Valuing Effort vs. Results

After a very long and drawn out process, I finally got my residence permit here in Germany today! In the end I had to hire a lawyer to help me through the process, which turned out to be rather expensive. As I was leaving the Ausländerbehörde today here in Berlin, it struck me that I’ve just paid someone €250 for maybe 10 minutes of their time, and it wasn’t even a particularly challenging 10 minutes. Most of it was filled with small talk and sharing pictures of children with bureaucrats. I started to feel a little upset about this.

But then I took a step back and realized - I wasn’t paying this person for their time. I was paying them to help me get a visa after several failed attempts on my own, and they delivered on that. I wasn’t paying them for their time or effort - I was paying them for what they could do for me. Thinking about it in this way made me realize that I got a really great deal! Not getting this visa would have cost me far more not only financially, but also emotionally. Really, it would have been terrible had things not worked out today.

I wanted to share this story because I think it pretty nicely sums up the importance of valuing results over effort. If you have remote folks on your team (as I am), it’s far too easy to start thinking that maybe they’re not working as hard as the rest of the folks on the team because you don’t see the effort. This can lead to resentment or other negative feelings, and those are never good. But if that person is still shipping a good amount of high quality software, then who really cares if they’re doing it at 3am in their pajamas, or if they’re taking breaks in the middle of the day to play video games for hours, or whatever else that person does to help them achieve those results.

Just remember that you’re not paying software engineers to sit in a chair for a given time - you’re paying them to solve business problems for you, most likely (but not always!) with code. When you force yourself to look at what they’ve done in terms of solving problems for you and less about how hard they appeared to work, then you’ll find yourself much more grateful for the good work that these folks have done for you - and that’s always a good place to be!