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10 Leadership Lessons That Warren Buffett Taught Us

10 Leadership Lessons That Warren Buffett Taught Us

Who could not be inspired by Warren Buffett, who has promised 99% of his wealth to charity? That wealth is worth about $40 bn. He started selling newspapers at the age of 11 and he is now 84 with no intention of retiring.

“I would say that life at 84, I am having as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I mean I get to do what I love every day with the people I love—and it just doesn’t get any better than that.” – Warren Buffett.

He has written extensively about his business success and is in great demand as a speaker on leadership. Here are 10 lessons that he has taught us.

1. Love what you do.

“There comes the time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” – Warren Buffett

Listen to any interview with Warren Buffett and you will hear how passionate he is about his job. He is convinced that this will give anyone in business a competitive edge. If you are thinking of taking a new job which you are not enthusiastic about, it might be worth thinking again.

2. Learn how to communicate effectively.

“You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under emphasize that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.” – Warren Buffett

Read any letter to shareholders in Warren’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. You will be immediately struck by the non technical language, the clarity of thought and how he gets his message across, with the minimum of jargon. His success is also due to his intimate knowledge of the business.

Warren Buffett was terrified of public speaking and had to enroll in a course to overcome his fear. Aim for easy and clear communication in your own business whether it is a memo to your staff or speaking in public.

3. Choose your business associates wisely.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” – Warren Buffett

He was able to spot successful and talented people and used a few basic networking skills to keep up contact and be inspired by their success. If you hang out with mediocre associates, they will never inspire you to do better and aim higher.

Read about Guy Spier who was prepared to pay $650,000 for a lunch with Warren Buffet because he wanted to be inspired by an extraordinary entrepreneur. The money went to charity, of course. Yes, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

4. Don’t micro manage.

“Hire well, manage little.” – Warren Buffet

He strongly believes that great leaders need to spot and hire great talent. He also lets them get on with it and rarely interferes so that they feel empowered by this independence. The lessons for future leaders are clear. Have fewer meetings and call your CEOs and managers less often.

5. Plan for the future.

“The primary job of a board of directors is to see that the right people are running the business and to be sure that the next generation of leaders is identified and ready to take over tomorrow.” – Warren Buffet

Buffett already knows that his job will be divided into three, once he decides to step down. The board has already chosen a CEO candidate and a non-executive chairman plus an investment manager.

Future leaders need to think ahead about their successors and how they will be groomed for success. It is no surprise to learn that the most successful companies have predictive models in place for their promising talent for the next five years at least. They also place heavy emphasis on education and skills development for their staff.

6. Transparency is highly appreciated.

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end—people like myself—should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.” – Warren Buffett

Bill Gates admires Buffett for many reasons. Even on such a sensitive issue as taxation, Gates admires him because his transparency is invaluable even though it might not be in his own best interests.

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Transparency at every level pays off handsomely in every business field. Employees are tired of surprises and there is a growing demand for delivering the truth.

7. Patience is a virtue.

“No matter how great the talents or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” – Warren Buffett

There is no doubt that Buffett has demonstrated patience throughout his career. This great quality goes hand in hand with a certain bravery and perseverance. Great leaders need to resist pressure and have the tenacity to see the project through to the end.

8. Manage your time wisely.

“You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.” – Warren Buffett

When Guy Spier had lunch with Buffett, he was shown his diary. It was remarkably empty. The billionaire explained that he preferred to have time for serendipity. It also gives him the freedom to spend the time in ways that he sees as priorities. It also means that he has learned how to say ‘no’ when necessary. The lack of appointments for meetings was noticeable!

Learning to organize their office space, their emails and how much time they spend online are usually great ways leaders can manage their time more effectively.

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9. Be prepared to take risks and learn from mistakes.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” – Warren Buffett

Buffett has followed basic principles when looking at the risk factor. He prefers to avoid any investment opportunities that carry a catastrophe risk. He always tried to invest in high probability and low risk scenarios.

He has learned too from his mistakes. He made costly errors with U.S. Airways, ConocoPhillips (COP) and Energy Future Holdings. Like any successful leader, he has analyzed his mistakes and used this to make better decisions in the future. Unsuccessful leaders avoid failure at all costs.

“I make plenty of mistakes and I’ll make plenty more mistakes, too. That’s part of the game. You’ve just got to make sure that the right things overcome the wrong ones.” – Warren Buffett

10. Treat everyone equally.

“Personally, I really hope I can treat everyone equally. I think I have done a pretty good job so far but I know I can do it better.” – Warren Buffett

Nobody is left behind. Treating everybody equally and avoiding favoritism is the true mark of a leader. Buffett’s golden rule is about reaching out to the silent, competent workers.

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Let us know in the comments which quote/s have inspired you most.

Featured photo credit: Fortune The Most Powerful Women 2013/Fortune Live Media via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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