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Leaders Wear WIGs (Wildly Important Goals)

How many times do you start off your day determined to accomplish x, y, and z? …then you look at your watch, it’s 6 PM, and you haven’t even finished the first item on your list. Know that feeling? I call it the “whirlwind of daily activity.” You do so many things yet accomplish so little, so much effort for so little result.

How can you break away from this? I call it “putting on a WIG.” Although their use has almost faded into oblivion, historically wigs were worn to shield people’s heads. For example, the ancient Egyptians used it to protect their shaved, hairless heads from the sun. Western Europeans in the 16th century wore them to protect their hair from head lice. It even became traditional in some professions, such as the legal system of the Commonwealth.

I invoke the resurgence of the wig in the professional world, but this time for all leaders. This however, requires a great deal of discipline—it means narrowing your focus on a few Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) so that you can successfully achieve them in the midst of the whirlwind of your daily job.

Interestingly enough, MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller and professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University identified that trying to multitask overloads the brain’s process capability. And if you read the 30 Management Principles of the US Marines you will learn that their entire theory is based on the “rule of 3”. For example, if you have 2-3 goals you will achieve 2-3 goals; if you have 4-10 you will achieve 1-2; if you have 11-20 you will achieve 0. Sacrifice performance on the important tasks, or hardwire yourself for excellence? You pick.

A real leader has the ability to focus relentlessly on a few wildly important goals and lead their team in that same direction. Once he/she puts on that WIG, everyone knows it’s game time. But it’s not easy. Just like head wigs can be cumbersome, so WIGs are hard to remain focused on.

Have you ever seen someone with a goofy wig? They tend to stand out. The same applies in business—you immediately focus on that WIG. There will always be more good ideas than capacity to execute. Say “no” to many good ideas so that you can focus on just a few excellent ones. The results will speak for themselves.

Are you up to the challenge? Do you have what it takes to put on that WIG?


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