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The Heart of Prioritizing

by Feb 4, 2019Emotional Intelligence, Leadership


The year is off to a great start. With renewed energies from a well-deserved break and all good intentions to #prioritize, we started 2019. Soon, the volume of emails, requests, phone calls, SMS and WhatsApp messages start reaching crescendo levels and it is only January.

If you have a moment to stop, you start questioning your #priorities. Sounds familiar? Prioritising is an integral part of excellent #leadership, creating #meaning at work and it requires #emotionalintelligence.

This coming May, I will celebrate 25 years in professional life.  During these 25 years, I have had the privilege of working with many brilliant leaders in many countries.  Many of these brilliant leaders were also quite successful: high quality of life, balanced, holistic, avid contributors to whatever was their cause, and, curiously, also seemed to have time.  

They had time!  

Time to talk, time to reflect, time for a coaching discussion, time to mentor, time to learn and share the learning… In reflecting what makes a difference between the “headless chicken” approach and the almost serene approach other leaders choose, it seems that those who are able to define why they do what they do and how they do it, are much better at prioritizing and changing what they need to change to get to their why.

In this exciting journey, I have learned that prioritising is NOT a strictly logical process.  To get really good at prioritizing, we need to embrace the emotional aspect of prioritizing.

In addition to logic, we need other key ingredients to successfully deliver on our priorities:  

  1. Purpose:  having clarity on why… purpose driven execution is effective.  Connecting the priorities to our purpose gives them meaning.
  2. Emotional intelligence: being able to process what your purpose means to you, how it fuels you, being able to share that message with others, help others connect to the purpose, align priorities and “row the boat” in the same direction.
  3. Sources of Resistance:  understanding why your high priorities which are connected to your purpose and that fuel your passion are NOT getting done.  Kegan and Lahey do a marvellous job in their book “Immunity to Change” to help us uncover why can these high priorities/commitments stay at aspirational level and how to identify “the big assumptions” that are preventing us from unlocking our full potential.

How does this work in practice?  Here some practical tips:

  • Write: make your purpose explicit.  Yes, write it down. Your purpose answers the question why?  
  • Use an Index card:  We will not be very successful if the list of our top priorities fills a whole A4 or even several.  Our top priorities can neatly fit into an index card. They should be clear, visible and tangibly connected to our purpose.  If you want support with your priorities, let them be known. Secret priorities are harder to understand and become the dreaded “secret agenda” that can actually undermine your purpose.  On one side of the card, write your purpose and, on the other one, they key priorities connected to your purpose. Keep this card handy.
  • Say no:  Learning to say “no” in a positive way liberates us to fulfill our purpose.  The power of using this short word in an emotionally intelligent way goes a long way in helping us keeping priorities straight.
  • Reflect: reflection is the key to understand how we close the gap between what we aspire and how we actually use our time; and how we can make our values practical and reflected in what we do and how we do it.  

As we soon close on the first month of the year, how will you prioritize also with your heart?