7 tips for managing in the fast lane

It’s generally a bad sign when the seat belt warning light for the passenger seat comes on but you are the only one in the car. You’ve got too much weight on that seat and the car thinks it’s a person who needs to fasten their seat belt.

This has happened for me a few times lately.  It’s when I have thrown my briefcase and stacks of work for the weekend or the evenings on the seat.  Or I’m out of my office at hospital meetings for several days in a row and need various files with me.  The passenger seat becomes my file cabinet until I’m back in my office.

If I’ve been out of town to visit family or on business, it gets even harder to manage the volume.

People say they don’t know how I do it….how do I keep on top of everything. I respond, typically, “I don’t do it that well.” I’m my own worst critic. But I try my best.

So how do you survive and be your best at times like this?

Triage skills – Review your email inbox and make sure that the time sensitive ones are answered. Look for emails from your direct reports, boss, peers and customers to handle. Keep things moving and be responsive to requests.

Prioritization skills – We all make A and B lists. And even C lists though we know we probably won’t get to those tasks.  Be clear on your most important strategic priorities and get all the A tasks done in a timely manner.

Switching gears when needed – You have to adjust your schedule when a major operational issue comes up requiring your attention and deep involvement. Make sure the issue is addressed and when things are back on track, get out of the details and let your staff handle it.

Selective reading – With the volume of reports and information that comes via email, you have to be deliberate and intentional about what you will actually have time to read in depth vs skim over or not read at all.

Preparation for meetings – We all want to make meetings as focused and efficient as possible. Make time to do the prep work and advance reading. And if you’re the meeting organizer, you owe it to others to get materials out in time for people to prepare.

Delegation – I have a leadership team I trust to represent me and to effectively handle the things that they own. No hand holding at this level. They need to know when to escalate and I have to be available when they do.

Support staff – Last but not least, excellent support staff is critical. They should be able to anticipate your needs, handle all the messy details, manage your calendar and work alongside you as a trusted partner. They are critical to a leader’s success.

So next time you think you can’t manage it all, strap on your seat belt.  Yes, you are in the fast lane and you need to figure out how to make it work.

4 thoughts on “7 tips for managing in the fast lane

  1. Cybill on said:

    Slightly off topic but your mention of being your own worst critic stood out to me. A colleague and I have batted around the idea that those who excel are often their own worst critics. Our theory is that our internal struggle with our own perceived shortcomings cause us to drive ourselves harder to succeed. We joke over glasses of wine that we constantly worry that people will some day discover that we are not truly as efficient or as productive as we appear and the jig will be up. :)

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Cybill, good insight. Being self aware of your shortcomings and finding ways to continually improve are important attributes for everyone!

  2. Jerry Murtland on said:

    First let me say I couldn’t agree more on all points.

    Knowing how to communicate with leadership of all ranks makes a huge difference in everyone’s success. I have learned to use the BLOT system aka (Bottom Line On Top). 3 to 5 single sentence bullets in the BLOT, and if more detail is warranted on the topic details can follow within the email. This gets your message across quickly and efficiently without taking much time and enables the leader to either dig deeper into the details if needed or send the communication to the appropriate leader or team member to be addressed. Everyone wins!

    Also, your comments about enabling leaders that are reliable and effective as well as a strong staff is critical. I’ve certainly seen the results of both sides of that coin and the difference is tremendous. That point reminds me of a great book I read a while back called “Good to Great”. There was a chapter that covered having the right person, in the right seat, on the right bus. Although I may not agree with every comment or reference in the book, I certainly identified with this one.

    Great advice on all topics. I appreciate your insights.

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