Andy: Today we’re going to talk about one of our favorite things: scorecards. Scorecards spell out what makes something right. They provide clarity and alignment.
Emma: A scorecard is also just a list — but then again, I often feel like the lists of my life are sacred texts.
Andy: We did not invent this concept. In school, it’s a rubric. In marketing, it’s brand parameters. Who knows what they call it in engineering.
Emma: I’ll ask my dad.
Andy: To make a scorecard, you simply list out the things that make something successful. If I was making a scorecard for the best chocolate-chip cookie, mine would say “crispy on the edges, doughy in the middle” and “no nuts.”
After you do the thing — give a speech, hold a meeting, go on a date, bake your cookies — you look at your list and answer: Did I do it, yes or no?
It does not sound like magic. In fact, it sounds pretty dumb.
Emma: It sounds extremely dumb, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do it, and then struggle hideously trying to be successful.
In one of my very first agency jobs, I was writing ad copy for a cosmetics company. I had a brand book and a creative brief and a file full of pictures of women with flawless skin. I also had no clue what I was writing toward. At each review I got some new and disparate feedback: Not sophisticated enough! Needs more joy! It just doesn’t feel right! I assumed I was just bad at writing copy.
I had a very similar feeling when I started managing, only instead of churning through a thesaurus for another word for “dewy,” I was scrambling to be approachable. (Or was I supposed to be authoritative?) And this time, there was no one telling me when I guessed right.
When I look back now, I can still feel that panicky self-doubt. And I can so clearly see the problem: In both instances, we had never defined what “right” was. That’s what a scorecard does.
Andy: Totally, we even made a scorecard for The Bent! We’re using it right now!
The Bent’s Scorecard
We created this scorecard when we first started The Bent. We knew what we wanted our content to be, even if we weren’t quite sure how it was going to come to life. Now, whenever we write an edition of the newsletter, or want to try something new, we can evaluate it against each point of our scorecard. Does this newsletter give useful tools for today and goals for the long term? Is it funny, and remind you that you’re not alone? We keep track of our scores in a spreadsheet.
Emma: Once I have a scorecard, I know where I’m headed. I might not know how to get there, and I will probably make wrong turns along the way. But I have something to use to guide my actions, and then to evaluate my decisions. I literally pull up my scorecard, ask myself, “Did I do these things?” and mark each one pass or fail. I do it often — weekly, monthly, daily.
That frequency is so necessary for my getting better. Without regular check-ins, it’s like going through an entire year of calculus never receiving a grade. Sure, you read the book and you do the homework, but you never know if you ever got a right answer until you get back the final exam.
Andy: So, basically every annual performance review. Surprise! You’re a C−!
Early and often feedback relieves so much anxiety. There’s not so much work to be destroyed in one swipe of, “Nope, it doesn’t feel right.”
I use scorecards with my teams, my work, big interdepartmental projects. Every time I make one, I collaborate with people whose opinions I trust, and who have a say in what right is. There’s always editing, rewording, some prioritization changes. I love all of those changes. Imagine I hadn’t made a scorecard, but instead had completed the entire project and then learned about those changes.
Emma: The horror!
Andy: I like to match my level of joy to the amount of horror I’ve avoided.
Emma: And they’re so great for things that are small and personal, too.
Andy: Remember when that VP kept putting you on the spot in those weekly debriefs and we built you a quick How to Act in Important Meetings scorecard?
Emma: Oh man. Yes. I’d get flustered, then crabby and defensive because I wasn’t the unflappable manager I wanted to be.
Andy: So we built a scorecard on being concise and cool-headed, and then scored you after each encounter with that VP. The difference was pretty instant.
Emma: It was! The simple act of articulating that I wanted to be concise and cool-headed had a huge impact on how we prepped me for each meeting. It gave us focus and narrower parameters to Google. We could search for specific ways to give concise answers, and not wind up on some list of 25 Ways to Crush Your Next Meeting.
Andy: Also, what wasn’t on the list: Have the perfect right answer instantly. That unattainable expectation that was tripping you up needed to be told, “No, we’re not trying to be that.” There’s so much freedom in simply saying what you’re not trying to do.
Our Good Boss Scorecard
It’s made with new managers in mind! Score yourself now using a copy of our scoring spreadsheet to benchmark where you’re at today. Then, score yourself all the time: After a week of 1-on-1s, after a particularly gnarly meeting, as you’re prepping for your performance review. If you’re failing across the board, it can feel overwhelming — not to mention devastating. We’ve been there. If that’s the case, we recommend picking one or two sections to focus on at first.
I’m accessible. I listen.
- I make time to meet at regular intervals and never cancel.
- I think beyond the job today, and help my people get where they want to go.
I get results.
- My team understands our goals and what it will take to achieve those goals.
- I remove obstacles.
- I deliver what I say I’m going to deliver.
- I hire and improve great teammates.
My team can trust me.
- I show that I care deeply about the work.
- I notice good work.
- I let the people on my team know how they’re doing often.
- I provide context and share what I know.
Build Your Own Scorecard
Here’s the worksheet we use, which also includes a link showing how our Good Boss scorecard grew from a brain dump to something succinct and useable.
Good Boss Achievement Stickers: Success Edition
Celebrate your victories with our weekly set of Good Boss Achievement stickers!