Purpose – Priority – Productivity

Most of what we see every day is productivity; We do not see the priority, nor the purpose. Intangibles that, if neglected, lead to low productivity.

In Peter Drucker’s 1954 book, The Practice of Management, he shares the story of the three stonemasons to illustrate the importance of connecting the employee’s role to the organization’s purpose.

«A man meets three stonecutters. He stops and asks each of them what he is doing.

The first stonecutter pauses in his work and says: “I am cutting stones. I’m doing my work. “I’m making a living.”

The second stonecutter He continues hammering while saying: “I am cutting and polishing the best worked stones in the entire country.”

The third stonecutter wipes his forehead, points to the horizon and says: “I am building a cathedral that will stand.”

Although this story highlights the importance of employee engagement, I would like to connect it to Gary Keller’s book “The One Thing” to reflect on its impact on productivity.

Purpose, priority and productivity

Understanding purpose does more than motivate employees; helps them prioritize the tasks that contribute most to achieving the long-term vision.

Productivity comes from knowing what to prioritize, and knowing what to prioritize comes from knowing the end purpose.

Understanding purpose does more than motivate employees;  helps them prioritize the tasks that contribute most to achieving the long-term vision.

As Gary Keller visualizes in the iceberg example above, most of what we see each day is productivity; We don’t see the prioritization, we don’t see the purpose. They are intangibles that, if neglected, lead to low productivity.

Purpose: In 2020, our team wasn’t thinking deeply about our purpose. We had built a small, profitable, and constantly growing company, but we were miles away from reaching our potential. Looking at the market, we should make at least 5x revenue to fulfill our potential and purpose.

The priority: There is a big difference between increasing sales by 20% and 400%, so we had to prioritize. Do we improve the quality of potential clients? Shall we improve the script? Do we improve the sales process? Invest in training? Should we hire more? As our team was functioning well, we realized that the main lever for growth was the size of the team.

The productivity: I focused less on managing my sales manager for his monthly income and more on his ability to hire and retain exceptional salespeople. Through a lot of trial and error in hiring and onboarding, we finally managed to build an incredible team that managed to 5x revenue the following year.

Simple in writing, difficult in practice

Why didn’t we do this before, and why do we continue to struggle with it today?
Most tasks in business are not that difficult, but identifying which tasks are going to take priority is extremely difficult, especially when one is overwhelmed by the daily tasks that come with gaining traction in the company.

As highlighted in the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, most leaders resort to reactive behavior in the daily work and get caught up in the whirlwind of tasks; In effect, they stop being leaders.

Do not misunderstand; It’s perfectly appropriate for you to spend 80% of your time holding down and struggling with the daily tasks that come with the role. Keeping the company alive should always be a CEO’s number one job. However, if you find yourself spending 100% of your time reacting to tasks, you are not building a company.

Learn to accept chaos and focus

In the early years, I reacted to my inbox: questions from clients, from suppliers, from taxes, and all kinds of requests for my time. It was chaos, and I didn’t sleep until I responded to all the emails. It didn’t matter how insignificant an email was.

The problem is that most of the critical tasks weren’t showing up in my inbox. I did not receive an email from employee X saying: “I don’t feel well and I might quit if you don’t help me”but I received his resignation.

I like the feeling of completing tasks in my inbox, but it’s a false sense of productivity. It made me neglect critical tasks that didn’t immediately grab my attention, hiring, training, creating processes, etc.

«Executives do not get paid to do things they like. “They get paid for doing the right things, especially their specific tasks, making effective decisions.”

Peter Drucker

In short, you have to articulate your purpose, connect it to your most critical tasks, and learn to be okay with chaos.

Recommended readings

The Only Gary Keller Thing
The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling and Sean Covey
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker