There’s a lot of focus these days in organisations on delivering. Quite right, too. Not before time, we are moving away from the era where performance was judged on hours spent at one’s desk, and to a far more enlightened and productive age, where our stand out performers are those who are seen to be consistently delivering tangible outputs and achieving goals, regardless of the amount of time they spend in the office.
This is a welcome change, but there is a note of caution to be sounded. It is vital that we deliver… but it is equally vital that we deliver in the right way.
Delivery at all costs
Early on in my career, I worked for an organisation whose focus was on delivery, at all costs. This had heavily influenced the culture, and it was seen as entirely acceptable to walk over to someone who had failed to deliver for you and scream – literally scream – in their face. Did the business deliver? Well yes, it did, but it delivered through a culture of fear, and thus never achieved its full potential. Employees’ primary focus became not seeking to overdeliver on the organisation’s strategic goals, but instead keeping their heads down, doing the minimum required not to get screamed at, and then getting out of there as quickly as possible. Self-preservation was the name of the game.
That particular chapter in my career has heavily influenced how I now work, manage, and seek to deliver. We should all be judged on our output, but we should also be judged on how we deliver our output.
For those wondering quite what the ‘right’ way of delivering is… here in my view are behaviours that we all need to ensure are the norm in our workplaces, not the exception.
During my career to date I’ve observed many different managers and leaders at work. Those who delivered the greatest results always, always listened to the colleagues and teams around them. Whether we’re considered a subject expert in that particular area or not, the moment we stop listening is the moment we start underperforming. The wider team perspective is vital to prevent us from making unnecessary errors and allow us to get to the best possible outcome. Fail to listen at your peril.
Just as important as listening is the art of effective communication. While we work in a silo, we stifle delivery. Sure, we might still get to our desired end result, but how many other teams could we have helped by communicating with them along the way, sharing our learnings and our pitfalls – and benefitting from understanding theirs. To truly deliver to our full potential, we need to establish effective channels of communication right across our organisation, and be ruthless about employing these to ensure that transparency and regular feedback can be achieved.
It’s actually not all that hard to deliver. What is more difficult is ensuring that we are delivering as effectively as possible. This is even more pronounced for those who have been in a particular role for some time, who are working in the same way that they’ve always worked rather than taking advantage of, for example, advances in technology. With great delivery needs to come an element of self-evaluation; always reviewing how we can work smarter, faster, better.
Joining the dots
If we’re not careful, we can deliver until the cows come home without ever actually moving our organisation forwards. From the factory floor to the Board room, every single employee within an organisation has the right to understand how their own personal delivery targets fit in as part of the overall business strategic goals. If we’re an employee, we need to be putting our hands up and asking for this information until we get it. If we have responsibility for managing others, or leading the organisation within which we work, we need to go out of our way to join the dots for our teams and provide absolute clarity. The best results come when people aren’t just delivering, but are delivering with one eye on the bigger picture.
Treating others with respect
Perhaps most importantly of all: If you do nothing else, do this. It doesn’t matter how great your output is; if you haven’t taken the time to treat people in the right way, it negates any positive impact you might otherwise have had. And we really are talking the basics here. Saying please and thank you. Delivering on what you’ve promised to do. Accepting that everyone has bad days. Basically, being a decent human being. The most shining stars in any organisation are those who deliver whilst also being a great person to work alongside. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked somewhere, or how senior you are. It’s never okay not to treat others with respect.