High performance teams: Why “effort” & “results” must walk hand in hand

results-formula.001If you are a smart person, you’ve been awarded with lots of natural skills and the amount of luck we all need to succeed, you may achieve extraordinary results without pushing too hard. I’ve remarked recently a growing trend of results-with-less-effort worship (smarter, not harder?). But when it comes to building great teams, I don’t buy the idea of the 4 hour week.

Having studied in a Jesuite University and spent five years working for a Big Four consulting firm, I admit my natural inclination to put in extra hours. On top of that, we Spaniards have the bad habit of working longer hours specially compared to other European anglo saxon countries -sadly, with less efficiency. Don’t get me wrong though: I want everybody -starting by myself- to be efficient and have personal lives. That said, I expect from my colleagues to work hard as I do myself. And by hard work I don’t mean longer hours. Only. To me, hard work is about walking the extra mile, pushing our personal boundaries and stepping out of one’s confort zone to do what must be done. It is about grit and perseverance. It’s about effort.

At Territorio creativo / Good Rebels, we’ve created a quite peculiar corporate culture described in our book Leadertarians, based upon lots of fun, autonomy and freedom. Thinking about how to create and sustain amazing teams in our old, but re-founded “start-up”, I concluded that both effort and results must walk hand in hand as ingredients of our recipe.

Balancing effort and results
When evaluating people I work with, I try to separate personal effort (grit, energy, sweat, hours) and personal results. A lot of effort, no results for a reasonable period of time? I’d recommend this person to consider leaving the company. Good results, mediocre effort compared to the “Company Average Work Effort Index“? This attitude will inexorably generate a bad feeling at work. Let’s dig deeper in our human nature.

Effort (Grit) + Talent (Skills) + Luck (Context) => Results
This is my formula for achieving results: talent (natural or trained skills, including vision), effort (perseverance and push) and luck (external circumstances and “common luck”). If we only measure results, it will be difficult to tell which ingredient played a key role.

The team won’t easily tolerate someone who delivers results but is reluctant to work harder. Why? Let’s consider the 2nd factor of the formula: talent. We all consider ourselves above average (have you hear of the illusory superiority effect?). Now, the third factor: luck. Being an external factor, it won’t be recognised. On top of it, it’s hard to separate talent from luck when deciphering results. Finally, the first factor of the equation, the effort invested, is quite visible. Thus, if everybody thinks they are more (or at least equal) skilled than the others, and luck shouldn’t be taken into account: “why other people would be allowed to put in less effort than me to get results?”

The commitment to a shared dream (call it a project or a company) can fall rapidly apart if we start feeling that not everybody’s investing the same amount of energy. Yes, someone can deliver results, but… there are too many hard-to-evaluate parts in the equation. Passion, engagement, leadership, team or reputation building activities all add to the common good of the project, and attribution to each member of the team is not so easy to measure. Passion is contagious. People want to join teams with unusual passion and joy. Passion and hard work walk in unison and create long term teammate loyalty (have I already said that I loathe the term “employee” and moreover “employee engagement”?)

No love without effort
The “love” ingredient was introduced early in our corporate culture. It could come from our latin nature. “Professional love” is considered a must to keep teams productive without getting rid of happiness at work. To leverage critical thinking, foster divergences and face conflicts without permanent injuries. Others would call it empathy, peer esteem, admiration or tenderness at work. We call it love. You may create high performance teams with hyper skilled superstars focused on results. That’s ok. But we, at our company, want to work in high performance AND collaborative AND lovely teams.

A clever guy, with enough luck and natural skills to deliver an outstanding output without toiling, won’t be seen as an inspirational drive. Some could wonder, if he gets good results with such a mediocre effort, what would he achieve for our company walking the extra mile? To keep the love going and build high performance AND lovely teams, we must praise and measure effort.

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