How Leaders “Put First Things First”

As part of my continued series of blog posts on how Stephen R. Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People apply to organizational leadership, this week we will focus on Habit #3.

Habit #3: Put First Things First


Putting first things first is all about our ability to prioritize things.  Our time is spent in four different ways, as Covey explains in his matrix diagram from the book: (1) urgent and important, (2) urgent and not important, (3) not urgent and important, (4) not urgent and not important.  Urgent, in this case, means that the activitiy requires immediate attention, and importance means that it contributes to our mission, values, and high-priority goals.  We must meet needs in all four quadrants of the matrix in order to be truly balanced in our lifestyles, but most of us only focus on one or two quadrants.

So how can this be applied to organizational leadership?  As explained by Daniel Newman from Millenial CEO, the rapid development in technology has mostly made us grossly more productive, but also wildly unproductive at times.  While we may have the appearance of looking busy doing certain things (texting, calling, emailing, tweeting, etc.), that doesn’t mean we’re making the most of our time and resources, as we most likely have more important tasks that we are not attending to.  While these activities can take up a majority of time and create an illusion of productivity, they are merely excuses for us to put off more important tasks at hand.

Organizational leaders must set the example, meaning from the top down, we need to remind our teams the difference between being busy and being productive.  We have all the information in the world at our disposal in order to complete our tasks to perfection.  As leaders, we have a responsibility to put first things first and influence others to do the same.  This means being aware of our priorities and responsibilities to ourselves, as well as the organization.  This is the first step to beginning with the end in mind.

Here is the link to the original article.

As always, I’d love to hear some feedback on the subject, so please feel free to comment below!


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