Some leaders, particularly in this day and age of technological wonders, aim to be efficient above all else. The problem is that efficiency can become synonymous with busyness. And in the fray, effectiveness can become forgotten.
Years ago when I worked in a newsroom, one of the main evaluations for our stories was word count. We were a free newspaper and didn’t use any wire services. That meant we had to generate all the content ourselves. Each reporter needed to produce 1,000 researched, written, and edited words per day.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad discipline. We quickly learned how to be good, fast writers who never balked at the sight of a blank sheet of paper. There was an additional expectation that our stories had to be written well, or at least passably well.
But here’s where it got tricky...
Because of that daily mandate, I confess there were moments—particularly when I was tired or stressed or tight up against a deadline—when all I really wanted to do was hit my word count and go home for the night.
During those moments, I technically fulfilled the requirements of the job—I was busy getting a lot of words written.
But I didn’t always produce the best writing I could do. Effectiveness was sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.
I don’t fault the newspaper owner. He wanted us to be competent, quick writers who wrote a lot of stories so his business could stay afloat. And to his credit, his business persevered through some very tough years in the newspaper industry.
Down deep, I knew he also cared about producing effective writing. Just like me, he wanted to help people lead better lives.
Have you ever felt that tension?
You need to be efficient,
but you also want to be effective.
Being effective means you work to accomplish a purpose. You produce an intended result. You create actual and significant change. You truly get things done, and done well.
When you evaluate your work habits with an eye to effectiveness, important questions must be asked:
· How much lasting and significant change did my activity produce?
· How well did I connect with people?
· How many people actually read my reports?
· How many people interacted with my Tweets, blog posts, or Facebook status updates?
· How many products were genuinely improved by my attention to them?
· How much progress was truly made in the meetings I was in?
· Was there a good reason for doing what I did?
And yes—in the midst of asking all those good questions—is my business staying afloat?
A leader must be efficient, but he must also be effective. In my writing these days, I aim to be both. Yet in the long run, effectiveness should always trump efficiency, never the other way around.
That's a pledge I make to myself. As well as to my readers.
Question: In what ways are you efficient? In what ways are you effective? Do you lean toward one or the other?