Be effective and efficient. As a leader you’re expected to be both. But maybe that’s not possible.

Being effective is all about what an organization produces. Generally outward facing, it deals with what goes “out” of the organization — things like cars, information, clothes, new software, expanded cloud capability, Version 2.0, training models, whatever. “More” is usually job one.

Efficiency is more internally focused. Being efficient is about doing more with less. It has everything to do with getting the job done with reduced resources, fewer people, less material, less money, less traveling. Return on investment is the key measurement.

Most leaders have a bent toward one over the other. As the boss, it’s entirely to your benefit to be very clear about how you measure success in the world. As a subordinate, it’s even more important to be clear about what gets your boss excited.

  • If you are not aligned with his/her view of the world, you’ll probably feel underappreciated. Ultimately that feeling will impact your job satisfaction and motivation, in turn impacting your job performance.  And, although you may get compliments for some achievements, it will seem like other guys are getting greater reward for their contributions
  • If your team isn’t clear about what you are most likely to get excited about, it can seem like they spend too much time on the wrong things. You may end up disappointed with the activities and time-management priorities of even the “smart ones” on your team.

Organizations struggle with alignment issues all the time. Even before the “great recession,” it was one of the key reasons behind so many people working long hours; but it’s worse now. As a coach, I’m frequently called in to help individuals who aren’t performing as hoped. Often, the person being coached is simply not aligned with the key measurement factors that the boss or the organization sees as most important.

In those situations, “smart people” seem to be acting dumb: Why doesn’t she get it? What’s wrong with him?

Four tips to improve your alignment:

1. To understand where your boss sees the greatest opportunities, watch and listen closely when he/she talks about successes. He’ll tip his hand fairly frequently. If you’re focused on new things but she’s focused on savings, it may be hard to get a new initiative moving forward. (Or to get a good annual review.)

2. Likewise, if the boss gets excited about how many new widgets are being developed and shipped, he/she is probably not going to give the first promotion to the individual who reduced headcount the most.

3. If you’re a boss, it’s important to understand where you are inclined to lean. For example, if you get giddy about how your team is producing the same output as last year with 18% less money, then ensure that you are reinforcing those kinds of goals and not giving mixed messages. (“I want to increase our output AND reduce expenses to be the company’s lowest cost center.”)

4. Listen to what your team members say and then watch if their actions are in sync. When confused by their goals, people will do what they inherently feel is right. That may not be what you’d like done.

Looking forward,