Earlier in my career, I was a young sales manager for a healthcare company with a mentor who “taught” me the importance of setting the right priorities. It was about the numbers! “Your number one priority is hitting your quota – that’s how you get ahead – that’s why we hired you!” Well guess what happened, the job became about hitting the numbers. Sales meetings became about setting priorities, numbers, quotas, targets etc. We couldn’t wait to get out of those “dreadful” sales planning meetings. I look back upon those days – they seem kind of silly now. We were missing something really important. If I had only thought differently – what might have been possible?
Earlier this month, I was facilitating an executive retreat for a major healthcare company and something very important took place. Imagine a room filled with senior executives who were there to discuss and align on the 2016 priorities for the business. The conversation that followed was truly remarkable.
I started out by asking the executives (there were about 40 of them in the room) two questions:
- The first question was how many of you come to work each day trying to lose money for the company? As you can imagine – a few chuckles were followed by no hands being raised.
- The second question I asked was how many of you think your work makes a difference in the lives of others? All the hands went up!
A very interactive dialogue centered on what are the “priorities on behalf of.” Yes, the team needed to execute around things that were going to drive growth, productivity, and innovation; and, that did happen – but in a different and more purposeful way. The whole conversation shifted to “purpose” and stories of how patients and health care professionals benefited from the company’s products and services. Throughout the retreat –when a priority discussion ensued –it was often followed by a quick story on how that decision would impact clients and / or patients while supporting the desired business results.
A priority conversation during a business meeting allows people to quickly align around what results the business must produce. Now that is not silly.