There is a lot of pressure for leaders to show immediate success, no matter if they are leading a startup or an existing organization. In today's society, we have come to believe that everything can be done quickly, and that changes made today will literally result in growth tomorrow.
For non-profit agencies, this means that they are under increasing pressure to show improvement in their outcome targets for the month or the quarter. People who invest in their programs want to see immediate results, despite the fact that long-term problems take long-term solutions.
Church planters feel the need to show big numbers to their supporters quickly, despite the fact that a longer rampup period is probably a more healthy and stable way of making durable disciples and begining a church.
I personally have fallen into the trap of rushing things in order to meet monthly or quarterly number goals. I have often impatiently pressed my staff to "give me good numbers" to show the board this quarter. What has happened is that we have sometimes launched something before it was ready, just so we could meet targets.
There is a holy tension between the urgency of the short-term and the patient wisdom of the long-term.
The following excerpt from a great article by Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread, make the case that quarterly earnings aren't as important as long-term success.
First, bet on the things that will improve your competitive position, and summon the tenacity to stay at the table long enough to collect your winnings. Making smart bets requires an understanding of what the competitive landscape will look like in three or more years. You must try to predict where the world is heading and be prepared for tomorrow’s arrival. That means building your credibility with your investors and board so that you have the wherewithal to resist short-term pressures and the patience to allow your initiatives to succeed.
Second, grow only when you know that you have forged a winning competitive advantage. Whether your company is built around a product, a service, or what we in the restaurant business call a concept, if your business model has not yet proven worthy of reproducing, don’t bet on a growth strategy.
Finally, remember that long-term success is created when you look beyond this year’s budget. Despite the constant pressure to submit to quick fixes, you stand a far better chance of delivering strong quarterly results year after year when you focus on strengthening your competitive advantage and growing only when your business model offers a proven competitive alternative.
As a leader, how do you balance short-term goals and long-term success?