Tips for Effective Leadership
Tip #6: Don’t Respond to the Urgent
by Wolf Rinke

Effective leaders have the guts to look at what others do …
and do something different.

The productivity of most managers stinks. Why? Because they pay too much attention to the urgent --- they spend their time putting out fires.

Being connected 24/7, each e-mail and phone call becomes an urgent issue that must be responded to immediately. And the urgent just keep on coming, one seemingly more important than the other. And before you know it, another day has passed without any concentrated think time—their response what’s that?—or without any time to attack the major projects.

Each of us has 24 hours every day. No matter how well you manage it, it still only adds up to 24 hours. So, instead of managing time, we must manage and prioritize the activities in those 24 hours by what I call the rubber band approach.

The following strategies will help you stretch your time rubber band:

(1) Routinize crisis. To manage crises—the urgent—instead of the crisis managing you, after putting out the fire, go one step further and analyze the crisis. Ask: what is the pattern here, why did it occur, what can we do to avoid it in the future or who can be trained to prevent this occurrence in the first place? Then implement actions designed to prevent it from happening again.

(2) Establish critical priorities. The reason why the “urgent” requirements are messing up your day is that everything that presents itself becomes urgent. And the only way to deal with that is to get very clear about your top three priorities—I call these the Winning Result Areas (WRAs). These are the make-or-break activities, the ones that will cost you your job if you do not complete them.

(3) Analyze your time expenditures. Look at each task listed on your calendar and ask yourself three questions. (1) What would happen if I don’t do this task or activity at all? If the answer is nothing, stop doing it! (2) Will this activity move me closer to the attainment of my top three critical priorities? If the answer is no, don’t do it, unless of course your boss asked you, and in that case it is a critical priority, unless you talk your boss out of it. (3) Can this be delegated? If the answer is yes, ask for a volunteer. If no one volunteers, assign it to someone who will grow from doing it.

(4) Work from a to-do list every day. First thing in the morning, or last thing before you go home the night before, write down three to five critical tasks that you want to get done that day. During the course of the day, especially after you have been interrupted, look back at your list to make sure that you have not lulled yourself away from the critical items that are on your list. When you are interrupted, do anything that can be completed in three minutes or less. (I call this the 3-minute rule)

(5) Streamline meetings. Starting today, cut all meeting times by 25 percent. (Trust me, you will still get everything done as before.) Have all meetings that are longer than 30 minutes driven by an agenda that is time, task and people specific. Start and stop every meeting on time. If it cannot be accomplished in the allocated time, ask for a small team to work on it and bring back recommendations for the team to consider at a future meeting.


Dr. Wolf J. Rinke is a management consultant, executive coach and keynote speaker dedicated to helping organizations and individuals maximize their potential. In addition to his new book Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel … and 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw-Hill, May 2004), he is the author of several other best-selling books including Winning Management: 6 Fail-Safe Strategies for Building High-Performance Organizations. Rinke can be reached at 800-828-9653, WolfRinke@aol.com or www.WolfRinke.com .

Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel:
And 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
by Wolf J. Rinke
McGraw-Hill
May 2004

Media Contact: Cindy Kazan: 414.352.3535; cindy@communik-pr.com .

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Copyright 2004 by Wolf J. Rinke. All rights reserved.

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