Doing the Right Things Right by Laura Stack
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In 1967, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, published The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done. Drucker’s best-selling work, which codified business productivity, remains a revered, popular classic. Some of Drucker’s concepts, however, are more traditional than modern. Productivity consultant Laura Stack takes up where Drucker left off, offering a fresh perspective in her updated supplement to Drucker’s indispensable manual. She presents three “T’s” of leadership – “strategic thinking, team focus and tactical work” – as the organizing rubric for 12 critical management goals. Stack details why and how modern executives must operate in “efficient and effective” ways. getAbstract recommends her update to all executives – a category, she says, that includes anyone who makes important decisions.
In this summary, you will learn
- Why executives must be “efficient and effective,”
- How to manage the “3T” leadership roles of “strategic thinking, team focus and tactical work,” and
- How to carry out an executive’s 12 most vital practices in these three areas.
“Efficient and Effective”
Today’s executives must operate effectively to achieve results and must use resources efficiently in reaching their goals. To attain these standards, executives should follow the credo: “Once you know you’re spending time on the right things…focus on doing them right.”
In his classic book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker (1909-2005) listed necessary “habits of the mind” – or “effectiveness practices.” He advised knowing how to spend your time and controlling how you spend it, concentrating on results, leveraging your strengths, prioritizing work-related tasks and making results-oriented decisions.
“Once you know you’re spending time on the right things…then focus on doing them right.”
To become and remain effective and efficient, executives should make 12 vital practices the core of their management approach. These 12 practices are organized according to the “3T leadership roles” of “strategic thinking, team focus” and “tactical work.”
Part I: Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking calls for identifying your intended outcomes and planning your activities around achieving those goals. Take advantage of your organization’s structure while striving to improve it.
“Executives execute. No one cares how many hours you spend at work and how many items you check off your to-do list. Execution and results are all that really matter in any business.”
Strategic thinking generates a long-term impact, applies to all units within the firm and sets out to plan and execute tactics that achieve your targeted results. Consider the needs of the group. Make sure your team members’ plans and goals align with your firm’s objectives. Then, once you decide on your strategic course, execute your decisions without delay.
As a primary strategist, the leader focuses on the big picture and deals with four primary areas of strategic thinking:
“Modern companies live and die based on how quickly they can face, embrace and absorb change. Innovative thinking makes this process easier.”
1. “Goals: Align Strategy and Objectives”
As an executive, you must understand your organization’s strategy and ensure that your team and personal goals align with your firm’s plans. Your organization can achieve its objectives only if your employees feel mutual ownership of those goals. To make sure that your team’s targets align with the firm’s goals, work with a minimum number of objectives that keep team members focused and productive. Emphasize shared, core values and make sure they know how to “translate goals into operations.”
2. “Change: Embrace Innovation and Adaptability”
Ongoing innovation leads to growth and new business. Make innovation integral to your operations. Promote new ideas throughout your organization. Strive to develop a flexible, forward-thinking culture.
“Strategic thinking can be difficult to apply when circumstances – and sometimes people – seem determined to crush it.”
3. “Communication: Share Mission, Values and Ideas”
Share your vision and expectations with your employees and make sure they accept the organization’s mission. Work to develop a cohesive, company-wide sense of drive and purpose. Communicate with team members verbally and in writing. Keep your communications brief and to the point. Let all team members know exactly what you expect. After you convey a message, make sure that everyone understands it.
4. “Decision Making: Resolve and Execute Decisions Promptly”
Executives make decisions; that’s their raison d’être. Don’t be afraid to decide. Making the wrong choice is better than remaining passive or letting events decide for you. Your decisions should support your organization’s “core values, mission and vision.” For every decision, keep return on investment in mind and consider the opportunity costs. Try to resolve problems promptly.
“If a meeting has little to do with particular people, don’t invite them.”
Overall collaboration characterizes every successful business today, so teamwork is crucial. Foster cooperation so team members work together to achieve shared goals. Executives must function as facilitators and motivational cheerleaders. Promote profitable teamwork by treating employees as valuable assets, demonstrating leadership in every facet of your work, empowering staff members and democratizing authority on behalf of all the members of your team.
Encourage your team members to upgrade their professional skills by seeking more training. They will achieve the best results when they have enough room and time to do their jobs and when you make sure they have access to the resources they need to perform at their best.
“‘Showing the flag’ isn’t a good enough reason to have someone at a meeting.”
Part II: Team Focus
Good leaders help their employees stay productive, enthusiastic and engaged. This encompasses creating a receptive, “risk-taking” culture; fostering outcomes-based performance; motivating employee engagement; and promoting growth based on challenging goals, personal responsibility and careful conflict management.
The area of team focus covers four more crucial management targets:
“As a leader, you have to regularly set aside time for strategic thinking, so you can take your team from start to finish with the least interference along the way.”
5. “Environment: Build an Open-Team Culture”
Leaders should foster a positive organizational culture and work to maintain it through everything they do and say. In an open-team culture, teams work efficiently together. Emphasize the importance of risk-taking, “urgency, nimbleness and swift execution.” Don’t be afraid of change or evolution; get back up if change knocks you down.
