Weighing the pig – are you focusing on the right KPIs?

Let me tell you a brief story…

Over the years, a plethora of metrics have arisen to measure performance, and many sayings have grown up around them like ‘If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. Does this sound familiar…?

I was in a call centre recently, sitting comfortably coaching side by side with an advisor, when, out of the blue, I heard, ‘Get yourself out of wrap…your call length is too high’. A confused look followed from both the advisor and me. I noticed that there were 25 calls in queue, and the SVL had hit 48%. I could sense the manager’s stress and their desire to get the calls answered as quickly as possible. 

The manager continued, ‘Your call handling time has been high all week. I need you to get it down and quickly.’ The manager promptly walked off to tear a piece out of the next person in an adjacent team. I turned to the advisor and said, ‘How are you going to get the call length down?’ They looked back at me, hoping I would give them the answer; after a pause, they said, ‘I don’t know’. 

Therein lays the problem. Putting to one side the nature of the feedback and how it was delivered, which in itself was not great for many reasons, the manager was telling his people ‘what’ to do… but not ‘how’ to do it. The manager was transfixed by the number and output rather than the input needed to drive the number. The person needed some coaching and support around how to signpost better in the call and ask better questions. These skills would have helped reduce the amount of time they spent on the call and increased customer satisfaction.

We call this ‘weighing the pig!’

Let me explain – A farmer had a prize pig; he had to get this pig to an exact weight to be able to sell it and get the optimum price. Each day this farmer took the pig down to the market to weigh it. He would weigh the pig and see it was not yet fat enough, so he would return to the farm. The trip back and forth to the market would take three hours. He went back and did the same thing each day, at no stage changing his behaviour or approach. He was just hoping the pig had got heavier each day. At no stage did he step back and think about how he could get the pig fatter… what could he change? We call this ‘weighing the pig’. If you keep weighing the pig, it will not get any fatter by just weighing it! You have to feed the pig with the right feed and provide it with the right environment to develop and nurture it.

Feeding the pig

When someone tells you they want to give you some feedback, what’s your immediate thought? Is it ‘oh good, I’m going to hear how fabulous I am’, or ‘oh God, what have I done wrong now?’ For a majority of us, I suspect it is the latter. And when someone starts with positive feedback, I wonder how many of us are waiting for the rest of the s**t feedback sandwich to hit. Why is that? It feels like we have an epidemic of negativity throughout education and business organisations. At worst, it is negative critique; at best, it is the performance management systems that encourage people to come up with the three things you’re not doing today that you should be doing tomorrow. This focus on failure means we’ve become programmed to expect negativity dressed up as coaching or development.

It is just a conversation

Traditionally and historically, coaching has often meant a process, a meeting, away from the live workplace, away from other people, discussing performance, filling out forms and ticking boxes. Often team members can be left with a dizzying array of things to work on, clueless about where to start and demotivated….probably the very opposite of what was intended when the coaching conversation began.

Managers need to think and act in ways designed to bring out the best in whomever they encounter. That is, to spend less time scoring, critiquing, and correcting colleagues who make mistakes and to spend more time identifying and rewarding colleagues who behave the way we wish everyone would behave.

Managers who engage in relentless fault-finding can’t help but lead to a culture of bloodless execution. Managers who celebrate small signs of improvement, moments of kindness, who reward moments of human connection, and give everyone permission to look for opportunities to have a genuine human impact will succeed.

They feed the pig through coaching and support. 

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