ATNA: All Talk, No Action

By Eric Adler

In a work environment, it’s natural for employees to strive for attention. While they seek positive attention first – such as acknowledgment, praise, admiration, and love – they also strive for negative attention as well – such as criticism, mockery and contradiction. Of course people prefer positive attention, but if they don’t get it, most still prefer negative attention to none at all.

Acknowledgment for Announcements: Typically, people look for this praise by making personal or professional announcements to others; their co-workers or even their managers. When they announce their goals or their achievements, they are seeking acknowledgment for those intentions.

Here’s an example: While standing in a social gathering, a colleague announces: “My goal is to climb up the job ladder. I’ll work harder than ever before, and I will move into an upper management role.” Some of his co-workers will naturally pat him on the back and say, “I think that’s a great idea; you are so ambitious!” In this scenario, the person is receiving praise for his intentions, but not his actions. This form of verbal acknowledgment is very flattering; he received attention and thus positive recognition for his announcement.

Here’s another example: In a typical sales meeting, the sales manager wants to know how many leads are likely to convert over the next quarter. The employees will naturally overestimate their conversion rates because the higher they shoot for, the more recognition they receive from their manager. Acknowledgment is given for the announcements, and as a result, the manager has a certain expectation from each employee. If those expectations aren’t met, there is disappointment and possibly serious consequences.

Ultimately employees desire the positive recognition they get through their announcements. Once they receive the recognition they desire, often times there is a lack of follow through. After all, why would someone work toward his announcement if he has already received the positive praise and attention he was seeking?

Attention for Excuses: As soon as the announced goals aren’t achieved, management will look for an explanation. Excuses are the common solution, and some people will be successful with this behavior. Most excuses will lead to even more announcements, which will result in attention, praise and acknowledgement.

For example, if someone complains she couldn’t complete her project because she is severely stressed, her managers and co-workers may feel sorry her, offering her advice to help get her life under control. Now, the “victim,” or the person who should be accepting the consequences of failure, is receiving attention for making excuses. If a person sees herself as a victim, she washes her hands of all responsibility, blames others and sees herself as entirely innocent. The problem, again, is that if most people strive for acknowledgment and attention and receive both through their announcements and their excuses, why should they work for anything more?

If you’re ready to focus more on “doing” and less on “announcing,” here are a few simple rules to live by:

1. Be a person of action – Don’t announce it, just do it: Never announce a goal unless you have to in order to achieve it. Before making an announcement, ask yourself, “Is announcing this necessary because other people really need the information, or am I looking for an endorsement?“ If the latter applies, keep it to yourself and put your first task into action. Even if one lives up to her announcements, she will always be perceived as a person of words. However, someone who continuously brings in results will be perceived as a person of action. Only a person of action has the respect of her peers and her manager.

2. Never back – Always forward: Every excuse is a justification. Every time you blame someone or something else, you admit you didn’t have power over the circumstances. A person of action takes matters into his own hands, explaining why something didn’t work as originally announced. Always keep in mind how you will achieve the announcement; this way you don’t have to explain why it didn’t work, but what you can change to make it work. Don’t think “after” the fact, making excuses for the past, but think “forward” and do it!

3. Demand and reward actions, not announcements: To hold others accountable in the same way you hold yourself, never give praise for an announcement again. Do not compliment prior to achievement, and do not even agree or nod your head in approval. Don’t let your co-workers get any praise for their announcements! Giving acknowledgement for announcements rather than achievements sets a negative standard, allowing your peers to give too little recognition for actual accomplishments.

4. Ignore excuses, force solutions: Always ignore excuses. Don’t listen, even if someone tells you, “I just want to explain…” Simply say, “ I don’t want to know why something didn’t work. I only want to know how you will make it work. Tell me how you will do it in the future.” People of action lead simpler, easier and more successful lives!

Satisfied? Receiving attention through announcements or excuses is rarely satisfying, and truthfully, it can lead to long-term confidence issues, depression, and other psychological and physical problems. By following these simple rules, you will be surrounded by goal-oriented people, which will make you and your team more efficient and successful. When employees aren’t held accountable by the manager or co-workers, productivity suffers: There is too much talk and not enough action.

Read other articles and learn more about Eric Adler.

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