Multiple priorities from multiple people!
Are you constantly being asked to do work for more by multiple people? Maybe you report to two (or more) managers. Do you ever struggle with prioritising work requests from all these different people?
In a former role, I was the Personal Assistant to two second tier (Deputy Chief Executive level) managers and also supported their direct reports. Juggling requests with competing priorities is a familiar issue for administrative professionals.
The key to successfully managing conflicting priorities is communication. Communication between you and your Manager and communication between Managers.
Hand in hand with communication is planning and communicating that plan! Just the same as you prioritise your daily, weekly and monthly tasks such as mail, correspondence, regular meetings and the like, you should explicitly prioritise your work requests. Easier said than done I hear you say. Not at all – with basic communication with all parties involved you can get those multiple requests prioritised and more importantly completed.
So how do you get the priorities sorted? I developed a prioritising worksheet that enables me to discuss with the person requesting the task the details and urgency and importance of the request. I found that after regularly using the worksheet in hard copy we were able to move to using tasks in Outlook, ensuring that the same information is being recorded, but always having a conversation following up with the electronic. If old (read bad) habits slipped back into the workflow I reintroduced the the worksheet until the system was reestablished.
The sheet allows for the who, the what, the when, the why and the how. By having the conversation and discussing the importance and urgency of the task you can communicate with your Manager how this particular task may impact on other tasks currently on the go. As part of the communication between you and your Managers you can share with them the priorities that each Manager has – not necessarily the details but certainly the importance and urgency of the item.
If you find yourself in a situation where a more important tasks comes up, it is imperative that you explain the impact of this with both (all) managers, and offer a solution. “With this urgent piece of work that I have been given by Jane, I am not going to be able to complete the report for you Anne on the date we agreed. I have completed the main part (or the research, or the executive summary) so why don’t I ask Bob to pull it together.”
Some tips for keeping in check those multiple priorities:
- Set up systems that you all use – consistency will make things easier on you!
- COMMUNICATE! – email both/all Managers the tasks for the day, this is done first thing each morning, then each evening before leaving a rundown on where the tasks are at.
- COMMUNICATE! – as soon as you see that they may be issues with conflicting priorities alert the managers to this.
- Forward plan as much as possible, it isn’t realistic to be asked to complete a major piece of work in a short timeframe because of someone elses lack of planning.
You, and you alone, are ultimately responsible for your own workload, become your own project manager in managing two (or more) bosses.
April 3, 2016 / Sherie Pointon / 0