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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #32: It’s All About Priorities!

April 16, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #32: It’s All About Priorities!

You can’t manage time, but you can manage priorities and make sure that you are being productive with your time. In Episode #32 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley discuss the Law of Priorities, including “the 3 R’s”. 

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Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast. Where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holly, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach. And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Chris. Today’s topic is on the law of priorities. One of the questions we get more than about anything, it’s one of John’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and a fundamental skill for all leaders really knowing what’s important. Tell us about the Law of Priorities.

In “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, a great book, one of John’s books that’s probably almost 20 years old and was one of his first kind of what I like to call books on the market where people really kind of tied him to, to leadership around the world when we go and speak and train and develop. Most people have never heard of that book. If you’ve not read it, I would definitely encourage you to do so, he just updated it. So for two weeks, which I joke around with them, which means that the laws really weren’t irrefutable. Where are they? Right? Cause he did update on, so we joke around about that. But Number 17, we’re talking about priorities today. Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment. One of the things that John has taught me over time is is that you cannot control your time.

A lot of people would talk about how to become a better time manager at different times, and you can’t manage time. It’s managing the priorities that you have to become more productive in that time. And there’s an illustration out though, are some of you that have known John for some time? He was based in San Diego originally. And when he decided that he wanted to go into the leadership development full time, he knew he needed to move. And so it came down to three different cities. He was going to choose between Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. And what he was striving for was how do I become more productive with my time because, and from San Diego, he always had to catch a flight somewhere else to go somewhere else. And obviously, he chose Atlanta. I’m glad he did.

But here in Atlanta, we can pretty much get anywhere in the world with one flight on Delta. And so when you look at that example and what he did, it was all about getting out of the comfort zone of being in San Diego because people that live in San Diego, they love saying that they don’t want to leave, they don’t want to leave. And getting out of this comfort zone and really everything to do with, with being productive, with having progress on impacting people and changing lives for, you know, for the better. And so he made that decision to move. And so I think when we talk about this, and you look at it, I just think we need to make sure that it’s, it’s definitely getting out your comfort zone at times and making sure that you are prioritizing your time, not trying to manage, manage your time. Right.

Well, and often it comes down to doing uncomfortable things, and I’m doing them when they need to be done. And I find the people that know their priorities don’t mind that. I know it’s on my to-do list. I’m trying to get away from a to-do list altogether was with some, maybe some things we’ll talk about here, but that I looked down the lift and I see, well I could do that one. Is it the most important one? The highest priority one? No, but it feels good to get it done. So I was teaching a lesson on Stephen Covey’s big rocks first, and it’s always great if you haven’t seen that, you could go to youtube and look at that. But, someone asked me in the audience that was kind of, I thought was an odd question at the time, but the more I thought about it, I should have, should’ve been part of my lesson was how do you determine your big rocks, your most important priorities? I thought in that obvious, but it’s really not one more people would do it

I feel extremely accomplished when I can just take a little line right through one of those items no matter what level at my to-do list it is. And so we do need it actually write something on my to do list that I had just done so that I could cross it out. Okay. Maybe I’m not as bad as you are.

Yeah, I think that is a great question. Right? And how John talks about it in the Law of Priorities, John talks about using the three R’s. And so let’s unpack that a little bit today. And those three things are what’s required, what gives you the greatest return, and then what brings the greatest reward. So let’s first start talking about what is required. What I want to make sure is what is required of you. Okay? We add that; specifically, I want you to really kind of internalize this, what is required of you. What is something that you need to be doing that nobody else can be doing? And we’ve got to start with that mindset. And if you’re doing something that is not necessary, I need you to eliminate it. Okay? And then I think if you’re doing something necessary but not required, then maybe we talk about delegating that.

And so when you begin thinking about this, I want you to go a couple of different layers and thinking about, hey, what is required of you? It’s funny this year going into 2019, Mark Cole, our CEO, he oversees all of the enterprises for John, and he has come to us and said, I want everybody to be aware. These are my five priorities, these this year. And if anything doesn’t fall under one of these five buckets as my priority, then it’s not going to get my time. And I thought, wow, what a great model of that. And so now in, in our team, we’ve kind of brought that over to our team and said, okay, what are the five that for us that if, if we’re going to focus and we’re going to have priorities this year, it’s going to be around these topics. And so I thought it was a great example of how he’s laying out the fact that we are going to get uncomfortable going to make progress, but we’re going to make progress as an enterprise in these five areas. Right, right.

