Performance vs. Appearance
Some of us are doers and some of us are not. Some of us either by design or by accident are more skilled at appearing to be doers than they are skilled at actual performance. In every work group there are some people who everyone goes to when they need to make sure something gets done. These are the doers and they’re usually in a leadership position, because skilled doers can get things done through others. Performance can be accomplished through effective leadership and delegation.
Some of us have more social skills that provide the appearance of competence but not necessarily a performance level that matches the appearance of competence.
Some of the weaker skills in today’s work place are observation and deduction. Suzi Sunshine sees that reviewing the open orders at the end of each shift and prioritizing them for the start of the next shift, maximizes the opportunity for the order pickers to ship completed orders. The number of open orders stays low, the number of completed orders increases and customer satisfaction improves. Suzi accomplished this as a normal part of her responsibility as the supervisor of her work group. She saw how her work group can maximize their output as a team and she directed individuals to follow her instructions and improved the overall performance of her work group.
Rotten Johnnie recognized the improvement and highlighted the improvement to key members of management and received additional credit for himself and his subordinates. Rotten Johnnie didn’t do anything wrong, he just maximized the potential for the perception of his competence.
Suzi’s skill at getting things done is a normal part of her daily performance. Her skills are more directed at making things happen than they are at making people notice what she caused to make happen. Members of senior management don’t always look into the details of performance, or the causes of results. They see Rotten Johnnie raising the flag on the results of Suzi’s performance and credit Rotten Johnnie with that performance.
Suzi did her job well, she saw what needed to be done to accomplish the tasks assigned to her and make things happen. Rotten Johnnie did his job well and highlighted the positive performance initiated by Suzi. It’s possible that Rotten Johnnie deliberately hid Suzi’s role in the performance and deliberately tried to get credit for himself. It’s also possible Rotten Johnnie was silent on the cause of the positive performance and just highlighted the positive performance of his areas of responsibility. Rotten Johnnie is accountable for the work group, part of that work group is led by Suzi and the overall performance reflects on Rotten Johnnie’s leadership as well as Suzi’s. Rotten Johnnie is more skilled at raising the flag to highlight positive performance than he’s skilled at identifying what needs to happen and then making it happen. Either way his work group performed well and he is entitled to the credit for that.
Senior management observes the flag Rotten Johnnie is waving and credits him with the performance. Is it a failure on the part of senior management to credit Rotten Johnnie for the improved performance. It possibly is, but it probably isn’t. Rotten Johnnie’s role in the positive performance is that he maintains a work environment that allows Suzi the freedom to make improvements without interference from Rotten Johnnie. Rotten Johnnie was probably involved in selecting Suzi for that position and allows her to thrive in that position.
Suzi’s skills are more suited to making the right things happen at the right time. Suzi is a doer, she makes things happen and she gets things done. Rotten Johnnie’s skills are social and marketing skills. His ability to maximize his social interaction with peers and superiors enhances his performance in the eyes of those superiors. He may not be as skilled in directing and initiating the actual performance itself. Suzi is a better leader and a better supervisor than Rotten Johnnie, but Rotten Johnnie is a better politician and a salesman of his own image and brand than Suzi is.
Does this make Suzi better than Rotten Johnnie? The answer is yes and no. When you need to get something done you go to Suzi, when you need to interact socially with the right people and to network successfully, then you go to Rotten Johnnie. In most environments they work together well as a team. Through all my experience it seems that the doers rarely get promoted past a level in an organization, but the social networkers frequently do.
Those with the right social skills tend to be successful when they have the right mix of subordinate leaders who carry the load for the organization’s performance. Doers do, but don’t always rise to the top. The Rotten Johnnies of the world rise to the level where they thrive through the efforts of subordinate doers. They tend to start to fail when they lose sight of who the doers are and don’t nurture them and benefit from them anymore.
Everyone has a role to play in an organization. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Effective leaders have the ability to understand individual strengths and weaknesses and learn to maximize the strengths of individuals they work with individuals and correct and improve weaknesses.
Those who have more performance based skills will always make things happen. Those who have more appearance based skills will bring attention to performance. Those in senior management positions cannot always distinguish who made the actual performance happen.