When my brother, sister and I were growing up our dad encouraged us to be what he called “mudders”. By mudders he meant being people who were willing to get down in the mud and do the hard work. Every time I heard him say the word mudder I’d have this mental picture of wearing overalls, putting on big rubber boots, and digging a ditch after it rained.
In addition to valuing hard work I believed part of my dad intention was to help us understand that no work was beneath us, even manual, dirty labor, if it adds value to the lives of others.
These two complimentary attitudes – valuing hard work and believing no good work is ever below us – speaks to people at every level in an organization because every job has boring, menial and mundane parts to it. If we approach these parts of our jobs as mudders it encourages us to do this work with both timeliness and quality, and it keeps us from allowing the boring work to drag us down.
Being a mudder is especially critical in customer focused organizations. Because at any given moment one of our staff members can be asked by a customer (they don’t usually care about title and position) for assistance that requires manual or menial work. And of course outstanding customer service requires that staff be willing, with a sincere smile, no matter the job, to help the customer.
More importantly, as leaders, when we’re willing to be mudders, we set an example for everyone in the organization. If we embrace doing the purposeful but menial and dirty work as much as the exciting and challenging work, we help those we lead also become mudders. And a team of mudders doing all the necessary work, including the menial, dirty and mundane jobs assures that all organization’s work gets done and done well.43.928283-85.286682
Recently I meet with a CEO of a large publicly traded company. I was seeking input from her about how she effectively leads a fast growing and changing organization in hopes of applying what I learned from her in my leadership context. At one point we moved to discussing the essential nature of measuring the right things. That is when she said “you move what you measure”.
Then she shared one example of a simple behavioral change her company wanted to make with a key group of their business partners – improved timeliness of monthly reporting – and how, by simply adding on-time reporting as a measurement to their weekly scorecard, they drastically improved performance in this area.
So the question is – why does something as simple as measurement change behavior?
First, measurements provide feedback and, as social science has clearly demonstrated, feedback is essential for any behavior change. Secondly, by choosing to measure something you’re also communicating it’s importance to the organization. And this is important because people want to do meaningful work that aligns with the values and the priorities of their organization.
Finally, there’s one other bit of advice this CEO had about measurements. She said that it’s important to pick only a handful of measurements because, as humans, we can only focus on a small number of things at one time. So when we measure to many things the measurements looses their power to change behavior.
I’m thankful for this part of our discussion because it affirmed one of the important components of leading the SpringHill way that I shared with our leadership this winter – “what gets measured is what gets done” or as this CEO stated “you move what you measure”. And because we value getting things done, especially the right things, measuring them is an absolutely essential practice that SpringHill leaders prioritize, value, assure happens.43.928283-85.286682