How to Use Togetherness to Manage Up, Down, and Sideways

Summer’s almost over. Whether you’re preparing for a new academic year or a new fiscal year, here are some tools to help you set your priorities and stay focused on them all year long. Because no matter your role or organization, it can be all too easy to get swept up in the busyness of doing without really spending your time on creating and planning for the things that matter most.

Here are a few ways and resources to help you stay (or get!) Together from the start:

1| Create a Priority Plan.

A Priority Plan is a short, simple, and sharable three-month view of your highest leverage actions for the next three months. It’s also a way to avoid falling prey to the Lure of the Lusty Checklist (otherwise known as Getting Stuff Done syndrome) or letting key goals get away from you. Draft a Priority Plan and then seek alignment with your manager and colleagues on where to spend the bulk of your time.

2| Require Roles and Responsibilities.

On a team with unclear roles? Not certain which outcomes are yours? Or have you been stealthily recruited into a new and exciting project – but one that may tip you over the edge? While we certainly don’t want to draw hard lines, especially in the ever-shifting and always-scaling education space, it is helpful to take step back if roles feel blurry. You can ask questions like, “Who is the right person to make that decision?” or “Is this person giving input or making the final call?” or “Am I staffed on this project for three weeks or three months?” This example from a team in Charlotte is one of my favorites!

3| Make Your Meetings Matter.

If you haven’t done so already, set a standing weekly or bi-weekly meeting with your manager. But don’t just stop there. Take time to co-brainstorm with your supervisor on standing agenda topics. Consider where you need the most support and ask where your manager wants to be more or less involved. Block time in your calendar to prepare each week (or every other) to make the most of the sacred time together.

Related: Three Unexpected Ways to Make Meetings the Best Thing for Your Career 

4| Contain Your Questions.

If you are like me, standing in any new role feels like drinking from a firehose. You probably have a million questions. Do everyone around you a favor and keep a Thought Catcher to record them as they arise. At the end of each day or week, see which ones you can answer yourself, which ones you can bug a colleague about, and which ones are for your manager. (Tip: even if you’re a seasoned employee, your colleagues will be grateful for your use of a Thought Catcher and strategic question-asking!)

5| Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up.

Whether we like it or not, our credibility is on the line with our Togetherness. Instead of just writing down your To-Dos in a notebook (otherwise known as a graveyard of good intentions!), make sure you are recording all of your next steps on your Weekly Worksheet or Later List and following up with people for your next steps. Added bonus: you’ll also help other people follow up on theirs!

Yes, these steps and practices can be a lot. But if you have clear systems to communicate with others, remain disciplined, and find ways to stick to your priorities, you will have a GREAT year with an even greater impact. Good luck!

Need help getting your act (back) together? Step into a supportive, results-focused Together Professional training with a group of education peers. Over the course of 7 webinars, you’ll learn how to keep your work and life on track—no matter how fast they move—and develop a customized plan to stay balanced. The next Together Professional training starts on September 19. Learn more and sign-up here.

Maia Heyck-Merlin Maia Heyck-Merlin has over a decade of experience juggling high-volume roles in results-oriented organizations, including Achievement First, Teach For America, and The New Teacher Project. In 2007, Maia founded The Together Group to train educators and education professionals on topics such as time management, prioritization, organization, and efficiency. Maia is the author of The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time and The Together Leader: Get Organized for Your Success - and Sanity!and holds a B.A. in child development from Tufts University.


Join the Conversation

Commenting Policy

Education Pioneers does not discriminate against any views but reserves the right to remove or not post comments that are off-topic or contain obscene language, threats, or defamatory statements.