Believe it or not, old school management is alive and well in a big way. In a recent survey, we found that only 10% of employees are aware of company progress in real-time. Think about it. How often do you hear friends talk about their managers and it sounds a whole lot like this:

poor management cartoon

Or worse, this:
devil wears prada clip

We call this Mushroom Management, where employees fly blind to company performance. They’re given work without knowing its purpose and their only motivation is to get paid. They’re not motivated to stick around, let alone be advocates or generate business value. They often look something like this:
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Mushroom Managers fail to realize that more than four out of five employees want bosses to share more information about the business. The survey also revealed that 75% of employees don’t trust bosses who fail to share company data. Over 25% of employees believe a lack of information stems from bosses playing power games.

Is that the type of boss you want to be?

If you think employees don’t want to be bogged down with details of the business, you’re wrong. Nine in ten employees prefer to hear the news than be kept in the dark.

If you want to create team buy-in and build a collaborative culture around trust and passion, you have to share key business metrics. The trick is knowing which metrics to share and how to communicate them.

Define what metrics are most important to your team

Some startups share all business information with their teams and even the public. Buffer is a prime example. Check out their Open Blog—they publicly share their salaries, equity equation, retreat budgets, and more.

Sharing that much information about your financials and operations with the public might terrify you. That’s fine, there’s a happy medium.

Sharing every number could get messy. However, it is important to share the information that has the greatest impact on the business with your entire team. Equally important is sharing how each team member impacts that performance. Share key metrics that determine the health of the business and let each team member know how they can move the meter.

To determine what these impactful metrics are, you first need to define the goals your company is working towards and assign KPIs to each. If your quarterly goal is to grow revenue 5% MoM, your KPIs could be user growth, decreased churn, upgrades, trial conversions, etc.

Define how each department will help impact those with their own goals and KPIs. For example, the KPIs for your marketing team could be website visits, blog conversions, webinar signups, social growth, social ad conversions.

A marketing dashboard might look something like this:
example marketing dashboard

Make all metrics available across departments with overarching business metrics front and center for everyone to see. When I say front and center, I mean literally. Put a TV or screen on the wall displaying a dashboard tracking the business KPIs.

First, make sure the KPIs you’re sharing are simple and consistent. Don’t randomly dump a bunch of Excel data in your team’s inboxes. Even if they understand what they’re looking at, they won’t know what to do about it. Your metrics need to be actionable.

If they have a line graph in front of them visualizing weekly revenue, they’ll understand the health of the business and what needs to be done to reach your goals.

Business Dashboards: It’s all about the packaging

How you deliver key information and metrics is just as important as the metrics themselves. Visualization goes a long way.

We can learn how to effectively present complex information by looking at studies of how the brain consumes data. In the west, we read left to right, so the most important piece of information should be in the top left corner.

The way you use color is important too. It’s one of the most powerful tools to convey information because of its pre-attentive attribute. Our brains assign significance to color quickly, without conscious thought. Make a number green and we immediately know that metric is traveling in the right direction.

Keep your charts or data visualizations to two-three powerful colors. If overused, colors compete with each other and dilute the brain’s ability to interpret data.

Keep visuals clear and accurate. Avoid pie charts as they skew data and do not represent quantities accurately. The proof is in the pudding:
pie chart vs bar chart
Or take this chart Steve Jobs used to demonstrate US SmartPhone marketshare:
apple presentation pie chart
Weird how Apple’s 19.5% looks bigger than the other 21.2%, right? Now look at the same data as a bar graph:
bar graph

The point is, pie charts distort data.


In our survey mentioned above, more than half of employees said there was a significant positive impact on their productivity when bosses openly share information. If you want productive and happy employees, you have to show them how they’re making an impact. Mounting a TV dashboard on the wall is a great way to unite your team around the most critical business KPIs.

Make tracking metrics fun for the team. Consider gamifying metrics by creating a challenge or leaderboard displaying who is having the biggest impact on KPIs.

No matter how you increase employee engagement, keep metrics front and center. Put your KPIs at the center of all conversations. Ask each employee to talk about their results and goals in relation to company KPIs. That way, it’s clear that everyone is working together towards a shared goal. The result will be a motivated and collaborative team.

If you still need some inspiration, check out these dashboard examples for SaaS, Sales, Support, WebOps and more!