Efficient vs. Effective


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Leadership has far less to do with efficiency than effectiveness. Nobody other than perhaps you really cares how efficient you are, but then again leadership isn’t really about you is it? The simple reality is everyone cares how effective you are. Not only do they care how effective you are, but they also care about the effectiveness of those whom you lead. Remembering leadership isn’t about how neat and tidy things are, but how successful you are at scaling effectiveness will help keep you focused on the right target.

Efficient vs. Effective – there is sometimes a very big difference between the two. So much so, that I have really come to cringe every time I hear the word efficiency. It’s not really that there is anything wrong with becoming more efficient, but what I find is far too many executives major in the minors when it comes to efficiency. Let me ask you a question – Have you become so efficient that you’ve rendered yourself ineffective? At an organizational level have you focused so much on process improvements and incremental gains that you’ve failed to recognize opportunity and innovate? Are you efficient or effective, or do you know?

I really don’t have a problem with increasing efficiency so long as the tail doesn’t start wagging the dog. If you’re a pistol marksman who has a fast draw and a solid technique, which allows you to squeeze off rounds in smooth rapid succession, yet you fail to hit the target – who cares? If efficiency starts diluting productivity rather than increasing it something is woefully amiss. This is more than an issue of semantics – it’s become a systemic problem with many individuals and organizations. Here’s the thing – process in and of itself was never engineered to be the outcome, it was designed to support the creation of the proper outcomes.

If you’re not tracking with me yet, ask yourself the following questions: Do you send an email when you should make a phone call, or worse, do you hide behind the phone when you should be face-to-face? Do your sophisticated screening processes do such a great job of filtering that it blinds you to new opportunities and critical information? Here’s the thing – if your desk is so clean you don’t have anything to work on then you might be focusing on the wrong thing…it might be time to make a bit of a mess.

What I want you to recognize is sometimes the least efficient thing can be lead to the most productive outcome. A great example of this would be carving out time in your already too busy schedule to mentor someone in your organization with great potential. Clearly this endeavor will take time, and may not yield immediate results, but the payoff organizationally, relationally, culturally, and in terms of future contribution can be huge.

As I’ve said many times before, things don’t always have to boil down to either/or types of decisions – not everything must end-up on the altar of sacrificial decisioning. With the proper perspective and focus it is quite possible to be both efficient and effective. Efficient process can enable effective resource utilization. The two concepts can co-exist so long as the focus remains on the proper thing – results. Smart leaders don’t just focus on moving the needle, they focus on moving the right needles, at the right times, and for the right reasons.

Bottom line…check your motivations. When you ever so efficiently cross something off your to-do list has it moved you farther away from, or closer to, putting points on the board? Better yet, are the items on your to-do list even the right items to begin with? Lastly, I’ll leave you with this reminder – leadership is not about how many emails, memos and transmittals are sent under your signature – it’s about relationships, service, and engagement.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Myatt
Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual" and is the Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth. As one of America's top CEO Coaches, Mr. Myatt is a sought after professional advisor known for his savvy, yet straight forward approach to business in serving some of the nation's top CEOs.


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