Things our bosses do that make us stupid (part 5 of 6) – failure to prioritize

In this series so far, we’ve identified four ways that our bosses can make us stupid:

  1. Telling us to “not worry about it” – the condescending “there, there” that increases our fear and frustration.
  2. Making fuzzy, generalized statements instead of fact-based or actionable statements.
  3. Making assumptions about our motivations – and projecting their own on us.
  4. A lack of planning, and a focus on heroic short-term measures instead of systemic improvements.

Let’s add to that list today: Failure to prioritize.

This is one of the simplest acts of management that is sorely lacking in many of the organizations we’ve worked with.

I work with this assumption: all of us have more things to do than we can possibly accomplish. Almost all of us have a lengthy “to-do” list either on paper or in our heads. Working without a prioritized approach to our to-dos is a recipe for stupidity. And our bosses often make this prioritization more complicated by suggesting that we need to work harder, or “do our best” in our busy circumstances, rather than saying “if you can get these 3 things done today, it will be a good day.”

A bosses fundamental responsibilities really come down to managing resources to the maximum benefit of the organization. At the core of this responsibility is deciding which activities deserve and need attention, time, and resources of their people. A boss should always be clear about what’s most important and help each employee decide what NOT to do. 

The boss and the employee both operate with lower IQs when they’re both just trying to get stuff done, rather than having a daily or weekly conversation about what they’re both working on, and why, and how we can help one another. No one likes to NOT get things done, but if we choose what to do and what not to do, we’ll be more focused and productive – and less stupid.

If you’re not demanding clarity from your boss or your employees about priorities, you should be. The activity in your day, and your department, should be focused. Without focus, we scramble, and every day feels a little bit like a defeat.  

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Sarah Thomson

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