Getting Results

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Forget about style; worry about results. – Bobby Orr

Let me guess. You work up this morning, jumped out of bed and hollered, “O Dear World, PLEASE, give me more things to do at work today!”

No? Me neither. Our 21st century work challenges have little to do with inadequate activity or motivation and everything to do with excessive “busyness” combined with insufficient meaningful achievements. When was the last time you went home thinking, “I am SO amazing. Look at all the critically important things I accomplished today!”?

More times than not, we leave work thinking, “I’m exhausted AND I wish I’d gotten more done” OR “I worked all day and didn’t get anything important done.”

Getting results is all about adjusting our daily mindset and actions to fit a 21st century workplace which has changed dramatically in pace, expectations, tools, competition, information access and flow, interconnectedness, and did I mention, pace.

Therefore, for ourselves and our teams, we must do more than cope day after day. We must change how we think and work, each and every day. We must switch what we focus and attend to:

  • FROM tasks to outcomes
  • FROM effort to impact
  • FROM activity to achievement
  • FROM “everything” to “the most important things”.
  • FROM “how hard we work” or “how hard work is” to “the objective progress we drive in our most important result areas” (despite the distractions, interruptions, competing demands and new crises)

The key word is “results.” That’s what our management, colleagues, direct reports judge us on. And that’s the benchmark we need to hold for ourselves to be both effective AND to feel satisfied each day. It’s no longer about ‘getting it all done. More than ever before, leadership effectiveness results when we ensure that our efforts, and the efforts of our teams, move important initiatives along or produce something that was explicitly intended to benefit our functions, our organization, or our customers.

Be forewarned that many elements of today’s workplace support “a moving fast, looking stressed, achieving little’ dance. Without leadership sequencing or filtering, it can look like TOO MUCH, that is:  too much to do , too many people to please, too much information to take in, too much information to send out and too many ways to communicate. Hold on, my Blackberry is calling. Someone needs something!

What we have to realize for ourselves and our team is:

  • There is no getting it all done
  • There is no pleasing everyone
  • There is no anticipating all the possibilities
  • There is no having all the facts
  • There is no one perfect, error-free, totally-right choice
  • There are no easy issues left – only the complicated ones remain (sorry)

So what do we do? Here’s a 21st Century Getting Results Checklist:

  • Make progress on your most important work
  • Name and drive essential outcomes as seen by others versus our ‘to do’ lists
  • Satisfy the needs of your most important constituencies
  • Meet agreed to time frames
  • Operate within the right values/standards

Much easier said than done, especially when our boss/peers/customers keep giving us other things to do. But if we resolve to own our individual productivity, no excuse- mindset, it can be done. These steps can help.

1.    Ask, answer and write down: “What are my MIOs? (Most Important Outcomes) for which YOU assume responsibility… for the day, for the meeting, for whatever…

Note that we can’t accomplish what’s most important if we haven’t taken the time to prioritize what that is. Take a look at the work on your plate and identify the outcomes which are most important to achieve related to the initiative, the relationship, or the organization. It can be challenging to switch our focus from outcomes for OTHERS as opposed to activities by US. Going to a meeting is an activity that we do; achieving alignment as reported by the customers or clients is an outcome. Confirming most important outcomes early and openly is usually a good idea.

In addition, confirm and reconfirm the expected timeframes for achieving your most important outcomes as well as for making meaningful progress towards those outcomes. As you you’re your time and efforts, stand firmly in McDonald’s values/standards and in your own. Determine if there are any additional “guardrails” you need to keep in mind. Getting something done at any cost will cost us, competitively, organizationally and individually.

2.    Examples of Productive Outcomes (versus activities):

  • Resolving a disagreement in approach (versus meeting with Cranky Bob)
  • Calibrating with another team/function on new expectations (versus presenting at a staff meeting)
  • Surfacing and acknowledging the concerns of a particular group about a change coming up (versus sending out an email asking for feedback)

3.    Make Progress

Once you’ve identified the MIOs, you can begin to map the key milestones that must be achieved along the way. Then, assign tactics and steps to achieving those milestones. Don’t assume the activity’ is the ‘milestone’. It’s not. For those of you who like math, here’s an equation: ACTIVITY =/= MILESTONE. The activity was simply your best idea of how to achieve the milestone. Note that our best ideas won’t always be right. Other stuff will happen. There may be unforeseen problems, resistance, developments, changes – and all will create complications for ‘the tactical plan’. This is a given. We can put on our best ‘shocked faces:

(o – funny icon of shocked face could go here) but if there was a clear,  easy path to the outcome, my guess is that we wouldn’t need you.

