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Judge by results, not by effort or activities

It’s an easy trap to fall into.  We get seduced by a great work ethic.  “Look at Johnson over there . . . salt of the earth, I tell ya.  He’s in early, stays late, doesn’t complain, and you never find him goofing off.  I wish I had a hundred just like him.”

Actually, no you don’t.  In fact, a hundred Johnsons would sink you.  Why?  Because Johnson is task-oriented, not results-oriented.  All his activities throw off so much smoke and dust that they may obscure the fact that he’s not getting the results we need.

For more on this, please read below.

Judge by results, not by effort or activities.

With apologies to mothers everywhere, there’s an old saying, both crass and inappropriate, yet very descriptive: “Don’t tell us about the pain, just show us the baby.”  The Johnsons of the world don’t buy that.  They believe that solid effort and hard work should be their own reward and should deliver to them the keys to the kingdom.  And sometimes we may be inclined to agree with them.  After all, who doesn’t like a guy with a nose-to-the-grindstone approach to his work?  But in the end, all the long hours and hard work only count for something if we’re getting the outcomes we expect.

There’s a flipside to this.

Some years ago, I was talking with a business owner who was angry because one of his sales people spent most afternoons on the golf course.  “I’d like to play golf too,” he fumed, “but
no-o-o-o, I’m stuck here in the office trying to keep this business going!”  I asked if the salesman was on his numbers.  “Yeah, in fact he’s way over them, but that’s not the point!  His behavior sets a bad example for everyone else.”

“So he sets a bad example for the other sales people who aren’t making their numbers?,”  I asked.  The owner said nothing.  “It seems to me,” I said, “he sets a very good example for his colleagues.  He’s showing them what can happen when you produce results.”

The point is, it makes no sense to begrudge our high performers just because they make it look easy.  It would make more sense to hold them up as role models for everyone else.  Likewise, it makes no sense to reward our under-achievers just because they’re working at it so darn hard.  While it pains our sensibilities, if someone tries really, really hard but can’t produce the results we expect, the kindest thing we can do may be to let that person go someplace where his or her hard work can lead to success.

In the best of all worlds, determination and hard work would always guarantee success.  But they don’t.  Not always.  We want to see good work habits, particularly among new employees who are just learning the ropes, but ultimately, our focus needs to be on the results they achieve, not on the methods they use or the effort they put forth.  Be a results-oriented company by making sure everyone . . . from the front office to the loading dock . . . understands and is focused on the results they are expected to achieve.

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