That’s the sound of John Doerr’s bestselling book “Measure What Matters” hitting your desk, followed soon after by your boss’s voice recommending, not so gently, that you read it ASAP. Why?  Because your organization is going to be joining countless others in implementing the most powerful strategy execution methodology sweeping the globe – Objectives & Key Results, known as OKRs.  Or…so says your boss.

Is it worth it?

At that point you wonder, “Is it worth it?” Not just for the organization but for you as a leader. Should you put your most valuable resources – your time and attention – at risk for this goal setting system?

As an OKRs Consultant who has worked with hundreds of organizations world-wide, my answer to you is a resounding and confident YES!  If you want to become a better leader, OKRs are the path for you. In fact, there are at least five ways in which embracing OKRs will enhance your growth and development as a leader.  So, what is the relationship between OKRs and Leadership?  Let’s explore them each, one at a time, (this is part three in the series).

OKRs thrive on feedback

Here’s a quote from a great book on goal setting titled “Succeed” by Heidi Grant Halvorson:

It is practically impossible to reach a goal when you don’t have any sense of how well you are doing. Should you speed up? Slow down? Step up your efforts or try a new approach? You have no idea, because you’re flying blind. You might reach your goal by accident, but that is very unlikely, since without feedback your motivational system basically shuts down. When it comes to goals, your brain works on a very simple principle: reduce discrepancies – the difference between where you want to be (at your goal) and where you actually are. When your brain detects a discrepancy between them, it wants to take action to close the gap. But if there is no feedback—no information about how well you are currently doing—then there is no discrepancy to detect. So nothing happens.

Chances are, wherever you sit on the corporate hierarchy, the key results you create won’t all be owned by you, or be your responsibility to achieve. As noted earlier, execution is a team sport, and you’ll rely on others in your chain of command to drive outcomes on key results that move the needle on execution. As Halvorson notes above, what those folks will require most from you is feedback. Are they on the right track from your perspective? What do you see is working well, and what’s not working so well? How can you help them moving forward?

Not only is feedback scientifically proven to enhance the likelihood of goal achievement, people love it. No, they crave it. When you provide thoughtful, well-considered feedback to individual key result owners, or your entire team, you’re deepening your rapport, and building bonds of trust that will greatly accelerate their perception of you as a leader.

OKRs drive learning conversations

OKRs are designed to produce measurable outcomes for an organization, and there’s nothing like the sheer power of numbers to scrub away any confusion or contradiction that might exist regarding the status of a key result. However, there is a world of learning that exists beyond the realm of numbers, and entering that space opens immense learning opportunities.

The management guru Peter Drucker often noted that instead of focusing on finding the answers, leaders should commit themselves to asking better questions. OKRs foster this dialog, getting well past what the numbers are telling you to critically examine what you’ve learned during the period you were tracking the OKRs. Consider asking questions such as:

  • What did we assume going into the period? Were those assumptions validated?
  • Did the OKRs keep us focused on adding value?
  • What did we learn this period we can take into the next quarter?

It’s been said many times – organizations that accelerate their learning curve will be the winners. Using OKRs to jumpstart that process of wisdom acquisition will not only benefit the organization, but by contemplating the deeper issues your results raise you’ll be hastening your own development as an essential leader.

Paul Niven is the author of the soon to be released book OKRs For Dummies and the president of