Sales kickoff season – the perfect time for everyone to find focus, find balance.

It’ that time of year where we start mapping business goals to marketing objectives and key results (OKRs).  It’s therapeutic because it feels like a fresh start, like clicking the reset button on a new year.
It’s our job as leaders to find the focus and help our teams prioritize time, energy and attention to the stuff that matters. I  committed to this in my previous post – finding the balance from working all the time to timing all the work.  This is easier said than done.  I refer back to a post titled “How Agile Marketing Combats Burnout.”  Ironically, it was posted exactly one year ago today, so it must be that time of year.  The post talks about “The Plague of Context Switching” and that research shows the more stuff we add to our plate, the more distracted, frustrated and stressed-out we get, and the more time we waste. We lose our focus.
Lose focus. Lose Balance.
The same post cites  the 2019 Marketing Happiness Report from MarketingProfs that found a shocking 73% of marketers fail at completing work because we keep getting interrupted by more work.  The work comes from leaders, marketing peers, or  others throughout the organization who may have their own goals, objectives and thus priorities.  What our teams end up with is massive  backlogs of tasks, and if we look closely, many may not even align to the goals and objectives we set as marketing leaders.  The end result – we miss the very results we are driving our teams to accomplish.
“We’re psychologically hard-wired to finish things, so if we leave a task undone our brains can’t let it go. Our focus will remain split until we’re able to check that item off our to-do list.”
Find Focus. Find Balance.
As marketing leaders, we need to agree on our core objectives / priorities / focus areas – our OKRs.  We all need to be on the same page in how we message our OKRs to the greater marketing team and cross-functional partners. The leaders of our cross-functional teams need to understand our OKRs and identify how our may (or may not) align to their own.  Most importantly, we need to empower our marketing team members to say “NO” to the things that don’t align. MarketingProfs highlighted that we are failing miserably at this.  When they asked marketers how often they say “NO” to projects that come across their desk:
  • 12% never say no
  • 41% say no a few times per year
  • 14% say no a few times per month
  • 4% say no a few times per week
  • 3% say no every day
  • 26% I don’t have the autonomy/authority to say no

More than half of marketers (53%) either never say no, or say no only a few times a year, and 26% believe they do NOT have the autonomy or authority to say no?! No wonder our teams have massive backlogs. No wonder we are forced to divide our time among tasks, thus giving the more critical work less of our mental energy and focus. What we end up being is a bunch of context-switching, multitasking,  task mastering tacticians.

Finding focus starts by cutting our backlog.  Research shows that if we cut our backlogs in half,  the time to complete projects is cut in half.   It’s a perfect time to do so. It’s a new year with fresh goals, objectives and desired results.  Imagine if we could take any project or task on our plate that fails to ladder up to our goals or objectives and de-prioritize, or better yet, decommission.  We should all take a good long look at what’s on our plate and make that call.  I am going through this very exercise with my own backlog and that of my team’s.

Last week was our 2020 Global Kickoff. We learned our corporate goals and objectives for the year.  We know what we need to do. Now, as leaders, it’s up to us to prioritize and empower ourselves and our teams to focus. We find the focus, we find the balance. And in the process, have a lot of fun delivering results.