The Potential Cost of Leading By The Numbers

If you’re like most executive leaders, the career climb you have been on has most certainly forced you to engage with senior leaders who are focused almost exclusively on the numbers.
Whether the spotlight is on sales growth, profitability, or perhaps total returns to shareholders, there is no doubting that most CEOs, for example, are driving hard toward achieving, if not exceeding, expectations for the financial health of the enterprise.

After all, these are a reflection of his or her reputation, and your boss may believe that delivering on those business objectives is the fastest track to a huge increase in salary or bonus or the reason they could lose his or her job if things go poorly. Particularly within public companies, the performance expectations around meeting quarterly revenue and profit targets is intense, and rife with opportunities to overlook the potential cost of leading purely by the numbers. Of course, one must recognise that setting ambitious goals can be a magnet for growth-minded talent and a real source of clarity for people up and down the organisation who want to understand where the company is heading and why.

Take it a step beyond, and it is easy to see how well articulated financial performance goals can help your team members understand what is expected of them and why they should give their best effort to achieve these business goals. Yet while our collective pursuit of financial objectives is very much at the core of what we are expected to do as global executives, putting too much focus on getting there could cloud our view of what the people at the heart of our companies really need and expect from us as leaders. Demonstrating to others that you are driving toward strategic targets is critical to building the reputation and internal credibility you need to lead in times like these. People respect leaders with focus, energy and an attitude that suggests they will do whatever it takes – so long as it is legal and doesn’t violate company policy and culture – to hit the expected numbers.

If you hit your targets often, you will gain influence and authority. Miss them consistently and you will be facing a tough road ahead, particularly when you can’t explain why you’re failing to reach the goals. Numbers are apolitical. They are measures of our output and command as leaders. They signal to others that we are in the right position, that we continue to earn the resources devoted to our departments and that we have a bright future.

It would be wise, however, to remember that while we are pursuing the big objectives and achieving ambitious visions as shown via sales and profit numbers, we are also playing in a political theater with a distinct audience. That audience is your team, including your peers and professional colleagues as well as your superior.

Building strong bonds of trust and collaboration with them is critical, particularly when everyone is focused on achieving sales goals or profit expectations. So when you’re feeling the heat of corporate battle, take time to recognise and thank these people. In so doing, you will shift the focus on hitting your numbers to a collective effort to achieving our numbers.    

Copyright © TRANSEARCH International 2016


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