Take a pie chart to talk with your boss about priorities

Feeling overwhelmed with conflicting priorities, projects, meetings & every day “stuff”?  Probably.   And, if you are like most people, your frustration & stress level increases because not only are you run off your feet – or seat (since most of us are sitting) – but you know that you aren’t running in the direction you want to be towards the projects & priorities that are most important.  Use your calendar and a simple pie chart to track where you are spending your time.

Look at the last month of your calendar; hopefully every meeting/discussion/block of time is in there — or you can fill in some of it.  Do a rough calculation of the hours in each of 4 – 6 “buckets” of your job — those main areas in which you are investing your time. These areas should line up with your key responsibilities, but the pie chart will display what’s fact (& maybe what’s fiction).

I coach those new to management, particularly those who have “moved up” into leadership roles within an organization.  The rule of thumb is that individuals in a new role have 90 days to demonstrate to their managers & to themselves that the role is right fit for them. Yet, too often when someone moves from one position into a new position they take some of their “previous” position with them.  Here’s a case in point:

This individual had been given a promotion to a leadership role responsible for a large operational area including a digitization project that’s a strategic priority for the library.  As a member of the library leadership team, they were also now responsible for working with the dean of the libraries on library-wide issues (translation: meetings, committee responsibilities, etc.)  Yet, when I asked the individual to track how they were spending their time during the first 90 days of their new position, it was clear why they were struggling and feeling they didn’t have “what it took” for the leadership role.

What was “taking” their time?

  • Instruction 20%
  • Systems trouble shooting     35% (their previous position)
  • Digitaliz’n Proj  15% (the strategic priority for the operation & for the library)
  • Team P & P’s   30% (team leadership of priorities, people, problems, etc)
  • Mgmt/Library Issues  12% (management team meetings, college-wide committees, etc)

A key responsibility of their previous position, systems management & trouble-shooting, hadn’t been “taken” away; their previous position wasn’t filled during that time, so they were still spending more than 30% of their time on it.

A picture says a thousand words.  In this case, the individual didn’t need nearly that many words. The dean took one look at the pie chart and worked with the new team leader to fill the systems position asap and other ways to focus time and energy on the digitization project and team priorities.  This pie chart also sparked a broader conversation within the management team regarding the fit of instructional responsibilities for those leading large operational teams.

Replacing your “status report” text with a graphic demonstrating your areas of focus quickly communicates for you and your boss the true status.  Even better, create an ideal pie chart with your boss allocating the % of your time  that should be allocated to key projects or strategic priorities.  Then take control of your calendar by blocking out times for those projects & priorities before other meetings get slated in.

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