We all know the difference between a manager and a leader. The manager is understood to be responsible for getting things right, organizing resources, and accomplishing things efficiently. The leader is understood to be responsible for providing vision, ensuring the appropriate structure and resources are available and doing things effectively.
Can a leader be both efficient and effective? What this really is asking is this: can you be both efficient and effective? In business this is the elusive sweet spot, delivering results (effectiveness) at lowest consumption of resources (efficiency). As a leader, however, can you be both? Yes you can, but it will require preparation, experience and time.
If you have to choose, choose effectiveness first
Efficiency in work is something each of us strives for, I know I do. Finding a better way to schedule tasks, control e-mail, handle phone calls, or prepare for/run meetings are things that most professionals I talk with seek. Improvement in these areas can make one more efficient, however, there isn’t a guarantee that it will make one more effective.
To be effective it takes something else – experience and time. Anyone who has learned a musical instrument knows that to be effective on it takes time. You have to work to develop skill and gain the experience necessary to play the instrument. This means having lots of time, maybe an hour a day, repeating the same set of scales and exercises over-and-over. Not particularly efficient, but it is effective.
Treat your leadership role like learning to play an instrument. If you have to choose between efficiency and effectiveness, go with effectiveness first. You can start to look for ways to make yourself more efficient once you have the effectiveness process in place. But like someone aiming to make Carnegie Hall, if you don’t do the work to make yourself effective no amount of efficiency will save you.
Remember: Manager = Efficient and Leader = Effective
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” ~ Peter Drucker
Each of us has both a manager and a leader operating inside. We need to remember which one we’re letting run the show in each moment. Sometimes your inner manager needs to call the shots, determine ways to better control resources, organize things, and make activities more efficient. But sometimes the leader needs to step forward and give direction, even when it isn’t necessarily all that efficient.
Most people want to get work done in the least amount of time with the least amount of committed resources. Most people also want to receive a disproportionate amount of results compared to input. The problem arises when a situation confronts us where the results we want require a good amount of input. This is a situation where we need results and it isn’t going to be particularly thrifty.
Do we fight these situations and strive to be more efficient but less effective? Or do we strive to be more effective but less efficient?
Strive to Achieve Both
The sweet spot is being both efficient and effective. The good thing is that our world of professional pursuits isn’t a zero-sum place. There are opportunities, if we decide we want to create them, to be both efficient and effective. To get to this location all we need is preparation and experience.
Studying, analyzing, and developing ourselves provides us with the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake an action when it presents itself. This is preparation and for a leader, being prepared is what allows disproportionate result to occur. Through preparation, we become increasingly effective in accomplishment.
Taking action, observing and learning by doing is what provides us with experience. Over time, our experience allows us to become more efficient in carrying out the actions of a leader. At the same time we’re able hone our actions to make them more efficient.
Through experience we are able to arrive at the junction of efficiency and effectiveness. How sweet it is.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” ~ Peter Drucker
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