What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) of middle management leadership? How do you tell if a leadership development program works? This can be a very difficult thing to do, because on the one hand we have the old adage: “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” On the other hand, leadership is primarily a social and interpersonal skillset, relying heavily on subjectives that defy quantitative measurement – things like trusting relationships, mutual respect, empathy, and self-awareness.
Even with access to formal behavioral evaluation tools such as DiSC, defining KPIs for your managers’ leadership abilities is not exactly simple and straightforward. However, it can still be done, or well-approximated, with a combination of creativity and intention.
Here are a few ways we have approached defining and tracking middle management leadership KPIs in the past. We hope you will find them useful as you advance through the process of developing your middle tier of managers into a cohort of high performance leaders.
Parameters of Organized Activity
Defining KPIs begins with the parameters of organized activity. This is a sophisticated-sounding phrase which really means “how you approach a group project.” That project could be a micro-project like having a focused and productive one-hour meeting. On the other side, it can also be a sweeping macro-project, like formulating a 5-year plan.
The parameters of organized activity can also be applied to the project of creating a company culture where high performance leadership is the new normal state of affairs.
We come to defining our leadership KPIs by first defining what project we are setting out to do. Define each parameter of our project in this sequence:
- Purpose – what is the team attempting to achieve?
(example: create a company culture where high performance is the new normal.)
- Goals or Objectives – what must the team accomplish in order to achieve the purpose?
(example: innovate 3 new product lines.)
- Strategy – how will the team approach the stated goals or objectives?
(example: create a task force to explore Z, establish a weekly meeting among X teams to discuss Y, pair managers with personnel for accountability duos.)
- Structure – what sort of systems and organizational structures will the team put in place in order to ensure the strategy gets carried out, and not dropped?
- Roles / Responsibilities – who is responsible for what aspects of the project?
- Operating Principles – how, or what mindsets are we emphasizing as we work?
(example: there are no mistakes, only lessons.)
Once the team has spent time getting as clear as possible on each of these six parameters for their project, they are ready to begin defining KPIs for assessing their progress.
Here is what it looks like when that project is the sort of leadership project we described earlier: creating a company culture where high performance is the new normal state of affairs.
Collect Feedback On Engagement Levels
While developing high performance leadership competency among your people, there is a way to measure progress. Here’s what we do when facilitating our Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP):
We have students in the program rate every other person on their commitment to the program, and their performance as leaders. They give feedback to each other on their experiences of each other.
While someone else’s perception of another person’s level of engagement in the leadership program is technically as subjective as it gets, when an individual gets feedback from all their team members on their level of engagement, a trend or portrait emerges. That trend or portrait is not necessary who that person is. Nonetheless it is still important, because a person gets to see themselves from the perspective of the group as a whole.
This sort of feedback can be a metric – or KPI – that students can use to compare themselves to other members of the group, and identify areas where they can apply themselves to improve.
In the program, people rate each other throughout the journey. Through feedback, the group evaluates its own performance and progress. This has proven to be a very useful KPI of learning and application.
This process must always be handled with tact and respect. If this is done, the group – and the company – benefits greatly from having a formalized process of giving and receiving feedback. Here, they are assigning a 1-10 numeric rating to the team’s shared vision, an individual’s perceived commitment to that shared vision or desired culture; it can also be feedback on if a person is moving forward or lagging for some reason.
Just make sure it is always done with tact and respect.
Set Goals And Track Progress
Another great place to track KPIs is through goal-tracking.
For example, in the ALP students may receive a goal of improving one relationship in the organization that week. It is a concrete action to take in order to achieve the more abstract goal of “building trust and mutual respect.”
Therefore, we measure if someone took so-and-so out for lunch on Tuesday, or made a point of warmly greeting everyone in the morning before jumping in to work activity.
Other goals to track could be the development of skills. Such as public speaking, or the ability to stand up and speak extemporaneously. Or the skill of negotiation. Or delivering performance reviews. An individual can rate their levels of comfort or even enjoyment as they progress. They can also receive feedback from their peers. Feedback is the most helpful when applied to skills related to presentation and public interactions.
We hope this has provided a few ideas on identifying a few KPIs around leadership in your organization. Best of luck!