Does an activity (be it a meeting, project, or decision...) bring you closer to achieving your goals or farther away? Asking this simple question before beginning a task has not only made me more productive, but it has helped me lead more effectively. I refer to this results-oriented approach with my team as: activity ≠ results.
When you look at the most successful companies and thriving work cultures, there's a common theme: they focus on output and results, as opposed to activity. It's less about how it gets done - and "processes for process sake" - but more about getting the job done. As the saying goes, "results speak for themselves". I have found that some of the greatest successes have not stemmed from Herculean efforts nor from a "paint by numbers" mindset reminiscent of Office Space.
Instead, success often comes when teams are thoughtful and strategic about executing a project efficiently - working smarter, not harder. Some of the best people and team members I've worked with are not just those who have produced phenomenal results, but those who also operate with a results-oriented mindset (and the two almost always go together).
In Stephen Covey's' bestseller,The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he emphasizes how successful people make a habit of "beginning with the end in mind". Start with a clear understanding of your destination, and then determine the next two actionable steps to get you there. The same principle can be applied to business. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize and clearly define the results you want to achieve and the end goal, then you empower other people, circumstances, interests etc. to direct your life and decision-making.
I also use "results-oriented" thinking to help guide my schedule and time-management. As a CEO and Chairman for a rapidly growing company, the game moves much faster, the responsibilities increase, the number of decisions that need to be made are exponential, and you are constantly tugged in a million different directions. Here is the advice that has helped me stay focused and not get redirected by other agendas: every morning, I review my three goals and the company's three major goals. I use these as a filter for my schedule.
Given my engineering tendencies, I take a binary approach to scheduling meetings: does a meeting get me closer to achieving those main goals or not? If the answer is no, I do not proceed with a meeting or task. A neutral response to that question is the same as taking me further from the goal because it costs time, and time is a precious, non-replenishable resource.
You can always hire more people, make more money, launch more products, but the one thing you cannot create is more time... So, the next time you are presented with a meeting request or a new project, just ask: does this bring me closer or farther away from the goal ?
It's a simple method, but it will save you and your company a tremendous amount of time and effort, and make you far more productive. Keep your focus on the results and don't get lost in the activity.