Is it Essential?

 In Blog, Culture

Is it essential? That is the question we need to be asking ourselves.  Busyness has become an epidemic in our society.  Here is a quick example:

I was working with a client recently and we were helping them to create a culture where their people could flourish. As we sat down to start talking with the executive team, I asked them to tell me a bit about what each of them was doing with their time. One by one, I started hearing them share similar stories.  They were all very busy, lots of work to do. So much in fact, that they were all working nights and weekends.  It was a bit of a contest for them to see who was working the most hours. 

After a few minutes of this, the CFO said to the group, “why are we so proud of working so many hours?  We are giving up time with our families to do this!” They all agreed, and kept on sharing about their workloads and how much more they needed to do.

Several minutes went by and I told them, “I know your primary value here at your company”. They were silent. (They had been trying to determine their company values for a little while at this point with no success).  The President said to me, “Wow, that’s great! What is it?”

“Busyness” I proclaimed.  “Busyness?” He said.  “Yep”.  I continued. “You see, what you all have been telling me is how much work you do, how busy you all are.  You all are so busy that you are giving up time with your families to do this, and by your accounts, there is more to do.  Busyness exemplified.”

I thought the President was going to jump over the table and come for me. He looked angry and then he said, “That doesn’t sound good”.  “It isn’t” I replied.

“How do we fix it?” he asked.  Many of you most likely have something similar going on at your organization.  Most of us do.  How do we fix it?


Make a list of everything that you do.  Ask yourself a few questions.  If we stop doing this, will it be missed?  Is this activity moving us towards our goals?  Do we have a Statement of Essential Intent?* (a much more concrete statement that tells everyone in the organization the primary goal that we are all working for at your business).

*The statement of Essential Intent comes directly from a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  This is an outstanding book, a must read!

In his book, McKeown talks about how vision statements are nice, but they are not concrete, you never reach them. We need something that is concrete AND inspirational.

Here is another exercise for you.  Think about how you would fulfill this.

You have to get rid of half of your staff/employees.  Who do you get rid of and why?

This will help you in a hurry to determine which of your people are essential.  What is it that makes them essential?  What would happen to your organization if everyone performed with the same essential intent as the top 5% of the people on your keep list?

Second exercise which is similar to the first:

You have to get rid of 50% of what you do in your job.  What do you eliminate?

Many people start by saying “It can’t be done!”  Can’t it?  How many things are you doing that really are not essential?  How many things could you blend with other things or change the way you are doing them to be more effective with less work?

We can be more effective by paying attention to what is essential and doing the most essential things first.

Remember what Steven R. Covey said in his hit book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:  

“Keep first things first.”  That is essentialism and it works!

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