Leadership Skills: Choosing Priorities

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. – Stephen Covey

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. – Stephen Covey

PrioritiesThere are lots and lots of programs that promote themselves as the best solution to success in the new year. That’s great! Let me add my ideas to your list. I have a system that works, and works all the time – as long as the leader works.

My experience tells me that 90% of leaders fail in the implementation phase of any project. We might do a good job of planning outcomes, however, we don’t put an accountability process in place and we don’t think about our outcomes in relationship to real life. Things must work in real life. It’s not an academic exercise.

I consistently hear leaders complain about not having time to finish everything, having a team that underperforms, and not having a life. That’s a leadership problem. Leading one’s self is about defining what’s really important and making time for it.

5 reasons leaders fail at implementation:

  1. Not Defining Priorities – Leaders typically have lots of really great ideas and move directly to implementing many of them at the same time – oops, it’s overload time! Good ideas do not make a plan. Without a plan that is sequenced and weighted, leaders are creating a liability of “scope creep” in which ideas propagate without any filter or regulation. No priority is a set up for burnout.
  2. Not Writing Goals – Lots of ideas are just that – lots of ideas. Ideas are dreams unless they are written down.
  3. Not Developing Action Plans – We might write goals down, but not breaking them into action plans is a formula for getting stuck. The goals are typically big and bold and seem too large to tackle in the present. The tendency is to put the goal away because it’s too large for today. We then lose track of it. The danger of writing intense plans is that they become “Credenza Ware.”
  4. Not Defining an Accountability Partner – We might write goals. We might have a good idea of where we want to be at the end of the year. However, we don’t create a system for being accountable for our objectives, therefore it’s all too easy to put things off. Leadership is getting things done.
  5. Not Framing Organizational Goals with Life Objectives – Another script I hear frequently is that leaders work all the time and don’t take vacation time. Framing professional goals from the perspective of the life desired is essential to creating balance. This is a way to set boundaries and to develop better leadership skills.

3 solutions for successful project implementation:

  1. Define Priorities – The first priority is to define the desired life goals. Knowing what one desires for quality of life is the foundation for good planning. Once those are in place, define personal values and guiding principles, goals, and boundaries for personal time. Then there is a foundation for creating perspective when creating those items for the organization. Once those standards are in place, it’s time to define actions and time activate those actions on the calendar. Setting priorities means defining how important certain achievements are to the big picture (weight) and when they should be completed (sequence). Letting some things go means giving priority to the most important things.
  2. Develop a Personal Discipline – Without a personal commitment to success and a discipline in daily routine, there is no foundation to base accomplishments. Create a plan (goals, action plan, daily deliverables) and share with someone important. Accountability creates value in you, the leader, and creates synergy of collaboration with those who have received the plan. Being organized means not wasting time.
  3. Build a Support System – Working alone is difficult. Setting priorities, sequencing activities, organizing the work flow and information, and managing time are all a part of a system. Having accountability partners is also a way that top leaders stay on top of their game. Create a mastermind group of top leaders to work together to assist each other in staying on track, creating resources, and solving problems. Being vulnerable creates energy that goes back to the leader.

Every day is a special day if we treat it as special. Many leaders I meet are looking for solutions from others rather than looking for solutions within themselves. Many have become “Seminar Junkies,” looking for something that will fix their problems when, in reality, the problem exists within ourselves. Self improvement means just that – working on and managing self. Installing Transformational Leadership in any organization begins with self transformation. Changing the behavior of others happens when the leader changes his or her behavior.


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Hugh Ballou

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