Because of the massive move from office to home office due to the global Corona pandemic, leaders will have to massively shift from KPI-management to CPI-leadership if they want their teams to survive and their people to remain engaged.

In today’s world, KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are a widely known and used tool by organizations. Too often it is the only tool that leaders, or should I say managers, know and feel comfortable with when it comes to managing people. The distant and ‘objective’ KPI’s make it possible for them to easily measure their people’s performance.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with KPI’s as such! We need KPI’s so that targets can be quantified, processes followed, and the added value of actions checked in a so called logical and objective way against the expectations of the organizational strategy and the desired levels of performance.

But in the current times, where more and more millions of coworkers are obliged to work from home, probably for months and in several cases even forever, those organizations who will remain kidnapped by the diktat of KPI’s, will encounter immense issues of disengagement, distress and even personal drama of their people.

Managers – for sure those who haven’t learned yet to incarnate LovInShip, loving leadership – still far too often evaluate the quality of their people by the extent to which they reach (or fail to reach) their KPI’s. This frequently results in a transactional style of leadership, in which the KPI’s are the only yardstick. The KPIs are achieved? Fantastic, you’re great! The KPI’s are not achieved? Crisis, you’ll be out soon!

Much less (or rather too little) attention is paid to the way in which people are required to reach their KPI’s and how their leaders support and inspire them in doing so. In the coming months and probably years, leaders will have to encourage their people to step out of their comfort zone, help to reinvent themselves in how they work and inspire them in finding different ways to contribute to the achievement of the team and company success.

From an organizational dynamics and people wellbeing perspective, people need connection, bonding, trust, support and the feeling that they are contributing towards something meaningful. This is more than ever needed with those people learning to work from home and shifting from a social work environment of colleagues, peers, direct reports and leaders, to one with spouses, children, pets and in some case parents or other family members. I believe that you cannot accomplish this through a KPI-focus alone. If we are right in this assumption, KPI’s actually become an obstacle to human well-being and business success.

I therefore advise all leaders who care for their people and who are conscious of getting the things done in the ‘right’ way, to build their team and/or organizational culture around CPI’s: Caring for People Indicators. Caring for people is what really matters in this new way of digital working. These indicators measure how much leaders care about their people as people and not simply as ‘human assets’ doing a target-filled transactional job, now no longer in the office but at home. How much attention do leaders pay to their people’s well-being in the new work environment, to their expectations to be treated as normal human beings in all circumstances, with their – probably increased – uncertainties, doubts and fears in these VUCA times, and the complexity of having to combine work and home? By using CPI’s, such as regular motivational check-ins, inspiring performance conversations, showing gratitude for the things done well, genuinely asking how they are dealing with doubts and fears, leaders create a basis for support, demonstrate engagement, and focus their leadership on what is human, rather than on processes and results. CPI-driven leadership allows to build the foundations of a culture that will help people to extend their personal boundaries by allowing them to explore and exploit their potential, which will encourage them to release their maximum work energy. This will lead to significantly improved performance, even in very challenging post Covid-19 times with important expectations to adapt.

To benefit from this boost in positive work energy, energy which ensures that the right things are done in the right manner, leaders first need to adopt a new style of leadership: LovInShip, in which the KPI-focus is subordinated to a CPI-focus. What’s more, this change will also ensure that KPI’s become more sustainably achievable, because people will feel more engaged by and committed to their work. Why? Because engagement and commitment are generated through human interaction and appreciation, not by a ‘command and control’ approach in which power and hierarchical position are more important than the authenticity and honesty of the leader. Being willing as a leader to guide your people on the basis of CPI’s rather than KPI’s demands elevated consciousness, and both courage and humanity. It takes courage for leaders to show themselves to others as they really are. It takes courage to stand up in full authenticity against the old paradigms, with their outdated expectations of what a leader should be. It takes courage as a leader to make clear to your people that you truly care for them. A courage that is highly required to be able to make the switch from KPI’s to CPI’s in this post Covid-19 era, with an even more intense shift from an office/face-to-face to a home office/virtual new way of working.

Olivier Onghena-’t Hooft
noble purpose entrepreneur & author of ‘The Book of Noble Purpose’ (LannooCampus) &
Brussel, 2020 06 19