Work-Life Performance: What DOESN'T get measured get's priority.  

by Gary Xavier, Founder & Workforce Designer - The Blade Group LLC - Former Marine Sniper

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
— Confucius

Metrics!  I almost regret the day I learned this term.  Data! Scoreboard! KPI! These terms used to be reserved for nasa engineers and the vegas sports book.  Now it is reserved for how you count calories, play video games and make babies.  If you don’t beleive me, ask a couple trying to have a baby; I bet they have an application on their smart phone that notifies them the moment the female begins menstruating.  Yep, data has infiltrated baby making!  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that tracking performance is critical, but I believe the business world, specifically, has positioned metrics to measure only economic performance.  What we’ve learned is that economic performance is at times disconnected with human performance.  In this post, we are going to explore how the most vital parts of your life are not only measured, but how they should be given a top slot in your priority list.  This is a perspective on performance.  

If you have read one traditional management book or received a traditional MBA, you’ve heard two main phases regarding modern business leadership, “what gets measured gets managed” and “the only focus of a CEO is shareholder value.”  These phrases were inspired by two men, Peter Drucker and Jack Welch.  Thanks to these men, we have “managed” to create a work culture that focuses mainly on data performance and not human performance.  I call this environment the inspiration holocaust. A holocaust refers to the mass destruction or devastation of a population.  I know this sounds a little dramatic, but allow me to pose a hypothesis to help solve this problem:


IF the most vital drivers of human performance aren’t driven by economic metrics, THEN could we build a better work-life environment if it is designed around human metrics? Said another way, could we align our work with what matters most to us in our personal lives?


I have spoken with many salespeople, CEOs and business leaders and when you dig deeper, these men and women attribute success to things far beyond the metric world.  These leaders live in the inspired world.  They live to be moved and see meaning.  Sir Richard Branson recently wrote a list of 10 tips for success. The majority of the tips have nothing to do with measurable methods for success.  They have to do with adventure, family, love and service.  Marc Bennioff, CEO of Salesforce, the world’s most innovative company for 4 years in a row, started his company based on a moment of inspiration during a swim with dolphins.  What metric covers this moment for Marc Bennioff?  Nothing!  He lives in the inspired world.  To him, Metrics are the method to bring inspiration and vision to the tangible world.  To Marc Bennioff, metrics are a secondary thought.  Marc Bennioff let’s his human performance be driven by the inspired world.  Metrics merely serve as an indicator of dream execution.  

To further illustrate this point, on the Salesforce blog, Marc Benioff lists the three success factors of Salesforce.

  1. A visionary product line

  2. Empowering employees through the V2MOM (vision, values, methods, obstacles, metrics) process

  3. Allowing employees to help shape the company vision

Metrics are mentioned once and they are the last part of the V2MOM process.  Vision is first, second and last.  Let me restate that, “vision is first, second and last.”  Tell me the KPI for vision? There isn’t one.  Above is Salesforce’s 1999 V2MOM for your eyes’ pleasure:

To illustrate how bad this inspiration holocaust has become, the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study where researchers recorded cortisol levels in adults at work and at home.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone released in response to stress.  This is our fight or flight hormone.  The researchers found that we are actually more stressed at home then at work.  Believe it or not, this is worse in single adults.  Wait, what?! Much of my work is targeted at the idea that our work environments are wrong, but this would suggest that our work environments make our lives better and personal life simply stresses us out.  If this is so, why does anyone get married, fall in love, have children, etc.?  We should just work and avoid going home.  Problem solved.  It’s not that simple.  I believe this study indicates general lack of awareness in what I call, work-life performance.

Marc Benioff, Richard Branson, Ray Dalio, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim are all billionaires and they live a life of work-life performance.  Work-life performance gives priority to the areas of our lives that often go unmeasured.  These individuals sign away the majority of their wealth to charity through Warren Buffet’s, “The Giving Pledge.”  These individuals, create foundations with their partners.  These individuals live in the same home for over 30 years and drive themselves to work.  These people are work-life performance aware.  And to be a work-life performer, you need to see performance beyond your work environment.  Let’s look beyond the work mothership.  

The subtitle of this blog is “What DOESN’T get measured gets priority.”  I did not say, “What doesn’t get measured, stays unmeasured.” Whether you know it or not, you’re being measured away from the office.  Especially if you have a family.  Try calculating the diminishing returns for continued poor attendance of little Johhny’s baseball games.  Enough errors and your daddy hubby trust capacity is shot to zero.  But who measured this?  Little Johnny?  Your spouse?  The tan and slightly flirtatious coach? They all do?  The only difference is that Johnny and your spouse value this differently than you do.  They consider your presence a priority and therefore, it becomes measured.  You did not sign a contract.  There was no product launch meeting discussing the milestones or the measures for onboarding or implementation, but you are expected to perform.  Try not flushing the toilet a couple weeks in a row or forgetting to take out the trash for the same period.  Before you know it, your domestic hubby index just shot to zero.  Try refusing to have sex with your spouse when they are giving you “the signs” they want to.  Sure, you get some sleep, but your spouse is running the numbers and adding up the errors until she asks the mission critical question, “Do you love me anymore?”  In work terms this means, is our partnership still delivering value.  Work-life performance for married people is designed for you to become the best version of yourself for your spouse.  Not for you.  When you begin to realize you are under the microscope and begin performing watch how loving and caring your spouse or children begin to treat you.  If this were a job, they may have fired you by now, but they love you at home and will always give you another chance.  Don’t worry single people, I didn’t forget you.  I you didn’t forget you.

