“The Second Key: Define the Right Outcomes” (Chapter 4)


The focus of this week’s reflection is on the importance of defining the right outcomes for your employees. In “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Buckingham and Coffman, the authors state, “The hardest thing about being a manager is realizing that your people will not do things the way that you would. But get used to it. Because if you try to force them to, then two things happen. They become resentful – they don’t want to do it. And they become dependent – they can’t do it.”


It is important to find a balance between providing guidance and allowing your employees enough freedom to be comfortable in their environment and to work to their strengths. Buckingham and Coffman state, “Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his own route toward these outcomes.” They go on to say that the most efficient way to turn someone’s talent into performance is to help him find his own path of least resistance toward the desired outcome.


Don’t try to mold or perfect someone’s role for them. The majority of the time, employees will take responsibility of their performance when they are trusted with the work they are doing. Of course, there will always be instances when you face someone who breaks this trust, but if you go into every work relationship with a lack of trust, then it becomes difficult to achieve long term success. It should also make you question why you’ve decided to hire this individual in the first place if you aren’t willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Forcing someone to follow a script more than likely will result in them coming off as disingenuous to potential clients. If that’s the case, the customer will not be satisfied, and the desired outcome will not be achieved. A great example of this would be the different closing strategies of a salesman. Some salesmen work best by building relationships, some by showcasing their expertise and belief in the product or service they are selling, and others who are masters of being persuasive. All are different approaches one could take to achieving the same outcome, a sale. Don’t put your employees in a box where they feel uncomfortable. Let your employees work in a way that they can be genuine in their approach.


Now while it is important to avoid a completely scripted culture and to allow your employees some freedom in their approach to achieving a desired outcome, there still must be rules and regulations in place in order to maintain a company or industry standard. Buckingham and Coffman define four “Rules of Thumb” that managers should make sure their employees are abiding by:

  1. “Employees must follow certain required steps for all aspects of their role that deal with accuracy and safety.” Quality control and minimizing risks are essential to having a successful business.
  2. “Employees must follow certain required steps when those steps are part of a company or industry standard.” Standards enhance things such as communication, learning, creativity and development within an industry.
  3. “Required steps are useful only if they do not obscure the desired outcome.” If the ultimate desired outcome is customer satisfaction, you have to allow employees to read various situations and act in appropriate manners. If you force them to stick to specific scripts, then customers lose faith in whether you truly have their best interest at heart.
  4. “Required steps only prevent dissatisfaction. They cannot drive customer satisfaction.” Ultimately, desired outcomes boil down to customer satisfaction. If the customer is happy, they will return for more business and will likely refer other to your business as well. If they are not happy, you won’t hear from them again and your reputation gets tarnished. This is where the earlier point of allowing employees to be genuine in their approach to achieving a desired outcome becomes relevant. Allow them to find a way to connect with the customer. If you want to turn a customer into an advocate, you must meet these four expectations of the customer: accuracy, availability, partnership, and advice.

6 thoughts on “Defining the Right Outcomes

  1. Katherine Pearson says:

    Great review. Someone in a manager/leader role will drive themselves crazy if they expect everyone to complete a task the way they do. I am sure most business owners feel they run most aspects of their business the best and no one can do it like they can. Giving up the little bit of security is important to allow your employees to feel like you have confidence in them. This is why a training program is important. If an employee is properly shown how you want the phones answered, emails answered, customers helped, and how to do general house keeping at the business, they should be prepared to handle situations the way you want them too. This also sets the guidelines and expectations for employees. I agree that if you expect them to handle everything like you would, everyone will fail. I like how they explained by forcing employees to do things the way you do will either force them to not want to do it, or they can’t do the task. That is so true. If you take away the ability to make any decision on their own, you will wear yourself out.

  2. Andreius Harding says:


    This post really hit close to home. I have to admit that I used to be a leader where I would want things done a certain way. I would feel like I had to look over the shoulders of my Soldiers to make sure they were completing a task the exact way I wanted it done. Many times, I would just do it myself because I felt that they would not understand how I wanted something done a certain way and the instructions would be too complex for them to understand. This however hurt me and my Soldiers in the long run. We started missing deadlines on other tasks or had to stay late at work to catch up. I had to learn that I had to give them the intentions of the task and let them carry it out their own way. I have come to learn the term “Trust but verify”. Trust that they will complete the task but verify that it was actually done and correctly. This not only allowed me to focus on other tasks but give them the experience of how to properly complete various processes. This was a great post and thank you for sharing.


  3. Zach:

    After reading your post this week, I thought about a service initiative the company had called Spotlight 5. Employees were to cover five points when interacting with customers: 1) beat the greet, 2) use the customer’s name, 3) use their name, 4) offer or recommend a product or service, and 5) provide a warm farewell. Supervisors spot-checked their employees daily for these behaviors, and secret shoppers submitted surveys monthly. Employees and customers gave feedback that the interactions felt robotic and not genuine. Looking back on this, I think we could have done a better job of letting employees know they could personalize the five points. Other companies do this effectively – Chick Fil A for example. Every employee says “my pleasure,” and it doesn’t feel fake.


    • Adam,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The Spotlight 5 sounds like it had good intentions but wasn’t implemented as effectively as they had hoped. Working in the service industry, I have learned that greeting customers with a smile, remembering their name and finding a way to relate or connect with them all while being authentic is the best way to build rapport and win over their business. The key to all of that being the authentic piece. If customers can see that you aren’t being genuine, they will be out of your door before you ever have a chance at selling them anything.

  4. Zach,

    Another great post and another that brought back memories. When I stepped into my first management role, I struggled with “letting go” on certain tasks I gave them. Within management, you feel as if you have to wear many hats but letting go of some of these hats is always the challenge. However, once you “let go” and see what your employees produce and can often times be rewarding. I also agree with your post in letting your employees find their own way of doing things or putting their own spin on it. They need to feel comfortable in their performance so if we begin dictating rather than giving some constructive criticism then the employee may not feel confident in themselves which may result in less sales.

  5. Hey Zach,

    I agree that it’s essential to lay down the right process and blueprint and let your employees make it their own. This ties back into not being a micromanager, and as you mentioned, if you hired the right people, then have faith in the reason as to why you hired them and let them flourish on their own.

    I also think it’s essential for employees to not get into bad habits and fall off a tried and true process which could be a script or way of asking specific questions that have proven psychology to it that, if done otherwise, will backfire and not result in a favorable outcome.

    Customers can always sense, especially in person or over the phone, if someone is being scripted or not genuine; sales is the transfer of emotions. People are emotional buyers, so it essential to care and be passionate about helping your customers out for optimal results. With happy customers come referrals; referrals typically have the highest conversation rates to being a client.


    Stokes Warren

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