Well, I’ve seen it all the time, and our coaching and see it in me is that, we’re good at a lot of things. I’m only great at one, maybe two, maybe one that, that I, I love being helpful, I love being a wanted, I love being included, and so I started doing things that I’m good at, but somebody else is probably great. And I’m taking it from them, in doing that. Just some that popped in a, as you’re talking, urgent versus important. Another lesson not really built in here, but I wonder if the way he was talking about what’s required, how much does urgent things appearing important? Getting the way of what’s required of me?

A lot, right? I mean, I know I allow it to happen as well. I think, you know, we, we, we want to go to the urgent, we want to solve the things that are urgent. And maybe what we’ll do is we’ll come back and do a podcast and break down the four different quadrants, quadrant of that and what that looks like as a leader with the five levels lens and, and, and talk about that, in, in a broader view than just even the priority.

So I know that urgent things have a strange way of being loud and looking important when they’re really not. So, number two, the second our was about return, tell me about getting the greatest return.
After you figured out what you must do. I really want you to internalize what is it that you need to be doing. Take that list and after you’ve kind of worked through all of that and decide of that list, what gives you the greatest return? Cause I think you and I both said we liked to create lists, right? And sometimes we create things on the list just to mark off the list. And now I want you to take that and I want you to say, okay, now of what’s required of me. Now, what is going to give me Andy Organization or the team that is responsible for the greatest return? Now when you do this, we need to understand, look, you’re going to get out of your comfort zone on some things that are hard to accomplish. It’s gonna take some grind, some work.

But what I don’t want you to do is get out of your strength. So want to make sure that you then you’re prioritizing the things that you, that is in, is in your strengths on that is in your skill set. And we think about what does it look like to delegate those that are not in there. And, and just, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. And I think as leaders, we’ve talked about this previously like we’d like to hold so much stuff close to our chest so that we can walk around and pat and that was me. Yeah, I did that. I was on my list. And so make sure that you have that mindset and going back to even just a previous conversation, remember if there’s somebody on your team, that can do something that you’re doing 80% as good as you, I need you to give it away because that’s not going to be the greatest return of your, as a leader for the organization.

You said it, but just underscoring delegation is a such a critical skill. We have a podcast on that. But wow, what a great skill to have when you think, what are the things that I can do and the can I, and that 80% somebody can do it, 80% as it’s right as well as I can, can I delegate that to someone? So the third R is about the greatest reward. Tell me about that. For this topic. And the third is the John Talks about the greatest reward. He talks about one of the things that bring personal satisfaction to you. And for me when I look at this, and I think about it, it goes back to how can I make the greatest impact? How can I make the greatest impact on my team? But also the organization. What I don’t want to do is be a bottleneck for the organization, for the growth.

I don’t want to be a lid, as John talks about in the 21 Irrefutable Laws, number one, the Law of the Lid. And so if I’m not passionate about it and I don’t feel like I’m making an impact, then I’m not going to have that satisfaction. It’s not gonna give me a reward, which in turn is not going to drive me to want to do it. It’s not going to be one of those things I attack my list right away. And then John talks a lot about the difference between success and significance. And I think for a lot of us, maybe we just focus too much on success. And I think for me personally and maybe some that are listening, I think the greatest reward is how am I making a significant impact on people on my team? You know, it’s funny, a lot of leaders, great leaders spend 85% of the time.

I think Harvard Business Review said actually figuring out how do I transform, how do I make a significant impact on people through the EQ side of things versus what we’re talking about here today, which is sometimes we just have IQ. Things were we know how to do that. So I’ll just cross that off. And so I think when you talk about the third arm, John says the greatest reward for me personally, it’s really around the ability to be able to impact and to transform people and their journey, right? Well in the 5 Levels of Leadership, Level 3 is really about producing results together as a team. And so we’ve been talking here so far about our priorities, but how do I seem like this would be a great lesson to put into instill into every person on your team to really know what the most important things are.

So practically just kind of giving you some handles here for this. I want to go back to communication. All right. We’ve got to be very clear with our team about the goals and the outcomes of what we’re trying to accomplish, and then I think you have to work with them often on determining their priorities. One of the things, great practices maybe once every other week, maybe it’s once a week, maybe it’s once a month, depending on the kind of the structure of your team that you have a one on one meeting with your team member and you’re like, bring me a list of everything that you are working on right now and in the priority of which you think they are for the organization, for the team. And I promise you, when you guys go over that list as a leader, having the longest view in the room, a longer view than them, you’re going to know that some of that is out of order. They’re not going to know that. And so their expectation is to continue plowing through that. And so I think what you’ve got to do is help them reprioritize. So take that list and with your view be able to help them do that. Now that’s just a couple of practical things. What are some things that you’ve seen?

