“Boss, I need your help prioritizing. I’m overwhelmed.”
What am I supposed to do? Fill in while he takes some R&R?
My job as a boss is to tell him what is important and then let him figure out how to get it done. I’m amazed that people will waste my time asking me to prioritize for them.
On the off chance that I didn’t make myself clear, and to be sure my staff doesn’t clam up and avoid me, I will review our most critical missions with anybody who asks. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I’m disappointed when my employees think it’s my job to lighten their load or tell them what doesn’t matter.
Listen, we’ll all overwhelmed! That’s the nature of business. Everyone has to push to succeed.
Don’t pass the buck
I know when my managers are swamped. I’ll ask how they’re doing and lend an ear. Yet the ones who’ll rise to the top remain upbeat. They may tell me how they’re struggling to prioritize, but they would never ask me to do it for them.
They would never burst into my office, sigh repeatedly, look defeated and dump their problems on my lap.
I realize that some people are genuinely confused about what to do first. And they may blame their boss for not making it clearer.
My advice to these folks? Set your own priorities in writing and confirm them promptly with the chief.
When my managers do that, they shine. Oh sure, they’ll hear from me if their priorities need serious adjusting. But that’s rare. I usually let them follow through and learn for themselves. The bright ones figure it out.
Sop up more work
If I were to pick the single most impressive trait of fast-track managers, it’s their ability to keep taking on more assignments—and somehow get them done. They’re so much more productive than their peers who whine about how they’re “pulled in so many directions.”
Hey, I’ve been there. I had to prioritize because my boss wasn’t willing or able to do it for me. And I delegated like mad, ditched less vital tasks and took charge of visible projects that I knew the head honchos would love.
When you set your own priorities, you score points just for trying.
“Z” offers insights into what it really takes to get ahead. This 25-year veteran of the corporate battlefield has climbed the ranks to head a $100 million information services company. We have agreed to protect Z’s identity in return for his promise to hold nothing back.