I don't know about you, but sometimes my focus feels out of focus. Juggling what feels like a mountain of priorities/objectives/deliverables can be a real challenge. Keeping your focus while you are also setting the focus for your team, can be daunting because you know that when you lose yours, the team will lose theirs too.
Add in the fact that in today's work environment there are constant distractions and ever changing or competing priorities from Executive Leadership to keep up with. It's a wonder how we get anything accomplished!
Here are my thoughts on how to stay focused as a Leader:
Prioritize: Honestly, I didn't even want to add this bullet. Of course you have to prioritize and if you aren't prioritizing the demand on yourself and the team, then don't read any further and go to google and find articles on how to do just that. I will offer up one hint though, priorities aren't about what you are most comfortable with or what is easiest. It's about the team/organization. Even if you are out of your depth, it doesn't mean the request shouldn't be a priority. Ok, now on to the items I really wanted to talk about!
Self-Manage: Your team won't cope if you aren't coping or feeling confident about the priorities of the week/month/year. I find when I start questioning myself and my decisions, so does everyone else. So, take the time to pay attention to your thought process. If you need 5 minutes to decide, take it. If you need to talk to a few people before you decide, do it. If you still need to sleep on it, do it. Pay attention to you first.
Evaluate: It pays to evaluate how things fit with your team or into the overall company strategy. Some questions you may ask yourself: Does this conflict or agree with the company strategy? Does this change the direction I sent my team in last month/last week/yesterday? It's fine if it does, but you have to know that and be able to speak to it when you discuss with your team. It's tempting to be reactive, but trust me when I say if you don't evaluate the priority and think through how you will present it to the team, then you risk looking like you or the senior management have no clue what they want to achieve. That's a quick way to lose trust.
Your Outlook: The way you manage your focus will be reflected in the team's outlook. You need to be positive, honest and forward focused. This can be hard when dealing with a priority that you don't agree with. I'm not saying that you need to be all sunshine and rainbows, but when dealing with a priority I disagree with I tend to be honest in saying that while I don't necessarily agree, I have a plan on how it will be accomplished. I'm positive in my approach of delivery more than why we are doing it.
Commonality: I find that when you run a large team, you might have common priorities that have subtle differences. For example, in IT you might run both a Project team and an Operational team and you might be implementing a second phase of an application or a tool. While one team is tasked to keep the current functionality operational and the other is looking at the upgrade, you need to ensure that the priority of one doesn't outweigh the other. If it does, then it needs to be clear to both teams. In this situation, one of the priorities should be that these two teams meet regularly to ensure that they don't have competing tasks/priorities/changes.
Urgency: My final thought for you is to not to get caught up in the baloney that everyone else's priorities are urgent. I know this can be hard if you are working with a large Executive Leadership Team. My suggestion is that you go back to bullet 3 and make sure you really evaluate the situation. Is this of value to your team, does this meet the company strategy? Is it truly urgent and is it more urgent than the other urgent priorities in the queue? These are your decisions, so own them. It's not fair to pass along the burden of decision making to your team when it comes to Executive Leadership pressure.
Part of being a great leader is being able to stay focused and recognizing when things are becoming a bit out of control. There are times when you won't be the most popular person in the company when you make what you feel are the right decisions for your team. The point is though, a Great Leader will follow some form of the six steps above and still make the hard decisions.
How do you stay focused? Share with us your tips so we can all learn.
Lastly, remember we won’t always get it right, but knowledge and commitment is what will take you down the right path. Lead with greatness everyone.
PS - Why do I say "some form of the six steps" above? Well, my goal is only to help or guide you through becoming the boss or leader you want to be. I know that you have your own style and approach, my thoughts are there for you to adapt into your own personal style that is comfortable for you.
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