Join Jeff Weiner for an in-depth discussion in this video Fewer things done better, part of On Leadership by Jeff Weiner.
- Next part of synthesis is FoCuS. This, historically, this looks like the word focus. It's supposed to be an acronym. And so I would go cap F, cap C, cap S. That's the acronym, F-C-S. So why do we have this acronym FCS? Why is focus so important? And what is the context behind focus in synthesis? Once you've established your plan, once you've got a forcing mechanism to connect the dots and synthesize all of the information and pull it together in a package that can be clearly commuted and acted upon, then it's a question of creating the right frameworks to operate day in and day out to facilitate the way in which you're separating the signal from the noise and to reinforce that and to execute on your plan. So let's talk about some of the building blocks that we've established at the company, and there are namely three. I just mentioned FCS. The F, fewer things done better. And we've been touching on this throughout the entire discussion thus far. That if I could prioritize one thing, I'd prioritize just one thing, not n number of things. And I would eliminate all and statements in a mission. I would have one measurable goal. You know, in a perfect world, you have one value, right? Just, the fewer things that you establish in terms of being important, the easier it is to understand and internalize, act upon, and then cascade. It's like a mantra. And all too often, people become consumed with the idea of complexity. That they need to do more. They need to communicate more. They need to write more. And somehow we equate more with better. More is harder, and you don't want harder when you're trying to scale an organization. You want easier. Smart people have a tendency to optimize for hard and complex because it provides them an opportunity to show how smart they are. Seriously, it's kind of human nature. So you want to keep things simple. Fewer things done better. Moving on from the idea of fewer things done better, one visual that we've used with great success, and I'll never forget. In the earliest days before we had codified our vision and values, I remember going out to coffee with a perspective board member, woman named Leslie Kilgore. At the time she was CMO of Netflix. She became our first independent board member. And so we were over coffee and Leslie said to me, I'd been at the company for just a few months, and Leslie said, "Tell me about LinkedIn. "What are your priorities? "What are you focused on?" And I answered and spoke nonstop for like two minutes. I thought I did a pretty good job. And as I was talking, I could see a look in her eyes like, yeah, this isn't going very well. This is, what's this guy? This is not the answer I was looking about as someone who's a potential board member. And she said, "Thank you for that." She's very polite. She said I was wonderfully articulate. I get it, sounds like you guys are doing a lot of stuff. Remember, we were not a big company at the time, but we were doing a lot of stuff. There was a lot happening at this company when I first joined. One of the reasons LinkedIn had the success that it did is because our founder, Reid Hoffman, his vision, and his emphasis on optionality. He like to plant a lot of seeds simultaneously to see where there were little growth spurts and blooms. But over time you have to call that and you got to focus. So she said, "Let me try this a different way. "It's really hard to build a $1 billion business. "Really hard. "So if you could only build one $1 billion business, "what would it be?" And I took a deep breath, said, "Good question, let me, I'm going to get back to you on that one." (audience laughs) We finished, I came back to the office, this is a true story. I got onto my whiteboard and I drew a value proposition from a customer perspective. And then I started to draw a target. And I was trying to answer the question if we could build only one $1 billion business, what would it be? And I started with a bullseye and then I started to draw concentric circles outside of the bullseye. And once I was done, I took a look at it and I said, "This feels right." And I called Steve Sordello in, our CFO. And I said, "Steve, I think we need to start prioritizing." I told him the story about Leslie. And then we did the exact same thing for our members. And I eventually went back to, so we had two bullseyes, two targets, and it just made a lot of sense. I went back to Leslie next time I saw her, and I said, "If we could only build one $1 billion business, "it would be talent solutions. "That'd be the very first thing." At the time, it was hiring solutions. And she said, "Oh, thank you. "That's very helpful and I think that will serve you well." And I didn't stop there. I said, "And then the first concentric "would be our marketing solutions business." We didn't even have sales solutions or learning solutions. They didn't exist. We did have advertising and we had a recruiter. And we had premium as well. And this is where there's premium. So I ended up starting to think, okay, we got to codify this. And I ended up getting on the phone with Mike Gamson, who used to run Sales at LinkedIn for many, many years. And I called Mike. Mike had established his team, and Mike had been here at least a year before I got here. And Mike's team was called LinkedIn Corporate Solutions, LCS. It's now Global Solutions Organization, but at the time was LCS and it was going to do everything. It was going to leverage, let me just finish it all, and it was going to do everything. It was going to leverage LinkedIn and it was going to build all these enterprise businesses. That's why he was here, that's why he was recruiting all these people and they were so fired up. I said, "Mike, if we're going to be successful, "we've got to start by focusing on the one thing "that we're going to do better than anything else." And I talked about my Steve Jobs experience, the whole thing. And I talked about if we don't, if we're not successful in this one thing and building that into one $1 billion business, we're not going to be able to do all of these other things that you want to do. And it's brilliant vision. And I said, "I think you would agree that if we had to focus "on one thing right now, it would be hiring solutions, "with the momentum, we're seeing recruiter, "the addressable opportunity." He said, "Yeah, but that's not why I'm here." I said, "Mike, if we don't get that right, "if we don't figure out how to make "that a $250 million business, "then a $500 million business, "then a billion dollar business, the rest of this isn't going to happen." By the end of the call, he started to really warm up to it. He's like, "I get it." Next day, he called me, said, "I'm all in. "I'm all in. "That'll be priority number one." And then he started cascading out to his team. Then they started hiring against it, prioritizing against it, investing against it. And so we targeted this bullseye and we worked our way out from there. Two things to bear in mind. One is you want to establish that value proposition on top. If you're ever going to do this exercise, you establish the value proposition on top. Like I said, the bullseye is the clearest distillation of that, and then you prioritize your growth opportunities from working your way out from the middle. So one is, you got to define what it is you're trying to accomplish. The second is there's a natural inclination to want to draw resources from the bullseye after any success so that you can get after the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And everyone wants to do more stuff. Everyone wants to grow and innovate. How much success are you going to have if you start to invest in the next thing before you've established critical mass in that first thing? Zero, over time, it's going to be really challenging. Zero's, a little, that's a lot. That's a lot, not a lot, depending on which way you want to look at it, but I'm not sure it's just flat out zero. You may luck into a second growth opportunity that's even bigger than the first one. But what happens when you draw resources away from that critical mass, before you have critical mass, from that bullseye, you leave yourself vulnerable to a competitor that's chomping at the bit to start going after that business that you've created and that industry that you disrupted. And then what happens is you draw resources away from your bullseye, you go after the next growth opportunity, they come after your bullseye, then you're drawing the same resources you just took off of that exercise, put on something else. And now you're saying, "Hey, everyone, back to the bullseye." And they're like, "Huh? "I didn't get hired to do the, "I came out here to do this next growth opportunity. "That's why I'm here." Yeah, we'll get to that, but we got to go back. This whips on is not a good dynamic. You're going to demoralize people and you're going to leave yourself vulnerable to competition.
Learn about the importance of maintaining awareness of yourself, your team, your industry, and the world at large. Explore the topic of synthesis, which you achieve through developing your vision and values and by focusing on the most important priorities. Plus, learn about the role of inspiration in leadership, both in terms of being true to your own values and motivating others.