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Published on January 28, 2019

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs

Failing to organize will often lead to chaos or, at the very least, an increase in stress levels. This occurs as you attempt to make sense of everything that surrounds you for the sake of making life easier.

The need to have organizational ability becomes even more important when you are the leader. After all, people turn to you for inspiration and it will hardly be inspiring if they see you freaking out.

But where do you start by becoming more organized? Well, I’m about to guide you through 11 key organizational skills that every leader needs to know. By the end, it will mean that you are in a better position to be a more effective leader.

So, let’s get to it!

1. Dealing with Time-Management

Poor time-management is at the root of so many issues within a company. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that things run like clockwork. This is only possible by having a firm understanding of what it is to be organized.

Failure in this area will lead to you being unable to stay on the task in front of you. Suddenly, your ability to juggle everything at once diminishes before you. It won’t take much before it all comes crashing down, resulting in you being viewed as rather unreliable.

Be aware of the following: the tasks for completion, their deadlines, the amount of work required and anything that cannot be delayed or avoided at any cost. Make a note of it daily and see how you fare with your list.

2. The Ability to Plan

Planning makes organizing easier but we are often lacking when it comes to being able to plan ahead. Again, poor planning leads to disorganization and more pressure on you.

Remember that planning takes different forms including dealing with time and how a project must proceed. However, a smart leader has to take things one step further to make a difference. You must also be aware of the plans of others and how they fit into your own approach if they are to make a difference. This becomes more important when dealing with a multi-disciplinary team where co-ordination can be problematic without adequate planning.

This is achievable even on a minute level although that is not always necessary. A complete absence of planning will only ever lead to problems.

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3. Understand Scheduling

Even though this skill does overlap with those mentioned earlier, it’s still important enough to merit its own individual point. Having a schedule, followed by keeping to it, is known to be an effective tool for organizing your life.

Scheduling indicates to others that you have an awareness about what they are doing. It also shows you have a firm grip on what is being done and that there are no issues with balancing a number of projects.

Thanks to scheduling, your understanding of the time taken for different aspects becomes improved. This helps you to keep control of a project as well as coping with problems thanks to an understanding of events.

4. Being Able to Organize Resources

It’s important to get the most out of your resources and this too requires organization. Even knowing when to use those resources is important to prevent them becoming exhausted or used at incorrect times.

Organization in this sense means being acutely aware of the resources at hand and those you may call upon with a project. Your strength should also be in linking the correct resource to the right requirement to ensure it fits into their own abilities. Failure to do this means wasted resources and this will not reflect well on you.

To be certain of organization in this sense, you must first of all identify resources that may be relevant before beginning a new project. This prevents you from scrambling around searching for help when you need it the most.

5. The Ability to Delegate

Delegation is an art form and not everyone has mastered it. An effective leader also understands its importance for a project to run smoothly.

It’s impossible to handle each aspect of a project yourself, and that is where delegating tasks can help. Being aware of who is best for a particular task prevents that overwhelmed feeling which will free you to oversee each aspect of the project.

An organized leader will know their team and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.[1] Being aware in advance means you will not stress when a problem arises as you know who to call for help

Thanks to organization, your team will work more efficiently and complete each task with less stress on your shoulders.

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Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

6. Understanding Priorities

Being capable of prioritizing things will make your life easier. Creating a ‘to-do’ list and understanding which deadlines come first then leads to better planning as well as less stress. As your experience builds, you become more confident at knowing which tasks are the most important.

Disorganized individuals tend to cope in a haphazard way and deal with things as they arise. This is incorrect as you put energy into the wrong areas, and the most important things fall by the wayside. Prioritization keeps you on track with the order in which you need to complete things.

For this, you must be aware of the tasks at hand and the process for each one. Check deadlines and other pressing details in advance to allow you to be better organized.

This article will help you prioritize better:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

7. The Ability to Work Together

The correct collaboration makes life easier. The only problem is that it does require organization on your part. An organized leader is aware of those individuals that may be the best person for a particular task. Not organizing leaves you in a position of searching for help when it should be plain sailing.

This is about more than mere delegation. Instead, the skill is with knowing in advance who you can call upon to make a project run as smooth as possible. This may also involve other leaders of various departments, so working in unison is key.

With this skill, you must become aware of who you may need to collaborate with before the need arises. Do your research and know who to call upon at any point. This allows you to then cope with any problem in a cool and efficient manner.

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8. Targets and Setting Goals

An organized individual will find it easier to set goals and targets, and then achieve them. A smart leader is able to show others that they can set goals, work towards them and ultimately achieve them. The only way in which this is done is by organization.

It will be impossible to reach a target if you are unaware of the path to follow. You must understand the actions that are required or you will never achieve anything. Organization also helps you to identify each step and any problems connected to it.

Here, you must identify the target or goal at the earliest opportunity and then bring forward the other organizational skills that I have mentioned.

9. Efficiency

Organization and efficiency go hand in hand as you cannot have one without the other. Efficiency leads to the need for planning as the smoother something runs, then the fewer problems you encounter and the happier everybody tends to be.

Being efficient also allows you to know where you are in a project at any moment. This is due to you having organized things to such an extent that you are able to counteract problems before they occur. Remember that efficiency and your ability to identify issues work in unison. If you fail to be organized, then it is impossible for this to happen.

To learn this skill, you must set aside time for each project and break it down into individual segments. Understand how each step must progress and who will be responsible for each part. Identify problems and how to resolve them to allow in such a way that everything can run like clockwork.

Efficiency is a skill that develops over time, so continue working on it and how to improve problem areas to become a stronger leader.

10. Clear Communication

A strong leader needs to be able to communicate clearly at all times.[2] With your organizational skills, you will find that this is easier to do.

Thanks to these skills, you always know what is happening and can clarify any issues. You are also able to communicate exactly what you need simply because you are organized and know the status quo at that point. You will find it easier to get things started in any way that you wish due to your ability to put things across in an easy and concise manner.

To have good communication, you have to be confident in your own abilities as a leader. If you use the different skills discussed above, you will notice a greater confidence in your voice which then has a positive influence on the rest of the team.

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If you want to be more confident in your communication skills, check out this article:

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

11. The Ability to Look After Yourself

Nothing mentioned above is possible if you are not organized in your own life. The ability to look after yourself is the glue that holds everything else together.

You need to eat and sleep well, along with taking care of your general health. Organization in each aspect of your life is essential to ensure you have a healthy balance. Feeling under the weather, tired, stressed or anything else negative will have a profound impact on your abilities as a leader.

Look at what people expect of you in each part of your life and adopt the same strategies for each aspect. You can then expect a certain synergy to occur between the different areas allowing them to work with a certain fluidity.

This simple guide will be helpful for you to take better care of yourself:

The 5-Step Guide to Self Care for Busy People

The Bottom Line

These 11 skills are, in my opinion, essential for any smart leader who wishes to be more organized in everything that they do. By bettering yourself along these lines, it will lead to not only a greater sense of confidence in yourself, but also towards those that look to you for both guidance and inspiration.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Deal with It 50 Inspiring Leadership Quotes from the Greatest Leaders of All Time How to Be a Successful Businessman (The Complete Guide) 11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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