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First Things First – Part I

You are in an important meeting, and your 6 year old daughter calls – should you take that call or continue with your meeting? You would like to start working on your strategic plans, your vision, and your mission, but you are having difficulties attracting and retaining talent. Where do you start?

You are in an important meeting, and your 6 year old daughter calls – should you take that call or continue with your meeting?

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You would like to start working on your strategic plans, your vision, and your mission, but you are having difficulties attracting and retaining talent. Where do you start?

You want to expand your production facilities, but your are struggling with quality problems. Which is more important?

Your staff is asking for salary increases but sales have been declining for the past two quarters. What should you do?

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If you are in management, you must be dealing with many similar situations. Urgent demands are coming from all directions, and you are in a dilemma over where to start and what to do.

Business life is very challenging and complicated. It is getting more and more difficult to effectively manage resources, keep customers happy, and make money. It is a continuous challenge to deal with short-term demands and long-term goals. Additionally, your personal obligations and demand makes the picture even more bleak.

What I have found based on my past experience is that no matter which industry it is, effectively prioritizing daily tasks is a rare management skill. Every day, managers face various, and sometime conflicting demands many of which are unplanned. From customer complaints to keeping employees happy to ensuring profitability, the struggle goes on.

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In order for managers to manage effectively, they must answer the following questions: What is most important? What should be done first? When should it be done? And how much time should be spent on each priority?

What I noticed is that many managers are effective in putting-out fires; they are expert “fire fighters”. As problems arise they roll up their sleeves and jump in without hesitation.

At the end of the day they feel drained and exhausted. They are thankful because one more day passed without major disasters. But lets see: did they work hard, or smart? How many of the fires they put-out brought them closer to their goals? Which “fires” pushed them forward toward achieving their strategic goals?

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The problem is that many of those “fire fighters” lack the (combined) ability of dealing with urgent, unexpected issues, while keeping their eyes on the long-term vision, and steering their companies on the right path.

The predicament faced by managers is balancing two (seemingly) opposite and conflicting forces. On the one hand you are trying to deal with the present and its continuous struggles. On the other hand you are making sure that you are on the right track moving forward toward the future.

It takes a special talent to focus, and not to take the wrong “detour”. It is dealing effectively with what is happening right now, and keeping an eye on the “Big Prize”. It is steering the wagon over, under, through, and around obstacles and staying the course. It is seeing the trees, but realizing that you are in a forest. It is keeping an eye on your compass while taking daily steps toward success.

End part I Fahmi Abdein

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