How to Design a Path Forward when You Feel Like the Chief Plate Spinner

Plate spinners run from one crisis to the next. One plate spins up, another nearly falls. The threat of broken plates makes watching fun – unless it’s not an act.

Spinning plates is a frustrating job description.

Running in circles.

You can't move forward when you're running in circles.

How to design a path forward:

#1. Commit to move forward.

You can’t move forward when you’re running in circles.

Multi-tasking is an evil myth. You can’t focus on two meaningful actions at the same time.

The best you can do is rapidly switch from one crisis to the next.  Rapid switchers never complete anything. They just run around spinning the next wobbling plate.

#2. Choose to spend more time on one plate.

The courage to focus on one thing is the ability to stop running in circles.

You can’t ignore all the spinning plates. But you can give more attention to one.

One way to create focus is to give new responsibilities to someone who is 70% ready. Assign new opportunities to your best people.

#3. Describe what improvement looks like.

You’d be surprised how many plate spinners can’t define the win.

You run in circles when you don’t know where you’re going.

#4. Collect suggestions.

Define the win and ask two questions.

  1. How might we adapt what we’re currently doing to achieve this improvement?
  2. What new behaviors will help us win? Old behaviors don’t produce improvements.

#5. Choose a specific path forward.

  1. We’re focusing on X this week.
  2. Which of these behaviors (From #4 above) would you like to implement?

#6. Create accountability.

Next week we’ll discuss actions and results. Try using an AAR.

  1. What did you try?
  2. How did it work?
  3. What did you learn?

#7. Adapt and try again.

How might leaders create focus in a plate-spinning environment?

What would you add to the above list?