Article

How to Manage Competing Demands

Juggling too many balls can be a stumbling block on the road to success.

If you want to manage competing demands in your life or business, you need a game plan. That might sound like common sense, but according to two BC business consultants and one successful businesswoman: one of the biggest challenges facing people today is a lack of vision or goals.

Whether in their business or in their personal lives, many people have no clear idea of where they’re going or how to they’re going to get there, says Randy Hart of Normandy 4 Point Management.

The 60,000-Foot View

“I think a lot of people just try to get through the day, and don’t step back to take the 60,000-foot view for perspective. That’s why we hear so much about stress, time management and setting priorities,” says Hart, a former forest industry executive who started his management consulting business three years ago.

The president, CEO and namesake of Lorna Vanderhaeghe Health Solutions Inc. agrees; noting that short-sightedness in business is way too common.

We get so caught up in the details that we forget, if we spent more time on building our business we could do so much more,” says Vanderhaeghe, whose health and nutrition company saw a fivefold increase in sales over the past two years. “Unfortunately, entrepreneurs tend to think that if they don’t do the work themselves, it won’t get done.”

How Big is the Big Picture?

So, how big does your big picture view have to be? And when and how should you switch between that broader view and the day-to-day activities that generate results?

“This is a skill that not everyone has, but it can be nurtured and grown. The big picture keeps people from getting overwhelmed, and the day-to-day activities need to feed into that big picture.” says Michael Walsh, owner of Vancouver-based Kaizen Consulting.

Understanding this balance is critical to your success, adds Hart, recommending that you should engage in a visioning process that helps identify your business goals and personal aspirations.

“You’d be surprised how many people are doing things professionally that bear no relation to what they want to achieve personally,” he notes, adding many business owners also hold onto business objectives they haven’t embraced for years because they never take time to adjust their goals.

Delegation, Delegation, Delegation

Vanderhaeghe explains that one of the key ways to manage those priorities is to get the right people in place to help you, so you don’t burn out. You find that right team by hiring people you can trust, and thinkers who also love your business, she adds.

However, just finding the right team does not ensure harmony. Simply giving your new team members an assignment and expecting them to perform doesn’t work. If you want results, you must be clear in your expectations, give readily understood instructions and ensure your people know how results will be measured, says Hart.

Vanderhaeghe’s advice? “Always give good direction, because if employees know what you want, they’ll give you what you want.”

Delegating effectively is a skill that can be learned like any other, Walsh insists. “There is an assumption that people should already know how to delegate effectively. This stops them from learning.”

Managing Time and Energy

Another key component to time management is more personal, says Walsh. For him, time management is more about energy management.

“Everyone knows you can’t manage time, only priorities,” says Walsh. “People tend to segment their lives into little pieces and try to juggle between them in the name of balance. Rather than carving up all the segments, what if we worked in a more integrative manner? Instead of managing our time or priorities, what if we managed our energy levels? If my energy is high, then I am more capable of taking on different tasks, or priorities. If my energy is low it doesn’t matter how much time I set aside for a given task, it will be a struggle. Managing our energy will pay much higher dividends than managing our time.”

This article taken from Business in Vancouver’s Leadership Edition, March 20th, 2012. The Leadership Breakfast takes place March 27th, at the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.

About Business in Vancouver

Business in Vancouver has been publishing in-depth local business news, analysis and commentary since 1989. The newspaper also produces a weekly ranked list of the biggest companies and players in a wide range of B.C. industries and commercial sectors, monthly features and industry-focused sections that arm its subscribers with a complete package of local business intelligence each week.