Many executives and managers often lose the ability to make a significant impact, as they lose focus by executing on multiple priorities, rather than a single priority. They confuse being busy with being effective. In the chaos of complex decision making they can become immersed in the minutiae, often forgetting their prime objective. This scattered approach sows seeds of confusion in their own minds and certainly into the minds, and actions, of those whom them lead.
The ultimate goal of every executive is only one thing – to build and sustain the business by creating value! While it sounds so simple, this one idea is often lost on executives, particularly if they in cases where the CEO lacks a clear vision and is unable, or unwilling, to articulate the clear vision on a regular basis. As an executive, if your over arching focus is not to create value, then what is it? Yes, leadership is important, communicating is important and helping build great products and services that wow the customers are important as well. But those are all a means to an end. And the end is creating great value for the customers, shareholders and employees, that builds and sustains and great business.
Ben Franklin famously started each day by asking himself the same question, “What good can I do today?”. I think many executives would be well served by asking themselves the corollary question, “What value can I create today?”. This simple question will focus the mind on what is most important and enable the executive to contribute in a more meaningful way, while making himself, and those around him, stronger and more impactful.
Here is the best way to make value creation your top goal as an executive, manager or entrepreneur:
- Understand what consists of high value in your company, as it varies wildly by company and sector. For instance, technology companies tend to value innovation and new products and services development, while a more established company may value the delivery of those products and services in a cost effective manner.
- Move into functions of the company that have the highest opportunity for value creation, which generally are line or operational roles, and not staff or administrative roles.
- Understand the strategic direction of the company as articulated by the CEO, and determine what you can do to support creating value in the achievement of the strategic goals. Look to be a problem solver, not a problem creator.
- Be creative in the development of new ideas and in solving problems, as often significant value is created by doing old things in new ways.
- Finally, ask yourself what value can be created by NOT doing certain activities and by redeploying resources to more promising opportunities, as often the greatest value can be created when we refocus our energy on pursuits of highest and best use.
I took my career from the shop floor to the board room largely on this principle (though supported by a heavy dose of skill enhancement and hard work) and know it to be extremely powerful for anyone aspiring to a leadership role. I know that given enough time and enough sustained effort, a focus on value creation will eventually pay dividends and enable both you and the company, to reap substantial rewards.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.