I’m going to talk today about one of the key reasons I see that many managers never become the excellent leader that they could become, but rather remain trapped in a cycle of short-term, manager focus, thereby sub-optimizing their long-term potential.
Ironically, the way this happens is by too much focus on day-to-day, short-term numbers / results.
“What? How can that be? That’s what the investment community and what the accounting department tells us to focus on! Oh look, we’re below plan. Oh look, our costs are too high. Oh, we have to get everybody above quota. Oh, we have to do this: we have to lower manufacturing costs, we have to – ”
Oh really? And you don’t think people know that?
Let me ask you a question:
If you’re on a football team for your college, do you think you show up in the locker room and the coach comes in the room and says, “Hey guys, we need to win the game today?”
I don’t think so. Like, they don’t know that?
What do you think the coaches focus on at excellent teams? They focus on blocking and tackling and running pass patterns. They focus on the basics. They focus on you being the best that you can be. They focus on building a culture of teamwork and building optimization of your natural attributes.
Coaches don’t walk in the locker room and say we need to win today’s game 27 to 3. Everyone would think they were nuts if that ever happened.
And yet we do the same thing in companies all the time.
CEOs talk about the fact that the stock analysts make them focus on the short-term. No they don’t. Stand up to the stock analysts. Stock analysts haven’t run companies. They’re focused on the short-term because it’s all they know what to focus on, so they focus on the numbers.
Stay tuned in to your culture, your vision, and optimizing the development of your people to achieve what their natural attributes make available to them. And you will build the right kind of team performing long-term, rather than short-term, in an optimal way.
I coach many managers who see this and have the capability to accomplish it and lead their people in that direction. And everything’s going fine until they have a slow quarter or a slow half. And then headquarters starts calling. “Where are the numbers? Where are the numbers? We need to achieve this. We need to achieve that.”
And that’s when the real test of an excellent leader comes into play.
You need to be able to resist that short-term input from the people that don’t know what they’re talking about and have never led anything. Let them run around like the sky is falling, chasing the short-term numbers.
The fact is, results are a natural outcome of doing the right things.
Back to the coaching example: the excellent football coach knows that a winning season does not come from harping on his players about winning football games. That’s what they’re there for! They know that.
The great coach knows that it comes from staying focused on the basics and doing the basics well – game in and game out.
You lose some games, you win some games. But you end up with a winning season if you stay focused on the blocking, the tackling, the running pass patterns, the building team work, building attitude, and performing optimally based on your natural talents for each member of the team.
For the football coach, the alumni and the fans are fickle. They’re like the investment community is for a business leader. You can listen to them, but don’t pay any attention to them. and don’t let them affect how you’re leading your people and don’t let them get you running around like Chicken Little.
You stay focused on the important things like
- Building people
- Enhancing the customer experience
- Investing in the business
And ignore the short-term indicators where the panicked people want to run around and change everything all of a sudden.
Stay the course. Stay your vision. The results will speak for themselves.
But you have to have the courage to stay with it rather than keep taking every little convenient exit ramp that creates panic in the short-term thinkers.
This is why I coach leaders to write down their vision, make it clear exactly what they believe about leading people, and make this clear to their people as well, so that that leader can keep reviewing that – even during the dark days – and retain the courage to stay the course.