As executives, we’re constantly juggling multiple priorities — more priorities than we can often handle! These posts and videos discuss priorities and ways we can become more efficient, effective priorities even with an overflowing to-do list.
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February 02nd, 2012
So many corporate teams are raddled by strained resources, frequent deadlines and multi-tasking. I am working with a few clients in exactly this position. In one case, the CEO still manages to schedule regular management meetings. This is a good thing for reviewing progress, learning new team competencies and if need be, recalibrating objectives for better results. The not-so-good part is that because they are only monthly, the meeting agendas are generally so chock-a-block that there is little time to ‘renew and connect’.
Recently, this team acquired a new member. Let’s call her Georgina. She has great power and influence and a strong willingness to participate. She will be instrumental in helping to promote the company’s vision of the future. She has also achieved great results before, literally rebounding from the depths of bankruptcy. The CEO and the team recognize her potential for helping them all achieve better results this year.
My role on this team is, as usual, “meeting fairy” instilling the importance of team norms.. My responsibility is to provide an equal and open forum and make sure that all agenda items receive adequate coverage.
I now face a new challenge with Georgina in these brisk meetings. I have noticed among her talents one incredible skill: she can speak for up to 90 minutes without a single break – I kid you not! As an experienced meeting fairy, I am extremely skilled at jumping in with force after a breath or slight pause to move the conversation on. But, wow, with Georgina I fear I have met my match!
So what am I to do about this powerful, authoritative and influential person who dominates the forum? What do you need to do when all participants of a meeting buy-in and agree to the norms except one rebel?
This problem illustrates one very basic rule of thumb: get all new members to buy in to the team norms for meeting participation. I must make this the key issue.
I have decided to meet one-to-one with Georgina in order to do three things:
- Bring forward the team norms.
- Be transparent about my inability to fulfill my meeting fairy responsibilities with her monologue behavior.
- Negotiate a solution for future meetings with her input.
Have you ever met a Georgina in one of your meetings? If so, what did you do?
Next week I will post the outcome of my conversation with Georgina – come back to find out what happened!
October 20th, 2009
When working with executive teams, I often discuss the importance of clearly articulating core values, identifying objectives/action plans and then driving performance results based on quantitative or qualitative measures – “if you can measure it, you can manage it”.
All of this proved itself true this weekend on my way to tree 71.
As I lay under my cozy duvet on a foggy, rain-drenched, Sunday morning, I realized that every fibre in my body was screaming in high resistance. I desperately wanted to cancel my Sunday morning ritual of climbing up the BCMC trail of Vancouver’s Grouse mountain.
Strangely, I heard myself utter to my partner Jim, “I will be ready in 10 minutes – you?” What was that? Where did that come from?
I turned to Jim, who had not heard a word from me all morning — very unusual for this chatty gal.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe it – I made it to tree 71! ”
“I was totally locked in my resistance. I completely faked getting here. When we started the hike, I went into autopilot. I actually had to motivate myself by calculating the 50% mark of the hike – tree 36. At some point, I stopped to take a break. While I was catching my breath, I looked up and noticed that I was standing on the roots of tree 37! Wahoo!! I was half way there – I could actually make it to tree 71. And look at me now, I just proved it to myself.”
Tree 71 had become my clear goal. Armed with my core values of maintaining my health and wellness, I was able to motivate myself with a smaller measure of success and before you know it, the results were mine. Now it was time to celebrate!
It’s true. If you can measure it, you can manage it. In business and in pleasure, we all need a tree 71!
September 24th, 2009
When I’m working with teams to improve communication, the issue of email generally produces stressed faces, furrowed brows, and sweaty foreheads. It’s astounding how depressing and chaotic our inboxes have become. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
When I sense stress around the issue of email communication, I ask teams “Have you ever sat down together to discuss how you will send and receive messages to one another?”. Most teams respond with a clear “No, we haven’t done that and we don’t have a clue of how to start that type of conversation.” Fortunately, it’s not a difficult conversation to start.
We just roll up our sleeves and discuss these issues:
1. Subject lines norms– Create agreements within your team regarding what goes in subject lines. For example, if the message concerns a client, start the subject with that client’s name – that simple step will help recipients identify the purpose of the message and effectively catalog it.
2. Set up mailbox rules - Set up rules and filters to organize your inbox. (See my Tuesday post for more on rules and sorting.)
3. Establish team norms around who’s taking an action, who is supporting an action who is to be informed on an action. The team should clearly identify an owner’ to respond and handle the issue.
- TO: if I ‘own’ a particular task and somebody wants to send me an email notifying me of an action that I need to take, my name will be in the TO: area. I will immediately know that I am responsible for taking action.
