March 14, 2014 – Colleen Niese – Insights

But I Tried So Hard

the words To Do deleted and replaced by Done
the words To Do deleted and replaced by Done

Anyone raising a family can hear one of their children exclaiming the above to express their disappointment over a lost soccer game, a missed grade, some form of displeasure caused by defeat.  As adults we sometimes use this same phrase to justify a disappointment; as if the effort is equal in value to the result itself.  In the corporate world, the cold, hard truth is: it’s not.  Effort is clearly necessary, however when it’s accepted in the same way as actually getting things done by leadership, complacency has a way of seeping in and completing projects inadvertently becomes optional.

Someone once asked my business partner how she was able to get so much done, and her response was painfully simple and spot on:  “ I only commit to those projects I know I am able to complete.”  Stephen Covey Jr. links this work habit to integrity in his book, The Speed of Trust.  He contends that what we do with every commitment, no matter how big or small, directly impacts our integrity (and trust) with everyone we work with.  And, obviously, the more commitments we make, on time and within expectations, the better our integrity and trust with others will remain, leading to influence, loyalty and the name of this game: results.

While the mediocre leader will accept something isn’t complete if an employee points to all the effort that went into it, the effective leader will listen to all those reasons and then refocus the team around next steps toward resolution.  If you’re wondering which way you fall in this spectrum of leadership, for at least one week, keep a tally sheet of how many times those you work with reference effort (i.e., we’re all really trying) vs. words they use to describe actual execution and results during staff meetings, project updates, one-on-ones.  If the outcome of this little experiment yields a lopsided ratio between the two, try one of these tactics the next time to change the conversation from rationalization to achievement:

  • Focus on what actually happened, not what the team wished, hoped or wanted to have happen.  One is fact - the other is fiction - and pretty low value when it comes to addressing a miss and more importantly rectifying the situation so everyone involved can get back to the business of getting stuff done.
  • Ask the question: “if you were to do this all over again, what would you do differently to ensure success?”  This question forces all involved to honestly examine what specifically went awry to then refocus on exactly what they will do to complete their respective commitments.
  • Last and most importantly, do what you say you are going to do as the leader. While accountability may be one of the most over used terms in leadership development, it’s one of the most important aspects, period.  When teams know their leader values who did what to meet (or miss) an objective and her leadership style aligns with this principle consistently, teams primarily focus on getting done what matters to the collective whole.