In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker writes that the effective executive focuses on contribution:

“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: ‘What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?’ His stress is on responsibility.” Pg. 52

A little later he writes:

“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, ‘top management.’ He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.” Pg. 53

The characteristic that we see in these people is that they look up from their own narrow perspective and they look out to obtain a broader understanding of the goals of the whole. This will involve not only understanding their own business but understanding the real needs of their clients. Once they obtain this perspective, they think through their own giftings and strengths and ask themselves, “What can I contribute that will enhance the performance of the whole?”

I tend towards putting more time into something in order to increase my contribution. But, that is not what Peter Drucker is talking about. Putting in more time is like addition. 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 100. Something is getting accomplished, but it takes a lot of input to obtain the result. But if we change the equation to 10 x 10 = 100…

I find it helpful to impose a limitation on myself such as, “If I only had three hours to work today, what would I do that would bring about the greatest contribution to the business and it’s clients?” This kind of question forces me to think through the goals of the business and how best to accomplish them. It also helps to strip away the “waste” from my day. Then, after answering the question, I have to go and do it. But, the forethought has to be present in order to ensure that those things I am engaged in are going to be impactful contributions.

As you start your week, ask yourself “What can I contribute”. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Tim Hoke

Design Manager / Sales