September 2016


Having a kindergartener has certainly changed mornings around this house. I'm up earlier than I used to be and I immediately jump into a routine of waking up little ones and preparing breakfast. As I do each task, I find myself looking at the clock. I know exactly how long each task takes and when we need to be out of the house so that we can make the arbitrary start time of 7:40 a.m. Experience has taught me that gentle prodding works much better than demanding or ordering. "Eat up so we can get going," "Brush your teeth, please." "Let's make it a good day!"

I've found myself often thinking, why is this start time so important and why does it create such an urgent chaos in my life? Who decided 7:40 was the best start time? Aside from obvious State laws related to attendance and tardiness, I'm not generally inclined to try to make that start time. But we're required, so we adapt. This whole scenario also got me to thinking about the things we make urgent in the workplace. We stir people up so that they're running around trying to meet deadlines that we've put on them that may not have been thought through. Sometimes, we inadvertently set people up for failure when a better thought process might allow us to create a recipe for success.

Don't get me wrong, deadlines are important. After all, especially in business, we need to keep things moving in order to please our customers and to ultimately make money. But, are we making the right things urgent? I coach many leaders who take time to reflect on how they are pushing their organizations to achieve and the deadlines they are setting for their teams. What they find after their reflections surprises them. They realize that they are often pushing an immediate and singular agenda that may be at odds with the organization's overall strategy. This results in confusion for their teams and certainly creates a disincentive for employees to meet these deadlines.

Take some time as you start the week to think through what is important and what is actually urgent. Let these ideas guide you as you go about your week. Take care that you aren't making the unimportant, or even the unrelated, urgent. Use your values as a guide first, then think about the organization's values. This can keep you from spinning in circles and stirring up dust and allow you to actually move the organization forward.