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.
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))
A recent New York Times article “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green((1)) told the story of Doug Lemov’s discovery that a large component of high performing teachers’ success came from their classroom management skills. While reading the article, and, especially watching the videos of teachers actually employing good class management, I was struck by an interesting parallel in the management world. Just as education schools do not do a good job of preparing teachers to know what to do when they first walk into a classroom, most managers learn their craft by trial and error. They have little help from mentoring or development programs in their companies. And, business schools seem to provide little guidance either.
Meeting management is to effective managers as classroom management is to successful teachers
Meetings are a great place to start to learn the management craft and a crucial platform for driving and sustaining high performance. Great managers and great organizations have great meetings. And, from the perspective of a manager interested in developing a high performance culture, meetings are a great starting point in building a high performance company. After all, meetings exhibit all of the important attributes of high performance organization and culture. And, no effective manager can be ineffective in meetings.
focus on results ($s, people and values)
engage, empower and demand every participant’s energies
use fact-based thinking
orient to customer needs (internal and external)
devolve strategy into tactics
employ process and systems thinking
use well-developed problem solving tools and approaches
focus on adding value for customers (internal and external)
look for waste reduction
build on company and individual strengths
among the more important……
Meetings are a great place to start because they are a regular event in which the manager has significant control and can demonstrate, concretely, high performance principles and practices in front of, and with their direct reports.
March 2, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html [↩]
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.