What goes on
The focus on results as the only thing that matters is very common in the world of work. And if results are – and appear to others to be – the only thing that matters, it’s also potentially very damaging. Damaging to leaders who feel they are losing what they stand for – and who they are – in the pursuit of a number or a target. Damaging to those they lead because results are often uncontrollable and a results-only focus leads to fragile confidence and fear.
The reality is that most organisations are set up in a way that says “only results matter”. So leaders have a key role to play if they are to harness the power and energy of values and performance and combine it with the relentless pursuit of results.
What to do is pretty simple, though it’s not easy because it requires confidence, determination and a readiness to stand out from the crowd.
Are you ready?
Five Performance Truths
- Without values that live and breathe (not just written on the walls in trendy colours) then work has little meaning. When it comes to motivation, mental health and the desire to carry on when times are tough, meaning is important. On their own though, they do very little.
- Performance is doing the things you need to do to get the results you want. When it comes to leadership, helping everyone understand their performance recipe helps put them in control, reduces stress and provides opportunities to learn. Without a connection to values and results, it’s just passing the time.
- Leaders have a key role in connecting values, performance and results because they set the tone of what matters. Organisations are the shadow of their leaders. The pressure for results is intense and isn’t going away anytime soon so leaders have to make a real effort to make the connection.
- The best leaders spend time making sure they are clear on values, and on the performance beliefs and behaviours required in the pursuit of results. They do this through stories, processes, rhythms and rituals and the signals they send.
- Doing this work is a choice. As a leader, you can pass every day without making the connection and you’ll probably be OK. In the long term though, there’ll be a price to pay and it will be a big one.
Three things to do
- Develop a written narrative that sets out how you see values, performance and results, why they each matter and how they support each other.
- Share that narrative with key groups in your organisation, bring it to life with examples, get a good sense of the impact it will have and make any changes so that it’s even better.
- Examine your current processes, rhythms and rituals – like goal setting and performance reviewing – and make any changes to them so that they reflect the power of “and” in values, performance and results.
Leon was succeeding and struggling at the same time. When he thought about his performance and the results he was getting, they were generally pretty good, though like everyone else, sometimes things didn’t go to plan and either the performance or the results weren’t what he wanted. At times it seemed that he could be working hard on getting his team to deliver great performance though the results weren’t coming and he was tempted to forget performance and just try and muscle a result. That often delivered the outcome but worried Leon because he knew that he was just storing up problems for the long term. And then there were values. The businesses values meant a lot to Leon though they seemed to exist in some sort of “bubble” that didn’t connect closely enough to performance or results.
So Leon decided to pursue the “and”. He made sure that values lived and breathed in everyday behaviour and decisions and these were made transparent to everyone in the business. He transformed performance reviews so that they were actually reviewing performance, not just results and he made sure they were focused on learning, not justifying. It’s still a work in progress, though Leon feels at last like he’s leading in a way that really makes a difference.