During all my years in business, I've noticed that some people seem to make their job look effortless, while others are always in a struggle, no matter how simple you thought the task should be.
In my current role as a consultant to entrepreneurs and small-business owners, I've accumulated my own list of insights on how some people get more done. Thus I was pleased to see that it's consistent with the guidance in a new book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most, by Greg McKeown, a well-respected author and public speaker on business breakthroughs.
Here are key strategies that we both agree will elevate your efforts and get business results on a consistent basis without the pain and stress that seem to dominate the working lives of many of us:
1. Learn: Leverage the best of what others know.
A passion for your business and your innovation will only get you so far. All the best business leaders I know are not afraid to use advisers, peers, books, and the internet to understand what's possible and how to do it. Life is too short to learn everything from your mistakes, or become an expert in all.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have totally different businesses, yet both give much credit to the other for success, and claim to have learned much from each other. They still find time to meet and compare notes regularly, and are avid readers of business books.
2. Lift: Propagate your strength by teaching others.
Once you have learned, your top-priority task must be to educate others around you. Start with your own story, the mission of your business, and how to make everyone in your domain, including customers, into advocates and teachers. Lift everyone by eliminating complexity and highlighting value.
Sir Richard Branson, who controls more than 400 active companies, never appears to be even working. In addition, he has often stated that his first priority is serving his employees and his extended business family, through coaching, mentoring, and effective communication.
3. Automate: Do it once to never do it again.
The technology is here to do most hard things effortlessly in business, but I find many business owners stuck in the past, refusing to change. If you invest the time and effort to install and upgrade processes and systems, you can replicate results and grow the business without multiplying your own efforts.
Just to be clear, automation isn't about shrinking the human workforce; it's about helping you do more with the same number of people, and to do it with less effort. This leads to business growth and happier people, typically owing to more and higher-paying jobs.
4. Trust: Build and use highly engaged teams.
The real strength of your business is not how much you can accomplish yourself, but how effectively you can build and lead a team. Business people who are micro-managers, or spend most of their time working in the business, rather than on the business, are destined to constant stress and overwork.
Highly engaged means each person feels safe to bring their authentic, unique, and best self to work, and never even feel like they are working. The result is a new level of productivity, loyalty, and personal satisfaction for you as well as everyone on your team.
5. Prevent: Solve problems before they happen.
The real power of making your job look effortless is preventing problems by using the previous strategies, and focusing on the future, as well as the present. Get to the root of problems, rather than fighting symptoms. This means using what you have learned to anticipate market change and prepare for it.
This ability to anticipate problems, and prevent them, is the key to making everyone's job easier, starting with yours. You can do this by spending less time on current crises, and more time on strategic thinking, outside the fold, and listening to marketplace feedback.
If you can take away just one message, let it be that working harder and struggling are not the real keys to business success. No matter what challenges, obstacles, or hardships you face, I'm convinced that you can always resolve them easier using the long-term strategies outlined here, and enjoy more satisfying results sooner.