The bad news: I've told a lot of folks, over a long time, in a lot of companies, that the majority of good things they want to work on are likely not going to take priority or get done. And I can most assuredly tell you that it's never a great message people want to hear.
No one likes to hear the bad news.
In fact, when I started my job at Emphasys almost ten years ago, one of my first conversations with the CEO highlighted that roughly 95% of the problems we would find (or that he had already found) wouldn't get solved right away.
The math is simple. Let's say there are 100 things we'd like to improve. Now we pick the top 5 to focus on. Guess what? There's a 95% chance that what you bring up won't likely be in the top 5 things we're focused on.
And while I would love to take credit for all this brilliant math, or even this strategy of focus, I can't.
You know Warren Buffett. Do you know his pilot?
Several years ago, as I understand the story, Warren was talking with his pilot. He was suggesting that maybe he'd failed somehow because the pilot hadn't moved on to better things.
As they talked, Warren asked his pilot to create a list of the top 25 life goals he had.
I think we can both agree that when Warren Buffett asks you to do something, even if it's not your job, it's likely a good thing to do.
So the list gets created. I don't know how long it took Buffet's pilot, but I'm guessing it wasn't a quick exercise.
How long would it take you? That exercise might take me a few weeks, at least!
Anyway, the pilot comes back with his list and it's time for step two. Warren asks him to select the top 5 most important ones from the list of 25.
At this point, you can again imagine the work that goes into it, but the pilot does it.
And with that, Warren asks him what he'd do next. The logical answer is the one the pilot answers with—I'll start pursuing the 5 right away.
Which is right on, but Warren then asks about the other 20.
The pilot highlights that those are still important things and that while not at the top of his list, he'd like to keep working on those as the opportunities arose.
And this is when we see why Warren Buffett is Warren Buffett.
No, he says. You got it wrong. That list of 20 things are the exact things you can never let distract you from your 5. Until you get the 5 done, you'll never touch those 20.
High Performers understand the value of focus
You're likely wondering why this post is titled about drama when the story is about focus. And I'm happy to tell you.
When high performers focus, when they narrow their vision and land on the top five things they absolutely have to get right, they don't worry about the other stuff.
- Sure, others will get frustrated about the 95% of things that aren't getting better.
- Sure, others will want to talk about item 12, 15 or 27.
- Sure, others will want to have meeting about gossip. Or stress about predicting the future.
- Sure, others will create drama—just because it's what fuels them.
But high performers? High performers have no time for drama.
They have no time for distractions.
And trust me when I tell you this—drama is nothing but a distraction.