This article is the result of combining two of Ed Callahan‘s posts published by (“Predicting the Future” and “What do you Really Control“)
EC_theFuture_W200Seth Godin wrote a post recently called “The Illusion of Control.” As with all Seth’s articles, it prompts great thoughts.

The gist of the article is that we delude ourselves when we tell each other, tell our children, tell our employees, tell our management team that we have control over the future. We don’t. Plain and simple.

All we can control are our actions. The things we choose to do. If we choose wisely, we can greatly influence the future. But that is all. Just like with your cholesterol. What you eat will influence whether your bad cholesterol goes up or down. Not what the exact number is. And exercise, of course.

Influence, Not Control

That concept—influence, not control, of the future—is the basis of the EOS Scorecard tool. We teach our EOS-implementing clients that it’s just as important to measure those activities we do control as it is to measure how we did in the past. These activities, if chosen carefully, lead to desirable future results.

Dashboards and scorecards are both useful tools, but they serve different purposes. Dashboards look at the past. Scorecards look towards the future. Dashboards tell you how you did. Scorecards show you how you might do.  (Here is an article with more on EOS Scorecards.)

Scorecards help you to make it clear to your employees that they are responsible for their activities. You cannot hold them accountable for the results of their actions. Great employees love this clarity.

For Owners

This is particularly frustrating for successful business owners who are scaling their organizations. Making the change from doing everything to merely influencing everything is difficult. Some can’t cross that bridge ever, and hopefully can be at peace with whatever size business they can manage to sustain by being a “genius with a thousand helpers.”

However, there is much you can do when you accept that the best we have is influence, not control, over our prospective clients’ buying decisions, over our employees’ performance standards, and the alignment of all of our employees with our grand vision of where the company is heading and how it is going to get there.

What can you do to influence outcomes?

First, you can share your vision with all your managers, and ideally with all your employees. You can do so in concentric time frames—your really long term goals, your mid term goals, maybe three years from now, next year’s plan, and then the work you are all going to focus on this quarter.

Once is not enough. You should do this quarterly, forever. This provides the context for the activities you want your employees to be engaged in with enthusiasm and professionalism.

Second, insist that all employees and managers keep track of the activities which produce those desired results. Do this on an individual level, on department or functional levels, and on the company level.

For example, talking to 20 prospective clients per week usually leads to 5 product demonstrations per week, which usually leads to 1 new purchase order per week. You can hold someone accountable for talking to 20 prospects per week if you give them the tools to do so. If the activities do not produce the desired result, then you have to get to the root of that issue. They have influence, not control, but they are accountable for both activities and results.