The best and highest use

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Often, we’re told that if we follow our passion, find our focus and have fun, success will follow.

Yet many intelligent and driven business executives are frustrated with this. How can something so simple be so unobtainable and hard to execute?

It’s understandable that most people react with avoidance or anger when given simple advice and no way to take it. The next time I hear ”Pursue your dream” from a motivational speaker, I’m going to chase him out of the room.

Many business leaders still are unsure of their professional reason for being. And most pursue this quarter’s objectives assuming that achieving these will lead to success and happiness.

Without defaulting to the spiritual for answers, let me suggest a practical and secular solution. If a business leader focuses on best and highest use, good things are more likely to happen.

What is your best and highest use?

For individuals and organizations, your ”best” represents your preferred choice among the things you do well. ”Highest” represents that which is most valued by employers, customers or partners. ”Use” is the value you provide to others.

A company’s best and highest use is where the mission and vision statement hit reality. Can you or your company do it? Does anyone out there want it?

How to determine your best and highest use

Document the challenges, situations and tasks at which you have succeeded. Make a list of the practical and impractical things you do well.

For example, until recently, Firestone successfully maintained long-term relationships with Ford. Tylenol succeeded in handling a tampering incident that would have destroyed most brands. Both can build on these experiences.

List the tasks, relationships and experiences you’ve enjoyed. Look for examples in your personal, professional or corporate life. When we see Charlton Heston serve as president of the NRA, we see he enjoys the role as much as he did when he played Ben Hur. This drives success, confidence and self-esteem.

Discover what your clients, customers and staff like about you. Have someone question your constituents. The feedback is always remarkable. My client, Inside Prospects, may have the best list of businesses in Cleveland, but their customers swear by the personal service and care that their president, Sandy Szuch, provides on any project, whether or not it involves a list.

Understand your strengths. Distill what you’ve learned through the above and simplify it. For example, GE, based on its reputation, resources and breadth of businesses, can truly claim to ”Bring good things to life.”

Stop dwelling on your weaknesses and know your blind spots. Too many organizational leaders are proud of themselves in ways that don’t matter or they try to become things they can’t. The fact that a business is family-held or has survived for 100 years rarely matters to outsiders. But many companies waste millions promoting such irrelevant features and services to their customers. Dwell on your strengths.

Synthesize, apply and focus. With an objective outsider, put it all together. The combination of your company’s skills, experience and expertise stated in terms of what an employer, customer, prospect or a marketplace wants is where you should focus.

Here are some good examples:

  • Mike Tyson’s skill of intimidating people applied inside the boxing ring.
  • Martha Stewart’s ability to define grace in everyday living leveraged across her homemaking product empire.

  • Microsoft’s expertise at exploiting other developers’ inventions into tools required by every business.

When you’ve determined and applied the above steps, you’ll be surprised at the results. Your confidence and comfort zone will increase with the affirmation you receive from your employers, clients and partners.

In turn, you will not feel so dependent on individual buyers or employers because if they don’t value your services, others will. And, all those motivational speakers won’t bother you any more.

Andy Birol is president of PACER Associates Inc., a Solon-based firm that provides expert advice to owners and leaders who need to grow their businesses.He can be reached at (440) 349-1970

PACER Associates website