Chapter 6: Execute Better than Anybody
Back when I first joined the workforce right out of school, I was lucky enough to have a number of mentors. These mentors gave me guidance and frequently led me through “what not to do,” an essential element in discovering how to succeed. I have found over the years that these “pearls of wisdom” apply to anything you put your hand to, and applying them in your life will put you on the path to success.
These were the sort of people who give you one or two sentence answers. They never wasted words and their advice always hit the mark. Few words, but meaningful.
One of the “pearls of wisdom” that has stuck with me throughout my career is this:
“Thinking, talking, planning count for nothing – doing counts for everything”
This “pearl of wisdom” may evoke a sense of dissonance and you may be considering that planning and thinking are absolutely important – and they are. But in over 20 years of working with clients and businesses, the fact is that people have an innate desire to avoid their clients and will do more and more things that have less to do with the end client – given almost any excuse. It’s just a simple fact that the majority of people do not like to deal with sales or for that matter directly with other people in a business situation.
So yes, thinking and planning, and even talking are important – but by themselves the danger lies in that little or nothing else will happen but the planning. And at the end of the day, it’s the doing that gets the work done – which allows you to get paid and to pay your employees and suppliers.
Ultimately, in business, the company that is best at executing and delivering products and services obtains a huge advantage over the competition. Effective marketing and selling can attract customers, but your employees must deliver on what your company promises to retain customers. Proper management of your workforce ensures that your employees are executing the mission of your company and following your systems and procedures. You can plan and design systems to infinity, yet if your employees do not implement them properly the result will be failure.
Based on what I have experienced, here are some factors that contribute to shaping up your business for maximum success – by focusing on doing stuff – executing.
Most business owners and CEO’s have difficulty accomplishing everything that must be done in any given day. Two factors perpetuate and compound this problem.
Trying to do everything yourself
Trying to do many jobs at once
Both of these problems can be addressed and the personal execution of the work you really need to do greatly enhanced.
Trying to Do Everything Yourself
This first problem––trying to do everything yourself–– can be solved with relative ease. Simply don’t do it. Get help. When you try to do everything on your own, you become a bottle neck to productivity and growth for your business. The only way for your company to grow is to expand your staff and outsource some elements of your business process. From your point of view that means delegating tasks which do not require your personal attention. Your time is worth money and when you examine your tasks, you may find that others are not only better suited than you to accomplish a task, but that less expensive people can be utilised resulting in lower costs for your company.
When you want to get something done, evaluate the task on whether or not it can be delegated. If it requires your specific knowledge, determine if you can divide the task into smaller segments which can be delegated while maintaining control of the main project. Perhaps you can train someone, or have them report to you for critical decisions. Examine all of your responsibilities with the goal of reducing your workload and ultimately the costs for your company.
Trying to Do Many Jobs at Once
Once you’ve solved the first problem, the second one––trying to do everything at once––is somewhat ameliorated. Delegating unnecessary tasks should have freed up your time for more productive leadership tasks which are critical to the growth of your company. Now, when addressing the remaining tasks, do not try to multi-task. The brain isn’t organized to productively manage tasks in this way and none of your tasks will be done really well or in the most efficient manner. Or at least mine isn’t anyway and yes, I’m male, and most of us are like this. Multi-tasking is the equivalent of taking longer to do many jobs poorly.
To minimise multi-tasking and increase your efficiency, focus on one thing at a time. Block time out to do one job and arrange to avoid interruptions. You cannot be answering phone calls, emails and have people knocking on your door and efficiently do anything else.
I can literally get a day’s work done in two hours if I just focus on it and get it done. I just set aside a period of time for a specific purpose and presto – it’s done. So my advice is – learn to focus. And perhaps more importantly, set aside blocks of time where you are uninterrupted, so you can focus.
My preferred time-management technique is a simplified version of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” This technique involves managing your daily activities and tasks so that you accomplish as much as possible. David Allen’s approach emphasises staying abreast of a heavy workload in a “relaxed manner.” For more information on his methods, you will find he has free articles and information on his website: http://www.davidco.com.
When you are able to focus on an activity without interruption you can accomplish far more than you can with constant interruptions. This concept works not only for you, but for your business. You should evaluate your business environment in terms of enabling your staff to focus. Do your work areas maximise concentration and minimise interruptions? If you have a nine to five environment, can your employees start working at 9:00 and work in a concentrated fashion until 5:00 PM? Upon careful examination you may find that your business environment encourages interruptions and reduces productivity in your staff. Your employees may only have a few hours each day that they can actually focus on their work.
