How Do You Prioritize Your Time as a Leader?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Carol Davison 8 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #127817

    Don Jacobson

    How a leader spends his/her time speaks volumes about what they consider important. Unfortunately, many leaders say they don’t have time to do things like think about strategy or develop their people because they are too busy putting out fires in their inbox.

    Do you, as a leader, spend your time in a way that is consistent with what you think is important? If not, why not? If you do, what’s your secret?

  • #127833

    Carol Davison

    People work their values. If its strategic planning or employee development they do those. If they aren’t doing those they are not their values. For example “everyone” has time to watch TV. Few have time for exercise.

  • #127831

    Don Jacobson

    Carol – The exercise analogy is a good one. Like exercising, a lot of people know they should work on being a more effective leader but don’t know how to find the time. While there are some managers who really do think their job is to put out fires, many yearn to do more high-value work that will make their organization a better, happier, more effective place.

    Many supervisors are focused on their inbox because they simply don’t know how to delegate effectively. Others have not built the capacity of their staff to enable them to take on some of the work that the manager does. And many spend too much time editing or re-thinking poorly done staff work see “The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work at

    In my case, growing other leaders is central to what I think I should be doing as a leader. Yet when I first became a manager of other managers, I struggled to find the time to have important conversations about leadership. I finally started putting them on my calendar, and now talk to most of my direct reports about their leadership challenges weekly and the next-tier managers once a month. It has made a significant difference.



  • #127829

    John Sporing

    I try to spend my time on what I think is important. I walk around everyday and talk with my people so that I get a feeling of what is going on. By talking with them, I understand what they think is important and I use that to help me plan–whether that means more training, more team building, or changing strategies.

    I meet with my senior staff bi-weekly to try to delegate out my priorities and change directions on things that are not working. Of course the “recent” budget issues have introduced a lot of concern by both the senior staff and front-line staff, and that has captured a majority of my time lately.

  • #127827

    Mark Hammer

    A most excellent question. I think a great many people in leadership positions fail to realize that the observable aspects of their time allocation are diagnostic information from the perspective of their staff. Employees examine the total “truth value” of what happens in their unit, and what their management/leadership does. Observable time allocation can either serve to underscore and validate what is verbally conveyed to staff, or serve to contradict it: “he/she talks a good game, but….”.

  • #127825

    I’m trying to think more and more about how I can remove myself as a roadblock to progress.


    – What do I need to do to keep my team moving forward? (meaning: do those things first which are impeding progress by other team members)

    Rather than:

    – What do I need to move “my” projects forward?

    So I’ve been striving to structure meetings around “what do you need from me that you’re not getting?” or “what are the roadblocks?” and helping people to maintain or accelerate forward progress. Also, I am working on creating a daily rhythm that follows this pattern as well….and it works at home as well as at the office!

  • #127823

    Dave Donnelly

    As a new supervisor I attended a training offered through a third party training organization. From that I latched onto the 80/20 principle and have worked to include a Daily Priority Worksheet and a weekly assignment priorities list in order to stay on track. I specifically work in staff development and now strategic planning, mainly because we have a small staff and I want to be sure they are ready to step up in case I get ‘hit by the bus’.

  • #127821

    Steve Ressler

    Was talking to my father (retired SES) last weekend about this.

    His point was – a leader spends their time looking forward to the future, while delegating and grooming others to make sure trains run on time currently.

    He said it’s important to delegate and train and let people solve their own problems and only step in when need guidance.

  • #127819

    Peter Sperry

    I’ve spent most of my career as an advisor to leaders and have been surprised how often I have to remind them that if they do not get the day to day fires under control, they will not be around long enough to implement a strategic vision. One of the first things a new leader needs to do is prioritize the fires, identify good fire fighters, delegate the small or easily handled fires to subordinates (making sure every one in the organization knows the subordinate speaks with the leaders voice in regard to that particular fire), assign someone (usually an good advisor) to keep track of smoldering embers and take personal responsibility for the major blazes. If they do this quickly and effectively, they will build time to focus on long term thinking, personnel development leadership training etc. If they try to bypass this process in attempt to jump right into strategic planning, culture change, etc, they will either be continually pulled back into fire fighting if they are protected civil service or a fire they failed to deal with will suddenly flare up and hasten their transition to the private sector if they are an appointee or elected official.

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