Most of us can easily name three, five, or maybe even ten things that we need to improve on personally, in our teams, or in our organizations. And, just in case you’re at a loss, there are countless assessments available to help you identify improvement opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, assessments like 360-degree feedback (when provided by colleagues committed to your development) can be invaluable tools to help us understand ourselves, how we are perceived, and how we impact others.
In one assessment that we find particularly valuable, the quantitative survey questions are followed by a couple of open-ended questions, including “Where can improve and what would be the payoffs if they made these improvements?” What a great question! Each of us will always have areas we can improve. For example, as a person who tends to approach information from an analytical or logic-based perspective, I have received feedback that I could benefit from showing more emotion when presenting information. I also have a strong desire to delve deeply into several interesting new areas that could benefit my organization. But what would be the impact of committing myself to either of those things? If I’m struggling to connect with my audience or influence my peers, perhaps learning to connect emotionally rather than simply laying out the logical case would open up new possibilities for me. Or, if I’m looking to expand my responsibilities or opportunities within my team or organization, those interesting new topics may require my attention.
The context for these improvements is critical to understanding the impact they may have, especially when we have a limited amount of time and attention to give. Consider these questions as you assess potential improvements:
- How do they align to my values, my purpose, and my vision for myself or my team/organization? We are most motivated to make changes that take us in the direction we want to go, and those changes often come more easily. When we pursue goals that are out of alignment, it creates a sense of friction that slows progress.
- How big is the gap between current state and where I/we need to be? While it can be the right choice to take on an improvement that you know is a “big lift,” it’s important to understand the size of the undertaking and the amount of energy and focus that will be required to be successful.
- What would be the impact if I/we were able to make these changes in myself or my team/organization? Visualize the outcome when you are successful with this change. What is different as a result? Like question #1, this question helps you to consider whether the outcome you seek is aligned to your vision and purpose, and also the degree to which your work will influence the outcome.
It is difficult to make significant changes in the course of our busy lives; it is almost impossible to do it without focus and intention. Assessing your opportunities for improvement and determining which changes will have the greatest impact is a way to maximize focus.
For me, I’ll continue to look for those opportunities to experiment and challenge myself to connect with people emotionally. But my focus for now is on ensuring the success of the start up organization I’m part of – an organization whose work aligns strongly with my own sense of personal purpose. I believe our success is best served by my deep attention to learning new ways to grow, scale, and measure our work. Because I consider learning new things a strength, the gap doesn’t feel huge, but there is a lot to learn and try, and learn some more. This is where I can get the most impact from improving right now.
Where do you want to choose to focus your time and energy?