How to manage oneself for effectiveness?

That one can truly manage others is not adequately proven. But executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates & subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job & work set the wrong example.

The writer has not come across a single “natural”:an executive who was born effective. All the effective ones have had to learn to be effective. And all of them had to practice effectiveness till it became a habit. Effectiveness can be learned & has to be learned.

Effectiveness is what executives are paid for, & without effectiveness there can be no “performance.”

For effectiveness, executives follow these eight practices:

  1. They asked,”What needs to be done?”
  2. They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  3. They developed action plans.
  4. They took responsibility for decisions.
  5. They took responsibility for communicating.
  6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  7. They ran productive meetings.
  8. They thought & said “we” rather than “I”.

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed.

The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action.

The last two ensured that the whole organisation felt responsible & accountable.

Example: Jack Welch asked himself,”What needs to be done now? And every time, he came up with a new & different priority.He asked himself which of the two or three tasks at the top of the list he himself was best suited to undertake. Then he concentrated on that task; the others he delegated.

Write an Action Plan: What contributions should the enterprise expect from me over the next 18 months? What results will I commit to? With what deadlines?

The action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment.

Take responsibility for decisions

  1. A decision has not been made until people know
  2. The name of the person accountable for carrying it out.
  3. the deadline
  4. The names of the people who will be affected by the decision & therefore have to know about, understand & approve it- or at least not be strongly opposed to it
  5. The names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.

Taking responsibility for communicating

Organisations are held together by information rather than ownership or command. Each executive should identify the information he needs, asks for it & keep pushing until he gets it.

Focus on opportunities

Good executives focus on opportunities rather than problems.Problems have to be solved but problem solving only prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results.Effective executives put their best people on opportunities rather than problems.

Scan these seven situations for opportunities:

1. The unexpected success that is rarely dissected to see how it occurred.

2. Any inconsistency between what actually happens & what was expected to happen.

3. Any inadequacy in a business process that is taken for granted.

4. A change in industry or market structure that takes everybody by surprise.

5.  Demographic changes caused by things like wars, migrations or medical developments (such as the birth- control pill.)

6. Changes in perception & fashion brought about by changes in the economy.

7. Changes in awareness caused by new knowledge.

Make meetings productive

Remember: Even a conversation with only one other person is a meeting!

Think & say “We”

This means that executives think of the needs & the opportunities of the organisation before they think of their own needs & opportunities.

What can I contribute?

The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks outward. He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance & the results of the institution I serve?”His stress is on responsibility. And the man who does the above, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.”

Making strength productive

The effective executive makes strength productive. He knows that one cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all the available strengths- the strengths of associates, of the superior & one’s own strengths.

These strengths are the true opportunities.

It cannot overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant.

Measured against the universe of human knowledge, experience & abilities, even the greatest genius would have to be rated a total failure. There is no such thing as a “good man.” Good for what?

Even Leonardo performed only in the area of design despite his manifold interests.

If Goethe’s poetry had been lost & all that were known of his work were his dabblings in optics & philosophy, he would not even rate a footnote in the most learned encyclopedia.

A good tax accountant in private practice may not be a good people person. But in an organisation he can be set up in an office of his own & shielded from direct contact with other people. In an organisation one can make his strength effective & his weakness irrelevant.

Appraisals are concerned only with bringing out a man’s faults & weaknesses. On the contrary, the less we know about his weaknesses, the better. What we do need to know is what he can do.

(Appraisals of organisations were designed originally by the clinical & abnormal psychologists for their own purposes. The clinician is a therapist trained to heal the sick. He is legitimately concerned with what is wrong rather than with what is right with the patient.He assumes as a matter of course that nobody comes to him unless he is in trouble.The clinical psychologist or the abnormal psychologist, therefore, very properly looks upon appraisals as a process of diagnosing the weaknesses of a man.)

All one can measure is performance. And all one should measure is performance.

In appraising, ask the following:

  1. What has he done well?
  2. What, therefore is he likely to do well?
  3. What does he have to learn or to acquire to be able to get the full benefit from his strength?

The effective executive knows that to get strength one has to put up with the weakness. There are indeed no great men to their valets. But the laugh is on the valet. He sees, inevitably, all the traits that are not relevant, all the traits that have nothing to do with the specific task for which the man has been called.

A superior has responsibility for the work of others. He also has power over the careers of others. Making strengths productive is therefore much more than an essential of effectiveness. It is a moral imperative, a responsibility of authority & position. To focus on weakness is not only foolish; it is irresponsible.