Meetings – where you begin to be a more effective manager

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.

Good 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.

  1. March 2, 2010 []

The 6 New Management Imperatives by Bruce Temkin – comments

Bruce Temkin has published a free book on his blog((1)), The 6 New Management six management imperatives bruce tempkinImperatives – Leadership Skills for a Radically Changed Business Environment. Mr. Temkin sets out to define a “new set of skills” for managers. These are the 6 new imperatives:

  1. Invest in culture as a corporate asset
  2. Make listening an enterprisewide (sic) skill
  3. Turn innovation into a continuous process
  4. Provide a clear and compelling purpose
  5. Extend and enhance the digital fabric
  6. Practice good social citizenship

Lists like this one are very popular. I have been known to make lists of key practices and the like. But for the practicing manager lists are frequently tough to integrate into day-to-day work. Mr. Temkin’s six imperatives falls into this problem category. Overall, the six imperatives are reasonable enough as they stand. But I want to take a closer look at each and then suggest a more global approach. Continue reading

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Proven Checklist for Business Success – How Do You Put Them Into Action?

I receive a regular email titled, “Management Intelligence…… from Edward de Bono and Robert Heller”((1)) . Their most recent email was “Management Intelligence: A proven checklist for business success”. Here is the checklist they provided:


  1. IMPROVE basic, measured efficiencies continuously?
  2. THINK simply and directly about what you are doing and why?
  3. BEHAVE towards others as you wish them to behave towards you?
  4. EVALUATE each business and business opportunity with total, fact-based objectivity?
  5. CONCENTRATE on what you do well?
  6. ASK questions ceaselessly about performance, markets and objectives?
  7. MAKE MONEY- knowing that, if you don’t, you can’t make anything else?
  8. ECONOMISE always seeking Limo (Least Input for Most Output)?
  9. FLATTEN the organisation to spread authority and responsibility?
  10. ADMIT to your own failings and shortcomings and correct them?
  11. SHARE the benefits of success with all those who helped to achieve it?
  12. TIGHTEN up the organisation wherever and whenever you can because familiarity breeds slackness?
  13. ENABLE everybody to optimise their individual and group contribution?
  14. SERVE your customers with all their requirements to standards of perceived excellence in quality?
  15. TRANSFORM performance by innovating creatively in products and processes including the processes of management?

Again from this email concerning this list: “These questions penetrate to the heart of successful management. They have passed, and will pass, the test of time.

This list looks a lot like others I have seen, and certainly many entries would be on such a list that I might create. But, whenever I see lists like this, I say to myself, “Great, but how do I do this?” Lets just take number 15, for example,  “Transform performance by innovating….”. What business processes do I put in place that assure that these results are regularly and sustainably produced? Or, what approaches and tools do I deploy to achieve number 8, “Economize…” ? Again, are there tools and approaches available that assure the we meet number 13, “ENABLE everybody to optimize their individual and group contribution?” Continue reading

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Book Review – 12 The Elements of Great Managing and Making These Actionable

12ElementsGreatMng-book-cvrThe Gallup Organization has been publishing books on management and high performance organizations regularly for quite some time. The encouraging elements in all of them are that they are  based on real data from real people about real work.  I have recommended two earlier books from Gallup, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, 1st ed. (Simon & Schuster, 1999) and Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths, 1st ed. (Free Press, 2001). 

I recently read 12 The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter (Gallup Press, New York 2006) another in this series. Don’t be deceived by the title, this book is really speaking from the perspective of how employees experience high-performance management. So a little translation is required to uncover the implied principles and practices of the 12 elements. Here are the twelve elements as presented in the introduction to the book((1)) .

  1. I know what is expected of me at work
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

A footnote at the end of this listing states that “Each of the Q12© statements above represent millions of dollars of investment by Gallup researchers…..”. This is one of the reasons these Gallup books are interesting. There is lots of data embedded in them. It is well worth the time to read through and absorb the anecdotes that flow from the data.

The questions I have about this list are not about the validity of these statements. They seem to jive very well both with anecdotal observation and the findings of many other studies about the attitudes and feelings of people in high performance organizations. The questions facing a manager is how to create the business culture, infrastructure and processes that produces these results in the human resources of the organization?

Without attempting anything exhaustive here, let’s take a look at several of these 12 elements and see how one might convert them into actionable tasks for a manager.

Looking at the first two elements,  applying Lean principles and practices creates an environment in which every person knows what is expected of them, how they are to accomplish the tasks, when the results are required, and what success looks like in terms of detailed deliverables of a product or service.  And, they receive immediate feedback concerning all of these characteristics from those around them in the work flow.

Since good Lean work design involves visual, simple feedback mechanisms, quality is a result of the process and failures are dealt with immediately. Apply Lean principles and practices develops processes that directly connect the work at hand to elements eight and nine. Central to Lean practices is the principle that quality is a outcome of the process and failures are identified in the flow and quality issues are resolved down to the root level.

