Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to improve your priority setting

Priority setting is a skill needed by all leaders, choosing a course of action and then ensuring each task gets done in the order and way you want is critical for your
success, you can only do this by setting the right priority for each of these tasks.

So much to do; so little time in which to do it. Finite resources; infinite needs. People to see, places to go, things to do. No time to say hello, good-bye, I'm late for a very important meeting. Sound familiar? That's life. Everyone has more to do than they can. Organizations have more opportunities than they have the resources to address. The higher up you go in the organization, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it. Nobody can do it all. It's critical you have to set priorities to survive and prosper.

Be clear about your goals and objectives. What exactly is it you need to accomplish? Use your annual plan and the team strategic plan to understand the mission-critical things that must happen.

Using your goals, separate what you need to do into mission-critical, important to get done, nice to do if time permits, and not central to our goals we are striving to achieve. When faced with choices or multiple things to do, apply the scale and always choose the highest level.

Write down the pros and cons for each option. Check what effect each would have both on the short and long term. Are there cost differences? Is one resource more efficient than the other? Is one apt to be more successful than the other? Think about the interaction of both short- and long-term goals.

Sometimes what you decide to do today will hurt you or the organization later. When making either a short-term or long-term choice, stop and ask what effect this might have on the other.

Be time sensitive. Taking time to plan and set priorities actually frees up more time later. If you just go diving into things hoping that you can get it done on time and find you can't you may wind up in a bad situation. Often you here the cry failing to plan is like planning to fail.

Avoiding making choices often leads to more choices later on, to correct issues that should have been considered up front. Avoiding making choices actually makes life more difficult, as your always in uncharted waters, once a direction is set and you have a priority you know where you're headed.

Be effective rather than busy. Watch out for the activity trap. Effective managers spend about half their time working on one or two key priorities — priorities they described in their own terms, not in terms of what the business/organizational plan said. Further, they made no attempt to work as much on small but related issues that tend to add up to lots of activity. So rather than consuming themselves and others on 97 seemingly urgent and related smaller activities, they always returned to the few issues that would gain the most mileage long term.

Get help from others. When faced with multiple good things to do, pass them by your mentor or a few trusted others around you for their opinion. You don't have to do what they say but having other perspectives is always better than having only your opinion. What tasks can you easily outsource, to you team members or even outside. Perhaps outsourcing some tasks can free up crucial skills.

Setting and operating on priorities isn't a reflective task. Most of life's choices have to be made on the spot, without all of the data. Nobody is ever right all the time under that kind of pressure. Perfectionists have a problem with this. Wait as long as you can and then shoot your best shot.

Take care not to be guided by just what you like and what you don't like. That method of selecting priorities will not be successful over time. Use data, intuition and even feelings, but not feelings alone.

Be sensitive to the time of others. Generally, the higher up you go or the higher up the person you are interacting with is, the less time you and he/she have. Be time efficient with others. Use as little of their time as possible. Get to it and get done with it. Give them an opportunity to open new avenues for discussion or to continue, but if they don't, say your good-byes and leave.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to improve setting priorities for your team. By improving this area our leadership will also improve as we can more effectively get the right tasks done in the best time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving forward with your Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is often described as a leader who always communicates their vision and the path forward. This leader is focused and uncomplicated, they gain their reputation for big picture clarity.

So what are the attributes you need to keep in mind to improve your ability to develop this strategic leadership.

Step one is to develop your own short and crystal clear vision of what your team is all about. You need to practice this so that you can articulate the vision - you may have heard of this as developing your elevator speech.

Step two, take your vision and apply it to the most common issues you know that effect your team. This should lead you to developing a number of scenarios of why and how your vision fits to each of these situations.

Step three, when the opportunity exists fit your scenario to the situation just experienced to show how you vision supports this situation. This will prepare you for being prepared to demonstrate and articulate how your strategic vision applies to your team.

The ability to be a strategic Leader is important in that we need to be able to convey our vision, its times like this when we need to be able to be adopt the strategic leadership to keep our team focused on the big picture and continue to work towards the common goal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Leaders and their Self-Transformation

Take a look through history and name any great leader you like, one of the traits your find as you explore their life will be their ability to transform themselves as they learnt new aspects and put them to action within their leadership roles.

By taking a look at our life, our skills, our knowledge, we need to assess where we want to improve and build our own transformation. You may decide that there are many things you want to improve in your life, and that's fine then take a look and choose the topic that will give you the best bang for your buck. Work on this area and then move on to the next.

The seeds of failure show us some areas that we can examine, to look at the reasons for the poor result and take stock of what could have helped us put in a better result next time. We must continually improve your knowledge base and behavioral assets, so that the same error is not made again.

The attitude of continual learning is a characteristic we often see associated with the great leaders throughout history, and it should be one we aspire too.

You must develop a way to identify the content for your self-transformation, your training and coaching is paramount to your long-term success. Maintaining a positive action plan will see your self-transformation slowly develop along with leadership skills.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Improving your judgement

Have you ever stopped to consider your ability at making judgements? Perhaps today is the day to take some time and consider your ability to make great judgement calls.

Learning to make smart judgement calls takes most of us years of personal development to get to an acceptable state. Our judgement calls are grounded by our honesty and our integrity.

So how do we speed up the process and get better earlier at make these judgement calls? A few times I've talked about developing some close relationships with some mentors. You mentors are the best people who can objectively look at your judgement calls and give you honest advice, why some were great calls and some less than perfect.

Firstly we need to be in the right frame of mind to accept the advice of our mentors - remember why you chose them? their skills in a variety of different areas, their honesty with you, their desire to help you achieve and so on. Then we need to think through why did I make the judgement I did? Did I consider the issues my mentor highlighted to me? We need to connect the dots. Why were some calls better than others? Was it my mood, the stress I was under at the time, were there any preferences I held.

Take some personal time to reflect on how your judgement calls are made.

Next take some quality time to think through a series of these calls, weigh up the advice from your mentors and see if you can develop your own personal strategy how to make more great judgement calls and see if you can isolate the factors that affect you and cause you to make poor calls.

Only through dedicated time directed at improving your judgement calls will you develop your ideas and methods at making better judgement calls and leading your team to more success. Take a break today and make a start at improving this important skill.