"What do I do when someone walks in, drops 3 weeks of work on my desk and wants it by the end of the week?"
This is probably the most troubling question of all for Managers I work with. Every single Manager in my community has asked me this question (or some variation of it) at some point. Strong Managers experience a perpetual pull to accomplish something significant...and often feel frustratingly waylaid on their journey. Waylaid by what? By a mountain of task work, usually dropped into their laps at the last minute.
On the one hand, we like the task work because it falls within our technical expertise. It's easy, it makes us feel productive and important. On the other hand, we resent the task work because it's often urgent AND important, and therefore...highly disruptive.
This is a frustrating tension for Managers who have a clear destination. If you have clarity around what you want to improve, for example, or how you want to grow your team, or the impact you want to have on the people you lead, you probably face this tension daily. The frustration comes from being committed to achieving results...and yet...constantly feeling like you have no choice but to take a detour.
It's a tough challenge, and actually, it's not unique to Managers. It's a challenge for anyone who's on a mission. Establishing the mission or the goal is, in some sense, the easy part (though still difficult and not consistently tackled by a lot of us...). The hard part is figuring out how to stick to it until it's done.
"Consider the postage stamp. It's usefulness lies in it's ability to stick to one thing 'til it gets there."
~ Josh Billings
If you've done the work of clarifying your goals, I want to offer you some tips to help you stick to that thing until you get there.
Build Yourself a MOAT
I have found it helpful to think about building a MOAT around my goals. They are precious, don't you agree? Perhaps...just maybe...my goals are most precious treasure I own when it comes to ensuring I live a life worth living. Perhaps. Clarity around where I'm going (and why) is the thing that lifts me up on the tough days, and enables celebration on the great days.
Clarity lies at the beginning of any worthy journey.
So I need to protect it. If you haven't already guessed, MOAT is an acronym for some specific steps I take to protect my goals. Here they are:
Managing expectations has two parts. First, we pre-negotiate and then we re-negotiate.
Own Your Calendar
Owning your calendar is about deciding in advance not just what you will do, but when you will do it. Decide how you intend to spend your time.
Accept Small Disasters
Small disasters are a necessary side effect of being committed to something big. Learning to accept them is not easy...and...it's necessary.
People like to know they are a part of something. The more we advocate for our big goals, the more permission we get from the people around us to protect them.
Your goals are precious. Learning how to defend them is perhaps one of the greatest skills you can add to your Manager's toolkit. Want to go deeper? Join me in Part 2 - I'll focus specifically on how to go about managing expectations.
For now, get your shovel out and start digging! If you've taken the time to create clarity around your goals, aren't they worth protecting?