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Lolly Daskal

Management

How to Manage a Leader Who Makes Everything Urgent

When everything is critical, it turns out that nothing really is

Published: Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 11:02

Have you ever worked with a boss who made everything so urgent that you never knew what was truly important? If so, you probably haven’t forgotten how frustrating it is to be unable to prioritize.

Or you may have worked for someone who required an immediate response for every little request, making you feel like you were living in a constant state of emergency.

Or maybe you’ve had to choose between two genuinely critical priorities, both equally important to your boss.

In reality, when everything is labeled urgent, it turns out that nothing really is. We can’t know what’s important, which means we can’t know how to respond. You may not be able to change your boss, but you can change how you respond to make the best of a bad situation. Here are some helpful ideas:

Manage your boss. Before you can manage the emergencies, you have to learn to manage your boss. The way you respond to your boss’s urgent requests can either reinforce his way of acting or steer yourself in a healthier direction.

Tackle the issue head-on. When the next five-alarm fire comes along, communicate the challenge to your boss and ask her for a plan to help you deal with the competing priorities. Face the facts and don’t let your emotions get in the way. Don’t wait until your boss approaches you and asks you why you haven’t done what you were told to do.

Manage expectations. Anytime your boss wants you to do something, it’s important to be able to manage expectations. If you’re concerned that you can’t finish the assignment on time, or that doing so will keep you from meeting another priority, keep your boss informed.

Talk with your boss frequently. It’s important to keep your boss updated on your progress, good and bad news, and where you might need help in the future. If you are struggling with an assignment or have finished it ahead of schedule, let the boss know. Another benefit of frequent communication with the boss is that you’ll have a chance to build a rapport, which will make it easier for you to communicate during difficult times.

Identify your own priorities. If your boss is all about making everything urgent, diving in immediately may be right thing to do. But depending on your other duties and tasks, there may be good reasons to shift your boss’s request down the list. Identify a schedule for yourself and your boss, and communicate what you expect to get done on that schedule. As long as you can commit to a specific time, this will often be sufficient.

Leaders who are driven by excessive urgency are often that way because they themselves can’t prioritize what is urgent and what is not. The best way to handle such a boss is to inform, communicate with, and educate him. When you do, it will help him be a better leader and achieve better relationships and performance from others.

Discuss

About The Author

Lolly Daskal’s picture

Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal is one of the world’s most sought-after executive leadership coaches, with cross-cultural expertise spanning 14 countries, six languages, and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world. Based on a mix of modern philosophy, science, and nearly 30 years coaching executives, Daskal’s perspective on leadership continues to break new ground. Her proprietary insights are the subject of her book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness (Penguin Portfolio, 2017).

 

Comments

Priorities

Excellent advice! However, if the boss has this problem, it is most likely also visible up the management chain. Therefore, be sure to document these issues, in detail. Here e-mail is an excellent tool... it never goes away.