“My mentor told me that if I want to move up, I need to start putting more effort into critical mandates. I feel like everything I do is the stuff that has to get done — so I’m not sure what to do with this advice. Was it a criticism of my work? What am I missing?“
I often coach my clients on how to productively handle negative feedback — but I actually don’t think this is what your mentor is offering. Focusing on critical mandates is key for advancement, and the first step is understanding what this means. It’s not about getting through your task list — everything might have to be done, but not everything is critical — it’s about putting more energy towards what will have a big impact. Here are three easy steps to do it:
Figure out what are your critical mandates.
Can you quickly list the three most important things your company needs you to deliver on? Just because a task is urgent (someone in shipping needs a signature for a package) doesn’t make it important (delivering a presentation to align peers on a critical business objective).
Colour code your calendar.
If you have three critical mandates, begin to colour code what mandate you are working on at each point in the day. A lot of people feel this sounds too tactical, but ironically, the moment you see where your daytime hours are being spent, it gets very easy to see what is keeping you away from your most important work. I challenge you to try this out for four weeks and then review your history to see what stands out to you.
Ask for support.
As you start to re-prioritize your time to focus on the most important mandates, some other things are going to naturally get less attention. As this is a growth opportunity for you, you may need to reach out to your boss to explain how you’re prioritizing critical mandates and ask for support. She might need to delegate time-intensive, low priority work to someone else, or even advise that certain tasks be set to the back burner until more critical initiatives are complete.