Man holding led lights

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

“Do have a good scorecard for a COO?”

As a Scaling Up coach, this is a type of request I’m asked—or overhear executives asking each other—very often. And like fingernails on a chalkboard, it makes me wince every time.

I think it is a common misconception that there is a massive library of perfect Topgrading Job Scorecards out there for every role in creation. If that were true, all you would need to do to hire the perfect candidate is to grab one and use it in your interviews. You could swap them like baseball cards.

“Need a COO scorecard? Well, I have a sample one here.”

“Can I trade you for a CFO?”

“What are you looking for in a CFO?”

“It doesn’t matter, just send me all the scorecards for positions you’ve got!”

Frankly, to think that scorecards are interchangeable between companies is pure fantasy. Anyone who thinks they can get away with using a cookie-cutter scorecard from another firm to develop the position specification for their company is not only lazy, but they are also missing the point of these powerful tools.

In this article, I’ll explain why scorecard poaching is a pet peeve, and why having the ability to develop customized versions for your company’s positions is a critical leadership skill. If you’ve ever innocently asked for a cookie-cutter scorecard to be shared with you, read on… and be prepared for some tough love.

Don’t Share Toothbrushes or Scorecards

The truth is, preparing scorecards is one of those situations where hard work up front pays off. Just like with a finely tailored suit, you measure twice and cut once.

Used correctly, a scorecard is a pre-interview specification for the perfect A Player to help your business reach its objectives in a very specific way. It should be well honed enough to assess, during a candidate’s interview, whether you think this person is going to be able to crush your goals or not. Anything less will be a waste of your company’s resources. This is your chance to make the most of those resources by pinning down exactly the qualities your candidate will need to have success in the role. In short, it’s the rubric to assess if the candidate is an A Player or not. You should be able to define those qualities for yourself—no one else can!

If you don’t know the qualities a new employee would need to help your business reach its unique goals, ask yourself why you don’t know. You ought to know if you want to find someone who will be effective at helping your business thrive and scale. Anything less is the blind leading the blind.

I always emphasize to my clients that understanding the methodology to create unique scorecards is a no-excuses, core skill. B Players ask for pre-formatted example after example to duplicate because B Players look for shortcuts and cop-outs. By contrast, creating quality scorecards is the hard work and domain of the A Player. Simply said, you only need to see one sample to develop them all! An A Player sees one example, sees the patterns at work in those examples, and uses them to create an array of quality scorecards for multiple roles.

In short, an A Player manager can look at the patterns from say a VP of sales job scorecard and then be able the use the same format to create a robust job scorecard for an entirely different role with vastly different metrics and competencies—like a CFO, for instance.

Asking someone from another organization to give you a cloned metric for filtering your search is managerial plagiarism, period. You wouldn’t conduct an exhaustive search for the perfect hammer with a specification from Screwdrivers R Us. Just like a toothbrush, your firm’s job scorecards are highly personal items!

Bespoke Scorecards Are Your Secret Sauce

It does take several hours to create a robust Topgrading Scorecard, but embracing that grind will get you the people you really want. Take a look at the excerpts below to see the level of specificity in a good scorecard. You can see how these pages are tailored to the organization and its goals.

A scorecard like this would clearly take hours to create, but it is well worth the effort. Think about it for a minute.

If you were running a marathon, would you wear someone else’s shoes? What if they were a size too big or too small? What if they were so well broken in by someone else you develop blisters twelve miles in? How would that affect your performance?

If you were building a home, would you borrow someone else’s wish list or architectural plans? Would it be your dream home when you are done?

Would you put on your neighbor’s glasses and hope to see better?

I could go on and on, but the point is that it’s just the same when you are looking for the ideal person to bring value to your company. You’ll be much happier with your “purchase” if you know what you are buying. As the great W. Edwards Deming said, “You can only expect what you inspect.”

A well-developed scorecard is an opportunity to start recruiting and vetting with a crystal-clear specification for the type of person you need in the role, whether it is a receptionist or someone in the C-suite. Passing up that opportunity will land you in exactly the wrong place: wasting time and energy with a B or C Player. And you will have only your own inaction to blame.

Naturally, you will always have to make trade-offs when you are crafting your scorecards. If you were looking for a car with speed, you might have to sacrifice some fuel efficiency to get it, and vice versa. By the same token, if you are looking for a director of finance, you will have to put some serious thought into what qualities are must-haves for your business at this moment. You can’t just specify the max score across the board—those candidates simply don’t exist and you will get very frustrated unicorn hunting! If you are looking to raise capital, you might need someone with a particular personality to attract investors. If your books need some major cleaning up, it might be someone who creates systems like a beast. Your requirements will not be the same as the CEO next door, nor should they be.

Once you have taken the time to curate scorecards that help you get the right people in your business, you should treasure them as valuable assets. You can even use them after you’ve filled the roles to form the basis of A Player Agreements for your new hires. These show employees how to get an “A” in each position with more detailed activity levels for their key roles.

Skimping on Scorecards Is Business Malpractice

Yes, it takes hard work to create effective scorecards. But as the author of The Comfort Crisis Michael Easter would say, hard is good. Hard is what it takes to build a scalable business.

I consider it a sign of a superior intellect to know what you’re looking for. In the spirit of Harvard Business School’s late Clayton Christensen, a great manager knows the job that needs to be done. Weak managers tend to fail to produce accurate scorecards because they don’t know the job that needs to be done. Don’t be one of those managers. Learn the Topgrading methodology and apply it regularly and you will reap the benefits of better than 90% A Player hiring success.

I hope that someday, I’ll stop being asked for generic scorecards. Until then…

Know the struggle is real.

Embrace the work.

I’m here to help.

Identify areas of improvement in your business

Click here to take the FREE Scaling Up Business Assessment

Scaling Up Business Assessment