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How Do You Measure Your Success When You Are No Longer a “Do-er”?

This week’s topic comes from a theme that has bubbled up from my clients the past couple weeks. They want to know: How do I measure my value if I’m no longer the “do-er” in the organization?


The transition from being is a challenge for many, and it applies whether we are talking about work or home, although being a do-er at home has an interesting twist. 


The challenge is that when we go from producing something tangible to managing the people who are doing the producing, it can be difficult for some to see what their value is. Add on top of that this idea that if they don’t know how to measure their value, how are they supposed to know whether or not they are successful? Nevermind that we are taught most of our lives that hard work leads to success, and that “hard work” = producing something. As people grow in an organization, they are less likely to be do-ers and more likely to be talkers. Their work happens in meetings and conversations, and it’s hard to gauge their success on a daily basis. Over time, certainly, they can see whether their teams are producing, but on a daily basis, success can seem ambiguous. 


It is common for new managers to continue to try to do or to try to stay in the weeds because that is where they are comfortable, but at some point it becomes necessary to delegate, let go and teach people to fish instead of doing it for them. 


To make the transition requires an overhaul about how you think about work. Simple, right? Here are some questions that I ask that might help you think about it differently. And keep reading, I’ll also provide the home life spin on it. 


Making the Transition from Doing  

  1. Instead of measuring success according to a to-do list, think about what impact you want to have on the people you interact with. Do you want them to feel confident, inspired, empowered, chastised, challenged, or defeated when the interaction is over? (There are more options than these, of course.)

  2. Who do you need to BE in order to have this kind of impact? This might take some thinking and reflection. What helps you BE this kind of person? Currently, what is the impact you have? Be honest. 

  3. On a scale of 1-10, how close are you to BEing the kind of person you want to be?

  4. What would need to happen to move  your impact up by 1 point?  For example, if the impact you want to have is to empower your people and you give yourself a 6, what could you try to move from a 6 to a 7? It’s really important to focus on what YOU can try that is different and that you focus on moving only one point. Otherwise, you set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. 

  5. Track your progress. For each day (or for a particular meeting/conversation), identify who you want to BE and what impact you want to have. Write it down or put it in phone notes. 

  6. At the end of the day, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. How close did you get? 

  7. More importantly, what did you learn about yourself and about the other person(s)? 


Being a “Do-er” at home 


Home is weird. What does success look like? What is valued? Sometimes the things we value and prioritize are not the same things valued by the others in the household. And talk about long-term impact. How do you measure that? The questions above still apply. 


But rather than pretending like I understand your particular situation, I’m going to share a story. I’ve been working with someone who shows her love by doing things for her son: cleaning up his room or doing his laundry. Hounding him to make sure he remembers X, Y, Z. Helping him look for his lost keys, phone, you name it. She wants his life to go smoothly, and so she takes care of all these things. 


But they are not valued by him, and when she nags him to remember his laundry, keys, phone, etc., he is annoyed and snaps at her because he feels criticized. 


So I asked what kind of relationship she wanted to have with him. And she wants connection, she wants him to share what’s going on in his life with her. She does not want bickering, and so she became willing to try a different approach. 


Here’s the experiment she tried. She didn’t do his laundry and didn’t clean up his room before she left for work. She got to work a good 15 minutes earlier with less stress. When he ran out of clothes, he did his laundry. 


She also realized that most of their interactions are about doing — and that how she asks him those questions tends to be critical. “Why don’t you take your sweaty gym clothes out of your workout bag?” “Why didn’t you put your dishes in the dishwasher?” By focusing on the things he wasn’t doing, she missed the things he was doing for her, like taking out the garbage without being asked. The impact her interactions had on him were that he felt criticized and got defensive and mouthy. And more withdrawn. 


It was painful for her to see and admit that her focus on “doing” as a way to love her son were having the opposite effect, but she was willing to be honest. Is she going to change overnight? Of course not, which is why it’s important not to expect yourself to go from a 6 to a 10. 



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