Successfully managing priorities

Lucy* came to me with an interesting coaching assignment. She wanted me to wave a magic wand and find her more time!

I quickly established that she was a very dynamic, driven and highly creative woman.  She had an excellent grasp of the business issues, having previously run a successful consultancy in a completely different field. However, her biggest asset – and her biggest challenge – was that she was constantly coming up with new ideas. The consequence of her combined business acumen and creativity was that she stretched herself too thinly, trying to have a finger in dozens of pies, all at the same time.

What we did

We started by identifying what Lucy really meant by “find more time”. I asked her what she wanted that time for. She had young children, so I might have assumed she wanted to improve her work/life balance. However, as a coach it’s important to avoid making assumptions. And on this occasion such an assumption would have been wrong! It rapidly became clear that Lucy and her partner carefully carved out and guarded their family time. It was the rest of Lucy’s time that was a mess! She wanted more time to exploit the 101 opportunities that she could see for her business.

I worked with Lucy to identify every aspect of her business that demanded attention. First we looked at the categories of activity – customer service, marketing, finance, staff management, etc. Then we drilled down into the types of activity under each heading. We captured this in a big mind map so that Lucy had an ‘at a glance’ picture of the business activity. And then I asked her to identify the two  categories of activity where her personal involvement was absolutely critical. I expressed this as “if you personally could only spend time on two activities, what would they be?” Her response was instant and instinctive. She knew exactly where she added most value – but saying it out loud gave her a real lightbulb moment.

During our next few sessions we kept coming back to this theme. We explored how Lucy could reduce the time she spent on other activities so that she could maximise her time where it delivered the best results. Sometimes this meant saying no to opportunities that were likely to be too time-consuming, with no guarantee of a good return. Sometimes she could identify a colleague who could participate in her place. Sometimes we agreed that it was absolutely right for her to get involved, because it played to her strengths and would help to drive the business forward.

The outcome

Over time our coaching interactions became less frenetic. Lucy brought a sense of greater order and ‘being in control that was missing at outset.

Lucy will always be driven and dynamic. It’s in her DNA and what makes her unique. And this means she often has an aura of high energy and buzz. However, she has a better sense of how to harness this to make best use of it. Our continuing coaching sessions are now aimed at maintaining this balance and helping her to prioritise her time and activity to get the best results for her business whilst staying sane!

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