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Getting Results: It's All About The Wins

IT pros often conflate "busy" with "effective." No one cares if you worked 60 hours last week -- they care what you accomplished.

Everyone is busy -- I hear it all the time. But in the workplace, it's not about being flat-out -- it's about achieving results.*

For some technical people, this can be a significant mind shift. Heck, I just heard a high school teacher say, "This physics course is outcome-based," meaning that blood, sweat, and tears are the effort -- which is part of the process -- but the grade depends on how well a student solves the problems. That is a results orientation, and it's illustrative that the teacher had to explain it.

We often talk about the effort we put in every day and how there are not enough hours. That's an action orientation. An action orientation signifies work (effort = action), and that is good, but it's not enough. What we need to do is make sure our actions lead to results. Is your current work leading to results?

[Insight from Interop on the changing role of the CIO: The new CIO: C Stands For Change.]

A good analogy is sports at the collegiate or professional level: You can play a great game, make a great effort, and have stellar internal stats, but what matters is the win column.

There are four critical actions to take in order to become results-focused at work:

  • Define what results look like. Be explicit. Discuss goals with your boss if you need clarification. You should have a clear picture of what constitutes a win; it shouldn't be complicated. A key step is to write down your results metrics.
  • Do a personal results-orientation assessment. Be brutally honest with yourself about how results-focused you are. If we put 50 people in a room and asked, "Are you results-focused?" almost everyone would raise their hand. But I know through my coaching work that this would not be accurate. Accountability for results needs to start with a self-assessment: Do you naturally focus on effort or results? If you tend to be effort-focused, you need to adjust. If you want to take the assessment to the next level, get feedback. Ask a few others how results-oriented they think you are (include your boss). It's easy to say you have a results focus, but actions are what matter. Good feedback can reveal where you actually fall on the "results-focus meter."

Coach's Tip: Some people are simply hardwired to zero in on results. Identify and emulate them.

  • Master time allocation. Closely review how you spend your day. This is one of the most valuable adjustments you can make. Look at your goals document and to-do list. Every day, ask yourself, "Am I focused on the right results-oriented activities?" If not, make adjustments.
  • Build effective communication skills. Talk in a results-oriented manner when you interact with your boss or with senior management. The classic example is someone asking what time it is and being told how to build a watch. The time is the result; the building of the watch is how or the effort. Don't be that person who talks too much about how to build the watch. It often helps to start with, "Here is where we are and what has been accomplished to date." Then you can talk through key issues. But lead with results.

Coach's Tip: Prepare! Before key meetings, ask yourself, "How do I present this in a results-focused manner?" Test it with someone else. Preparation can make a huge difference, especially if you are naturally effort-focused.

Now, as in most things, there are a couple of caveats. Not everything you do must lead directly to results. For example, writing an article usually requires several drafts with a round of edits. That's the nature of writing. What you do need to do, though, is recognize that at the end of the day, the publication needs a completed article. An editor doesn't want to hear, "Oh man, I've made so many drafts!" That would be talking about the activity. [Editor's note: What Bob said.]

Leaders are all about results. This concept is critical to successfully guiding a group, division, or organization. Make focusing on results your go-to approach. This can take time, like any new habit, but if you commit to a results orientation, you'll hit 'em.

*In no way am I saying that the end justifies the means. I am assuming you act with integrity and in the best interests of your organization, its customers, and employees.

If the world wasn't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)