A friend who is a business owner reached out to a group we are members of to ask about the concept of leverage. He was on a very smart journey to identify sources of leverage in his performance, and how that could drive out-sized business improvements.
He had a list of activities and priorities he felt created the leverage he was looking for, but I felt that when it comes to identifying where leverage might come from we don’t want a list. We want to find a singular fulcrum.
I said that:
“these are really important reminders and objectives, but together they don’t represent what I think of as ‘leverage’. When I think of leverage, two concepts always spring to mind. The first is the image of Archimedes looking for a fulcrum and lever to move the earth. The second is the concept of elasticity – basically some inputs yield tiny improvements but others yield gigantic improvements. It’s all about what you’re using as a fulcrum.
Esoteric concepts aside, the question I’d ask is, ‘What is the unique thing that I have that very few have (or have developed)?’ The answer to this is the ‘Gift’ you define above, which folds in the concept of your Unique Ability.
So while learning from others is critical to enhancing your gift, and having a well-considered vision for the future is part of your process, the “gift” is really the fulcrum and the lever, the thing that – if properly harnessed – will yield the 10x results you’re looking for.
So the key for you is to identify your Unique Ability – your gift – and bend the world so that you spend more and more of your time leveraging (see what I did there?) your gift.”
From there, we discussed how this plays out within a company. If you work for just about any company or organization, you might notice that there is one or two really big things that the company has consistently proven it is good at. We might use some business school-speak and refer to that thing as a company’s “core competency”. I have found that few people stop to think about what those core competencies truly are. Even worse, I find that instead of identifying what the organizations core competencies are, people inside the organization tend to identify what they wish were their core competencies.
Let me give an example from two companies I worked for earlier in my career.
They each might have defined the thing they were great at as “developing incredible software for financial institutions and their customers” or something like that. But if I’m being honest, neither company was very good at building, implementing, and supporting technology. In fact, they were quite bad at it (something I didn’t want to admit to myself while I was working for those companies, despite the obvious signs).
What those two companies in fact were great at was raising money. Both were headed by Founder/CEOs who had the Midas touch when it came to getting new investors to fork over tens of millions of dollars, and using that momentum to get other investors to make their own FOMO-based investments. Both companies were awash in capital (which was being rapidly burned in massively unprofitable operations) and convinced themselves they were good at building software.
There’s nothing wrong with having a strong core competency like raising money. In fact, that could be a very good competency to have. You just need to be aware of it – otherwise hubris will lead you down a path of self-delusion and shareholder value destruction.
Identifying a company’s core competencies, and your own unique ability/gift, is a powerful way to drive success and – as importantly – make the journey much more enjoyable. We humans thrive when we spend our time engaged in tasks that are aligned with our unique strengths.
For more on the idea of leverage, go to this earlier post I wrote on the subject.
P.S. Bonus etymology fact: the word epidemic comes from epi, meaning “among” or “upon”, and demos, meaning “the people” (thus, an epidemic is something that is “among the people). The root pan in pandemic means “all”, so pandemic refers to something that impacts all (or nearly all ) the people.
Stay safe. Wear your masks.