Do These 3 Things for Better Work Results
There are three good practices that are often forgotten in the corporate world, and which get in the way of good work if they’re not done. These are communication, accountability, and transparency. If these aren’t done consistently, and consistently done well, then you’ll find yourself re-doing unnecessary work, spending dollars and time, and undermining positive work culture.
Communication: Do we agree on what to do?
Language is difficult. Not just because language barriers exist, because that’s true, too, but also because not everyone receives information in the same way. And, if that’s the case, how can a leader, a team member, a project leader effectively communicate expectations and requirements and reach an understanding of what’s to be done?
Work agreement is a natural way to build a bridge to that understanding, and it’s reached when both parties come away from a conversation with clear expectations of next-step actions. It may take several conversations to achieve this, but if missed, there’s a highly likelihood that what you think you’ve asked someone to do, is not what the outcome will be. Whoops.
After you’ve agreed to do the work, you should check in along the way to ensure that communication is maintained and the ‘ask’ is on track.
- Am I maintaining accountability to deliver the things that I believe to be understood?
- Did I execute and validate my results with the requester, and do I continue to do this as I go?
- At the end, did I review what was accomplished so that we can tie off the results?
- Did we reach general agreement that we accomplished what we thought?
Your check-in questions should be verbal confirmation of the other two work practices that come to play: accountability and transparency.
Accountability: Do I do the things I say I’m going to do?
After work-agreement is reached, work is moved forward by, well, working. No brainer, right? Competing priorities and internal politics can get in the way of this, so sometimes it’s not this simple, but when it is, you should be accountable to move work forward.
Accountability comes down to doing the things you say you’re going to do. Just leave a meeting where you’ve committed to follow-up and get back to your project lead [insert team member’s name, manager, department head, etc.]? You must then go off and do the thing and get back to the person. If instead, you get sucked into fire drills, delivery on other commitments, or simply don’t do the work, you’re not being accountable. You simply aren’t doing the things you said you’re going to do.
we suck at
off the list.
A simple way to set yourself up for success is to reach that work-agreement we talked about. And, if there’s concern that you’ll not be able to deliver because of unrealistic deadlines or other unforeseen obstacles, then communicate. Have yet another conversation to share what you’ve encountered. If you do this, you won’t erode the trust of the person you said you’d do something for, and they may even help you prioritize their ask of you relative to your other responsibilities. Or, you can just do the thing you said you were going to do.
There’s also a lack of disciple in today’s corporate world around the stop-doing list. We’re masters of adding work, but we suck at taking things off the list. So, if you find that you’re oversubscribed, then don’t commit to more. It may hurt people’s feelings on the onset, but it’ll pay back in credibility and respect as you’ll actually be able to do the work you’ve committed to.
Transparency: Do I keep you informed for better or for worse?
Transparency comes down to communication and accountability. If you’ve been diligent in your other practices, you’ve communicated and understand expectations and hold yourself accountable to do what you say, then you must be clear about anything that gets in the way of those things. If you’re unable to deliver, trust is eroded. Re-building that credibility is much harder than just doing the thing you were supposed to and being accountable in the first place.
In any relationship, if I don’t do what I tell you I’m going to do, do you trust me to do the next thing? No, you don’t. Credibility impacts our relationship with our client or stakeholder (the person we’re accountable to), a consultant (person who’s helping us achieve), our relationship with peers, and is a reflection of our entire team. If I’m the leader of a team that’s responsible to you and I make a commitment to you and then I, or we, fail to deliver then the team looks to my leadership and questions that. It’s one thing if we’re trying to meet expectations, but struggle because there’s a roadblock. But, if I communicate that roadblock and maintain consistent transparency about what’s faced, then the issue often goes away. The roadblock may still be there, but at least there’s an understanding of what the issues are.
Blake Barthelmess is the CEO of SolarX Works. His gift for translating complicated, high-level business strategy to real, achievable work is why Return Leverage chooses (whenever possible) to be on his team. His comfort geeking-out on technology and his communication-first leadership style bridges gaps between technical and business teams to accomplish work that Fortune 500 organizations, startups, and nerds alike can get behind.