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Coaching Leadership

Slow is Smooth

We often fall into the urgent trap, thinking that something that’s just come up is the most important thing in the world, and we need to drop everything to pick it up.

That means we end up stacking up lots of suddenly urgent things. Slicing our time between many of them and not actually really making major progress on any. Small amounts of progress on lots of different things is totally worthless.

In contrast, when we are smoothly working through things, we get fast. There are fewer distractions or interruptions, product increments are done and we move on to the next.

We get smooth by going more slowly. Take the time to look at the requests that come in or the issues that are raised. What’s the true impact? Is it really worth dropping everything to pick it up. How much does it cost to stop doing what we were doing, and what’s the cost of delaying the activities we had going on.

Urgent is easy, it’s cheap calories and high fives all round when whatever it is it gets solved.

To balance it, you have to recognise the cost of doing that urgent thing, not just enjoy the sugar rush of jumping on it straight away.

You need to broadcast the costs and impacts of going urgent, managing the expectations of the stakeholder who wants this “Right Now!” and not forgetting the stakeholder who was promised major changes on a longer timeline.

If it’s really urgent and important, then you need to suck up the costs and distractions. If it’s not, then use your usual prioritisation methods to slot this new request in, and keep smoothly delivering valuable outcomes.

If you can stay slow rather than rushing from urgent fire to fire, then you stay smooth and you get more big things done. That’s when real change happens.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

What’s Number 1?

You can only have one top priority.

There’s always lots of important things going on, there’s always a lot of demands on your time and there will always be more than you are able to do.

So, you’ve got to be really clear on what is the top priority at any given time.

The advice is particularly valuable if you work in a team with lots of different stakeholders, or even just one who’s very demanding. As much at they might want to have 5 top priority “must do” items, there is actually a list in order from 1 to 5.

As a leader, one of the major strands of your role is teasing out that ordering. You need to manage the list and set expectations across stakeholders. You want to be pointing your team at item number 1, especially if it’s “important but not urgent”.

A physical list of priority items is a powerful tool. When a stakeholder requests a change, or shares more about the value of an item lower down the list, then you can show them the impact of moving something up, and how it moves other things down.

This approach is particularly valuable as you gain active engagement from the stakeholder. They aren’t able to assume you are working on both the old and new number 1 priorities in parallel. The physical list allows you to document the change, so you’ve covered the case of any accidental misalignment as well.

With a single number 1 priority, you’re then able to focus effort towards the top most important thing, and ensuring that if anything doesn’t get done then it’s less important than what does get completed.

Don’t lose focus, show your working and make sure there’s only one number 1.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Ignore It?

It’s a busy world, there’s lots of noise and it’s only getting busier and noisier. If you are getting overwhelmed by notifications, distractions and requests for “a couple of minutes” then you could try out a new technique.

What happens if you just ignore it?

This gives you an opportunity to think about if the information matters, if there’s an action for you to take or if it’s pure noise with no signal attached.

It’s a method to sort items into the Eliminate quadrant of the matrix, the things that you just aren’t going to do.

Once you’ve decided if ignoring something won’t have any major impact, the next step is to figure out the minimum amount of effort to get it off your plate for good. Repeatedly ignoring things is probably not the best strategy in a business context!

If it’s a common but low value question, then write up a document and point people towards that rather than repeatedly crafting responses. If there’s a notification that you’ll never act on, then get rid of it and drop the interruptions.

Pointless meeting? Cancel it. Weekly update that’s never read? Drop it.

As with any new approach, you’ll make some mistakes at first. Start with the slam dunks, then trial it on a few less certain things. If you go a bit far eliminating things, don’t worry too much, and bring them back (improved if possible!).

So, what happens if you just ignore it?