Don’t Confuse Effort with Results

Don’t Confuse Effort with Results


I had a tough boss in my career. It was a difficult and at times painful experience. However, throughout the relationship, he sprinkled in some true nuggets of wisdom. One of the most important lessons I learned under his leadership was not to confuse effort with results.

I see this time and time again as I work with clients. It is a common thread, exhibited in weekly staff meetings, daily emails and even in conversation.  That thread is the belief that activity or being busy demonstrates value. Now more than ever, there is an awareness of the fragility of any position. After 2008, many individuals are more concerned with layoffs or downsizing. Therefore, they are eager to communicate how busy they are, share all the things on their respective plates and all the activities they are engaged in doing day in and day out. Yet none of that effort is demonstrative of value, it is just evidence of busyness.


The question is why does this become the default method of attempting to express value to the organization? In my opinion, it is driven by a lack of focus, measurement and clarity on the desired outcomes. Further, it often signals that employees do not understand their functional purpose or their role in the achievement of the desired outcomes.


I often have the opportunity to witness a staff meeting or review weekly reports submitted to department heads or CEO’s. When I hear or see a lot of description of activity rather than a discussion of outcomes or results, I know there is a lack of organizational clarity.


If your employees don’t fully grasp the desired outcomes for the organization, if they don’t understand their functional purpose and role in achieving those outcomes, then their default measurement of value will be activity. Take this one step further, if as a CEO, your management team does not fully understand the desired outcome, then they too will measure by activity, rewarding and encourage those employees that appear busy.


Start with the outcomes; make sure every employee becomes a stakeholder in their achievement. Develop a reward and measurement system based on those outcomes. Incorporate a statement of purpose in each job description. Clearly articulating where the position fits in the process of reaching the desired outcome. Roles and responsibilities should be tied to results, not activities. The leaders of the organization must provide clarity around the outcome; there should be no ambiguity as to what must be achieved.


I see it time and time again, organizations filled with busy people at all levels, working long hours yet never achieving the desired results. I would argue that this behavior signifies a focal disconnect. An organization that measures and rewards activity will always finish behind its counterpart that measures and rewards outcome. So, don’t confuse effort with results!


This is not just a change in measurement; it is a culture and communications shift. We can help change that focus from activity to outcome. Schedule your free growth session today.


Thanks for reading.