Thursday, March 27, 2014

Destination Is More Important Than Transportation

Which is more important—where you are going or how you get there?
To put it in business-speak terms: which is most important “Doing the Right Things” vs. “Doing Things Right.”

Execution is everything! I ran into this again last night. An “expert” was expounding on the virtues of “execution” as the reason behind the success of every great business.

If execution is everything, then great managers could make any bad idea (or destination) a success. It isn’t, and they can’t. Bad execution can rob one of their successes. It can lower results from what is profitable. However, being in the right place at the right time pursuing the right idea rules the day. "Getting the right people on the bus” may be the way to go from “Good to Great,” but having the right bus to start with is pretty darn important.

The issue of “Right Things” vs. “Things Right” gets to the core difference between leadership and management. There is a definite difference. Many leaders are not good managers—if, by management, we mean masters of execution. Leadership has more to do with being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and then, of course, getting people to believe the vision.

While there is a tendency of management experts to attribute the qualities of “doing things right” to organizations that achieve great success, most achieved that success by having done the “right things.” Unfortunately, time catches up with us. Once others begin to imitate such success, execution becomes the important differentiating factor. “Right thing” leaders like IBM, Federal Express, and eventually even Microsoft fall prey to the imitator with superior execution.

Perhaps the best summary is that Leadership (doing the right things—picking the right destination) is essential for achieving success. Management (doing things right) is required to stay successful.

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For more insight into the mystery of Leadership, read The Language of Excellence now available in print and eBook formats.


Tom Collins’s works include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels, Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. Unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders, go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Understand How You Perform Best

In writing about Managing Oneself,  Peter Drucker placed a great deal of importance on the need, particularly for knowledge workers, to understand “how you perform” best. 

Are you a reader or listener? Fail to understand which you are and then relying
on the wrong one and you will not perform or achieve excellence.  Drucker points to Dwight Eisenhower who learned by reading and excelled as Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe when supplied with written briefs.  But when he stepped into a new roll as President and attempted to follow the oral briefing methods of Truman and Roosevelt, both listeners, he appeared ill-prepared and equipped in front of the Press. The opposite was true of Lyndon Johnson, a listener, who inherited his predecessor’s staff.  Kennedy was a reader. Johnson never effectively absorbed written briefs.

Some of us (I’m one and you could also be) do not learn by either reading or listening.  We learn by writing. As it was for Churchill and Beethoven; neither reading nor listening is enough.  I must write about it to learn.  I must write about it to develop the idea or craft the strategy, the solution, the transaction, the opportunity, etc. We are sometimes mislabeled as people who have to “sleep on it”.  We make our best and most creative decisions after we have found a quiet corner and written about it.  

Just as listening and reading are not enough for writers, there are those who learn by hearing themselves talk. They need people in the room listening to their ideas and explorations.  Drucker, himself a talker, says that learning through talking is by no means unusual and notes that successful trial lawyers are often talk learners. 

There is no right method.  There is no wrong method.  But try to be what you are not, and you greatly reduce you effectiveness.  Once you have your own answer, tell others.  When those you work with understand how you “perform best,” the collaborative results are improved.  That, of course, means that next you should determine how others around you “perform best”.  Who are the readers and listeners? Who are the writers and talkers?  Understanding each other improves team results. 

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.