Want To Be A Truly Strategic Leader? Forget About Profits and Focus on People.
Imagine a stack of 500 papers, each page representing a task.
You work as hard as you can to get through this stack but can’t get through all of them. To make matters worse, each day, 500 more pages are added to the stack, making it ever taller. This stack represents your inbox, meeting schedule, friend requests, bucket list, Netflix queue- any professional or personal priorities.
Common knowledge says prioritization is your solution.
Sounds good as a general principle, but hard to actually do – like Warren Buffett saying the key to winning in the stock market is to pick the undervalued stocks… If it were as easy as it sounds, everyone would be a billionaire!
But, if you did have a magic wand to automatically sort all your tasks by some criteria, what would it be?
Let’s say it was profit.
So the items with the most dollar signs float to the top of the stack. Then you’re always working on what makes you or your company the most money. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to maximize shareholder value, right?
But what actually happens is that people sort by what’s most urgent.
The squeaky wheel gets the attention. Whoever texts you, comes into your office, hits you up on chat, they immediately have your attention, whether you like it or not. That’s why most people like to “hide” in the office environment. They work early mornings or late nights to avoid “distractions”.
These chronic interrupters – do they know you think they’re distractions? What if it’s your 2-year-old son or the boss that drops by to shoot the breeze? You see, neither extreme- from profit maximizing to mosquito bite central- is healthy.
The former is coldly calculating machinery, while the latter is bleeding heart chaos. That’s why there are two categories of managers- the ones known for results and the ones known for being kind. When was the last time you saw a manager that was kind and got results?
Enter the third style of manager – the good shepherd.
Now instead of a stack of papers, visualize 500 sheep in line, patiently waiting for you. Some of the sheep don’t know any better and cut in line. These are the ones you see jump lines at the supermarket or in traffic. They don’t realize you have many competing priorities because they’re thinking only of their own.
It’s only a “minute” they say, not realizing that context switching costs disrupted you for 2 hours. These sheep are ill. Some have life-threatening injuries that require your immediate attention, while others need some consolation for a skinned knee. All are valuable, and all must receive attention at some point. But the sheep don’t see the extent of the line, only you do.
Hospitals solved this problem long ago via a process called triage. They have emergency room nurses to quickly sort urgency of the situation, so that the surgeons don’t get clobbered in the waiting room. Not every doctor can do everything, so there is a sorting process to have the right doctors work on what they’re trained to handle, governed by checklists.
In the Good Shepherd model, you care for your flock’s well-being, as opposed to prioritizing the treatments that are most profitable – like the big operations.
The Good Shepherd loses money much of the time, because many patients don’t have insurance. And when someone is in cardiac arrest, you don’t have time to check if their insurance premiums are up to date or if they have available credit on their American Express.
Everyone is given the same two gifts in life.
- The choice of how to use it
Trying to appease every request will quickly burn out any manager.
“When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most”.
Always focus on HOW you are using your time.
If you truly care about your people, your sorting mechanism is based on the triage model, which is what creates the most gain for your flock. Your staff trusts you, is committed to your operation and is loyal. So you place their needs ahead of clients.That means you don’t take on nightmare clients and you don’t tolerate mistreatment of your people by anyone- to fire clients and partners, when necessary.
While you as the Good Shepherd do anything for your lost sheep, this doesn’t mean you that you will do anything for a potential client. You must be even PICKIER in who gets to work with your people. You qualify clients as stringently as you do teammates, since there are tremendous costs and benefits to gaining access to the program. You wouldn’t let any random person come test drive your exotic sports cars if you had a dealership, would you?
Likewise, you don’t do free consultations, since they have to go through a simple intake to help your nurses gather vitals and diagnose the issue before they can go talk to whichever surgeons they want.
No matter how hard you “hustle” or how well you prioritize, as one person you can only work so hard for so long. You need a team to triage so that all your flock can get proper, but not necessarily immediate attention. You need to protect your time so that you can focus on the sheep that are critically injured, despite the loud cries of those that have stubbed their toes.
Set up a strong qualifying sequence to avoid time spent coaching those without the potential to assist. Establish good habits by avoiding overcoaching. Give your team members a clear invitation to think for themselves by suggesting their best answer to any question they ask.
Develop canned replies for areas that commonly require coaching to guard your time.
Foster a mindset of personal responsibility and a practice of iteration. Require personal investment. Award excellence, and be supportive, but not to the point of doing work or thinking for your teammates.
I am the unprofitable leader because the ROI I measure is in human lives, not money generated.
We have paid for medical expenses, helped with legal issues, donated to worthy causes, fixed broken vehicles, and all manner of things that our finance team frowns upon as non-business expenses. Our company is growing in revenue rapidly, but we have made zero profit every year for the last decade, since we invest it all back in our people.
Ironically, by caring for your people, they are then empowered to take care of clients. The clients feel this love and see their results, which then drives more clients our way.
Happy & fulfilled employees/contractors are the lifeblood of any business because that happiness and fulfillment permeates the work across all departments.
The people leader who is not authentically concerned for and invested in each of their people’s development/growth will have a revolving door team. Nobody will stick around because eventually, they will feel diminished and a loss power because “nobody cares”.
And this is a primary root cause for turnover, which is the highest operational expense any business will incur. -Paul Sokol
This funds our ability to build up more specialists and virtual assistants, making our training system stronger. And that long queue of 500 sheep all needing attention is now 50 small queues of ten sheep each.
What kind of leader are you? Are you talking about making 6 figures a month or making 6 people happy each month? Are you responding to urgent, non-important requests to unwittingly operate a nursery instead of an emergency room?
What changes will you make in how you organize your time and what is even allowed into your queue?