Efficiency and Effectiveness – Leadership Impact

Are you efficient and effective in all that you do?

I’m not, however a recent experience has taught me more about myself and the importance of these two attributes .

Self-reflection, taking into account the many factors that influence us all is important for growth. Taking time to reflect provides a platform for improvement and awareness about what is going well and what you would like to change about who you are and what you do. In my most recent role as a senior leader within a global organisation I had many responsibilities and tasks assigned to my position. I was also in the fortunate situation where, for most of my tenure, I had a high degree of flexibility and freedom in my direction and subsequently, that of my team.

Last year there was a leadership change within my team, which had its pros and cons. I had been through leadership change many times before. However, in this instance I did find there was less opportunity to genuinely contribute my ideas and I felt significantly less valued and comfortable in my role as a result. My point is not to judge the leadership decisions or styles, more of how this made me react internally and the choices I made during this period.

I found great value in self-reflection and specifically spent time focusing on how efficient and effective I was being. Were the changes impacting my team? Had my demeanor changed?

Was I still as effective and efficient in my leadership as I had been?

Questions such as this at face value may have been instigated from self-doubt, however I found power in being able to analyse my routines, creativeness and methods of working. As someone who has focused quite a deal of time on this topic, I knew this could be the make or break for my tenure, depending on the outcomes of my decisions.

So, what did I do?  I researched the specific contexts of effectiveness and efficiency. Not so that I could define the two words for the sake of it, more so as I wanted to ensure I was not assuming too much, influencing my choices – I used key words from the definitions to provide direction.

efficiency – the ratio of the output to the input of any system. Skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort; “she did the work with great efficiency”. (1)

Was my focus on the right things – the ability to avoid wasting time and effort. Stripping back on the many tasks and focusing on the core few reaps many rewards, no matter the situation. This led me to think about my own journey and that of others I have worked closely enough with to have observed certain behaviours. My observations include:

  • We often become set in our ways, accept the norms and standards that have been established for months or even years.
  • A willingness to firstly see these inefficient processes and desire to drive change are two different behaviours / choices, but are both important (For those who are interested, have a look at the ADKAR model).
  • Knowing something and doing something are not the same thing.
  • Don’t implement a solution unless it has a benefit that can be defined and actions that can be taken.
  • Associated with the above, prioritising tasks and decisions is key to moving forward – as is often stated, urgent tasks are not necessarily important.
  • It is better to fully impact one or two key pieces of work in a sustained and meaningful way than half-complete several tasks – there is nothing transformational about incomplete work and it is quite damaging to your team and personal brand.

In my situation, the decisions I made revolved around all aspects of my life, not just work. Choices that impacted my family, work team, myself, friendship group and future direction were all balanced in my decision-making. I found that taking a step back and analysing my current situation allowed me to improve my future situation as it has turned out, as well as provide greater comfort in the moment. It was organised, less random and controlled thinking that provided the base to make the next choice. I was not wasting time and effort at work or at home on those things that mattered less.

At best I was static – at worst, going backwards. Prior to going through this process my mind was jumbled, confused and I had much less ability to think clearly and take action to progress. Self-reflection and a focus on efficiency allowed me to target thought and action, challenge myself on specific needs and take forward steps.

effective – Having an intended or expected effect. Power to be effective; the quality of being able to bring about an effect. Prepared for use or action, especially in warfare. (1)

This framework of thinking then allowed me to more easily work towards analysing my effectiveness, again measured in all aspects of my life. Was there an intended or expected effect and was I prepared for action. Not in all things, but I can say that the clarity and direction gave me pause for thought and my choices and decisions did change as a result. One of my core values is to make a difference and I had identified that I was being less effective in my roles as a consequence of many factors. Identifying this, acknowledging what it meant, making decisions and taking action has allowed me to do more of what I love, because I was clearer what these things were and what they mean to me.

It is now only as I reflect on this period from earlier in the year that I realise the benefit of ‘breaking down’ my thinking into a structured process, leading to clarity in decisions and direction, which has and will be proven in time.

Have you had a similar experience? How do you rate the importance of being effective and efficient? Is one more important to you than the other?

CoachStation Leadership: Choices Impact Efficiency and Effectiveness

Post-script: after 25 years of working for many large national and global organisations I left work 7 weeks ago to focus full-time on my external consultancy, training and coaching business. I had been developing the brand and strategy for the 20 months prior. However, the focus on what is most effective and efficient for me to be spending my time on, allowed me to leave a legacy with my previous employer and team whilst making the choice to work full-time on CoachStation. I should mention that this would have been so much more difficult to transition if it wasn’t for the full and constant support of my wife, Julie – an engaged and loved partner does make all the difference! CoachStation is going very well and I have rarely been happier and more confident for the future.

As always, I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading this blog and sharing in my story.

(1) thefreedictionary.com

3 thoughts on “Efficiency and Effectiveness – Leadership Impact

  • Awesome read Steve. Personally it is very relevant to me as I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my own opportunities and subsequent actions in my position. I have felt a lot of benefit from defining these actions as it has helped me calibrate myself when overwhelmed with tasks that dont’t add value.

  • Joel, Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and comment. I am glad that your development continues in part from the ability to reflect on your past, current situation and influence on your future. Many people don’t, to their detriment – it’s all part of finding the balance in all things. Steve

  • The topic of Efficiencies and Effectiveness is a personal favourite. Something I heard a while ago, but have repeated many times since is “Be Efficient with things and Effective with People”.

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