As a kid I remember watching Mr. Magoo, a near-sighted old fellow who was always into trouble because he couldn’t see very well. The cartoon was created in 1949 and was listed number 29 in TV Guides “50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” list that was published in 2002. I think there’s something we can learn from Mr. Magoo.
Visibility into what’s happening with an organization is a critical tool for business leaders to make decisions and influence the direction their companies take within the marketplace. I’ve long argued that visibility both down into the work and up into the objectives is critical for company success. When visibility goes both ways, business owners can validate that strategic decisions are executed and employees can understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and readily see if what they’re doing is successful.
Like Mr. Magoo, companies can get into trouble if they don’t have adequate visibility.
Nevertheless, “visibility” alone isn’t always a good thing. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that there are three keys to achieving successful visibility.
- Never use visibility as a whip: At the beginning of each week I capture a lot of information about what I’m doing, what’s been successful, what’s maybe not been as successful, and look at trends. This helps me make decisions about how we approach different problems and gives my boss and his boss visibility into how my efforts are progressing. It’s all there, the good and the bad. There is no place for me to hide. The same is true for all of the directors in our organization. Although there are sometimes data that we’d rather not bring up that week, it’s never used as a whip to keep us in line. Because of that, myself and my colleagues regularly collect and report on “the real story” in our weekly conversations about how we’re doing and where we’re going. Early in my career I had a colleague who would hide all of his mistakes in a folder in his desk. Consequentially, they never got resolved and ultimately cost the company money and him his job. Whether it was true or not, his perception was that “visibility” would be used as a whip.
- Use visibility as a tool to teach: Every night at 6:00 pm, every employee at Lendio get’s a report that provides a high-level view into how we’re doing for the month and the quarter to date. This gives us visibility into the value of our contribution to the success of our company. In a nutshell, our leadership shares with us the good and the bad too. They have no place to hide either. Our CEO, Brock Blake, feels that if we work on our collective problems together, we’re more likely to come up with a successful solution. And, it’s also important that we celebrate our collective successes—and we do take time to celebrate our successes.
- Use visibility to share a higher purpose: When business owners and other business leaders provide visibility into goals and objectives it gives employees something to get behind. Most people want to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Granted, we’re not working on a cure for cancer or trying to solve world hunger at Lendio, but we do have a mission and a purpose behind what we’re doing—and everyone in the company knows what it is and believes in it. What’s more, making the CEO rich or crushing the competition isn’t the type of objective that most people can get behind.
Visibility can be a powerful tool for helping business owners lead their organizations and for employees to step up and voluntarily perform at a higher level—and yes, I said voluntarily. A lack of visibility is not dissimilar than running around town like Mr. Magoo.
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty also shares his passion for small business every week on Forbes.com.