By Darren Virassammy
COO, 34 Strong, Inc.
How is it that we create outcomes that matter? Of course we want to create outcomes that matter, and of course outcomes are different than tasks, but does that line get blurred sometimes? Do we sometimes get so bogged down in our tasks that we actually lose site of the difference between outcomes and tasks? Can this process of misalignment actually create disengaged employees, and pull us away from the teams ability to create outcomes that matter? I know I have personally been guilty of this and our 34 Strong team has been refining our focus on outcomes and seeing tasks as the steps to get there. Weekly, we connect to an overarching specific outcome, whether that be scalability, an excellent client experience, or clear messaging, into the tasks we are tackling individually and collectively that week. It helps us stay focused on our team alignment and how our unique talents contribute to us getting there.
Create Outcomes That Matter: The Ripple
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at the second annual Hitachi Global Women’s Summit, representing 9 countries. Creating outcomes that matter was at the core of this summit and the larger Hitachi Next conference that the summit was a part of. The #HitachiWomen focus is phenomenal, in the discussions that are being had and intentional and purposeful steps being taken to improve women representation in leadership and so much more. Truly, the focus of the Global Women’s Summit is all about creating outcomes that matter not just for women today but for generations to come.
As I prepared for this keynote I reflected on talent alignment, employee engagement, and the strengths-based approach to development. I reflected on how critical those are in creating outcomes that matter. I reflected on the fact that nearly 70% of the US workforce is disengaged. As I identified my images, and prepared my delivery and timing by repeatedly talking to myself in the mirror and speaking to my children’s stuffed animals numerous times (they are a really tough crowd by the way), I was struck by one critical component that kept coming back to me.
The Big Reveal: Constantly Remember…Tasks Are Not Outcomes
That’s the big reveal?? That seems so trivial, right? Academically, it is easy to distinguish these two, but when the rubber meets the road and we fall deep into the doldrums of our daily lives and work, it is easy for the lines to quickly become unclear between what tasks and outcomes are. Enter the Blue Beach Punta Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic, where I was given a clear illustration of this difference in a very unexpected experience this past summer. Fundamentally, outcomes continually create sustainable impact, tasks are the mere steps that we are taking to get to those outcomes, maintain those outcomes and sustain those outcomes. This resort’s whole team from leadership to ground staff had a clear understanding of these differences, and it was revealed in the most unpredictable of circumstances.
My whole family was on a remarkable summer family vacation in DR, including my wife, children, parents, brothers and uncle. Our ground floor condo at the Blue Beach Punta Cana Resort overlooked a calm Atlantic Ocean and our covered patio opened right out to the beach a few steps away, it was truly magical. A place to relax, be free, write, and soak up the eternity echoing family memories that we were making one moment at a time.
After returning to the condo from a day of SCUBA diving with me, my youngest brother Devin grabbed a glass of water. As we fielded excited questions from family about our underwater tour of a sunken submarine, Devin noticed that the skies appeared to be clouding up and grey sheets of rain appeared to be blowing in. He headed for the sliding glass door to grab a seat under our covered patio and take in this remarkable feat of nature while continuing the conversation. We had sat through a couple of these outside on previous days and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle put on by nature, that included roaring rains, a steady cleansing ocean breeze and the crisp fresh air that left our lungs refreshed.
This time, however would be remarkably different. When Devin opened that door, he didn’t hear the roar of rain, or smell the crisp scent brought by an afternoon rain shower. Rather, he inhaled and his lungs filled with smoke. He heard commotion around the corner and took a step off the patio and looked to his right. Barely 100 feet away from our unit, the temporary tent structure that was part of the restaurant was engulfed in a massive fire. The smoke, embers and debris were blowing right at us and onto our patio that was filled with wooden furniture. The workers were fighting the fire with everything they had, but at the moment, it was not looking like they were getting the upper-hand on the fire.
Our family, including my diaper clad 1 year-old son and 5 year old daughter who was still in her bathing suit grabbed our passports and headed rapidly for safety. As we watched from a safe distance alongside other terrified guests, we witnessed an incredible display of teamwork from the resort staff, to get the fire under control and prevent it from spreading. With a little help from nature as a gentle rain did begin to fall, they rallied back and extinguished the fire before the fire department arrived. The teamwork was tremendous, the work they did to defeat the fire was phenomenal, but my greatest lessons from this would come as I connected the dots in the days ahead.
Create Outcomes That Matter By Keeping The Desired Outcome In Focus: ALWAYS!
In less than 2 hours of losing their main dining areas and a performance area for the resort, the team had a buffet dinner ready AND the band that was scheduled for the evening was able to successfully set up and perform. This fire was merely a bump in the road.
