Lessons in Leadership: Choosing Priorities

Lessons in Leadership: Choosing Priorities

Time is a limited resource for everyone in sales. Learning how to manage time, eliminate time wasting habits, and prioritize successfully is a valuable skill for both sales managers and their team.

This Lesson in Leadership will help sales managers direct their team in uncovering time wasters and then in finding ways to minimize or eliminate them.

Everyone occasionally struggles with managing time these days. There seems to be so much to do and so little time to do it in.

Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Although, lately it doesn’t seem to be working!

Using time effectively can be a life-long pursuit. But, who really has the time to pursue it? As if you don’t have enough to do already, other people continue to bring you things they would like to see done as well. In the “hurry and get everything done” world you work in today, how can all of the priorities getting pressed upon you ever be satisfied?

Just like you, we managers must often choose between tasks that others consider important, urgent, vital, key, critical, essential, or significant. These are values others have assigned to the priority of each task. Just like you, we can get caught between a rock and a hard place when we attempt to meet all of the priorities presented to us at work. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating. It can be stressful.

More importantly … it can encourage anyone to lose sight of his or her own goals and job satisfaction. We’d like to help.


Time Management is Really Self Management.

We can’t manage time. What we can manage is ourselves during any period of time. We all choose how the time we have will be used. We choose our use of time consciously or unconsciously, but we choose.

We’ve discovered the first step in relieving time management issues at work is to identify any possible “time wasters.” Time wasters are those tasks and responsibilities which drain the minutes and hours from our already over-burdened day. We’re not suggesting you have the ability to eradicate all of your possible time wasters. But by first identifying them you may be able to eliminate or alleviate some of them. Wouldn’t that decrease some of the pressure on you?

After we identify our time wasters, we can consider how all of the time in our lives actually gets used. We will show you how to eliminate your time wasters at the end of this article. First, let’s address your #1 priority.


Priorities Drive Decisions that Result in Actions.

Every decision you make and every action you take is a direct response to your priorities. Commonly, the time pressure you might experience at work is not a result of too few priorities but just the opposite.  It’s the result of having too many priorities. Other people routinely bring their priorities to you. In fact, so many people may be jockeying for your time that you may find it difficult to decide which priorities should be addressed as soon as possible, which priorities should receive less immediate attention, and which should receive no attention at all.

The challenge with following others priorities is that some priorities may conflict with one another.

For example, if you work in a customer service role, you may find yourself in a situation where a customer feels they need immediate attention. What if a peer from another department interrupts you about an unrelated issue at the same time? And what if, on top of it all, your manager requires you to make a certain number of customer contacts a day and you’re running behind schedule? Combine all of these with the probability of someone on your team calling an impromptu meeting and all of a sudden you’ve got a time problem. Does any of this sound familiar?

The priorities I choose drive the decisions I make, which result in the actions I take.

Priorities drive decisions, which result in actions. What we believe you need is not more priorities but instead you need “one” priority. As an employee you need one priority that will always guide you to make the best decision regardless of the situation. You need one priority to help you tread through the underbrush of pressure you sometimes endure from others and make the best decision for yourself, your customers, your team, your managers, and your company.

There is one priority we have found works extremely well in helping you to serve not only yourself but also others more effectively.

Your #1 Priority should be: I will improve my situation and myself a little every day!

When anyone dedicates consistent focus to self-improvement, certain things begin to happen. First and foremost, the person finds his work easier to accomplish over time. By focusing on self-improvement you are in a better position to achieve your goals. Also, you become better prepared to serve others more effectively, which improves results and reduces stress.

When you maintain your focus on personal improvement, that focused priority influences all decisions in very positive and productive directions.

Consider the previous work example. If the employee is truly focused on improving his or her situation and self a little every day, then with improvement:

  1. Customers receive better service,
  2. Manager’s productivity expectations become easier to achieve,
  3. Communications with other departments are improved and prioritized,
  4. The information received in meetings becomes more useful as it is based on the impact it might have on personal improvement objectives,
  5. At the end of the day, this employee will probably feel better about personal improvement, his work, and himself.


Improvement is the Result of Evaluation, Knowledge, and Action.

Simply determining what your “time wasters” are may not be enough.  You must consider taking action to improve your personal outcome when facing these possible time wasting situations. By identifying your personal time wasters, you are now prepared to re-evaluate your work situation and discover which time wasters to address.

For example, if telephone interruptions are a frequent time waster for you and you are following the suggested #1 Employee Priority – to improve your situation and yourself a little every day – then you might try one or more of the following actions.

  1. Communicate more effectively on phone calls to shorten conversation time.
  2. Schedule call-back times rather than answering whenever your phone rings.
  3. Offer voicemail options to callers so you improve telephone traffic flow.
  4. Examine telephone operating procedures with your manager to determine whether productive changes can be implemented.

Or, if failure to plan is a common time waster for you and you are adhering to the suggested #1 Employee Priority then you might attempt to improve yourself and your situation with one or more of the following actions.

  1. Schedule and include planning as part of your regular daily activities.
  2. Consult with your manager and peers to determine their effective planning procedures.
  3. Refer to your “Tactical Map” to determine whether your daily plans and activities are helping you to achieve your goals and objectives.
  4. Review your daily plans and activities with your manager to determine whether your time is being used most effectively.

Please remember two things:

  1. Some improvement is better than no improvement.
  2. We didn’t get the way we are overnight. We got the way we are over time.

Be patient with yourself and others. If you truly want improvement to happen and you’re willing to work patiently at it … it will happen!

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