Become a Results Engine: The manager who makes things happen

Everyone has a work-reputation; Pete is a solo-furnace, if you give him a task that fits his ability he’ll get it done, Sinlee has an amazing way of making her teams work, Sam is exceptional at solving problems and creating good plans, Daphne talks a good talk, but doesn’t always turn words into results.  At a time when business conditions are tightening again and companies are taking strain, business leaders are looking around for people who they know present safe-hands. They’re looking for people who make things happen: Results Engines.

Geoff qualified as an engineer around forty years ago and although some people in the teams he leads completely love him, others find him aggressive, blunt and a bit frightening. Whatever peers and others think of him however, he gets things done! This sixty-something man works as a full-time consultant for Round-Edge Logistics and he’s worked for them for the past ten years since he was let go from his previous employer. Five years ago when a major building project was starting to overrun costs and time, Geoff was asked to project manage the process and to get it back on track.  His job was to build the new warehouse facility, set up processes and procedures and to integrate the new technically advanced building with the whole business. It was a massive project with thousands of detailed components, Geoff used his project management approach to bring builders, suppliers, transport partners, technology and energy providers, business leaders and local authorities together to finish the project on time.  After the success of this intervention the CEO asked him to shift from construction to operations – and in this new role he  embedded the new facility at the centre of the business’s relations with its customers. Soon after that a major ERP change-programme went bad, and customer ordering, invoicing and delivery went out of control; again Geoff was called in to sort out the mess and again he did exactly what was needed.  No matter what the problem is, Geoff sorts it out, he is recognised widely for getting results, and for his capacity to be a Results Engine.  He is keen to learn and he’s adaptable around new technologies and processes and he’s aware of his shortcomings around people-skills (so much so that he’s recently registered to do a coaching-qualification in order to improve his listening and management).  Fundamentally though, he has secured a position of complete trust with the CEO and the Board of Round Edge because of his reliability.

Many managers are able to achieve results, but to build a reputation as a rock solid deliverer of results, project after project and in different types of contexts shows a different level of competence. There is often a tendency for managers to get lost amongst changing priorities and expectations, and many people who do well in times of steady growth and predictability can become unmoored when chaos and pressure increases. In uncertain times, the need for people to define themselves as centres of success, or Results Engines is essential.  

In order to present this brief “how-to” post we’ve looked through job profiles we’ve developed over the past years and we’ve scanned a range of deep-dive individual assessments to search out some of the core characteristics that Results Engines display.

Critical Actions of “Result Engines”

De-clutter your mind.

The human mind is not designed to be a storage dump, it can serve well as a memory bank for a while, but it costs massive energy, and ultimately it becomes less effective and more stress-inducing.  “Overwhelm” can often be a direct function of being mentally or physically disorganised and one of the first ways of becoming more in-control or reliable is to emphasise getting ordered.  Try putting emphasis on listing everything that occupies your thoughts, including your commitments, ideas, projects, and chores. Gather all of these issues into a system, so that you can concentrate efficiently without the distraction of a cluttered mind. By becoming more systematic, you can ensure that every issue is recognised and noted and that priorities are separated from clutter or from non-urgent tasks. 

Let the plan emerge

After every factor is recorded, the next stage is to organise them. Break each one into prioritised and manageable steps.  By doing this, challenges seem more manageable and you’ll find new confidence in your ability to get things sorted out and to get on top of your commitments.

Focus on less

“I have ten priorities” is a lie.  It’s impossible to succeed across ten goals unless they are indeed facets of one, or maybe two goals. For Geoff, the only goal during the facility-build was to get it done and operational on time. He actively turned down taking on additional requests, even though they might in theory have secured him receiving new engagements after the facility-build was finished.  McChesney, Covey, and Huling recommend concentrating on only a few wildly important goals at any time. They show how a common cause of poor results is the practice of spreading yourself or your team thinly across various objectives. Through focused attention you can direct your efforts and resources to the areas where they will have the most influence.  Agree to do everything, fail at everything!

Act, reflect, correct, repeat.

A lot of my coaching and my academic work has been with entrepreneurs, people whose ability to  make things happen is a central career motif. One of the most defining characteristics of successful entrepreneurs is their habit of acting decisively on opportunity and obligations. Instead of waiting until the time is right and the moment perfect, most entrepreneurs act with what they have, pulled by a broad vision rather than by certainty.  Managers who wait until every variable is accounted for and every euro of funding is in the bank are not likely to make the difference in a time of uncertainty; act, reflect, correct, repeat.  