Here’s a great question to ask yourself often: “Am I doing what I can/should to remove barriers, solve problems, address concerns, build more alignment, etc.” Consider whether new developments actually alter the list of most important outcomes. If the answer is “no,” keep moving forward.

4.    Communicate

Biggest error I see here is that we communicate too little, too late. Why? Because we’re busy doing STUFF. But if we’re not informing key constituents of the ‘progress or milestones’ (versus just the related activities), then those pesky surprise hiccups will gain both press and momentum. Count on it. Once you’ve identified the people who are essential to your MIOs, create routines to regularly communicate with them. Set and manage their expectations about your most important outcomes. Let them know if and when things change. Ask for their help in removing barriers. And don’t forget to let them know about your successes, because outcomes don’t actually have a voice–only people do.

For those who like checklists: Some Questions to Consider

Identify

  • What are my most important outcomes? Is that what my customers, management, team would identify as MIOs?
  • Who must be wildly ecstatic about what we achieve?
  • What is the (no kidding around) deadline or the key milestones?
  • How do I know that these results REALLY add the value needed or solves the problem that we are facing?
  • How will I evaluate (not assume) that progress is being made

Make Progress

  • What do I need to achieve today/this week/this month in order for us to be on track?
  • What do other people need to know, do, feel differently by now to ensure we are on track?
  • What possible problems, barriers or complications can I minimize today?
  • What did I ACTUALLY move along today (versus intend to move along)?

Communicate

  • What are my routines to keep the right people informed of the metrics of progress and outcomes? (Not that anecdotal comments are less effective – “Hey boss, the work is going grrreat!”)
  • Who needs to hear about the latest developments? (good or bad – remember, few bosses like surprises.)
  • When do I need to deliver the product or service for maximum impact?

Following these steps will help keep you from getting lost in the Activity Trap, where doing things is confused with achieving things. Remember, “Executing for Results” means doing work that generates an OUTCOME that is desired, sustainable and valuable, including internal partners, external partners, and customers.

You can see the difference in the language you use. Examples of activity language are: “I went to a meeting” or “I completed a deck.” Outcome language focuses on the result – “I achieved agreement on breakfast menu items,” “I resolved differences on budgeting priorities” or “I established a new communication routine with Operator leads.”

Making Time for Your MIOs

Your MIOs must show up on your calendar. If they don’t, you don’t need to worry about falling into the Activity Trap, you’re already there.

We have to connect and reconnect our intentions for impact with our calendar. To do this, we need to be much more active and vigilant in our calendar management. Use your calendar to schedule priorities (versus prioritizing our schedule), and add time for thinking/evaluating progress on the key results areas. Recognize the short term pressures that influence your use of time. Say that a high level leader is coming to visit. How much time should you spend preparing for him/her to have a great day? (It’s unlikely to be a week.) Set limits and schedule yourself accordingly.

More Calendar Tips

1.    When you enter an event into your calendar, in the Subject line, write your objective rather than the activity. For example, instead of “Meet with Jordan” write, “Jordan: Align on patch priorities.”

2.    Use car time but not while you’re driving. When you get in your car in the morning, don’t turn on the ignition right away. Instead, look at your calendar. Note your activities and what you want to accomplish through each activity. Look at what’s on your calendar and how you want to use it. Then, look at what’s not on your calendar. Should you be scheduling any activities to drive your MIOs? Then, turn on the car. As you drive to the office think about how you will use the events of your day to accomplish your objectives.

3.    Use your calendar to document WHAT YOU ACHIEVED, not what you did. This will turn up your level of intentionality. Summarize your outcomes each week by asking yourself: What did I achieve? What is the value and to whom?

Finally

Remember that perfection is not the object. Perfection is not even possible; you will just make yourself (and others) crazy trying to reach it. Be content with continuous forward improvement on your most important work.

And now, let’s sing it together… “O Sole Mio!” (relevant Italian song lyric– for both content and spirit)

The Bottom Line: Doing things is not the same as achieving things. Avoid the Activity Trap by identifying your most important outcomes (MIOs) and constituencies, then following through to create and communicate your results.

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Laurie Anderson, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years experience as an executive coach to leaders in organizations ranging from Fortune 100 companies to the World Bank. Visit www.drlaurieanderson.com or call 1-708-524-2444 for more information on Laurie’s services for individuals, groups, and organizations.

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