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Two Ideas that Change the Way You Lead

And separate the good leaders from the great leaders

There should really be more diversity in this image but stock photos are seriously behind the diversity curve. 

This morning I stopped off to grab breakfast on my way to the office but when I went to pay my debit card was declined. I completed the transaction with cash and quickly opened up my bank app to check the status of my account. Sure enough, there was a fraudulent charge and the credit union had suspended my card.

Over an hour later I had been transferred at least four times, called three different numbers, talked to 6 different people and still didn’t fully feel that the issue had been resolved.

This is clearly a customer experience issue. The credit union’s systems were developed to address their internal needs, processes, and requirements with little thought to the customer’s questions, time, experience, or concerns.

Outcome: Card canceled, investigation underway, new card issued.

Result: I’m behind schedule, frustrated, and unsure if I should continue banking here.

How often do we create systems in our life and our work that address a perceived internal problem but disregard the result of the actual experience?

Everyday Outcomes vs Results:

My kids play while I prepare the food. When the food is ready I tell my kids to stop playing, wash their hands, and come to the table. My kids get angry because they are right in the middle of landing LEGO robots on the moon for the first time in history and the procedure is too fragile for them to just stop. So we have a battle of wills while the food gets cold. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. Then we sit down together, unhappy and stressed, and eat our food begrudgingly while trying not to make eye contact.

Outcome: Dinner is served.

Result: Everybody’s angry.

What if instead of letting the outcome be my focus, I looked instead at the desired results. A family meal that everyone sits down and enjoys together. I want the experience to be enjoyable. Focusing on the outcome brings up some new ideas about how to create what’s most important to me — that everyone is enjoying dinner together. I could ask the kids to participate in the preparation. Sure it might take a little longer and get a little messy, but they like to help and it’s always fun. This way, they’re ready to eat when it’s ready instead of being absorbed in their own work.

Relationship Outcomes vs Results:

Women tend to carry the emotional labor of the family as an element of the never-ending “To-Do” list that’s always running in the background of our mind. I used to do this and I easily created overwhelm, high stress, anxiety, and strained relations between myself and my husband. I carried and managed the list in my head and delegated tasks, seemingly from thin air to my husband. I was even proud of my multi-tasking and project management skills. But if his task was uncompleted (or completed unsatisfactorily), I would get frustrated, resentful, and blame him for not pulling his weight, not respecting my workload, and not listening. Sound at all familiar?

Outcome: To-Do list continues to be managed by one partner.

Results: Confusion, resentment, frustration, judgment, division

I had to choose to consider his experience in this system. I began to realize that he had his own list that I wasn’t privy to which created his own overwhelm, stress, and anxiety. I was piling on by delegating instead of communicating. The results I most wanted were: to feel supported, to feel heard, to be respected, and to feel like we are a team. The best teams communicate well and everyone takes a leadership role. I had to let go of my need to manage and control and take time to write the list down, review it together, and prioritize the tasks together to invite connection and deeper commitment to the team effort. I gave my partner a voice in the matter instead of barking orders and wearing martyrdom like a badge of honor. The list is much smaller than it used to be and we are closer to functioning as a team every day.

Leadership Outcomes vs Results:

Over the years I have worked with hundreds of men and women in leadership roles. More often than not, they believed the results that mattered most involved numbers: profits, revenue, spending, and retention. The big realization (that many of them never made) is that these are outcomes. And specifically these outcomes are directly connected to the results your staff, community, and clients are getting from their interactions with you and your company. When you chose to see the human factor as a resource first instead of a human, you miss the results that matter every time. I worked in an organization where the senior leadership focused so heavily on the outcomes of a big project that they forgot to communicate the vision with the rest of the org. They spent their time meeting with potential partners, influencers, and community members that could help them further the project along. Meanwhile, the building staff was getting restless. People felt left in the dark, undervalued, and frustrated that the day to day challenges of the work wasn’t being addressed. As staff members began to lose morale, client relationships took a hit, revenue suffered and by the time I left, over 20% of the staff had left or were on their way out and the big pet project of the senior team was still looking for funding.

Outcome: Focused effort to secure funding, launch a big project, and increase revenue.

Results: Low morale, damaged client relations, and a mass exodus of quality staff.

What if the leadership team had involved the staff members in the vision for the big project? What if they had built in status updates and connected the future vision to the current reality? What if they relied on the experience and connections of staff members to execute their vision rather than taking it all on themselves? When it comes to leadership, people matter. Results that matter most are always connected to the human element of the work you are doing and the journey you are on. The outcome is simply the destination you plan to reach, but results are how you and those you are leading, feel when you get there.

As a woman who teaches about personal and professional leadership, this is a pretty important learning experience. Leadership is about getting the results that matter most. It’s about creating a journey that is so freaking amazing, everyone wants to climb the next, even steeper mountain when this one is conquered. If your people, (whether it’s you, your family, friends, colleagues, or staff) are jumping ship after being herded through your systems like cattle, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the results you intend to create compared with the actual experience of those in your sphere of influence.

So, take a look at the life you are living and the work you are doing and ask yourself: Am I focused on creating outcomes or results? 

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