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How to Drive Results Without Driving People Crazy

Before you dismiss this writing piece as lofty idealism, there's something you should know. I'm a results guy. I refuse to do anything for a long time without seeing tangible results. I'm type A, an eight on the Enneagram, and a high D on the DISC assessment. Yes, the title may seemingly suggest a paradox, but I believe these two things can be true simultaneously: one, we can drive results, and two, we can do it without driving people crazy. 


Despite my personality type, I understand (from experience) that people (not the results they drive) are a leader's greatest asset. Unfortunately, in an attempt to drive results, leaders often end up driving people crazy. For far too long, leaders have perpetuated cultures where the outcomes (results) took precedence over the people—leading to widespread dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction manifested as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle, commonly known as the Great Resignation. This economic trend started in early 2021 when employees massively and voluntarily resigned. The primary reasons for these resignations included low pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and feeling disrespected at work, with 57% of those leaving in 2021 citing disrespect as the critical factor in their decision.


To achieve the desired results most organizations seek, leaders must find a way to attract and retain top talent, which requires recognizing people as more than instruments for producing results. This "people as instruments" mindset is particularly evident in customer-focused industries, where the prevailing attitude that "the customer is always right" often comes at the expense of the employees, which is both unfair and counterproductive to achieving results. 


To rectify this, I propose three actions leaders can take to drive results without driving people crazy. 


1. Communicate with Clarity


Leadership and productivity expert Michael Hyatt highlights this by saying, "There are virtually no limits to the ways poor communication can undermine an organization's efforts." According to research data, it is one of the leading contributors to low morale. Hyatt says, "Low morale is part of a negative cycle that impacts engagement and productivity. When communication is lacking, alignment erodes, people can't stay on task, and morale suffers." Yikes! It has become abundantly clear that the greatest gift any leader can give their organization or team is not a pizza party (or other manipulatively insincere gestures) but the gift of clarity. 


2. Celebrate the Small Wins


The age-old axiom "progress is a process" highlights the importance of valuing incremental achievements. Organizations that focus solely on (final) outcomes need to recognize the significance of small victories and how failure to do so diminishes the perceived value of individual contributions. Leaders need to send a clear message that every effort counts. For example, instead of waiting for the year's end to celebrate reaching a financial goal, organizations should celebrate the monthly progress that edges them closer to the goal. The journey is just as important as the destination. 


3. Connect the Results to the Why


In today's interconnected society, the desire for meaningful connection is more pronounced than ever. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, captured this reality in its mission statement about building communities and bringing the world closer together. Despite this societal trend towards connectivity, many workplaces lack a genuine sense of connectedness. The truth is that people are more inclined to achieve results when those results directly link to their existing motivations. People want to do work that matters to them and that matters in the world.


Summary


The notion that achieving results must come at the expense of employee well-being is both outdated and counterproductive. A shift towards clarity in communication, celebrating incremental achievements, and connecting work to a deeper purpose can foster an environment where we retain talent AND achieve results—effectively proving that driving results without driving people crazy is not only possible but essential for long-term organizational success.

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