One of my biggest pet peeves is people who labor over minutiae and waste time that could otherwise be dedicated to things that matter. Business is riddled with “minutiae zombies.” They walk around aimlessly, missing major opportunities because they’re focused on fleeting, insignificant details. Over time, these people are like a dense swarm of gnats in your eyes.
Case in point: I once worked with an S-level executive at a multi-billion dollar company who loved swimming in the trivial. This individual would insist on frequent and laborious catch-up meetings with senior executives that consisted of walking through a random punch list of unimportant topics. These topics included everything from “someone on your marketing team gave someone on the digital team a dirty look” to “Bob thinks you don’t like him.” Not once did this person advance an issue that mattered. Ironically, this same executive lamented frequently about being overlooked for a promotion. Heads up: that’s probably not a coincidence.
Throughout my career, I’ve done a lot of formal and informal mentoring. One of the things I get asked most frequently is how to get noticed for your achievements and climb the ladder. As you take the leap from “doer” to visionary leader, the ability to identify meaningful things and craft strategies around those things is paramount. It’s the difference between unlimited career potential and being “capped.”
Admittedly, this is easier in theory than in practice. In today’s work environment, we’re inundated with more information than ever through an endless barrage of reports and dashboards. Likewise, most staff meetings are a round robin, covering a random list of activities akin to “what I did on my summer vacation.”
Developing a keen eye for the truly critical takes practice and discipline. All of the information is there. You just need to harness it. And, your people are your greatest asset. Leveraging their perspectives is the surest way to improve your strategic focus. To accomplish this, I like to employ a tactic I call Three Things That Matter.
Every Friday, I ask my team members to shoot me an email describing Three Things That Matter. This isn’t anything fancy format-wise. It’s just a standard email. I like this exercise for a number of reasons:
- Unlike a traditional weekly report that tends to be a laundry list of activities, this tactic encourages people to focus and think critically.
- It’s a development opportunity, improving team members’ ability to identify what matters most. This is an important step in their leadership journey.
- It gives me a good “temperature read” on the team at large (e.g., morale, common challenges, areas for development/improvement, opportunities, etc.).
- It helps me focus and be a better people manager.
- It’s a fitting way for all of us to wrap up our week, taking time out for contemplation and strategic thinking. This is often overlooked in the fast-paced world in which we all live.
Additionally, I hold all of my staff meetings and one-on-one sessions with direct reports on Mondays. I like to kick-off the week with clear communication and direction. Three Things That Matter sets a considerable portion of the agenda for those meetings.
Without a doubt, reading through my team’s Three Things That Matter is my favorite part of every week. It energizes me and serves as a constant reminder that smart, positive people can accomplish anything. I promise if you try it, you’ll be delighted and impressed with what you learn. And, you’ll score another point against the “minutiae zombies.”