What about single people?  Single people are experiencing higher amounts of stress hormones at home than married couples with kids according to the same University of Pennsylvania study?  This blows my f-ing mind not to mention the mind of all single, and married people.  The truth is, when you’re left alone, you become the only measure of what you do and what you’re not doing.  You beat on yourself more than anyone.  You won’t give yourself a break.  Now, I believe in having expectations, but I’d rather live through appreciation.  Single people are expected by non-single people to all their “free” time to live life on their terms.  This is what unhappy married people miss and what single people fear losing.  The problem is, you have something to look forward to, not something to lose.  For single people, work-life performance is only attained through stated performance goals in areas besides work.  Join a meetup for canvas painters, go be an Ironman, volunteer at the local fire department, brew your own beer, etc.  Work-life performance for the single person is about maximizing your desire for variety.  This way you become ready to take the next step by performing for someone beyond yourself.  The good news for single people is now you have something to strive for and married people no longer need to reminisce on their long lost single life.  You are both expected to perform.  Single people should perform for readiness and married people should perform for endurance.  

When you start experiencing the world as a work-life performer, you begin to open your data world to the inspired world.  This is when your best ideas flow.  Don’t be misguided by the popular term, work-life balance.  It is a loser.  Balance, itself requires an equal distribution.  I’m talking about each segment getting a heavy dose of your vigilance and effort.  Balance isn’t talking about efficiency.  Balance isn’t talking about fulfillment.  Balance suggests less effort, less vigilance, less of everything...all for “balance.”  Performance suggests that you should strive for world class status.   You will know when you are a work-life performer when you start changing a diaper with the same detail and efficiency you use during a sales presentation.  Performance doesn’t always mean crushing the competition or giving maximum effort.  If you meditate, performance in this category requires ultimate relaxation, vigilance and openness.  Take the environment and then judge the kind of performance you need to give you it.  

I believe three seasons drive human beings to perform beyond their known capacity:  survival, achievement and love.  These can occur in both our work and personal lives.  These can both ignite and stunt growth.

Survival - Fall/Winter
This environment you hope to avoid, but will come across this at some point.  This is a true economic hardship, health threat or dangerous situation.  People tend to rise or be crushed by this.  Prisoners of war, natural disasters, school shootings, sudden death, company failure and lost in the wilderness experiences fall into this environment.

Achievement - Spring
This environment provides us activities that further our growth as human beings.  These activities give us purpose and intensity because of their intense focus.  When you know the goal is attainable, it is very difficult to see a human not go for it when they have the right support structure.  Political office, promotion, gold medal, fitness, business idea or degree fall into this environment.

Love - Summer
This is the environment that gives our lives meaning.  If you’ve been in love, you know that you deprive yourself of sleep, creativity goes through the roof and all elements of life become more beautiful.  This occurs only when you see someone more important than yourself and you strive to be better for them.  A best friend, lover, spouse, parent or power mentor falls into this category.

1.  Have a set of rules & track it
Every great leader from George Washington and Ben Franklin to Gandhi had a list of rules to live by.  Ben Franklin went a step further and actually created a chart to track his 13 virtues in his autobiography.  Ben Franklin desired what he called, “moral perfection.”

Our family has created a sheet that we keep on our pantry door.  The chart tracks 7 categories: spiritual, family, fitness, career, intellectual, social and financial.  The sheet broken down into monthly and weekly tasks in each category.  The chart also lists our family mission statement, which is in accordance with our moral virtues of Honor, Courage and Commitment.  This form may or may not work for you.  We are going to adjust this to include our virtues in some way for 2015.  Regardless, you need some rules. You need a true north for all aspects of your life not just work.  

2.  Close loop your daily work and life 
It is no secret that many of the most successful athletes and business people share how they open their day, but you rarely hear about how they close their day.  Closed loops exist everywhere around us.  The very rising and setting of the sun is a closed loop.  Let the image of the rising and setting sun be a good visual for your start and finish line everyday.  

Ben Franklin opened and closed his day with two questions.  “What good shall I do today?”  and “What good have I done today?”  Bring closure to both your personal life and work life each day, so you can assess whether or not you are performing in each area.  

I open my day with two things I am grateful for and I close my day with two new things I am grateful for.  When it comes to work,  I have embraced the top 3 list from Tim Ferris to help shape my work day.  I simply use Apple Reminders and load 3 items that I can get done that day the evening before.  That way when I start working, I know what to get to work on.  I close loop my email.  I check at 10am and 2pm.  This has taken practice, but I have it down to a science now.  My inbox is never overflowing like it used to (so long 2,000 unread messages).  I have informed most clients and vendors that if they contact me after 2pm, they won’t hear from me until 10am the next day, so if they have an emergency, they better call.  

The art of work-life performance is to develop a ritual of seeking growth opportunities.  This works for the single sales person who likes sailing on the weekends or for the married executive who has to give equal performance to her work role and her mommy/wife role.  You will not nail this everyday for the rest of your life, but if you can embrace the change most of the time, then you’ll begin to reshape your habits.  Start with these two steps.  Do not throw in details yet.  Just make a list of rules and then close loop your day. Don't join the inspiration holocaust.  Live in the inspired world.  You never know, maybe you'll be swimming with dolphins and get an idea.  Hopefully, the idea is shout for a damn life vest.  I’ll leave you with this:

The status quo sucks.
— George Carlin