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Quarterly Priorities Manager: Choose the Right Priorities

The Quarterly Priorities Manager, or QPM, is more than a useful tracking tool: it’s also a powerful management tool that will keep you and your management team focused on your highest priorities and ensure that you’re on track to accomplish them on time and

on budget. Perhaps best of all, the QPM is a simple tool to create and use.

Map Out Your Priorities

To start, identify your top five goals/priorities for the next ninety days. (The time period is critical here, so focus on three months out.) Ask yourself, “What big steps will we accomplish over the next three months to bring us closer to our goal?” Be sure to focus solely on the five biggest things that will carry you toward the goal. You may be tempted to list more than five. If so, you’re probably looking at activities rather than true goals.

After you list your top five priorities in order of importance, meet with your direct reports and ask for their feedback on your priorities. Let them express if they think those are the right priorities to focus on for the next three months. Listen to their answers and take notes. Even if you disagree, write down what they say to show that you’re serious about having open and authentic communication with your direct reports.

Establish Team Priorities

Next, give each person a blank QPM form and ask them to list their top five priorities for the next ninety days. Before you meet as a group again, coach each of them individually about how to get their priorities focused. Help them determine the right priorities for them as individual managers and for the company.

When you assemble your team again, after each individual has completed a QPM form with your coaching, amazing things will happen. Everyone will be on the same page and will understand the impact their decisions will have on the other members during the next ninety days. This is one of the many benefits of the QPM process. Even if your direct reports talk to each other regularly, they probably don’t always talk about the interdependence of their respective priorities.

Create a Goal Line

In fact, the lack of a common cause is one of the biggest issues a team can face. In many companies, each team member is running toward a different goal line; or worse, they have no goal lines. The QPM process establishes a common cause—a common goal line. When your direct reports understand each other’s priorities, they can act as a team and support each other’s efforts to reach the company’s goals. During the quarter, you must help your team achieve their priorities.

Receive a Report Card

At the end of the quarter, fill out the results column of your QPM form. This is your “report card” showing whether you accomplished what you planned to do during the quarter. This report card, or results section, ties a ribbon around the past quarter and finishes it off, furnishing a sense of finality.

Now, you’re ready to list your priorities for the next 90 days in the right-hand column of your QPM form. One or two priorities might carry over from the just-completed quarter, but you may decide that they’ll have different priority positions in the upcoming quarter.

Going to the Next Level

When you meet with your reports, take time to praise what everyone accomplished during the just-finished quarter. Be sure not to undermine the QPM’s positive spirit by chastising employees who didn’t achieve their priorities. Instead, offer a non-threatening comment about what might have gone wrong and advice on how the priorities for the next quarter can be achieved. If serious accountability or performance issues surface, handle them in a separate, private meeting.

By focusing on the next quarter, while keeping the report cards on view for everyone to see, you’ll allow peer motivation to kick in. Peer motivation is powerful—in fact, far stronger than superior-subordinate motivation. Remember: A rising tide carries all ships to new levels.

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