Effectiveness or Impotence

“I don’t know why things don’t get done”


Have you ever heard that before?


In this case, it was the lament from the CEO of a professional services company. He was frustrated that his company was stuck and not getting the strategic initiatives completed. The irony is that his team is really busy and is quite efficient.  The problem is that they are busy doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really matter.  Clients don’t care about these efforts, and they don’t put any value on them.


This is actually quite common in small companies as well as large companies.  It’s all too easy for the activities and even sacred cows to blur effectiveness.


In this case, the company is reflecting my friend.  He is swamped fighting fires and bailing out issues. In all his busyness, he is totally ineffective.  That is to say he is impotent.  He’s not getting the right things done.

The cost of impotence is high.


It’s a cost of wasted energy and resources spent doing things that don’t matter.  It is the cost of sacrificing time not building the right services or products.  There is the cost of missed opportunities, and competitive delay.


Change is happening, and his business needs an effective leader.  A leader who gets the right things done.


One of the most important questions that my friend must ask is, “What does the business need from me right now?”  There is always one priority that exceeds the others.  He must be able to concentrate on that priority and manage himself to execute it.


In this case, he needs to identify things he needs to stop doing.  There are people, products, and processes that are not creating value that need to be removed.


Likewise, he also needs to tolerate things that don’t matter.  His list of priorities is pages long and each one is urgent.  This simply isn’t true.  These things may be costly or inconvenient, but they are secondary and can be tolerated.  The organization can tolerate many things in lieu of a strategic imperative. Similarly, the human body can function with organs that are only barely operating.


When Jack Welch assumed the role of CEO at GE, he wanted to expand globally but before he could he needed to prune.  He sold or shut down every business that could not be either number 1 or 2 in an industry.  GE had phenomenal growth during his leadership.


Effectiveness is a discipline and it requires courage and concentration.  It is this discipline, maybe more than anything that makes for a successful leader and a successful organization.