Results Rule 

By: Randy Pennington



Mahatma Ghandi once said that “the difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems”. 

Although there are many differences between “Results Rules” companies and those who play to more ordinary standards, they do one thing better than anybody else: they take action towards the goals they are trying to achieve.   

The other differences between companies where results rule and the rest of us are as follows:

  • They tell the truth and value candour;
  • They pursue the best over the easiest;
  • They leverage the power of partnerships;
  • They focus their energy to make the main thing the main thing;
  • They create cultures of accountability; and
  • They learn, grow and improve every day.

Take this journey with us and Randy Pennington, and we’ll learn how create a culture that generates results day in and day out.  The conventional wisdom on this subject is that you change the culture to improve your performance.  Randy thinks we have that one backwards.  He says that “you change the performance to change the culture”.  And on that note, let’s get started.

Tell yourself the truth and value candour

Here’s the one thing that sets apart companies who know how to create a culture of candour from the rest of us.

When you go to a place like Walmart and listen to one of their all-hands meetings, you’ll be amazed at what will at first look like brutal honesty and candour.  But here’s what Coleman Peterson, the retired executive Vice President of the People Division at Walmart says is actually taking place:

“We are very candid with each other.  I believe one reason is we are very familiar with each other.  Sam Walton loved to visit stores, and Walmart executives spend, on average, three days per week in the field.  That familiarity makes it easier to be open about everything.  There aren’t a lot of barriers between people at different levels of the organisation”. 

This makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it.  When people feel comfortable around one another, they are more likely to speak their mind.  So encourage your people to talk to you, to talk to each other, and to get comfortable with each other as human beings.  Then, and only then, can you start having honest and open discussions about the future of your company.

Pursue the best over the easiest

We’ve all heard how important it is to be the best.  Jack Welch pummelled that one into our brains during his despotic rule over the 1980s.  But the principle still rings very true, even today.  Why?  First,  it becomes easier when you have a standard to evaluate against - will this action further us in the quest to become the best or not?  If so, let’s do it.  If not, forget it.  Second, achieving results makes everyone happier and that usually leads to better performance.  And if you aren’t that kind of person, you’ll likely show yourself to the door.  Lastly, customers want to associate with the best.  And that’s why Results Rules organisations decide to be the best.

Once you decide to be the best in what you are doing, there are 3 major areas where you’ll make all of your major decisions: leadership, operations and people. 

Leadership - which includes includes mission + vision, resource allocation, strategic goals, measurement and analysis of performance, operational goals, and performance management.  Here’s an important insight about mission/vision statements from Joe Calloway, who aside from being a best-selling author and speaker, owns a restaurant called Mirror in Nashville: it’s not about the statement, it’s about the choice and discipline to pursue it.

Operations - which includes product and service delivery, information systems, customer engagement, and support processes.  In particular with product and service delivery, providing fundamentals is the minimum requirement for success, while being distinctive ensures long-term success.  For Joe Calloway and Mirror, the fundamentals are the food.  That’s the table stakes.  You can have something distinctive about your service or atmosphere, but if the food stinks, you won’t be going back again.  And remember, your distinctiveness needs to add value.  Being different for the sake of being different is a recipe for disaster.

People - which includes selection, work systems, employee satisfaction and employee education and training.  With people, ensure that you are focussing on culture fit rather than talent.  As the 2004 US Olympic Basketball team showed, it’s not always talent that wins.  Culture wins because when you have a culture where everybody is aligned, they tend to like each other a bit more, and are willing to have those honest and candid discussions about results.

Leverage the power of partnerships

Here are some stats that should put the fear of God into you:  70% of people see no real benefit in being loyal to brands, and, 75% of the people in the workforce are actively seeking new jobs.  But it’s different in my company, you might say.  No, it’s not.  Why is there such a lack of loyalty among customers and employees?  Because you’re not giving them a reason to be loyal.  Here’s how Scott McKain puts it in his book “All Business is Show Business”:

“Your customers and employees are going to have an emotional experience because of their contract with your organisation, whether you like it or not.  Your responsibility - and challenge - is to provide them with the kind of emotional connection that will inspire loyalty.”

How do you build that a partnership that has loyalty baked in?  At its core, loyalty is about trust.  Of course, there are entire books written about trust and how to build it.  But there’s one thing that will consistently generate more results than any other action you can take, and it’s this: making a conscious decision to see more in others than in than they see in themselves, communicating that to them and then nurturing it until it becomes a self-sustaining reality.

That’s important enough to say one more time: the single largest high-impact action you can take to build trust is making a conscious decision to see more in others than they see in themselves, communicating that to them, and then nurturing it until it becomes a self-sustaining reality.

Carry this principle with you throughout your dealings with your employees, your customers, and even your family, and you’ll be well on your way to building loyal, trusting partnerships.

Focus the energy to make the main thing the main thing

As the great Thomas Edison once said, vision without execution is hallucination.  So how do we know if we are executing?  By your results, we shall know you.  Results Rules organisations know that they are judged by their performance, day in and day out.

Peggy DePaoli, a director in EDS’s business outsourcing operation, believes that “metrics bring discipline.  Disciplined minds lead to disciplined actions, and that leads to results”.  And we’re not just talking about profits here.  You should have metrics around anything that’s important to you, including employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and even environmentally friendly practices.

But what do we measure?  Quite simply, if it’s important, measure it.  Here are the 3 questions you need to be asking yourself:

  1. What performance must we deliver and results must we achieve to make us valuable to our customers and profitable in the workplace?
  2. What behaviours must we demonstrate to live our values?
  3. What must we learn today in order to be better tomorrow?

Now that you have the measurements in place, how do you make sure that they enable discipline? 

First, you celebrate and reward success.  There’s nothing that the people on your team crave more than recognition for a job well done.  According to study after study, they want this more than they want more money. 

Second, you have the courage and conviction to hold people accountable for the results they create.  So review the numbers every week, and even daily if it’s appropriate.  Find ways to correct the course before it becomes a major issue.  If the problems persist, confront the problem without being confrontational. 

Here are the 6 steps you can make in order have a conversation around results when the results aren’t there.

  1. Prepare with notes so you cover what you intend to cover.  Use expected and actual performance as the benchmark.
  2. Bring the issue to the individual’s attention in a specific, behavioural and nonthreatening manner.
  3. Gain agreement about the nature of the problem and build ownership for results without sacrificing the relationship.
  4. Look forward positively.
  5. Write your agreement down. 
  6. Follow up.

Learn, grow and improve every day

The last thing that Results Rules organisations do that the rest of us don’t do is to learn, grow and improve every day.

One type of learning that these organisations partake in is the learning you are doing right now - taking on new ideas and implementing them into your business.  Another type of learning is from your experience, which is an opportunity you have inside your organisation every single day.  Which company do you think will do better in the long-run: the one that fixes the same problem 100 times, or the one that fixes 100 different problems once.  The answer of course is obvious, and your reality is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.  The point is that if you’re not constantly improving, and taking the lessons that life is throwing at you anyways, you’re quickly going to become an also ran.

To wrap things up, here’s a bit of insight into what made Jay Leno the most successful late night television show host in the US.  Aside from doing his show and attending between 125 and 150 personal appearances every year, he spends most Sunday evenings testing new material at the Hermosa Beach Comedy and Magic Club. 

Here’s what he has to say:  “This sounds silly, but my attitude is, sooner or later, the other guy is going to have to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or take a vacation, and that’s when I catch him”.