As a Frontline Leader, prioritization and management of time is a critical skill, and often separates mediocre performance from exceptional leadership. And yet, many still do not realize the critical importance of what they view as such a basic skill.

I still remember the early days of my management career, a time before I had my first job as a frontline leader. Working in a technical support role, I would frequently be asking shift supervisors to do tasks, such as testing of alternative products, or trial changes to existing processes. A frequent response I would receive from these frontline leaders was “I’ll see what I can do. I’m extremely busy, but will do what I can”. I can still remember thinking “I can’t believe it. Supervisors have it made…they’ve got nothing but time on their hands”. A year or two later when I accepted my first Frontline Leadership position, I began to understand the enormous workload involved in such a critical, hands-on role.

As I embarked on my career as a frontline leader, it became clear very quickly the challenge involved in leading a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds and varying levels of experience and expertise. It also became obvious the extreme workload, and the impossible task of being able to control and be an active participant in everything that was going on, all of the time. I soon began to doubt my ability to succeed, particularly since there were several examples of people I felt were much more intelligent that I yet had failed to succeed as a supervisor.

What I soon discovered was that what set apart those who succeeded from those who did not was the ability to learn what to pay attention to, and what to ignore. The reality is that it’s impossible to stay on top of everything, all the time, so it is key skill to understand what is or is not going to plan, so you know what to pay attention to, and what can be left alone. Failure to do so results in an inability to do anything with excellence, and often leads to mediocre performance at best.

So if you are finding yourself falling constantly behind, and consistently failing to meet the expectations of those around you, take a close look at how you prioritize your work, and how you manage your time. Success is often found not in what you commit to, but what you don’t. Effective time management is a critical skill that separates successful Leaders from the rest of the pack.