PRINCIPLES: P – Prioritization

Guideposts for Success

For most of us, making decisions in the professional world can be difficult. But as we start 2020, I have a hack for you!  Defining a set of personal PRINCIPLES can help you maneuver through the challenges and landmines you face every day at work (and at home).  I use my personal PRINCIPLES as guideposts for success. They help me sift through my busy mind and make good, sound decisions.

Last year, I shared a series of newsletters with my network at Microsoft outlining my PRINCIPLES—the foundational beliefs I try to live by, both personally and professionally.  They ground me and define me. Understanding who I am and what I stand for helps me simplify the complex and overcome the challenges I face.

When I shared these ideals with my team, some suggested I share them with my network on LinkedIn as well.  After giving it some thought, I decided to post a series of LinkedIn articles about my PRINCIPLES. My hope is, over the next several weeks, that I leave you something to think about—something that prompts you to look inside and ask yourself, “What are my PRINCIPLES?”

P is for Prioritization

In today’s work environment, with tight deadlines and limited time, I’ve found prioritization is more important than ever before. Doing it right makes you more efficient and can establish better work-life balance.

When you look at all the projects on your plate, it can be difficult to determine how to prioritize—everything on the list feels equally important. And when you decide on an order of things, sticking to the plan can be even harder! That’s why it’s important to have a clear understanding of which project(s) will help you accomplish your long-term goals. Prioritizing those items on your list will pay dividends.

The 80/20 Rule, Applied

When I think about prioritizing, I ask myself what are the things that will drive the majority of what needs to be accomplished? It’s the 80/20 rule: 20% of what you spend your time on should accomplish 80% of what you need to do.

The tricky part is finding that 20% to get the work done. I always keep this in mind when organizing my schedule. You should set aside time for prioritizing the work and then accomplishing the work.

Getting focused and being clear about your objectives and the results you want to drive is critical. But it’s only the start. 

How many times have you been in a meeting where ideas are flying around, and people are taking one outcome and jumping right to the next, “Oh! We could do this…and if we do that, then we’d be able to accomplish that!” All the brainstorming of ideas is great! But it’s usually not realistic or sustainable. You can’t do it all at once.

At a certain point you need to scale back and decide what can be accomplished and what your milestones are. To achieve your desired level of impact, you’ll need both focus and discipline to prioritize successfully.

The Collective Strength

From an organizational perspective, prioritization can be more complicated, but it’s even more important. Your entire team needs to be on the same page in order to reach the business outcomes you’re hoping for. That’s where “Collective Prioritization” comes in. 

Collective prioritization focuses on aligning your team with the greater business objectives and ensuring the end results are prioritized by everyone. If people are working independently on what they think the priorities should be, progress can be difficult. With everyone working on their own thing, there’s no force behind the prioritization. 

But when every manager and individual is clear about the priorities—and they’re thinking critically about how the priorities relate to their daily and weekly goals—that’s when the magic happens. That’s the power of prioritization.

As we enter a new year, I encourage you to put a priority on prioritization. It’s been a game-changer for me. It will be for you and your organization too!

PRINCIPLES: R – Respect

Respect yourself. If you don’t, how can anyone else?

Aside from love, respect may be the thing people want most from others. Respect is directly tied to our self-confidence and, in many ways, how we see ourselves in the world. When people respect our judgement, our beliefs and our abilities, our self-esteem gets a boost. We feel more confident and proud of who we are and what our purpose is. That’s important. But in some ways, I have found in my life the order is reversed. If we want the respect of others, we first have to love and respect ourselves.

Earning self-respect can be just as difficult as earning the respect of others. First, you need to love who you are. We beat ourselves up a lot. But we need to tune-out the negative voice in our head. Instead of focusing on our flaws (which we all have), zone-in on the positives—our unique abilities and experiences that make us special. I encourage you to explore your own special abilities by writing a list of 5 things you do well. I guarantee there will be things on your list that others around you don’t do as well.

Another important factor in building self-respect is believing in our ability to succeed.  We all stumble and make mistakes. In fact, that’s part of the journey of success. What really matters is how you respond to the mistake. When we fail fast and rebound, we grow`.

