How To Prioritize Like a Manager

By Marc Poirier, General Manager of Abbey Placements LLC

So you want to be a manager? Many people want the status and the money that come with the position, but few want the increased responsibilities and demands. The hours are longer, the pressures are greater, and you can no longer just be “one of the guys” with your coworkers.

Perhaps one of the most stressful components of management is that it puts you in a decision-making role. You have to make decisions when there are competing demands on you and the business you are running. If you want to be a manager, an absolutely essential skill you must possess is the ability to prioritize. When you prioritize correctly with tasks both large and small, you’ll be running the company in the best way. Here’s a snapshot of what great management looks like when it comes to prioritization.

Prioritizing Profitability

Great managers know how to prioritize by focusing on making their employers successful. Success can mean many things, but let’s assume that success in most cases means money. Tasks that generate money take priority over the tasks that a manager may find personally fulfilling. Although you may enjoy social networking after hours at the bar, sometimes the task that will make more money is working late to put a proposal together. Perhaps you enjoy making reports but need to instead follow-up with a cantankerous customer. If you want to be in management, develop a deep understanding of how your company generates money and focus your efforts on tasks that make your employer more profitable.

This idea may sound greedy, but consider what money represents: empowerment to affect change as desired. Money is a valuable resource not just because it will line your boss’s pockets but because it contributes to hiring more people, opening new branches, expanding operations into new markets, or being given away to charitable causes. Its uses will depend on the desires of your boss, someone you hopefully respect and want to make successful. In the big picture, making money for a boss you respect will in itself be fulfilling and likely bring success back to you.

Prioritization Pop Quiz

You’re a manager at a restaurant. You’re working on a report that has to get to your boss by the end of the day. Two interruptions occur almost simultaneously: a customer wants to talk to the manager and an employee has a problem with their paycheck. In what order do you take care of the report, the employee, and the customer? Why?

Think about your answer.


Again, the best way to understand this dilemma is to consider which tasks are most important to generating money. The correct answer is to first take care of the customer. Happy and loyal customers are the most important part of generating money. Next, take care of your employees. If your employees are not empowered and supported, you hinder your means to operate a successful business and generate money. Finally, take care of the report. Although the report is due today and goes to your boss, it is ultimately not as important to generating money as the other two tasks. Your boss would likely tell you to prioritize this way too.

How did you do? Consider if this way of prioritizing is the way you currently operate in your job. If you want to be a manager, learn to discern which tasks are most profitable. You’ll also be setting an example for your coworkers, which will make you a leader.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

When you’re focused on prioritizing like a great manager, you’ll also need to anticipate problems and offers solutions before they appear. If you were a customer, would you rather discover a problem and ask the manager for help or have the manager tell you about the problem first and offer possible solutions? Better yet, what about having the manager simply fix the problem before you even notice? Getting ahead of problems requires paying attention and watching for issues you have dealt with in the past. Once you’ve identified a threat, you prioritize it and act on it before it becomes a problem. By doing this consistently in your job, you will develop a reputation for being someone who takes care of problems. That is what great managers do.

This advice is easier said than done, but practice these principles every day at work and you’ll likely be promoted before you know it. The ability to prioritize gets sharper with experience, so focus on strengthening this skill if management is your career goal.