Most businesses make at least some effort to put together some kind of vision & plan for their future. They'll talk about products & services, customers, markets, and a hundred other things. They'll try to figure out what the government's going to do, what they're competitors are going to do, and what they're employees are going to do. And sometimes, they'll have a pretty good idea about all those things.
The problem for so many of those businesses is that all that knowledge and all those predictions totally overwhelm them. It's complete data overload. They look at all the likely scenarios and all the barriers and all the opportunities and think they have to address every single one of them at once. And it blows their minds.
One of the most important skills leaders need is the ability to prioritize. Somehow you have to be able to sift through all the things coming at you and find the ones that really matter. There are probably lots of ways to do that, but here are two filters I use:
1) What's going to have the biggest impact on achieving our vision? Obviously you need to have a vision for this one to work. Assuming you do, which of the things on your radar will help you take the biggest step towards that vision? FYI, the correct answer isn't "All of them." Too many leaders think everything is important. Remember not all issues are created equal.
2) Which ones can you control? So many leaders are wasting time on things they have no control over. Think about the issues you're faced with. Which of them can you actually impact? Which ones are completely driven by outside forces? Spend your time on the things you can change & stop worrying about the stuff that's not in your universe.
When I started doing this for a living, I assumed my biggest challenge would be to get clients to try & do more stuff – more projects, more initiatives, etc. The reality has been that my biggest challenge is to get clients to try to do less stuff. So many people try to do 15 things at once and when it becomes overwhelming, they just quit. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Don't try to do everything at once. Don't take on so much that you do everything poorly. Focus on one piece at a time.
Article produced with the kind permission of Matt Heemstra. Matt is a director of Cain Ellsworth & Co. LLP, USA. For over fifteen years he has worked with small and mid-size businesses, helping them to envision their future and then make it happen. Matt heads up Growth & Profit Solutions (GPS), a division of Cain Ellsworth.