Be the leader your team is begging for.
Almost everyone I talk to in corporate America is exhausted. The opportunities to drive the business are large, but the staff to execute the work is less than optimal with several open positions. How do we manage the balance? How do we try to maximize short term wins while not burning out the team?
Middle managers often feel stuck in the middle. Here are 3 tips for middle managers in prioritizing work:
- Prioritize with your boss every day!: Too many middle managers are taking the heat, trying to find the balance themselves. Spend more than 70-80% of time with your boss discussing priorities. They should help you in making decisions that align with the vision. And the more overwhelmed they are with prioritization, the less time they will have in dreaming up less productive projects for your team.
- Use Yes…And to get what you need: I love the book “Yes…And” by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. Instead of saying no, focus on what is needed to keep the project going. “Yes, we can do that AND we will move this project to the 4th quarter to make room.” “Yes, we can do that AND we can do it more effectively with these three resources help.” “Yes, we can do that AND we will start as soon your most important project is complete.” This is a great way to gain the support needed for the team to complete all their projects effectively.
- Be a Fire Chief, not a Firefighter: in overwhelming circumstances, middle managers often have the urge to take on extra work to try to minimize the fires. Instead, they get engulfed in flames and they can no longer prioritize and manage resources to put the fire out. Be a fire chief who creates a command center analyzing the fires and provides direction to the resources to put the fires out. When more fires are set, fire chiefs are able to prioritize the new work and provide the appropriate resources and timelines to achieve the goals.
In a time of exhausted teams, we tend to look at senior leadership to determine the priorities and workload of the team. The best teams create a partnership between the senior leadership team and the middle management team to prioritize the work together. The senior leadership team will clarify the vision of the organization and the middle managers can clarify what work can be completed to achieve that vision. It is a partnership that your teams are desperate for you to make!