Have you ever noticed the intensity difference when you play a game for fun compared to "playing for keeps"?

Our family and friends frequently play Ping-Pong in our game room. It's a fun and easy game for all ages. When the players are just warming up, you notice their relaxed stance, the slow rhythmic sound of the ball hitting each paddle, and then the brief silence after a shot is missed.

As soon as they start keeping score, there are visible changes. Each player is now slightly crouched down with eyes wide open looking straight ahead, the rhythm of the ball is faster and louder, and a missed shot is usually accompanied with an emphatic cheer or agonizing groan.

Scorekeeping generates greater intensity, better focus, more energy, and more winning shots. You can observe the same in any sport. And you can certainly observe the same dynamic on your team.

Keeping score brings out our best because we inherently like to win. You must keep score to know whether you're winning, or you can easily end up with your team being very active but not very productive.

To keep it simple, measure only what matters most. Use the 80/20 principle here. Which 20 percent of the measures tell you 80 percent of the story? Those are the measures you want to track.

Of course, if you're going to keep score, you need a scoreboard. Design a scoreboard that is simple and clear, resonates with your team, and is easy to update.

Track one or more of these performance measures to create your scoreboard:

  1. Quantity. Number of units produced, tasks completed, calls made, proposals submitted, invoices processed, etc.
  2. Quality. Completeness and accuracy in agreed-to product or service specifications.
  3. Timeliness. Hitting agreed-to deadlines or milestones.
  4. Cost. Dollar amount budgeted for a given product, service, project, process, initiative, and event.
  5. Manner of performance. Behavior, approach, and/ or attitude demonstrated while performing the task.

Your scoreboard doesn't have to be a lackluster summary of your monthly business report showing key measures. It's a chance to be creative and visual with your team. Use your scoreboard to tell a clear and compelling story in as few words and numbers as possible. Consider some of these scoreboard formats:

  •  Visual thermometer with a rising mercury line to show progress.
  • Traffic light (red, yellow, and green indicators to show if you are off-plan, slightly off-plan, or on-plan, respectively).
  • A jar of jellybeans to illustrate percentage of completion.
  • Emoticons or visual indicators, such as thumbs up/thumbs down, next to each goal. These emoticons work great for movie reviews and Facebook, so why not use them to help your team quickly see the score?
  • A picture of an actual scoreboard to keep track of number of calls made, new customers, shipments, invoices processed, response time, customer com- plaints, new hires, or whichever metrics are most important to your team.

Keeping your scoreboard updated is critical. Your scoreboard must be current to be compelling and be seen as a valid reflection of performance. Understanding what is happening on your team empowers you to adjust continually, enhance accountability, and boost results.