How Many Rabbits Are You Chasing?

By Nathan Mersereau

Dog_Rabbit_Canoe_WebThere’s an old proverb that says the person who chases two rabbits catches neither.

So, how many rabbits do you typically chase at one time?

For many of us, the answer is simply “too many.” Faced with an array of competing demands it’s easy for leaders to get pulled in any number of directions. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But in many cases, it can be due to impatience, a lack of discipline, “shiny object syndrome,” or the fear of disappointment. Regardless of the cause, constantly switching from initiative to initiative can come at a cost.

I’ll admit that historically I focused on too many big projects simultaneously. I have a “starter” personality type and enjoy the process of getting an initiative off the ground. At times, though, when a project has stalled I’ve pivoted to the next one. Rather than owning the lack of progress and holding myself accountable, I’d take my frustration and use it to fuel my next idea. But it wasn’t particularly constructive because I wasn’t running toward that next initiative – I was running away from the one that wasn’t panning out.

The bottom line is that spinning a bunch of plates can work for a while, but eventually it’ll paralyze your company or department. I truly believe fewer and more focused initiatives will be your key to success and lead to more happiness for everyone involved.

Here are some strategies for fine-tuning your focus when embarking on new initiatives.

Know your destination

First and foremost, you need to take a step back and get an aerial view of your business. You need know your ultimate business destination and who your customer or client truly is and what they need most from your company. This insight will help you stay the course when you’re tempted to embark on an exciting new project that doesn’t mesh with your big-picture goal.

Get out of the way

Instead of trying to keep your hands on all the details, force yourself to delegate tasks you’d normally tackle yourself. Get comfortable with the discomfort. Then delegate some more. Promote (or hire) the best people and then get out of their way. It will engage your team and help everyone achieve outcomes faster.

Measure up

I firmly believe that what gets measured gets improved. At Planning Alternatives, we rely on a “scorecard” to track progress. I use it for myself. And I use it when I’m coaching my employees on their top initiatives. Employees fill out scorecards and we regularly discuss them. What’s the target goal? What are the most impactful channels to reach that goal? What are the measurable activities within those channels that lead to success? What can I do today to make a meaningful step forward? An action plan can’t be gooey; it needs to be clearly defined. It needs structure and guardrails. Without those, mission drift and focus issues tend to arise. Our scorecard system keeps our eyes on reaching the objective at hand.

Embrace accountability

Building in accountability is critical. If you’re an executive at or near the top of your firm, your accountability partner might be a peer or an outside advisor. It could even be a piece of technology, such as the Coach.me app. How accountable you are directly correlates to your speed and effectiveness in reaching success. If you verbalize to a trusted confidante that you care about achieving X goal and set up mile-marker check-ins at the outset, you’ll be less likely to quit in the face of hurdles, pitfalls and shiny objects.

 

What are your top tips for staying on track? Email me at nathan.mersereau@planningalt.com and let me know.

 

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