Rational management skills

General manager mindset

1. Start at the end

Focus on the outcome and the results you want to achieve. Be relentless, stay focused.

2. Work through others

Do not try to be the lone hero. Management is about making things happen through other people. Learn to work through and with your peers, bosses and team members: influence, motivate, build trust and credibility.

3. Drive to action

Analysis shows you are smart, while action shows you are effective. Do not look for the perfect answer: you will never find it. The perfect answer is the enemy of the practical answer. Find what works and do it.

4. Take responsibility

Do not blame others and focus on the past. Focus on the future, action and result. You are responsible for the outcome, for your career, for your conduct and for your feelings. Make the most of it.

5. Be (selectively) unreasonable

When you accept excuses, you accept failure. Stretch yourself and your team. Be inflexible about goals but highly flexible about how you get there.

6. Make a difference

Performance is not measured in the volume of emails and meetings: it is measured in outcomes. Show you are relevant to the agenda of bosses two or three levels further up: work on a high impact agenda.

7. Be proactive

Do not wait to be told. If you see an opportunity or a problem, use it as a chance to shine: take ownership. Embrace ambiguity and crises as chances to grow, learn and make a difference.

8. Adapt

The rules of survival and success change by organisation and by level. Do not become a prisoner of past success. Continually learn, grow and adapt to the new rules of survival and success in your new context.

9. Work hard, work smart

There are no shortcuts or magic formulas. It is hard work. But work smart: manage time effectively and efficiently, focus on the right things, work through others and do not try to do it all yourself.

10. Act the part

Be a role model to others in what you do, how you look and how you behave. Ast as you would like your peers to behave. Set yourself high standards, and then keep raising them.

The easiest way to work out the consequences of most actions is to understand who the major stakeholders are and how they will react: each stakeholder has a different perspective and will have different criteria and needs. The finance department will worry about affordability and payback; marketing will look at competitive reactions; sales will worry about price and positioning; HR will look at the staff implications. Once you have a map of who is interested in what, then you can plot a zigzag through all the constituencies to make sure each one is able to satisfy their required needs.

Adapted from

Owen, J., 2006. How to manage. Pearson Education.

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