What sets the best performers apart from the rest? We’ve heard the theories – natural talent and intellect, hard work and diligence. There’s a third measure, though, and it appears to have a solid foundation – it is not about either talent or diligence, but selectivity. According to a 5-year study conducted by Morten T. Hansen, a professor of management at the University of California-Berkeley, the best performers consistently, and across the board, selected a limited number of top priorities – those which added the greatest value – and targeted their intensive efforts on those priorities.
In other words, it isn’t having the most intelligence, the most talent, or being the one who works the longest hours that makes the difference. It is, rather, being able to discern where you can add value to those you serve, and focusing your efforts where they will generate the greatest return.
To me, this is a terrific illustration of “working smarter, not harder.”
How, then, can we effectively streamline our priorities so as to add the greatest value?
William of Ockham invented the principle (known as Occam’s Razor) about 700 years ago – the best explanation of matters in philosophy, science, or business, is usually the simplest one.
It is certainly true in my experience that a simple and clear explanation of a complex idea or process works better with clients. I don’t always subject clients to a stream of technical details, but rather, tell them a story to convey the big picture.
The Occam’s Razor principle works outside the service provider context, too – simplify processes so they require fewer steps. Choose what is most important – take the fewest meetings, apply the fewest metrics, select the fewest goals you can, retaining only what is necessary to do your best, your deepest, most value-focused work. Then, do that work to the utmost of your ability.
Confront “pain points;” these are problems affecting a group, or groups, of people. If there is a difficulty your entire team runs up against on a regular basis, see what can be done to remove that difficulty.
Help your team to simplify their priorities; this will help in creating greater value for your clients.
“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away”
– Antione de Saint-Exupéry
Look to your team for helpful ideas – if you didn’t trust them, you would not have hired them, so be open to their thoughts. Challenge them to come up with creative ideas for adding value, and listen to the solutions they suggest.
Simplify. Try choosing to work only on your top goals and priorities. You should do this, not only in your business, but in all areas of your life. Instead of tackling 10 goals this quarter, try focusing on 3. On your daily to-do list, perhaps you could try to accomplish 3 important tasks, that create value and are within your unique ability – the thing you love doing the most (which, not coincidentally, is usually the thing you are best at). Work smarter, not harder, toward your selected goals.
Until next Wednesday –