Know How to Measure Your Success

Many years ago, I heard author and speaker Brian Tracy make a statement about the role and purpose of executives that has remained with me. He said something similar to this, ‘An executive is someone who has the authority to put plans and or actions into effect.’ This really resonated with me because whilst I needed assistance, I required more than the support of a traditional assistant. I needed someone to make decisions, plan and self-initiate activity in a way that enabled me to focus on my ‘why’ and painted picture.

I had no desire to have someone make my coffee or pick up my dry cleaning, and I still don’t. I wanted someone to work in partnership with me to multiply my productivity in a way that would enable me to make my own coffee and pick up my own dry cleaning. This was an important distinction for me to make.

The further I delved into this thought process, the more I came to terms with the distinction between the titles of administrative, personal and executive assistants. I certainly needed administrative support and clerical assistance to help manage my workload, but I really needed someone to put plans and actions into effect. It seemed on the surface that this new position was shaping up to be more of an executive assistant role. However, I wasn’t comfortable with the term assistant. I didn’t believe it was a fair title to the role it would become.

I learned during my military service about the significance of the relationship between the Commanding Officer (CO) and the Executive Officer (XO) in an air force squadron. Whilst the CO and XO would fly missions, they would never fly together in combat. What is interesting about the CO/XO relationship, is that the XO was the ‘alternate CO’ and on a day to day basis, would assist the CO to lead the squadron to fulfil it’s purpose. In the event the CO’s aircraft was shot down, the XO could immediately assume command of the squadron. It was this understanding that I used as my main reference for employing someone. I was going to treat the person who I would employ in a manner that would empower him or her to run my business.

Achieving my ‘why’ and painted picture was certainly a key measure of our success. I felt that I needed to be little more explicit about the role and the monetary return on the investment in it. For example if I was to allocate this position an initial annual salary of $50,000, I needed to achieve a multiple of that to make this venture worthwhile. There was no point in achieving only a $50,000 increase in revenue. Without any rigorous analysis, I just decided that we needed to achieve a multiple of three to make this venture worthwhile. That is, the position must earn 3 times more than what it cost. It was already a mandate of this initiative to have a multiplying effect on my productivity. This was now extended to revenue generation. However, I wanted to overlay a caveat onto all of this. We must get better at what we do and how we do it. This demanded that I be ruthless with my delegation. When I let it go, I really need to let it go. I’m not suggesting complete abdication of responsibility for activity and outcomes. I’ll always be responsible for that. I’m referring to giving permission to whoever would work with me, to re-design activity especially when that has the potential to be more productive and add greater value to our clients. I couldn’t afford to get hung up on my old ways.

I learned about a study years ago in relation to traffic memory. I became aware of the effect of a car braking one kilometre ahead of you. The next car in line brakes one second later and so on until it reaches you, thus causing a significant delay. Depending on the number of cars, this delay could be up to one minute. Of course, that car one kilometre ahead that initially braked will accelerate again and the next car will do the same one second later. That effect will continue until you finally have the opportunity to accelerate again, an additional minute later. This is an important understanding in a leadership context because any lack of productivity inside your office has a cascading negative effect on productivity outside your office.  Whilst satisfaction levels with my clients were reasonably safe, I could not assume that these would continue if my value offering remained stagnant. As a team of one, I did not have the capacity to increase my value offering. I needed to make this a productivity mandate for our team of two. The client experience must be continually improving with no exceptions.

I began to learn that our success was directly related to internal and external productivity. I therefore needed to treat this person as an executive who was capable of leading The 15 Disciplines. This required a strong and close relationship with no secrets. To gain complete trust it was essential for me to be an open book with my knowledge and experience and open minded when it came to alternate methodologies. It would also mean the person would need to travel with me to experience and observe my work so that he or she could determine how the internal processes (activity) were impacting the external client experience (outcomes).

This new position would require a significant investment from me personally before I was to gain any quantifiable productivity gain. The selection of the right person was becoming increasingly critical every day. I needed to know precisely what I was looking for.

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