Effort and results are sometimes related, but they are not the same.
I recently worked with a development team that was on a year-long critical project with a tight timeline. The team had just delivered its first milestone, and the managers got everyone together to celebrate. There was a buzz of optimism in the room. The EVP of Engineering was invited to say a few words.
What happened next was interesting.
The executive explained how critical the project was, and how tight the timeline. He mentioned how he didn’t see many lights on in the office after hours. One of his other delivery teams, he said, was always in the office on weekends, and most of the engineers were at the office late every evening. He wrapped up by explaining that he expected more effort from this team. By the end of his remarks, all of the positive energy had left the room.
Beginning the following weekend, team meetings were held on Saturdays and Sundays.
It’s tempting to believe that the best employees and teams are the ones that spend the most time in the office. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with putting in extra effort to complete an important project or task. But focusing on and rewarding effort will only get you more hours in the office. It won’t automatically produce better results. In fact, it seldom does.
Have you ever known someone that stays at the office late every day but never seems to accomplish anything? Have you also known someone that leaves the office most days at 5:00, but consistently outperforms everyone else?
If you want better performance from your teams, make this simple shift: Focus on results, not effort. Stop measuring productivity in terms of hours. Divide large projects into smaller pieces that produce real customer value. Reward innovation, high quality and less rework. Celebrate milestones.
If you measure and reward effort, you’ll get more of it, but you won’t necessarily get better results. You also may demoralize and wear down your employees. If you reward results, your best teams will find ways to do more in less time, and they’ll just keep getting better.