The Idea: In a recent leadership effectiveness study, “How Companies Manage the Front Line Today,” McKinsey found that 80 percent of leaders report dissatisfaction with their job performance, and 70 percent of senior managers agree.  Most people are not as productive as they would like, and it puts them at risk.  Asking the right questions about what is inhibiting your efficiency is the best step to demystifying the problem that plagues corporations everywhere.

According to Todd Henry in a recent Inc. Magazine article named Leadership: The 4 Keys to Success (or Failure) “Success is rarely the result of one major, sweeping effort. Rather, it’s the culmination of a lot of little choices, day after day, that sum up to an impressive body of work. This is true of both individuals and of teams. Major breakthroughs, despite the popular myth of the ‘Eureka moment’, typically result from an environment that values small, regular leaps and the measured expenditure of resources against valuable outcomes.”

Henry teaches organizations that the practices that lead to everyday brilliance are measured steps. One’s success is not a matter of luck, but of being present and purposeful.

Why do projects (or a leader) fail? Todd Henry calls it FATE.

  • Focus
  • Assets
  • Time
  • Energy

Focus: What one thing truly matters today?

Studies show that distractions in the workplace devour over two hours per day, and most people get distracted after only 11 minutes. To call focus a “resource” might’ve been preposterous before Todd Henry’s work, but he is exactly right: focus is a scarce resource.  Steve Jobs once shared “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Our time is limited, so how are you investing this finite resource?

Assets: What personal assets are being wasted or underutilized?
Most of our distinct assets are intangible.  Nonetheless, all assets, even the intangible ones, are finite. The role of one’s assets must always be reevaluated and reconfigured if things change.  These assets include relationships, insights, creativity, and financial resources. Everything should be open for evaluation, reassignment or elimination. To better position yourself for success, you must align your finite assets toward your important problems. What assets need to be redistributed?

Time: What activities are killing your team’s productivity?

Your calendar shows everyone what you value.  There is no such thing as quality time, there is only how you spend your time.  And it is a clear indicator of your priorities.  Our time is finite, precious and not renewable. Leaders who have difficulty saying “no” suffer from more stress, exhaustion, and depression.  Saying “no” more often can lift your mood and will optimize your time.  What projects have taken on a life of their own, and need to be terminated?

Energy: What sacred cows are wasting your energy?

The new currency of management is energy, not time.  Are you ruthless about protecting the time of the day that you are at your best, or do you let others control your calendar?  If you try to stay on top of everything – and you dedicate your best energy to your most vital projects – your ROI of energy is terrible. Great time management means nothing if you are not investing your best energy into your top priorities.  Which of your top priorities should get your best (most productive) energy?

At your next team meeting, ask these four questions and enjoy the shift in momentum.

Everyone owns their own FATE.