One study, done by the consulting firm RHR International, showed that among high-performing leadership teams, 93% are able to prioritize the most important issues and 96% focus on the right issues. By contrast, in low-performing leadership teams, only 62% prioritize well and 53% are seen as being focused on the right issues. The implications for an organization whose leadership team is poorly focused are serious: Wasted resources, wasted effort, and widespread confusion become the norm.
Why do leadership teams find themselves exhibiting scattered priorities? Here are a few reasons based on my own work with various organizations:
|Source: Juan Martinez via Flickr|
1. Top executives engage in reactionary behavior based on a recent event or trendy topic that struck a chord with them.
2. Executives don't want to make the hard choices. Therefore, they spread resources around to too many initiatives, in part because they don't want to disappoint key managers. Conflict avoidance plays a role here too.
3. Leadership teams always add items to the strategic agenda, but never step back and consider removing key initiatives. Thus, the breadth of the agenda grows larger and larger over time.
4. Executives make the mistake of thinking that they will grow revenue more quickly if they simply expand their product and service offerings. They expand and diversify because it seems the easy route to growth, rather than thinking about how to deepen their existing competitive position as a means of achieving growth objectives.
5. Top leaders assume that declaring issues as priorities is motivating for employees. They don't realize that employees actually become demotivated if they experience confusion about the strategic agenda, and if they feel stressed and torn in different directions.