Updated: May 13
I am often inspired by the teams I have had the pleasure of leading and serving. I've seen countless examples of selfless loyalty, of commitment above and beyond expectations and of tireless work ethics. When I think about some of the highest performing teams I've been a part of, I am always reminded of what was at the core of their success. These teams had a clearly defined outcome and regularly focused on a smaller number of critical goals that helped drive that result.
I was a leader of a very talented and hard-working team in a successful, fast-growth organization. This team was populated with high-performing individuals who routinely took on (and overcame) significant challenges. What we also were keenly aware of was our tendency to take on too much! As a result, we would get bogged down. Our results were good but not necessarily great. We knew we could achieve great if only we could learn to limit our focus to the truly most important things.
Lots of factors played a part in this dynamic. One was setting too many goals to begin with; sometimes team members competing internally with a “quantity” versus “quality" focus. Another tendency was actually a strength that we had, being entrepreneurial and opportunistic. The problem was we lacked the discipline to apply an adequate filter to limit ourselves to those few that were the best fit and had the highest potential. Leadership also played a part in this dynamic, often adding things to the work pile without vetting for capacity and/or alignment with larger goals.
If you have more than five goals, you have none.
- Peter Drucker
After one particularly frustrating Quarter, we committed to narrowing our focus to a few critical goals for the Quarter ahead. We were very disciplined around filtering additional ideas and opportunities using set criteria for success. We also knew we had to protect our capacity and focus by communicating with the executive team not only what those priorities were, but actively vetting, and sometimes challenging, any new initiatives that came along, as well.
The results were very rewarding. Revenue, profit and market share grew to record levels. People felt great because they were winning instead of feeling stuck in the mud. The executive team took notice and worked to support our tightly defined goals and the plans to support them. Even so, in spite of their best intentions, we occasionally had to push back a few times, always in a healthy and courageous manner. This took intestinal fortitude on the part of the leaders of the team but was critical to maintaining focus.
I was recently in a Quarterly planning session with a relatively new client. We were working to set the team’s priorities for the Quarter ahead. When we finished compiling our list of proposed goals for the Quarter, it was a very long list - 14 items long, I believe. The stunned, overwhelmed feeling of the team was palpable. “We can’t get all this done in 90 days, Chad,” one team member stated very resolutely. Others nodded. I encouraged them to trust the process The Resultants use for prioritization and commit to narrowing their focus. The task seemed daunting as none of the goals were trivial and all appeared to have a certain urgency according to the team member who suggested them.
We went about our work and applied a few different filters to the proposed priorities to narrow their focus. We asked ourselves:
Which Quarterly priorities align with and support the annual and long-term goals?
Which priorities represent the 20% that will drive 80% of the results for the entire organization? Tip: watch out for siloed thinking and behavior here
Which proposed priorities are really a departmental priority instead of a macro, company-wide priority?
By the end of our work, only about 30-40 minutes later, we had a much smaller list of four Quarterly priorities. The remaining 10 had been either been postponed to a later date or delegated to departments or other individuals. The team felt great! Members commented that they had never felt so focused going into a new Quarter. What a way to drive energy and focus!
Motivation to Engage
"When we were self-implementing, we were doing a lot of it good but none of it great". Why Dick Noble, President of Summit 360, says having an implementer helped him and his company achieve greatness.