It is possible to show up early, stay late, be busy, and work hard on all the wrong things. It’s possible to give it your booty kickin’ all on some pretty stupid things. Spend enough time and effort on the in the wrong places and you can turn the bottom line into a sieve.
So, how do you know if you’re focused on the right things? Only you know your business, goals, and priorities, but I can share some guidelines to help you sort things out.
ONLY spend time, thought, and effort on actions that are:
* Legal, moral, and ethical. This is a baseline given. If you can’t get this one right, the others don’t matter. I realize that only taking actions that are legal, moral, and ethical would shut down major chunks of entire industries, but we find over and over again that the short-term gains of taking legal or moral shortcuts are crushed out by the potential long-term consequences. Cut corners long enough and someone is going to find out and make your life absolutely miserable.
1. Beneficial to the customer experience. Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of your business. Hurt the customer and they’ll hurt your business. Be indifferent to the customer and they’ll hurt your business. My tip to all businesses: Spend your time and effort worrying about the fifth sale to me, not the first. I might buy from you once but if you make it painful or forgettable I probably won’t buy from you again and I certainly won’t recommend you. Make the process so remarkable that there is no question that I’ll be making my second, third, fourth, and fifth purchases from you.
2. Beneficial to the employee experience. Ultimately, your business lives or dies based on your employees. Treat your employees as though you need your them more than they need you. Operate from that philosophy and you’ll be fine. Treat your employees as though they are easily replaced cogs and you’ll soon have your company staffed with the people who have so few options left in their lives that they are easily replaced cogs.
3. Beneficial to the long-term success of the business. Yes, certain reports and paperwork must be done. No, you can’t buy every employee a Porsche as a signing bonus. No, you can’t operate without a balanced budget. Yes, decisions and tradeoffs and compromises must be made according to the mission and vision of the business. Just don’t confuse “convenient and short-sighted” with “long-term success.”
Anything else is box-checking bureaucracy. If you can’t justify an action under one or more of these conditions, why are you working on it? If you can’t show a direct connection between an action and a legal and ethical benefit to the customer, employee, or business, that action is doing far more harm than good. Stop it.
[Note: this is an expanded version of a response I made on Laurie Barkman’s “Passionate Performance” blog post People Say (and Do) The Darndest Things. She had a great example of a manager whose actions probably followed policy but were a stupid waste of time and hurt the employee experience (which hurts the customer experience, which hurts long-term success).]