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Breaking a Double Finish Line

Doublefinishline_1_38b674Did you ever hear a phrase that caused you to see the world in a whole new way? I did, when 25 years ago I saw a Sun Microsystems ad campaign declaring “the network is the computer.”  At first I was confused. But as I thought about it, it turned my view of the world of technology upside down.

This was well before cloud computing entered our consciousness and the term social media had not yet been coined. And apps on smart phones were not even a glimmer in our eyes. But this phrase opened  up a brand new picture of the internet and its relationship to computers.  A network loaded with all kinds of interactions and collaborative work. A place where computing could be done independent of my desktop computer.  It was coming and it was going to be very cool.

Well, we’ve been using a phase for quite a while about how Exceptional Development Managers operate.  They tell people “At the finish line of every task they will be breaking two ribbons, one for development and one for results.”  I was thrilled when I found a finish line picture to go with the phrase.  We thought it was catchy and started using it in our speeches and our workshops.

But we were delightfully gratified when a senior sales leaders (will call him Jeff) who had been at one of our workshops, told us that this phrase and image turned his view of results and development inside out.  Not only did it change his view of how to develop people while getting results, it moved him to alter the way he has conversations with his staff.   One example:  Jeff was talking with a person who had to pick up a critical presentation filling in for Jeff at the last minute.  Instead of focusing first and foremost on what to do and making the person a nervous wreck about the assignment, Jeff first focused on the development potential.   He said, “If the presentation is wonderful and you learn something, that’s great.  But even if it is mediocre you will learn, maybe even more, and that is great too.”

So what did Jeff do that you might also do?

  • He was attuned to the development potential of an unforeseen situation that popped.
  • He shifted the conversation to first talk about development and then about results.
  • He made it safe for the person to venture out.
  • He clearly left the person with two expectations…one for results and one for development.
  • With crystal clear, shared expectations, he was in a good place to ask for and get enthusiastic commitment of the person to tackle the challenge.

The results were even better than Jeff and the person expected: more development, a better outcome and a stronger working relationship with a new level of trust.

Jeff told us he savored the experience of unleashing development when it is connected to results.  He also discovered that it’s energizing and easier than expected to manage to a double finish line.  When I asked how he would respond to managers who said they didn’t have the time to do it, he said, “Baloney. It only takes a little bit more time but the results are a whole lot better.”

This article by Jeannie Coyle was originally published on TalentSavvyManager.com on July 4, 2013.