In this issue of the Releasing Potential newsletter, I talk about a key issue for leaders who want to get better and faster results from resources they already have: the need to keep everyone’s attention focused on outputs, not on inputs (which it where it tends to default). I also suggest some further resources on this key topic, and give you a download link to my eBook: Seven Keys to Releasing Potential in Your Business, Your People, and Yourself…
Three ways to increase focus on output…
Businesses need to produce outputs, but many people working in organizations think about their work in terms of inputs.
What’s an input? I mean things like:
- making 20 sales calls a day (the output would be actual profitable sales).
- implementing a new performance management IT system (the output would be higher performing, more promotable people).
- writing reports (the output could be making a good decision and getting support for the follow-through implementation).
Think about it this way: if you go and see a comedian, you don’t care how much work they put into writing their act and practicing it. You care that you laugh. If you don’t laugh, it doesn’t matter that the comedian sweated, and put a lot of time and money into the creation of the act.
For whatever reason though — maybe educators give too much credit to students for showing their work even if the answer is wrong, maybe being able to say “But I worked hard” is often an acceptable excuse, maybe there’s a vestigial Puritanism that values hard work for its own sake — the fact is that there is a human tendency to focus on inputs.
This isn’t just about individual productivity, it’s also about teams and organizations as a whole: most meetings agendas I see are lists of issues. And issues are…inputs.
So if you lead a team or organization, the challenge is to keep everyone’s focus on the outputs. Here are three of the fastest ways:
- If you must hold a meeting, then instead of an agenda that’s a long list of issues, have an agenda that’s a very short list of objectives, with clear evidence criteria for when you have succeeded.
- Delegate responsibility for producing results, not merely for following a sequence of steps in a process.
- Make sure that people who produce results are conspicuously recognised and rewarded above and beyond those who just completed the checklist. The rewards don’t always have to be financial. The people you are looking for will be most encouraged by juicier assignments, high-level mentoring or promotions.
READ – Why Friedrich Nietzsche would have been a great consultant, and what he can teach you about productivity.
LISTEN – REWARDS delegation podcast and article– Step by step, how to delegate accountability for results.
FUN – The Operation was a success but the patient died—many a true word spoken in jest. What a medical joke can teach us about business productivity.
Managers under pressure to improve performance often face this apparent dilemma: do they cut expenses and risk overdoing it, or do they invest, and pray that revenues will catch up with costs in time? Rather than seeking better performance by adding or cutting resources, it is often better and safer to start by maximizing the results from resources you already have. Not only is this lower risk than cutting or adding, it can also yield dramatically faster and better results, without capital investment.