It is accepted wisdom in human resource management practice that financial incentives, wages and bonuses, drive work performance((1)). This is a part of our business and political culture. Though studies and surveys have shown for decades that people find many other factors (growth of skills, engagement, sense of purpose, social connection, and many others) to be important in their work, the key to every human resource management strategy has been the compensation plan. Increasingly over the past couple of decades human resource management professionals have devised ever more complex methods for connecting various performance metrics to compensation plans.
Worrying is a most unfortunate state, generally unproductive, tiring, and otherwise annoying. The human mind seems to have a special gift for generating worries. Thus, the whole field of stress management. A recent conversation with a client about new procedures in his business generated the following comment: “Now that I have these new processes in place I feel more relaxed.”
This made me sit right up. How had this happened? What stress management technique had he applied?((1))
My client had automated his incoming email streams so that customer email was filtered and alert emails generated that appeared as push notifications on his smart phone. All other email was just filed away for future reading. This means that when a customer (or for that matter a potential customer emailing from a website form) sends a message, my client knows within seconds that the message has arrived. He can then decide how quickly to respond. In fact, he pointed out that while we were talking he had received just such a push notice, but, seeing who the customer was, he knew that this could readily wait until we were done talking because he had developed this trusted system to aert him of customer service requests.
So how does this make him feel more relaxed? It is the sure knowledge that he is aware of these customer events that makes him able to relax. He doesn’t have to worry when he spends a couple of hours working on a project that requires real concentration and focus that he is missing a customer inquiry. This contributes to his stress management.
If you have read and used David Allen’s Getting Things Done, this should sound familiar. This looks to be an application of his step of getting everything out of your mind and down onto paper where you can do something about it instead of worrying. This is part of his trusted system and a key to stress management.
Keep in mind that he did not start out to manage stress, rather improve customer service. The stress management came as a side effect. [↩]
“Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, rather when there is nothing more to subtract.”
Le Petit Prince book cover borrowed from GoodReads.com
Listening to an interview with an author about his writing process brought this wonderful quote from Saint-Exupery.((1))
Simple, clear, direct, user-friendly, straightforward, honest, classic, understated. These are some of the attributes that flow from thinking about your business with Saint-Euxupery’s aphorism in mind. In philosophy, science, and engineering Saint-Exupery’s aphorism is best expressed by Occam’s Razor where the razor shaves away the unnecessary assumptions.
Then, of course in the day-to-day world we have KISS – keep it simple stupid – that stands in for these more elegant formulations. The general lesson here is to beware of complex explanations, strategies, and plans.
He is the author of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince if you got to third year French in high school), though the quote come from Terre des hommes [↩]
In earlier posts in this series on Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive: the definitive guide to getting the right things done, we reviewed his list of basic practices:
“….know where their time goes.”
“….focus on outward contribution”
“….build on strengths….”
“….concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.”
“…. make effective decisions.”
This posting is devoted to the third practice, build on strengths.((1))
The effective executive makes strength productive. He knows that one cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all of the available strengths – the strengths of associates, the strengths of the superior, and one’s own strengths. These strengths are the true opportunities. To make strength productive is the unique purpose of organization. It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant. Its task is to use the strength of each man as a building block for joint performance.((2))
“To Focus on Contribution is to Focus on Effectiveness”
This is the fourth in a series discussing the 1968 book by Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive: the definitive guide to getting the right things done. In this part we will focus on the third chapter, “What Can I Contribute?”
“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward towards goals. He asks, “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.”((1)) …..
“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, in in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management”. He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
Everyone has a to-do list. Even if you keep it in your head, everyone has one. I use a simple app on my iPhone that syncs with the same app on my iPad and on my desktop to manage my to-do list. This is a recent replacement for a technology I used for 30 years, 3×5 note cards (preferably un-ruled) that stuck out of my shirt pocket.
Regardless of the to-do list technology employed, I am sure that your to-do list is almost always longer than can be fulfilled and increasingly filled with “overdue” tasks. Mine is chronically creeping in that direction.
In Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, he outlines eight management practices in the introduction that are the core skills of the effective manager:
They asked, “What needs to be done?”
They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
They developed action plans.
They took responsibility for decisions
They took responsibility for communicating
They focused on opportunities rather than problems.
They ran productive meetings.
They thought and said “we” rather than “I”.
But, before really getting to work on these he takes on some very interesting foundational issues. First, “… the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply that he is expected to be effective.”((1))
All quotations in this posting are from pp. 1-24. Here is an early example of how the style, and many of the examples, in The Effective Executive are quite dated. The pronoun “she” never appears in the book. When he wrote the book in 1967, women in management were extraordinarily rare and their was only a nascent awareness that women could and should play a full role in our economic and social institutions [↩]