The Significance of Significance

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick writes about business for her column, with a departure to “no business allowed” in her blog “After Hours”. Even the print magazine’s parameters are loose for Jody, as she writes from the heart and typically more toward HR or human interest topics.

I’ve been playing around with ideas to make life simpler for managers so we can focus on what we need to focus on to increase productivity and employee/client satisfaction, and yet still have time to cover the general taking-care-of-business details.

Here’s what I’m come up with, my simplest and sanest advice: Do at least one identifiably significant thing a day.

Of course, we tend to think that everything we do every day is significant, but that’s not true. We spend a lot of time reading and responding to e-mails, for example, that do not advance ANY of our business goals. Those e-mails may be IMPORTANT, but they may not be RELEVANT to your goals.

Likewise, we may spend a lot of time making or reading reports. Great. We know where we are, and how yesterday measured up. That’s important, but IS IT RELEVANT to your stated goals?

My suggestion is that you purposefully do something SIGNIFICANT every day.

If you have 16 workdays in a month (minus vacation averages, etc. — that’s what HR officials predict is the average return on your investment per employee), that’s 16 activities toward a goal per month. If you really think about it, it’s probably about 12 more than you (or staff) would routinely and purposefully do, because 99% of your time is spent on MAINTAINING your business versus meeting new goals.

I can read your mind: You still think almost everything you do every day is significant. Maybe. Maybe not. (Likely not.) But let’s come back to that.

Let’s start at the beginning, with a pencil exercise that should be easy to do.

Please take a piece of paper and put these headings on it: Business structure; Marketing & sales; Operations; IT; Human Resources; Finances. (Headers borrowed from Derrick Van Mell’s "3 Good Questions" planning form).

Now put your top business goals down for those areas. If you can, make them SMART goals — simple, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (that’s how I define SMART, but you may have different words).

Goals are not the same as tasks. Goals are the outcomes, not who/how they are achieved. An example: "Get 148 attendees at the next IB event." That’s a marketing goal with a specific and clear message.

Now you have, essentially, your business plan before you. Normally, this takes a lot longer to do, but it’s your own quick cheat sheet version for your division or company.

Keep this list in front of you, and EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS DAY, do something in AT LEAST ONE OF THOSE AREAS to further your goals.

If you have staff assigned to you (or hired by you), have them create their list, with their headers on them (as agreed to by you and them) and then put THAT list in front of them, and give them the same instructions to do something significant in (ideally) every area, every day. Then have them e-mail you at the end of each work day with their most significant activity of the day.

How much would you know about the operations of your business at end of day? How much more would you know about what your employees think is a relevant activity? Do you agree or disagree?

The daily check-in would become a sort of victory log, too, because it prompts you to schedule an important meeting, set up a benchmark, land a sale. It prompts you to ACTION versus INTENTIONS. And then it prompts you to remember/claim successes!

I think the IB staff is about to embark on a whole new level of communication, and this exercise is going to be key. I also think I’d like to use it for personal planning, too. If I put headers on it like "Husband," "Dogs," "Children" — a separate one for each adult child — "Finances," "Vacation," etc., and did ONE activity per day to further my goals with those relationships or responsibilities, I’d be way ahead at the end of the week.
Something to consider? Your thoughts?

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