FAIL: First Attempt In Learning

When we love and respect ourselves, people are more likely to respect us. But we still have to earn the respect of others. How?  Through honesty, integrity, and mutual respect. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be accountable and hold others accountable. Respect is a two-way street. Recognize other people’s beliefs and abilities and they will hopefully do the same.

 

PRINCIPLES – I: Integrity defines who you are

Living with Integrity

There are defining moments in our lives that test our character and push us to identify our set of values—our moral compass. Those principles keep us on the right path when we’re faced with difficult decisions and challenges.

This set of values, and our ability to stand by them, is called integrity. Throughout life, our integrity is regularly put to the test.

When I think about true integrity, I think of Martin Luther King Junior. He emerged as the primary voice of the Civil Rights Movement 65 years ago.

In 1955, Martin Luther King Junior was just 26 years old when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama to make room for white riders. Parks and King were launched into the spotlight. Outraged, King led the fight for equality in Montgomery, mobilizing the African American community. In the following days, 40,000 bus riders organized carpools and walked to work to protest the city’s law supporting segregation on public transportation.

Exactly 381 days later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery’s law violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The pressure of thousands and the leadership of one ignited a revolution.

I so admire the work of Martin Luther King Jr. His story and leadership are evidence that one individual can make an incredible difference. When he started, he didn’t have an army of people behind him. He mobilized communities and created the movement. He knew what he stood for, he was clear about his principles, and he was willing to sacrifice everything for them. That’s integrity. Better yet, that’s the power of the human spirit.

Standing up for what you believe in

While we all understand the legacy and integrity of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s important that we also recognize and actively uphold our own integrity and values within ourselves. We all have it in us to make a positive impact when we stand up for what we believe is right, even when that decision is hard.

Very early in my career, I was a manager for a healthcare company at a time when the industry was in transition.  It was a great company—they treated me very well, I was frequently rewarded and I had learned a lot.  However, one day, I realized my integrity was being challenged. The company was rolling out a new program for managed healthcare. While the company positioned this new offer to be a win for the consumer, I wasn’t so sure. It felt to me it was more focused on managing costs than managing patients.  So, I had a decision to make. 

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I didn’t feel right championing the program because I felt it wasn’t right for the customer. I couldn’t support an idea I didn’t believe in. So, I left the company. That was one of the first times I understood just how sacred my personal integrity was to me.

Integrity in the professional world

Professional settings may sometimes feel trickier to navigate than voicing your views and opinions in your personal life. We’ve all had moments when we’re at odds with a team decision or action.  When that happens, it’s important for us to ask why.

Is it because you liked your own idea better? Is it because you don’t fully understand the direction being supported? Or is it because it is fundamentally against your values? You need to be able to bottom-line this for yourself.  Is it an idea you can support? Can you change the direction? Or do you decide it’s not something you can do?

How to make that decision:

  1. Trust yourself –Think about your ideals. Explore why you feel the way you do.  Figure out your beliefs and whether you’re at risk of compromising your integrity. Moments like this won’t happen often – I can only name a handful of occasions in my life when I felt I was asked to do something that disputed my integrity.
  2. Say something – It’s important to speak up and communicate when things make you uncomfortable. Have an open dialogue with your peers and advisors and explain your reasoning for feeling conflicted. Then speak to those making the decision. Having these conversations will either help you grasp the root of your concern and get past the issue or solidify your opposition. Sometimes my concern was less a conflict of integrity and more to do with my own stubbornness or a lack of information.
  3. Have courage – Whether you discover a way to compromise or decide you can’t get past your concerns, making that decision and following your initial instinct of hesitation takes courage.  Be confident you’ve explored your feelings and have reached a resolution. If your decision is not in favor of the idea and means taking a stand to change the direction or walking away from it, take courage knowing you made a decision that will relieve you in the long run.

It’s important to stay true to your principles in your career. If you’re willing to contemplate your decision and build an awareness around your feelings, THEN act. You can walk away knowing you’ve done right by yourself.

Honoring Martin Luther King Junior

On January 20th, we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. In honor of his many accomplishments, MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to improve their communities through acts of service.

MLK day is a day of service where everyone is encouraged to find a volunteer opportunity and make it a day on, instead of a day off.

I hope you can take some time to reflect on the sacrifice and the enduring impact Martin Luther King Jr. made before his death at 39 years old. And I encourage you and your family to find an opportunity to honor his legacy by giving back.