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  • Jim Blackburn

“Not everything that can be counted counts… and not everything that counts can be counted…”

Updated: Jun 10

Effective business leaders not only understand this paradox of sorts but are able to focus on the things that count regardless of whether or not they can be counted during the most turbulent of times.


That being said, we believe that during these unpredictable, uncertain and rapidly changing times of COVID-19, as with any other highly emotionally charged business environment, the majority of business leaders will tend to focus only on what can be counted which are the financial measurements indicating the health of their businesses.  And truth be known, this is a normal reaction to the reality of potential loss, negative change, and/or potential failure.  In other words, when business leaders feel emotional pain, they will react with a renewed intensive focus on the objective measurements of the business and begin functioning as managers.  Remember, you manage things, and you lead people.  


Why is this reaction so prevalent?  It gives leaders a temporary sense of relief and security because this is something they intellectually understand, can discuss with others, and can make plans to address the undesirable measurements.  Unfortunately, this narrow focus and initial myopic thought patterns are the beginning of the end of a leader's ability to bring people together who will ultimately be responsible for implementing the old methods as well as creating the new and different methods of achieving the fundamental purpose of the current business endeavor.


So, what should business leaders initially focus on when the market place is upside down and changing?  We believe it’s in the area of "things that count, but cannot be counted".  It’s the instinctive and intuitive aspect of leading versus managing a business endeavor.  This is not a time for shortsighted and unimaginative myopic thinking.  It’s a time that leaders need to turn inward and tap into their imagination, intuition and adventurist line of thinking.  


We refer to this line of thinking as being able to “create what yet can be from what already exists”.  And this line of thinking is not about the needs of the business.  It’s about customer needs and wants. It’s about redefining and clarifying the ultimate product offering of the business endeavor.  For instance, is a hospital’s product offering medical care?  Or is it patient wellness, good health and a longer life?  For a financial services business, are the products insurance, annuities, mutual funds, stocks, bonds and/or financial planning advice or is the product personal, professional and family financial security and prosperity?


An example of the type of thinking we are writing about has created today’s “gas station”.  It wasn’t that long ago that the gas station was in the auto fuel and maintenance business.  It was where you would go to purchase gas, oil, tires, batteries and maintenance services.  Then the market and consumer needs changed, and the old auto fuel and maintenance business model wasn’t able to survive as it was.  So, their leaders were able to adjust and reset their thinking which allowed them to redefine the ultimate business product which was always the product, but it wasn’t clearly defined.  The product?  “Customer Convenience”.  So today, “gas stations” are now convenience stores not only selling gas and oil, but also snacks, hot and cold food, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, gifts, cloths, and much more.


Now, what about your business endeavor?  Do you have the courage to jump out of your myopic thinking box (manager) and drill into your imagination, intuition and adventurist line of thinking space (leader)?  And by the way, this is hard if not impossible to do in isolation (you need to be asked the questions) or with the people who got you where you are currently (they have too much invested in the current model to contribute to changing it).   An objective unemotional listener and provocative questioner (Leadership Coach, not a Business Consultant) can be most helpful here.


So, what is your business's ultimate product?  (We’re very confident your initial response to our question will be how the ultimate product is currently being delivered.)  And can you clearly articulate and define your ultimate product such that other people want to be part of your reborn business endeavor. (Some of these people already work in your organization and others you haven’t met yet).  And finally, will you have the courage to implement a new strategy with no future guarantees and knowing that many of the people who helped you get where you are currently will no longer be able stay with your reborn organization?  


It is our hope that we have contribute in some same way to your business being able to transition into a new life as a result of this pandemic wakeup call we are all experiencing.  If you have questions about what we’ve shared in this article or want to further discuss your specific situation, please feel free to contact Jim Blackburn jblackburn@survepartners.com or go to www.survepartners.com

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