Are you spending your time worried about the wrong things?

I remember an article from a couple of years ago where my good friend Shawn Veltman (who’s also co-authoring my next book with me,) shared the story about a company he was working with at the time. The IT department had just released a set new tools that could generate 150 different reports, and the CFO immediately declared them as useless–or as he called them, “Vanity Analytics.” They looked lovely, they were apparently saying something important, but it was very hard to figure out after a few seconds of looking at them what actions could be taken.

I see something similar all the time, people in various roles spending time, energy, and money worried about the wrong things. They’re more concerned with things they can have very little influence over, instead of focusing their time and energy on the areas where they could have a dramatic impact.

Let me give you a few significant examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Sales: A sales manager can’t impact how many sales are made. What they CAN impact are how many times their team reaches out to prospects & clients by way of phone, email, and direct mailings. They can influence activity, and set expectations of their team accordingly.

Customer Service: A customer service manager can’t impact how many angry phone calls they get, or how many customers will walk away from an experience happy or unhappy. What she can manage is the language used by each rep, the reps ability to get on the same side as the person on the phone, the way complaints are handled in a store, etc.

Marketing: A marketing manager can’t impact how many new leads come in, or how many people are interested in a new product, or even how many people see an ad. What they can do is have a rock solid understanding of their conversion by source, cost per lead, cost per sale, and ensure that all of their channel partners are working with them to reduce these costs. Of course, they can and should always be testing new approaches and investing more resources into strategies that show higher returns.

Operations / Safety: Your Operations & Safety Manager can’t impact the number of injuries that their products cause, but they can certainly monitor defect rates of their individual parts, track safety test results & investigate edge cases, and in general, ensure that the product that’s going out the door is as good as it can be.

Senior Leadership: Senior Leadership can’t impact results by simply shouting orders like, “Increase Sales!” or “Decrease Expenses!” That doesn’t do anything useful for anyone. What you can do is to understand how each is performing relative to the other, taking external factors like locations, opportunity, bench strength, etc. into account and working to improve their skills in order to better influence the results you really care about (like profit margin, revenue, market share, etc.)

Being able to map your goals to their capabilities is important. For example, you can improve your marketing profit margins ensuring that your marketing managers are all doing periodic reviews of their distribution partners, identifying managers who have the best improvements in lead conversions, and finding ways to disseminate the best practices from these managers throughout the organization

The more time you spend worrying about factors that you can’t control, the less impact you have in your organization.

Your Weekly Challenge: Using the examples I provided above, ask yourself the following question: What reporting or new tools would I need to help me better influence my people in more meaningful and useful ways? Hint: In the sales example, you need reports on the daily revenue-generating activities performed by your sales people. In the service example, you need to be tracking the language used by your people, and how the phones are answered. You get the idea!