Nov 222011

B+ for Effort?

B+ for Effort?

Effort is important in life.  If Woody Allen is right, and 80% of success in life is just showing up, then perhaps 89% is in showing up AND putting in good effort.  But there is no A for Effort in a fast-paced work environment.  The best you can get without demonstrating results is a B+.

The converse is also true, that the best you can get with good results AND without good effort is a B+.

Now, a B+ isn’t a bad grade either way.  But it’s not the best grade.  In continuing with this series of our 13 core values at Return Path, the next one I’ll cover is:

We believe that results and effort are both critical components of execution

We’ve always espoused the general philosophy that HOW you get something done is quite important.  For example, if the effort is poor and you get to the right place, maybe you got lucky.  Or even worse, maybe you wasted a lot of time to get there.  Or if you burned your colleagues or clients in the process of getting to the right place, a positive short-term result can have negative long-term consequences.

But when all is said and done, even with the most supportive culture that values effort and learning a lot (more on that in the next post in this series), results speak very loudly. Customers don’t give you a lot of credit for trying hard if you’re not effectively delivering product or solving their problems.  And investors ultimately demand results.

Our “talent development” framework at Return Path – the thing that we use to measure employee performance, reflects this dual view of execution:

The X axis is clearly labeled “Performance,” meaning results, and the Y axis is labeled “Potential – RP Expectations,” which basically means effort and fit with the culture at Return Path.  We plot out employees on the basis of their quantitative scores coming out of their performance reviews on this grid every year.  Which box any given employee falls in has a lot to do with how that employee is managed and coached in the coming months.  We’re always trying to move people up and to the right!

The definitions of the different boxes in this framework are telling and speak to the subject of this post.  To be an A player here, you have to excel in both effort and results – that’s our definition of successful execution.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We’re getting to the end of this series…only two more to go.

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