My approach (maybe it’s a philosophy? maybe it’s a leadership framework?) for day-to-day running a company is what I call, “wheels on, pedal down”.
I think all activities, initiatives, tasks, meetings and time commitments should be run through this framework.
A simple way to view everything you do as a leader
It’s simple, but for me, it works without fail.
I have come to realize that all business activities fall into one of two categories. Those that keep the wheels on, and those that push the pedal down. You can push the pedal down with all your might, but if the wheels fall off, you will get nowhere. And, if the wheels stay on, but the pedal isn’t pressed, well, then, you will also get nowhere.
Both ‘wheels on’, and ‘pedal down’ activities are important. I need to do just enough things that keep the wheels on, and I also need to push the pedal down constantly. Within those categories I also have to consider if it is a ‘must do’, or a ‘nice to do’—is the activity/task/idea likely to have high impact or low impact?
And that’s really it. I strive to stay out of the lower quadrant of the matrix—both in my thinking and in my actual to-do list. And I ask my leadership team to do the same.
Little choices, big impact
Of course, in practice, it’s never as simple as it appears.
A consistent focus on content marketing is ‘pedal down/high impact’. Writing any single blog post probably isn’t. Onboarding new employees, so they are trained, assimilated and retained is ‘wheels on/high impact’. Reviewing the outline of the proposed new employee welcome kit isn’t. When using this framework to make decisions about what to do, I consider where any particular item fits in the larger scheme of the strategic agenda.
Take, for instance, culture. Deliberately creating the culture we want is both a pedal down & wheels on type of thing, with potential for very high impact. But many of the tiny decisions that get made along the way could be categorized as low impact, and barely classify as wheels on. Does our employee performance review software have all the features we need, and if not, should we do something about it? Should we get a foosball table? Is the conference table big enough? How should we celebrate birthdays? Do we need to document rules for video conferencing on work from home days? We can’t ignore the tiny, easily dismissed decisions and discussions, but the matrix helps me put them in perspective. And ensures that I don’t dismiss them as unimportant but also that I don’t spend too much time on them.
Viewing every decision, every meeting, every activity, every action through the “wheels on/pedal down” matrix was transformative for my leadership style and what I have been able to accomplish.
Left to my natural tendencies, I have a long list of considerable weaknesses. I am not disciplined. I am inconsistent. I overcommit. I often prioritize the wrong things. I make plans then don’t execute them (well, at least until I figured out the A.R.E. planning method anyway). I make emotional decisions. I lack focus. I have a radically short attention span. Wheels on, pedal down helps me overcome these weakness to lead more effectively.
Hopefully, this helps some other imperfect, unfocused, undisciplined, inconsistent, overcommitted entrepreneur make a good decision that helps them keep the wheels on just enough, and the pedal down hard.