Intended outcomes or unintended consequences, what are you living with as we enter 2018?
As individuals, we will all end up at one of two places, celebrating an intended outcome, or dealing with unintended consequences. Organizations magnify this principle exponentially.
Two personal stories dealing with actual farm cultivation come to mind and they highlight both sides of the coin, intentional outcomes and unintentional consequences.
This past summer we were very proud of our oldest teenage son Will, who has been farming for over a year now. This year he had an incredible opportunity to grow his own crops. The owner of the farm where he works offered to let him use a small portion of his land and his equipment to grow and sell whatever he wanted. Will gratefully accepted the opportunity and embraced the challenge.
Over the summer we watched his diligence in researching what crops to grow and sell, where to source supplies, calculating costs, and working nearly daily at the farm to water and weed his crops.
Sure enough at the end of July he had an excellent harvest of some quality organic crops! I could hardly believe a 16 year old had pulled it off, but he had been very intentional in the outcome he wanted, and worked towards it. He defined and achieved an intentional outcome.
One of the things my wife and i always thought we might do together was gardening. A few years ago, Janelle told me she was ready, and wanted a raised bed for gardening at our home. I called a friend to build the raised bed, install the fencing and fill it with the right soil.
Janelle tried her hand at the gardening, but was a little less intentional with the other demands of life competing for her time. To be honest, my thumbs aren’t green and I was absolutely no help. On the rare occasion we muddled around the garden together, and I was completely lost having put no effort into what skills I should be applying. The raised bed never produced what we had hoped. Instead of achieving an intended outcome we were left with unintended consequences of weeds and small trees growing in the bed!
Organizations are living, and they teem with life every day. Much like gardens, they are always producing, and ever changing, even when we are not intentional in our leadership. In fact, when we begin to coast in our leadership, that’s when unintentional outcomes begin to maturate inside organizations. New things begin to grow that we did not expect or desire.
Cultivation by definition, is the action of cultivating land for a specific outcome or purpose. Leadership is the action of cultivating an organization for an intended outcome or purpose.
Organizations must continually be cultivated. Proper cultivation is comprised of simultaneously eliminating things that we don’t want, while fostering the things we do want.
An intended outcome is therefore made up of:
❏ What we intend to do
❏ What we intend NOT to do.
It is fairly easy for leaders to articulate what they want, if they invest time into the process. It is much harder for leaders to say no, and shut the door on other opportunities. It is the “not to do” list that creates margin for the “to do’s” that we want to accomplish.
The same principles and habits apply to people that work underneath us. To make those around us better we must:
❏ Be intentional on what we want from them in the form of delegated responsibility.
❏ Help them eliminate unwanted habits and activities and unnecessary responsibilities.
There is a difference between delegating tasks and delegating responsibilities. Tasks should always be aligned with delegated responsibility. If someone is doing tasks unrelated to their specific delegated responsibilities, these should be removed.
Leadership erosion is best expressed when we begin to tolerate poor performance, poor mindsets and behaviors by people under our control. Ultimate failure happens when a leader has given quantifiable objectives, and refuses to move his team towards them, and accepts their underperformance thereby disregarding his own leadership objectives.
The famous Navy Seal Jocko Willink once said “it’s not about what you preach, it’s about what you tolerate.” The less we tolerate in our organizations the healthier they become.
A “no weed” tolerance level for cultivation in gardening is a high standard. We can preach “we don’t want weeds, they are harmful to what we are attempting to grow.” However, if we don’t hold our people to processes that generate a weedlessgarden, we have not upheld the standards, regardless of what we preached. Measure the results of your team to measure your leadership impact, what you say is only relevant if there are real results. Holding high standards, tolerating less, and bringing consistent accountability produces leadership results.
As you look back over 2017, do you see intended outcomes or unintended consequences? Do you see the positive outcome from intentionality or the unintended consequences from a lack of direction and discipline?
Spend some time evaluating your leadership effectiveness and preparing for 2018 by asking yourself two questions:
1 What intentional outcomes do I want for next year?
2 What unintended consequences am I living with today and how do I address them?