Do the right thing

  • 2001-05-24
  • Paul E. Adams
"A vital ingredient to leadership is getting people to prioritize their work." - John Bryan, Consolidated Foods

Are you organized? You will not stay in business long if you manage with chaos and confusion. You'll find it costly, wasteful, demoralizing, and it begs failure.

Be aware that your success is going to hinge on your ability to remain organized, regardless of the financial and emotional pressures your business places on you.

Not surprisingly, some people become frantic and rush about in a frenzy whenever they have to finish a project or major task before a deadline passes. These disorganized souls are like the center of a hurricane, surrounded by turbulent forces. They create confusion and clutter and, in time, disaster.

Any sense of order and efficiency disappears in such an environment. Mistakes are common, customers are frustrated, employees are confused, and direction is non-existent.

I recall serving on a board of trustees that left me feeling frustrated with the continued confusion and disorganization of our executive sessions. The chairperson typically followed his own agenda and dominated the discussion with matters of nonsense.

Usually, he managed to waste most of the meetings with tales of the poor performance of past boards (not really true) or his professional accomplishments (which I doubt). In my three years there we accomplished little but talk.

An example of such questionable leadership was the evening we spent two hours of a budget meeting discussing the option of the office staff using stamps for mailings or the use of a small stamp machine. It was the chairperson's own personal opinion, he kept on saying, that stamp machines were sometimes used for personal use by employees. The discussion was a waste of time.

It was frustrating that our major problems did not receive the attention they needed. An egocentric leadership style prevented us from dealing with our more pressing priorities.

Although my tenure of office was frustrating, it was a valuable learning experience about time management. My message to you is: do not waste your time on non-essential tasks, or you will have difficulty in accomplishing the activities vital to your survival.

If you do squander your time, you may feel sorry for yourself, complaining about too much to do and too little time to do it.

As an employee you may be able to survive with such poor work habits, but as the owner of a business you will not. You are responsible to chart the direction of your company, establish schedules, determine priorities, and strive to meet your goals.

Your sense of focus will be critical to your survival and success. With your business at risk, you must be focused; you cannot waste your time on tasks and nonsense that take you away from your goals.

Whenever you are feeling the pressure to be sidetracked with such activities, reflect and ask yourself just what this activity will do to help you accomplish your objectives. Ask yourself: what is my most important task at the moment?

If your business is new and you are struggling, the answer is to stop the cash drain and become profitable. Remember, your time is limited, and every action you take must be to grow your business to make profit.

With a lack of direction, we accomplish little. We must pace ourselves. We must spend some of our time in planning the direction and objectives of our company. We must establish what is important for survival and which of our pressing needs demands our immediate attention.

A successful leader is skillful at allocating his or her time and establishing priorities.

As a suggestion, when you feel the pressure of too much to do, back away, take a few deep breaths and prepare a priority list. It helps to slow down and approach your problems one at a time. Doing the right thing at the right time is identifying your most important tasks, and doing them now!