Finding a leak is always about breaking down the one “big” activity into small measurable chunks and making sure each piece is contributing the kind of return you need.
Years ago I owned a motor boat. While it was a lot of fun, there was one small problem; it always leaked! I would continually take it to the Marina and ask them to fix the leak. They would take the boat apart and start throwing more rubberized goop around the suspected leaking area. Every week I would go in and every week they would add more goop and every week I still had a leak!
After many tired attempts the Marina owner suggested that instead of trying to fix the leak I should simply buy a pump that was designed to clear out the water faster than it came in. His rationale was that boats inherently leaked and the pump would mask the problem. Luckily, I never bought into his strategy and I told him in no uncertain terms I wanted him to fix the leak once and for all! The owner sensing my displeasure took an even more thorough look at the leaking problem and came back with a long solemn look. He told me that in doing his inspection he put his finger through the transom (back wall of the boat). He noted that it had severely rotted away and we were very lucky that the transom hadn’t collapsed under the stress of the weight of the motor. In reality the boat should have sunk with us in it!
The moral of the story is it doesn’t matter how much goop you use or what excuses you make to mask a problem, fix it right before it comes back to haunt you. I still think of us out on the water with our two-year old daughter and five-year old son and wonder what we would have done if the boat had sunk.
While at Microsoft I had the opportunity to tell this story at a company wide gathering because Frank Clegg, Microsoft Canada President, was a big believer in fixing things the right way and I thought my boat story was a brilliant example. While Frank was a big believer in continuous improvement he worried that if we simply continued to throw goop (in the form of $$ and resources) we would become fat and complacent like many of our competitors.
So thinking back on this story gets me thinking if there leaks you need to be fixing? I think about the number of sales reps who are busy making calls but fail to ask if these calls are netting the results they need? I have an expression that says it doesn’t matter how often you clean the window, if it’s still dirty you haven’t done a thing!
In my coaching business I spend a lot of time looking at the leaks in people’s lives. What are they doing and is it netting them what they need. Time management is a huge place to find many leaks. Just how effective are you with your time? I also look for the high gain activity that will (and can) net the best results. Then I break down the activity so that I can start to find where any potential leaks might be. Finding a leak is always about breaking down the one “big” activity into small measurable chunks and making sure each piece is contributing the kind of return you need. The challenge is most people measure activity and give little attention to the results. People can network for hours yet receive few introductions or leads in return. People often ask me how many calls do they need to make and the answer is always the same… as many as it takes to get the results you need!! The secret is when you move your focus from activity to result it makes it much easier to isolate where potential problems may lie.
This month take a look at your life and any potential leaks you might have. Stop the insanity of fooling yourself just because you are “busy” and get ahead by creating a process driven by results.