Are you overwhelmed by your to-do list? Does so much of what you deemed a “priority” never seem to get done? You need to FOCUS on the right priorities amid the chaos.
Where do you start? You start by stopping.
First, stop, look and listen. We forget the simple rules that have profound impact. Tunnel vision is dangerous. Making assumptions is dangerous. When we are besieged by the chaos, we are likely doing both.
To find the right priorities, you need to see the whole picture. There are underlying patterns to what is going on – and to what is not going on – in your organization. You need to find them. Don’t assume that the way you see the situation is the only way: ask around.
You know you will have completed this step when you have a sense of grounding. It will feel as if you just finished a simple connect-the-dots and can now see the whole drawing.
The second step is called unite. This step is about creating an environment in which everyone cares about the priorities and does their part to advance the work.
You are not looking for a final priority list but for a sense of shared purpose. By using the words “we” and “us” when discussing the team’s, clients’ and organization’s needs, you will find patterns surfacing. This will establish a shared view of how different needs can align and contribute to a broader set of goals and priorities.
The outcome of this step is that people involved are now looking beyond their own needs for the answers. Trust in the possibility that progress is beginning to simmer.
The third step is to clarify. Here, clarity is about more than words. Because of the last step, there will be a new level of curiosity. Your role is to nurture it, to help separate facts from stories. You are helping your team look for common purpose and relationships.
Don’t fall into an old trap: it isn’t necessary for everyone, including you, to agree on every detail. It is necessary for everyone to understand what each other is saying.
In the past it may have felt that your team was talking but not hearing each other. The outcome of this step is that they develop the ability to empathize with each other.
You know the saying: “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.” In the fourth step we are advocating a paradigm shift in the kind of options you will seek.
This step is called out of the ordinary. You are clear on the needs. Now you are seeking to come up with powerful possibilities for moving forward.
Seek audacious, high impact solutions. Well-aimed audacity is energizing. And high impact is what you have been wanting. Try changing the timeframe. If you usually set priorities for the year, try setting them for a month instead. Keep it simple. Ideas that are too complex generate more work than progress. Most important, get creative. “Same old” will put you and your team to sleep before you start.
At the end of this step you will have a sense of powerful possibilities. Watch for your group to shift as they become energized by the possibilities
The last step is to forge ahead. It is about choosing and following though.
It will be really tempting to fall into paralysis by analysis or to seek perfection instead of just getting moving. Let go and trust the group’s wisdom. Follow the critical mass of support. Progress is the goal.
We recommend that the selection criteria not be about the usual: monetary impact, scorecard impact, etc. Instead make it about things that will spur momentum and action, a shift in beliefs and thus spur further action. Choose one or three, not ten or 70. When you complete the first three, your groups’ pride will energize them to pick and complete three more.
You and your group will know when they have hit upon the answers. You will have a sense of focus amid what used to feel like chaos.
This article was co-authored with Maureen Cunningham, an organizational change coach, facilitator and speaker with Up Until Now (www.upuntilnow.ca).