An Excuse Is Not A Result.

No ExcusesI was always surprised in my former life as an ad agency head how often excuses were used as rationale for why a result was not achieved:

“The client didn’t give us the info we needed”

“I said we would try to have it by Tuesday. I didn’t promise it by then” (by the way, you did. No one hears the try part)

“The creative people didn’t follow the strategy. Their ideas were off target”

“We didn’t have enough time to do the work”

And so on. And so on. And so on.

An excuse is merely a reason why a result is not achieved. I respect effort, but “nice try” and accomplishment are not the same. By the way, many excuses are lame attempts to position the responsibility for failure away from one’s self. I always respected honesty, “It didn’t get done, and I will learn from this and it will never happen again”, is a far better response.

boots-300My friend Dave Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia (ECS) wrote about this topic recently in his blog, Muddy Boots, an excellent blog about life and leadership issues. Dave is a brilliant leader, who has learned a lot from his own bumps along the road. His recent post, Results Matter, which appears below, is an excellent article on this very issue. Thanks for the wisdom, Dave.

Every now and then I get the opportunity to review an employee’s performance as a second reviewer and I meet with my direct reports regularly where the opportunity to offer feedback and coaching occurs. I enjoy the exchange and it is always most productive when it is a two way discussion. Annual formal reviews should never be the first time an individual gets feedback on performance. The feedback loop is how you set direction, coach, and direct behavior. The lack of feedback results in behavior becoming a random event. Employees are not mind readers, the conversation on approach is critical to shape direction and approach. Note that feedback is not always a “tell”. The best feedback is often a series of questions starting with why and how. As in why is this so and how do we know? A solution developed through coaching is owned way more than one delivered as a “do this and then that”.

That said I still get surprised by one issue. That is the confusion that occurs between effort and results. Many times in evaluations and conversations on performance I will have an individual talk about hard work, late nights, and steps taken and expect the same credits and rewards as when the desired results are achieved. Look I applaud hard work and work ethic, often essential to the process, but the experienced manager and savvy investor knows that it is results that provide the fuel that grows a business and rewards shareholders. This can be a hard lesson for an employee. Even more so when the results require teamwork and partnerships to occur and individual efforts may not be the sole driver of results. I am reminded of a quote from an old CFO I worked with who often reminded individuals that to pay a bonus you need to have the performance to create the bonus. As in you can’t pay what you don’t have.

This also translates well to social services. Many a program has steps that require hard work and effort. The programs that matter are those that create the impact and outcomes that matter. If the goal of a program is employment, did the participant get employed? If the goal is sustainable housing does the participant enjoy long term housing? Stakeholders expect a return on contributions measured in terms of outcomes and impacts on clients and participants.

This concept of effort vs. results is the essence of accountability. A focused agency, company, employees owns results. The good ones know their own role in the effort and are willing to not only hold themselves accountable, but also their peers and management. Highly functioning organizations support open door/open book management and welcome two way feedbacks.

I admire hard work, I admire effort, but I honor results fairly created. Great organizations play the same way. They don’t confuse efforts with results. They keep the score.

Results matter.

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