Being Effective in 2018

The New Year is here, resolutions have been made and 2018 is our year. It is time to be effective. There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a day of work and knowing you got things done. On the reverse, getting to the end of the day with little accomplished is frustrating. In an effort to create a more effective day, I draw on tips and tools from management guru Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done.

It fascinates me that this book originally published in 1967, citing examples from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, and still rings so true today. The book lays out five practices essential for business effectiveness: managing time, choosing what to contribute, mobilizing strengths, setting priorities, and making decisions for impact. These all seem relatively straight forward, but we so often fail to use them. So let us look at each point in a little more detail.

Managing time
I once had a job where I felt I had to come in two hours before the work day started so that I could get my work done before I was bombarded with interruptions. I just thought that is how work is. Little did I realize, I could take control of my time. Drucker recommends analyzing how you spend your time and examine what tasks you must do, what tasks you can delegate, and what tasks don’t matter. It is amazing how we clutter our day with things we think are important, but no one would notice if they were not done. So ask yourself, what happens if you eliminate x task from your day, or you don’t attend y meeting?

Choosing what to contribute
To be effective you must consciously choose what you want to contribute to the organization and ask those who work with you to make the choice as well. Put another way “what can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve.” Taking time to think about your contribution in outcomes rather than day-to-day doing puts a new focus on the work you do, and back to the first point – how you manage your time. 

Mobilize strengths
Have you ever heard – do we have the right people on the bus? This is about knowing your own strengths and knowing the strengths of your team. If you really want to dig into this one, read Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths. The goal is to use individual’s strengths as building blocks to the performance of the organization. Being effective means hiring people with strengths and viewing them as such rather than a threat to your own position. It is focusing on the goals of the organization above all else.

Setting the right priorities
In Drucker’s words, “good executives focus on opportunities rather than on problems.” Problems can be solved by good processes. With good policies and processes in place, the executive doesn’t need to spend time making decisions to solve problems. Think about taking a problem to a front line employee. A company with good policies in place, and a front-line employee who knows them, means that the problem is solved without bothering the executive to make a decision. The executive’s time is then spent on looking at opportunities and deciding how to pursue those.

Decisions for impact rather than technique.
The most time-consuming step in the process of decision making is not making the decision but putting it into effect. The effective executive understands that the decision must include systems for putting the decision into action for without action the decision is irrelevant. Just like that time my parents told me I was grounded. Being grounded was their decision, but when they left town for the weekend leaving me home alone, they rendered their decision null and void or, at the very least, ineffective. A last thought, a decision has not been made until people know the name of the person accountable for carrying it out; the deadline; the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and have to know about it, understand it, and approve it (or at least not be strongly opposed to it); and the stakeholders who need to be made aware of it. These points will help you make decisions for impact rather than focusing on the technique of the decision making.

Drucker’s Effective Executive is a great read. Add it to your 2018 reading list to help make your 2018 one of the best years yet.