The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 3

Staying sane and productive in an overloaded world In the last two issues, I talked about prioritisation. In May, I described the four most widely accepted approaches to prioritisation and explained why each tends to fail. In June, I described a different approach which overcomes these problems. But what do you do when you can’t do any more to reduce the workload? How do you keep yourself and those around you from getting so overloaded that the work you do is compromised – or, worse still, that your heath suffers? In short, how do you cope better when all options for reducing the load have been exhausted? Coping is not a dirty word Many of the leaders I work with are struggling. The environment they work in is so tough that their work is being seriously compromised, their physical health is suffering, and they sometimes feel so desperate that tears are not at all uncommon when they get a chance to talk about how they really feel. They soldier on because they know that there’s a limit to
Read More

Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 2

Four approaches, no solutions… In the last issue, I described the four most widely accepted approaches to prioritisation – together with why each tends to fail: 1.  The strategy approach Stands aside from the organisation and decides the most important things that have to be done. (But almost always tends to exacerbate overload by adding new priorities to what’s already going on). 2.  The sorting approach Lists all of the things that are currently happening, then consolidates and organises them. (But tends to simply aggregate things together into ‘mega priorities’ and fails to remove much from the list.) 3.  The time management approach Uses the concept of personal time management to address the problems of pressures on key individuals. (But doesn’t address the problems of interdependencies or organisational prioritisation.) 4.  The ‘stop doing things’ approach Demands that some activity is identified and eliminated or deferred. (Obviously a necessary end but very rarely are candidate activities identified or deprioritised – and doesn’t deal with interdependencies or individual needs/agendas). The leaders I meet know
Read More

Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 1

Are we all going mad?   There are a few things that leaders I meet always tell me. One of them goes something like this:  “We’re just trying to do too much at once. Each initiative makes perfect sense in isolation, but, when you take them all together, there’s just far too much. As a result, the things we are trying to do are going too slowly, quality is compromised and we rarely complete things properly or embed them fully. That means our results aren’t nearly as good as they could and should be.” What they also say (although often only privately) is: “The human cost of our failure to prioritise is already large and could be disastrous. The pressure on me, my colleagues and my team is extreme. I’m sure many of us are thinking actively about whether it’s all worth it. I know I am. I fear that a number of good people will leave. Worse still, there are already signs that it’s costing some of us our health…” It’s an epidemic. It’s
Read More

Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Gardening with a Chainsaw

When is a weed not a weed? Success in gardening is about getting the right plants in the right place. Experienced gardeners will tell you that there’s no such thing as a weed – only a plant in the wrong place. Most of us have done at least some gardening. We know that if we put a plant in a less than ideal spot then it will struggle. No matter how much water, fertilizer and love we lavish upon it, it will continue to be unhealthy and growth will be stunted. Sooner or later, we’ll have to move it or it’ll probably die. Put the same plant in a location it likes, and things change dramatically. It will grow vigorously and require attention of a different kind. The challenge now becomes to control and manage its growth so that it’s rapid progress doesn’t become a problem. Leaders are equally capricious.  Put any one of your team in the wrong environment and you’ll find yourself investing lots of time – with
Read More

Categories: Relationship Conversations.

Leadership lessons in lycra

Why so much pain? It’s July 2011 and my breath is coming in huge rasping gasps.  It’s my first ride with a club and we’ve been cycling close to 20mph for what seems like forever. I am exhausted. My legs are burning. My back is aching. My lungs are ready to burst. It’s been like this for over an hour. Around me are a dozen or so other riders. They seem to be doing much better than me. There are a couple of conspicuous clues to why this might be. The first is that they are all skeletal in comparison to my more portly form. This is made more obvious by the fact that they are all sleekly attired in lycra. I am in a tee shirt, shorts and an ancient helmet. To their amusement, I’m riding in trainers instead of proper shoes clipped into the pedals. I really want to stop – but I can’t bring myself to say so. There don’t seem to be many alternatives. If I take
Read More

Categories: Ambition Conversations, Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, and Stories and Case Studies.

Teambuilding – the enemy of team development

I had a frustrating, but familiar, experience recently. The head of training of a large international client called me. She was planning an off-site day for the leadership team and wanted some help to design and facilitate it. As usual, I asked her a number of questions about their context, people and the purpose of the event. Alarm bells started ringing as her answers revealed that the objectives of the day were far from clear. The only thing she was clear about was some items from the HR agenda – and she had little idea what business benefits the CEO wanted to achieve. She did, however, have a number of clear requirements about the design. It was to be a single day and she wanted ‘creative outdoor exercises’ to be central to the approach.  She explained that team members had been disengaged at past such meetings so they wanted to ‘liven it up’ to keep people’s interest! She didn’t know why they might have been bored at previous past events…
Read More

Categories: Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, Relationship Conversations, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Are you and your people focussed on the right future?

  What does success look like? There’s a huge amount of psychological research which shows how humans perform better with a clear and compelling picture of what they are trying to achieve. In my experience, however, most leaders give far more attention to ‘clear’ and much less to ‘compelling’. Even worse, in their efforts to serve many different purposes, the terminology introduces complexity and confusion which actively reduce performance. Unravelling this is made more difficult by the fact that each organisation (and sometimes each person) use the many terms in different ways. In describing the terms below, therefore, my intention is not to give a definitive meaning to each but rather is to explain the differences and problems that can arise.   So many terms… Budgets These are the probably the simplest, and certainly the most common, but are also the most overused. Every organisation needs budget figures to define the minimum acceptable level of performance – particularly for helping to communicate likely outcomes to financial stakeholders (owners, shareholders etc).
Read More

Categories: Ambition Conversations, Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, Priority Conversations, Relationship Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Balanced Scorecard Report

To give your strategy a fighting chance of success, you must be able to do two things supremely well: prioritize strategic initiatives and integrate them for maximum impact. However, both of these tasks—in even the best-run organizations—more often than not prove inherently difficult and frustrating.
Read More

Categories: Priority Conversations.

Team Alignment – a great idea but what does it mean in practice?

Most members of leadership teams would recognise the conflict and ineffectiveness that arises from members pulling in different directions.  Team alignment is much discussed but few leaders agree exactly what it means, let alone know how to achieve it. It’s simpler than you might think and this article shows how.   Alignment – the Holy Grail for leadership teams? Every leader I have met would recognise this image as a representation of a team who are working to different agendas and looking to different goals.               Enormous energy is wasted by all of the members of these teams in understanding and reconciling the different positions, and by the leader in particular. Even when the competing viewpoints are brought together the discussions and decisions that ensue are usually poor and badly implemented. These compromises take two forms:- In order to gain agreement, a ‘lowest common denominator’ compromise is reached. Everyone knows that it’s a sub optimal answer but also accepts that it’s the best that
Read More

Categories: Changing Your Team, Delivery Conversations, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

The Discipline of Listening

My knowledge of corporate leaders' 360-degree feedback indicates that one out of four of them has a listening deficit - the effects of which can paralyze cross-unit collaboration, sink careers, and if it's the CEO with the deficit, derail the company. But this doesn't have to be the case. Despite today's fast-paced business environment, time-starved leaders can master the art of disciplined listening.
Read More

Categories: Relationship Conversations.