A popular online dictionary defines a priority as something that’s regarded as more important than another. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.
The crux of the problem with setting priorities is that they often give way to less important work. Priorities collide with overflowing to-do-lists, crowded schedules and constant interruptions, potentially becoming trapped by what author Charles Hummel discussed in his bestselling little book, “Tyranny of The Urgent.”
Prioritizing our priorities and remaining focused on what’s most important is demanding. There are, however, some ways to deal with the challenge.
1. Get clarity.
I’ve seen leaders deem all their initiatives to be a priority only to have what’s urgent change constantly throughout the year. The ambiguity that seems trivial in the leader’s mind can be troubling and create confusion for employees.
It’s smart to have practical tools and a framework for setting priorities effectively. For starters, asking a fresh set of questions in your strategic discussions can help break down entrenched beliefs.
2. Say no more than yes.
It’s hardly ever smart to have more than four or five major priorities at one time. It not only thins out your resources but also compromises the full value from those priorities. Warren Buffet said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
When it comes to achieving priorities, less is more.
3. Build strategy into your approach.
You will have better stability with priorities if they strategically achieve both the short- and long-term needs of the business.
For instance, I’ve worked with leaders who had great vision but struggled to move the needle year to year. On the other hand, I’ve worked with executives who possessed strong tactical abilities but struggled to see the need for priorities long-term strategies.
Therefore, strategy, not the leader’s innate capacity, should determine the priorities that are pursued.
4. Protect your universal core.
The attributes that make an individual or organization unique in the marketplace need to be safeguarded. A few years ago, a client company’s top two executives allowed a new vice president to convince them to chase after a promising niche outside of their core market. In over 100 years, the company had never strayed. But unfortunately, when they did this once, the results were nearly catastrophic. Ultimately, they closed down operations and returned to their base camp.
5. Be decisive.
Because organizations are more agile and change is constant, I find that setting priorities is more difficult for leaders who are risk resistant. When leaders hesitate to decide between priorities, the number of priorities they commit to grows. Underlying this reaction is fear – the fear of missing out on a new market trend, falling behind a competitor or simply being wrong.
In my experience, though, the most successful leaders target their focus on the most important priorities. Eventually, a laser-like focus gets entrenched into the culture.
6. Prioritize for customer experience.
An organization can hardly go wrong focusing on the customer’s experience. Last week, I received a replacement caster from the original manufacturer for my ergonomic office chair. It was great customer service because I bought the chair 12 years ago and didn’t have the retail receipt. They still replaced it for free and handled my issue on the same day I called.
This cost the manufacturer money with no guarantee of seeing any future business. Obviously, the company prioritizes its customer’s experience and believes it eventually leads to more business. It certainly will in my case.
Achieving clarity and a consistent focus on the most important priorities delivers important benefits to an individual and an organization.
Consultant and professional speaker Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and SalesRevenueCoach.com. He’s also the author of “The Five Rules of Megavalue Selling.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of the $168 million bond issue voters approved in April 2019, Springfield Public Schools is developing an early childhood center near Carver Middle School.
Joe Daues, CEO of the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, says they want to spread the message of how they can help cancer victims. He says they plan to be highly visible on social media …
When Emery Bryant discovered new software that expanded her online yoga teaching capabilities, she recruited her favorite local instructors to start AWE Fitness. Not needing a brick and mortar space …
Jamie Thomas, vice president of Prosperiti Properties, says she spent years worrying that she’d miss opportunities if she put her family first. “The minute that I was brave enough to say, I’m a …
Gary Gibson, general manager of City Utilities, says public transportation is vitally important and the city is working to improve transit service with the acquisition of electric buses. He says they …
Tim Potthoff, project manager with Nabholz, says the construction industry needs skilled tradesmen. He says getting certified in a trade pays as well as most four year degrees without accruing as …
Paula Adams, president of Penmac, says they try to help clients find gainful employment regardless of whether they have a permanent address. She says they partner with Council of Churches to try …
“Sometimes I’m really bad at my email, other times, I’m very on top of it,” says Megan Short, executive director of Springfield Contractors Association. Short says to stay current, she often …
Donald Babb, former CEO and executive director of Citizens Memorial Hospital, says his grandfather was his first mentor. “He always told me, you can do whatever you want to do,” Babb says. “You …
Entrepreneur Amby Lewis says it’s important to show support for local businesses and events on social media. Lewis says liking. sharing and commenting on posts can increase awareness and help a …
Joe Hornickel, planning and zoning director for the city of Branson, says one of the community's goals is to have year round jobs like manufacturing. While Branson has good access to highways, …