People are busier than ever. More emails than anyone can possibly handle, more meetings resulting in longer and longer action lists. Everyone is working hard and long hours. Most try to fight their inefficiencies with to do lists and fancy “productivity” apps on their smartphones or tabloids. Nevertheless, at the end of the week, they are frustrated because it seems little has been accomplished — despite best intentions, efforts, and apps.
Give me a break!
There is nothing wrong with the to do lists or apps. There is something seriously wrong though with almost daily changing priorities within organizations. Inefficiencies due to “the fashion of the week” are among the biggest complaints I hear from my clients during executive coaching sessions and team workshops. These are symptoms of the disease that’s called lack of clear prioritization and consistent execution.
Recently, I provided a 360 degree feedback coaching for a regional CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The executive was assessed on 21 leadership skills. Besides the individual skill rating, respondents were also asked to rate how important each of these skills were. On a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most important) 20 out of the 21 skills were rated between 4.0 and 5.0! Ever heard the saying “if everything is important, then nothing is”?
Poor CEO; he will have a hard time satisfying his stake-holders…
One of the key leadership skills with today’s information and opportunity overload, is the ability to distinguish the truly important from the nice to have. Leaders must identify what matters most, and set a clear direction for their followers.
Most executives I work with are highly skilled in strategic thinking; setting the direction is not a problem for them. Following the direction is! And this ability is what distinguishes outstanding leaders from the rest.
And here is where your classic to do lists and fancy apps fail. We all know what we “should” do, don’t we? At least equally important to knowing what to do is knowing what not do do.
Whether you are the CEO or a leader at any level of your organization, you will face the challenge that everything is important all at once. Juggling the different expectations of various stake-holders at all times is practically impossible. And as if that was not enough, every day a new “shiny ball” appears. The temptation is high to jump at any opportunity that sounds attractive — Alas, you don’t want to be the one who missed this, do you?
Give yourself a break now, too!
These four steps can help you solve the inefficiency dilemma, and stay on track:
1. Sit back and relax. Get clarity about what really matters. To you, to your organization. Identify the critical few priorities.*
*I learned the powerful concept of the critical few years back from Executive Coach Allen Moore. The critical few priorities are defined as “even if nothing else gets done, the completion of these goals will add considerable value.”
2. Identify your key-stakeholders, and ask them for their input on the critical few. Don’t be surprised if they have no answer straight away; with all this stuff on their minds, they may have just never ever had the time to think about the critical few.
3. Continue using your to do lists and productivity tools which have proven useful. But add the “not to dos”. These are all the opportunities and projects that would certainly help the company move forward, too, but that would also dilute the efforts of the whole organization to achieve what’s even more important.
4. Find agreement on what not to do at the top level of your organization. This alignment will make saying’ no’ to any nice to have opportunity easier, and prevent your organziation from sacrificing the longterm goals. Then support your teams in saying no to prevent them from getting off track. Every day.
This sounds simple. It is extremely difficult though. Wouldn’t today be a perfect day to start your not to do list ?
Would you like some support focusing on the right priorities? Then contact me now for a personal consultation without any obligations:
phone: +66-2 107 2025