It’s only July, but if you’re like most of our clients, you’re laser focused on the strategies and plans that will deliver a strong second half of the year for your organization.  With the first half of the year in the rearview mirror, now is the right time to identify those ‘above and beyond’ elements that will enable you to lean in and deliver outstanding performance for the rest of 2018.   

What’s the most important thing to do? Identify and commit to where you must absolutely move the needle.

There isn’t a senior leader or team out there that isn’t experiencing familiar challenges like accelerated timelines, limited resources, demanding stakeholders, all against a backdrop of ongoing change. With so much happening, it’s too easy to become spread incredibly thin, where everything is a priority. 

What you can do now? Laser Focus

Before too much more time passes, review the ‘must happen’ list for your area of the business over the next six months.  Ask yourself:  What absolutely must get done in the next six months that will move the needle in the eyes of your stakeholders, clients, investors, or employees?  Once you’ve identified your top three priorities, stop there. Decide that if nothing else happens over the next six months except those three areas, you’ve made a meaningful impact. Good leaders know that while everything might be important, some things just matter more than others, and they can articulate why that is the case.  

Expect to be Questioned, Be Prepared to Explain Your Rationale

Even when you’ve done your due diligence and taken the appropriate steps to set those priorities, linked them to the critical outcomes and received internal support, it isn’t uncommon to get questioned from those stakeholders both internal and external to your business. This is where having a strong set of messages to support your decisions is key, so that others understand the rationale behind the choices you’re making, and why certain things will or will not get done as a result.  Plan ahead for communicating these messages often and clearly through different channels so that you are taking the lead, not defending on your back foot.

Walk the Talk: Give the Team Support to Succeed

You may need to communicate about this much, much more than you think.  Even when your priorities and choices seem obvious, don’t assume others are as clear and aligned around those ‘move the needle’ projects in your organization as you are, even your own employees. Frame your presentations and participation in your meetings in the context of where you are working to move the needle—keep the reminders fresh and constant. Reinforce your priorities with your team at every opportunity. Help them sort through the noise and the requests so that they know you mean it and that you are in it with them. Setting clear expectations across the organization will give important air cover to your team as they work to align around your priorities. This is particularly true inside companies where employees receive mixed messages to ‘move the needle’ in a few key areas, while they are also expected to deliver against multiple other projects simultaneously. 

Easy to say and hard to do, but if leaders are truly committed to moving the needle around a few essential areas, they must also commit to freeing up their teams so the team can truly deliver.  Above all, they must commit to saying ‘no’ to others inside the company, even to those at a more senior level, so that the team and organization is empowered to focus on those essential few areas.

Decide now that whether you win or lose over the next six months will largely come down to your ability to move in the needle in a few critical areas. Determine what those key ‘must do’ elements are for your business, for your team, and for you. Once you’ve decided, keep those front and center for the next six months, and celebrate when you’ve moved the needle in those areas that matter most.

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