My leadership coach (and friend) challenged my mindset by telling me a tale of two sales team-members. Associate One was an under-performer. Associate Two was a rock star. Associate Two joined the team’s Thursday update call from his backyard swimming pool. He only worked thirty hours that week. With his targeted numbers met, he began an early weekend. Associate One had already put in 50+ hours of work and was not anywhere near hitting her numbers. She was livid! After the conference call, Associate One called my friend in anger. Associate One expressed how unfair it was that she worked long hours yet Associate Two worked the equivalent of a part-time job! After listening, my friend calmly said, “Once you consistently hit or exceed your agreed upon numbers, you can enjoy the pool whenever you want.” Associate One did not last much longer. Her input mentality did not fit the team’s output culture.
This story illustrates a powerful lesson in organizational culture. Some organizations embrace an input-based culture while other organizations embrace an output-based culture. An input based culture rewards hours worked and unofficially celebrates when employees DO NOT take time off. Email productivity and missed personal events become bragging rights. Oftentimes, an input culture will find success, but they will experience high turnover and employee burnout. An output based culture, on the other hand, rewards goal achievement and celebrates employee innovation and creativity. Minimizing mundane and transactional tasks (e.g.—email) becomes the expected norm. Missing personal events is NOT celebrated. Rather, leaders’ model personal time off and how it is integrated with high performance.
Employers hire employees to get a desired outcome. My guess is that an employer wants an employee to add value by aligning his/her behaviors with purposeful outcomes. The outcome (or output) is the goal. This requires organizational alignment rewarding behaviors that accomplish desired outcomes and correcting behaviors that distract from intended outcomes.
Do you want high productivity, innovation, and low turnover? Build an output-based culture. If you want to track hours worked, build an input-based culture. Personally, I would much rather work less hours, hit a greater number of value-added goals, and spend more time in the pool.
How does an organization do this? Stay tuned for the next installment of this multi-part series entitled “Input v. Output Cultures: Doing Work that Matters.”
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Disclaimer: This blog is not legal advice, but merely informed opinion or general information meant for no particular purpose. Issues addressed in this blog often implicate federal, state, and local labor and employment laws. This blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Readers should consult labor and employment counsel to determine whether their particular policies, procedures, decisions, or courses of action comply with such laws.