Only as good as your last result

Steve Jobs
[My flickr feed]

This saying should be killed off. It is dehumanising, contradictory and does nothing to restore my faith in people. In time, if repeated often enough, it leads to an arms race of (perceived) financial success. You are rewarded for increased billing, not better service, excellent client skills or a pattern of ethical behaviour.

My days in professional practice, and before that recruitment, were testosterone fuelled, where fee earners seemed more interested in outmanoeuvring one other, and getting to the top of the billing rankings, rather than being encouraged to do the best by their client.

But, sticking with the theme. Let’s just say that the person has had a lousy month, they haven’t billed a fraction of what was expected and they know you will be having a word in their ‘shell-like’.

How will you deal with the scenario?

Please not the dreaded, ill-mannered memo. Or the ubiquitous email that is shoehorned in such a way as to denude you and the organisation of any humanity.

No, the answer is simple – go and talk to them. And promise me once you have asked the first few questions you shut up and listen.

To begin with, no doubt, you will hear the usual bland, insipid response, but, if you wait long enough and show you care, it may well be that the person opens up. Don’t worry if you get the usual jam tomorrow excuses – all people who are backed into a corner will rely on that old chestnut – but try to find out what is really going on. Don’t keep banging on about the fact that this month isn’t as good as last month or what your budget says it should be. May be I am being delustional and you will resort to the carrot and (big) stick but business is about playing the long game, not focusing relentlessly on yesterday’s results as a guarantee of tomorrow’s triumph. Don’t forget you are dealing with people, not machines! And of course, once you find out the real reason it may just build a connection that does much more than a quick pep talk.

But perhaps there is another issue at stake – what lies ahead may just mean that yesterday’s results cannot be sustained. No business is immune from change and perhaps you need to look at the strategic issues in more detail. You may have to consider greater technological change, outsourcing in one shape or another or taking a different tack with your clients. If any of these resonate then have you got the right people on the right seats on the bus? It is highly unlikely that what they are doing today will half-resemble what they are doing in a few years time.

My advice: stop judging people by what they did yesterday, and instead look re-imagine a better tomorrow.

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