To be an effective executive you don’t necessarily have to be a leader in terms of exhibiting charisma, having great social skills etc. Some of the top CEOs in the last three decades were not your stereotypical leaders, they were all very different from one another in terms of their personalities, attitude , values, strengths and weaknesses. What made them all effective is that they all followed the same eight rules/practices:
- They all asked, “What needs to be done?”
- They all asked, “What is right for the organization?”
- They all developed action plans.
- They all took responsibility for decisions.
- They all took responsibility for communicating.
- They all focused on opportunities instead of problems.
- They ran productive meetings.
- They thought and said “we” instead of “I.”
The first two questions gave them the direction and knowledge they needed to be good at their work. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into an actionable plan. The last two establish accountability and responsibility among employees and leadership.
Knowledge You Need
The first thing effective executive is to ask “What needs to get done?” Note that the question is not “What I want to do?” Most executives who are put in new leadership positions are expected to have a ready deep knowledge of the position and some sense of what they will bring to the table in terms of the a plan but great executives ask the crucial question and take it very seriously. Not ask the question will render even the ablest executive ineffective at business. The answer to the question “What needs to get done?” always has more than one urgent task to be tackled. Effective executive don’t burden themselves, they prioritize. However after setting and completing the prioritized task effective executive just don’t move down the list of tasks, they ask themselves “Whats needs to get done now?” This generally results in a new task or different priority.
Executives execute, hence they are doers. Knowledge is useless until it has been translated into action. But before springing into action, effective executive plan their course. They think about time at hand, desired results, possible constraints and check-in points. The action plan is created with a system to check results against expectations. Usually the first checkin comes halfway through the plan time’s period, the second at the end. Without check-ins to review the plan as events unfold on a daily basis, the executive has no way to knowing which event are important and which ones are just noise.
When executive get into action then pay key attention to decision making, communication, opportunities (instead of problems) and meetings. No decision is made till the time people know
- the name of the person accountable for carrying it out
- the deadline
- the names of the people affected by the decision and hence need to know about, understand and approve.
- the name of the people who have to be informed even if they are not directly affected by the decision.
Decisions are made not only by senior executives but at every level of the organization, hence it is important to inform everyone about the decision made especially in knowledge based organizations. Effective executive know communication is key to success, so they make sure they share relevant information with colleagues, superiors, subordinates and peers. At the same time they let everyone know what information they will need to get the job done. Effective executives make sure problems don’t over shadow opportunities. Of course problems are to be dealt with but problem do not produce results. Exploiting opportunities produces results. Effective executives treat change as opportunity rather than threat which is the key difference. They find scope to do something new with change in industry structure, market structure, demographics, change in mind-set, values, mood, new knowledge or technology and use it to their advantage. Staffing is another important part of being opportunity focused. As they say get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.
Meetings are the number killer of an executives time. Yet ninety percent people fail to run productive meetings. Every conversation at your desk, in the board room or near the coffee machine is a meeting, and half of the time in a daily routine is spent in meetings. The key to running productive meeting is knowing the objective of the meeting and preparing yourself accordingly.
A meeting to make an announcement/a statement or press release needs only one person to prepare a draft beforehand. At the end of the meeting, one person is given the responsibility to communicate the final text.
A meeting in which one member reports, nothing but the report is discussed.
A meeting in which several member report, either there are no discussion at all or the discussion is confined to questions for clarifications. Another alternative is to have all participants ask questions but if this the format, reports should be delivered to participants before the meeting and a stipulated time should be allocated for each report.
A meeting to make an announcement – eg: about organizational change, such a meeting is restricted to making the announcement and a small discussion about the same.
Productive meetings require a good deal of self discipline. Select a meeting format, let others know and stick to it. A meeting should be adjourned as soon as the objective of the meeting is accomplished. Follow up is as important as a meeting and good executives know that meetings are either productive or a total waste of time.
Think and Say “We”
This one is simple. Good executive know that they have ultimate authority at their domain of work which cant be shared or delegated. But this authority is because of the trust of the organization in them. Hence they always think about the needs and wants of the organization, its people and its stakeholders, the “we” before the needs and wants of the individual, the “I”.
Apart from these eight practices that effective executive do, I’ll let you in on another secret of theirs, this is important and treat it as a rule: Listen first, speak last.