How to Set Your Top Business Priorities

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How to Set Your Top Business Priorities

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Starting the conversation:

There will always be situations out of your control, and you must navigate them to achieve your goals. Jess Dewell, Managing Partner of Red Direction, discusses what it takes to succeed today: a commitment to stepping out of the day-to-day; being hyper-focused on the short and long-term goals; and having an outside set of eyes … all these are imperative to create accountability that results in a thriving business.

Push the edges of what you’ve done to break through to the next level.

The #AskJess Anything questions shared from the Fast Track Your Business Today program outline a framework for what to do when bumping up against your business beliefs, what has always worked, and what you know is possible. Success today is consistent (but imperfect) action with which to learn and adjust and keep going. That perseverance requires confidence because it requires courage, patience, creativity, and a lot of grace … mixed with a bunch of fun.

Host: Jess Dewell

What You Will Hear:

Q: How do I balance responsibilities with the day-to-day tasks of running a business?

  • 3 elements of focus to navigate between running a business and day-to-day operation.
  • Finding patterns is necessary to create a thriving business that solves problems and remains relevant.
  • The importance of tools to find and use information in decision making. Have confidence that you are doing the right work right now.

Q: With so many moving parts in my company, how do I determine which tasks fall under which priority?

  • Align your priorities to accomplish ONE thing.
  • Measure your accountability and use the result to determine the next best action.
  • You might find the plan made is totally wrong without being accountable and measuring accountability – this will help you fail forward faster.
  • Create a safe space for the outside world, and the related trials and emotions, to be present as it will influence priorities; these are the clues for where to be flexible and adaptable.
  • There will always be situations out of your control, and you must navigate them to achieve your goals.
  • Get an outside set of eyes on a specific accountability or priority issue with an Unstuck Quick.


Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your business has many directions it can travel, the one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. Jess Dewell brings you a 20-year track record of business excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your path comes from consistently working from the special place, your unique TrueNorth. Now, here’s Jess.

Jess Dewell 00:32
Well, hi. Hi. Hi. Welcome back to the Bold Business Podcast. This is a live edition. And we decided today, today of all days for this Livestream, we would bring some of our questions from the Fast Track Your Business program to the forefront and answer them here. Now, this is really good, because all of these questions are going to be answered live. So you tuning in being right here will get to see this here this and have this after the fact some of these questions, most of these questions will be put behind the, the wall, if you will, they are going to be put into the TrueNorth dashboard for those people who ask the questions. Those participants, those subscribers, those that have already chosen the next step to fast track their business by being part of that program. Now at Red, you will be able to hear the clip from today on your favorite podcast player, you just go over there, remember red to get that link that you want. And if you want to find out more about the Fast Track Your Business and how you can get unedited uncut content anytime you want at your fingertips to help you with the biggest problems that you’re solving right now. Check out Fast Track Your Business Now, I’m going to unlike so excited to jump in, I am so excited to jump in that said we must take a pause because in the moment of the pause, we can anchor we can be present. And we can open ourselves to be curious and willing to hear things that we might not be ready to hear willing to hear the things that are the reminders that say hey, hey, hey, please listen, please listen, or why aren’t you listening? Why aren’t you listening? And you’ll hear it in your voice. He’ll be like, Oh, that again? Oh, yeah, that again, oh, I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I’m hearing it again. And again. And again, whatever the reaction, just be open, just be open, let that process work behind the scenes perceive what’s being shared today. And know that you’re not alone in this journey. It is a big deal to lead a team, it is a big deal to lead a team in times of turbulence. And, you know, we thought the last two years were turbulent? Well, we’re learning as this week continues to go on that we’re gonna have turbulence in different ways. There are ripple effects everywhere, some affect us directly, and some won’t. That said, being able to know which is which, and how to proceed is going to be the most important thing for you, each day, each week, each quarter each year. And so the last thing I will say before we bring Scott into this conversation to ask these questions from our Fast Track community. Is that oh, shoot, I just lost it. And how funny is that? So hang on, it was the last thing and then I made sure to say all the words, and then I forgot it. We were talking about a pause. We were talking about the Fast Track program. We were talking about the right problems. Right now we were talking a little bit about, oh, one thing at a time. I’ll bet you that was it. So I even have some props today that I’ll show you. Because when you adapt to your workflow, and when you use the way you can be creative, the way you can be open the way you can be willing to receive new information, even if it’s in the periphery. You know, you’re setting yourself up for success, maybe not today, but that seed is planted, maybe not tomorrow, yet that seed is still planted, maybe not when that seed first sprouts out of the ground. Yet, it’s well on its way by then to becoming whatever that seed was that was planted into the final form of the plant that will get us closer allow us to reach to achieve what we would like to achieve. Alright, Scott’s in the background and he’s got these questions and I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t get started. Scott, what do you think?

