Leaders of every organization must have deliberate priorities. Whether it is in the form of a strategic plan or extrapolated through observation of recent actions; there must be priorities. This is basic management, or what you would learn in an entry-level management course in college, but so many leaders are still not making decisions on what the organization should focus. Calling prioritizing your actions a basic management skill is deceptive. Although it is learned early in most management programs, it is far from basic. Everything can seem important at the moment and as a leader, if you don’t give everyone the impression that you care about the things that they care about or are worried about, won’t they lose faith in your leadership?
The result of a leader that tells their people that they have other things to work on is not about telling them they are unimportant. It is about telling them they are capable of handling it on their own. It is about autonomy, delegation, and trust. A leader should be concerned with the problem but should also know that solving all their people’s problems will only teach them to keep bringing them their problems. This is all about how the leader handles the situation from an interpersonal relationship perspective. Listen to what they have to say; let them know you have faith in their capabilities and trust their judgment to make the call. If they really can’t make the decision, give them the options to come back to you, but let them know you do not expect that they will need to. This will put some pressure on them to decide on a course of action.
The follow up will speak volumes! Always check back in on them and ask how it turned out. If they made a mistake, be very careful not to hammer them, this will guarantee they never make a decision again. Use this as a teaching moment and move on. The trust gained from this kind of interaction will pay dividends for a very long time.
Taking this kind of action will free you up to make three or four areas of the organization your priority. Then you can focus your attention there. If you establish a priority of growth, but there are no efforts from the organization to grow, then you have not made your priorities important to your people. Establish your priorities first, then use them during evaluations and awards periods to determine if people are internalizing them. If you have established priorities and communicated them, but nobody is paying attention to them, you are not leading, and your people are following someone else.
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1 thought on “If Everything is Important Nothing is Important”
Autonomy, trust, and follow up are key to running a smooth sailing ship. Swap out the word organization for shift, section, or flight and this becomes applicable at all levels of leadership. Too often I see my fellow SNCOs dealing with issues that could, and should, be handled by the Staffs and Techs. Whether the issue is mission related or not, they are essentially sending a message to the up and comers that they are either incapable or untrustworthy. This not only erodes the concept of a chain of command and lowers morale, it cuts out a great mentorship moment essential for the development of our future leaders. A SSgt that never deals with SSgt responsibilities because MSgt X is always taking care of it will become a lousy TSgt.