Doing a Job vs Getting Results: BIG DIFFERENCE

Do you ever wonder what is the difference between high performance and high maintenance people? Those who “get it” versus those who have to be guided at every step?

Sometimes, it’s not the other person – it can also be what we communicate. As coaches and leaders, we can begin to improve situations by changing our approach.Missing the ball

Imagine giving a member of your team a clear picture of the results you want rather than just a list of tasks to do.  Imagine the difference it can make in creativity, innovation and motivation.  Let me share a story to show you how it works.

Jake and I were on a walk. (Jake is my greyhound).  We saw a guy mowing the lawn at the neighborhood elementary school. As he rode his lawnmower, he ran over drink cups – smashing them to smithereens.  He rolled over all manner of paper that shredded and spread all over the lawn. I suspect he was told to “mow the grass.”

Now, imagine he and the boss had stepped out of the building and looked around and the boss said, “your job was to make the campus inviting.” Boss could have even offered measurable criteria like, “neat, short grass.”  Now, what would the lawn guy see as his job?  If he were invited to own the results – to view his responsibilities strategically – he might begin by picking up trash and change the path of the mower so that the grass clippings would blow back into the lawn, making great mulch rather than coating the sidewalks with clippings.

The difference between doing the job and getting the results is a perspective: being tactical vs. being strategic. Imagine you are in the final stages of a key game and you’ve told your team to focus on slam-dunks, home runs or kill shots – whatever a good tactic for your sport might be.  What if there isn’t an opportunity for a good kill shot, but there are opportunities for other types of game-winning plays? By having everyone look for the one hero-producing event, they may miss opportunities to chip away at another team’s lead.  Sometimes heroics are the order of the day – it’s just they are rarely the only option.

Holding a vision of the results you want rather than just the task at hand opens the possibility for creativity, empowerment – giving the team permission to make the best choices as circumstances rapidly change. It’s also a matter of trust.  Can you let go command and control to let the team do what is required in the moment?  It’s a learned skill.

Doing a task vs. working toward a result – it’s a huge shift for the team and the coach!

The price of “just getting it done”

I glanced at Dear Abby this morning and read a heart-wrenching letter (aren’t they all?) About a young woman who had finally gotten the courage to tell her mother about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father while growing up. The young lady said that she felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders – for about two minutes – that’s when her mother picked up the phone and began to tell everyone she knew.  It had been two years; the mother continues to tell the daughter’s story like a gossip.  The daughter was now ready to walk away from the relationship with her mother.

“Abby’s” advice?  It was to never tell her mother a confidence again.  I was flabbergasted! From the mountaintop of “what is going on here?” We can see a young woman who is trying to regain her self-confidence and self-esteem alongside her mother who probably suffers from some of the same issues and seems to mask her own story with that of her daughter.  And all “Abby” could see was how to conduct a conversation.

 When lost in the weeds of “what should be done here”, Abigail–the-writer lost sight of what is happening within these two people and between these two people.  Her tactical view completely ignored the strategic, big picture view. This young woman poured her heart out to her mother. Her mother responded badly. What’s the big picture here? We don’t know – however if we were to look from a bigger perspective, the situation begs us to find different alternatives. 

 How does this big picture/tactical picture dynamic show up in leadership? How about the employee or coworker who says, “I’m having problems completing this.” And Abby – leader might say, “here do it this way” or “have you tried…?” A big picture leader would stop and ask, “so tell me about what you’ve tried” or “what are you trying to accomplish?

 ImageShame on Abby and shame on us if we get so lost in the “doing” that we lose track of what’s really going on!!

Leadership lessons from a Greyhound.

The lesson: get out of the rut you’ve been running in, look around, learn as much as you can.

The greyhound is our Belle.  She came to live with us after 3 years as a racer (terrible life!!)  We noticed when we first got her that almost EVERYTHING was out of her realm of experience.  She had no language skills, had never been in a house (it was very disconcerting) and even when she ran in the backyard, she only turned to the left…think of a racetrack.

We realized that all she had ever done in her life was to live in a crate and get out to race.  Pee, poo, run, repeat.

As Belle became more aware of her surroundings she literally began to see more.  Her singular training as a racer had her look straight ahead, aware of other dogs only when they were in front over her.  There was no other input.  Anything not directly in front of her basically simply didn’t exist.  That was her world and she executed well in it.

It didn’t work so well when she moved in with us.  They it occurred to us that our job was to introduce the breadth of possibilities to her: stairs, dog parks, even her own name.  They don’t teach dogs their names – it’s a distraction.  The more she learned, the more curious she became.   She learned she could move from one room to another, that the doorbell meant to run to the front door (rather than the hallway where the noise actually was) and when she ran in the backyard, she could turn any direction she liked.

So where’s the leadership lesson?  Think of a worker – an individual contributor: someone who is really good at what they do – so good that their attention becomes narrow.  Focus stays on those things that pertain to getting the job done, life becomes predictable and its easy to run an auto pilot.  Do that too long and you forget how to turn right when you’re running – a greyhound racing reference – you lose the ability to see other ways to do things.  In fact, in business, the distinction is between 10 years experience versus one year’s experience 10 times.

So to embrace leadership, no matter what the job, means to look broadly, be curious and not get lost in “rules”. A leader gets above the task to look around at the bigger picture. Leadership is a “way of being” as much as an activity. A “curious” way of being that is energizing, creative and well, strategic!  And you can be  in that way of being no matter where you are.   Lead from your seat, lead from the corner office, lead from the trenches… being a leader is more perspective than title.

When Belle moved in with us, her world got bigger.  Actually, the world was the same.  What changed was her ability to see it.  Sometimes it was scary, but look at her now and you know its more fun.  Deciding to embrace leadership can do the same thing – it can be scary at first.  But get past that and its fun!