My Focus on Results

633 Days Inside by Greg Lindberg


Focus on Results

Stay Focused on Results

n many organizations, titles are on every door. Titles are what everyone knows. However, in a results-driven organization, titles are not prominent. Your results are what everyone knows.

Categorizing people based on their titles is like watching the shadows that come from the fire inside the cave. They aren’t the truth. The truth is the reality of what each individual has produced. In a results-driven organization, everyone on the leadership team can answer every one of these questions:

  • What is your revenue year to date as compared to goal?
  • What is your strategy for the next five years?
  • How will you beat your competitors?
  • What are your leading indicators?

The results-driven organization goes beyond the top level of leadership. Every person in the organization should know their make-or-break metrics. They should know your company’s goals for the next five years. They should know how their successes and failures affect the company’s bottom line.

Stay Scrappy

In a healthy, apolitical company, the leader isn’t “too good” to do any job in the company. A leader connects with employees and customers, signs for packages, and gets in the trenches. Titles don’t matter, results do. The best leaders put customers and employees first, which inspires loyalty. That customer and employee loyalty translates into business results. Your results do the talking for you.

In my first office, leaders worked from cubicles, and the frontline staff, such as customer service, billing and sales, worked in offices. It’s a balance I maintain today. The most important employees are the ones who face the customer. The rest of the organization is there to provide strategy and make them successful.

At first, our offices were ugly because we couldn’t afford anything better. We spent money on marketing, great people, gym benefits, and technology (and good coffee), but not on office furniture. As the company  became more profitable, we kept the ugly office furniture, especially in the interviewing room. We realized some people were turned off by the folding tables and bare walls. Those people would never succeed at our company. If we lost a candidate because of office décor, good riddance.

For the longest time, we kept an old shopping cart in our conference room that was from our in-store advertising business. We also kept a desk that I used in 1991. On first impression, the conference room looked like a lot of junk. This was intentional. It scared away people who were not going to get into the trenches, roll up their sleeves and focus on results over titles and the size of their office.

How do you know you are scrappy?
  • You don’t care about titles.
  • You don’t care about offices.
  • You don’t tolerate bureaucracy.
  • You keep administrative personnel to a minimum.
  • Your internal communications are direct, simple and straightforward.
How scrappy are you?
  • If you ask anyone in my organization what their make-or-break metrics are and how they affect the company’s bottom line, can they answer?
  • How often do people ask about titles? How many administrative personnel are in your organization? Is it over 5 percent?
  • How often do I and other leaders have conversations with customer facing employees?
  • How long is my employee handbook? Is it more than 10 pages?
  • Does everyone in the organization know the company’s strategic plan and mission?
And ask yourself:
  • When was the last time I spoke with a customer?
  • Do I have administrative staff between me and my employees who schedule my phone calls or send my emails?
  • When was the last time I signed for the mail or took out the trash?

Make your goal an all consuming obsession that puts everything else in perspective as less important.

Creative Destruction

What is your long-term transformational vision for your company? Every company must have one. It’s not enough to do the same things well. Simply doing more of the same thing is neither visionary nor transformational. It’s often a recipe for marching straight off a cliff.

In 2005, 90 percent of our revenue came from print newsletters. It wasn’t enough to strive to be the best print newsletter company in the world. We had to transform, so we launched software products and bought a certification company. We transformed before the newsletter market crumbled at our feet.

Capitalism is the process of creative destruction. How do you make sure you are transforming ahead of your industry? How do you make sure you are the one creating the destruction and not the one being destroyed? Only the paranoid survive. Use threat analysis to build a bomb-proof company.

Ask yourself:
  • Where will my industry be in five years? What is its strategic direction?
  • What are my top five external business or competitor threats
  • What are the top five political, governmental, and regulatory threats to my business?
  • What are my top five internal threats?
  • What are my top five tech threats?
Ask yourself:
  • What kind of business could put me out of business?

Then, become or acquire that business. In his book, Traction, Gino Wickman uses an image to help leaders visualize the importance of effective goal-setting:

Imagine you have a pile of rocks, a pile of pebbles and a pile of sand. You are asked to put them into the glass container that matches their total volume. If you start with the sand and then the pebbles, the rocks will spill over the top. However, if you start with the rocks and then add pebbles and then sand, you will be able to fit them all in. Do what is most critical first, and let the rest fill in around it.

Once you have decided what kind of disrupter you need to be, it’s time to use your fearlessness of failure we’ve talked so much about. Don’t be timid: If the change you are envisioning is not out of your comfort zone, you aren’t stretching far enough. It’s time to set what Jim Collins calls your “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG)”—a future that cannot be achieved in a straight line from your current reality. Then, make it happen.

Remember your commitment to achieve your goal or die trying. Genius is divine perseverance. Creativity is a function of discipline and focus over a long period of time. Strategic thinking sets the course, but operational excellence from daily perseverance is what achieves results.