The 1 habit separating Ghanaian junior managers from their successful senior executives

Escape the vicious cycle of procrastination and low productivity.

Lucy Quist

Lucy Quist

President, African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Ghana and Former CEO of Airtel Ghana

Photo by Eric Rothermal

Consider, for a moment, your email inbox. If you’re like many Ghanaian junior or mid-level managers, your inbox is likely overflowing with overdue requests, unanswered emails, and multiple to-do lists.

Now let me know if this sounds familiar: you get a message from a client. It’s an important email, so you tell yourself that you need to carve out some uninterrupted time to deal with it properly. In the meantime, you’ll attend to the millions of little tasks clamouring for your attention...

A day passes, and then two. You can feel the unanswered email eating away like an ulcer in your inbox, but you’ve not yet had a chance to pull yourself away from everything else that urgently needs your attention. The sender sends a follow-up message, throwing you into a minor panic, and you promise yourself that tonight, for sure, is when you’ll get to it...

A week later, you begin yet another email with “Very sorry for the delayed response…”

Senior executives don’t wait for the perfect time

In my own career, which has spanned companies such as Ford Motor Company, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Millicom, Vodafone Ghana, and Airtel Ghana, I’ve observed that successful senior executives possess a common habit.

Instead of waiting for the mythical and elusive “perfect time” to get things done, they do what they can, with the information they possess, within the sliver of time they have, and then move on to other equally pressing tasks.

Lucy Quist pictured in the centre.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

One common mistake I see mid-level managers make is refusing to move on something until it is 100% perfect. While the instinct is well-meaning, it more often results in a paralysis that destroys productivity.

For more task-oriented roles, a fair bit of care and attention to detail can be advised, but senior executives who are crafting high level strategy have no such luxury, and junior executives who aspire to rise through the ranks into agenda-setting functions must acquire this important skill.

The ancient philosopher Confucius once said “Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without.” His words remain true even today.