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Feed the Passion – Feed the Numbers
January 28, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments
“When you’re in business, the numbers are everything.” Well, that statement is not exactly accurate. True, a business needs to generate sales to survive and thrive. Also true, a business must manage cash flow and drive its critical numbers. The problem is that numbers are cold hard facts – and leaders that are all about driving numbers can be pretty cold too. If all that employees hear is the daily hammering away at “hitting the numbers,” those very numbers can and will become a point of contention that demotivate staff, rather than encourage them to perform in the best way they can. Numbers are simply goals, measurements, and outcomes. Something else gives the numbers life. It’s simply called passion.
Passion is that emotional connection that drives the human spirit to achieve the extraordinary. Passion refuses to accept that good is good enough. Passion goes for the win. And when a win is out of reach, passion pushes teams to soldier on to the end knowing they fought a good fight.
At Strategies, we may be all about the numbers, but we’re even more about the passion behind our vision, mission, and work to help companies grow strong and endure. As much as we push leaders to pay attention to the numbers, we remind and coach them how to feed the passion that in turn feeds those all-important numbers. The last thing we want to do is create a numbers crunching leader that sucks the life out employees.
Here are some no-compromise leadership strategies to help you feed the passion so your people can feed the numbers:
- Keep it worthy: People fight for a worthy cause. The achievement of a goal is not just about hitting a number; it’s about people coming together and working together to achieve something special. Monthly goals are stepping stones to creating a world-class company that offers career opportunities, advancement, and all the amazing adventures that a dynamic and growing company can offer. A company vision is a colorful, high definition, and empowering picture of a destination that’s worthy of extreme effort and engagement. Numbers are simply black and white. (Avoid red numbers at all cost.)
- Keep it critical: Daily huddles that spew number after number can sap the energy from a team quicker than announcing that you’re going to read aloud the new employee handbook cover to cover. Critical numbers are numbers that, if moved in the right direction, have a profound and lasting positive impact on the company. Pick two or three critical numbers per quarter to focus on and drive. Pushing a few numbers in the right direction is easier to manage and more palatable than spewing dozens of numbers that few understand or will remember a nano-second after the huddle breaks. Keep it simple. Keep it critical.
- Keep it fun: There’s enough stress in business these days so why be the source of more stress? Lighten up with some humor or spontaneous celebrations. Burn those blown-up Excel files and make your scoreboards fun to look at and fill in. Celebrate wins with party horns and “woo hoo’s.” In nice weather, do a surprise picnic lunch. In winter, do a surprise pizza party. It’s not hard to break the monotony of work with a celebration and some fun food. At Strategies, we ring a brass ship’s bell every time we close a large contract. Everyone rallies to hear the details. I recently did two days of coaching at Gray Sky Films in New Jersey. They call their break room “the beach.” It has a picnic table, grass umbrella, a beach scene on the wall, and a sound machine with breaking waves and seagulls – and an arcade game.
- Keep the dots connected: Teams are inclusive, not exclusive. Every company is made up of lots of moving parts, departments, and job functions. Disconnects between people and departments create information and performance gaps that show up as missed goals, needless waste, duplication of work, and too many “I didn’t know” excuses. I don’t care how big or small your company is – you’re all fighting for the same goal and vision. Keep the dots connected with improved information flow systems. Invest the time to have employees experience the work done in other departments to gain an appreciation and respect for the work of others. Keep the dots connected. It’s a commitment that pays major dividends. Remember, when individuals or groups work in isolation, teamwork cultures cannot thrive.
- Keep it personal: You can tell an employee to generate better numbers all day long and never see improvement. Remember, numbers are a measurement and outcome. Telling people to “do more – sell more” is pretty ineffective without the “here’s how to do more and do it better” training. A leader’s role is to lift people up and help them reach their full potential. Invest in your people. Mentor them. Train them. Heck, just show that you care about them as individuals. If you love your numbers more than your people, it’s time to rethink your role as a leader.
- Keep it true: It is a fine line between paying attention to the numbers and feeding the passion for work that generates those numbers. There are times when your company may need to be numbers driven – and driven hard – especially if it’s fighting for survival. But no matter how dire the situation, feeding the passion to overcome and win may be your biggest turnaround weapon. In the end, feeding the passion for doing great things, for winning the business game – for achieving extraordinary – is still where no-compromise leaders truly shine.
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