Sometime within this workweek, something will happen — a phone will ring, there will be an upset customer, something will happen — and all of a sudden something urgent comes across your desk, be it by way of phone call, email or something else.
When we disrupt ourselves to deal with somebody else’s urgent issue, the effect on our time is the tyranny of it. We have to stop doing what we’re doing to go deal with something else. I love the phrase, tyranny of the urgent, because it never ceases to get a smile because everybody recognizes in their own world what it is and how it upsets routines.
There’s been some research lately about even stopping to read a short email. It ruins productivity. If you stop what you’re doing to go read and answer that email, it takes you 23 minutes to get back into what you were doing. That’s the tyranny of the urgent using a small example.
Leaders need to learn to prioritize and manage their days better. I’ve got one client who carves out particular parts of the day to look at emails. The rest of the time he doesn’t deal with emails. That’s one way he has developed a coping mechanism.
I’ve got a couple people with small businesses where they’re also the chief sales person. They carve out several hours each day to do nothing but sales. They’re finding mechanisms to work around the tyranny of the urgent.
I’ve got a good case in point with one of my clients who, five years ago, was a small firm with 25 employees. He had his hand in every decision. He knew what everybody was doing. They could not make a decision without his input.
Five years later, he made a great comment. He’s got 75 employees, so there’s been three-times growth. He says, “I was at my own staff meeting and I realized I didn’t know what they were talking about. And that was pretty cool.” Here’s a case where he’s moved totally from having his hand in everything to where they’re doing it and all he does is check the results. He’s stepped away from the tyranny of the urgent.
Leaders create a culture where people can do the work, be rewarded for accomplishing goals, and move on. That’s the difference between managers and leaders.
Recognize employees as human beings, give them a vision and give them some goals, hold them accountable, develop them, ask questions, listen to them, encourage them, and so forth. It makes life a lot easier and keeps you in charge as a leader.