I talked earlier about focusing on the last mile. This is in some ways similar to that concept. But please read on.
Let me set the context first:
In any organization, the top leader is the ultimate context switcher in action. He or she has no option but to be able to switch contexts in a moments notice and be very comfortable in the new context. As the organization grows, the leader relies a lot on his subordinates as he or she cannot do everything like the earlier days.
Take a scenario where the leader is attending about 12 meetings in a day (not very uncommon.. meetings are ingrained in our corporate culture) and is rapidly switching contexts with every meeting. In between meetings he calls some of his subordinates and requests them to take care of certain tasks and moves on. This happens multiple times in a month and the leader might slip on tracking every single item that he has asked his subordinates to take care of.
If you are one of the subordinates there are choices based on the nature of the task. If the task is (using Covey’s terms):
Everyone will be watching them including the leader. So you better get it done well before the due date.
b) Not urgent but important:
Chances are that it may not come up very soon and sometimes the requirement dies on its own. You can decide to not do anything for a while and nobody will notice it.
It is in the second case that you get an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the crowd. When the task is “not urgent but important” you still can give it your best shot and actually “close the loop” with your leader when the job gets done. They say “Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.”
Closing the loop consistently takes a lot of hard work. If you are committed to closing the loop on tasks assigned to you, you will watch your commmitments carefully. You will think before you make promises and you won’t over-extend yourself.