The Management Rule Of 6F

A lot was written about what it means to be a good manager and a leader. I’m not going to talk about difference between a manager and a leader, though you can get my thoughts on the topic from my other posts. Instead, I will focus on the six attributes that a strong leader and a manager have in common. Regardless whether you work with people reporting to you, peers, or just a random group of people you will significantly increase your chance of being seen as a strong leader and you will improve the chances of project’s success if you follow what I would call the rule of 6F.

Fast

Be fast. To get things done you actually need to go and do them. Endless, planning and talking about what needs to be done just delays the inevitable. At some point you either do it or not. Why not to move fast and make decisions as soon as you have at least some basic data. No need to wait for all the data, all the opinions, and the right time. The right time is now! For more thoughts on decision making and moving fast check these posts Tough Choice: The Art Of Decision Making, Want To Be Seen As A Leader? Be Fast!

Focused

Focus on the activity at hand. Learning to be present in the moment and fully focus on the task you are doing is key in both, moving fast and getting things done with good quality. Don’t check emails every five minutes, don’t let your mind wander to what needs to be done tomorrow. Just eliminate distractions and fully live in the moment. One of the tricks you can try is to split your work into small tasks that require only short amount of time to complete. That way you don’t need to worry about missing out on what is happening around you. For more thoughts on this check Getting Stuff Done: The Right Tactics.

Flexible

Being fast and focused is good only as long as you complement it with enough flexibility to change direction when needed. If something doesn’t work you should recognize it fast and stop doing it. Routines are a great way to safe some decision making power but at the same time they bring a danger of being stuck in doing something that doesn’t have the priority right now. Being able to admit mistakes, flexibly react to changes in environment is a must for a good leader.

Fair

People will follow you only if they see that you have a vision, you know where you are going, and you have their good on top of your mind. Being fair (whatever it means) is a key. You should always strive to be inclusive, never discriminate or be biased towards others whatever the reasons. You also need to realize that the same action on your part can be seen by some as fair and by others as unfair so first you need to start with defining of what “fair” means to you and then be very clear with people around you what that definition is. For more on being fair check Life Is Not Fair! So What?

Friendly

Creativity is a cornerstone of knowledge based economy. And creativity strives in a relaxed atmosphere where people are not worried about voicing their thoughts and concerns, where they can build on each other’s ideas without worry of being ridiculed or their ideas stolen. As a leader you need to be friendly and approachable. Everyone on the team needs to be able to come and talk to you without worry of persecution. People need to trust you and being friendly is one of the ways how to ensure that. They of course it is a question of competence and integrity. Read more on being friendly versus being friends in Are You Friends Or Just Colleagues?

Firm

Be friendly but don’t try to be a friend. You need to be able to offer sympathetic ear and at the same time be able to make tough decisions. You need to be able to hold people accountable to achieve the team’s goals. It is you as a leader who sets the tone on what communication and work culture the team has. If you constantly give in to pressure, if you overlook others not doing their job, if you treat people differently only because they are friends, you will slowly create a pretty toxic culture. Being able to hold others accountable and focused and do it respectfully while maintaining positive atmosphere is one of the most useful skills you can learn. More on keeping people accountable in How To Deal With Broken Promises.

When you put it all together a strong leader is Fast to act, Focused on execution, Flexible in thinking, Fair in dealing with team members, Friendly to everyone around, and Firm in dealing with issues.

 

What are the attributes that help you being successful at leading others? Would you agree with the list, is anything missing? Is there anything that wouldn’t be too important in your culture?

Originally posted at LinkedIn. Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Strategy Is Overrated, Execution Is What Leads To Success

“What we are missing is a solid strategy.” “Let’s bring on board a consultant to provide a viable business strategy.” “I would come up with much better strategy than the current product management.” “You need to think more strategically.” Do these statements sound familiar? There is a lot of focus in the corporate world on “strategy”. Companies, managements, even employees often blame lack of success at a faulty strategy. In truth, it is very rarely the case. Most often than not, it is not about poor strategy, but about poor execution of the strategy and lack of feedback to understand the impact of ever changing environment. Strategy is not a product. You need some people on the team who are able to set direction, who understand the market, who recognize the business opportunity but ultimately as Thomas Edison said “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Strategy is just a beginning and should change as needed

What is a strategy? You can define it as a series of choices you make that would lead to your ultimate goal. In business terms it would be choices on which industry and market to compete and what aspects of business prioritize to win (whatever it means for you) and maximize short/long-term value (again depending on your preferences).

Strategy is here to give you focus and have a common set of criteria that the whole organization aligns around. It is a framework for making day to day decisions by the teams that execute the strategy. But that is where it ends. The moment the organization understands where to go, what are the values and how we prioritize to reach the ultimate goal the real fun starts and it is execution time.

Execution is where all the magic happens

There is a Japanese proverb “Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare.” So yes, you do need the vision but the most successful teams and organization in modern knowledge based economy are those who can adapt and who out-execute everyone else. Once you have a basic strategy you need to operationalize it. Set up a basic operations model and execute, change, execute, change again, and so forth.

If you want to be successful you should be flexible while maintaining focus on your strategy. The worst thing you can do is trying to solve operational problems by constantly shifting your strategy. The result will be ever increasing loss of focus and people jumping from one activity to another without being able to prioritize properly. Not just that, but if you are constantly changing the strategy then you are confusing your organization and no one is able to make decisions because there is this missing high-level framework that supports the day to day decision making process. Ultimately, this leads to a situation where you need to make all the decisions yourself because the organization reporting to you is totally confused. And if you need to make all the decisions yourself you are a bottleneck and the organization is stuck. Not only that, you might be so removed from the day to day problems that even you cannot understand the real issues and your decisions may not be based on a reality of what is needed.

Feedback loop is what leads to success

What is next? Things are not working out, so the obvious decision is to “change the strategy”. Guess what, that is not what is needed. Instead you need to commit to a given strategy and focus on improving the execution of that strategy. How to do that? Step by step. By constantly watching what is working and what is not working and making necessary adjustments in the operation.

The key is to have an ability to make small decisions at every level of the organization, make small seemingly unimportant experiments and feed the results back to higher levels and in consolidate form to the strategy team. This way you can have people at each level who can ask themselves “Is there anything I can do to improve the operation? Is there anything I can do to fix this problem?” If the answer is yes, they can make the necessary adjustment in the way they operate, fix the problem and adapt to changes in environment. If the answer is no, then the team needs to communicate it to the higher level. At this level the same questions needs to be asked. Maybe there is an operational way how to fix the problem on more global scale and if not push it again higher up. Ultimately when the problem gets to the top level the answer to these two questions is either yes, there is something we can do company-wide to improve the operations or no, there is nothing we can do within the current strategical framework. Let’s change a strategy.

All this can be done pretty quickly. It just assumes couple of things. Everyone in the organization understands the strategy and what criteria are used when making decisions. Everyone in the organization feels empowered to experiment a bit and try small improvements to execute better. And everyone in the organization understands where to communicate if change needs to happen and is not afraid to do so.

 

Does your team still live in the old strategy versus execution paradigm? Do you have a way to change the direction as required by the market fast enough? Do you believe strategy is what really matters? Share your thoughts.

Originally posted at LinkedIn.