After observing thousands of leaders in companies from startups to over $20B in revenue and helping create over $1 Billion in business value, I noticed one superpower in highly successful people. They worked smarter, not harder, and derive much higher results in less time than almost everyone else. These very successful leaders tended to value highly the Management Strategies and Learnings obtained through Business and Executive coaching channels.
For clarity, I deem someone to be successful if they can accomplish three times more than their peers, have more joy and happiness, and do all of this in less time. Now, I have to draw a line as many of us are highly ambitious, driven, and are classic workaholics. Most workaholics do not commit to reducing the hours they work and find work exhilarating. Regardless of your view, it would help if you wanted to achieve three times the results and earnings in less time. What you do with the extra time is your business. But everyone should want to work smarter and not harder.
I am often exposed to CEOs in the same industry and have always been amazed at how varied leader’s approaches are. To me, the right approach is the one that produces three times the results with a similar effort. Let’s take the restoration industry. I have met many CEOs who started their business 20 years before and are stuck at $5M in revenue or less. Also, I have met others that were in the industry for just a few years and had revenue over $5M. I do not only find revenue disparity. I also find profit and time gaps. While the average company earns a net profit of 5% of revenue, we have helped companies generate over 20%. Would you rather be a $10M company that produces $500K of net profit or a $5 Million company that produces $1M in net profit? That was a trick because you should want to be the $10 Million company generating $2 Million profit, expecting the growth and the profits.
The most successful CEOs build far larger companies, have higher growth rates, have more free time, and have 3x the net profit margin. And, yes, there are other measures of success. I want you to consider that working more hours than everyone else, regardless of what you earn, is a fool’s choice! All I want to do is challenge us to work smarter continually.
Which leads us to the big question: “How can we make it easier to achieve our success goals faster?” How can a person make far more, achieve their intended impact, and work a lot less? Not only is this possible, but others are already doing it. After watching these leaders, I noticed they were not necessarily smarter, more creative, lack ethics, or privileged. I have met many highly successful people, some ultra-wealthy, and found that they were formerly homeless, living in trailer parks, had no college degrees, and so on. I am sure all of us are capable of high levels of success.
Achieving success is simpler than you think but not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. The strange part is that we are familiar with the concepts but not living them. Here are the principles you must follow to work smarter and not harder:
(1) Manage Your Thoughts
(2) Have a Strategy
(3) Be Strategic
(4) Work a Plan
(5) Be Disciplined
(6) Resilience Rituals
(7) Build Wealth
There are three dimensions to managing our thoughts: awareness, intention, and perseverance. Our mind is a potent tool. How you think will change your outcomes for better or worse. Thus you need to be aware of what you are thinking. For example, if you make up your mind that someone cannot do their job, your words and actions will differ from those based on the premise they are capable of. Your thoughts need to be congruent with your intentions. If you intend on accomplishing something and focus your thoughts on contrary purposes, you will fail. Imagine you plan to have a good day but your spend most of your day angry about something.
Once our thoughts and intentions are in unity, we need to have perseverance. When was the last time you set out for something new and challenging, and it worked out exactly as planned? Most often, we find we run into unforeseen difficulties and roadblocks. If you allow your mind to waiver from the finish line, you may not get there in a practical manner.
Too often, I find driven people are in constant motion. They confuse activity with productivity. When they see a problem to solve, they are off to the races. Often leaders are solving the wrong problems or not taking the best route to solve their problems. By doing so, you may feel better in the short term, but it could have long-term negative consequences.
I recently witnessed a senior leader get angry with a subordinate because he felt they were taking advantage of the company. He immediately launched into attack mode and let the employee know how he felt. While the concern was merited and the employee course-corrected, there were longer-term consequences. You see, the leader was so busy being right that he lost one of the highest-performing people in the industry. That employee decided to quit his boss.
In the end, the leader was not strategic. Had he been, he would have waited until he wasn’t angry and would have developed a strategy to course-correct the employee in a manner that was okay for both parties involved. Instead, he may need two people to do the work the one accomplished, and his reputation may cause other competent people not to want to work for him.
While I used a personal situation, the same goes for taking on projects, lofty goals, and conquering the competition. One thing we have all learned is that there are many ways to accomplish an objective. Being strategic requires you to consider achieving the ideal outcomes, choosing what “not” to do, using the least amount of resources, and within the desired time frame. It is usually best to consider expanding your options before choosing a path.
We are working on a plan ties to being strategic. However, the critical difference is that the strategy is the vision of where you want to go, and the action plan charts your course from beginning to end—many of us are big picture people. We can see what is possible and have a “can-do” attitude. The problem with visionaries is they believe everything is simple and underestimate what it takes to achieve the outcome. Taking the ball down the field is usually someone else’s problem. To achieve grand visions, I recommend the following project management techniques:
(1) Be specific – The objective has to be clearly stated so that anyone could step in and know what needs to be done.
(2) Make it Measurable – Identify the measurable milestones and deadlines that indicate you are on track.
(3) Action Steps – Identify the action steps necessary to achieve each milestone.
(4) Monitor Progress – There must be processes and systems in place to monitor progress.
(5) Course Correct – When progress is insufficient, it is essential to revisit your plan to get back on track.
Whether you are working on getting healthy, achieving your sales goals, accomplishing a major project, it takes disciplined action. Too often, we like the idea of the outcome but are not disciplined enough to achieve it. Think about dieting. If I eat healthily and eat the right amount of calories for three days a week but overeat unhealthy foods the other 4, it will take a lot longer (if ever) to lose the weight. Where if you ate properly every day, that takes discipline.
My brother Matt is the President of Steven Douglas, one of the fastest-growing recruiting and staffing agencies in the US. Matt has been a top producer every year since he entered the industry almost 20 years ago. Most people in his industry only dream of producing his revenue production. Matt shared with me that he has hundreds of employees, and none of them produce as much as he does. Given that he is President, he spends far less time than full-time salespeople. This caused me to ask his secret. Matt has a list of 300 key contacts he calls every sixty days. He does this by setting aside one hour daily for outbound calls. This single disciplined activity has helped him achieve more in 5 hours a week than others can produce in 60 hours. Successful people are willing to commit to such discipline. I have shared this technique with at least 100 people over the years, and none has had the discipline to implement it.
The airlines taught us a very important less when they told us that we must put our oxygen masks on first before helping others. I have found that highly successful people have a regimen of activities that they use to recharge themselves. Here are my resilience rituals:
– 1/2 hour of daily exercise
– 15 Minute breaks between meetings
– 15-30 of Meditation
– 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection
– Spending time with friends and family
– Take 4-6 weeks off on vacation throughout the year.
– Monitor and control my work hours
– Weekly Massage
It would be best to have the same level of committed discipline to your resilience rituals as your business routines. For example, if you work out 4 hours in one day, it will not have the same effect as 1/2 hour per day.
Too many of us are so busy working that we don’t spend the right amount determining how to build wealth. Every very wealthy person I met has at least three streams of significant income. It is essential that you identify, develop, and give enough attention to your various income streams. Most people will tell you that the most significant part of wealth came from income streams outside of their day job. The day gave them the financial start in investing in other activities. Still, many of those activities require learning about and developing strategies and plans to develop each stream.
While you can be highly successful without practicing the above activities, it does not invalidate them. However, by managing your thoughts, being strategic, working a plan, being disciplined, practicing resilience rituals, and building wealth consistently, you will find your path to success with less friction. Now I challenge you to determine how to use these principles to work smarter and not harder, so you have more time to do the things that are most important to you.