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High Satisfaction Days TM: Leading Indicators of Results
By John Heymann

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Have you ever timed baking cookies using the kitchen smoke detector instead of a timer? When the smoke alarm goes off, you certainly know the cookies are done, it's just that the information isn't very helpful at that point. That's an example of what economists call a "Lagging Indicator". While most successful organizations use performance measures to gauge results, the majority of the measures they employ — financial reports, sales results, 360 reviews — are lagging indicators. That is, they tell you with some accuracy how you did, but not until after the fact.

Organizations working on making an impact need to develop some "Leading Indicators" of performance, those things that give clues that current actions will bring some desired result in the future.  For social ventures, identifying leading indicators that are appropriate, meaningful, and don't unintentionally mis-direct effort in a way that contradicts core values can be especially difficult.

To answer that challenge for NewLevel Group, we developed a performance measurement we call "High Satisfaction Days"TM, or "HSD"TM.   HSDsTM are completely subjective. They're hard to define, because they're different for everybody, and can be different each time they are experienced. But you'll know a High Satisfaction DayTM when you have one because, at the end of the day, you pump your fist and think, "Yes — this was a great day!"  And in a high-performance environment, that's especially gratifying, because the achievement is determined by the individual, rather than by a manager or a quota set by someone else.

At NewLevel Group our culture is well-defined and we have strong values that we believe, if nurtured, will yield exceptional results (we already have some bottom-line evidence of the effect). Our core values include commitment, collaboration and, especially, a focus on results. We find that the things that trigger an HSDTM generally stem from paying attention to those values. Therefore, the greater number of HSDsTM experienced, the stronger our culture becomes, leading to increased performance (results).

HSDsTM are touchy-feely, which makes most business-types nervous, but it's really meant as a check for more than just "happiness". The commitment and collaboration values demand (and engender) a high-trust culture, and an HSDTM type of metric draws attention to the individual's own drive and success without requiring a subjective management judgment, so it removes a lot of the frustration professionals often feel at having their performance judged by others. Smart people don't need to be controlled, they need to be in an environment where they feel valued and respected so they can make a difference while being successful. It's never been more important to recognize that as a manager, if you have smart employees, your job is not to motivate them — it's to not de-motivate them.

And in a world that's dominated by hard, objective calculations, perhaps what we need are more insights into humanistic management measures instead of just considering the numbers.

John Heymann, CEO of NewLevel Group, has more than 30 years experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, and leader. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Managing Director of the Land Trust of Napa County, and Chief Executive Officer of Motto Kryla & Fisher, John is well known for his ability to work with disparate groups to gain consensus and deliver results. John can be reached at 707-255-5555 x105, or

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