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Leading by Priorities or Pressure

Leading by priorities or pressure; there is a big difference, not only for you but your team. You have to learn how to say yes and no to the right things.

Most everyone on your team probably struggles with prioritization or working on the wrong things. One of the most important things a leader does is determine the priorities. Priorities management is the practice of focusing time and resources toward work, projects, and tasks that impact high-value projects, accounts, and long-term goals.

For priorities management, it is important to…

· Understand top company objectives. Speak up. Be bold. Proactively manage your boss until you have the tools and information you need to succeed.

· Align team goals with company objectives. Everyone must be headed in the same direction. A Harvard business research study says that 95% of a typical company's employees are unaware of or do not understand their company's strategic plan. Start with clear and frequent communication, especially about top company objectives. Set team and individual goals that align with company goals, and make sure you're measuring employees toward these objectives.

· Create standardized processes to initiate projects in the same format every time. The processes also must include some indication of importance, value, or priority. Implement a scorecard system that assigns strategic point values to all work, helping everyone easily determine which projects are essential and which are more flexible.

· Encourage the team to make time for important but not urgent work. It's easy to find yourself spending too much time hanging out here, and the important will never get addressed.

· Make course corrections. Make sure you have a good bird's-eye view of what's going on with your team so you can offer feedback and make adjustments along the way.

Regardless of our priority management, however, all of us face pressure, regardless of position, profile, title, experience, or gender. Pressure is real and it’s often a constant. The pressure can come from yourself, those above you in the organization, your teammates, or even the situation yourself. It can even harm your sense of self and well-being. A recent study revealed that 80 percent of employees complain of experiencing pressure at work, and nearly 60 percent want to quit their jobs because of high stress levels.

Of course, leadership is difficult and comes with a certain amount of built-in pressure. The leaders who are most effective are those who know how to deal with pressure in healthy and productive ways.

Some of the ways I have learned to deal with the daily pressure are these:

Manage yourself. Only when you can manage yourself under pressure can you manage others in the same situation. I personally am a Christ-follower, and that perspective helps me daily build my capacity to cope. I work in that framework to pivot from negative to positive, from overwhelmed to coping, and from panic to confidence.

Know and follow your purpose. One of the best ways to combat stress is to tap into the sense of purpose that fuels your drive. Victor Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’” Having a deep purpose for your work will give you consistent power to push through.

Control your expectations. Sometimes the culprit underlying our stress is unrealistic expectations, whether your own or those of others. You have to maintain clarity and know when to say yes and when to say no.

Maintain focus. Stay alert. If you keep your mind firmly focused you will be able to complete the task and do it well, even with tremendous pressure. As you finish that task, you can breathe deep, refuel, and take that focus to the next task and the next, until the job is done.

Pass on perfectionism. Leaders often believe they must be perfect. But you can’t. The faster you drop that idea, the faster the pressure will diminish. Work for progress instead. Aim for excellence. Perfectionism is so daunting it leads to procrastination which leads to more pressure. Let it go.

Work the 80-20 rule. Most people spend about 80 percent of their time and energy dwelling on the problem. Change it. Devote 80 percent to a solution and 20 percent to the problem.

Make boundaries clear. Everyone wants a piece of you. You are NOT the only one who can do the job and save the day. Be bold and firm about setting boundaries. Healthy boundaries are not walls, they’re gates that allow you to alleviate pressure. They make you a better and healthier person and leader.

Simplify. The most effective leaders boil things down. They understand priorities and work only on the things that really matter. Return to basics. Keep things uncomplicated and less stressful.

Accept ambiguity. Any high-pressure position or situation often comes with a degree of uncertainty. Teach yourself to become more adaptable, to respond to events and ambiguity objectively. Focus on what you have to do and just get it done instead of being overwhelmed with the unknown.

Delegate. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Control or micromanagement will kill you and them. The most productive leaders know how to delegate and let someone else move that task or project to “done.”

Cultivate a longer-term perspective. In the moment, a crisis can make us feel we are in the apocalypse. But the best leaders understand that most issues will sort themselves out in time, and so they focus on dealing with what they can in the present.

Lead from within. Let pressure challenge and stretch you to grow. Pressure can develop you beyond where you thought you could go if you remain calm and stay focused.

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