There was a time in my life when I thought that brainstorming and setting priorities was a reasonably straightforward process. Invite the team into a room, ask them to create a list of possible priorities, and then pick a few. It seemed easy enough. How hard could it be?
Then, I started doing it. As often as is the case, I learned that it’s easy to say and hard to do. In all honesty, leading a team through a priority setting session is not for the faint of heart:
- Some people dominate the discussion
- Others barely participate, just want to be told
- Some people nod their head in agreement and an hour later forget the meeting even happened
- A few people think the priorities are essential as long as they don’t have to do anything different
- People can become emotional and petty if the team doesn’t pick their ideas
- Everything takes twice as long as you would expect
- Six months later, you find yourself in the same meeting room, having the same conversation
If the above list caused you to break a sweat thinking about your last team meeting, I apologize. You can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
I can tell you that having led countless priority-setting sessions with my team and with my clients, these sessions are well worth the effort when done right. The clarity derived from determining a team’s priorities generates excitement, commitment, and focus. It can be a much-needed morale boost and take a team from a laundry list of ‘nice to do’ items to a laser-focused ‘must be done’ list.
Doing this well involves having an approach to brainstorming, discussing, and selecting goals. I’ve found that three words help leaders to do this well: Reform, Perform, and Transform. This is a way of organizing and talking about ideas. It provides a framework to ensure that the team isn’t being too short-sighted or, conversely, setting their sights on distant objectives and missing what is right in front of them.
Here is a quick way to think about each of these items and a few words that leaders can use to explain them:
- Reform Priority – a project, initiative, or metric that the team can turn around. Ask: “What past goal should we stop talking about and finish? What failure or potential failure do we need to overcome?”
- Perform Priority – means taking the team’s current performance to a new level. Ask: “How might we take our current level of performance to a new level? Where are we currently at, and what would that new outcome look like?”
- Transform Priority – involves tackling something new that could potentially change the game. Ask: “What are we not doing today that we need to do in the future? What could we tackle that would change the game for us, our organization, and those we serve?”
This week’s tool and video are designed to help you to use the Reform, Perform, and Transform concept with your team. Bring your team together, watch the video, and then ask everyone to brainstorm possible Reform, Perform, and Transform priorities using the Worksheet. I guarantee you that the subsequent discussion will be more focused, productive, and address issues that need to be addressed.
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.