Posted by Steve Botham
January 18th, 2012 | No Comments »
The greatest gift a leader can give to their organisation in these current challenging times is the gift of clarity. So many people are rushing around trying to achieve the impossible - with too many goals and too many actions and too many people dependent on their delivering within the cost, quality and time targets. A visitor from another planet would describe it as foolishness but many people carry a great burden of responsibility, they do not want to let others down, and they are often so busy that it is hard to bring control and order to things.
Enter the leader! Clarity starts with prioritising – a simple question like “what are our five priorities for the next year?” can create a challenging and energetic discussion. We get more focus when we ask “what are our five priorities for the coming three months?” I have worked with many teams that have too many goals and no discussion on priorities. In effect each individual decides their priorities and confusion and angst follows in its path with tired and exhausted people wondering if they will ever achieve anything of substance.
There are many tired and exhausted people in the NHS – and tired people miss things. It’s a delight to work with some of our clients in coaching sessions where we work together on issues around clarity and direction – or in team sessions where we try to shape focus and create joined up working. But with uncertain direction, uncertain futures and uncertain priorities people become stressed – and the poor patient becomes bewildered!
Great leaders are insistent on priorities. This creates alignment – a shared commitment to ensure certain things happen with a robust ongoing conversation in the team to track progress. New initiatives and issues don’t create a crisis – they are reviewed against the priorities. Resources and time are allocated around the priorities. The leader reinforces this constantly talking about the priorities and encouraging people to focus on results. As time passes lots of things get in the way – people issues, resource issues, resistance to change but the leader creates a determination to get things done.
This is no easy task. This is one of those clear cases where you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But it creates much more effective working. It stops people’s energy being drained by the unimportant and enables you to focus on what makes the biggest impact. A wise man once said “without a vision the people perish” – the health service desperately needs those leaders who can bring clarity, reduce the stress and bring focus. It could be you?