Have you ever worked with a boss who made everything so urgent that you never
knew what was truly important? If so, you probably haven’t forgotten how frustrating
it is to be unable to prioritize.
Or you may have worked for someone who required an immediate response for
every little request, making you feel like you were living in a constant state of
Or maybe you’ve had to choose between two genuinely critical priorities, both
equally important to your boss.
In reality, when everything is labeled urgent, it turns out that nothing really is. We
can’t know what’s important, which means we can’t know how to respond. You
may not be able to change your boss, but you can change how you respond to
make the best of a bad situation. Here are some helpful ideas:
Manage your boss. Before you can manage the emergencies, you have to learn
to manage your boss. The way you respond to your boss’s urgent requests can
either reinforce their way of acting or steer yourself in a healthier direction.
Tackle the issue head-on. When the next five-alarm fire comes along,
communicate the challenge to your boss and ask them for a plan to help you
deal with the competing priorities. Face the facts and don’t let your emotions
get in the way. Don’t wait until your boss approaches you and asks you why
you haven’t done what you were told to do.
Manage expectations. Anytime your boss wants you to do something, it’s
important to be able to manage expectations. If you’re concerned that you
can’t finish the assignment on time, or that doing so will keep you from meeting
another priority, keep your boss informed.
Talk with your boss frequently. It’s important to keep your boss updated on
your progress, good and bad news, and what you might need help with in the
future. If you are struggling with an assignment or have finished early, let the
boss know. Another benefit of frequent communication with the boss is that you’ll
have a chance to build a rapport, which will make it easier for you to communicate
during difficult times.
Identify your own priorities. If your boss is all about making everything urgent,
diving in immediately may be right thing to do. But depending on your other
duties and tasks, there may be good reasons to shift your boss’s request
down the list. Identify for yourself and your boss what you expect to get
done on what schedule. As long as you can commit to a specific time,
this will often be sufficient.
Leaders who are driven by excessive urgency often do so because they
themselves can’t prioritize what is urgent and what is not. The best way
to handle such a boss is to inform, communicate and educate them.
When you do, it will help them be a better leader and achieve better
relationships and performance from others.
Lead from Within: Leaders need to remember that when everything
is urgent nothing really is.
Learn how to be the best leader you can be in my National Bestseller book:
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- The Remarkable Power of the Truth Teller
- The Test Every Great Leader Must Pass
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.