In my previous message, I introduced you to the eight practices the most successful leaders demonstrated to Peter Drucker over the course of his 65-year consulting career.
To refresh your memory, the first three are:
- Successful Leaders Ask “What Needs To Be Done?”
- Successful Leaders Ask “What Is Right For The Organization?”
- Successful Leaders Develop Action Plans
Today, I’d like to talk about the next group of practices successful executives utilize consistently. When they translate actions plans into actual action, successful leaders pay careful attention to decision making, communication, opportunities (not problems), and meetings.
- Successful Leaders Take Responsibility For Decisions. Drucker says, “A decision has not been made until people know:
- the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
- the deadline;
- the names of the people who will be affected by the decision…;
- the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision….”
The above list looks quite simple, yet I am sure you can recall times where these simple steps were not carried out, resulting in missed deadlines, inefficiency, blaming others, and a host of other shortcomings.
Drucker advocates having periodic review sessions with key players to review the progress. These meetings give the leader the chance to hear newly available information, review the validity of underlying assumptions, as well as to review the performance of those carrying out the tasks associated with the decision.
- Successful Leaders Take Responsibility For Communication. Leaders must clarify what information they require to make decisions and to check on progress. It is equally important to ensure you understand what your boss, your peers, and your staff need to know. With so much information available to each of us today, it is critically important to ensure you are both receiving and providing the knowledge and feedback that is needed and not just information for the sake of information.
Another point about communication – communication does not happen when you speak – it happens only when the other person (or persons) clearly understand what you have spoken.
- Successful Leaders Focus on Opportunities. Problems are not to be ignored. However, as Drucker points out, problem solving doesn’t produce results, it just prevents damage. Successfully exploiting opportunities is what produces results. Successful leaders understand that change is inevitable and necessary, and they embrace conditions that drive change initiated by the opportunities they notice in both internal and external events.
- Successful Leaders Focus on Making Meetings Productive.We’ve all lamented over the numerous meetings we have to attend as leaders. I contend we lament specifically because the meetings are not productive. I don’t subscribe to the practice of meeting to report on status when attendees could just as easily read a report prepared by staff or peers on the topic. For meetings to be productive, the successful leader is clear on the purpose of the meeting, has as few attendees as possible, follows a specific agenda, makes decisions, assigns responsibilities, and provides resources to complete assignments. The final five to ten minutes of a productive meeting are devoted to ensuring attendees are clear on what was decided and who will carry out next steps.
I recall working with a group of executives who lamented they were always late arriving at meetings. As I asked questions to better understand the situation, it became clear that meetings were arbitrarily set for 30 or 60 minutes, and it was common to have back to back to back meetings scheduled at different locations. It occurred to me a simple solution would be for their IT department to reprogram the standard 30 or 60-minute time slot on everyone’s calendars to be 25 and 50 minutes. This would allow people time to walk between meetings and even take the necessary bio breaks! Sometimes, the simpler the solution, the more impact it can have.
- Successful Leaders Think and Say “We”. They don’t think or say “I”, unless they are taking the blame for a failed initiative. They give credit to others for great ideas and for successes. Using the term “we” creates a sense of common ownership of an initiative.
Drucker adds one more practice he calls a bonus – successful leaders listen first and speak last! I’ve often said if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. Successful leaders are comfortable enough in their own skins to not have to pontificate to impress other people with their knowledge and supposed wisdom. They know there is strength in numbers and strength in diverse perspectives.
As I asked in the last message, “How do you rate yourself in these areas?” I hope you can identify an area to focus on. You have no doubt heard the phrase, “What gets measured gets managed.” If you don’t take the time to rate yourself, how could you possible know of any progress you are making 30, 60 or 90 days from now?