How to Focus Your Highest Priorities for Increased Business Growth 

By Marsha Lindquist

Have you ever felt like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? Or maybe you’ve heard your employees complain about being overworked? Perhaps your company is struggling just to maintain its standing, let alone grow? If these situations sound familiar, then your organization may not be focused on its highest priorities.

What are a company’s highest priorities? They are the things that really make a difference for your company—the things that make the biggest impact on your bottom line and the results you want to achieve, whether those are results are keeping quality people or increasing sales growth. When organizations don’t focus on their highest priorities, they often experience higher operating costs and higher levels of employee dissatisfaction.

For example, if the employees spend their time and energy on things that don’t matter to the company’s overall success, then soon they all feel overworked and ask for more staff and time off. This runs up the cost of doing business. Plus, people flock to places where they perceive they can make the greatest difference and contribute the highest value. When managers “make” work and ask people to do things that don’t impact the organization, then people stop caring about their jobs. So when employees don’t see the point in their responsibilities or no longer feel challenged, then they start looking for a job where they can make a difference.

But when your organization focuses on the highest priorities, then the employees won’t feel overworked. They’ll feel confident about putting the other, non-priority things aside, and they’ll always contribute value. You can use the following tips for focusing your organization and employees on the highest priorities.

Gather Input from all Levels: Your company’s priorities will be in accordance with the CEO’s personal and professional visions for the organization. And while the upper level managers set the goals, you need to keep information coming from below. Otherwise when you say you want to see eight percent growth, everyone else in your organization may think you’re crazy. You will have no hope for achieving it if you’ve never done it before. So be reasonable, and don’t determine your priorities without leaving the comfort of your penthouse office.

Be Specific, Rather than General: To maintain focus on the top priorities, you must make sure everyone in the organization can relate to them. In other words, they must be more specific than general. For example, simply saying that we need to increase our customer satisfaction rating won’t get all two thousand of your employees focused on a goal. But saying that you want to boost your customer satisfaction rate by five percent within 3 months will.

Also, don’t strive for too many goals at one time. Limit your list to three to five priorities so everyone in your organization knows what is most important.

Priorities and Budget are Different: People often confuse budget setting with priority setting. However, the concepts should remain separate. When you tie your priorities to the budget, people start marrying them. Then you end up with people worried about numbers and not thinking about what they’re doing and how their actions impact the organization. So keep in mind, setting priorities is not about budgeting; setting priorities is planning your actions from a strategic standpoint.

Also, keep your language simple so everyone can understand it. For example, “get twenty new clients” is easier understood than “sustain customer growth and ensure a ten percent growth.” When your language is simple, no one will doubt what you mean.

Open Communication Lines: The communication lines must work both ways. For example, the senior managers communicate their priorities and the overall progress to the people under them, who relay that information to the people under them, all the way through the organization. And conversely, the people at the lowest levels communicate their perceptions and challenges to their managers, who take that information to their supervisors. Communication must cascade all the way down and all the way up.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses: When you determine your organization’s priorities and the actions that will support them, take time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Consider any challenges you may have. Where will you experience resistance? What will be easy?

Look at who can help you overcome your weaknesses. Many times, you’ll need support from outside your organization, perhaps alliances or friends in other organizations. And again, you must communicate these challenges throughout the company. But really focus on the essence of what is important.

Do the Tasks that Support Your Priorities: Once you know your highest priorities, then you need to determine the tasks that will make them happen. For example, if your priority is to grow at a rate of eight percent this year, what actions will get you to that goal? Perhaps contacting more customers or improving customer service satisfaction rates are objectives that will help your organization grow by eight percent. When everything you do focuses on those objectives that support that eight percent growth, then all your actions will be geared toward achieving your highest priority. And if your action doesn’t support the highest priorities, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Evaluate Potential Opportunities: Focusing on your highest priorities will require some amount of evaluation. For example, if your goal is to get ten new clients, then you may need to evaluate forty or fifty possible clients to get the ten you need. So when you look at each opportunity, you need to consider your probability of getting that client. Do you know the client? Do they know you? Do you know specifically what their needs are? Do you have the talent to solve their problems?

If you look at each prospect, consider the probability of making him/her a client, and find the probability is high, then everything you do to get that client becomes worth it. But you need to look at all the things that make that opportunity something worth going after.

Review Your Progress: You should determine your organization’s highest priorities once a year. Then review your progress three or four times a year. If you do it more than that, your employees will end up hating it. And if you review your progress less than that, you won’t be able to stay on track.

Priorities = Success: Employees and managers are often overwhelmed by the huge wave of tasks and objectives that need to be done, and people usually operate under the assumption that whoever is screaming the loudest gets the highest priority. But in reality, the person screaming the loudest may not really be the most important to the organization’s overall success.

When you use these eight tips to focus on the highest priorities, then you’re not incurring more costs or doing things that don’t matter; you’re improving the way your business runs. And the better your business runs, the more your profits increase.

Read other articles and learn more about Marsha Lindquist.

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