Top Priority

Your emergency doesn’t automatically become theirs.

As leaders we generally assume that our teams know and understand the issues we are facing as an organization, group, boss, or department. But do they really?

I mean, how do they know the situation if it hasn’t been clearly communicated with them?

How many times have you been on the receiving end of that exchange? Imagine you working at your normal pace and getting things done like you always do, and here comes the email. Someone just informed you that they need you to drop what you’re doing and jump on something that they need right away. They need an answer immediately. Arrgghh. Don’t they know you already have things that need to get done? Don’t they know that you have priorities, responsibilities, deadlines? How can they expect you to just drop what you are doing to take care of their “emergency”? Besides, there is no way this just dropped in their lap. They had to have known longer than 5 minutes ago. Right?

So, back to the question. How are they supposed to know? You might be thinking, “it doesn’t matter, if I say it’s Urgent, It’s Urgent”. Well, you can go with that. But how long will the really good people put up with it?

One of the most important pieces of information you can shave with your team is, “Why”. So, before you go drop the ‘this is top priority’ bomb on them, give some thought to How you are going to tell them as well as What you are going to tell them.

Here are some tips:

  1. Take ownership of the urgency. You are the leader. It’s your responsibility and therefore your fault that it’s an emergency. Whether you contributed directly or not.
  2. Explain the situation. Provide an appropriate amount of information so that they understand why it’s urgent and how important it is to get the task done.
  3. Enlist their help. It’s urgent and must be done. Therefore you might not have the luxury of ‘asking’ them to do it. But, rather than just “tell” them to do it, enlist them to help. Here is an example. “Bill, I know you didn’t cause this, but the situation is urgent because ….. and we need your help to fix this. I also realize this may cause you to not get …… done and that’s ok. Here is what I need you to do… “
  4. Help them help you. You might need to move something off of their plate onto someone else. You might need to approve overtime or another expense. You might need to provide additional resources.

When people realize the Why of the situation and that you don’t blame them and that you are willing to help them help you, you are going to get their “ALL”. Not just what they ‘have’ to do. They will put real energy and effort into it and really deliver in a timely manner. So, the next time the “Oh Crud” happens, give some real thought of how you will engage the person that you need help from.

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