Beware of people who say things like, “I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done.” They almost always make this remark when trying to impress an interviewer, colleague, or manager. The implication is that while all the losers around them are busy being losers, these are the stars of your organization. Often, though, they’re just jerks, or walking clichés at the very least.
The reality is that all of us like to accomplish things. That’s why I hate the term results-oriented to describe anyone.
Know what else I hate? Best practices. So you can imagine how I feel when I hear pundits, executives, and everyone else preach that a best practice for building a results-oriented workplace is to recognize employees who produce…results.
It’s a line that so many people repeat so many times that it’s easy to mistake it for a fact.
It’s actually an alternative fact, an opinion disfigured into a recommendation because it makes intuitive sense. If this seems intuitive to you, too, your intuition is fooling you.
Rewarded for Luck
A while back, I spoke to Michael Mauboussin, Credit Suisse’s head of global financial strategies and author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. He explained something that you probably already feel in your gut but might be too panicky, egotistical, or deluded to admit: Many of your achievements—the same ones that earn you praise (or punishment)—are largely beyond your control. Mauboussin explained:
There’s a continuum of things that are pure luck on one end and pure skill on the other. When your outcomes are truly a reflection of the work that you’re doing, a results-oriented evaluation is not unreasonable, like in manufacturing, which is very skills-oriented. But things like launching a successful R&D project are inherently probabilistic, with a lot of randomness and luck to them. There are profound influences that are hard to anticipate.
And get this: The higher you are on the ladder, the greater the role that luck plays in your work. You know what else grows with each rung? Compensation. All of which means that a four-leaf clover increasingly determines what you earn in cash and recognition as you move up a hierarchy. Continue reading
One year ago today, corporations across the country—the world!—decided to scrap their performance-management models. They stopped their Sisyphean attempts to fix systems that were never really broken—because they never worked to begin with. They realized that achieving outcomes and assessing people based on achieving outcomes are not the same. They understood the following:
Focusing on results may be the worst way to get results.
What happened on January 11, 2016, to spark this revolution? That evening, I gave a DisruptHR presentation to a room of HR and business leaders called Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Presentation!
Here’s some of what I said:
- SMART goals are pretty stupid.
- You can set objectives, but gauge the worthiness of the goals themselves, not people based on meeting them.
- Stop focusing on output and start emphasizing input.
- Measuring by results can ruin your coaching and development efforts.
- Given luck’s influence on outcomes, current frameworks may be sabotaging workers.
I said a lot more. Of course, my talk didn’t incite the insurgence I imagined above…yet! Nonetheless, I’m hopeful that as the neverending exploration to improve performance management continues, more companies will not simply stick extra Band-Aids on their processes but truly transform performance management into behavior management.
Check out my talk and let me know what you think!