What do you focus on – activities or results?



Many of you would have had your performance review 1-1 recently, and most likely you are disappointed about how it went. There are many reasons why you would be disappointed right now, I talked about it in my post last year about this – Performance Review – The Day After.

If you want to understand why this disappointment happens (and maybe every year) and what you can do about it, read on.

Business only cares about results. I talked about in one of the realities of workplace some time back – Workplace Reality #1: Organizations care for value, not you. They don’t care about activities you performed. If you are not focused on results, you may end up putting in lots of efforts but may not have results to show. This is where the problem happens – you think you have done a great job, and the manager thinks you barely met expectations. Be careful about this dichotomy, esp. when you are senior enough in the organization.

Does it sound unfair and alien? Let me explain.

When you are junior, most organizations usually provide clear goals (usually these are tasks). It is relatively easier for you to produce visible results, you do what you are asked to do. The results are usually proportional to the efforts you put in and activities you perform because there is very little dependency on others to achieve your results.

As you go up the ladder, the tasks are less clearly defined and dependencies on others go up. These mean results are no longer proportional to the activities that you perform or efforts you put in. So if you focus too much on activities, you may end up doing work without producing equivalent results. The senior you are in the organization, bigger this trap becomes.

Ask managers about self-appraisal documents they receive from their reports, and they will tell you it is a long list of activities performed and effort spent, and very little focus on business results achieved. This is because individuals tend to stay focused on activities and not enough on results.

It is very important to inculcate the habit of focusing on results, even when activities are a good proxy for results (when you are junior). This ensures that all effort being spent is helping push results forward. This also ensures that you are aware of the need to change your tasks and activities when results are not being achieved with what you are doing.

Performance in an organization always means results produced. The more focused you are on results, better aligned you will be with your organization and your manager. If you are not results-focused, you will be penalized for lack of results, while you will keep claiming you put in lots of efforts. Disappointment and frustration follow.

It is also important to note that results have to count. They need to be “impactful and visible business results” – you need to create an impact on the business, and the impact has to be visible to others.

Do you know what ‘impactful and visible business results‘ you will be evaluated on?

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