Priority Isn’t Plural

During a recent annual session, a client emphasized an important point that I’d like to share with you. As the leadership team discussed potential goals for the coming year and Rocks for the coming quarter, their thinking strayed from the company vision. The Visionary’s demeanor changed. Finally, he exclaimed, “Priority isn’t plural!”

Too Many Priorities

He was right, of course.

You can have multiple annual goals but only one 10-Year Target™. That number one priority should serve as your North Star, guiding all your other goals (ahem, not priorities).

Granted, the Visionary’s team had too many company goals as part of their one-year plan. We’d already established new annual numbers for sales, profits, etc. I’d asked the leadership team to think about the critical goals for the year from their perspectives.

We set one annual goal at a time, making each specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) as we went along. We focused on identifying the 3–7 most important things that would get the business closer to its 10-Year Target (or Core Target™ for anything other than 10 years out).

Doing Less Better

I always encourage teams to edge toward fewer goals. Research shows that focusing on fewer things leads to better overall results. And those results have an outsized impact on the greater good of the organization.

That stands true for individuals and businesses. It’s why we ask leaders to define their Core Focus™ and niche at the beginning of their EOS® journey. It also helps to remember that annual goals should serve to advance a company’s 3-Year Picture™ and, ultimately, its 10-Year Target.

We capture that information in their Vision/Traction Organizer® (V/TO) and refer to it during every session afterward. Goals that aren’t the most important to accomplish right now go on an Issues List.

Crystallize your vision and align your team

Getting the Priority Straight

In the session, we transitioned from company goals to company Rocks. I asked the team to identify the 3–7 items with the highest magnitude of impact as potential company Rocks for the next 90 days. At that point in the session, the leadership team had nearly 15 items on the board.

They struggled to remove items left on the whiteboard. We reviewed a recent blog about the myth of multitasking from James Clear (author of Atomic Habits). Conversations went back and forth over which Rocks best aligned with the company’s annual goals and 10-Year Target. They argued over what should stay a company Rock, what might become an individual Rock, and whether they needed a few of them at all.

Temperatures rose. Team members got animated. Voices became more direct, with interruptions and verbal sword fighting. While some debate is healthy, this team needed to decide and move on.

Everyone took a break, took a breath, and returned ready for more constructive conversation. After regrouping, the team got down to 7 high-impact company Rocks. They agreed that all the others should become individual Rocks or be added to their V/TO® Issues List.

While it may sound uncomfortable and even violent, this cycle of friction is super common with leaders. You can read the entire journey of a fictitious company in Get a Grip!

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