Tired of the Whack-a-Mole? Help Your Team Prioritize Work
Helping your team prioritize their focus and work is one of the toughest roles of a manager.
You’re still required to meet all your targets and objectives, so teaching your team to place an item on the bottom of the list is scary.
What if they really don’t get to it? There are no easy trade-offs in this “and” culture (we need this AND that).
Prioritizing work and balancing competing priorities are vital leadership skills (see also Leadership Skills: 6 Competencies You Can’t Lead Without).
Knowing what to move to the top of the list when, and how to keep the other plates spinning at the same time takes practice. Help your team recognize the common traps that are sabotaging their ability to prioritize well.
Common Prioritization Traps
Perhaps you have some of these characters on your team who struggle to prioritize work.
Windshield Watchers look deceptively productive. They’re moving fast and getting a lot done. They’re often the first ones to respond to any task because they’re taking the Nike, “just do it” approach to whatever hits their windshield.
The adrenaline brings a familiar rush to their day.
Windshield Watchers actually attract more urgent work because people know they’ll drop everything and get on it. The biggest problem with the Windshield Watcher is that they have no real basis to prioritize work.
The urgent always trumps important in such team members, so although they’re getting a lot done, but not necessarily making progress toward bigger goals.
Windshield Watchers often struggle with feedback because they know they’re busier than everyone else. They resent having to talk about it right now, with all the emails coming in that require attention.
Help Windshield Watchers by creating a focus on what matters most, scheduling the finish for each deliverable (see prioritize work resources below).
Bless their hearts, work harders will do everything they can to get it all done, no matter how many hours it takes, or how little they’ve slept.
The problem with these hard workers is that they often are so busy doing the work, they don’t take time to consider the best way to get it done.
They overlook possible support from others or more efficient ways because they’re so lost in the doing.
Help Work Harders to step back and consider the best approach to prioritize work and eliminate less important tasks. Help them build some white space into their day to think more strategically about what matters most.
Wheel greasers hate conflict and are particularly sensitive to pressure from above.
They prioritize based on whoever’s screaming the loudest (or on who has the bigger title).
.Which means, the problem may be hard for you to detect (after all, you appreciate how seriously they take your requests to prioritize work, since you’re the boss).
Wheel Greasers often feel overwhelmed by the stress of trying to please all the people all the time. They feel like they can never do enough because there’s no objective measure of success.
Help Wheel Greasers by defining objective criteria on which to prioritize their work. Recognize if they have a tendency to drop other work to do what you need because you’re the boss. Explain and role model how you differentiate noisy requests from urgent issues. (See prioritize work resources below).
These well-intentioned folks care deeply about the outcomes.
They pour their heart and soul into the most important work. It’s hard to argue with their priorities. The challenge is that their laser focus on the emergency of the day causes them to miss the consequences caused in the aftermath.
Sure customer service metrics improve, but financials suffer. Or, the financials look great, but employees are miserable.
Help Your Team Prioritize With a Great One-On-One
How Do You Prioritize Your Work? Articles That Can Help
Productivity at Work: How to Lead Highly Productive Teams (helpful for all of these folks)
How to Provide More Meaningful Performance Feedback (how to point out the behaviors impacting productivity in a way that enhances results and relationships).
How to Improve Your Results: The Score Isn’t The Game (helping your team identify the key behaviors that will most lead to success)
Getting Your Team Back on Track: Leading Through Distractions (how to refocus your team)
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