Sunday, October 17, 2004

Game-time Thoughts on Management

As I take my daily blind walk through the world of management, I can only hope that I can learn from my own experiences. Here is a living, evolving journal of my thoughts along the way:
-- 10/17/04 -- Among executives, one of the rarest commodities is the ability to make good, accurate, and workable decisions in the least amount of time, with the least amount of information.
-- 10/17/04 -- If there's a commodity rarer than decision-making, it's the ability to carry out your decisions, even in the face of tremendous adversity and discord. This is non-political leadership, and it is rarer than diamonds.
-- 10/17/04 -- Political leadership is being able to understand the opinions of one's constituents (customers, bosses, employees, whatever) and either taking ownership of or redirecting that collective opinion. It is often valuable, and as such MUST be in the toolkit of a good executive/manager. It builds collegiality, but not necessarily a following. A manager who uses exclusively this type of leadership doesn't really need to understand the topic of discussion, just the people. Thus, such a manager has an achilles heel: if the entire group has the wrong opinion, so will the manager. Should a non-political leader come along and see what has happened, he/she will have no trouble making a fool of the political leader as he draws everyone's attention to the fact that there is no factual or analytical support for the political leader's decision. How can a whole group be wrong? Small groups. Unempowered groups. Uninformed groups. Disinterested groups. Or, most dangerously, groups of political leaders. It's a wonder the Congress ever gets anything right!
-- 10/17/04 -- Managers are responsible for maximizing the productivity of their staff. To be productive, staff need to be motivated. Money is, of course, THE motivator, but others can factor in, such as confidence, as in confidence that their management supports them. Without this, they are afraid to take bold action. Lack of action is, by definition, detrimental to productivity.
-- 6/5/04 -- Good ideas are the most valuable form of capital
-- 6/5/04 -- It isn't the role of management to come up with all the ideas, it is their role to be good critics. No one has a monopoly on ideas. In fact, the most valuable ideas are those which are new and different. Often, these come not from the ensconced management but from those elsewhere (inside and outside the firm) with a different perspective. All ideas should be accepted equally and critiqued equally by management. Those which pass management's filter should be considered fit for implementation.
-- 6/1/04 -- Managers don't need to be good at doing (or even really know how to do) their subordinates' jobs. Rather, management is a skillset entirely independent of that held by subordinates. This may give us insight into why many successful people who are promoted into positions of management perform abysmally. It also reminds us that the review of a manager's performance needs to be based on this separate "management" skillset. A manager's products are not the goods and services his team produces. HIS products are his people. Thus, his unique skillset is primarily composed of people skills (a motivator, a coach, a conductor, a negotiator, a teacher, and perhaps most importantly, a communicator -- both in terms of convincingly conveying his own messages and in terms of detecting and understanding those of others). Secondarily, his skillset includes more inwardly-focused skills like decisiveness, acumen, entrepreneurship, and a critical mind.

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