Whether you’re a CEO, contractor, project manager, head of sales, superintendent or foreman, you have to make decisions. Decisions are critical to survival. You have to make these decisions in a timely manner as people have responsibilities and their time is valuable. Yet, making a decision in a timely manner vs. making it in an urgent manner are two different things. Decision making is where top managers stand above others. They can spot and identify what is urgent vs. what is important. The key is not to let what may be urgent force them into ignoring what is important. 

If you frequently find yourself with no time at the end of the day or end of the month, you may be letting others push urgency on you, thereby having you put off what is truly important. Look at your management style and evaluate how often you are making urgent decisions. Is it because you like the pressure, power, control and the fact nothing gets done without your input? You may be having a hard time differentiating between items that are urgent vs. ones that are still important. Simply put, you may need to re-evaluate your priorities and learn to delegate more.

What’s Important?

If you have a hard time letting go, this will be tough. Here are a few thoughts that may help you to understand what is truly important. Having to put out fires continually is usually the result of poor planning. Eventually, you should be able to recognize that poor planning is your issue and you should be able to attack the problem head on and focus your attention on the issue at hand. An important issue—but not too urgent—is the future of your company. Is it heading in the right direction? How’s the industry doing? Industry markets rarely collapse without warning signs and opportunities to save it.


What’s the Issue?

Interior plaster once dominated construction yet slowly began to disappear; but it did take a full decade. If you think it was inevitable to decline, you’ll have to explain to me why interior plaster is still more popular in Europe than drywall. Maybe you’re thinking about selling your company for a profit. You spent a lifetime building it, so you want to retire someday and you certainly deserve a good profit. It is rarely discussed that many transactions fall through. 

Many transactions are negotiated by merger and acquisition specialists. They prepare an analysis for the buyer. Everything appears in good order; assets, equipment, sales, good employees, the lot. Then almost without warning, the buyer backs out. No explanation. Likely, the acquisitions firm told the buyer there was a red flag. It appears this company revolves around one person making timely and urgent decisions. The consultant warns the buyer, “You need to know the employees are good workers but have not made important decisions and are certainly not trained to handle urgent matters. This business is all about urgency and putting out fires.” And thus, the buyer gets cold feet.   

This alone should be motivation to delegate some decisions. Stay involved with big picture stuff, attend national meetings for your industry, sit on boards, and stay abreast of current or popular trends that will eventually impact your company. It is in your best interest to report back to the company with visions on the direction and not just how you’ve been putting out fires.  



As the executive director of two national associations, I prepare agendas for the board of directors. I provide industry data, my opinion on what we as a group should do but the board makes the decisions. There are various management styles on boards. While a few appear to be unaware of what is going on, others are tuned in, informed and ready to make smart decisions.