The resort team from all levels of senior leadership to grounds keepers aligned and took on many tasks. Some were cleaning, others were cooking, others rearranging, and yet others were interacting with guests keeping us updated and even laughing. Over the duration of the next week of our trip, the fire had become barely a recognizable bump in the road for us as well, even though the physical evidence stared at us daily. Other guests that we became friends with from all over the globe had the same experience. The fire, which in the moment had been truly terrifying was but a minor blip.
Why?? The whole resort staff fundamentally understood the difference between outcomes and tasks. They understood and demonstrated flawlessly through a very challenging scenario what it means to actually create outcomes that matter. At all levels of the organization, they understood that the number one outcome that they had to provide on a daily basis was simply a phenomenal guest experience…no matter what. Even if resources were impacted, resourcefulness at all levels of the Blue Beach Punta Cana team remained high, and the importance of maintaining that outcome remained as well.
Perhaps some photos distinguishing tasks and outcomes will help to illustrate.
Create Outcomes That Matter: What You Do In Life Echoes In Eternity
What are the overarching outcomes that you seek to create regularly? Perhaps these are at work, perhaps these are at home? Is it an excellent customer experience at all levels of your organization? Is it employee engagement? Is it being fully engaged in your children’s lives? Is it maintaining a healthy life? Is it living a life of impact that ripples far beyond your time here? What are the tasks that lead to these outcomes? What are the tasks that don’t lead to these outcomes? How do you keep clear what are outcomes and what are tasks?
As you think of the outcomes sought, how is it that talent aligns on your team to take on the tasks necessary to get to those outcomes? How do you create engagement and motivate your team to understand the ramifications of their tasks on getting to those outcomes? This can’t just happen once a year or quarterly at a organizational performance meeting. This has to be baked into the culture. Needed, are regular doses of motivation (which in itself is an outcome) creating clarity for your team on how their tasks align with outcomes. As leaders, we may have to keep teams focused on specific tasks, but it is our responsibility to show team members how their role and those tasks get us to the outcomes we collectively seek out. Those team members can clearly see how they create value. We can value them for being valuable and not just provide a generic “you are so valuable” statement, that we can’t answer the simple follow-up question asking to articulate: “why?”
Create Outcomes That Matter: Employee Engagement Is An Outcome
A culture of employee engagement is an outcome that must be at the core of any organization seeking to maximize the outcomes that it seeks such as customer service excellence, guest experience, or…? A culture of employee engagement is not something we just arrive at and get done. That would merely make it into a task. It is what we choose consistently that creates that culture, maintains that culture and sustains that culture for the long term. It is not the process of going to a workshop for a day about employee engagement or a strengths-based approach to development. It takes regular, consistent, intentional and purposeful work to get there and stay there, and it starts with alignment in leadership. You can’t workout on January 2nd for a full day and expect that to cover all of your exercise and health needs for the year. What gets healthy results is consistent intentional and purposeful doses over the course of the year…perhaps just 2 or 3 times a week taking a walk even. That will create a long term sustainable outcome, that a single day at the gym one time per year cannot do.
If you are about engaging employee engagement in your workplace, and even turning the tides, becoming a voice for the engaging the disengaged, maybe it is time to make employee engagement a core outcome that your team is focusing on stepping into 2018. Other organizations have done it and the results are pretty phenomenal. (HERE is a link to some of our past case studies.)
I hope that your team never has to deal with a fire like the Blue Beach Punta Cana team did. But if you do, I hope there is clarity on the overarching, uncompromising outcomes that your whole team is aligned toward, like the remarkable Blue Beach team including, Josiah, Genesis and Manuel (to name a few) are. I hope that you have clarity on your teams’ talent, and on how to maximize employee engagement to create outcomes that matter. I hope you have put in the work and conditioning to have that team ready to deal with the unexpected.
To create outcomes that matter, and not merely get stuck on completing tasks, it is critical that we start with the right inputs and understand how talent uniquely flows from each of us to create engagement and alignment. If you are about engaging employee engagement, because you understand how it impacts all other organizational outcomes (like profitability, productivity and a reduction in employee turnover) to their core, maybe it is time to have a discussion about your employee engagement strategy. Whenever you are ready to have that conversation about employee engagement as a key outcome, we will be here. We will share with you what we have learned from our client experiences, our CORE 34 Program, and the steps that we take and you can take to get there. The time has never been better to engage the disengaged!
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Darren Virassammy is Co-Founder and COO of 34 Strong Inc. a leader in Employee Engagement training and consulting. 34 Strong works with organizations across the United States in developing teams around talent to optimize performance and maximize results. His Top Five are: Achiever, Arranger Relator, Learner, Responsibility. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, or Twitter. Check out a 2 minute highlight video from one of Darren’s recent keynote talks HERE.
Photo Credits: Darren Virassammy, Lisa Virassammy