Making the Most of Your Non-Trivial Actions

This statistic has always stunned me:

Typically an executive will take between 15 and 50 non-trivial (aka meaningful) actions a day, or 5,000-10,000 non-trivial actions in a year.

What percentage of all those thousands of actions directly contributed to achieving the goals you set for the year, and what percentage were either make-work, ineffective, or effective, but not directed toward the right goals?

An exercise that may help you determine how successfully you’re organizing your day is to answer the following questions?

  • What did I achieve this week, rather than just do?
  • What non-trivial – aka meaningful – tasks was I able to check off my list, despite the challenges I faced?
  • What ONE thing am I most proud of this week as I pursue my OMG (overarching medium term goal)?

No matter what this exercise reveals, do not be defeated. There are some simple and effective ways to make quick changes that will have significant impacts.

For example: the main reason leaders lose the ability to translate their decisions into real change centers around the growth of that dreaded institution…

…the meeting. 

Here’s why that happens, and four steps to fix it.

  1. A meeting isn’t a decision. 

Formal and informal, virtual and in-person, postponed, rescheduled, overlapping and above all, interminable, meetings appear to have become the very bedrock on which your organization sits. And in the midst of these endless meetings, it’s easy to believe that just by having them, by the very act of getting through them, we’ve accomplished something. Which of course we haven’t – because a meeting isn’t in itself a decision, it’s just a meeting.

  1. A decision isn’t an action. 

Getting meaningful decisions out of interminable meetings is so difficult -– and so rare -– that on the few occasions it does happen, guess what happens next? Yup – giddy at the triumph we’ve just accomplished, the participants (especially Visionary leaders) rush to the next meeting, carrying with them an inner glow of achievement. Except that, at this point, nothing has yet been achieved.

  1. An action isn’t a result. 

In our world of over-scheduled overwhelm, actually completing delegated actions on time is deemed an achievement. As a result, reporting on the completion of actions equals success. So relieved (and surprised) are we to hear someone report back on real, honest-to-goodness front-line activity, that little time is spent discussing whether or not the actions produced a result.

  1. A result isn’t change. 

The purpose of meetings – those that actually have a purpose, that is – is to effect change, and change can only be measured over time. Yet, buoyed by the rare sense of having accomplished something with just one result, so often we allow our meetings to drop items off the agenda because we managed to make one thing happen, one time. How often can you say in a meeting ‘Looky here – we effected real, material change in our organization by doing this‘?

You can read an expanded version of this here, including Les’ prompts for logging your meetings and auditing them to make sure your actions do in fact align with your goals!

And please watch the training below for even more insights into structuring your day, week and quarter for the most effective and sustainable growth in your leadership skills:

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