Let’s face it, the vast majority of us in today’s business world are facing this dilemma. Global competition is fierce, business disruption is everywhere, senior management is relentlessly driving for increased productivity … and whose desk does it land on?
If you’re in senior management, and you consistently hear “too many priorities” or “initiative overload” in the hallways, we should talk. While your ambition to move the business forward is understandable, the truth is that the inability of senior management to effectively set and clearly communicate their priorities is an epidemic that is killing productivity in many organizations. Without clarity and focus, efforts at each level in the organization become scattered, people become overwhelmed, stress builds, projects fall behind schedule, and deadlines get missed.
Remember, you always have a choice
So, what if you are further down in the organization, and you feel that you don’t have the ability to influence or temper the ambitious agenda of your management? The good news is (remember this)… you always have a choice.
Sure, you can put your head down and do whatever it takes to get the gargantuan task done. This can be a perfectly rational and sensible choice. For example, you may even choose to sacrifice personal time, family commitments, etc. because the project is exciting, you’re learning, it’s a one-time opportunity, or a chance to advance your career. If you made that choice consciously, then good for you, go for it!
But what if, in your opinion, the perceived rewards are just not worth the personal sacrifice? What if the stress and strain of the situation is impacting others around you? Here are some other choices you can make that are completely within your control:
1) Don’t Complain: Be honest with yourself. Commiserating with colleagues isn’t going to move things forward. You may not always agree with your management, but wouldn’t you rather work for a company that sets high expectations vs. one that pays less attention to ambitious goals and productivity?
2) Take control of your personal productivity: You have lot more capacity than you think. Take some time to examine your work habits, and ask yourself what can be ditched. How much time are you (or your team) spending in useless meetings, or on email. Set limits, and eliminate ruthlessly.
3) Brainstorm with colleagues: Especially if its a team project / agenda, call a meeting with colleagues to brainstorm how you can collectively get through this. Come up with realistic alternatives, and list any critical resources you don’t have that would help. Find out what it’s going to take for all team members to do their part.
4) NOW, if you haven’t already solved the problem, talk to your boss about it: Remember Choice #1. Be positive. Demonstrate your commitment to the goal. Describe the constraints factually and truthfully – if we keep doing what were doing, we are not going to deliver the desired (goal, quality, timeline, etc.). Explain that you have come up with several alternatives and are seeking further guidance. Be prepared to recommend your lead case and ask for the resources you need. Allow your boss to consider the alternatives.
In my experience over more than 25 years of supervising others (and yes, I’ve been the senior leader with an ambitious agenda), it’s exceedingly RARE for employees to take the four steps above. So to summarize:
DON’T be part of the crowd at the coffee machine gossiping about how management doesn’t “get it”.
DO take appropriate action within your control – you are sure to impress management as someone who cares about the agenda, knows how to solve problems, and brings forward thoughtful ideas.
You can DO THIS!
If you are struggling with prioritization and focus, either personally or within your work team, you are not alone! Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a discussion about our individual and team executive coaching programs.