To design a more efficient work environment, you need to consider several factors. If you have office workers, do they have a very clear defined desk space where they are able to focus on getting work done? Are there lots of miscellaneous papers and files lying around? These items contribute to drawing attention away from the task at hand. They distract attention from the work. Ideally an absolutely clean desk with nothing on it other than a computer and any files necessary to accomplish a task is best. I have never actually seen such a scenario in real life, but in theory, this uncluttered approach to work is desired. Everyone has their unique style for work, which should be accommodated whenever possible. By providing the appropriate tools and an uncluttered environment where your staff can focus will result in more work being done.
When you imagine a strong leader, visions of a bossy manager or a Draconian dictator may come to mind. However, being a strong leader does not necessarily mean ruling with an iron fist. It can mean leading by example. Providing a model for an efficient worker by your own example has been proven to be an effective leadership style. You can demonstrate through your own actions that getting work done efficiently is possible. Develop your skills in time management and implement organisational techniques in your personal workplace. If somebody requests for you to accomplish a task, respond quickly. Keep your focus on the vision for the company, and what you want to achieve in the future. Avoid becoming bogged down in the daily process of your business and free your time to lead. Don’t “hit the roof” when something wrong happens, but maintain your focus on the long term view for your business. This attitude in a boss fosters a sense of loyalty in your staff. If you concentrate on your duties and allow your staff to focus on their tasks, the result will be that the work is accomplished efficiently and your business operates smoothly.
Teaming, Partnering and Joint Ventures
If you are the only worker in your business, then your growth is limited by your capability to produce. In order for your business to grow, you must find a way to take on more work. Outsource what you can, or partner with another company. Team up with others so you can get more work done. If you have the ability to accomplish more tasks in the early stages of a business, you will certainly be in a better position for growth. Many companies focus their attention on accomplishing work. They lack skills however, in getting the work.
If you are looking to grow your business, then you ultimately must hire staff, independent contractors or consultants. Adding people to your staff means that you need to develop your human resource and management skills. The number one reason why employees fail to integrate well into a business is because of improper hiring practices. Job titles and duties often lack clear definition and description. The person responsible for hiring often fails to consider the attitudes of a potential employee in addition to their skills. Prospective employees must have personality traits and attitudes that are compatible with the work environment. If you hire somebody and they do not work out, then you only have yourself to blame. Whether you are hiring or you have delegated the task, you are primarily responsible for your hiring practices.
Many employers don’t consider a hiring method which uses multiple interviews. This technique enables you to evaluate a potential employee on several different occasions. You can watch the response of potential employees and delve past the “first interview” best behaviour façade to the real person beneath. By interviewing many times, you have the opportunity to test reliability, responsiveness and reactions using a series of techniques. You can also have different people in your company interview a candidate. Using this method, a costly inappropriate hire may occur, but the likelihood of this happening is vastly reduced.
Skills and Attitude
Take time to clearly define what kind of person you are seeking for your company. For example, if you are a very small business, you may need someone to be highly resourceful and flexible in their time and duties. In such cases, be sure to communicate that you are looking for someone with flexible hours whose duties will encompass many roles in your business. When evaluating a candidate for a position in your company, consider more than skills. Weigh the attitude of a candidate heavily. What attitude and skills are you seeking in an employee? Defining exactly what you want and need in an employee helps you avoid costly hiring mistakes.
Let us look at skills first. Skills are the mechanical things. These are knowledge based activities which someone can be trained to perform. For example, knowledge of how to use a PC or Macintosh is a skill. You may also require that a candidate be able to use Microsoft Office software. The position may require that they have a level of knowledge about the work that you want them to do. Consider where you are willing to relax your requirements for a good candidate. Must the candidate be highly proficient in a software program, or would more general knowledge be acceptable?
Do you have an aggressive training program?
Have you systemised a lot of the procedures in your workplace?
As a result of your training and systemisation efforts, you may be able to hire a lesser skilled worker with good potential at a lower wage. You will still get the work done, but at a less costly price. A candidate’s attitude then becomes as important as or even more important than their skills.
What is the attitude you desire an employee in your business to have?
Do they need to be flexible?
Do they need to be fun loving?
Should they be able to fit into an environment where everyone enjoys a high degree of camaraderie and goes out together for a drink on Friday night?
Is your environment more formal, with a professional office arrangement?
If you have a team of highly creative employees but lack “detail oriented” people then you may have a balance problem. You could consider hiring an employee based on their ability to take care of details. A “detail” person could free up time for your creative people by structuring the work in a logical fashion. Your creative people can then do what they do best.
There is a great book called “Top Grading” which provides an excellent study on how to evaluate and hire for the attitudes of people. The interviewer must discover the attitudes of a potential candidate. Determining attitudes enables you to assess the ability of a candidate to “fit in” to your work environment and eliminate those who would not appreciate your work climate. Remember, skills can be taught. Attitudes are very difficult if not impossible to adjust.
