Is Your Work Team Clear on 2016 Priorities? Use this Test to Double Check

Priorities Concept on File Label.Ken Blanchard found out early in his career that setting clear work goals, although seemingly common sense, wasn’t common practice in the organizations he worked with following the publication of his best-selling book with Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager®.

In conducting classes with organizations eager to develop their own one minute managers (and, more recently, situational leaders), Blanchard and his work colleagues have often used an exercise that brings the distressing state of goal setting into sharp focus.

In this exercise, class instructors work separately with groups of managers and their direct reports. First they ask the direct reports to identify and rank order their top ten priorities at work. Separately, they ask managers of those individuals to identify their direct reports’ top ten priorities. The instructors then compare the priorities identified by team members with those identified by their leaders. As Ken Blanchard tells it, “Any similarity between the lists is purely coincidental.” In most cases, priorities are rank ordered quite differently by manager and direct report, with some important goals missing.

Digging into causes, Ken and his colleagues have found that day-to-day emphasis by managers on tasks that are urgent, but not necessarily important, are often to blame. Managers tend to focus on short term issues when delivering feedback, which causes important long term goals to fade into the background. Only when performance review comes around are the long term goals re-identified. Of course, by then it’s often too late to make any real progress. This results in missed targets and, often, hard feelings.

Don’t let this happen with your team. Take some time between now and the end of the month to make sure you and your team members are focused on the same priorities. Using the same exercise Blanchard instructors employ, ask your people each to identify their top five priorities for the coming year. At the same time team members are working on their lists, take a minute to identify what you believe their top five priorities are, given department and organizational goals.

Then, in your next one-on-one conversation with each team member, compare your list with that individual’s list. Identify and discuss differences. Gain agreement on the team member’s top five priorities and set goals around each priority that are SMART: specific, motivational, attainable, relevant, and trackable. Getting clear now will set up follow-up conversations during the first quarter where you can work together to review progress and make adjustments as necessary. The goal is to partner with your people to keep priorities top of mind so that important goals are achieved.

Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important in your organization. Re-examine priorities today—it will make all the difference down the road!

PS: Interested in a deeper dive on goal setting? Join Ken Blanchard for a free goal setting session on January 27. Ken will be helping hundreds of managers and individual contributors from around the world effectively set work and personal goals for the coming year. The event is free, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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