Here is an abridged version of a conversation with one of my clients, Guinevere (and you’re right – Guinevere isn’t her real name).
Guinevere: Hitting my numbers
Me: Okay, and what do you mean by ‘hitting my numbers?’
G: I mean, hitting my targets, my financial numbers – EBIT
Me: And what do you need to care about in order to hit your numbers, your EBIT?
G: Huh, what do you mean?
Me: Well…how likely are you be to hit your numbers if you sat here in your office and really really concentrated on hitting them?
G: That’s a stupid question, of course I wouldn’t…oh I see – I’ve got a whole load of things I need to care about and do to hit my numbers
G: Revenue, costs, staff problems, customers, products, competitors, shareholders, my boss, our rubbish IT systems, customer service, the budget round, the new CRM project, marketing…it goes on
Me: And which of them do you really care about?
G: All of them
Me; Okay. So what happens when they all appear outside your door at the same time and are all really urgent – in fact I can see them now – there they all are, looking through the glass. Which one are you going to call in and deal with first?
G: You are forcing me to choose. I don’t want to do that, they are all really critical. If I had too though, it would be customer service
Me: Great, so what I’m hearing is that from the great long list of incredibly important things you need to care about, customer service is what you really care about. Right?
Me: is that because it is the thing that has the biggest impact on you hitting your numbers?
G: Yup – that’s right
Me: Great. Now let’s metaphorically go for a walk into the main office. There are a bunch of your staff there – how would they know that customer service is what they should really care about?
G: (silence) Oh S____. I see what you mean. They wouldn’t would they. I never talk about it with them. I just assume that it’s something we need to do well. And that they know they need to focus on it. I need to think about this. (Playfully) Stop asking me these questions and get out of my office!
Do your Staff Know What They Should Really Care About?
It’s simply not enough to care about hitting your numbers. However important results are, you won’t achieve them unless you really care about the one or two critical things you need to actually do. And that’s not enough. Your employees need to know what they are as well.
Only once you know exactly what it is you really care about can you can ensure your staff know what it is they should really care about; so they feel, smell, touch, see, hear and believe in the same thing.
If all you talk about is your numbers, don’t be surprised when your employees only do the things that deliver their numbers i.e. their pay.
If I was a shareholder in your business, I’d expect you to know what you really care about. And I expect your staff to not only know but to demonstrate they know through their actions – each and every minute of each and every day.
If you can’t describe what you really care about; if your staff can’t explain what they really care about, maybe you need to start, right now, by asking yourself the same questions I asked Guinevere.
Picture: “William Morris 001” by William Morris – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –