Getting Stuff Done: The Right Priorities

There are many things that constantly fight for your attention. In the corporate world you have to juggle changing priorities to get the right things done. But how do you know you are working on the right stuff? How do you know that you are doing the right thing? And what is the right thing anyway? If you are in any management position it is always a fight between what is the best for the company, for the team and for you personally. In ideal world all these things align nicely, but reality is usually different.

The company comes first

Let us assume that you are in relatively well functioning company. It may not be perfect, no one and nothing is, but there are decent people working there and the environment is not toxic more than necessary. Why this assumption? The guidelines I will outline below are based on this assumption as they essentially put the company first and individuals last. If the environment is toxic and free for all than the philosophy breaks down and won’t work if only one individual tries to follow it. At the same time it may be used as great guidelines for a turnaround and solid basis for a great company culture.

There is a reason for the company to exist. And sadly enough, it is not to employ people. Usually the reasons are bigger than that, starting with making profit, creating something new and cool, helping others or making a World a better place. From this perspective company needs its employees to reach the set goals.

Not all is lost for you. For the company to function effectively and reach its goals it needs to have the right employees and they have to be motivated and aligned with the company mission. What does this all mean for you as a leader? You need to understand what the company’s mission is, where it is heading and this needs to drive your decisions. Whatever you do it needs to support the overall goal. If it doesn’t than it is a distraction, a side step, a waste of time and other resources.

Further, you need to ask what is the opportunity cost working on a particular task. If you decide to work on a particular task or make a particular decision that is in line with company mission and execution strategy you may still question whether it is the fastest or the most effective way to get there. If your goal is to make money and the project has ten cents of return on any dollar invested it sounds like the right call. Until you consider that there is another project in works that will have fifty cents return and will fight for the same resources.

The team is next

Then comes the team. Unless you are a company of one you have a team of people. Like in every collective sport the most successful teams beat the others by good team work, enthusiasm and alignment with one common strategy and vision. This also means that you need to ensure the team feels like one. You shouldn’t single out individuals to take the blame or to get accolades. If the project slips then it is a problem of the whole team and not the one poor guy who made a mistake. Only by nurturing the team mindset you ensure that people will go out of their way to help each other, to ensure there are overlaps in abilities to get things done, there are no single point of failures and everyone has ownership of whatever you are building.

The individuals follow

The individuals on the team of course matter. They matter a lot. Each and every person on your team deserves to be treated like a human being with dignity, respect and consideration. When you move pieces in your spreadsheet during resource planning make sure you understand that. These are not numbers you are playing with but lives of other people. Each of them is special, needs special treatment and has different strengths. Make sure you understand every single person on your team and help them to integrate well with the rest.

What happens when a single team member doesn’t fit in? What if he or she doesn’t perform? What if he or she demands a special treatment? For example your company values open and honest communication and respectful treatment of others and this individual tends to yell at others and badmouth everyone behind their backs? Well, you made a mistake when hiring this person. Keeping in mind the company goal and values (open and respectful communication) and the good of the team (we stand together in good and bad times) this person is simply not aligned and regardless how good technically he might be there is no place for him on your team.

You are the last one

You come last. You as a leader have your success and failures pretty much defined by the success and failures of your company and your teams. There is very little point of climbing the corporate ladder trying to look like a superhero in front of your superiors and leave the team behind. It is a strategy that may work for some time but sooner or later the truth will catch up. Sooner or later someone comes and discovers you have a defunct team that is on the verge or leaving, and your projects are always late and you will run out of people to blame.

The right strategy is to focus on doing your job, on leading your team, on making sure you serve your company’s and your team’s needs, not the other way around. The reward may not come as fast as it could when you served your own agenda first but when it comes it will be a rock solid, based on a strong foundation and difficult to topple. And more than that, you will work for a successful company in a great working environment and have a team of people who would follow you to hell and back.

So to sum it up you should always judge your decisions by these criteria:

  • Is it aligned with your company mission?
  • What is the opportunity cost? Is it the best use of the resources?
  • Does it help and support your team and is it aligned with team goals?
  • Does it help and support this individual?
  • Is it aligned with your values and believes?

 

How do you decide what needs to be done and what course of action to take? Do you prioritize short-term personal gains over long-term collective good? Or the other way around? Or is this view completely nonsensical and you have other way how to make decisions?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

2 thoughts on “Getting Stuff Done: The Right Priorities

  1. Pingback: Getting Stuff Done: The Right Tactics | The Geeky Leader

  2. Pingback: The Puzzle Of Performance Goals | The Geeky Leader

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