We’ve all had to manage multiple priorities at some point in our professional career; so much so that it is common to see “multi-tasking” or “ability to juggle multiple priorities” listed as skills on our resumes. However, there is a huge difference between managing several tasks with similar deadlines and struggling to determine which of the endless tasks assigned and deemed “critical” by our supervisor should be accomplished first (and what the repercussions will be when the others fall to the wayside).
In today’s non-stop business world, it can be extremely difficult to prioritize tasks and continuously meet our deadlines, which is why leaders need to be sure they are doing everything in their power to effectively communicate what is expected. Simply making everything and everyone priority will not work. Careful consideration and planning should go into each decision on setting priorities.
Though there are numerous practices that leaders should exhibit to ensure their team is successful in accomplishing their goals, I’ve narrowed them down to what I believe are the four most important:
- Set a priority and deadline and stick to it.
When leading others, it is important to set realistic priorities and deadlines… and then stick to them. There is nothing worse than the constant distraction of moving priorities around or adding new priorities to an already overwhelming list. These sorts of activities cause confusion and frustration and oftentimes delay accomplishing the task at hand.
What’s important is that leaders do not stray from their decision once it is made. A successful leader will communicate their expectations up front and ensure their team has all needed resources in order to complete the requirement. Then, the leader will step back and allow the employee to do what has been asked of them, without interruption.
Which brings me to my next point…
- Avoid micromanaging.
It doesn’t take a business mastermind to recognize that employees are more productive when they feel trusted and empowered to manage their own job responsibilities. Still, there are many managers who make the mistake of checking in all too often or asking statuses each day prior to a deadline.
Talk about distractions! How can anyone concentrate on meeting expectations when they constantly have to provide status updates? Not to mention, no employee wants to feel like their supervisor doesn’t trust that they are doing their job and staying on target. Fostering this type distrust in the workplace will only hinder the task’s completion and cause future projects to suffer.
If you want to see your employees stay on track and remain faithful to the end goal, try giving them the space and distraction-free time they need to complete their task. If any employee is not meeting expectations, you’ll know it pretty quickly anyway.
- Don’t make promises that you (or your team) can’t keep.
Sure, we all want to prove to our bosses that we are Superman or Superwoman, and it is easy to get caught up in saying “yes” to every single request. However, it is imperative that leaders do not agree to anything and everything under the sun… and all by Friday afternoon.
Schedule your priorities ahead of time so that you know your staff’s availability before something is requested. If you already have six major projects due by the end of the week, obviously you won’t want to agree to any other tasks that will hinder what you’ve taken on already. It’s OK to say “no” or “not now” to an additional task. Trust me, your boss will be much happier that you postponed something until you can give it your best rather than agree to something that you will ultimately fail to complete due to prior obligations.
- Keep the main thing the main thing.
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once quoted, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Sounds a bit monotonous, but think about it: if you confuse what is truly important by nit-picking everything that’s not, you’re bound to wind up with a team who is less-than-prepared to accomplish the main goal.
Clear, realistic communication on what exactly the “main thing” is will ensure that your team is concentrating on what really matters, and that you are ultimately successful in delivering as promised.