- CC: means that I am “supporting” someone else’s action and,
- BCC: means that all I need to be is keep myself “informed”.
4. More Rules Emails that have my name is in the TO: area – those emails can be sorted as action emails. Really really helpful!!
5. Discuss the use of high priority, moderate priority and low priority.
If you set aside to have these types of email norm conversations, you’ll help your team become more productive and save them from inbox stress!
September 22nd, 2009
Email is a great source of stress and frustration for business leaders and executives. It kills productivity, hinders results and decreases personal motivation. A minor shift in your email management process can produce a major productivity improvement.
Clients tell me on a regular basis, “I get 300 emails a day,” “I have 1200 emails in my inbox ,” “It’s hard to stay on-top of the ‘incoming’ – urghh.”
Checking email, reading email and answering email can take hours of time if you let it. But only if you let it.
I have the secret to email productivity – and it works!
Picture your mailbox at home. Mine is a black metal mailbox affixed to a stone wall. Now, visualize it completely jammed with letters, over-flowing with envelopes.
At home, we don’t treat our mailbox as a storage system. We do not keep letters there for nights upon nights, weekends…forever. No! Every day we remove the mail, sort it and do something with it – open, toss or save for later. That’s the same thing you need to do with your inbox.
Here’s the solution: treat your inbox like a mailbox, not a storage box.
- Create 4-5 folders to prioritize messages. I use ‘Urgent’, ‘Important but Not Urgent’, ‘Awaiting Reply’, ‘Read’, ‘Resources’.
- When mail arrives, SORT into appropriate file folders before doing anything else!
- Deal with the ‘urgent’ emails once your sorting is complete. I look at my urgent emails twice a day.
- Deal with the secondary folders on a regular basis - I check the ‘Important but Not Urgent’ emails every second day and dip into the other files once per week.
In order to make this work, you will have to catch yourself to SORT first and to ‘deal with’ second. On the days when you let this slide, you will quickly notice how your emails get out of hand.
Try it and see how it goes.
August 27th, 2009
One of my absolute favourite books is The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. In it, they cite a study in which a group of women committed to do a breast self-exam for 30 days.
One group of women said where and when they were going to do the exam, and 100% of those women actually did it. Among those who didn’t say where and when, only 53% completed it.
We can apply this same concept to daily planning & priority-setting. By defining “where and when,” you greatly improve your probability of success. You’ll be much more aware of what those priorities are, and it will be easier to manage your time, eliminate non-urgent activities, and create the momentum you need.
If you and your team are trying to gain more control of your time, here are three steps to stay on track throughout the day.
- Plan (7 minutes): Each morning, decide your top 2 “must do’s” today and write them down
- Realign (60 seconds each hour): Set an alarm to ring every hour and ask yourself, “Did I spend my last 60 minutes on my priority?” If “yes,” congratulate yourself and keep on it. If “no,” refocus.
- Reflect (3 minutes at the end of the day): Evaluate your performance. What did you do well? What happened to distract you? And how can you improve tomorrow?
Remember, if you avoid setting priorities, your time will eroded away. The key is focus, and writing down your priorities can make a tremendous difference.
August 25th, 2009
Managing interruptions and staying on top of daily multi-tasking each day is critical to being effective in business today. When business leaders discipline themselves to set clear priorities and communicate “norms for engagement” with co-workers productivity and results soar while overwhelm begins to decrease.
I recently had to find a new doctor. After I filled in the initial visit paper work, the receptionist handed me a document titled “Doctor’s Rules and Regulations” (norms for engagement). It clearly outlined the Dr. had only 10 minutes for each appointment. It directed me to bring one issue to the table at each doctor’s appointment. If I had two issues, I needed to make sure that I presented both within the 10 minute parameter.
The document then illustrated a time calculation: if each patient was one minute late multiplied by 45 patients per day equals the last patient waits an additional 45 minutes. He had clearly identified his priorities and this was his effort to communicate them to me.
Although my experience with the doctor was a little harsh, I recognized that he was clearly outlining his norms of engagement in my best interest. Think about it — one day I might be that last patient myself.
If you want to be more effective and manage your interruptions with increased ease, it is really important to sit down at the beginning of the day to consider your priorities. Whether it takes 5 minutes or 20 minutes – it is probably the most important time in your day
- to get clear on what you need to do,
- to be responsible for performance and results, and
- to clearly articulate your own norms of engagement to the people with whom you work.
That’s exactly what the doctor had done. He had clearly outlined his expectations of how I would prepare for the meeting, his expectations of how I would bring issues to the table. With this he clearly articulated our ‘norms of engagement’.
Take some time to identify what your priorities are for the day and to communicate them. Articulate your priorities clearly to others to establish “norms for engagement”.