Scott Scowcroft 04:43
Okay, I think it’s a good idea. And here’s the first question. It’s from Tom. How do I balance responsibilities were the day-to-day tasks of running a business.

Jess Dewell 04:53
Sometimes I wish these were all easy one-answer questions, but they’re not. And so Tom, you make a really good point. Right. And knowing what I know about you, I know you have been practicing focus. And so in this concept of focus, one of the things that I think is really important is to remember some of the elements that make up our ability to focus, to be able to balance the bigger responsibilities of running a business with the day to day tasks that fill up a lot of our time. And the first part of focus is compromise. The second part of focus is understanding how whatever is being done fits into the mission. And the third is how consistent we are in our action, knowing that it will be imperfect. So when we think about focus in those three concepts, and those three elements, which by the way, there are more, these are just the ones that I picked for today, I think it’s important to make sure that we know that there is a compromise. When I am doing something, I’m not doing something else. You’ve heard me say this everybody in a way. When we say yes to something, we say no to something else, it’s very strong, it’s very edge, there’s an edge, there’s a this or that this or that. And when we have that when there’s no middle ground, it’s kind of hard and we all want, we all want that to be, well, our situation is different. Well, there are all of these other factors. And here’s the deal. Compromise is a part of focus. If we do that, well, that’s maybe that we’re hedging. And compromise is big to a point. So it’s up to you, Tom to know in your focusing? Are you compromising too much? Are you not compromising enough? I’ll say it a different way. Are you? Are you letting things get blurred? Are you being too rigid? It’s really important to understand if you just have a scale with each of those phrases, or words on each side. Where are you landing on that? And does it work for you? And is it aligned with your mission? And does it allow you to be doing the work and taking the action and making the impact you want. So digging into even focus a little bit more is that consistent action, however imperfect. And it’s always going to be imperfect, we never have all the information, it’s always a risk to take an action and get started and take the first step, maybe even the 54th step. The thing is we’re consistent in that action. Because every time we take action, we learn, every time we learn, we can take that back and say Is that useful to us. And if it is, we reflect and incorporate if it is not, we can let it go, we can let it go and take another action. The thing is action is consistent. That is a part of focus. Because the more we can learn, the more we can get better at actually going back to that compromise piece. Where do we fall on the scale of this or that that we have put into place and use it and be okay saying it is this or that most of the time. And don’t forget that it can be a little bit of a squishy on? Oh, there’s a word I want but I can’t find it. So a little bit of a squishy area with soft edges fuzzy. That’s it a fuzzy place. And as long as it fits into our mission, that fuzzy place may be okay. But it may or may not based off of the results that you’ve been getting, if you’re trying to change those as well as are you able to find patterns so that you can figure out what’s next? And is it the right next. And here’s the deal, that finding patterns piece is all about looking at the data you have. So in that day-to-day and actually running the business being separate, it’s hard to do them in an intertwined fashion. So with the concept of a scorecard that is, is specific to your company, concept of the Present Retreat, which you’re going to hear more with some of the other questions that are coming up and understanding what the impact your desired impact is, what the expected impact is, and how close are you to both of those things. That’s all about finding the pattern.

Jess Dewell 09:20
So you have as much information as possible for the fuzzy bits for the fuzzy parts of what we’re doing in the decisions that we have to make because the more we hone this is the key takeaway. Hone, focus Hone finding patterns, the honing skill will allow us to know are we using the right tools or react? Do we actually have the right tools? Sometimes they’re the same and sometimes they’re different. And do we have the knowledge and information that we can get from using the tools to get the right answer right now. And that’s the thing to remember. Nothing we do is set in stone. So the day-to-day tasks of running a business, and the responsibility of strategy execution and just business management in general, are separate functions. And by using focus by finding patterns, and continuing to hone Hone hone them, you will make progress. And you will learn it may not be as fast as you want. Yet, it will happen. Oh, by the way, we do have a great past podcast about this. It’s called focus and refocus, that you may be interested in. And I’ll make sure to link to that in the notes about this program as well.

