Better Tech Dev

Insights on Technology Development from Austin Higgins

Category: Leadership

What To Do About Too Many Priorities

When I was in the Air Force, we always had a laugh during our safety briefings. During basic training and early in our careers we had the Air Force core values drilled in to our brains -integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. These were designed to be the guiding values that drove all of our decisions with integrity first.

During every single safety briefing, the commanders would tell us safety first. This started a common joke in the service – safety first but also integrity first.

Which was it? Should we be safe or act with integrity?

Safety and integrity aren’t mutually exclusive, those of us in the briefings understood that and this story just demonstrates a point.

You can only have one top priority.

There will always be a long list of goals for your company, organization or career. But if you shift your focus to too many goals your chance of success will decrease. And more importantly, your team members won’t be equipped to make the right decision. Should they be safe or act in integrity?

So what can you do about it?

  1. Document all of the things that you care about – revenue, client satisfaction, employee turnover, cost savings et cet
  2. Determine which of these influences the others – client satisfaction for example can be measured by revenue, retention and referrals
  3. Focus on the items that impact most of the things you care about

You could make the case to ignore Net Promoter Scores and instead focus on achieving customer referrals. Customers don’t refer business or products they aren’t very happy with.

Three Pillars of Effective People Management

Management tactics, and their success, vary little from company to company. People managers at Fortune 100 enterprises, 3 person startups and everything in between must effectively communicate to their teams the definition of success.

After consulting for dozens of companies of all sizes, I have identified three foundational pillars of effective people management with regards to defining success.


This question is universally answered for all equal-level associates in a given role. Consistency is key for associate requirements. Each association at equal levels must be required to do the same share of work and have the same, shared definition of success. If a unit goal is 95 and there are 5 associates, each associate must be required to produce 19 units.


Expectations take the associates requirements to the next level. Associates may be required to perform 19 units, but management may expect them to produce ahead of the deadline. This could be due to the individual or the team the individual works with. Expectations should not affect core performance metrics for the individual but should affect reward and promotion.


Desired work performance is based on an individual relationship between an associate and their manager. This associate may be required to produce 19 units per month. Because they are on a high-performing team, management expects them to reach the deadline one week early. After reaching their goal ahead of schedule, they desire for the associate to help the analysts or new junior associates reach their quota.

Final thoughts

The expectations and desires for each associate may change, but it is paramount that the responsibilities and requirements are consistent across same-level associates. Having the same level of requirements streamlines the monitoring and performance metrics that management must use to evaluation performance.

This level of communication and definition helps associates understand what they must do to achieve what they want. If an associate wants to only remain employed, they can focus on requirements. If they want to progress in their organization or company, they can focus on the desires.

Using this model, managers can explicitly communicate what must be done and employees have a clear and accurate understanding.

  • Does this apply to any people manager in any industry? Yes.
  • Should it be adjusted to meet the needs of a company, organization or team? Absolutely.
  • How effective is this model once implemented? You tell me.

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