Track and inspire

Tracking progress provides structure and it inspires both you and your team.  Years ago I was the head of a sales and administration function and one year we used the image of the “old oak tree” from the 70s song.  Every time we won a million Rand of new business, we’d ring a bell and tie a new yellow ribbon on the old oak tree.  It was corny, but the tree stood in the centre of the office and it provided a beacon for the whole team as we raced towards 100 yellow ribbons.  At the end of the year, there were 106 ribbons on the tree, in the previous year there would have been only 16. When goals are tracked visually, they can become tangible, constant reminders of what is being accomplished. 

Rhythm of accountability

In music, rhythm is the heartbeat of a song. It provides structure and timing and it helps the listener to understand their experience. Rhythm helps musicians to perform in unison and to express joy, vitality and concern etc. The rhythm of a piece describes cultural origins and aspirations. In the world of management, McChesney, Covey, and Huling write about building a cadence of accountability, a rhythmic pattern of big and small events that combine to provide cohesion; rhythm in business is often centred on meetings, deadlines and work routines and effective “success centre” managers take their time to set these up.  Meetings, reports, Slack chats etc become the architecture of success and managers who create repeated results are themselves architects of structure.  Imagine you’re in an interview and the question is:  “describe the structures you put in place with your people in order to make your last two project successful…  what were they, how did you defend them when people wanted to change them and how did they affect the projects?  This question outlines how “success centres” use structures with real commitment and how they defend them against dilution.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning 45 minute team check-ins become part of your cadence, the way you acknowledge successes and recognise setbacks become expected micro-events that combine to create success. 

Hold on tight, until it’s time to let go

People who make things happen are goal driven, they’ll focus all of the resources they can access into driving an objective or a task.  Until the objective or the task no longer serves the purpose. Adaptability and flexibility are essential too, in a volatile environment it is more than likely that some key objectives, and certainly some goals or tasks will either lose their value, or become dysfunctional during the project and people who make things happen have an ability to scan their projects to spot newly developed irrelevancies.  Once the irrelevancy is clear and has been investigated it becomes time to renegotiate it and perhaps, to drop it. In the same way that the business environment is always changing, your strategy and plans should continually evolve. When it comes to staying on track to accomplish their objectives, an effective and agile leader makes adjustments and pivots when needed.

Get results: be the role model

Last but not least, the culture of execution needs to be embedded in your teams, the behaviours you model will serve as a template for your teams to follow. You foster a mindset like your own by continually exhibiting energy, commitment, focus, and a hands-on approach to getting things done.  It is not always necessary to work harder but it is necessary to work smarter. By incorporating these principles into your leadership style, you might be able to achieve your goals and motivate your team to follow your lead. Reliable leaders create or adopt  goals, and they see them to completion.

Competencies Supporting Results Engines

Be bold and be quick to analyse what’s needed and to take decisions

The ability to make decisions on available data and then to act, is primary.  Action and active people win. The initiative to drive projects, find solutions to issues, and to look for possibilities is a powerful personal quality of Results Engines.  

Focus on the goals – eliminate the rest

Results Engines take a goal-oriented approach, they establish goals that are specific and attainable, and then they devise and inspire people to follow strategies to achieve those goals. 

Prioritise relentlessly

Prioritise activities, refrain from procrastinating, and manage distractions.  Results Engines achieve more in less time than others. Focus is not a verb like “stroll” or “chat”; it’s an imperative like Breathe!  Focus should perhaps be spelled… FOCUS!!

Learning from everything 

It is essential to learn and improve. One way to accomplish this is by getting feedback, gaining knowledge from mistakes, and knowing about industry and technology trends.

Work-rate is everything

“Strong work ethic” refers to the qualities of being dependable, industrious, and dedicated to producing high-quality work. To ensure that jobs are accomplished to the best of their abilities, Results Engines go above and beyond what is required of them.  

Communicate to Enable 

Communication is a cliche. Every management article or book talks about communication as if we communicate badly because we haven’t said the word often enough.  We’ve said the word a lot.  It hasn’t fixed the problem.  Now what? You can make a difference by taking this understanding away from your reading… communication is good but not for its own sake!  What’s critical is the purpose – Communicate to Enable.  Every communication you issue or engage in exists to enable either a person or a team or yourself.  There is no other reason.  With that idea in your mind, you can mindfully improve the impact you have, by figuring out how to enable people better.

Self-discipline 

Your ability to hold yourself accountable for actions and results is a common characteristic amongst Results Engines. They don’t blame others for their errors and they accept responsibility for the work they do.

Conclusion

In times of uncertainty, business needs Results Engines, people who can be relied on to make things happen. In this post I’ve delved into some of the job profiles that we’ve developed, as well as into the assessment results of people who have made it their personal brand to take control and make things happen.  I look forward to hearing from you if you’ve ideas or experiences to add.

Author

James

Ashton

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