or that deal you’ve been chasing. It’s also natural to want to help to create equity value and then be rewarded with a piece of that value. But blind pursuit of these superficial measures of success can ultimately contribute to failure on a more fundamental level. How? By forcing you to take a Machiavellian, ends-justify-the-means approach to the way you do business and interact with your co-workers. This can ruin rapport and–worse–break trust in a way that can be irreversible.
We’ve all seen it: Young men and women in a hurry to rise through the corporate ranks. They take shortcuts and liberties with the truth when convenient, and they place themselves and their personal goals over the common good of the company. This behavior can hurt morale and ultimately poison a corporate culture, especially when it happens at the top of an organization. And it can, and often does, undermine the very goals it’s intended to serve.
So what’s a better way to keep score? Think about your reputation. Be self aware and understand how you come across to others. Companies come and go, but reputations are often permanent. If you’re managing a team, are you instilling trust and motivating them in a way that maximizes both productivity and job satisfaction? Do the people you work with respect you? Would they work with and for you again if they have a choice? Are you building strong and durable relationships?
Also, do you like what you’re doing and the folks with whom you’re doing it? Is it fulfilling? Do you want your boss’s job? Are you on a path to get to where you want to be in one year, 5 years, 10 years? If you were told you only had a month to live, would you have any regrets? As you learn and grow as a professional, your way of keeping score should evolve with you. Is that happening for you?
These are the kinds of questions you should ask, and happy answers to these questions mean that you’re keeping score the right way.