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The Tyranny of the Urgent
Hello. I’m Doug Beckley. I often am asked what the biggest challenge or issue is facing business leaders today. My answer is always the same. Its helping them prevent the urgent from destroying the important. It has become an epidemic in business to allow the day to day operation of our organization prevent us from developing and building companies to be high performing.
I can illustrate this dilemma, by sharing the story of one my most challenging clients. Jason was the CEO of a medium sized construction company. A few weeks ago, Jason arrived at work on a Monday morning with three critical priorities – begin a 2018 business plan, provide some coaching to a key manager, and research a new, high potential market for his firm. By Thursday, these three priorities had been shoved aside by multiple project problems, an employee quarrel, a computer failure, and about 4019 emails, overlong meetings and interruptions.
He rallied over the weekend and recommitted himself to these important initiatives on the following Monday. Well, as you can guess, a seemingly different set of challenges and interruptions derailed his good intentions and he was all consumed. As of yesterday, his important work was still un-started, and he is now just trying to stay one step ahead of the chaos.
People in all walks of life, and particularly in business, are making choices on a daily, even hourly basis on how they will spend their time and energy. All too often, these choices are unconscious and reactive, and unintentionally produce substandard results and unfulfilled leaders. After this pattern repeats long enough, it becomes the norm rather than the exception. Leaders lose hope and resign themselves to being glorified general managers.
Counteracting the dilemma of reactivity requires three changes:
- Become conscious:. After enough time, habitual firefighting and reactivity becomes our unconscious habit. We arrive at work and do things the way we did them yesterday and the day before. We mistake busy for productive. We become enslaved by activity rather than producing results. Stopping this vicious cycle requires that we stop – and brutally assess the worthiness of each task which consumes our time. Then we must distinguish between the truly important with the apparently urgent. At the end of the day, something aint gonna get done. You must choose which something that is rather than letting your circumstances and other people choose it for you.
- Say NO: Successful leaders say no all the time. Effective leaders delay the immediate gratification of problem-solving for the disciplined and sometimes even boring activities that truly impact goals. Don’t get sucked into that email, don’t allow that colleague to pop in to make his problem your problem, don’t bail someone out rather than allowing them to learn from a mistake. Stay focused.
- Identify your high payoff activities: Effective leaders identify and focus those activities which impact their goals. Planning, organizing, hiring the best people, developing and coaching those people, developing effective systems, reviewing the numbers and keeping score. These are the activities of high-performance. Of success. They aren’t sexy and will sometimes feel like a luxury when you have a fire begging you to put it out. Resist the temptation.
The difference between winners and losers is that winners discipline themselves on a daily basis to do things that losers refused to do. Lead don’t just manage. Work on, not just than in the business. Successful people understand that they must manage themselves with self-awareness and discipline, before they can manage their organization for high performance and success.
If these are issues that you or your organization faces, feel free to give me a call. I'm happy to sit down and discuss it with you and develop some potential solutions. My number is 702-838-8413.