Adapted from The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, published by Harper Business.
What should we do? That is the first question the manager must answer. What is the mission of the organization I am managing? What is the strategy for accomplishing that mission? What are my goals for the future, consistent with strategy and mission? What are the overall goals for my team, and for each member of the team?
This may sound obvious. But it is remarkable how many managers never get to this basic question. They take their mission, strategy and goals as given – something that has been set by others. Perhaps it’s their boss, or their boss’s boss, or perhaps it’s just built into the situation or organization in which they work. These managers will spend their entire work life reacting – reacting to orders from above, reacting to pressures and problems from below, or simply reacting to the insistent demands of a busy workplace.
If all you do is react, you will fail as a manager. You may be good at solving problems that arise. You may be skilled at responding to the needs and requests of those you work for, or the people on your team. You may work long hours, be loved and respected by your employees, and be the very model of organizational efficiency. But you will not be an effective manager.
One of the most popular management books ever written is Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – a book that describes seven practices that will lead to success in either your personal or your professional life. Habit number one is simply this: be proactive. The very essence of being human, Mr. Covey writes, is self-awareness – the ability to think about, and ultimately make independent decisions about, your life. Your actions are not simply determined by “nature” – your genetic make-up, or by “nurture” – your upbringing, or by the environment in which you live and work. Rather they should reflect your ability to choose your own course. Effective people focus on being proactive, not reactive, and looking for the things they can do, rather than dwelling on those they can’t.