Embracing the Red

Company Progress

The Key to Company Progress

It seems that “progress” has been the defining word of the past decade. We’ve seen companies skyrocket in the wake of a devastating recession, and American innovation on the rise. With all of this progress around, you can’t help but wonder about the key to such success. How can you lead your company into the future? The answer is not all that new. The key to driving an organization forward is in the way you identify and respond to problem areas.

Every organization has some way to track performance–metrics, dashboards, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and Stoplight Charts, to name a few. They measure areas such as sales, profits, delivery, and quality. While these tools display results in a wide variety of ways, the basic foundation remains the same. They all show where a company is in relation to where it is supposed to be. Many of these performance tools code the results with green, yellow, and red. Simple enough! It is natural to want to see all green when looking at performance metrics. It means you did a good job. Who doesn’t like to hear that? The problem is the way that people respond to red. Red means “bad,” “stop,” and “MAYDAY! MAYDAY!” When it comes to feedback, red is the enemy.

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We can all recall a time in school when we received poor marks on a test or assignment–when something we worked hard on was returned littered in red ink. Whatever the cause of the bad grade (challenging material, lack of preparedness, distraction), we failed to deliver our best work. Similarly, when we see red on a performance dashboard at work, we are hit with the reality that our organization can and should be better.

It is no surprise that feelings of failure can elicit unsavory reactions out of members of a team or organization. When someone’s work is on trial, the tendency is to go on the defense. People blame poor performance on other team members or offer up excuses as to why it was sub par. It also is common to criticized the review itself as unfair in the hopes that the bar will be lowered to allow for better outcomes next review cycle. It goes without saying that THIS IS NOT PRODUCTIVE. .

What do top leaders do when they are faced with “the red?” How can you start to embrace it, and tackle “red areas” effectively?

Start by changing the way you interpret red. Leaders–at least the really good ones–know not to take performance metrics personally. The reason for performance measurements is not to give a company-wide slap on the wrist, but rather to call attention to areas that need work. You are offered a chance to learn from failure and address critical issues you face as an organization. When it comes to performance metrics:

RED ≠ “Bad job” but rather RED = “Requires attention. Take action!” 

Take action with an emotionally neutral approach to “red areas.” When you focus on the problem instead of your emotions, you can handle issues systematically and intentionally. Relish the opportunity for improvement that comes with the “red areas.” Tackle your “red areas” instead of running away from them, and you can begin to change systems, increase efficiency, and progress as an organization.

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When you fall short of target DON’T:
• Get defensive
• Give excuses
• Point fingers


• Take accountability
• Focus effort on “red areas”
Take action!

The best leaders out there recognize that change is necessary and take action to make things better. Become the leader your organization needs by spotting areas where progress can be made and taking initiative every day to drive your business in the right direction.

Key Take Aways: Track performance, set the bar high, work hard, and use shortfalls as opportunities to improve! Let’s do this!

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Does your organization need leaders who can “embrace the red” and lead the charge towards progress? Get the training you need from the experts at Conversion-omics.

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Brian Gora

Brian Gora Conversion-omics Keynote Speaker, Consultant, & Trainer

Brian is an energetic, engaging, and deeply genuine speaker who combines nearly 40 years of military aviation experience and a career as a Fortune 500 global senior executive to inspire all levels of leaders to be the best they can be. Throughout his career, Brian witnessed firsthand what happens when leaders fail and he uses his substantial real-life experience to fuel his passion for leadership development and strategic business improvement.

Contact Conversion-omics to see how Brian Gora can help your organization!

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