Have you ever left a staff meeting wondering if your boss is suffering from multiple personality disorder and all of them expect you to accomplish a miracle by the close of business today? You return to your desk wondering if you should just submit your resignation because you left your cape and blue leotard at home this morning. Your co-workers who attended that meeting cannot look you in the eyes, because they were taught not to stare at a condemned person. These are the times that separate the leaders from the managers. The Positive from the negative and most important those who can from the cannot.
Why is it your fault that your Boss cannot remember deadlines? Cannot say no to a project, especially knowing full well that there is no possible way it can be accomplished? Is your Boss one of those Over-Achievers but at the expense of your sanity?
There are dozens of Time Management and Project Management theories out there and just as many seminars and training classes you can take to help you find your cap and blue leotard. The bottom line to all of them is “what is the most important.” But how does this help you when your boss does not give you a clue as to what they want done first, it’s just expected to be done? Here is where I tell you, I don’t know. The reason I don’t know is, I don’t’ work with your boss, but you do.
It’s never easy working for someone like that. There are just as many theories as to why some bosses act this way as there are Time Management programs. Your boss could be a reactionary person. Meaning, they do not believe in being pro-active and as the old saying goes “poor planning on your part does not make it an emergency to me.” But it will end up being for my staff. Your boss could be a serious procrastinator, which by definition makes them a very poor time management and project manager. Now your reaction is, “how did they become the boss?” “What person in their right mind promoted this person?” “How can they expect me to finish something they have no clue how to?”
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s stop wasting time and focus on doing what your paid to do and no worrying about other people, because quite frankly, it’s not their problem, it’s yours.
First rule to project management, do not let the project paralyze you. Do not become so overwhelmed with worrying about accomplishing it that you waste too much time and then can’t. You have multiple projects and no clue which one is most important, now this is where your expertise and sound judgment come into play. You must decide which project is most important and put that one at the top of your list and this is based on past projects and how the company you work for as done business.
Here is an example; I was an Operations Manager who oversaw four different properties. Three of them decided on one night they were going to have the events of their year. Each demanded that I be there, but since I am not a sheep and can’t be cloned yet, I had to decide which property was going to get most of my time. Of course my bosses told me to “just take care of it.” So with no help or guidance from my superiors, it was up to me to resolve this problem. I had to effectively communicate with the other two property directors that I would be there as much as I could, but based on the contract, I was obligated to the Property that paid majority of my salary and was also the biggest impact on the company I worked for. I knew the other two would complain to my bosses, but based on my experience, I knew which complaint was going to end my employment and which was not.
Next I had to make sure my employees at all locations were prepared and ready. I had to make sure that the two locations where I was not going to be present had supervisors who were ready to handle it, were ready to step up and be managers. Here is where a leader is separated from a manager. In a reactionary style of management, that person waits until the crisis then delegates, but until that time, does not. The Leader is always delegating to their employees, giving them a chance to develop their skills and leadership abilities so when it’s time to step up to the plate at the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded, two outs, they can handle the pressure and responsibility. They are not worried about failure or letting you down, they are focused and prepared because they see this as just another chance to better themselves professionally.
In John C. Maxwell’s Book, “Developing the Leader Within You” he gives a perfect example of how not to let priorities paralyze us. His example is about why a lion tamer brings a four legged chair into the cage. Yes, they have a whip and gun, but the chair is the most effective tamer of the King of the Beasts. The reason is the lion sees four legs and cannot focus on one, thus causing the lion a bit of paralysis. The same is true of project management; do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed when too many projects come at you at once.
Set the priorities; decide based on your experience and knowledge, which should be done first. Dr. Stephen Covey’s renown book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” also focuses on project management. “#1, Being Pro-Active. #2, Begin with the End in Mind, #3 First things First.” Those three are very good advice and come into play in my example above. But do not allow a project to mistaken for a task and a task into a project.
If you do not have a staff of people working for you, multitasking is your best resolver in solving this workplace dilemma. Work on one to a specific point, then another, and another, while you may not finish them all in one day, because let’s face it; Rome was not built in a day, no matter how much Caesar demanded. But the next morning with the hydra of a boss calls you in for a report; you can give a status update showing each one of the mission impossible operations has made progress. Now your various minded boss may not appreciate what you’re doing and we have all worked for managers like that. But at least the project will be done and you will not lose your mind.