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Have You Missed an Opportunity to Lead?

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

photo by Christina Matos-Albers

I've seen it over and over when coaching high potential employees. They eventually arrive at the point where they are overwhelmed with their responsibilities. They've been given a lot to accomplish because they are known to get work done. The problem they run across is how to prioritize the work; what can "fall off the plate"?

Now dear leader, I wrote fall of the plate on purpose because this is what I often (very often) see happen: in the coaching session, the employee makes the decision to ask their manager for guidance, either prioritizing the list and asking for feedback or for asking for help in understanding your priorities.

Then I hear back from the employee that their manager responded with "Everything is important."

While that may be true, it's not how this works. Assuming this truly is a high potential employee who gets a lot of work done, this question won't be asked of you, as a manager unless help is truly needed.

Let me share an analogy if you will. You are at a buffet. Everything on this very large buffet looks delicious. And you are starving. You have a normal sized, quality paper plate and you start loading up. Just enough of each thing. But boy, there is a lot of food on this buffet! And then, the thing you were most looking forward to (for me it would be that decadent, moist chocolate cake), falls off your plate onto the ground.

Now honestly, if it were my plate I would have wished the healthy, tasty looking green beans had fallen off the plate. By giving everything the same priority, I had no control over what I lost.

Simple analogy - you know how it applies. If your employee comes to you with an overloaded list of work, of course you, and they, want to get everything accomplished. But with this ask, you can assume there is a good chance not all will get done or not all will get done in the timeframe allotted.

If you help them prioritize, you may lose the green beans, but you will ensure the decadent chocolate cake is eaten.


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