There are two types of jobs in this world — task-oriented jobs and outcome-oriented jobs.

A task-oriented sales position might require you to do the following in a single day:

  • Make 120 sales phone calls
  • Deliver 12 phone presentations
  • Write 2 proposals
  • Get 1 contract signed

If you reliably do these proven tasks, you will generate sales within a predictable range.

This is a task-oriented job.

You are assigned certain tasks. You do these tasks well. You get a predictable result.

And your company pays you for completing these tasks because it knows such tasks lead to a predictable result that they desire.

Outcome-oriented jobs are a completely different animal.

In such jobs, you are assigned an outcome to achieve, but not told the specific tasks needed to achieve it. You have to figure out the tasks.

For example, I remember when I first got a job with Profit and Loss responsibility.

The COO promoted me to run a particular product line in the company.

He said, “Congratulations. I am promoting you. I need $20 million in sales by the end of the year.

“If you don’t deliver, you’re fired in advance.

“Good luck.”

That’s an outcome-oriented job.

Here’s the problem with outcome-oriented jobs — even if you do the right steps, it doesn’t always work.

Sometimes “stuff” happens.

Key people quit.

A key client company goes bankrupt.

A new regulation gets passed that was unanticipated.

Your product becomes obsolete much faster than historical data would suggest.

This is the reality of outcome-oriented roles. YOU as the leader end up absorbing this uncertainty and figuring out a way to overcome unexpected obstacles.

(This is what people mean by the “burden” of leadership.)

So how does one go about doing this?

Here’s the key.

Control the Control-ables

Sometimes aspects of an outcome-oriented job are out of your control. But, most aspects are within your control.

The key then is to control the things that are, well… within your control.

This is especially true in a crisis.

In October 2008, the global economy went into a massive recession. At the time, CEOs were completely freaked out. I gave 150 speeches over the next 24 months that had a single message:

Control the Control-ables.

At the time, all the CEOs were fixated on the sudden and abrupt shrinkage of the global economy. Stock prices got annihilated. Clients canceled contracts. Employees were getting laid off. Profits were down.

In the aftermath of the stock market crash and recession, guess what most CEOs were focused on?

They were focused on all the things they could not control… like the global recession.

Umm… guess what, you as the CEO of a single company can not turn around the global economy. That is not within your control.

Our largest client just went out of business.

Guess what?

You can’t will your largest client out of bankruptcy. What you can do is go serve your other clients more deeply and focus on getting more new clients.

In this case, human instinct is wrong. Our tendency is to stand there frozen while witnessing a negative event we can’t control.

The more productive thing to do is quickly assess what else remains that is still within our control.

During my speeches, I had this one chart showing the size of the US economy.

In 2007, the US GDP was $15 trillion.

In 2008 after the stock market crash, GDP fell to $14.6 trillion.

The world was in horror at the $400 billion reduction in the size of the economy.

Here was my chart. It had one number on it:


I would throw up the chart and say… This is the size of the US economy right now (after the crash).

Forget the $400 billion that disappeared. Focus on the $14,600,000,000,000.00 in spending that still remains.

That is still within your control.

The same is true in every aspect of life… especially in times of adversity.

If you didn’t get the job you wanted, what jobs are left for you to pursue?

If you didn’t get that date with the person you really liked, how many other people in the world could you date? (Hint: Statistically speaking, the number is in the billions.)

If Plan A did not work out, as quickly as possible mentally shift focus onto Plan B.

In short, life is much more productive when you control the control-ables… it gives you the room to tolerate and work around the things you can not control.

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