Helping Employees Prioritize What Matters
June 12, 2023
Helping Employees Prioritize What Matters

The following is an excerpt from edition #1 of our newsletter The Pulse: Insights for Strategy Leaders. Want to read the rest? Enter your email in the form below to subscribe.

When we started Elate, we did so with a clear mission: help Strategy and Operations Leaders take long-term vision and connect it with execution. We felt and lived, firsthand, the disconnect between where a company wants to go and how it gets to the end destination.

Since launching Elate, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of leaders to help elevate the way they go about strategic planning and the execution of that strategy. While it has been amazing working with so many talented leaders, we know there is more work left to do.

That’s why I’m elated (had to do it) to be sending the first edition of our bi-weekly newsletter to help share insights, content, and resources to help you and your organization's move faster and deliver on the initiatives moving your company forward.

With that said, welcome to edition #1.


Helping employees prioritize what matters

In recent conversations with Strategy and Operations Leaders I’ve witnessed a common challenge that nearly all are experiencing - how to help their teams and employees discern where they should be spending their time. And it’s understandable why.

With so many organizations experiencing budget cuts, hiring freezes or even layoffs, employees are being asked to do more with less. Everything feels like a priority, and when that is the case, nothing becomes a priority

So where do we start? 

To begin, the companies that we see do it best have a commitment to prioritization from the onset. From annual strategic planning off-sites to the quarterly transitions and goal-setting process, organizations that handle turbulence understand what’s mission-critical.

They have alignment and an understanding that starts at the leadership level of what is the biggest priority. And look, this is hard to do. Not only is it a challenge to take a step back from the day-to-day to look towards the future, but getting consensus on what matters most isn’t always easy. But it’s a muscle that requires flexing 💪.

We like to suggest starting with a 5x5 value vs effort matrix, where team members can outline how they would prioritize any given objective. Once these are set, we can then stack rank, ask questions, and even challenge or better understand the ‘why’ behind certain rankings:

5x5 value vs. effort matrix
5x5 Value vs. Effort Matrix, shown in the Elate platform.

This gives us a level playing ground at the onset.

That said, you may not have started the year or even this quarter with a prioritization in mind. One thing I would suggest is having a reprioritization window midway through the quarter. Build it into the plan. This gives teams a set time to evaluate where they are today and define the right priorities required to achieve those quarterly goals.

However, this is really just a short term solution. This challenge is almost always a symptom to how planning was done in the first place. It primarily stems from a lack of two things: 

  1. Visibility into how we are performing on our objectives
  2. Status updates from employees who own those objectives

When leaders finally realize they are off pace on our quarterly goals, it forces employees to shift their focus and reprioritize their work.

It starts at the top ⬆️. A customer recently used the term "ruthless prioritization" and it's really stuck with me. Having a general idea of priorities just isn't enough. The most important priority should be crystal clear to everyone, as well as the second most, third most, etc. Ranking them drives clarity, focus, and ultimately is what unlocks autonomy for the team to go deliver.

With the planning season around the corner for 2024, thinking through how your organization can improve these two areas will set you up for a successful year 🎉.

New podcast 🎧 - Creating an environment for employees to thrive

Our latest episode of Aspiring Ops* is easily a favorite of mine. We were joined by Dr. Bill Murphy, COO at Indianapolis Public Schools, and he brought the 🔥.

Here are my 4 favorite pieces of advice Bill shared:

1. Build trust by embracing the "Lead Learner" role and being confident in what you DON'T know to foster an environment that allows others to teach you.

2. Empower people to make decisions related to the environment they work in to create ownership.

3. Don’t get lost in the desire to always be “doing” - sometimes removing barriers and stepping back is more important than just checking off items from a list.

4. Normalize falling short so employees don’t live in a state of fear - "it's not just about hitting goals but about what having that goal makes you do".

Click here for the episode notes and to listen to the episode. A must-listen for any strategy and operations leaders wanting to build a winning environment and create more buy-in.

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*Aspiring Ops was created to amplify the voices of world-class strategy and operations leaders as they share their personal stories and provide practical steps towards success. With over 50 episodes it has become a top podcast in our field. Available wherever you get your podcasts. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.