Scott Scowcroft 10:39
Okay, well, the next question is from Amber. With so many moving parts in my company, how do I determine which tasks fall under which priority?

Jess Dewell 10:49
Oh, what a great question. And you know, here’s the thing. The thing with that Amber, that it comes down to and by the way, welcome, I know you were a new newer member of the Fast Track program and learning to navigate your way around the True North. Platform and website. So welcome, and how do I know which tasks fall under which priority? And I have a singular question for you? How do I determine which tasks fall under which priority? There’s a singular question that I want you to start with? Do all of the priorities, do all of the moving parts in your company actually have something that points to one thing, every business function will have a different purpose and a different view? Or all of their outputs? Or all of their goals? Or all of their achievements aligned across the company? If not, that’s the place to start? If so, then you can start thinking about the tasks under the priority. So you’re first under that question? Are your tasks aligned to the priorities? And if they are, are the priorities aligned together to the outcome? Which is how do I serve my clients the best? How do I make sure that we stay relevant? How do I know and making an impact in the world? And your mission? There’s another question that when all of those things are yes, at the moment, because by the way, just because they are once doesn’t mean they stay that way. So it’s a good question for all of us to ask, are our priorities aligned to our one thing? So going into that second question, when the answer is yes, in that moment, and in that timeframe? Is are you accountable for those priorities? And how are you measuring that accountability? There is actually an uncharted conversation we’ve had with Vince Scott, and he talks about this a lot. So I suggest that you go watch that program, the it’s called Uncharted with special guests, Vince’s Scott, where we’re talking about accountability. And there’s another one too called Get the right work done right now. And the title of that program is prioritizing your tasks to get more work done. All right, so with the second question, are you accountable? And how do you measure that? First, you have to say, am I accountable? When we set a goal? Do we stay on track with that goal? Do we do something? When we’re not? Can we see when we’re not making the progress toward our goal? That’s the first step of accountability. Having more awareness, seeing more and calling out when things aren’t going as planned? And it’s not because the plan is right. Let me just be really real with you. The plan could be totally wrong. However, if the plan is wrong, and we don’t call it out, boy, are we really off track in our company. So to keep win that first question, do all of your priorities across all business units align to the one thing, then you can actually say? Are we making progress? How can we be accountable and if we’re not making progress, we can look at the goal, we can look at the timing, we can look at the relevance we can look at the perspectives with which each of the business units is showing up. Because they’re going to have their goals. And here’s a really cool thing about making sure that you’re taking present retreats not only for you Amber, but also for your executive team, that leadership team because when everybody has their own on that management team or that leadership team, and then everybody gets together and has their some people call those, those monthly breakdowns or the monthly meetings or you know, there are a lot of systems with a lot of names for these things, those monthly meetings. When we can call out and feel safe, calling out what’s working and what’s not working, and what we see working and not working for our peers, we actually help each other in our own business unit. So we can get more aligned more quickly.

