God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.((1))
This prayer written in the 1930’s by Reinhold Neibuhr is now widely known in large part because it is a staple of the drug addiction recovery world. It is widely referred to as the Serenity Prayer though Neibuhr did not give it a title.((2))Continue reading →
Major Works on Religion and Politics by Reinhold Neibuhr, edited by Elizabeth Sifton, Library of America [↩]
Thanks for inspiration for what follows to Adam Kirsch’s article “The Ironic Wisdom of Reinhold Neibuhr in the 8/13/15 edition of New York Review of Books, pp. 74-75. [↩]
In most settings we avoid saying “No” to a request or suggestion in both business and personal domains. In US culture there is a moderate avoidance of saying “No” compared to a culture like Japan where saying “No” is seriously avoided. Here “Yes” is used widely in conversations as an interjection to keep things moving, to encourage further exchange of information, to forestall making a decision. All of this because “No” is inherently negative and indication that the subject or issue is closed.
During this academic year (2014-2015) I had the opportunity to work with a team of 2nd year MBA students at UAlbany on a project for one of my start up clients. Working with another of the company’s consultants with the students turned into a productive addition to the company’s resources and fun to boot. Now these students are all employed, about to graduate, and be off to mostly big cities and big companies to start their careers.
Without invitation I began to think about what I might say to them that might actually be useful on this parting . So, here is my graduation speech.
“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.”
Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive was first published in 1967 and has been in print ever since. I first read it during the 1980s. When I began to coach general managers and owners of small businesses I re-read it with a fresh perspective.
The Effective Executive continues to be a book that I return to for its little pearls of wisdom. Once you get over the now obscure examples from WWII and the 1950s and its dated language (e.g., the pronoun “she” never appears), it remains a most useful and continuously provocative statement of the tasks of the general manager.
Here are a few quotes for illustration.
“In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems.”
“…the more an executive works at making strengths productive, the more he will become conscious of the need to concentrate human strengths available to him on major opportunities. This is the only way to get results.”
“No one has much difficulty getting rid of the total failures. They liquidate themselves. Yesterday’s successes, however, always linger on long beyond their productive life. Even more dangerous are the activities which should do well and which, for some reason or other, do not produce. These tend to become… “investments in managerial ego” and sacred.”
“Systematic sloughing off of the old is the one and only way to force the new.”
“…no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility. Until then, there are only good intentions.”
Find this little book (183 pages long), read it. You will be enriched.
Do you think that a client who patiently waits for you to get work done for them without complaining is a happy client? In a world with lots of squeaky wheels and more demands than can be met, we treat the silent client with some contempt. In practice we may let their work slip further and further behind. Our thought processes seem to say, “Well, if they think this is important or urgent, they will let me know.” But this is willfully ignoring the facts about silent clients.
Many people do not like confrontation or conflict. They avoid complaining, or even appearing to be demanding. But, they are not necessarily happy with your service and they do not forget. Few people are masochists. The next time they need your services they will very likely be off to another provider who they hope will be more responsive and honest with them.
Now You Have Lost a Client and Finding the Replacement is Ten Times the Cost of Keeping One You Have Continue reading →