Lean principles and practices include a focus on the development of every individual in the organization to be fully cross-functional in their skills. Typically this is implemented through specific cross-training requirements so that, over time, every individual learns to be a fully qualified practitioner of multiple skills required by the company’s processes and long-term goals. or

Element seven, “At work, my opinions seem to count.” requires some further comment. High performance organizations require the involvement of every associate’s mind and energies to solve problems and carry out the work at hand. It is not optional in a high performance environment. So, by definition, every person’s engagement counts. The word “seem” needs to be replaced by “does”.  A little further quibble here. Opinions are not very useful without the supporting facts and thought processes behind them. This is the reason that high performance organizations, whether they identify themselves under the banner of Lean((2)) , Baldrige((3)) , EFQM((4)) , or ISO9001-2008((5)) , use disciplined problem solving techniques that everyone learns to use. This assures that everyone’s engagement in the problem is represented, but the problem solving is fact-based, gets to the root, and is actionable.

Element 10, “I have a best friend at work.” is clearly beyond the control of management. It is understandably nice, but definitely not a controllable element of any work place.

Some elements are particularly subject to influence by the behaviors of senior management. Elements 3, 4, 5, 6, and 11 are typically elements to be found in high performance human resources management processes. But, making those processes come to life can readily be driven by the example of senior management in how they manage the selection, development and pruning of the people who report to them. If they practice sound high performance human resource practices, those practices will cascade down to everyone in the organization. It goes without saying that a component of that is direct involvement by senior management in oversight and monitoring of the health of the human resources management processes in the organization. A simple example of this is to impose a rule that no manager, even to the CEO level, can receive a pay grade review if they have any outstanding performance reviews for their subordinates. This drives timeliness quite nicely.

To conclude, this list of 12 elements is an interesting starting point to venture into high performance management. The list is really a slice of the results that flow from high performance management practices. The trick here then is to reverse engineer the list to uncover high performance practices from the world of Lean, Baldrige, and other high performance models that can be applied in your particular business environment. Building a high-performance organization is one sure approach to developing an organization that produces great results and solid answers to the 12 elements of great managing as described in 12 The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter.

  1. pages xi and xii []
  2. Lean is the American name for the Toyota Production System, also more broadly the Toyota Business System. There is no standards organization for lean principles and practices. A good starting point is Womack, James P., and Daniel T. Jones. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated. 2nd ed. Free Press, 2003 and The Lean Enterprise Institute []
  3. Baldrige National Quality Program Criteria []
  4. European Foundation for Quality Management []
  5. International Organization for Standardization ISO9001-2008 Quality management systems — Requirements []

Learning To Be Effective – comments on Kelley’s How To Be a Star At Work

Learning to be an effective manager is almost entirely a self-guided learning enterprise. Almost no business schools even approach the topic despite the hundreds of courses they offer on almost every functional aspect of management((1))

No Significant Differences between Stars and Average in Intelligence, Problem-solving or Technical Skills

So it was with some anticipation that I read through Robert E. Kelley’s  How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed (Three Rivers Press, 1999).  This book is based on research at Bell Labs in the 1980s, and 3M a bit later, on the differences between “stars” and average managers.  . Learning to be an effective manager is a multi-disciplinary-multi-modal effort. Clearly an important step is to understand what constitutes the approaches, practices, and skills of an effective manager. How To Be a Star at Work - KelleyBased on work with hundreds of managers, Kelley found that there was no significant difference between “star” and average managers in their raw intelligence, problem solving skills, and technical skill attributes.This may seem surprising until you remember that accomplishing real results in the business world is not a based on individual performance but on the collective efforts of a whole organization. There are almost no significant business problems (or technical ones, too) that can be solved by a single individual. In fact, it is the job of a manager to bring together all of the resources required to achieve real results, focus them on the task and push, pull, inveigle, cajole, lead, or any other verb that describes the persuading that goes on to organize groups in action to achieve real results. Viewed from this perspective it seems less surprising that being a “star” manager has more to do with attributes other than raw intelligence, problem-solving, and technical knowledge.

Better Strategies and Skills in nine areas

What Kelley did find was that the stars has better strategies and skills in nine areas:

  1. Initiative – working the white spaces of the organization
  2. Networking – knowing who knows what in the company’
  3. Self-management – managing your whole life at work
  4. Getting the big picture
  5. Followership – checking your ego at the door and leading in assists
  6. Teamwork
  7. Leadership – doing small-“l” leadership in a big”L”world
  8. Organizational savvy
  9. Show-and-Tell: persuading your audience with the right message

There is some overlap among these nine strategies. For instance Followership, Teamwork, and Small “l” leadership are clearly interdependent ideas. But I do not want to quible here. If you compare this list with the attributes of high performance organizations you will find useful correlations and synergies.

This book is widely available through your local library and from bookstores local and online.

  1. see Henry Mintzberg, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development, 1st ed. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004) for more on this. []

Podcast – How to Hire a Part-time CFO

Five steps to hiring a part-time CFO to simplify your life.


This podcast lasts for 8 minutes 49 seconds.

A written format is available here.