I often find myself asking, “What can I do to improve the situation?” Whatever state of affairs you find yourself in, that’s a good starting place.
Ultimately, whether in your work or personal life, if you can leave any situation better than you found it, that’s a formula for continuous improvement. Sometimes the smallest and simplest of actions on a consistent basis are enough to make a difference. When I was a kid, I remember a neighbor who would get out of his truck when he came home and pull a few weeds with his pocket knife as he walked into his house for dinner. I never saw him spend hours at a time pulling weeds, just a few minutes every night. He had the best looking lawn in the neighborhood.
What if you called just one or two past due accounts every morning? Sure, some of those calls could be time consuming but many of customers just require some gentle nudging. That long AR list always seems daunting but a few calls each day is manageable. Or how about calling a few customers to check on quality or project status to see if their needs are being met? Sure, you probably get a report from your team but what does the customer think? How about taking five minutes to plan your day before getting started? I’ve never regretted jotting down my highest priorities for the day but have often regretted not doing so! Could you do a quick walk through your production area to ask people if there is anything that would help them be more efficient? Whatever you decide, it’s important to make it a habit. The immediate effect of these few minutes is likely to be small but the cumulative effect over time can be significant.
The other question I often ask is whether someone other than me is in a substantially better position to help. There are times when I could help solve the problem but know of another person better suited either due to expertise or capacity. In these cases, I always make a referral and try to get someone pointed in the right direction. In part, I do this simply because I believe it’s the right course of action. But I also believe if I do this often enough, sooner or later someone will return the favor and send something my way.
Of course, often it’s not nearly so simple as carving out a few minutes each day or making a referral. In most cases, actually making a difference requires significant effort. These situations require a bit more thought and planning both to ensure success and a reasonable return on the time and dollars invested. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted trying to make an improvement even if it didn’t turn out quite as well as I had initially hoped.
Finally, sometimes it’s a challenge just to not make matters worse! I recently found myself in one of those situations. Fortunately, I realized it and suggested to a colleague that if we weren’t careful, the situation would deteriorate rather than improve. He was thinking the same way and with that, we decided to back off a bit and let emotions cool.
Too often, people start with the position of thinking about what’s in it for them when faced with a new opportunity or challenge. While everyone has to make a living, that’s a bad starting point. Figure out the best way improve the situation first! Then consider if you are the person to help.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
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