Know and Communicate The End Result

A key task for any manager is to ensure that everyone knows and understands the desired end result. This sounds much easier than it really is. In fact, I would argue that it is one of the more difficult things that a manager does.

The first problem is in knowing the desired end result and defining it clearly. There are rare cases where the end result appears quickly and easily. My favorite example of this is the mission for going to the moon from the '60s. Kennedy stated that it was to get a man from the earth to the moon and safely back again. That last part is key. Imagine if he left that out and the plans didn't indicate getting the astronaut home. Recruitment would have been difficult.

Many times, the goal isn't as clear or could be confused. We see this a lot in politics and negotiation. The process could end up with many different things happening, which means clarifying it is important. For example, if my goal is to get a training program created and delivered in the next three months, the goal could get met with some unintended consequences. The team may focus on the deadline more than the content or the impact of the training.

The second problem is in communicating the end result. Managers must take great pains to clearly identify the end result, explain why it matters, and how you plan on helping the team get there. Ideally, it also includes a clarity around what doesn't matter.

I remember one boss was explaining a project to me. He told me that while I had a budget, I should not worry too much about exceeding it. He said the deadline and the quality of the content mattered. His exact words were "no one ever got fired for going over budget; people get fired all the time for bad products".

In addition, managers should be constantly repeating the goal and making it clear every chance they can. I fell into the habit of setting a clear goal at first, but then making it muddy by saying other things. For example, if budget wasn't the issue, I would say things like "can we do that cheaper" or "is that really worth the money". It wasn't that I was telling them what to do, it was that I made it seem like the costs were the key thing.

Be clear on the desired result (what is and isn't important), and remind people constantly.