"I am not afraid of an army led by a sheep, but I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion."
With FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Achieve Success and Drive Results, Gordon Tredgold has given the reader a recipe for success with a methodology that mimics what he coaches in business. The book outlays a simple and powerful means of applying four basic strategies to leadership and business success; it is a book that needs to be studied, digested and applied across all businesses, small and large.
Failure in business is all too common and boils down to one of two reasons: either we are doing the wrong job or we’re doing the right job poorly. More specifically, we’re talking about effectiveness and efficiency. There is a key difference between the two. Performing poorly on the right job is a wasted effort, doing a stellar job on the wrong task is a wasted effort, and doing a poor job on the wrong task needs no explanation. The result of doing a great job on the right task results in an increase in effectiveness and efficiency. In order to ensure that we are doing everything faster and cheaper, we need to look at effectiveness and efficiency and ensure we are doing the right job, not the wrong job and doing the job well.
FAST is a leadership model designed to keep leadership strategies Focused (F), People Accountable (A), remove complexities by increasing Simplicity (S) and, finally, Transparency (T), to increase the quality of communication and feedback across the business.
"It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it."
Simplicity is about the “How”. Do you understand the problem? Have you clearly communicated the solution? Is your best approach easy to understand? Simplicity builds belief, which in turn leads to success.
Many people tend to make their businesses exceeding complex. They have too many metrics to measure and an antiquated invoicing system, for instance. It is paramount for achieving success to keep solutions as simple as possible. Simplicity is about stripping back complexities that weigh businesses down. Focusing on simple solutions does not mean easy and simple solutions are often harder to find. Tredgold gives 12 steps to implement simplicity and allow for more concentrated focus.
- Re-evaluate: Discern what’s urgent and important and eliminate the unimportant.
- Prioritize: Make a MIT (Most Important Tasks) list and keep it to less than three items.
- Cut distractions: For instance, set a block of time for scheduling less important meetings.
- Use technology wisely and keep up to date with time saving software.
- Implement cost reduction and work reduction measures to create more profitable work.
- Hire strategically and with the talent needed for the job in mind.
- Focus on the 20% that brings the best profit (Pareto). Challenge everything and if it’s not needed, throw it out.
- Eliminate the middleman, accounting software, electronic bills.
- Outsource and delegate.
- Unplug and keep a healthy life work balance.
- Eliminate any unnecessary tasks and processes by being ruthless and challenging everything.
- Automate and delegate tasks. The more complexity is reduced by automating and delegating, the more efficiency and effectiveness will be increased accordingly.
To increase simplicity we need to eliminate any unnecessary tasks and keep communication clear and simple to maximize understanding.
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
"When I speak of transparency, I am actually referring to the blend of truth and knowledge of where we really are, what our real performance is, and what we need to do in order to succeed."
Transparency is about looking beneath the surface of business performance and growth. Like an iceberg we’re only seeing the tip; we must look beneath the surface and share the actual data, we must clarify where we are and where we need to go. Sharing of knowledge allows a leader to empower and engage employees in a common goal. Some actionable steps to allow clarity and concise sharing are to:
- Share only data that is relevant to the audience (less is more).
- Don’t confuse personal and professional boundaries.
- Lead by example.
- Keep to authentic, timely and consistent information, e.g. budgets, P and L’s, etc.
- Choose your presentations wisely. Videos and images can be more powerful to get the messages across.
- Ensure that your message mirrors the three characteristics of transparency: Is it authentic, is it timely, is it consistent?
Transparency is a fine balance between secrecy and oversharing. As leader you must learn to discern between the two.
Some simple suggestion to increase transparency:
- Share your concerns with interviewees and ask for feedback from the beginning.
- Be clear and transparent about what you want but also be clear on how you speak to your people.
- Track and measure progress to stay aligned and focused. If your team is failing then brainstorm ideas to find solutions.
- Enforce the right behaviour by encouragement and minimize the wrong behaviour by acknowledgement, finding solutions or letting people go.
- Be consistent with your transparency across all areas of your life.
- Practice due diligence: know what to expect before you begin.
- Start immediately with what you have.
The opposite of transparency is confusion, malalignment and uncertainty. Confusion leads to poor performance and poor outcomes and uncertainty becomes fear and resentment.
Try this: Measure team engagement by comparison against your industry’s norm. If the results are average then we would expect our business to be consistent with the norm, which in today’s climate is generally poor.
"If there was just one principle that you would choose to implement, which one would it be?"
The answer is all of them.
In order to gain the best results by implementing FAST, determine your weakest link among Focus, Accountability, Simplicity, or Transparency.
Begin by concentrating on the weakest link first; one will lead to another to achieve success.
Simplicity allows employees to focus with more clarity and transparency enables better accountability.
FAST is an easy read. The content is gold to any business because the information can easily be understood, easily explained and generates food for thought in leadership and business management.