“The biggest leadership gift you can give right now is helping employees focus productively at work.”
In uncertain times we leaders have it tough because we are fighting a battle on two fronts. We are fighting our own internal battle and we are leading the battle being fought by our organization. Our employees are also fighting two battles, their personal battle and what they are supposed to be doing at work to be productive.
These two fronts work against each other to create a lack of focus. This lack of focus creates anxiety and this anxiety creates further lack of focus. - A perpetual anxiety machine.
Our goal as leaders is to understand exactly where we can stop the spinning and create productive focus for ourselves and our people. In the short-term, leadership means daily, productive, focused work especially with the huge personal battle that is tugging at everyones’ heart and soul.
Leadership review: "You know you are leading when you see an individual turn over or align all or part of their future with your future.”
The biggest leadership gift you can give right now is helping employees focus productively at work.
Owner / Leader: “So thanks for the 30,000 foot theory Walt, everyone talks theory, but I want to see how we take it to the ground. Otherwise, thanks for nutin’!”
Walt: “I agree, I also hate 30,000 foot theories, I want to bring it to the ground too, you ready?”
Let me share a thinking discipline you can use to create and then communicate focused action plans for yourself and your people. Simplified, but, that is what we need right now.
Walt’s Three Categories of Focus and Productivity
I see my clients are falling into three categories right now.
- Executing Situation: These are the lucky companies where the current situation is basically a windfall of sorts, their products and services are in high demand and they are fighting a complex supply and demand battle with short term moving targets, but, they are busy and cash is not the problem.
- Evolving Situation: These are the folks in the middle, in the unknown, demand has softened, they have made adjustments and they are in a no man’s land. People are still “at work”, and frankly, they have time on their hands that is being spent on anxiety.
- Extinction Situation: These are the folks that are shut down, and they are either in hibernation / cocoon mode, or, if they face reality, their business is never coming back as it was or ever. The wind is out of the sails and they are dead in the water.
And there are three categories where we can focus.
- Fight Fires: There is a fire that needs to be fought, we can control which fire to fight and how we respond. Fight fires now! is the Strategy message, how we go about fighting each fire are the tactics you need to outline for focus and productivity (For companies running on EOS, create an Issue category "Fires To Fight Next", and you set up your IDS pulsing to match. Your IDSing will create To Dos that are the Focus and Productivity you are looking for).
- Build Relationships: This is something in our control. How do we focus on and build our important relationships right now. Build our relationships is the Strategy message, how you go about building each relationship are the tactics you need to outline for focus and productivity. Just the exercise of coming up with the tactics for each relationship counts as a focus and productivity exercise. What comes out of that will be the focus and productivity activities (For companies running on EOS, create an Issue category "Relationships to Build Next", and you set up your IDS pulsing to match. Your IDSing will create To Dos that are the Focus and Productivity you are looking for).
- Sharpen Axes: There are 100s of projects we have been putting off that need work. We are going to take this time to become stronger - Sharpen Axes is the Strategy message. How we will go about this sharpening is one focus and productivity activity followed by the activity we use to actually sharpen some axes (For companies running on EOS, create an Issue category "Axes to Sharpen Next", and you set up your IDS pulsing to match. Your IDSing will create To Dos that are the Focus and Productivity you are looking for). Stick around to the end of the article to see our bonus tip for sharpening axes.
Productivity and Focus - Thinking and Decision Matrix
Note: You can revisit the matrix as often as you like. Use it to have discussions with your people, to slow down, to say this is our focus, our Strategy and then work the Strategy as an Issue to determine Tactical focus and productivity efforts.
- Figure out where you are across the top, (note: you might feel you are straddling two columns and that is OK, just approach each column separately)
- Rank the focus importance of Fight Fires, Build Relationships and Sharpen Axes with 1, 2, and 3 in the cell.
- Share and debate this with your leadership team.
Example : Executing
|Build Relationships *||2|
* We can only hound our relationships so much, we don’t want to lose sight of them, but, where we can really devote time is in Axe Sharpening.
|Sharpen Axes||3 (or N/A)|
Again, you can revisit the matrix as often as you like. Use it to have discussions with your people, to slow down, to say this is our focus, our Strategy and then work the Strategy as an Issue to determine Tactical Focus and Productivity efforts.
Bonus Tip: Our #1 Sharpen Axes Exercise
I will share one very specific, huge dividend, “Zoomable” exercise you can run to create focus and productivity for your individual contributors that they can sink their teeth into. Have your individual contributors work on your Accountability Chart / Org Chart / Org Graph.
As teams, have them dive deeper into a full inventory of their roles using the Flower Power approach I describe in this video.
Then have them map these roles / positions to the 14 Key Points of Organizational Cognizance I describe in this video.
During normal times, this is the type of work that you have the best of intentions to get to, but, never do. Now is the time. Your people are the ones accountable and responsible for the domains of your business and have the authority to direct those domains. Functions are the combination of one’s understanding of accountabilities, responsibilities, and authorities in the domains in which they participate. Domains overlap, just like functions.
Sharpening the Saw Organizationally, i.e. who is doing and thinking about what, how and why, with whom, for whom, using what system, following what process or method, to what goal, what end, these sort of things that are in 7Q7Ps playground and I will share another drill down tool.