Part Time and Virtual Staff
Through the power of the Internet, you now have the world at your fingertips. Many staffing options become available through the web in addition to traditional fulltime employees. Obviously, you can hire part-time staff but there is an increasing demand for virtual assistants. These are people that typically live and work at another location. Your communication is often reduced to phone calls or email. However, utilising contractors who work from home or are located in other economic environments can enable you to off load administrative work or work which requires less skilled labour.
This pool of virtual labour consists of many types of people. Some are stay at home parents who can only work 10 or 20 hours a week from home. In many instances, these “part time virtual employees” are highly competent people whose focus on their family removes them from the conventional work force. Tapping into this resource can enable you to hire a top flight employee part time on a contract basis and eliminate the overhead of an onsite employee.
You can also use virtual assistants or companies that live in India, Pakistan, Romania, or almost anywhere around the globe. The current going rate for highly competent well educated labour is around $5.00 to $10.00 an hour. You can off load and systemize some of the work in your business to these individuals or companies and still expect the same competency of work as you would from an onsite employee.
An interesting aspect to using labour in other locations is the time difference. Your virtual assistants may live in countries half way around the world from you which may enable them to accomplish work “overnight.”
As an example, I recorded much of the text of this book. Right now, I am talking into a Dictaphone. When I finish for the day I will send my recordings to a transcription company in a different time zone that will convert my recordings into text while I sleep. This makes a very efficient work methodology for me. When I start work in the morning, my recordings from the previous day are transcribed and waiting for me. I simply pick up where I left off and continue on. The use of virtual assistants can vastly increase your productivity in a number of ways and I highly encourage you to consider this resource.
The key to taking advantage of virtual assistants, outsourcing companies or any offsite employee lies in your business systems. Using your systemising techniques be sure that you have instructions well documented for tasks you assign to off site labour. Clearly define everything you want your virtual assistants to accomplish. Be sure to specify the format you require and any other details that are important to ensuring the work is done correctly. The clearer you can be about what you want and how you want it done, and the more systemised your outsourced tasks, the better result you will get.
Rewards and Incentives
As an employer, you encounter all types of people and work ethics. Hire wisely by getting to know your potential employees before you offer them a job, and consider attitude as well as skills. If you do this, you increase your chances of having a work force on which you can rely. A continual issue for many employers is productivity. Many methods have been tried to motivate employees to apply themselves to their jobs and encourage excellence in their work.
One successful technique involves offering rewards and incentives based on outstanding performance by either your company or by an individual. For company based rewards, if certain profit goals or sales targets are reached, or if you land a good contract, the achievement is shared companywide. Everyone in the company should receive a bonus. This sort of incentive generates increased loyalty and a sense of personal responsibility toward the well being of the company by your workforce.
Personal incentives reward individuals for outstanding achievements. If people do what is expected, then they receive their normal wage or salary. If they perform over and above what is expected then you should consider offering incentives to encourage this behaviour. Incentives are an effective reward strategy and contrary to popular belief, most incentives are not cash based.
To find the most effective incentive program for your company, do some research. If you are the owner of the company do not assume what your staff will be motivated by the same incentives that may motivate you. As a business owner, you already think differently from your employees. You are likely less risk averse and have other typical personality characteristics that have placed you in your current position. You need to consider that employees usually desire the additional level of security and benefits provided by a job. So do not make the assumption that you automatically know what they want. Ask them. Visit with your employees individually about what sort of rewards they would like if the company, or if they achieve certain goals and objectives. Take note and listen. Most of the time, they will give you great information that you can execute based on their input.
One very effective reward strategy is peer recognition. Employees want to know that you have noticed their extra efforts. Pat them on the back and thank them personally. In addition, recognise their performance in front of their peers. Let everyone know the value they have brought to your business. For most people, this public recognition far exceeds a cash payment in motivational value. With proper incentives in place based on what your employees truly value, you will generate a more responsive workforce that you can count on to deliver what your company promises.
The famous marketer Dan Kennedy, has a great saying that I have posted on my office wall.
“Are you still collecting information or are you doing something”
This chapter collects a lot of business shaping information, so… “are you doing something?!” Adopt a few of the techniques I have described and implement them in your work environment. You will see an immediate improvement in all facets of your life and business.
Does your business drain your time and energy and not give you financial rewards for your efforts? Is this what you envisioned when you first opened your doors? If not, then you should review my Business Autopilot system. This system helps you regain some personal time and gets your staff “locked and loaded.” Defining what you want for your business ultimately adds asset value and positions you for the future. If and when you want to sell, your business will be worth substantially more than it is now.