As a leader, executing on your priorities is vital to both running the business and everyone’s success. Yet, far too often those you lead take matters into their own hands and chaos reigns.

You wonder who’s to blame for the misunderstanding. The answer isn’t complicated, it’s you.

When you assume the people on your team know your priorities you make a fool out of you and them.

Without clear direction from you, your team has no alternative other than to swap their priorities for yours. And that’s exactly what they do.

It isn’t too late to get everyone crystal clear on your priorities and here’s how:

1. Don’t Make Them Data Mine

Be unambiguous about what takes precedence and what doesn’t. It helps your team innately grasp what you want done, and prevents them from substituting their thinking for yours.

2. Address What’s Non-Negotiable First

At first, share only your top two or three non-negotiable priorities. This builds your team’s confidence to make decisions without hesitation or fear. Over time you can share more of what is important to you in the moment.

3. Let Them Mind the Gap

Create a culture of respect and openness, so people don’t feel uncomfortable when they ask you to clarify your priorities or tell you when you’re out of sync with them. Choose which suggestions you’ll act on, tell them what you’re doing and follow through on it. This eases the pressure you feel to accommodate ideas that don’t fit within your priorities.

4. Delivering on Tasks Isn’t Enough

Deliver outcomes that align with your priorities every day. Any lack of consistency creates uncertainty. This opens the door for those on your team to jump in and do what they believe is right. Hold yourself accountable and others won’t undermine you.

5. Call Yourself Out First

You will make wrong choices. When this happens, be the first one to say it and do it fast. This short-circuits peoples’ resistance and mitigates their urge to stop you from doing something they think isn’t in your best interest.

Your priorities reinforce the values you lead with. No doubt your success and theirs depends on understanding what you expect and value in the context of work.


  • Susan Gilell-Stuy, PCC

    Executive Leadership Development Coach and Consultant - Trusted Advisor to the Next Generation of Leaders

    Susan Gilell-Stuy is a top-tier corporate executive coach and consultant. For more than a decade under Susan’s guidance, executives and leaders unlock the distinct abilities and skills that will lead to brilliant success that perfectly suits them. Susan draws her on deep experience in evidence-based predictors of executive success, leadership development, conflict management, emotional intelligence, and stakeholder-centered coaching as she serves as a kind of alchemist, taking people’s most difficult leadership problems and turning them into gold. She is an executive coach for The Wharton School - University of Pennsylvania. Her comprehensive training includes a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas Naveen Jindal School of Management and a B.A. in Psychology from St. John’s University. Susan holds a PCC level credential from the International Coach Federation. If you're wondering what your sweet spot is as a leader reach out to Susan at [email protected] and take the opportunity to get to know each other, and talk about what you’re looking to accomplish together.