You’re piloting an airplane. You take off from the airport and head west towards the mountains. Your altitude is gradually increasing, but not at a fast enough rate. Without the right maneuvers now, the plane will crash into the side of the mountain.

A nightmare, right? Yes, but it’s also a great analogy for a problem we’re seeing in many organizations. Teams and individuals are working hard and seeing improvements in their performance. However, the business realities require them to get better at their jobs faster. Without a steeper trajectory, individuals and the organization will crash.

As an individual performer, how can you maneuver quickly to amp up the rate of your performance improvement?

Prioritize. What are the highest value things you can  do to improve results and make a big impact? Not the good uses of your time – only the critical few. Make those your priorities. Keep them uppermost in your mind, on your calendar and in your daily activity. When you know where you’re going and what it will take to get there, communicate this widely so that others in the organization also redirect their efforts.

Focus. This can be hard, but something’s got to go. It takes courage to dump projects and readjust activity to align with just a few priorities. The key is to focus relentlessly on the drivers of success. Don’t do the other stuff.  If there is not a direct relationship between the project or initiative and your highest value priorities, stop!

Be consistent. One of the most maddening dynamics in organizations is when the boss says A, B and C are our only priorities. Then something cool – unrelated to A, B and C – comes along. When opportunity knocks, don’t waffle; figure out if it aligns with your top 1, 2 or 3. If not, just say no. A compelling distraction is still a distraction.

Many of the strategies above work for teams too. Also consider the following:

Assign sufficient resources. As James W. Frick said, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you  spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” Clearly articulate a business case for what you’re doing. Then negotiate with your superiors to assign more time or employ new technologies to get the job done.

Feed your people. You’re leading a team that’s failing. Your first impulse might be to point out all the things that are going wrong. Instead, identify what’s working (Feed) and reinforce those behaviors. Then decide what you must achieve (Need) and fill in the gaps with new actions (SEED) that need to happen. Only after Feed, Need and Seed do you eliminate practices that aren’t working (Weed).

Quit bickering. When the going gets rough, back-biting and blame find fertile ground. Model and enforce a climate of open communication and respect. Help people to say what they need to say in a factual manner. After the crisis has passed, there will be plenty of time to dissect what happened and how it might be prevented in the future.

A Chinese proverb states, “A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.” Face the reality of your impending collision, so that you can maneuver to make the most of the opportunity.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!