How to Set Right Priorities and Drive Business Results

Setting right priorities and communicating those priorities are keys to unlocking opportunities and drive business results.

When it comes to leading self, leading people, and leading organization, setting the right priorities is paramount in getting the right results. What differentiates an effective leader from an ineffective leader is that the former knows what priorities to focus on, why they are important, and continually innovates and improves how to do it to get the right results. Whereas an ineffective leader beats around the bush and runs around like a headless chicken.

Success or failure is a matter of your choices, the priorities you set for yourself. Setting Right priorities more often determines how much you do and how far you go. Setting the right priorities will ensure your abilities, time, and resources are channelized in the right areas to achieve meaningful and purposeful things.

The priorities you have set are good indicator of the achievements that are to follow in the days to come. Therefore, examine what are the high return rewards your priorities are aimed at and what are the priorities your day-to-day activities are aligned to? Remember, you have to set right priorities to get the right results.

Significance and Consequence:

Measure of an effective leader includes not only good intentions but also choosing the right priorities and ensuring the right outcomes. Thereby, avoid running in different directions, get lost in confusion or cross small distance and fall short of the finishing line.

At the personal level, those who work around many priorities or no priorities are likely to be distracted and dragged into attractions that often do not produce impactful final outcomes. Being proactive and inculcating foresight in decision making will aid in setting the right priorities. Setting right priorities are vital for one’s self, people, and organization to channelize potentials in the right areas to achieve the right targets and realize purpose and vision.

At the group level, in the absence of clearly stated priorities and ineffective communication, people who are being lead are left to choose what is important from their limited understanding. This can have adverse effect in which a leader and followers are not synchronized with one another regarding their shared objectives; thereby people are left to work around the wrong priorities that are disconnected from the vision and purpose. Therefore, setting the right priorities that are aligned to vision and purpose enables effective implementation and faster realization of the same.

Challenges and Opportunities:

The challenge in setting the right priorities is twofold; at the one hand having to limit to fewer focused priorities when it seems many other attractive and interesting things can be simultaneously undertaken, and the other hand having to carefully choose fewer high return priorities over many things that are achievable. This is a challenge because it requires not only thoughtful consideration to determine what is more important over the other available options but also having the clarity on why they are important and how working around those priorities will result in realizing the purpose and vision.

Sticking to fewer high return priorities will result in optimum utilization and maximum impact. Sticking to fewer high return priorities will enable one to be in control of circumstances than being controlled by circumstances. Carefully selecting fewer high return priorities will not only help identify and eliminate low return activities and time wasters but also can challenge self and group to venture out of the comfort zone and effectively navigate through in a dynamic environment.

Setting right priorities and communicating those priorities are keys to unlocking opportunities. Clearly communicating priorities at the personal level facilitates seeking and receiving cooperation and support when required as well as at the organizational level persuade everyone to give the buy-in, actively get involved in the right areas, and align daily activities to those strategic priorities. In the absence of clearly communicated priorities receiving support and cooperation at the personal level and participation and contribution at the organizational level may become more of a hindrance than help.

Setting right Priorities:

  1. Be Purpose Driven: Purpose and vision is the only compass one can use to determine which are distraction that will deviate and which are high return priorities that will help realize purpose and vision. Discover the purpose and vision that ignites passion and motivates you to get up every day to delightfully deal with challenges. Having clarity on purpose and vision brings clear direction for the future, Identify and set high return priorities aligned to that purpose and vision. In this regard priorities may change from time to time according to changing scenario but purpose and vision do not. Therefore, exploring and clarifying the purpose and vision is the right starting point in identifying top high return priorities.
  2. Work around your Strengths: Set your priorities based on your strengths to seize opportunities and deal with obstacles. Setting priorities based on strengths gives you advantage rather than exposing weakness. In an evolving and progressing environment what is your strength today may become irrelevant and weakness latter, therefore, continually assess changing requirements to identify needs for up gradation and continues improvement to remain relevant and strong.  At the personal level, one must avoid clinging on to expiring skill sets but have the open mind and willingness to learn and grow. It is proven over the time, simple and small changes that made over time will bring big difference and make great impacts.
  3. Prioritize your Priorities: Ideal number of high return priorities one should have at a given time is not more than three. If one is working around more priorities at a given time then that is not priorities at all, then there is a need for prioritizing the priorities. To discover the real priorities use your current list of activities to determine the real priorities. The following can be useful ratings one can use to differentiate the high return priorities; the following categorization can be used for the same. Aligned Vs Unaligned: Rate to what extent a priority is aligned to or deviation from the vision and purpose. Important Vs Unimportant: Rate how significant a priority is and how it will impact the final outcome in realizing the purpose and vision. Avoidable Vs. Unavoidable: when more priorities seem to be important and aligned use force ranking to determine which is unavoidable compared to others in the list and delegate or drop the avoidable. High return Vs. Low return: when more priorities seem to be important and aligned, use force ranking to determine which one is high return compared to others in the list and delegate or drop the low return.
  4. Delegate: At the personal level, once top high return priorities have been identified, there may be other activities that are low return but unavoidable that cannot be neglected, find competent person to delegate those activities. Prudence is, when you delegate, have proper measure to evaluate progress and periodically follow-up to ensure they are handled appropriately. Delegating low return but unavoidable priorities that are unavoidable will allow you to remain focused on working around top high return priorities.
  5. Communicate your Priorities: Setting right priorities are the first step and clearly communicating those priorities is the next step, together it will determine faster realization and effective implementation. At the personal level: clearly communicate priorities in such way that  people around you can recognize what you are focused on, so that they can extend cooperation when required and support where required to get the job done.  At the organizational level: communicate priorities clearly and consistently in a manner that remind and reinforce rather than annoys people. Communicate priorities to get the buy-in from everyone so that people are aligned to the strategic priorities. Clear and consistent communication will enable everyone to cohesively work towards and constructively contribute to the shared vision.
  6. Reflect and Reset Priorities: It is highly recommend  that one must take once in a year a strategic timeout to reflect on the current set of priorities, objectively evaluate its significance and relevance for the coming year, identify new priorities, and ensure competitiveness. Purpose and vision are long term direction and priorities are enablers that facilitate decision making and activities in the short and midterm, therefore, priorities must be periodically evaluated. Be reminded, no one plans to fail, failure happens because of no plans.

I would like to bring to your attention that setting and communicating priorities is one thing and living those priorities is an all together another matter. All the exercise of setting the right priorities and communicating them will become futile if sufficient attention is not given to live and make it happen.  It required commitment and discipline, pro-activeness and focus, and above all resolve and determination to make it happen irrespective of challenges and opposition. More often, making it happen, living those priorities demand overcoming procrastination and overcoming inefficiencies, Be ready to give what it takes to achieve results.  In short, Identify and set right priorities aligned to purpose and vision, communicate them effectively, and make it happen to take yourself and your organization to greater heights.

Sudhakar I. Prabu brings rich experience of career spanning over 20 plus years which includes leadership role in three start-ups. He has successfully planned and executed enterprise-wide management strategies in performance improvement, leadership development, learning and development, and change management, as well as facilitated leadership excellence workshops for Business Managers, Functional Managers, and Middle level managers. He can be contacted at sudhakar(at)tpmc.in

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