Pres. Eisenhower’s Gift to Managers

If there is one thing General Dwight Eisenhower learned during his military career it was this simple fact: the only person responsible for getting the job done, no matter what that job may be, is you!

That’s why “Managing Yourself” is Skill 1 in The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers. If you can’t manage yourself – your workload, your projects, your tasks . . . then how can you be successful at managing others?

Long before he become Supreme Commander Allied Forces Europe prior to D-Day 1944 he began to use what eventually became called “The Eisenhower Box.” When Stephen Covey modified it in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” he called it the “Four Quadrants”

Whatever you choose to call it, the Eisenhower Box has two Axis: Urgent and Important. Using this matrix you can classify nearly everything you have on your plate as falling in one of four categories:

  • Urgent & Important – Things you must do – critical issues that command your attention
  • Urgent & Not Important – Things you can delegate to someone else
  • Important & Not Urgent – Thing you must decide about – who & when?
  • Not Important & Not Urgent – Things you can delete; not do; forget about

Eisenhower used this matrix every day, listing the issues he had in front of him on this form. Then he used this approach to help him manage himself every day, whether he was General Eisenhower or President Eisenhower.

Give this simple yet powerful tool a test drive for a couple of weeks. Where would you place all the projects and tasks on our plate right now? What are you committed to accomplish in the next week? What could you delegate to someone else on your team who is read for a new challenge? What could just be dumped in the circular file as not worth the effort? After all, it’s up to you to determine what you will do today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Paul

 

 

Perry Smith’s Powerful Phrase

In the late 1990’s I had the pleasure of teaching in George Washington University’s executive programs. And that’s where I got to know Perry Smith. As a retired Maj. General, author of numerous books, veteran of 180 combat flights in SE Asia, fighter wing commander, former director of strategic planning for the U.S. Air Force, former commandant of the National War College, Ph.D., former military expert of major TV networks, and all around high-level thinker, Perry is an interesting guy to be around. He is definitely not your average kinda guy.

Perry’s a great guy for checklists; things to handle, work on, get better at, pay attention to . . . One of his “useful phrases for leaders” that has stuck with me is a simple yet incredibly profound statement:

“Help me discipline my In-Basket; don’t send me issues you are competent to decide.”

Think about the implications of his statement and what it says to your employees. It works well on several levels:

  • It says, “There are issues that fall within the scope of your job and expertise, and I think you can figure out which issues those are and what needs to be done about them.”
  • It says, “I’m confident in your ability to make good decisions on those issues and implement them.”
  • It says, “When you face an issue that you think I can help with, let me know how I can best do that.”
  • It even says, “You decide what to keep me informed about and when to do so.”

What an affirming, empowering viewpoint!

How many times have you said to yourself, “it’s just easier for me to do this myself than to take the time to teach someone how to do it.” What would it take for you to honestly be able to say Perry’s phrase instead of yours?

Paul

PS – now a young 81, Perry has always reminded me of the Energizer Bunny; he just keeps on going. If you want to learn more about this remarkable man, take a look at his website.

It’s All About Choices

I’m willing to bet that you have lots to do. At the end of the day, week, or month you can look back and spot all sorts of things that you could have accomplished but didn’t. You’ve clearly made choices about what to do, what not to do, what to pay attention to, and what to ignore or defer until later. You probably make hundreds of choices every day. The choices you make must answer three basic questions:

  • Who should address or resolve this issue? – you, somebody else, or nobody?
  • How important is this to me? Is this mission-critical to my job or not so important?
  • What is the best use of my time, talent, and energy right now? Handling this particular issue or something else on my plate at the moment?

I’m certain you have issues you can make decisions about, otherwise known as your “span of control.” These are decisions you can make on your own, choosing what seems best to you. For example, if something is within your span of control, you may decide to move ahead and keep your boss in the loop after the fact. If the issue requires sign-off or approval from your supervisor, then it clearly is not in your span of control; it’s in somebody else’s span of control.

