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Clear, shared objectives and methods for obtaining those objectives allow everyone to contribute their best. Article by Ann Latham, Forbes.com

If you are blind to improvement opportunities, you will never improve. How blind are you? Let's look at the evidence. Here are 10 signs that you can't see the enormous opportunity before you to improve productivity, profits, and engagement:

1. You speak in treadmill verbs.

If you use words like review, report, discuss, communicate, update, and inform, to name a few, you are blind to the lack of clarity in your requests and agendas. I call these words "Treadmill Verbs" because they have no destination. "Reviewing" is like running on a treadmill. You can always run a little farther, just like you can always review a little longer. There is no way to know when you are done. You can review, report, discuss, communicate, update, and inform forever! But you won't necessarily get anything done.

2. You start meetings without knowing what must be different when they end.

People who know I detest wasteful meetings are quick to tell me about a great meeting they've attended. When I ask what made it great, I typically get three answers:

  • The topic was at least mildly interesting.
  • Everyone stayed focused on the topic.
  • No one dominated or engaged in uncivil behavior.

My next question is inevitably met with stunned silence: "What was accomplished? With what did you leave that you didn't have when the meeting began?"

I don't care how focused, well-behaved, or entertaining a meeting is. Unless you move the needle and get one step closer to achieving a clear goal, all you've done is talk.

3. You list pros and cons when making decisions.

Listing pros and cons is simply a stupid way to make a decision. Why? Because every alternative has numerous pros and cons, many of which are irrelevant. If the goal were to maximize pros and minimize cons, then listing both would be sensible. But that is not the goal. The goal is to achieve an objective. Instead of listing pros and cons, itemize the decision criteria that will allow you to distinguish good alternatives from bad ones. (Learn how to SOAR through decisions here.)

4. You implement "solutions" that aren't really solutions.

You can't solve a problem without eliminating whatever causes the problem. That means you have to identify the cause of the problem. Then you have to identify a means of eliminating that cause. Then you must confirm that whatever method you tried does indeed eliminate the cause. But that requires effort, time, and discipline. Instead, most people simply glom onto an idea that sounds promising. As a result, they waste tremendous resources implementing a "solution" that solves nothing and leaves the problem to be "solved" again and again.

5. You and your employees have more than 3 priorities at any one time.

If you have lots of priorities, you don't really have priorities at all. And at any given moment, your brain can do only one thing at a time. Sorry, but this is simply a fact. We don't have dual processors. Multi-tasking is a bad habit that involves jumping from task to task. The consequences include mistakes and/or wasted energy as you ramp up after jumping away and back again. The more complicated the task, the more wasteful is every distraction. People with more than three priorities typically accomplish the least. They spend more time trying to decide what to do than actually accomplishing anything.