Jess Dewell 15:18
It really does come down to the accountability piece. Are you accountable? And if not, what are you doing to help be more accountable and actually measuring that you stay accountable? And it could be as simple as the gap analysis that I just shared? Are you hitting your goals? And if not, how come? Are there competing priorities? And if so, why? And what is that? What does that mean in terms of changing the order with which things get done, so you can do the right work right now, knowing that the next work is going to be for the next now. I want to pause here, Scott, because I think that this is important to talk about in relationship to everything that we have going on in our world, all of the different things and we’re going to come back, I’m going to come back to the macro and the macro impacts of the economy right now, not only for us, but also globally, and the global situations that are showing up all the time, that impact us in different ways. And, you know, the more emotional that one of these big events is, the harder it is to stay accountable. And I think that’s really important, because I’m a big believer in, in having a motion at the table. Having the feelings, having the things that impact us outside of our roles, and outside of our work and outside of our companies be recognized as being at the table. Because here’s the deal, that can shift what the right work is right now, here’s the deal, that can change what the priorities must be to continue moving forward and not waiting on something that’s out of our control. So the right word right now does include an emotional component. And I want you to recognize Amber, and everybody else listening in that, it’s really important that that emotion is named and brought to the table. And the safety of being able to do that is almost always going to be from the top down. There may be an expectation from the bottom up to do that. However, in practice, what solidifies the change that occurs, the space that is created with which the work we’re doing together gets done, comes down to what we do. And when we’re accountable, and what we’re responsible for ourselves. And we say, Hey, this is my emotion, hey, I have other stuff going on outside that I don’t wish to talk about. But it is going to impact my ability to 123 that allows you Amber, to, to model to your leadership team, that they also have the ability to do that. And when your leadership team is doing that, and modeling that it creates a space with which other people can also step up, show up and really have the human part of us be in our business process. Because that’s how we navigate change. That’s how we navigate uncertainty is together, using our best leaning into our strengths and recognizing exactly what we have right now. I want to say right now then, you know, prioritize your tasks to there are all kinds of tools for prioritizing tasks. And so I would say Amber at the level of leadership, it’s less about what tasks get done, and it’s more about are the priorities, the right ones for right now. And then each of your individual business units, those departments that you are working with, they need to understand what those tasks are. And they need to be able to speak to from you speak to why it is important right now. And what that means, because then a collaborative high functioning approach would be so what’s taking up the most time and does it help us get to our goal? And if it doesn’t, what is it and why does it exist? 

Jess Dewell 19:35
And is it still working for us? It opens up a ton of other questions that will bubble back up to the leadership team. Yet it all starts from the leadership team having the space to have safety around. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I’m not all of the way here right now. We’re human and it happens to all of us. So here’s what’s going on, and the other thing is, it’s uncertain, I don’t know what’s happening, something could happen at the drop of a hat. And it’s all outside of my control. Those are two things that we take into account. And I’ll tell you this, just thought of it Amber, your dynamic Swat, when you have a dynamic SWOT and you use it, as each of these things that I have been talking about come up, or a situation that’s separate than what I have talked about, which by the way, you may want to set up a, an unstuck quick so that we could actually talk about the very specific situation that you might be facing. What I want to make sure that we’re doing here is recognizing there’s a lot of pieces to lean into the processes that you already have in place. And what this is, with all of these moving parts is navigating that and you being the guide for that, and you creating a circle, or a group of that is your leadership team that allows everybody to have that space with which to work and solve the real problems at hand that are getting in the way, versus the ones that allowed just something or just that thing to the, to the end of everything else, or that takes over and commandeers everything else. So good luck with that. And I do think a, I do think in unstuck quick would be good, because it sounds like there’s a specific situation that you are working with that. That second set of eyes may be useful for in the, in the short term. Okay, Scott, I know that we have some people watching somewhere and I just want to do a quick check-in and say thanks, everybody, for joining us live. Red is where you will find some notes about this, you’ll be able to find out about the Fast Track Your Business today program, which is where these questions have come from. And make sure, make sure that you stop by and say hello in our comments when you’re live or even post because we want to make sure we’ve got your questions, your comments, your successes, because all about leading companies, especially during change, and uncertainty ensures that we are having a conversation that develops all of us. And we can learn from each other.

You were listening to the Bold Business Podcast. I want to take a moment and give you a peek into what additional services and solutions you could access to Fast Track Your Business. This program was created to develop your capacity on demand by sharing insights tips, as well as lessons learned by business leaders unedited and uncut. And we don’t just stop there, there are three additional benefits to help you reach your growth goals. You will also have unlimited access to one hearing tips and insights to develop yourself as a leader to get better results more often, to experiencing viewpoints from many different business leaders. Three receiving frameworks to build core competencies and to more effectively focus on business growth and leadership. altogether. The Fast Track Your Business program will allow you to face uncertainty, anytime, anywhere. If you have learned something from this show that will help you in your business right now. Consider what additional impact you can get by subscribing to the Fast Track Your Business program. You owe it to your business to seek out new ways to achieve more while building a resilient and profitable business. Subscribe now. Visit Fast Track Your Business Special thanks to The SCOTT Treatment for technical production.