As leaders formulate and fine tune their strategies, it is important for them to sort through and prioritize the often bewildering array of opportunities that compete for their attention. One of the biggest traps you can fall prey to is the belief that everything is “Priority One.” The problem with this is that if everything is Priority One, then nothing is Priority One.
When leaders view any opportunity as an opportunity worth pursuing, they can set up their organizations for continuous demands that cannot possibly be met. It is important to realize that not all opportunities are created equal. Some opportunities may serve merely as distractions.
Once you’ve established the mission, vision and values for your organization, and have committed to a set of strategic goals, you can be proactive in selecting those opportunities that will best contribute to your success in both the short and long term.
The Opportunity Board, a tool best utilized every 90 days, will help you organize your opportunities into four distinct levels of priority. The first step in creating the Board is to identify all the potential opportunities you might pursue. These can be your own personal opportunities, your team’s opportunities or organization-wide opportunities.
This list need not include your daily tasks or to-dos. Rather, you are looking for the bigger projects you might undertake in the next calendar quarter that move you and your organization closer to meeting one or more of your strategic goals.
Your opportunities might include achieving a specific level of sales; completing the development of a new product or service; mentoring one of your direct reports; writing a new policy; etc.
Your list of opportunities often represents a mix of short- and long-term projects. You are not just looking for opportunities that you can complete in 90 days. You are also looking for projects that need to be started in the next 90 days even if you need to continue working on them into successive 90-day periods. This is important to remember so that you don’t end up only listing low-hanging fruit on your board. There are always going to be opportunities that will take longer than 90 days to finish, and if you exclude them from your list, you will likely never start working on them.
Here are the four levels of focus—or priority—represented on the board.
Bullseye: These opportunities align with one or more of the organization’s key strategies and rise to the top of your list of opportunities you want to pursue in the next 90 days. When executed properly, these opportunities result in target markets being profitably served and/or projects yielding great benefit for internal and/or external customers.
In the Ballpark: These opportunities are close enough to your “bullseye” to warrant your attention and evaluation. While not necessarily in your “sweet spot,” they deserve your serious consideration once you’ve completed opportunities in the “bullseye” of your Opportunity Board.
Opportunistic Focus: These opportunities sometimes come only once in a lifetime and may trump an opportunity in the “bullseye” or “in the ballpark” sections of your Opportunity Board. Other opportunities placed in this portion of the board are opportunities you cannot begin before securing the funding, enabling legislation, additional staffing, etc. necessary to begin the project.
Off the Board: These opportunities are on the board itself, and they’re referred to as Off the Board to indicate that they are the last opportunities you might pursue while you work through the other three areas of the board. Keep these opportunities in this fourth section of the board so you don’t forget them. They are your “someday/maybe” opportunities.
The Opportunity Board can also be used by a leadership team to check for alignment. If each member of a leadership team completes a board and then presents it to the group, individuals on the team might begin to see why others are not addressing certain issues on as timely a basis as they’d like. This allows the team to create a collective agenda and re-orient members of the team around that common set of priorities.
How will you use The Opportunity Board to sort through and prioritize opportunities competing for your attention?
Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly 20 years in executive leadership positions, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. www.FitLeadersAcademy.com