Setting priorities for work can be a real challenge in today’s fast-paced business environment, where we are constantly being asked to do more with less. As managers, we can help our staff cope with their workload, or we can add to it by losing focus on what is important.
One of the most frustrating types of leaders I’ve had the misfortune to work with is the kind that generate idea after idea. They toss them over the wall into their teams like little bombs, which explode into flurries of activity having a high priority – at least until the next bomb gets tossed over the wall.
These ideas can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes it may be from reading the latest trends in a trade magazine. Over the years it has become something of a joke that some leaders should be searched for trade magazines before they’re allowed to get on an airplane. Other times they talk to peers from other companies, and still other times something just strikes them as a great idea that someone should be working on right now.
New ideas and concepts for how things should get done are not bad in and of themselves. What can be bad is a disregard for the existing workload and confusion that results in regular changes to priorities. And there’s an old saying that if everything is a priority, then nothing is – an adage that can quickly become all too true!
When you get the urge to throw a new idea over the wall, stop and think about how it might affect the team. If there are other critical priorities, be sure to make it clear that the idea is just something that could go into the work queue, and there should be no expectation that the team will drop everything and jump on the new task.
If it is a good idea, or something at truly needs to be implemented quickly, it’s the leader’s job to help their team re-prioritize the existing work. This will lead to less confusion and more focus on what is important.