6. “Performance: Forge a Results-Oriented Team”
Business is based on outcomes, which depend on each team’s performance and productivity. Effective executives set up and lead unified, coherent teams that focus on results. Accentuate your team’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses. Manage and resolve disagreements, while valuing useful dissention among team members. Savvy companies have no room for “cubicle hermits and slackers.” However, don’t dismiss workers who seem to have a “few rough edges”; often, they are the ones who generate new ideas and innovation.
“If you want your team, division, department or company to truly improve, you have to hire for versatility, not indispensability.”
7. “Motivation: Harness Creativity and Loyalty”
Engage employees by ensuring that they understand how their individual efforts contribute to the organization’s strategic goals. Avoid micromanagement, which demotivates your best employees. Inspire team members through words and actions; be a positive role model. Motivate employees’ loyalty and promote their creativity.
8. “Growth: Emphasize Continuous Improvement”
Organizations that don’t grow will stagnate. Yet, growth, like any change, often proves painful. No matter who you are or where you work, the uneasiness of growth is an unavoidable fact of life.
“We can still work in teams, and we can still be superbly productive both individually and collectively. But in time, we’ll all become executives as the roles of manager and worker merge.”
Growth – and personal and organizational development – usually occur during challenging periods. Executives must stress the importance of the organization’s efforts to improve, nurture professional development and encourage all workers to take accountability for their actions.
After strategic thinking and planning, and after priming your team for success, you still have to carry out your actual work. Handling it well requires superior productivity, which calls for:
“In a knowledge-based economy, your teammates become especially valuable, because their skills are completely portable; they live in those few pounds of gray matter between their ears.”
- “Excellence” – Commit to outstanding work and secure the same commitment from your team members.
- “Planning” – Perform your work in a sequential, logical, step-by-step order.
- “Effort” – Give your team members the independence to do their work; facilitate everything they need and remove obstacles that impede their progress.
- “Quality” – Remember that employees’ results depend on your executive guidance.
“Part III: Tactical Work”
The leader is responsible for ensuring that employees complete their tasks. Managing this area involves delineating meaningful values, using technology in a controlled and deliberate way, and fostering agility through continuous improvement and ongoing education. Executives should lead the way in striving to achieve personal balance.
“One aspect of flexibility leaders often overlook is that their management style has to change according to the situation or person.”
Tactical work covers four more important areas:
9. “Value: Focus on High-Impact Activities”
Respect your time and your employees’ time. Successful time management requires self-discipline. Executives must develop the ability to say no to avoid getting snowed under by projects and tasks. Delegate as much as possible. Use your work time on the most meaningful activities. Never tolerate team members who waste time.
“Leaders manage time most productively at the intersection of effectiveness and efficiency.”
10. “Technology: Master Data Handling and Workflow”
Technology can help you master a massive flow of data, avoid information overload and streamline your workflows. Whenever possible, promote the development of new technology while remaining aware that technology also can be a huge time-waster. Anyone can become sidetracked by its distractions – social media, compelling links and email. Limit the number of times a day you check your email.
11. “Agility: Maximize Speed and Flexibility”
Amid the constant flux of the modern business world, try to be quick and nimble. Help your team members stay current by promoting their professional development. Encourage their participation in training and education. Promote flexibility for your organizations, yourself and the teams you lead. The sequential nature of project management – handling one stage and then another stage, and so on – is not an agile system. Instead, adopt a flexible project-management approach based on “independent milestones, due dates and testing phases.” Break your projects into distinct parts, and delegate them to the team members who can handle them most effectively.
“Valuing your time and your team’s requires considering the possible tradeoffs of everything you and they can do, from the structure of your work schedule to the best way to save money when traveling.”
12. “Balance: Sustain Your Physical and Mental Health”
You can’t be an effective, efficient executive if your life is out of balance. “Brain work” can prove as exhausting as physical labor, so maintain your health and intellectual edge. Eat well, exercise, rest periodically during the day and get plenty of sleep. Build in regular relaxation, and take your vacation time.
“The Evolving Business of Business”
In the bygone business era – before female executives, the Internet, smartphones, telecommuting and offshoring – executives and staff members filled distinctly different roles and responsibilities. Executives were in charge, and staff members did as they were told.
Today, no effective boss can behave like a dictator; bosses are team members and leaders. Corporate decentralization demands employees who can think and act for themselves. Executives can’t remain aloof if their organization or team needs them to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.
Thanks to advanced technologies, team members may work at distant locations, but such outsourcing and out-of-the-office staffing decentralizes work even further. Executives must trust the judgment of their long-distance employees and not indulge in constant supervision. Today’s knowledge and information workers often make executive decisions. This makes them executives, too: people who “execute strategy.”
Being an executive in today’s high-pressure world requires long hours, high stress, serious thinking, social involvement, and good project and time management. To meet these challenges, pay close allegiance to your 12 vital practices.
About the Author
Laura Stack founded The Productivity Pro consultancy. Her other books include What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do and Execution Is the Strategy.
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