Are you helping your team prioritise?

Great leaders guide effective teams and bask in the reflected glory of their brilliance. Effective teams know how to clear the clutter and focus on what’s important, even when things are really busy and tasks are flying at them. Without this skill, teams feel frustrated, fail, and end up in a downward spiral. As we return to office life, it becomes clear that while shared spaces are great for collaboration, they make it difficult to complete tasks without interruption. When we’re at home, on the other hand, it’s harder to know what to prioritise because communication is less

Prioritisation is critical to success, but it’s not easy. You need your team to do it, but that might require your help. So how to go about it? 

1) Share prioritisation tools

Encourage your team to follow the advice throughout this series, to improve their personal effectiveness. When they face challenges with time management, self-effectiveness or learning to say no, guide them towards tools and advice that will help them make good decisions.

I recently attended a series of two-hour meetings that were staffed by 15 or more internal team members, yet only three people at the client end. Most of those 15 spoke for less than a minute each, and then only to introduce themselves or agree with a decision. What a waste of time and money. As their leader, you can break this culture of presenteeism. The best way of doing this is to teach them their time needs protecting, and give them the skills to say no. 

2) Help them clarify what they care about

Support your team in working out what’s important to them. What are their passion projects? Long-term career goals? Biggest issues right now? How does home life fit in? What about their work-life balance? Encourage them to reflect so they can clearly state their priorities, staying true to both their long-term ambitions and shorter-term objectives.

A survey of 1,000 employees by McKinsey found that people who are able to ‘live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t’. Living our purpose also improves our health, resilience and longevity with the company. It has benefits for leaders, too, improving the engagement of your team. 

3) Help them look after their wellbeing 

You must ensure your team members are looking after their mental and physical health. They can’t prioritise anything if they’re off with stress-related illnesses or unable to focus due to a bout of anxiety. Adequate breaks from work, slowing down the relentless pace, and body and mind-strengthening activities can all help. If you’re a leader at a big company, find out about the benefits on offer to your team, such as gym membership, talking therapies or flexi-time – and encourage them to make use of these. They’ll be in a better position to work hard on their priorities if their bodies and minds are in a good place. 

4) Model the way

Team members aren’t going to make use of flexible working policies – or turn their emails off at night – if their leaders are constantly ‘on’. Nor are they going to be as good at saying no or prioritising if they don’t see you doing it. First, they need behaviours to emulate within their own work environment, and second, they won’t be convinced the culture is accepting of such an approach unless they see others doing it first. A law firm I consulted for were concerned about their lawyers who had young children burning out from trying to juggle home and work responsibilities. We carried out a survey to find out what was stopping them making use of the flexible working arrangements. A consistent message that came back was that they were worried about using these arrangements because partners who had kids weren’t using them, so they thought it might (a) reflect badly and (b) stop them being considered as potential future partners themselves. The firm insisted the working parent-partners made better use of the policy, and its adoption grew across the lawyer group more generally. 

Hopefully, this advice will help you increase personal effectiveness in your team and improve performance across the board. Let me know if you try the tips, or if you have any of your own to share.

This is the latest in a series of articles I am writing about personal effectiveness. To read previous articles visit my LinkedIn page.


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