Think Leadership Series – Tip #7 – Manage Priorities Not Work

Question: What advice do you have to manage your own work and that of your team?

Yes, as leaders we are responsible for ours and the team’s performance. However, I’m not sure our job is to manage both.

I believe my job is not to manage other people’s work, but to manage priorities.

I have learned to trust people can manage themselves. All they need is a set of guidelines directly connected to the priorities I set for the team.

Priorities can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. Regardless of the time line, people manage themselves according to those priorities.

How to manage priorities?

I borrow this idea from John Maxwell. Think about the 3 P’s:

  1. Private Time
  2. Production Time
  3. People Time
Private Time
In Habit #7 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effectively People, Stephen Covey talks about sharpening the saw. This is what private time is all about. A leader needs to spend time reflecting, planning the strategy, and thinking.

Every time I catch myself or the team working on unrelated items or falling behind on certain tasks, it all started with my lack of time spent in private. I have a tendency to act and do; but I still need to have an idea of what are the rights things to be doing.

My suggestion, take 15-30 minutes daily to sharpen your saw.

Production Time
This is all about doing the right things. And when it comes to leading, the right thing is to make sure everyone on the team, including ourselves, is spending 80% of their time doing the things they do best in relation to the strategies defined during our private time.

Take time to find your and your team members’ strengths and work towards the 80%.

People Time
Work is better when fun comes with it. And fun is always better with people we care about. In the words of Dan Rockwell, “you can’t lead people you don’t know and understand.”

Getting to know your teammates helps guide your private and production time.

What do you think? How are you managing your’s and the team’s workload?




2 thoughts on “Think Leadership Series – Tip #7 – Manage Priorities Not Work

Add yours

  1. Juan … this is a GREAT and timely topic … our department has more proposed projects for 2015 than ever before … and we’re a learning group, not a group that has extensive expertise in project management and managing multiple priorities. I’m sure IT groups, those who specialize in project management, consulting firms and others have valuable models and methods to share about leading and managing in a project-oriented world for people who aren’t experts at it.

    I don’t have a lot to contribute to the knowledge pool on this topic. I simply know that the topic you’re shining a light on is VERY important and it’s not a strength or way of working that’s natural to all. What is each individual and the organization’s role in ensuring leaders and internal consultants have the processes, tools and expertise to do this well?

    I agree with the basic principles of your comments above, from Maxwell, Covey and others. A point of further discussion is around Situational Leadership. Those who are new to a task, work process, project or such aren’t ready to work independently. They need leadership coaching and/or support to know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and so forth. They need leadership, be it task or motivational in nature. So, would add that to your response to provide more food for thought.

    Thanks for brining up an important and timely topic. Hope others will share their insights for our collective gain.

    1. You touched on another key part of a leader’s role, to equip people. Equipping is what I call the task of ensuring our associates has the skills and resources to do their job.

      Situational leadership is a fact of life and it’s something we need to think about in our private time. What do I need to do to get each individual up to speed? Daily, I see so many so called “leaders” that complain about how dependent is their staff, but when I ask them what have they done to created independence, I get the usual “I don’t have that kind of time, they should be able to figure it out.”

      First is priorities (private time), then comes the equipping (production time), after that is celebrating the successes (people time). And the cycle repeats.

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