A few weeks back, a friend of mine was looking for a new job. Before appearing for an interview, she appeared edgy. In order to help her alleviate her self doubts and also to get her prepared for her upcoming interview, I started asking her mock interview questions. These were questions I would ask if I were the hiring manager. While answering, her answers centered around prioritizing the current tasks for a couple of questions.
When I heard the term "prioritizing" for the second time, I couldn't help smiling. My reason for smiling was simple. By reverting back to the previous answer for a second question, my friend was committing a faux pas. Sitting at the other side of the table, the interviewer has already heard her when she said "prioritizing" the first time. She could have thought of something different. Then, she could link it to her earlier answer as supplementary to the original answer. That would have been equivalent to neatly tying up all ends.
Although I smiled, the challenge faced by any professional is prioritizing the tasks before them. When you are a follower, you expect your leader to figure it out for you. When you are a leader, you expect your follower to have this ability to figure it out. I have heard people saying "Everything is a priority". It is said in two different tones - one very emphatic with a don't-come-back-to-me message and another helpless with please-figure-it-out message. It is because everything is indeed a priority and has to be done before the unpleasant hits the fan.
Ironically, most of us know about Steven Covey's magic quadrants. In fact, some of us can quote it without batting an eyelid. Yet we struggle to put a task in the appropriate quadrant. What you think is the right quadrant might not be what your boss or your colleague think is the right quadrant. How do we bridge this gap?