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Want Growth? Focus on Effort, Not Outcomes

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Nov 17, 2010 5:42:00 AM

EffortOver the last two years, I’ve become increasingly aware of a fatal flaw in my management (and parenting) style.  I’ve always focused on and favored outcomes.  I’ve learned (full disclosure:  I’m learning) that focusing on effort may be far more effective in driving performance.

For years, I’ve prided myself on being task oriented.  I’ve set results-based goals and chafed when asked about activity.

    • As a sales person, I’ve focused on closing business, saying things like, “I don’t care if I have to work one hour or 15 hours – all that matters is: did I win the business?”
    • As a sales manager, I’ve focused on sales quota and eschewed weekly reports that focused on sales activity.
    • As a CEO and owner, I’ve focused on key metrics and ensuring that the customer was happy.  I’d happily tell employees that I didn’t have time to hear a story, what I needed to know was what the results are.

I admit that I simplified business, and life, into two paradigms:

    1. The paradigm of quantity, which focuses on activity; and,
    2. The paradigm of quality, which focuses on results.

I’m learning that it’s not really a battle between these two paradigms, but rather the integration of both paradigms.  Business and life are about quality activity and both are critically important.

I’m no less focused on the importance of the results, but I’m fast gaining an understanding that I must focus equally on the quality of the effort and activity.  The failure to focus on either creates a fatal flaw.

To develop superior performance in others, you must focus on effort.  The focus on results kills the opportunity for learning, and can lead to numerous bad habits.  Chief among them:

    • It creates dependency; which, interestingly, is the precise “result” a manager is looking to avoid by focusing on results.
    • It limits the ability to grow, creating what is often called a “fixed mindset.”
    • It inhibits the ability to learn, which is the most important skill in the 21st century.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, B2B Sales Strategy