Drew Houston the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Dropbox learned about the essential difference between effort and effectiveness from the classic book, The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. In a podcast interviewwith Tim Ferriss he says that he applied the principles in the book when he was transitioning from his engineering/IT training to entrepreneurship. It remains one of his primary go-to references.
Drucker found that the best executives he worked with in his long consulting career had a wide variety of personalities, values and leadership styles. But what made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:
They asked, “What needs to be done?”
They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
They developed action plans.
They took responsibility for decisions.
They took responsibility for communicating.
They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
They ran productive meetings.
They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”
Drew Houston was struck by the first practice; the effective executive asks what needs to be done, not what do I want to do. Drucker explains, “After completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original list. He asks, “What must be done now?” This generally results in new and different priorities.”
Drew has instituted his own practices to maintain his focus on what needs to be done. He has cut back meeting time with ‘no meeting Wednesday’. He reduced his email volume with a folder called ‘other people’s problems,’ which obviously gets a lower priority. Arguably his focus is working. Dropbox is one of the world’s leading business collaboration platforms, used by 500 million people around the world with 11 million paying subscribers and 1,800 employees across 12 global offices.
It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s priorities, particularly as the end of the year fast approaches. We need our sources of inspiration to maintain focus. Are there classic books that have influenced you? Maybe you draw insights from blog posts or podcasts; perhaps there are specific people who expand your thinking. By the way, Drew found it valuable to have an executive coach. Just saying!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Best regards, Brian