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The Power of ONE THING

Every day every leader must find a way to cut through the fog and the clamor of the urgent in order to focus their attentions on what matters most.

Wrestling with what is actually most important is one of the most consistent challenges of leadership. To be a leader means stepping into the cage to fight with dozens of competing priorities.

Trust me, I understand! Every day it seems I wake up to another list of 17 new things that demand my attention. However, leadership means sorting through the many to focus on the leveraged few things. Leadership is more than getting through your task list.

As an alternative to spending your life juggling chainsaws, I offer this simple yet life-changing discipline: Identify the ONE THING! In spite of all the demands in front of you, identify the ONE thing that matters most right now. And do that thing.

Whether first thing in the morning or the last thing you do the night before, ask yourself, “what is the one thing that will make the biggest difference today?” If the bulk of your plans for the day collapse because of some unforeseen crisis, what is the one thing that you should accomplish today that will make the biggest difference?

Apply this same prioritizing discipline every week as you map out your work flow. Ask yourself, what is the one thing I can do this week that will “move ball furthest down the field?”

Repeat this discipline every month as you set priorities, goals, and calendar for the month ahead. Ask yourself, of all the opportunities, expectations, and goals I have for this month, what is the one thing that is most important for me to accomplish?

Do the same thing before any appointment. Identify the one decision that needs to be made; the one question that most needs to be asked; the one conversation you need to have; the one piece of information you need to communicate; etc. Conversations can be like canoeing through the weeds without a clear priority focus.

Apply this discipline to every meeting you plan or plan to attend. In advance, ask yourself, what is the one thing that is most important for your to bring or to walk away with from this meeting? What is the one thing, the one outcome, that will make this meeting a success?

For every presentation, every letter, every email, pause before you start writing and ask the one thing question. What is the one message, insight, assignment, question, announcement, etc. that I want "them" to understand? Then put it in a single sentence.

The concept is so stinking simple. Execution on the one thing takes courageous discipline. Instead of fixating on how to get more done, focus on the one thing that has the greatest potential to bring progress in this moment. Then, do that thing.

The depth of your impact is in direct proportion to the narrowness of your focus.


#1: Momentum

If you do this consistently I believe you will find that every day, every meeting, every communique will yield incremental progress to significant momentum. And, momentum is contagious.

#2: Impact

I said this above, The depth of your impact is in direct proportion to the narrowness of your focus. The broader your focus the more you dissipate your impact. So, imagine that you could see increased impact every day, every week, every month, every conversation, every meeting... How good would that feel?


What’s your ONE thing for today?

… your ONE thing for this week?

{This post is the first of a summer series of updated and republished "greatest hits" from the year since re-launching aboutLEADING in June 2020.}


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