When things don’t change, there is typically one reason.
Change is simply not a priority.
Wherever there is a lot of talk, but very little action…when progress is painfully slow (without regard to how essential we say it is) it is almost always due to one thing.
The prescribed movement isn’t important enough to command the necessary attention and resources.
And the venue doesn’t matter.
From inside your firm, to global seats of power…from personal living rooms to centers of social, academic and religious establishments…we prioritize what we care about most.
There are a number of ways to distract or mislead. And most of us learn how to talk a good game.
My website may display eloquent proclamations on client service. Or a carefully crafted mission statement might frame purpose in the context of critical conversations — the value of diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and work-place collegiality, for example.
But beyond copy and soundbites, it is tough to ignore an absence of progress And it is next to impossible to hide what is most important.
We Invest In Priorities
Sure…finances reveals a lot.
Who we reward and what we support tells a big part of the story. What is often overlooked in this arena is how those we elect to pay defines where and when we decide to withhold resources.
And then there are those spots where financial support can be a proxy for priority.
The real measure of our priorities is where we invest our most precious resource. Most of us come to the realization that we will eventually run short of time. Where and how we spend our hours says everything about our priorities.
If It Is A Priority, We Measure It
Steps-in-a-day. Miles-in-a-week. Heartbeats-in-a-minute. In a given context (and to varying degrees depending on who you talk to), these are measures worth keeping.
We measure what we count as valuable. If it has either captured the imagination or has direct impact on the pocketbook, we find multiple ways to take its measure — from a favorite sport to the machinations of economic indicators.
On the other hand, if we can’t be troubled to recognize benchmarks or measure progress, it simply doesn’t rise to the level of high priority. Period.
And, by the way, to measure begrudgingly does not signal priority…especially when the response is to ignore what the measurement tells us.
I’ve heard the saying since I was a kid — perhaps you have too:
What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.
Translation: actions speak louder than words. Or website copy. Or mission statements. Or the speeches rolled out at annual meetings.
You Name The Issue
- Diversity and inclusion
- Client service
- Firm alignment and integration
- Business development
- Or fill in the blank with the area in your organization where movement is needed
In firms where progress is made in challenging areas, it is because a critical issue has risen to priority status.
In these firms, five things drive change:
- Goals reflect what is most important;
- Plans exist in order to pursue these goals;
- Progress is measured;
- Leadership demonstrates priority status;
- The priority is clearly reflected in the firm’s investments — in finances and in critical human resources.
This is what a priority looks like.