If I had to assess the first place that most managers go wrong, I could come up with a few ideas. Perhaps it is the misunderstanding of power, or maybe the desire to micro manage every little activity. While both of these certainly rear their ugly head via our leaders and managers, I’d like to propose an alternative first mistake.

From the time that we are small children we are told by our parents, teachers, and coaches the following…”We just want to see you give it your best,” or “Work hard and the results will follow.” Sadly, this sage advice most of the time turns out to be as wrong as fried bacon.

While I certainly don’t suggest that hard work isn’t an ingredient to success, many successful people will tell you that it is. I’m just saying that hard work is often misinterpreted as success and is sometimes masked in a state of busy that isn’t even hard work at all let alone effective. Instead I liken the lifelong advice given above to the new society without red pens; to further reiterate my point I submit the following as sample questions?

  • Is an F in school okay so long as the student tried their best?
  • Do we not have to pay our bills so long as we made our best effort?
  • Does trying hard generate positive cash flow so we can run our businesses?

While every exception has its rule, the overwhelming answer to these questions is no. If you attempted to justify them with yes you would end up with a high school drop out that can’t pay his bills because his lemonade stand got shut down because it went bust.

Oversimplified? Perhaps, but nevertheless the point remains the same.

Every situation is unique, but when it comes to leading people I have been adamant from the beginning that I really don’t care how long you work so long as you meet your objectives. Meaning the following…

  • If you are in sales meet your quota
  • If you are in an administrative function finish your tasks
  • If you are in management value your time and the time of others

I’ve gone so far as to tell a few “Rainmaking” sales folks that if they hit their sales quota in August they can golf until December. While I say this semi in jest knowing that these folks wouldn’t do that regardless, the point isn’t lost on them.

When I mention this to some managers they say that if the employee quickly finishes their targets then they should push for more productivity. I agree in part, but I place a caveat on that. If your employee knows that finishing in a timely manner is simply going to yield additional demand on them then you may not get them very excited about overachieving. In order to maximize both time and continued results leaders must make sure it is worth the employees while. If an employee is easily hitting their targets then perhaps over time they need escalated assignments and goals to make sure they are challenged. Of course this should coincide with their professional and financial growth.

The bottom line is the demand that managers tend to put on their people create a flurry of activity, yet little additional productivity. When in the end, being really busy in itself doesn’t pay bills, doesn’t foster innovation, and won’t strengthen culture. In fact, too much busyness may in fact yield the opposite. So with this in mind, try replacing busy with the following three things to yield greater results.

  1. Trade Clocks for Results: Time is finite, in fact it is one of the few things we can’t make more of. Talk to most employees about their vacation and they will tell you how important “Their” time is. Well, many employees would be inspired by the opportunity to create a little flex time. So perhaps instead of punching a clock, start focusing on what needs to be done each day, week, month, before someone has reached their targets. Once those targets are reached allow them to earn some personal time in exchange for their efficiency. This way everyone wins; the company is executing its objectives and the employee is getting something precious in return.
  2. Reward efficiency: Beyond just time, efficiency can be rewarded in many ways. When targets, objectives, and revenues are realized companies know they are making money. While sharing the wealth may be outlandish, most business owners would share a piece of a bigger pie all day long. Highly efficient employees tend to drive dollars to the bottom line, make sure they see that their contribution matters. Telling them will get you some bonus points, showing them will get you some bonus hours.
  3. Live The Message: This one is a life theme, it applies here and in so many other places. So ask yourself often, What does your team see when they see you? If they don’t see you living the message then you can bet they won’t be as likely to either. This means that you need to be on time (as much as possible), show respect and value for other peoples time (regardless of whether they are subordinates), consistently discuss the importance of goals, what they are, and where you and your team are in respect to meeting them.

Bottom line, so long as you play within the laws and the morale fibers that guide you, results trump activity every time. So starting today let’s focus on getting busy being effective.

Daniel Newman
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Daniel Newman

Founder and President at Broadsuite, Inc.
After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the co-founder of V3B [Broadsuite], a marketing firm specializing in the digital space, helping companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.
Daniel Newman
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