There exists an ideology in business that most people have heard and aspire to be. This ideology is to be results-driven. Understandably, a business can be a very challenging environment. That is because it comprises various stakeholders, including but not limited to competition, shareholders, employees, and executives. Therefore, the people running a company generally aspire to meet deadlines. Consequently, they affect the results as per the demands of the shareholders.

The shareholders are represented on the company boards by the board of directors. The board usually demands results from the management of the company. I believe they do require management (at least occasionally) to provide a plan (or strategy) demonstrating how the results would be reached.  Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that management will seek the same from employees.

Controlling the results

What the COVID pandemic has taught us all is that the results are not entirely under the control of any individual or entity. Uncontrollable factors can affect the results and no matter what contribution the employees make or what demands the shareholders make, no one can entirely control results.

However, there is one thing that any profitable company’s employees and management can control: the contribution they can make to the company and its customers. Generally, we can expect that contribution should consequently lead to results. Although results can be expected following contribution, they are not necessarily guaranteed especially when other external factors can alter the course of results. On the contrary, an individual can control and perhaps guarantee their contribution. For example, an individual can choose how much time they contribute to work, how present they are,, and how innovative they are, amongst other things.

Contribution

The contribution of a profitable company’s employees which has sustained the results, before and during the COVID pandemic, is indisputably valuable. That contribution has led to the results which the company’s stakeholders still enjoy. However, despite the quality and quantity of the contribution, the COVID pandemic curtailed the trajectory of the results. Any reasonable person would agree that this is no one’s fault. In other words, it is not the fault of the shareholders, executives, management nor employees. All stakeholders understand that all employees contributed appropriately before and during the COVID pandemic. But the COVID pandemic induced other uncontrollable forces that affected the results.

In a sales environment of a company, a salesperson can employ several methods to sell products. They can do this by cold calling, listening to customer needs, educating the customer, and quantifying, amongst other things. At times, the methods employed work. Whereas, many times, they do not work. Any experienced salesperson will tell you that this is the nature of the sales environment as success in sales is mostly a numbers game.

In other words, the salesperson can control their contribution (the sales efforts). But the decision to buy will eventually be made by the customers. If a salesperson has made a required number of sales calls at appropriate quality and has not succeeded in reaching a target, does this mean that only the results matter? If you agree, shouldn’t the results be the litmus test that should indicate if there could be something unusual in the market or with the salesperson’s contribution?

Situation-based

Some sales managers tend to expediently conclude that the problem is the salesperson. In some situations, they put interventions in place. Such as further training. This may be the correct solution if lack of training is the real problem. In other situations, the manager confronts the salesperson. And he would then place pressure on the salesperson to produce results. In that situation, the salesperson ends up working harder and when they fail to deliver the results, they find another job.

There could be several reasons, but the point is that you require a deeper insight. Then you can understand what factors could be causing the unfavourable results. This insight helps the sales manager to determine what suitable interventions he can employ.

In a business environment such as operations, certain operations are subject to several uncontrollable factors. Load shedding has affected many operational activities. Even to a point that companies have been driven out of business. And people hold operational employees accountable for producing results. And yet, unexpected forces such as load shedding or other supplier issues can affect one’s ability to produce these results. Does this mean that the operators should be punished for the results? Or should they be recognized for being able to protect the machinery? Even when there are unexpected factors that have limited operations ability to produce!

The link between the results and the contribution

In operations, it is less vague because operators are in control of the very machines that produce results. The link between contribution and results is apparent. In other words, the operators’ contribution is directly proportional to the results. Provided that the machinery is in good condition and that you have sufficient utilities and raw materials. However, it is one’s level of contribution which eventually leads to results. Even though the results are not always guaranteed. Thus, if managers focused solely on results and neglected the operators’ contributions, it would only demoralize the operators. Consequently, this would lead to operators resorting to expedient and unethical operational practices.

The norm in the workplace

The workplace has made it sound fashionable for leaders to subscribe to using phrases such as being a “results-driven person”. We have all seen this phrase in many job ads such that even when you apply you doubt your ability to do the job even when you are confident in your abilities.

In my view, this “results-driven” ideology is misguided. As it tends to disregard the quality and quantity of one’s contribution. I do not insinuate that results do not matter. I see results as the inevitable consequence of the contribution. For example, if you plan to lose bodyweight, you use a scale to check if your diet exercise plan works. When the diet exercise plan does not show the results you want, you would be more aggressive to your diet exercise plan. Or you would make changes to the diet exercise plan to eventually produce the intended results. Thus, results are important but what is more important is the contribution. The contribution, which is the antecedent to the results. If this can apply to a diet exercise plan, is there a reason why this cannot be applied to a business environment?

My argument does not intend to negate the importance of results. My argument is to challenge which should be the centremost focus of people managers. Should people managers be results-driven OR contribution-driven? I will leave this up to the reader.

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