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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


“See you guys tomorrow,” said Steve as he headed out the office door and toward the elevator. There was palpable annoyance among the other people in the sales department.

“Can you believe that guy?” Sally complained to her cohort Bob. “Here it is Tuesday at lunch and he’s off to the golf course! He should be here in the office on the phone arranging appointments or somewhere on an official sales call. This just isn’t fair to everybody else in the department!”

“I agree,” said Bob. “He’s a total slacker! I don’t trust that guy as far as I could throw him. It does bother me, though, that he always has the best sales revenue numbers in the department. How does he do it?”

Does this sound familiar? Don’t Sally and Bob have a legitimate point? Why should Steve get to play golf when everyone else in the sales department is busy in the office?

It depends. Most decisions come down to values and priorities, right? Well, then, what does the organization value more; input (equal effort from all members of the sales team) or output (sales revenue)? Do we really care how hard Steve is working if he’s got the best sales revenue numbers in the company? Don’t we want to investigate how he’s being so successful? Heck, if he’s closing deals on the golf course, then maybe we should suggest that everyone else in the sales department take up golf!

I know of a small business that was very entrepreneurial in its culture (input) and incredibly successful in its niche (output). Then it was acquired by a much larger business which believed that it was essential to install time clocks so that all employee hours could be tracked to the minute (input). Along with similar “micromanaging” changes in place (inputs), the highly motivated and entrepreneurial work force of the small business began to depart (output) and its performance and success in its niche began to sink significantly (output).

We really want to focus on working “smart” versus working “hard,” don’t we? What we really care about is results (as long as we’re operating in a legal, ethical, and moral manner, of course). Surely hard work can pay dividends, and it often does, but at times a strong “work ethic” can interfere with getting extraordinary results. If you need to dig a hole, do you want to do it with a spoon or with a steam shovel?

How are you measuring individual and organizational performance in your organization? Are you measuring results (output) or activity (input)? Are you hiring people who work hard or people who get results? They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but can be. How successful will you enable yourself and others to be?


Technique #1: While both can be useful, focus more on outputs than inputs when measuring individual and organizational performance.

Technique #2: Focusing more on outputs generally means granting more individual freedom to achieve results rather than “micromanaging” inputs.

Technique #3: While some workers like more supervision than others, if the members of your team generally object to having their performance measured by outputs, then you may not be hiring the kind of people who can take your organization where you want it to go.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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