I was just thinking, we already said that I worked for an executive once and she helped us determine the overall, goals for the organization, what we were trying to accomplish and then work with each of, of her direct report leaders on individual objectives that would lead to that goal. If your department, my department did those objectives, we would move closer to that goal. And then she would allow me to determine what we call the most important things four to five, not 12, right? That I’m going to work on every week. This was a quarterly exercise. And so we would put up, our most important things and then every week in our weekly one on one, we would just address how are you doing on your most important things? How are you making progress on those? And what you’ll find is that it, there’s so many things that your people are, do you, that you are dealing with.

It can distract you. Those urgent things that pop up that have nothing to do with your most important things and nothing to do with the objectives. But there, there are fires, and you’re going to get put out. And that’s, and the John, we’ll talk about that. One of the killers of momentum on your team is constantly putting out fires. You’re not being intentional about what you’re doing. So I found that as we discussed that on a weekly basis, it helps keep me focused. I put it with my team. What are your most important things by, by this quarter that we’re going to talk about? And if you’re focused on those four things or five things, will we moved the ball?

Absolutely. Another thing that I like to do is look at me, at the end of the day, look at my calendar for the next day. Often if I don’t do that, here’s what, here’s what happens. If I don’t set and or prioritize my day the night before without a shadow of a doubt, whether I’m getting on a plane, I’m checking out of a hotel, or I’m in the office, other things get in the way and, and I allow them naturally to get in the way. People stop by your office, a cup of coffee and they want to sit there and talk. You just, you hear the ding of your email, you’re in a relationship or you know, whatever it might be. There things that, if you don’t have a plan, if you don’t re-prioritize. For me, this is, if I don’t have, if I don’t really prioritize at the end of the day for the next day, I find myself getting in trouble.

Often, here’s what I find. Some of the things that need to be my highest priority for the next day are the hardest. And so I’ll sell myself in a hurry not to be able to do them. Oh, I haven’t talked to Perry in 10 minutes. Let him come in and spend another 10 minutes with me. And so I want to make sure that you identify your priorities, whatever it is for you. Maybe you get to the office really early, and you do it before anybody gets there. Maybe it’s the night before, I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s weekly, but then act on those and don’t allow the distractions. Don’t allow to your point with John says, putting out the fires to slow down the momentum of you having the priorities for the, for the team. You mentioned Covey earlier is this great quote that I like to refer back to once in a while when it comes to identifying and acting from priorities as a leader.

And he says a leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree surveys the entire situation and yells wrong jungle. We got to go. Right. And so if you don’t understand your priorities, you won’t be able to make those type of actions for the team. And I love your idea of thinking about it the day before. What’s the most important things I could do tomorrow or this week? And then doing them early in the day. I think you were inferring that, but your day is going to get out of control by about 11:00 AM controlling her. I do quick early too and those most important things. So, great ideas. But what gives us says we parked a wage today. Maybe a call to action for our listeners as leaders. Okay. So as leaders we must constantly reevaluate our and our team’s priorities, schedules, commitments, goals, values. That’s why I said I kind of tried to do it nightly.

I got to reevaluate what I’m doing, what my priorities are to get to that outcome, to get to the quarterly objectives, I got to do it. The other thing that I want to kind of just back up for a second, if you do this and you do it well with your team, and you have that list, and they know what their priorities are, it allows them to say no to other things. And when we talk about other things getting in the way, we talked to kind of surface level about emails and phone calls, and I was kind of stuff, I’m talking about other projects, I’m talking about everybody wanting to add value and help the organization and to your point you want to do that. But if you have given your team or if you have a distinct list of priorities, it helps them say no, it helps them stay focused.

We joke around about our organization. Okay, we have a focus problem because I don’t think we say no enough, right? John is an opportunistic guy that loves to add value and loves to see opportunities to make an impact and so all of that just kind of filters down and we’ve got to get really strategic on what our priorities are. What do you do that nobody else can do so that we can kind of stay dialed in there? The other thing comes back to mind here is remember the, you know the Pareto principle, okay. 20% of what we do is going to yield 80% of the return. And so what is that top 20% that’s going to yield the greatest return for the organization? And when you begin to look at it through that lens as a business owner, whatever it might be, I think that you’ll begin to cross some things off your list that don’t need to be on there, that is more time-consuming.

And just remember that activities we talked about in the very beginning about, you know, law number 17, Law of Priorities, activities, not necessarily accomplishment. And to refocus kind of our life and where we’re going and what we’re working on, you have to reorder your priorities often, right? And it takes us thinking as you’re saying though if you’re, John teaches servant leadership that if you’re a servant leader organization, it is in your DNA to want to help others in the serve. But that focus, I can’t help everyone. So who, what are the priorities? Where should I be focusing my work episode? Great stuff, Chris. Thank you very much.

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