You also have issues, challenges, problems, and concerns that you have some influence over, whether you realize it or not. This is your “sphere of influence.” These issues are outside your span of control; your position and authority don’t allow you to simply decide what to do. In this case you need the approval of someone else or the willingness of your boss to carry things forward. These issues tend to be things you care about and would like to see changed, but are outside your direct ability to make happen. So it pays to get good at raising issues, communicating critical information, and making recommendations so you can influence the person who actually can make the decision to make their choice the way you would like to see it made.

Learning to effectively use your sphere of influence has a great deal to do with the future scope of your span of control. Using and expanding your sphere of influence usually starts with your relationship with your own manager. You should quickly learn how they prefer to get your suggestions and ideas. Do they:

  • Need a lot of data or just a general overview?
  • Prefer to discuss your idea or issue, see it in writing, or receive it electronically?
  • Have a more receptive time of day?
  • Need to perceive any new idea as their own?

This is all about your ability to influence the future direction of your team or unit. The goal is to provide your manager with the information needed so their decision will go the way you want it to. Obviously, you need to provide your boss with information that’s truthful and complete. You don’t want to leave out an essential piece of information that could prove to be a problem later. That would brand you as someone who doesn’t think things through very well. Still, you can craft information and recommendations in such a way that they lead logically to the conclusion you prefer.

Often, supervisors and managers are frustrated by an issue or problem outside their span of control. So they toss the issue to their boss without thinking about how that person prefers to get input. When their boss ignores it, rejects the idea or makes a decision they don’t like, the frustration continues.

If you look back and can see you are not getting the results you want from your approach, it’s probably time to try a different approach. Ask yourself some basic questions, such as:

  • What is the real problem or issue? How can I best describe it so my boss understands the essential facts and generally sees the issue as I do?
  • What specific outcome do I want? If this issue was in my span of control, what would I decide to do?
  • Are there potential difficulties or problems associated with my approach? If so, what are they? What effect might they have on implementing my recommendation? (Hint – they often are political or “turf” issues)
  • What will be the benefits of following my recommendations?
  • What will the payoff be to the organization and its customers or stakeholders?
  • Who else supports my recommended approach?

Expanding both your span of control and your sphere of influence is a natural byproduct of experience. As you become more adept at managing yourself and the assignments, challenges, and opportunities that come your way, you “graduate” (David Allen’s apt term) and get to take on new, higher-level challenges. Because of the confidence you develop in your own abilities, this growth process can continue as long as you’re alive. But you have to start somewhere and where you are right this moment is a pretty realistic place to begin.

Ask yourself two questions:

  • What issues are really within my span of control?
  • What issues are in really within my sphere of influence?

Once you’ve identified the issues that are within your particular area of responsibility, then it’s a matter of choices – what are you going to do to move those issues forward to a successful resolution, and what issues do you choose to defer (maybe) until later?

Then once you’ve identified those issues that you care enough about to want to see move forward, then it’s a matter of who, how,and what – who needs to know about this particular issue, how do you want them to move forward, and what would you recommend they do?

I recommend you really think about it. What’s within your span of control and what’s within your sphere of influence?

Think about it and commit yourself to making good choices. Choose well and you’ll see your sphere of influence and your span of control expand.

Paul

A Great Simple App

I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s philosphy for more nearly 30 years. I think so much of his research, teaching, and writing on personal effectiveness that I’ve used it as a fundamental part of Managing Yourself (Skill 1) in The 8 Essential Skills. Beginning when I brought David to Kalamazoo and WMU’s Fetzer Center back in 1985, I’ve used and taught his ideas with our clients. In the 1980’s and afterward the state-of-the-art tool for effectively keeping track of all those commitments, tasks, projects, and information was the vaunted Time/Design “system.” Then came the Palm series of PDAs, which were sure an improvement in portability. Until the iPhone (and its offspring and clones) the Palm was the way to go.

Ever since the iPhone showed up, I’ve been looking for an App that will let me do what the Palm almost did; make simple lists to track the task and project part of my system. Then I found a brief story onTapTask, and decided to give it a try.

