Focus on Results

Leaders are results-oriented rather than activities-oriented. Just doing something is worthless if what you're doing doesn't lead to a valuable result. Leaders are always thinking in terms of the results that are expected of them

Getting results depends on asking yourself four questions over and over again:

1. What are my high-value activities? What are the things you do that contribute the greatest value to your work and your organization? These are the activities on which you should be focusing.

2. What are my key result areas? There are seldom more than five to seven key result areas for any position in an organization. These are the areas where you absolutely have to get excellent results to fulfill your responsibilities. Once you've identified your key result areas, you have to set the highest standards of performance and meet those standards: Remember that others are watching you.

3. What can I (and only I) do that, if done well, will make a real difference to my company? You have responsibilities and tasks that you and only you must do; if you don't do them, they don't get done.

4. What is the most valuable use of my time? This is the key question There are tasks that only you can get done, but too many leaders are not fulfilling their responsibilities because they have been pulled into other responsibilities and tasks that they should not be covering.

The best leaders know what they are being paid for — and what they are not being paid to do.

Set Priorities

One of the key skills to getting results is to know how to set priorities. It's not enough to identify your high-value activities. Leaders prioritize ruthlessly so that that they are working on only the most important, highest-value activities.

One of the most effective methods to prioritize your tasks is to use the ABCDE method. This method requires you to list your tasks and give them a priority rating.

An “A” task is something important, something that you must do. If you don't do this task, there are going to be significant consequences. You will have more than one A task. In that case, label them as A-1, A-2, A-3, and so forth. A-l, of course, is the most important task of them all, with A-2 next.

A “B” task is one that should be done, and leaving it undone will also lead to consequences. However, the consequences aren't as bad or as dangerous as the consequences for an A-level task left undone. Never work on a B task when there's an A task yet to do.

A “C” task is something that would be nice to do, but for which there are no consequences. Reading a magazine or newspaper might be enjoyable and lets you keep up with politics or sports, but this is not a task that will make any contribution to your work. Never work on a C task when there's a B task left undone.

A “D” task is anything that you can delegate to someone else. One of the important leadership rules is that you should delegate to others anything that can be delegated. You have enough work that only you can do; you should not be spending your time on tasks that can be done by others. Ask yourself, “What can I and only I do that will make a major difference to the company?” If a task doesn't fall into this category, give it to someone else. The priority rule continues: Never work on a D task when there's a C task left undone.

An “E” task is something that needs to be eliminated. It shouldn't even be on the table. It has no consequences and is of no use. Perhaps it was a task that was important in the past but is now obsolete. Or perhaps it should have never been done at all! At any rate, now is the time to eliminate it.

The key to making this ABODE method work is to never work on a lower-priority task when there is a higher task still undone. I emphasize this rule for each task, because it is easy to say but harder to remember or to do.

Focus Everyone on Effectiveness

At the same time that they are focused on their own results, leaders are always conveying to others what their key result areas are and motivating others to set priorities on high-payoff tasks. Leaders know that the ability to set priorities and to focus where you can make a significant difference is the key to human effectiveness, just as it is the key to the effectiveness of an organization and a leader.

If you are doing things that are not in your key result areas and you do them brilliantly, the outcomes will be worthless. But if you do one or two high-priority things really well, you can make an enormous and significant contribution.

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