One of my favorite quotes is from John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach of all time. He said, "Don't mistake activity for achievement". I think about this quote a lot when I evaluate myself and my employees.
Just the other day, I had to give some rather harsh feedback to one of my employees which led to that employee getting less responsibilities at work. The employee was not too happy with this (although for many employees it would be great news since all it did was give this employee less work) but I knew it was the right thing to do. The difficult part was that this employee works extremely hard. If extra hours are needed, this employee puts them in. So how do you tell someone who worked hard that their work just wasn't good enough?
It was something I learned a long time ago in my own basketball experience. Growing up, I spent hours practicing. I would go to the local park and work on my jump shot until they turned off the lights. But in the end, I just wasn't as good as the other guys on the team. While they didn't practice as hard, they had more talent than I did. The facts were that they didn't need to work as hard as I did because their talent and natural gifts naturally made up for it.
Sure it wasn't "fair" but when is life ever fair? While I empathized with this employee, I have an entire organization to think about. There was no way I could look past the fact that despite all the long hours and hard work this employee put in, they had not actually achieved the goals I had laid out for them. I could not mistake their hard work for any actual accomplishment.
Have you ever been in this situation? One where you worked harder than anybody else but yet you couldn't accomplish what you set out to do? How did you handle it when you came up short?