At Inc.’s Leadership conference in San Diego this week, co-founder of The L Group and author Lee Colan challenged his audience to rethink the factors that lead to business success.
He said that while the temptation to tweak one’s product or strategy may be alluring, one thing separates the decent performers from the elite: adherence. In other words, the ability to stick to your plan and execute, day in and day out.
Three things determine a company’s adherence, said Colan: Focus, competence, and passion. Multiply them together, and you’ve got a measure of a company’s stick-to-it-tive-ness. And because adherence is a multiplicative function--not an additive one---a zero in any one of those three areas means the company can’t stick to anything at all.
Here’s how Colan exhorted his audience to improve their scores in all three areas:
This is the area that Colan said was hardest for entrepreneurs. They start out doing one thing, but then a big client asks for something else, and pretty soon they’re all over the map. “Find the one thing that, if you get it done, means your day is a victory no matter what else happens,” said Colan. “Not everything has equal value. I guarantee you there is one thing. If you identify that it will bring tremendous clarity to you and your team.”
Colan also said there is a filter between your conscious and subconscious mind that decides what to bring to the fore. Once you’ve decided on your “thing,” it’s important not to keep it a secret. Talk to people about it, and research it. Colan said it’s not that you get back what you put into the universe - it’s that focusing on your “thing” encourages your brain to make sure you notice related information and opportunities.
Everyone in your company should have a scorecard, said Colan. And it doesn’t have to be high-tech or wait for your next ERP implementation. Use scratch marks on a wall if you have to. The point is that each employee should know, when they take an action, that it’s going to change the numbers on their scorecard.
A big part of competence is accountability, said Colan. And “ambiguity is the Achilles heel of accountability…. We have to be way more specific than we think we need to be.” He demonstrated this by asking the audience to fold a piece of paper, tear off a particular corner, fold it again, tear off another corner, and repeat. Even though his directions seemed clear, most people’s papers looked nothing alike at the end.
Even a simple sentence such as “I’ll get right back to you,” needs to be more specific, said Colan. Is that “I’ll get right back to you after this call?” After my next meeting? After lunch? Before the end of the day? Specificity needs to become a habit,” added Colan.
Here is where entrepreneurs thrive, said Colan. “This is the ‘Why?’ question and it’s the most important one you can ask. It’s the motivator.”
Rituals are key to igniting passion, said Colan. And every company has rituals, whether the management realizes it or not. What time to people come in and leave? Who eats lunch with whom? Do you have daily huddles or weekly meetings? For leaders, the goal is use to ritual “to build a bridge between today’s task and a brighter tomorrow. You can’t do rituals for rituals’ sake. They have to have a purpose.”
“People need to understand the difference they’re making,” said Colan. “How do we improve? Why do we exist? The ‘why’ question is much harder to answer than the ‘what’ question.”