The ability to prioritize is a fundamental element to successful leadership. Beyond simply ranking tasks, knowing the difference between what needs dedicated resources and what doesn’t can make or break an organization. There are thousands of resources dedicated to helping current and potential leaders understand how to accomplish this quickly and effectively.
However, an often-overlooked aspect of prioritization is looking beyond priority identification to how each initiative fits into the end goal. New issues and opportunities crop up daily, and before you know it, an area that was identified as a priority just dropped to the bottom of an ever-cycling list of “mission critical” items.
We see this all the time. One example: an organization generated new initiatives that demanded attention and momentum every quarter. Every time a new venture was introduced, the executive team expected employees to rally around it at the expense of the previous “critical” undertaking. It led to frustration and disengagement as employees didn’t trust that this was an actual priority for the company, rather than the latest fad.
This organization lost sight of the bigger picture and, therefore, was unable to accomplish anything important. As you lead your team through your own top initiatives, here are a few key ways to make your priorities successful in the long run:
- Stick to only one, two, but no more than three, areas to work on at a time. Force yourself to justify why these make the list. Ask yourself several questions as part of this exercise. A few: Why do they demand your – and the company’s – time and effort? What evidence do you have to prove that these are critical? How is the company going to benefit from pursuing these ventures this year? Next year? In 5 years? What would happen if you took an item off the list? If you struggle to find compelling answers to any of these questions for a specific area, it’s a venture that is more likely to fail.
- Once you have established only the most critical items, communicate these priorities to your colleagues and employees. This is absolutely vital – change cannot happen in a vacuum, and your team will be implementing these changes day-in and day-out. The answers to the questions above help everyone understand why these must be accomplished and generate forward momentum.
- If your undertakings are important to the company, chances are they are important to the customers as well. Let them know what changes they should expect and how they might benefit from your approach. Committing to customers through a series of communications is essential to the success or failure of position-changing ventures.
Issues always crop up and priorities sometimes shift. However, sticking to these guidelines will help you make sure the “mission critical” initiatives stay that way for the long run.