What to show a boss who wants short-term results

Every month, I hold 1:1 video calls with subscribers to Marketing Showrunners. (MSR is the media company I lead which covers the growing movement of marketers who make original series to build their brands and serve their audiences.)

Combine that with about 2 speaking engagements per month, and I feel grateful to learn from and interact with the people I most want to serve with my work all the time.


Except for this one issue I always hear about which I always struggle to address: “My boss wants results right now.”

Nothing I suggest doing in my content or on a stage happens overnight, because nothing exceptional can be done quickly. But do (bad) leaders want to hear that? Of course not. In fact, I’d hesitate to call such an executive a “leader” at all.

Sometimes, the obvious answer is the right one: leave that boss. Find a new manager internally, find a mentor externally, or get the heck outta dodge — find a new job. We get to live on this earth exactly once. Why spend it banging your head up against a (stubborn, short-sighted) brick wall?

Still, there are times when staying is the right choice for any number of reasons. For those times, we need a way to communicate why our longer-term ideas actually should get approved. The issue is, as I wrote about in my most-read article of all-time, we often pitch our ideas backwards. We start by talking about what WE want to do, what OUR idea is, instead of making it clear that we understand what THEY want and believe — and that everything we’re about to tell them will help with that.

That’s the key: our ideas have to make it abundantly clear that we’re proposing a solution to the problem they’re already trying to solve. For a boss who wants short-term numbers, that often means today’s goals. Overlook that fact, and you face the long and often fruitless slog of trying to change what they want or what they see or believe about something … then convincing them to buy into your idea for executing on their now-”correct” belief system.

Maybe leave that philosophical persuasion to people who don’t have real jobs and can pontificate for a living. (Hi, I’m Jay, I believe we’ve met?) You have stuff to worry about that they (and I) don’t: near-term numbers to hit, promotions to care about, politics to navigate … I get it. Because I hear it. Every month.

So what can you do?

As a starting point, I suggest reading through “The Green Smoothie Problem,” that widely read piece I mentioned before, in order to improve how you persuade and pitch. That’s here. But the real reason I write to you today is to show you something which you can show your boss.



Often, visualizing what you mean to say to others helps both you and them instantly understand. This is what I wish I had for the dozens of 1:1 video calls and post-speech conversations I’ve had over the last few years: one simple chart to instantly get on the same page. Because THAT is what we mean when we talk about long-term results. We want to take a little bit of time today to ensure that tomorrow, and everyday after that, yields better “near-term results” for those future versions of ourselves. We’re aligned. We want the same thing: to hit our numbers. In fact, we want to far EXCEED those numbers. This is how.

The usual approach to hit our usual numbers is sporadic. It’s about throwing calories at a problem, trying to squeeze drops of results from the tried-and-true as it quickly grows tired-and-terrible. We all know this. But change is hard. We can’t forget to include the status quo in our thinking when we explain to others WHY we should change. We aren’t saying, “Stop caring about our goals.” We’re saying, “Because I care so much about our goals, I found a way to far exceed them.”

Ask: What are we doing today to make tomorrow’s numbers far easier to reach? What are we doing now so that later, we see greater results than we could ever expect to see today? What if we could do something right now that would help us far exceed our goals next week, month, quarter, and year?

It would look like the chart above.

The problem with longer-term approaches, like most content marketing, is that the thing itself takes awhile to see direct results. But we forget that it can make other things far easier. Sitting on top of that thing is the usual stuff, none of which compounds in value quite like content: the campaigns, the ads, the events, the one-off attempts at hitting our numbers now.

We’re not asking to stop doing those things, not at first anyway. We’re asking to take 5%, 10%, 25% of our time to help shift the trajectory of the entire damn line up-and-to-the-right.

Some bosses get caught up in the near-term spikes. But we get caught up in our own thing: that faraway, higher-looking slope. The key is to marry the two: Show how doing YOUR thing helps others achieve THEIRS far better.

Or just show them this chart :)

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Posted on October 10, 2019 .