Your key result areas as a leader are those things that you absolutely, positively must do to fulfil your responsibilities and achieve your business goals. There are seldom more than five to seven key result areas in any job or in any business. Your job is to determine what the key result areas are for your work and then to develop a plan to complete them and continually improve in each area.
You can begin by asking yourself this question: What have I been recruited to accomplish? Why am I on the payroll?
If you are in charge of a business unit or department, why does it need to do to justify its existence? What are you and your team expected to accomplish to fulfil your responsibilities to the company?
Do you know for sure?
The natural tendency of many people is to focus on the activities of each day instead of the end results expected of them. You can soon become so busy with the daily activities of the job that you lose sight of the results required altogether.
Be clear about your key result areas
The best way to refocus on results and not activities is to determine your key result areas and then make sure that everyone above you, at your same level and below you are crystal clear about what they are.
A key result area has three qualities:
1. It is clear, specific and measurable. You can determine exactly if the result has been achieved and how well.
2. It is something that is completely under your control. If you do not do it, it will not be done by someone else. If you do it and do it well, it can contribute significant value to your business and to your career.
3. It is an essential activity of the business. A key result is an important output that then becomes an input to the next key result area or to the next person.
For example, let us take a simple activity like selling.
In selling, one key result area is prospecting, which means finding new and interested prospects to talk about your product or service. Identifying and contacting new potential customers is an essential key result area of the salesperson.
The next key result area is developing trust, rapport and credibility with those prospects so that they will be open to learning about your product or service.
The third key result area is to convert the prospects into actual customers.
These are the three key result areas in selling, each one of which flows directly from completion of the previous one and concludes with getting sales, resales and referrals from happy customers. There are key result areas in every job and for the business as a whole. Your job is to determine exactly what they are for you, set schedules and measures for their completion and then work on them every day.
As an individual, make a list of your key result areas. Your starting point, again, is determined by your answers to the questions: “Why am I on the pay? What have I been hired to accomplish?”
Set clear priorities
Many problems arise in a business for a variety of reasons. First, neither the leader nor the boss is clear about the key result areas and the outputs required for the success of the business or department. Second, the team members are not clear about the priorities among the key results and are easily distracted into doing activities of low value. As a management guru once said, “The very worse use of time is to do very well what need not be done at all.”
The definition of key result areas is the critical determinant of managerial effectiveness. This is because 80 percent of the value of what you do will be determined by 20 percent of your activities. We call it Pareto’s 80/20 rule. In some jobs and positions, it can be that 90 percent of what you do is represented by 10 percent of your work. If you don’t know what the top 10 percent or 20 percent of your activities are, there is no way that you can perform to distinction. If you don’t know what your key result areas are, your natural tendency will be to spend more and more time doing things of less and less value.
One of the best questions you can ask continually is, “What can I and only I can do, that if done well, will make a real difference in results.” If you don’t do this particular job or task, no one else can do it for you and productivity and performance will begin to slow down in your department. But if you do it and do it well and quickly, it can make a real difference in productivity and results.
Find the right team
Suppose you want to recruit few members to handle key result areas. The simple rule is: find the right people for the right jobs. But if you want to be a top leader, listen to the advice given by Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ - Top managers are those who “get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus and then get the right people in the right seats on the bus.”
Your ability as a leader to find the right people, to interview and select them carefully and then to put them into the key positions in your area of responsibility is something that only you can do. If you don’t do it or do it poorly, no one else can do it for you or change it. But if you select the right people and put them together with others to form a right-performance team, you can make an extraordinary contribution to your business.
Key results for team members
Once you have answered the question for yourself (Why am I on the payroll?), your next question is, “Why are my team members on the payroll?” Again, think on paper. Make a list of each of the people who report to you. Then, under each name, make a list of the key results they have been assigned to accomplish, in order of importance, if possible. It is amazing how few leaders are really clear about the most important tasks and activities required from each person who reports to them.
Help them to important results
You owe this commitment to your staff. You owe your team members the opportunity to achieve levels of elite performance and the chance to do their jobs to distinction. This is only possible if they know exactly what their most important jobs are and how you will measure those jobs. When you give people a clear description of their job function, plus a measure of performance, you allow them to focus and concentrate on getting the most important results for themselves and for the company.
So, give your team members a target to aim for, a standard toward which they can aspire. Only when your staff members have clear goals and priorities on their activities can they perform to distinction and get you the results that you need to achieve at excellent levels yourself.
Leaders should set inspiring objectives with difficult key results then trust their people to find a way to make those results a reality. As a leader, you can coach people, you can advise people and you can review progress but you must not dictate tasks. As your team grows to 200 or 500, imagine deciding what every single person does with each day. It’s ridiculous. You don’t scale. A goal-driven learning organisation does.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired corporate director counting three decades of senior management experience. He is now an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)