If you work in an organization that has people in it, your focus as a leader should be on the people first. Not to make them happy, but to do what is right. To develop your people, to train them, to make choices they may not like, but that are for their benefit in the long run. As long as the priority is the people, you will have a great chance of success. The most difficult part, it seems, is what to focus on after the people. This in not to say that even focusing on people is as simple as saying you focus on people. Within that, many philosophies explore this topic in detail. Perhaps you subscribe to Jack Welch’s belief that you concentrate on the top 20% and fire the bottom 10%. Or maybe you believe you need only focus on the bottom 20% in the hopes you can make them great. Either way, it’s best to focus on people first.
Outside of the people of your organization, what is the best area to place your focus? In the military, many ranking individuals have a hard time focusing on the core functions of the organization and instead focus on things that are sometimes, barely even relevant. Managers elevate in importance, dentist appointments, medical readiness, and physical fitness scores because they are easy to track. The problem with this is most of their organization’s managers, and leaders place much needed time and energy on these tasks instead of where they should be focused. Those tasks should align with the core function of the organization. If you are in the supply business, then how your people understand supply-chain, bench-stock levels and many other aspects to supply are incredibly more important than if your average fitness score moves from 84 to 89.
Take a look what your managers are doing and how they spend their time. Two questions you should always ask are: How well does this organization perform its core mission? And how can you prove it? If you turn to your Quality Assurance (QA) function for these stats, you are missing too much data to be very effective. The QA team can be great for identifying problem errors, but should not be sole measuring stick for the organization’s performance.
Don’t be fooled into only asking the above questions once; they will need to be constantly reviewed. Also, be prepared to hear how the organization is not performing as well as you may expect. We have a tendency to think we are doing better than we really are.
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