Nov 23. A. Chapter 11. Being the Boss
Summarize the main ideas of the following chapter in your own words. Provide some examples to demonstrate your understanding of the chapter. Create 3 Good open-ended questioned related to the information in the chapter.
How do you spend your time as a manager? Are your days under control? Do you carefully plan what you'll do and do what you planned?
Or do you find much of your time taken up with unplanned events, such as the incident above at Project Emerge, that take you in unexpected directions?
Perhaps you've discovered the reality of management—that it's inherently fragmented and reactive. Even general managers of major business units struggle to stay ahead of daily events.
But if that's the nature of management, how do you cope? How do you apply the 3 Imperatives—manage yourself, manage your network, manage your team—in such a chaotic, unpredictable landscape?
Effective managers have discovered how to do this. In this chapter, we'll cover what you might learn if you followed one and saw how she approached the daily tasks all managers must do.
Effective managers don't do the daily work and their work as managers. They don't wrest time from necessary but mundane activities to do what they "should" be doing. They use unplanned daily events, problems, and obligations as vehicles for doing managerial work. Moment by moment, they think about each daily task in the context of the 3 Imperatives and the purpose and goals they're pursuing.1
By taking this approach, they may attend a retirement party for someone in accounting and while there introduce themselves to the director of financial analysis because they know they'll be sending her an unusual capital request in next year's budget. As a learning experience, they may bring a junior team member to a client meeting where a problem will be discussed. They may take a few minutes at the end of a routine division marketing planning meeting to preview with colleagues some new thinking about customer service. They may share a market research report with a plant manager whose efforts to raise quality and cut costs were instrumental in producing the much improved customer satisfaction highlighted in the report. They may assign an urgent problem to two team members as a way of solving the problem and repairing their important working relationship, which was strained by a recent project that produced disappointing results.
Thus, effective managers accomplish much of their work in hundreds of little steps that eventually accomplish the work of management. Where such an approach proves inadequate—not all management work lends itself entirely to this tactic—managers create their own interruptions. They give assignments to people who will return and interrupt them when the assignment is done. They set up a meeting, or recurring meetings, to direct attention to some important topic. Waiting for spare time to appear is a fool's errand because it never will. And of course, they carefully review their activities and try to eliminate those they cannot use in some way to push their plans forward.
Do you consciously, systematically, routinely bend or extend everyday activities to accomplish management purposes?
The key is the way you think about and approach every task. Before dealing with a problem or request, before every event, pause briefly and ask, automatically and almost unconsciously, How can I use this to serve my needs and goals as a manager? Convert the activities that crowd your days into management tools for moving your team forward through an approach we call prep-do-review.
This simple action model will guide you to think of every activity not as one step—simply doing something—but as three steps: preparing to act, acting, and then reviewing the outcome.
Here's how it works.
Prep. Before acting, take literally a minute to prepare. Ask yourself, What am I about to do? Why am I going to do it? (That is, what goal, no matter how simple, are you trying to reach?) Who will be involved or affected, and what are their interests? And how am I going to do it?
Do. Perform the action you prepared to take in the prep step.
Review. Afterward, reflect on what was done and the outcome, including any expected or unexpected consequences. Identify the lessons to be learned. How would you perform the action differently in the future? This is probably the part most managers we know neglect. They assume that the right lesson is self-evident, but it rarely is.
Prep-do-review may sound simple and obvious. But too often we simply react to what's in front of us. We deal with what's there on its own terms, and our only goal is to solve it, resolve it, and move on. How often do we stop and consider the broader context or the consequences for all concerned? And how often do we pause for a moment, reflect on an event, and identify what we learned? Raise this approach—a way of thinking that usually takes no more than a few seconds—to the level of a practice that you follow in virtually everything you do.
How Good Are You at Asking Questions That Improve Performance and Help People Learn?
Prep-do-review will draw on a fundamental skill that, in our experience, all effective managers possess to a high degree. Think about any good bosses you've worked for, bosses who made you better and helped you learn. Most likely, they asked questions—not a few, not some, but many, all the time. What's the problem? Have you analyzed it? What are you going to do? Why? When? What if this or that happens? What happened? Why?
We know a highly successful senior manager in international publishing who was known for her questions. Here's how one of her people described her approach: "On the one hand, she was easygoing and fun. But she would ask and ask and ask to get to the bottom of something ... Once she got information and knew what you were doing, you had to be consistent. She would say, 'You told me x; why are you doing y? I'm confused.' Then she would come on stronger ... You were held accountable."2
A good manager's questions aren't aimed at catching people in mistakes or belittling them. They serve two purposes simultaneously: to guide people to the right actions or conclusions and to help people see a challenge in new and more productive ways. Good questions teach people how to think by demonstrating what questions to ask themselves.
Prep-do-review is the perfect format for asking great questions.
Use Prep-Do-Review to Apply the 3 Imperatives in Your Daily Work
Consider how prep-do-review can help you weave your management work into the fabric of everyday activities and problems.
How Can I Use This to Manage Myself Better?
Every Friday, many of your people gather after work for social hour. They invited you last week, and you spent a pleasant hour chatting socially. This week they invite you again, and after a moment's thought, you decline with thanks. You decide it's nice to do on occasion, especially if there's something to celebrate. But you don't want to create social relationships and be "one of the group." You are in fact a member of the team, but you're also not like other members. As you thought about it, you realized you need to keep a little distance.
Daily activities offer many opportunities to exercise authority, build the right relationships with your people, and demonstrate that people can count on your competence and character.
To find those opportunities, ask questions like these about daily events:
How Can I Use This to Manage My Network Better?
After a meeting with production, you go online and order The Goal, a fictionalized story of a plant that turned itself around.3 When the book arrives, you send it with a note to a new production manager you met at the meeting who, you discovered in chatting afterward, had always meant to read the book but hadn't ever gotten to it.
What you do every day presents many opportunities to create and connect with colleagues in your network. To find them, ask questions like these:
How Can I Use This to Manage My Team Better?
This imperative has several facets.
How Can We Use This Event or Incident to Improve and Implement Our Plan?
You're called to a meeting in production planning to discuss a slowdown caused by equipment problems in an overseas plant. You, some colleagues, and the production people work out alternative plans. Then, during the social chat that ends the meeting, you take a couple of minutes, using a simple diagram you brought, to preview informally some changes in a key product that you and your team have begun to discuss. Out of that brief conversation come two ideas that lead to improvements.
To use events to pursue or improve your plans, unwritten and written, ask questions like these:
Hill, L. A. (Linda A. (2011). Being the boss: the 3 imperatives for becoming a great leader. Harvard Business Review Press.
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