Each year, somewhere between 3 billion and 6 billion trees are harvested and, unfortunately, only 1 tree is replanted for every 28 that are cut down. Outside of the highly debated issues of deforestation, global warming and the economy, trees and the lumber they produce build the infrastructure of our country. From buildings to furniture and baseball bats to broom sticks, wood products have always been an essential piece of our lives… and one of the biggest uses of trees is in the making of paper.
We all use paper. From notepads to business reports, sheets of paper help us to run our lives with an organized, intentional focus. We use them to write out our goals, objectives, expectations and assignments of accountability. They provide the blueprints of our lives.
In a culture of action, designing blueprints for our work lives is essential to achieving the result expectations we set for ourselves and for our team. It is crucial that we set clear expectations and follow up with documentation of what our actual results are and then compare them to what we expected to achieve. This process of examination allows us to look at our performance results with clear objectivity.
Many of us have an overload of reports, trackers, and spreadsheets that consume our inboxes each day. What some of us do is print them and stick them into a file cabinet, never to be seen again. What we need to remember is the reason why the reports were designed in the first place. What are they for? Were they built for the sole purpose of cutting down a tree? Unlikely.
We must actually use the reports. We must learn from them. We must grow from them. In reflecting on the information they tell us, we can learn many things. If our results show that we are not meeting expectations, we can discover the reasons why. If we have performed to our desired level in the past, we should be able to repeat that performance again and if we are below that mark, there must be a direct cause. Identification of the performance gaps is the first step in closing them. The second step is determining the appropriate root solution that will quickly and permanently close them. Are we experiencing a training or teaching issue? Or is it the result of a lack of necessary talent? Have we set clear expectations and provided solid communication around the specific priorities we’ve determined will drive our results? Analyzing our reports will let us begin to uncover these specific causes to the miss in achieving our goals.
The big risk in underutilizing our reports is when we are in a situation where we have actually achieved our goals and expectations. When we open up the file and see that we won, what do we do? We tend to celebrate and offer words of congratulations to our team. We even post the results so everyone can bask in the sunshine of our big win. What is missing, however, is the same intentional dissecting of the specific performance behaviors which produced the excellent results.
It is essential to any long-term winning culture that we consistently identify what drove our wins as much as our losses. We need to investigate what the root causes were. What did the training and teaching look like? What talent did we have on that team? How did we set clear behavioral and result expectations with them? What methods of communication did we use and how did we follow up? How did we clarify our priorities and what did we do to ensure that the important things remain important? Without taking the time to stop, review, analyze, and dissect what the numbers on the page are telling us, we will struggle to ever repeat that performance again in the future.
Reports can be the catalyst to taking action. They can point us in a direction to investigate. They can show us where our gaps are and where our wins are. Keeping score is a significant leadership behavior. The thing we need to know, however, is that the next time we get a report or generate another spreadsheet; we must take the time to use it. It must lead us to TAKE ACTION. If not, we are just wasting a tree.