How well are you managing agendas? And those you answer to in supporting you to implement the agendas and expectations that they set in the first place?
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How many of you struggle with the energy consumed with managing all of your and other people’s agenda’s? There are so many and their priorities vary so much, and the degree of control you have over them can cause so much pressure, can’t it? How do you get and stay on top of them?
I was helping a client with one such agenda recently that reminded me so strongly of some of the different (also political) agenda’s I needed to deal with in some of my corporate roles. Don’t you hate being accountable, but not always having the clout or the authority to just make people do what they are “meant” to do? You know, can’t they “be reasonable and see the urgency my way”?
In today’s busy business world we all seem to be chasing KPI’s and targets and deadlines all the time – trying to do more with less, as things keep changing, keep being restructured, keep getting merged or sold or acquired – it never seems to stop, does it? I remember how many cross functional business improvement projects were being run at any one time right across the organizations I worked in and they always seemed to involve the same “good people”, who were already struggling to stay abreast of their “normal job”, right? May be you are one of those people?
Anyway, back to my client who was hired out of a large corporate into a medium size organization to amongst other things bring some structure and process rigour and maturity to the party. Next to her primary role, the last 6 months had been a plethora of “one off” improvement projects – new policies, new procedures, new templates, new processes , new rules of engagement – a very necessary, very visible, very demanding and seemingly never ending story. I caught her in a particularly frustrating period where she seemed to be the only one really interested in a particular CEO sought and sanctioned and supposedly Management Team supported initiative. She felt she just wasn’t getting anywhere real fast. It seemed “such hard yakka”. How do we get “them” to see the same urgency for and to support this topic?
Options for better managing agendas
You know how when you have invited a bunch of people to an “important” briefing or update and you worry about how many and who is going to show up? There just isn’t a “safer” option than to call them (or at least the key stakeholders or opinion formers) beforehand to confirm their attendance and lobby the position they are taking, is there?
Lobbying key Players
In my coping and productivity grooming and training, I help my clients to understand the necessity and the power of lobbying key players ahead of important meetings or presentations. That way both you and they know where you and they are coming from.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s for a face to face meeting or a phone or video conference.
Email doesn’t work
I know that takes time. Time you might not have and time they might not have. But it is still one of the most powerful means I know of influencing outcomes – before the game. And I have also learned that email doesn’t work for that. If it can’t be face to face (how opportune are cafeteria’s or elevators sometimes?) then it needs to be on the phone.
However, if it has to be email because there isn’t any other way, then please write personal emails to each key stakeholder, not a collective one. The heading and the purpose needs to be “up front” so they know what you want when (or in the first 3 lines to see before) they open it.
We are all (too) busy
There is a key thing to remember here. You are busy, right? Probably flat out busy. And don’t you hate it when others “impose” stuff on you that you “don’t have time for” because it doesn’t fit into your current priorities? That’s life at work today, isn’t it?
Won’t the people you need to “impose upon” to be there to support the outcome you are accountable for probably feel the same way?
So how differently might you approach such an “imposition” if the “imposer” were to call you and check in with you? Approaching it from a “what’s in it for you”? perspective could make a big difference, couldn’t it? Surely you will be able to find something in your request that will be “good for them”?
This old mnemonic device (What’s In It For Me) is universally applicable, isn’t it? I learned that it certainly helps manage buy-in to important agenda’s. It also helps identify and deal with some of the hidden one’s. I believe that: “if I can help you get what you want, I will more than likely get what I want”. Given most people are so busy with their own agenda’s, it is quite rare to be asked what the other person’s is, isn’t it? Hey, they’re interested in me and what I want! Wow.
Who else can help?
A corollary to this is that if you can’t find the time to, how can you select key players you know are supportive (and dare I say passionate) about your “cause” and have them help you to mobilize or promote?
I also speak more about this in my blog Managing Expectations.
What I have also learned is to keep people that matter informed. In my blog Drip Feeding, I talk about having success anecdotes “in my pocket” that I can “drop” with people that matter whenever the opportunity (like in an elevator) presents itself. If you get into the habit of sending “short, sharp” one page updates at regular intervals that keep stakeholders abreast of progress, you will have another tool to “keep them onside”. Skillful inclusion of “outstanding contributions” can be woven into such updates very effectively. The main emphasis however is that it is known to be “short and sharp” that they can read it ind be up to date in just a few minutes.
A holistic view
Also, before you accept new or updated KPI’s, please remember to see that new expectation in conjunction with all your other tasks and KPI’s and allow yourself to assess how much of the above described personal effort it is going to consume in order for you to make it an additional successful outcome. Viewing each in isolation is asking for trouble in the longer term, when your capacity simply can’t cope to keep you on top any more.
What others are there?
Here’s a great opportunity for a bunch of you to please share your experiences with us. If you have learned other options that work well in this context, why not leave a comment to that effect, so we can all benefit from that experience please?
Given we are still reasonably early in the year, please allow me one more opportunity to plug the Goals” topic, OK? If you have a clear set of goals (and KPI’s at work) they will determine where you focus your priority, won’t they? As with everybody and everything, we probably can’t do “everything”. And so it will be here as well. Focus on those that matter first.
Can I suggest that you are always prepared for that “relativity question” in terms of the relative importance of your topic in the scheme of your stakeholders priorities? And I would urge you to have done some homework in terms of WIIFM and towards appreciating the different views you can anticipate between your and their purpose that you can use to further your and the overall organizations cause.
If I reflect on all the coaching conversations of the last few weeks, such clarity questions have always been prevalent and having a coach to challenge and hold them accountable to chasing down and influencing the best possible outcomes is the value all those clients will attest to. Go on, if “life’s better with a boat, as the saying goes, think about how much better life and work can be with a coach – your own coach – dedicated only to your agenda. Now that’s what I call managing agendas, right?