How Keeping Score Gives You a Winning Edge

How Keeping Score Gives You a Winning Edge

One of the principle reasons a team is successful, beyond having top talent onboard, is that they keep score….and not just on the fields of play, whatever they may be.  Each day, they maintain a compelling scoreboard that predicts the future and provides measures for adjusting performance and changing tactics that they may be a little better, a little faster, and a lot smarter each day.

Almost every thing is a competition.  In sports, we keep score on the board and in player statistics – especially in setting records.  As a former NCAA D-1 athlete, I remember it well.  We all have a credit score; those of us with kids know our student’s GPA; we play games on our phones, board games at home and might even know our ranking on Waze; some will brag about their IQ or a top score on the Wunderlic test, but, more importantly, we need to know our EQ;  we might know our LDL and HDL, our bone density and BMI, our blood pressure, carbon footprint, and net worth; we measure customer retention and profitability, clout (likes, views, followers) on social media, Q scores for brands, and Z scores for standardization.

As consumers, we give star ratings on the books we read, the movies we see, the websites we visit, the apps we use, the hotels we sleep in, the stores we shop at, the restaurants where we dine, and we rank the music we listen to….While the range and significance of each score and measurement is diverse, one thing remains true – everyone and everything is measured and ranked.

The question of whether we should or should not be keeping score is simply naïve.  Case in point: a few years back, a friend of mine took a VP role at a $100MM company that was not ranking individual sales reps’ performance and consistently missed sales goals.  They were an old-school, Midwest, conservative firm that didn’t want to offend.  Well, offend they did, as in, taking the offense!  And, while so much was done to improve the performance of the sales team there, keeping score ranked tops in impact.  The entire company looked forward to the rankings, and representatives worked hard to be out front.  Those who weren’t did everything they could to move up in the pack….And the company, for the first time in its history, hit consecutive above goal quarters and its first year above plan in five.

Yet, this is not a public service announcement about the merits of keeping a tally of runs and having a winner in little league or even on NASDAQ scoreboards.  Instead, let’s shine a bright light on the importance of keeping our own routine measurements of performance. Begin by highlighting the philosophical importance of keeping score – the why.  It is quite simple.  Performance that gets measured gets improved.  Performance that gets measured and published consistently, gets improved consistently.  The purpose, therefor, is to improve.

When it comes to the goals you set and the plans you have made during this year, how you have executed on those plans determines where you are right now.  Today, you are in one of three positions against those goals:

Ahead – Exceeding Expectations, the one real standard of performance

Behind – you have missed the mark somewhere and are losing.

Tied – on target, or good enough.

In its purest form, keeping score is a behavior modification system which allows you to inspect results over a period of time.  You must know how you are doing against the goals and milestones at all times, and keeping score and inspecting performance is the only discipline that allows you to know exactly what you are looking for before you even see it.

This world is filled with non-achievers who feel good intentions and great ideas are as important as remarkable results.  These people operate with the naïve perspective effort and vision are to be as highly valued as accomplishment.  They count their hours at work as badges of honor, regardless of output; then speak in  breathless frustration about how unappreciated their efforts seem to be.  However, ask them to name just one meaningful, impactful result they have delivered in the last month, and they are apt to give you a blank stare.  They can Regale you with the laundry lists of their good intentions, and yet they cannot point to one measurable, Needle moving result.  Even worse, they may not even understand why results matter, as long as they are putting in the time and display great will.

On the other hand, high achievers are intensely interested in delivering momentous results and keep an ongoing scorecard of their performance.  Change is inevitable, and without measuring results routinely and anticipating change, they know growth will become stunted. 

We get what we inspect and measure, not just what we expect.   Being clear on the score as often as possible is the key to improving performance and Exceeding Expectations.  Keeping score is not an expenditure of time as much as it actually expands time by helping you maintain a clear focus on what matters.  Using time properly through regular inspection prevents burning it through neglect, which is the greatest form of performance abuse.

To maintain a winning edge and fast track your goals, you must keep your eye on the scoreboard.  Inspection has a dual purpose.  It first tells you where you are in relation to where you want to be.  Second, it tells you about your skill in execution, and more importantly, where it needs to be improved.  You need to know if the actions you are taking are going to get you where you want to go…

It is important to acknowledge, applause and amplify those actions that are driving you toward your desired results as it is to identify and eradicate those that do not.  The best time to acknowledge Expectations is the moment you set the plan.  That way, you know the rules of the game and can evaluate the performance requirements before you even commit.

A regular inspection process is the only thing you can do to reinforce the predetermined performance standards set at the beginning.  Done correctly, it will make you aware of your performance gaps, and it is this area you will focus on to achieve the results you are driving toward.  The cold finger in the eye truth is this:  no scoreboard = no wins,…but definitely losses.

A scoreboard is your report card and tells you and the world how you are advancing, or not, against your goals.  If you find yourself ever falling short, be mindful keeping score is vitally important, and even more so for those times you are not crushing it.


Failure is so often a better teacher than success.  Every important lesson you learn in life is the gift given you in losing, missing Expectations, and of having to get back up when knocked down.  Losing at sports, failing a test, bankruptcy in business, losing friendships, losing a job…these are some of the greatest teachers of lessons in humility, integrity, duty, sacrifice, setting proper expectations, having uncomfortable conversations sooner than later, how to be a better friend, a better leader, a better business partner, a better family member, and most importantly, a better human being.  Losing – the taste, feeling and stench of it – will also show you how to win humbly, when that is earned. 

Let’s get ready to really win the rest of the year by asking ourselves these things today:

  1. S – Status:  How am I doing relative to the goals I set at the beginning of the year?
  2. C – Critical Measures:  Am I winning, losing or up and on plan?
  3. O – Optimize:  What behavior and strategies need to be amplified to increase the pace of forward progress?
  4. R – Remove:  What behaviors or strategies must be Eliminated today!?
  5. E – Engage:  What am I committed to doing differently to get back on track and stay above plan, right now?
  6. Now, take decisive action!  Really decisive
  7. Examine your performance deeply, daily.
  8. Evaluate your results honestly. 
  9. Deal directly with facts, not perspectives. 
  10. Make the appropriate changes, then outperform the rest of the year. 

Engage in this score keeping discipline on a consistent basis and watch your performance soar! 

If you are a leader, where you’ve been measuring and find it is time to change or expand the team, we are ready to help.  As a full service executive talent firm with experience leading sales, marketing and recruiting teams ourselves, we know what you need and will provide a great match for your company. We talk the talk and know how to keep score on all the important metrics in sourcing highly skilled talent to ensure your ongoing and growing success.  Contact me today,, for guidance in your next search.


Adapted from the 100 Day Challenge

Gary Ryan Blair