Determining Your Top 5 Priorities for 2014

A mistake many leaders make is being overly ambitious in setting annual priorities. Going beyond five annual priorities diminishes focus and jeopardizes effective execution by tending to overwhelm those responsible for implementation.  Neuroscientists have discovered that when people feel overwhelmed, brain function shifts from the frontal lobes of the brain, where rational decisions are made, to the mid-brain region, where rash decisions are more likely.

Here are five actions you can take to achieve focus for your organization and maximize the probability of achieving excellence in execution.

1. Set Your Top Five

As the leader, set no more than five challenging but achievable annual priorities for your team.

2. Communicate Your Top Five

Share your Top Five with the people you are responsible for leading, including your rationale for each.

3. Align Your Top Five

As much as possible, let your direct reports establish their Top Five annual priorities after communicating that their Top Five need to align with your Top Five.  Talk through the direct report’s priorities together to identify those that will advance your organization and fit the individual employee’s interests and strengths.  While you may not find a perfect set of priorities which meet the interests of all, make the effort to find the best possible set of priorities and you will be rewarded by people who execute their tasks with greater energy and enthusiasm.

4. Track Your Top Five

One day each week, write down under each of your Top Five priorities what you and your team accomplished, highlighting the new information to distinguish it from earlier entries. Then examine your plans for the week ahead to make certain they are aligned with your Top Five.

Share the cumulative updated list each week with your team.  Reading through the Top Five accomplishments list each week provides a sense of progress and satisfaction that boosts employee engagement.  At the end of the year, you will have a cumulative, detailed record of what you and your team accomplished.

5. Review Your Top Five

At the beginning of each quarter, review your Top Five. On occasion, circumstances may require you to add a new priority and postpone another. This is especially true today when the speed of change is faster than historically has been the case.  Periodically reviewing your Top Five helps make certain you and your organization are not continuing down a path that is no longer optimal.

When you: 1. Set your Top Five, 2. Communicate your Top Five, 3. Align your Top Five, 4. Track your Top Five and 5. Review your Top Five, it creates greater focus and helps maximize excellence in execution.