Monday, June 09, 2008

"If I were to give off-the-cuff advice to anyone trying to institute change, I would say, 'How clear is the metaphor?'" Warren Bennis

"It would be a great mistake to confine your imagination to the way things have always been done. In fact, it would consign you to the mediocrity of the marketplace." Harold Geneen

"We do not make very full value of the opportunities provided by technology because we prefer critical to constructive thinking, argument to design." Edward De Bono


Today's image: untitled by h.neu. Great shot. Thanks for sharing.

Last week Lee Arnold said something that deserves repeating. Lee said..."They can't give you what you want, if you don't tell them what it is." [Lee's post here]

Lee's spot-on remark reminded me of a recent experience. Having delivered a talk to managers on the subject of leading innovation the first question in Q&A was "What have you found to be the most effective way to motivate others?"

My response was trying to motivate others is a waste of time. Let me explain.

The great football coach Lou Holtz said "Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated."

In my experience, first time managers often get their priorities wrong. They spend their time managing and directing down, focusing almost exclusively on their subordinates.

Let me suggest a better, more productive approach.

  • Manage yourself
  • Manage up
  • Manage across (your peers, including key outsiders)
  • Manage down

The only person you might have any honest chance at managing is yourself. It's the greatest single challenge every manager must address. If you really want to manage someone the best ROI is managing yourself. Good luck.

Managing your manager is critically important. The state of this relationship represents not only the condition of your employment but the ability to get your job done.

Managing your peers and key outsiders (e.g., suppliers, important customers, press) too often fails to be any kind of priority. In the largest of firms managing peers is typically viewed as little more than a competition for greater share of resources or more favorable share of mind (and credit) with senior management. It's typically the stuff of office politics when it could and should be something far more profound.

Managing down gets the biggest share of attention because 1) We have the authority to do it 2) We get some measure of instant job satisfaction from attempting to influence the actions of others 3) We believe our job is to manage the process including the activities of those who report to us.

Managers are not paid to manage others, they are paid to produce results.

Let me again say the most important investment you can make in being an effective and successful manager is to first manage yourself, then your boss(es), your peers and lastly your subordinates. Having said that let me share the advice provided in answer to the Q&A.

The six steps to getting your team moving forward in a more effective and productive way.


1. Manage expectations. Develop rich metaphors. Get everyone on the same page.
2. Set clear standards. Measure constantly and openly share the metrics.
3. Clearly communicate the consequences, those associated with pass and fail.
4. Catch people doing things right, early and often. Recognize, reward and celebrate success.
5. Rigidly enforce the standards, apply reward and discipline with equal vigor.
6. Support and champion the environment and the mindset of meritocracy.


The effective manager sets the tone, creates the environment conducive to productivity and success. The second question in Q&A was "Since managers are held accountable for results and if we believe what you say about motivating others being a waste of time then how does a manager go about getting the job done?"

My response was the truly great managers are those that consistently bring out the best in others. As coach Holtz also said "It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test."
Want more of my thoughts on the attributes of great managers? Read more here.

Have a wonderful week. Make something amazing happen. Thanks for stopping by.

2 comments:

Tom said...

1. Manage expectations. Develop rich metaphors. Get everyone on the same page.
2. Set clear standards. Measure constantly and openly share the metrics.
3. Clearly communicate the consequences, those associated with pass and fail.
4. Catch people doing things right, early and often. Recognize, reward and celebrate success.
5. Rigidly enforce the standards, apply reward and discipline with equal vigor.
6. Support and champion the environment and the mindset of meritocracy.

Perfect David! Looks like a book outline to me. :)

alec said...

WOW!

Amazing stuff.

Cheers to you David on another awesome post. Doing the E to my bff and others who get it.

Rock on!