"The juice may not be worth the squeeze."
What if you could tell which oranges WOULD be worth the squeeze? In our work environments, it's typical to have a million different things to do coming from every direction, but without a mechanism in place to know which things matter most, we can get stuck.
In most cases, the people who have built a strong priority mentality tend to experience more success in their careers. This is no secret, and shouldn't be a surprise. Successful people have built a career not by doing everything thrown at them, but by doing a smaller subset of the things that drive the most impact.
There's a funny thing that happens when successful workers get put in leadership positions. All of a sudden, we have a team of people that look to us for guidance. The organization promoted us with hopes that we'd be able to teach and guide a number of other people to be as successful, or more successful, than we were. In the chaos of our new world of "company leadership," it's easy for us to forget what made us great in our old world.
Instead of filtering the noise from our team, we turn on the firehose. Instead of helping set the priority and focus, we drown the team with things to do. Instead of teaching them how to think about organizing work, we leave them to figure it out.
I'm as guilty of this as anybody else. My career has been defined as much by the things I chose not to do as it has the things I chose to do, yet I find myself repeating the same mistakes my previous managers all did. I turn on the firehose, I create the chaos, and I leave the team with the mental mess to clean up.
"So what's the big deal? That was your reality, and you turned out fine!"
Sure, but I didn't get into this role to repeat the sins of the past. I believe each new wave of leadership has a responsibility to the company, to the team, and to themselves to evolve and make things better. We'll make new mistakes, sure, but we should be fixing the old ones. Think about it this way: If I manage a team of 8 people, I have made 8 people less efficient, less effective, and less likely to make an impact for our company.
In fact, I'd argue that the default operating model for most management structures is one that creates inefficiency. Unless managers explicitly, intentionally, and ruthlessly filter and prioritize before flooding the team with tasks and information, we're just continuing the cycle.
Team members...hold your leaders accountable. Ask clarifying questions. Explain what will be given up each time your manager changes her tune. Expect better, and we'll be better.
Leaders...break the cycle. Know your business well enough to know which things are urgent, which things are important, and which things will actually make a difference. Help your team be the best it can be by eliminating, or minimizing, any activity that isn't providing value.