I was talking with a couple of friends of mine over coffee the other morning. Both are regular full time employees for a company. They were discussing how hard they had been working; all of the meetings and task forces they were involved in. The pressure of attending these and how good they felt about the involvement they had in determining the direction and accomplishments of their employers. They were smiling and happy.
Are you familiar with the “deer in the headlights” stare? That blank unblinking look one gets when rounding the corner on a dark road at night when the headlights of your car shine directly into a deer’s eyes? The deer simply stands there, frozen into inaction and doing nothing. That is the look I got from both of them when I asked…”what are your results from all of this effort?”
This is not the first time I have experienced this situation and I would bet many of you readers have experienced this in some manner too. Everyone around you is legitimately busy; busy in that they are active and scurrying about. A closer examination would reveal that in most instances they are busy at being busy and not achieving results.
Some of this comes from a tendency for some people to be process focused instead of results focused. If a team or organization has somehow collected too many process oriented people and not enough results oriented people it could find itself perpetually hung up in the process (activity) and never seeing the results (achievement.) A good indicator of this is the meeting frequency rule. The one that says you have too many meetings to get anything done.
This is not unique to any special group, industry, geography, etc. I have seen this arise all over the US. Many times the participants are so blinded by the fury of the activity that they do not even realize that all they are doing is running on a treadmill, and not getting anywhere. Every situation faced in the organization inevitably ends up being relegated to a committee or a task force to look at the problem. The group meets and meets and meets. They are always “working on that.” The solution is slow at coming and perhaps may never come.
Sometimes the employee’s you perceive as the best and most loyal are the participants in this quagmire of no results. They show up early, go home late, always step up to work on teams or committees; they are busy. Look again…what are they accomplishing other than looking like they are truly working or being busy? To add to the confusion, they may be as unaware as you are that busy isn’t necessarily productive. Most busy people have no idea that their activity is just that, activity. Results are something different.
So what do you do?
- Make sure those you lead and those you manage understand it is about results.
- Begin and end every meeting with a statement reinforcing that the goal is a result, not another meeting.
- Ensure that everyone knows what results they are expected to accomplish.
- Measure outcomes.
- Look to the results…look to the achievements and do not be swayed by the activity.
Remember that in your role as a leader you are measured by the results you achieve. It is hard to say to someone who is working at something hard that it isn’t enough. Yet that is what you must do. You may want to congratulate hard work and good intentions, but the bottom line remains the results. Reward outcomes, as the bumper stick about a popular Star Wars character says “Do or do not. There is no try.”