In leadership, it can often be a frustrating experience to be told to do more with less. It is easy to get defensive, because it implies that the way in which you are leading and your team is currently operating is in some way inefficient. However, it is often a worthwhile exercise to periodically review and identify if there is a way to achieve more while utilizing less resources.
It is ultimately the goal of a leader to leave no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring efficiency. For Carsten Thiel, upon beginning his new position of CEO after working a few years prior in a smaller position in the company, he knew that he was given the task in part because of his ability to sniff out and identify points where the business could improve their operations. Prior to his time with the company he had spent nearly three decades in leadership positions, working for companies as large as to have multiple international locations to as small as a single office.
Thiel said that in his new CEO role he hoped to help those within the organization recognize that the best way they could embody the company’s mission statement of changing lives was by being as effective as possible in their operations. He observed that this drive to do good, while noble, had previously resulted in the business often putting the same amount of effort toward very small projects as they were to larger ones. The business was confusing its mission for its strategy, resulting in poor prioritization of what would best serve others in the long run.
In order to rectify this, Thiel taught his organization to say no to things that had a lower impact, or didn’t facilitate the company’s long-term goals. He implemented a concrete strategy that extended to job descriptions and evaluation metrics, helping to make clear to each employee what was expected to be achieved and what their focus should be when it came to making decisions, and as a result they were able to achieve more with less resources.
Additionally, Thiel asked his employees what they personally felt were barriers to getting their work done. In interviewing multiple people over the first three months of his time as CEO, he found that there were a number of bureaucratic steps in place that employees felt were hindering their work rather than helping it. One such example was needing to get approvals from multiple managers throughout the organization in order to change a head count.
This not only took decision power away from each person the more they had to get further approval, but also seriously delayed the action itself, and by detangling and simplifying this process what used to take a couple weeks took less than a week. Overall, it also reduced workloads and increased job satisfaction throughout the organization.