As I said in my review on the App Store, “I’ve bought, used, and discarded all the complex list-making Apps. Waiting in vain for a simple yet flexible ways to replicate my lists from the Time/Design-based loose-leaf “system.” Finally, along comes TapTask. The new iPad version works great without trying to be super-slick. No colors, only two font options, no complex multi-tap menus just to get something written down. This App just flat out “works.” . . . this fills a big hole in the App Store. Hat’s off to Sonny Fazio and the folks at Sonster Media. A Great App!” And with the iPad version it’s easy to have my lists sync via iCloud so both the iPhone and iPad are always up to date. I like it!

For those using other tools, please pardon the digression. For iPhone etc. users, Yea!

New Toys & Tech

Skill 1 – Breaking in a New Tool

I’ve long been a fan of David Allen’s approach to Managing Yourself – what I call Skill 1. And since I’m also a long time fan of new technological tools (OK – toys) I keep an eye out for ways to streamline my own self-management “system.” A key ingredient to any effective system is to have a comprehensive overview of all the things on my plate (my commitments, projects, and next actions) and all the things on my radar screen (things I’d like to have, learn, or do at some point, just not right now).

Once AT&T was able to offer service in our semi-rural area we jumped at the chance to switch from our Palm TXs to iPhones after making sure the iPhone could sync with MS Outlook. I checked the Internet to see what ad-ons might be available to help manage and sort Tasks (the iPhone operating system ignores Outlook Tasks). It looks like 2Do from Guided Ways Technology may well be the answer, but we’ll see as we go along.

Being effective at Skill 1 means always looking for ways to improve your personal management system. Fortunately, for me that means trying out new toys and tech. Unfortunately, it takes time and mindshare to do that.

What self-management tools are you using these days?  Drop by and leave a comment; I’d love to know what you use and what works for you.

For more information on Skill 1 and Managing Yourself, order your copy of “The 8 Essential Skills” from Amazon.com. today! You’ll be glad you did!

And while you’re at it, stop by our web site and learn more about our approach to Personal Productivity.

8 Essential Skills for Nonprofit Managers

For those of you managing nonprofit organizations – we’ve been asked to develop a 5-session workshop series for our friends at ONEplace@KPL. This series is designed for entry to middle-level directors and managers in all areas of nonprofit organizations (executives, programs, services, administrations, operations, fund development, communications—anyone who supervises others). Each session will be 2.5 hours and will run on five successive Monday’s from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Interested? You can learn more by visiting the workshop announcement and topic schedule at ONEplace.  And while you’re visiting, don’t forget to check out the rest of what Bobbe Luce, her staff, and her network are doing – it’s great stuff!

Next Time: More Communications Stories from the Trenches.

PS – watch for my upcoming interview about “The 8 Essential Skills” on Mary Jo Asmus’ outstanding blog, Leadership Solutions.

The Final Piece of Hardwiring – Talents & Strengths

 I have long been fascinated by the concept of “talents” – those innate “gifts” that people have. I used to think that talent was mostly a creative, artistic ability as in playing an instrument well and seemingly effortlessly. Van Cliburn, Yo Yo Ma, Oscar Petersen, or Ella Fitzgerald for example. Or, think of world-class athletes such as Michael Jordon, Venus and Serena Williams , Phil Mickelson, or Derek Jeter. Although we know such skill is the product of lots of hard work, there also is the element of natural talent at work in each of these examples.

It turns out that we all have talents; things that we do that produce consistent near-perfect performance in a few key areas of our life. Decades of research by the Gallup Organization revealed that each of us have these innate gifts and that turning our talents into “strengths” is possible as we acquire knowledge and experience.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment has become the gold standard for determining individual talents and we have made extensive use of it in working with our clients. Recent projects with teams as diverse as a group of physicans in a family medicine residency program, a team of dedicated individuals in a state government human services agency, and a staff of electronics engineers in a large truck component manufacturer have shown the value of looking at individual and team “strengths.”

The best current “take” on talents and strengths seems to be in Tom Rath’s book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Each copy of Rath’s book contains a one-time computer code for taking the assessment on the Gallup Organization’s web site. If you haven’t explored your own talents, pick up a copy from your local bookstore or order from our friends at Amazon.com. Might be a great opportunity to order a copy of my new book too!

To order “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” visit Amazon.com.

What are your particular Talents?

Next Time: Skill 2 – Communicating for Results