If Everything Is Important, Nothing Is

As we come off a week where a good portion of our global marketplace has paused for a holiday breath, it reminds me of the fundamental leadership premise of slowing down to speed up. It goes hand in hand with the understanding that “if everything is important, nothing is.”

Many, many years ago, Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. It is written in his great style as a fable, which makes it a quick, easy read, and one that allows you to pause and process the many layers of messaging as you go.

As our lives continue to get more and more complex, with more information/data than we can process at any given time, the speed has also increased, with things often moving from “busy” to “frantic.” As a result, it seems decision making becomes more about quantity than quality. At work, most people have multiple competing priorities, unachievable timelines and an increasing level of apathy with respect to the work that they are doing on any given day.

As a leader, these are tough environments to lead in, lead from and lead through. At a time when we feel that we should be sleeping less, running faster, and doing more, Lencioni’s book is a good reminder to slow down and focus on the basics, as they will lead you forward toward success.

Lencioni’s book tells the fable of two companies and the challenges that their leaders are experiencing. It’s always great to read about other people’s challenges — it helps to ground us and remind us that there is no perfect organization or perfect path, just the right path at the right moment.

He reminds the readers: “Keeping things simple is critical,” which can be very difficult in reality as we get wrapped up in the crisis “whirl-wind” of the moment. It takes great leadership strength to walk away from a highly emotional situation and to focus on the basics, recognizing that the fire will get put out and another will crop up in its place. Ignoring the basics will cause a crack that will just keep getting wider, so it is worth tending on a daily basis.

Lencioni’s Four Obsessions all revolve around people (not products or profits or shareholders). This re-enforces that your people are your competitive advantage in a global economy. In case you don’t know what the Four Obsessions are, let’s note them:

Obsession #1 – Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team

* A cohesive team trusts one another, engages in constructive conflict,
commits to group decisions and holds one another accountable

Obsession #2 – Create Organizational Clarity
* Be clear on topics such as values, strategies, goals, roles and
accountabilities

Obsession #3 – Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity
* Align your employees by repetitively and comprehensively
communicating all aspects of Organizational Clarity

Obsession #4 – Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems
* Establish simple structures around decision-making & Human Capital
Management

As we move forward into 2012, take a moment to slow down, determine what is truly important (at work and outside of work) and then create focus so you can speed up your execution for results.

Lee Vincent: Look-Solutions
C.Kim Brechin: Look-Solutions

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