Manage Expectations and Priorities: Your Own and Other People’s

Does your everyday life ever feel like running on a treadmill with someone else cranking up the speed? Learning about strategies real women use to control the pace can help you invest in the areas where you most want to excel without wearing yourself out.
“The thing I’ve learned over time is that my work day can take a lot of different shapes and sizes and it’s not always under my control, but I can typically exert quite a bit of control over what I do before I start the work day,” advises Vice President Foodservice Sales with Georgia-Pacific, Brooke McKillop. “I’ve learned I perform much better at work when I have my home life in order so that’s how I prioritize my time and exercise control.”
McKillop was featured in the Executive Q&A portion of a recent WFF monthly Exchange Network focused on Managing Expectations and Priorities. If you missed this live virtual event, you can watch it on demand on WFF Connect. On the third Thursday of the month, Exchange Networks connect you with inspiring peers and role models in powerful virtual events that include live moderated Q&A with a top industry leader on Zoom followed by focused networking in small breakout groups hosted via Mixtoz.
Start the day on your terms
The right recipe for McKillop includes getting up very early to run and work out, waking her kids for school and making lunches before she starts her work day. And everything goes on her public calendar. “In addition to all of my GP commitments, my team and colleagues can see when I have to be at volleyball or baseball or the occasional date lunch with my husband,” she says. “We’re all dealing with competing priorities and that transparency helps encourage other people to make important choices too. It enhances credibility because everyone knows you’re not trying to hide anything,” she says.
Still, McKillop acknowledges that it takes courage to make intentional choices in your multifaceted life. To gain greater control over how you invest your time now and pave your path to the future, consider these specific tips.
  • Never check email in the morning. “It’s difficult to avoid scrolling because our phones are always with us, but if I have something important to do, I prioritize that and avoid other distractions at the start of my day,” McKillop says. “That helps ensure the most important thing gets done, and you start the day with an empowering sense of accomplishment.”
  • Talk about it. The first step to avoiding overwhelm is often talking candidly with those making a request to ensure you fully understand the ask, get a read on how flexible the timeline is, explore avenues for assistance, and can share what’s possible from your side. “When you start with deeper understanding about what needs to be accomplished, it can help everyone better prepare, prioritize and level-set expectations in a way that helps relieve pressure and avoid misunderstanding,” McKillop says. If that kind of conversation sounds intimidating, especially with your boss, role play it first with a colleague, friend or spouse.
  • Be your own advocate first. Although it can feel daunting early in your career, you have to be intentional about the process of discovering your goals, what makes work meaningful for you and where you can contribute most fully. As you develop those self-advocacy muscles, you will also prepare yourself to advocate for others and around critical issues within and outside your organization as well.
  • Evaluate your experiences. As you take on new experiences to expand your capabilities, pay close attention to how you feel while doing them. If you’re energized and engaged, that could suggest a path for future career growth. It’s just as important to know what does not jazz you so you can pivot and better prepare for roles one or two steps ahead.
  • Message-up with a plan. “When your boss comes to you with a critical ask, you are going to say yes and find a way to make it happen,” McKillop acknowledges. So, it’s critical in those moments to start with a plan. “You need to get a plan in place early with your boss’s buy-in to make time and resources available to meet challenging priorities, or to reimagine those that are unrealistic,” McKillop says.
  • Share accomplishments strategically. Most of us know to highlight accomplishments to advance our careers, but we sometimes shine the light on all areas equally, including those that don’t align with future goals.  “When you share a win, you’re painting a picture of who you are and who you want to grow into,” McKillop says. “Make sure key accomplishments reflect your company’s priorities and then highlight those that best prepare and position you for where you want to go next.”
  • Know how to say ‘no’. This is perhaps the hardest thing to learn and can be incredibly difficult when the priority comes directly from higher up. And frankly, the goal is rarely to literally say ‘no,’ but rather to strategize about how critical the request is and under what conditions it might realistically be met. Maybe someone else can help out, or could even do it better or faster than you.  A different way to tackle it or even a longer timeline might make it more feasible. “When ‘no’ is the right answer, I add in an ‘and’ or ‘but’ that allows me to be responsive and makes it possible for the organization to still meet a critical need,” McKillop explains.
You will never have the spare time to tackle everything you want to do in your professional and personal life; you really cannot do everything. But focusing on what matters most to you, your family, your organization and your future will enable you to invest your time and energy in ways that drive better experiences today and set you up for the future you want.

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