Ask yourself if what you are so worried about at this very moment is the highest priority? Priorities are funny things. There are differences between urgent and important matters. There are fires that have to be put out, and people are busy and stressed and have to get stuff done yesterday.
I worked with a manager peer once who was obsessed with what people were wearing to work. He was the unofficial dress code monitor. At the time, we had a dress guideline, and not necessarily a dress code. However, he managed his work environment with the unwritten code of men being required to wear ties. He kept bringing the same person into his office to address why the employee wore a sweater over his dress shirts as opposed to wearing a tie. He had this conversation many times with the same individual. The sweater guy either chose not to conform, could not afford to conform, or just didn’t understand the feedback (I doubt this was the case). The person was dressed nicely, but was not dressed the way his manager felt he needed to be. The amount of time and energy spent on monitoring what was worn and the wasted conversations could have been targeted toward higher priority issues. For example, there were employee dissatisfaction concerns and morale issues caused by being micro-managed for lower priority things. The person he was hounding was a decent performer and could have done without this type of counseling. Sweater Guy had no desire to move up from where he was and was content with coming into work every day, apparently prepared to mentally torment his manager. The irony is that the dress code changed a few years later to casual dress, including jeans. Now the person who received the feedback is overdressed compared to his colleagues.
I once had a boss who gave me a goal to recruit and hire twenty people per month for our department. I lived in a somewhat sparsely populated area and recruiting was often difficult. My team managed to hire about fifteen to eighteen highly qualified people per month and felt proud of our efforts. I realize the importance of goals and the need to exceed them. However, this particular goal was set because it was a nice round number, not because it mathematically met the business needs. Each month my pride would be crushed because I was a couple of people short.
The number twenty became my manager’s priority, and he lost his perspective relating to the quality of the hires and the impact his aggressive goal would have on stealing recruits from other departments we worked with. I had to make marginal hires to meet the number. These couple of extra hires per month met the goal, but caused heartache for the trainers because of some borderline attitudes, marginal performance, and higher attrition that had to be dealt with.
As recruiters, we became overly competitive and were internally fighting to make sure we got a candidate that was breathing. The extra pressure we put on achieving our own goals soured our relationships with other recruiters and our HR partners. I wish I was strong enough at the time to set the appropriate priorities by setting the appropriate goal based on our actual business need and capacity. I also could have stood up to my manager by presenting these facts and ensuring he noticed the teamwork needed to accomplish the goal, and emphasized the quality of the people hired was first and foremost the top priority. I identified what our priorities were, but I needed to effectively communicate them to my manager.
Alternatively, one of my favorite managers was considered a leader in the industry in his field. He was bright, communicated effectively, and was clearly leading his team to many wins. He found out that his mother was dying and only had a few months to live. During those few months, I was amazed at his willingness to drop everything to ensure that her last days were happy. He flew her on a long journey to visit with family for the last time, and made many visits during work hours to her home and hospital—both were over an hour away. I instantly gained more respect for his ability to realize that the job would go on without him. He made himself available for urgent matters, but knew he would never get that time back with his mother. By making himself available for urgent matters but giving us a clear direction to keep the business moving, we knew he trusted us to get the job done and that he was there for us. His mother died with dignity and respect, and with the pride that she raised a great son. He had the right perspective to not just say that his family was important, but lead by example for all to see. He taught us to set the right priorities and to have the right perspective.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby