15 Factors That Could Be Muddling Your Priorities As A Business Leader

Expert Panel® Forbes Coaches Council

As a leader, the priorities you set for your business can be the difference between success and failure. A lack of delegation, poor work-life balance and other daily stressors can cause business leaders to lose sight of what’s important, making setting priorities more challenging.

That’s why it’s critical for business leaders to reassess their priorities often and ensure that they’re still on the right track. Here, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the top factors that stand in the way of good prioritization and how business leaders can start focusing on the right things.

Featured members explore factors that could be muddling your priorities as a business leader.
Forbes Coaches Council members explore factors that could be muddling your priorities as a business leader.

1. Stress

Stress derails us from focusing on what is important. When stressed, we unconsciously trigger reactive habitual behaviors. Doing things daily that “fill our cup” will reduce our stress. Whether this is meditation, taking a walk in nature or spending an hour with a friend, we are actively taking responsibility to retrain the brain to be less reactive and more conscious. Just simply smile. – Michelle Anne, MichelleAnne.com

2. Your Ego

Most business leaders have accumulated some achievements in the past, and over time they gain a sort of reputation for being the “expert” in their area. To keep the ego in check, business leaders need to ensure they are constantly seeking new challenges and are able to take risks and do things that help them to grow, thus maintaining a healthy level of ego. – Dephy Oon, Paddee Connexions

3. A Lack Of Boundaries And Delegation

Leaders need to set boundaries and delegate with ease. Very often, business leaders feel that they are responsible for everything. Being a leader means enabling employees to come up with solutions. Yes, it might take longer the first time, but in the long run, it is a huge win. The more you empower others, the more you can let go and focus on the right priorities. – Melissa Leich, Growfused

4. Not Letting Go

The biggest thing that gets in the way of a business owner setting the correct priorities is not letting go. While the owner may be the expert, growing and scaling typically require the delegation of tasks once deemed unique to them. Even though an employee may only operate at 85% to 90% of the owner’s capacity, multiple employees over time will do exponentially more work, allowing the owner to truly do “owner” tasks. – Marc Zalmanoff, Marc Zalmanoff LLC

5. Not Understanding Your High-Impact Areas

With every client I work with, I have them do the “Big 3” exercise: I ask them to identify the top three areas where they can have the biggest impact on the business given their role and their strengths. Then, we look at how aligned their time, energy and capacity are with those areas. It’s a simple but powerful exercise to quickly redirect their focus toward driving more value to the business. – Neena Newberry, Newberry Solutions

6. A Lack Of Alignment

In my market niche, midsized service firms, the biggest challenge with priorities is getting alignment between stakeholders. What’s a priority to one person can be a distraction to another. To address this, I advise clients to establish a leadership council whose primary task is to define what’s most important right now. The council takes responsibility for priorities, plans and outcomes. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

7. Splitting Your Energy In Too Many Directions

The best way to avoid common pitfalls is to establish a clear set of priorities. It’s important to stay focused. Leaders need to take time to step back and assess what’s really important and make sure they’re putting their energy into those things. The state of mind is what prevents you from setting priorities and uncompromisingly following them. Clarity of thinking is the key to success. – Mikhail Saidov, Coaching Solutions

8. Not Delegating Time-Consuming Tasks

There are so many new issues and challenges that develop every single day for leaders. As a leader, it is important to prioritize regularly and stay focused on the priorities. One way to combat this daily “noise” that I’ve found effective in my experience as a leader and a coach is to consider delegating any task that requires more than five to 10 minutes of my time. – Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training – Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers

9. Perfectionism

Leaders want their business to be perfect. There is no “perfect” when it comes to business because it requires constant acceptance of change, fine-tuning to meet the needs required of you and changes in customer demand. Many coaches and entrepreneurs are not able to become successful because they cannot get started. My advice? Start and improve along the way. – Able Wanamakok, Find Your Voice Asia

10. An Unclear Vision

Business leaders lose focus when there is no vision or when the vision is unreasonable or just fluff. Leaders who do not want to be like my pup—distracted by every squirrel around—need to learn more about the vision. Ask questions and help formulate the route toward the vision. Focus on priorities that are on the chosen route and let others go. The focus will make distractions lose their power. – Kelly Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

11. Dealing With Crises

The biggest distraction from priorities is when a crisis starts, things go awry or a business goes soft. Leaders must have a clear vision of priorities for the company—both external and internal. These priorities become the daily check-in, the focal point of leadership meetings, part of all-hands meetings and so on. The more they are revisited and communicated, the easier it is to stay on track. – Tami Chapek, WeInspireWe

12. No Clarity On Your Goals

Because goals drive priorities, a lack of alignment and clarity on goals is consequential. But, with a focus on goals and the barriers to achieving those goals, a leader gains clarity on their priorities. By focusing on timing through a “now, next or later” exercise and actively communicating the context and process involved in making the priority decisions, a leader can avoid working on the wrong things. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

13. Reactive Leadership

Reactive leadership can feel satisfying in the short term, but this focus inevitably allows rectifiable, long-term problems to become short-term challenges that are responded to without strategic thinking. The key is to break the reactive leadership cycle and get in front of issues before they become long-term barriers to organizational success. – Shamila Mhearban, Shamila M. Ltd

14. Trying To Fix Problematic Employees

Leaders tend to be fixers, so when it comes to people, they end up spending 80% of their time on problematic employees. They are attracted to easy, fast or immediately gratifying tasks, which quells the chaos du jour. In reality, leaders should spend 80% of their effort growing and re-recruiting their top employees who can move the needle on business performance. It’s the age-old Pareto principle. – Wendy Fong, Chief Gigs

15. Feeling Disconnected From Your Vision

Feeling disconnected from the big overarching business vision causes leaders to focus on short-term priorities, and this outlook filters down into teams stuck in a cycle of productivity over strategy. Reconnecting to the vision and feeling inspired every day to create assets that will be of benefit at least three years into the future is the best way to establish better priorities. – Hannah Roberts, Intentional-Careers