“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used to create them.” - Albert Einstein
One of the biggest shifts we see in leaders who take our programs is how they transform from being overwhelmed and reactive to everyone else’s problems to finding focus and clarity around their priorities.
A focused leader has an immense impact on the performance of their team and organization, and is critical to creating a culture of innovation.
When you, as the leader, can lift your thinking beyond the problem itself and be comfortable in not knowing exactly how you’ll get there, you motivate your team and open them up to creative problem solving.
An important part of motivating your team is connecting them to meaning and focusing on progress, rather than solely on the end-goal. To do so, it’s crucial that you master two important skills:
- Focus on what truly matters
- Effectively communicating what matters
Focus on What Truly Matters
When you and your team are constantly pulled in a million different directions and focusing your efforts on putting out fires, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
But deciding what to say yes and no to becomes a lot simpler when you hold your to-do list up against your team's purpose and values - the things that guide and drive you to keep coming to work every day.
When your team’s efforts are aligned to a purpose that you care about, you gain clarity about where to put your time and energy.
With clarity around your purpose you can now train your focus using our performance, focus, commitment (PFC tool), on a weekly basis.
You may already be familiar with this activity and have used it for yourself, but it’s equally powerful and important for your team.
Take 15 minutes to sit down with your team and review these 3 questions. Make sure to record your answers in whatever way best suits you, but choose a method that is visible and accessible to everyone.
1. Performance (P)
Instead of worrying about everything that needs to be done, ask ‘where can we have the most impact this week?’
2. Focus (F)
It’s easy and natural to get distracted by other demands from your day. Write down ‘how will we maintain focus on our area of biggest impact this week?’ For example, mentally planning what we will say “no” to, giving progress updates to each other at the end of each day, and/or recording small wins.
3. Commitment (C)
Concentrating your efforts is not a one-and-done task. You need to commit to choosing over and over again to return to your focus. Write down a few ideas for ‘how and when you’ll remind yourselves of your focus throughout your week?’
(you can also check out our suggestions in the next section!)
Once you’ve gone through the PFC exercise, ensure that everyone is clear about what’s going to make a difference and have an impact, and what isn’t. Encourage alignment and get everyone motivated about what you’ve chosen to focus on.
Effectively Communicating What Matters
Even if everyone leaves your weekly planning meeting excited about the outcome of the PFC exercise, their focus and motivation may wane throughout the week as they get caught up in their usual routine or they’re faced with something unexpected.
As their leader, it’s your job to make sure that your focus stays front and centre for everyone, regardless of what’s going on around them.
You can do this through bringing up the PFC outcomes you created at your daily team check-in. Bring everyone back to alignment to a common goal by briefly touching on:
- What was it that we said we needed to do?
- Where did we decide to focus?
- What will we do today to live our purpose?
If there are specific tasks or things that people need to deliver on, make sure you connect those tasks to your PFC outcomes as well.
For example, let’s say your outcomes revolve around focusing on ‘great patient care’, but today, team member Sarah, is feeling unhappy about the fact that she has to re-organize the nurses supply closet today - again.
Before sending Sarah on her way with her assigned task in hand, find a way to focus it on meaning by asking her how re-organizing the supply closet can help contribute to ‘great patient care’. If you can identify that the closet organization will lead to faster reaction times when someone needs something, thereby improving the patient's experience, you can focus this mundane task on a larger sense of purpose.
Take it a step further and ask, what would be the impact of not reorganizing the supply closet? What if someone wasn’t able to find what they needed fast enough, leading to delays and frustrated patients? In this scenario, not reorganizing the supply closet would negatively impact the teams focus on ‘great patient care.’
Finally, making sure that your communication throughout the week is clear and focused, will help your team stay motivated and on track. Use our COPE framework to guide you:
Be as concrete as possible in your communications.
Keep things clear and concise and use words that can not be misinterpreted. If you’re expecting a team member to take action as a result of your communication, make sure you outline the steps and guidelines you want them to follow.
Communicate often and well.
Regularly update your team with what’s going on. Especially when it comes to the PFC outcome that you’re focusing on. Regular status updates and taking the time to celebrate progress will significantly motivate your team.
Make your communications predictable.
Ensure that others know what to expect from your communication. Will it be at the same time every day or delivered in the same way? Reducing the spontaneity of your communication will help put your team at ease.
Communicate even what you think is assumed.
Even when you think everyone is on the same page, that isn’t always the case. An example of explicit communication would be, rather than saying “Sarah, please get the supply closet organized”, saying “It’s important that we organize the closet in such a way that it’s efficient and simple for people to get what they need quickly. What ideas do you have about how to do that?”. Communicating explicitly reduces assumptions, ensures that nothing gets missed and that everyone on your team stays aligned.