Recently I found this story:
“Over a leisurely lunch recently, a good friend lamented that he was “too busy” to read.
Our meal lasted an hour and a half. We then strolled to a nearby restaurant, evaluating the menu for an upcoming dinner party. My friend then headed to a meeting about a conference – he’s a successful entrepreneur – he didn’t actually plan to attend. By the time he returned to work it would be 4:30pm, more than four hours after he had left for lunch.
My friend had filled the day. He was busy. But the things that made him busy were the result of his own decisions. He didn’t lack the time to read. He was simply choosing not to…”
Let me say this: busywork is often an excuse for being actively lazy. Most importantly, the culture that comes with relying on “being busy” as an excuse for not getting something done is contagious. How many times have you said to yourself, “I wish I could do that but I’m just too busy,” and thought that you had an entirely justifiable, legitimate excuse in saying that. Well, you’re probably wrong.
Throughout our day we face a number of decisions about how we will spend our time. As we speak, I am tempted with little things to do that will slow down the process of writing this article. Sure I “need” to reply to that funny office email. I’ll edit another article before writing this one. Let’s contact a few magazine contributors for updates on content development. That’s important, right? That’s exactly the sort of thing that will ruin your day. Each of those mundane choices that I faced throughout the day, if made irresponsibly, could result in a day filled with busyness and void of purpose.
The worst part is we tend to act as if we have no control over our day, over these small decisions, but we do. No one is forcing our hand, but if we aren’t careful then decision fatigue can cripple us. Have you ever been so depleted that you felt yourself falling back into an old routine, despite your earlier resolve to change a habit? That’s decision fatigue. If you constantly use your willpower and energy on unimportant decisions (i.e. funny office emails, meetings you don’t need to attend, etc…) you will be more open to small temptations. Your willpower is a limited resource, so use it wisely.
Warren Buffett has a “2 List Strategy” that help illustrate the uselessness of being actively lazy (aka busy). Start by writing down your top 25 career goals, then circle your top 5. Most people would say that their strategy would be to focus most of their energy on the top 5, then work on the remaining 20 goals when possible. However, Buffett explains, the best approach is to think of the top 5 goals as your ONLY goals. The remaining 20 should become your “Avoid-At-All-Cost” list.
When I spoke with John Marazzi in a recent interview that’s exactly the kind of impression he made on me. He knew his priorities, and because of that he was able to be significantly more productive, and therefore successful, than lots of other Dealer Principals around the country. (For the record, John Marazzi has consistently achieved the #1 volume Honda dealer on the entire West Coast of Florida, according to American Honda Motor Company. He and his dealership were named DealerRater’s “2013 and 2014 Florida Dealer of the Year” and have also earned an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.)
John could have been “too busy” for an interview, but consciously decided to make time for something he deemed a priority. In other words, he filled his day with only what mattered. In fact, he also makes time to go to the key conventions, and regularly reads to learn new ways to improve his dealership. He creates trends instead of following them. He doesn’t play catch-up with those who dictate what’s relevant. However, this type of leadership is only possible when your day is free of frivolous activities. When focused, you can translate a significant portion of your learning into new programs, policies, and overall development.
For instance, he has given his customers a direct line to communicate with him on his website (personal and dealership websites) that’s called “Talk To The Owner.” Questions and concerns appear right on his phone because he wants his customers to feel connected with him to build trust. Guess what? He actually responds! Plus, even if a customer does not buy, he will send a “what can I do better” letter for feedback.
He’s also integrated mobile content into his dealership’s CRM. The reason he chose to deal with mobile devices goes far beyond the percentage of people who prefer to communicate with the things. People, especially millennials, are most concerned with being able to respond however they want. They may or may not use their smartphone, but if they do, and you can’t deal with them on that channel, they will find someone who can handle it.
Most importantly, John Marazzi has created what he calls a culture of accountability at his dealership, something that’s more crucial than any new feature, incentive, or program. “Belief, desire, and action creates reality,” he says, explaining that things like his new additions (like the custom built, 10 year 100,000 warranty) are only possible if you, as the leader, create that reality. It takes work.
It also takes effort to shape the general culture of your business to reflect what you want. John made the first step in breaking down traditional walls by making himself personally accountable to his customers through direct contact. So when he decided to send reports to EVERYONE in the dealership that detailed EVERYONE’S performance numbers, he was including himself. Those that performed well actually enjoyed the recognition! Beyond that, if the dealership received a positive or negative review online he would forward it to everyone with his comments attached. That has an impact on people.
Ultimately he took the lead in getting his team bought into new ideas. As a result, if you ask him what he thinks about his dealership culture he will say that it’s exactly what he wants (while still looking to improve). If you want to be able to say the same, then it’s time for a gut check.
We have to do more of what we don’t know, and less of what we do know. Take risks.