Two Workplace Issues are Hooked Together – By Productive Communication

Jeffrey, my husband and co-author, is now teaching his students the important difference between “doing work” and “delivering results”. It’s a harder concept to grasp than you think. Almost everybody has a list of Things To Do. Almost nobody has a list of Things To Deliver (unless you’re a UPS or Fed-Ex driver). We schedule our work – the doing – but the end product and who wants it are too often out of sight.

That simple difference, between doing and delivering the results of our work, is what underlies two common workplace issues:

First, insufficient resources & support – The common complaint of many managers, and their staff too, is that they need more people, or a bigger budget, or more time. You get the idea: “If you gave us more X, we would be able to produce more high-quality, on-time results. Gimme more.”

Second, lack of accountability – Usually only managers complain about this one, but not too loudly. Most don’t understand accountability, believing it’s a personality trait or a product of someone’s upbringing. So they are resigned to thinking that some people just aren’t accountable. In fact, many managers just don’t know how to create accountability in their workplace.

What both of these issues have in common is the failure to use effective Performance Conversations. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Make a request – Specify What you want, When you want it, and Why it matters;
  2. Get a good promise – Do they have the time and resources to produce what you want? Do they agree to do what you ask? (If not, negotiate a workable agreement or ask someone else.)
  3. State the agreement – Spell out the What-When-Why one more time and get the conversational equivalent of a handshake. Or maybe even an actual handshake.
  4. Follow up Check in prior to the due date: How’s it going? Everything on track? Need anything? Then follow up on the due date: Did you get what you want? Either way, communicate. Say, “Thank you” or say, “Where is it?” and deal with the answer. Finally, follow up at the next team meeting: Where does everyone stand on their agreements to produce and deliver their results?

That last one – #4, the follow-up – is where Accountability lives, and often seen by managers as unnecessary or too time consuming. But the mistake regarding the two workplace issues – insufficient resources and support & lack of accountability – is the failure to clarify, in the Performance Conversation, to clarify What you want. People hear “do this” or “work on that”. What they do not hear or remember, even if you say it clearly, is what you want at the end of their doing and working. Do you want a product delivered? A service delivered? A communication delivered?

So a Performance Conversation (request + promise = agreement), supports accountability by naming and describing the deliverable – the end result(s) of people’s doing and working. It also supports having the proper resources and support for delivering the desired result(s), by bringing attention to the What-When-Why of the deliverable you really want.

I hope Jeffrey gets his point across to his students, because doing and delivering live in two separate parts of our brain. His students may take a while to get this into their work practices, but you can put more emphasis on strengthening those Performance Conversations starting now. You can also check out this Free Workplace Assessment  and see where your workplace stands on those two issues (and you’ll get some free feedback on what to do about it).

Thanks – and make some big requests before the week is out!

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