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Want to get results? Stop being results-driven!

Remove the obvious and focus on the meaningful

Look through any selection of LinkedIn profiles and you’ll find the usual array of chest-beating descriptions of people’s skills and attributes. I’m not knocking this – it’s a marketplace; you’re there to sell yourself – but there’s one descriptor that’s really come to irk me lately: “results-driven”.

Results-driven – what does it actually mean?

Think about it, it’s semantic nonsense: results are what happen as an outcome when you do something. Do it badly and you’ll get a bad result; do it brilliantly and you’ll get a better one.

OK, I realise that, in the world of business jargon, results-driven is a shorthand for “look at me, I have a track record of getting great results, so hire me” but what the statement omits is much more important: what kind of results do I get motivated by and what kind of results do I expect and encourage from the people who work with me?

As Gordon Tredgold argues in his book FAST, transparency is one of the keys to successful leadership, so it’s a shame that we hide who we are behind meaningless clichés. But if transparency – in this case, sharing what kind of results get us out of bed in the morning – is something to be encouraged, there’s a problem that we face. It’s this:

We often don’t know what results we want

And this is compounded by a further problem: we don’t spend enough time talking about them. Particularly when we might find that we want different things.

Find the why

Simon Sinek gets to the root of things with his work on “finding your ‘why’”, but it’s a sad fact that not many people have a clear view of their “why” – their core purpose – and businesses have even less of one.

I’ve found that senior executives are more than comfortable talking about what they are doing or plan to do and how it might be done, but rarely stop to examine why they are doing it. It’s understandable – it’s not an easy conversation as it involves each person triangulating different results:

  • The results I’m judged on by those outside my team – e.g. sales, customer satisfaction, share price
  • The results my team and/or peers expect from me – a mix of behaviours and measurable outcomes
  • The results I want for myself, which could be anything to meet a range of material emotional and spiritual needs.

When you start to examine your own responses to those three sets of results you begin to realise that unpacking what being results-driven means is massively complex and, quite possibly, if you were to be fully “results-driven” you would never get anything done as you would be constantly working out which set of results you were trying to drive.

Keep it simple

Better to adopt an approach taken by John Maeda in his book The Laws of Simplicity, which states that simplicity is “subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful”. Taking this approach means not fretting about the obvious results – increased sales, better satisfaction etc – but focusing on the meaningful – how do those results support the purpose of the organisation?

That’s a conversation that’s well worth having.

Nick Bush

Nick is a business advisor and non-executive director who helps organisations improve their focus and performance by developing customer-centred strategies and business plans. He has helped companies transform the way they do business through better strategies, change management and technology, with a relentless focus on the customer. Nick has worked across all kinds of business sectors from telecoms to banking, chemicals to charities - as owner of Open Chord his current focus is on helping arts and non-profit organisations to be more successful by creating a solid planning foundation that will help them grow.