It sounds obvious, but most of us have a way of piling up “must-do” priorities, making it impossible to do a very good job on any of them. One recipe for disengaging people is to overwhelm them with things to do, all of which are “Job 1” and “key priorities” and “top-of-the-list.”
But if you unleash people to focus on one, two, or three wildly important goals—no more—they will sense the significance of what they’re doing and they’ll have a chance to win. There is tremendous power in focus. As you prioritize your goals, think about those things that must be done or nothing else matters, focus on those true priorities, and move lower priorities to the back burner.
Many organizations are hierarchical in nature and that often compounds the problem. In these organizations, when the senior leader says, “that’s a good idea” people immediately assume that it must be done.
“There is tremendous power in focus.” – Leddin & Moon
Be sure to establish a clear and shared understanding of the goal. Leaders often assume the objective is understood by everyone, when there’s usually wide and divergent understanding. In Three Reasons Why Good Strategies Fail, Lawrence Hrebiniak reports, “I’ve done consulting where a major strategic thrust has been developed, and a month or two later I go down four or five levels and ask people how they’re doing. They haven’t even heard of the program.”
Here are a few questions for you, your team and your organization to consider:
- What are our most important goals?
- Which of these goals are most important – if we don’t achieve these goals, nothing else matters much?
- Can we narrow these goals down to three or fewer?
- What is the measure of success on each goal both in performance and schedule?
- Is each goal truly achievable?
- What do we need to put in place to make each goal happen?
- How will we ensue that other goals don’t ‘creep’ into our lives as we try to accomplish the most important goals?
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.