, , , , , , ,

Yep … the much awaited (or possibly much dreaded) performance review cycle & goal setting for the upcoming year.  I’ve focused several conversations in the past of reviewing performance, goals, competencies, and the like.  I’ve included those posts at the end if you are so inclined to have a look.

But this morning I wanted to focus attention on an article I came across recently that speaks to all of the above, and it completely resonated with me.  The article is from Peter Drucker called What Makes an Effective Executive.  Sound advice for Product Management leaders as we prepare for 2017!

Following are the main characteristics and associated sound-bytes from the article.  I’d highly encourage you to dig into the full article.

#1 – They asked, “What needs to be done?”

  • Asking what has to be done, and taking the question seriously, is crucial for managerial success. Failure to ask this question will render even the ablest executive ineffectual.
  • The answer to the question “What needs to be done?” almost always contains more than one urgent task. But effective executives do not splinter themselves. I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time.
  • After completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities and asks, “What must be done now?”

[PH thoughts] – one of the poignant points made here was not what ‘I’ want to get done … we all have desires, visions, etc … but rather what ‘needs’ to be done. Often those two align, but not always.

#2 – They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”

  • They do not ask if it’s right for the owners, the stock price, the employees, or the executives. But they know that a decision that isn’t right for the enterprise will ultimately not be right for any of the stakeholders.
  • Asking “What is right for the enterprise?” does not guarantee that the right decision will be made. Even the most brilliant executive is human and thus prone to mistakes and prejudices. But failure to ask the question virtually guarantees the wrong decision.

[PH thoughts] – often times I take on the mantra of ask forgiveness later.  I’ve never adopted this attitude out of malice, but rather because I firmly believed the decision I was making was right for the business.

#3 – They developed action plans.

  • “What contributions should the enterprise expect from me over the next 18 months to two years? What results will I commit to? With what deadlines?”
  • The action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment. It must not become a straitjacket.
  • The action plan needs to create a system for checking the results against the expectations.
  • Finally, the action plan has to become the basis for the executive’s time management.

[PH thoughts] – this is critical because there are always more requests than you have time for.  Asking the question about how the request feeds action plans and ultimately reaching goals is essential.  I just had a conversation yesterday with a colleague about creating a system to check results … everything should be measurable in some capacity.

#4 – They took responsibility for decisions.

  • Studies of decisions about people show that only one-third of such choices turn out to be truly successful. One-third are likely to be draws—neither successes nor outright failures. And one-third are failures, pure and simple.
  • Smart executives don’t make decisions or take actions in areas where they don’t have competencies. They delegate. Everyone has such areas; there’s no such thing as a universal executive genius.
  • 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 therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it
    • the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it

[PH thoughts] – good reminders, but the hardest part about this section was the statement Executives also owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs. I’ve been there, and its not a fun situation … but as the article discusses taking this step is crucial to success.

#5 – They took responsibility for communicating. 

  • Effective executives make sure that both their action plans and their information needs are understood. Specifically, this means that they share their plans with and ask for comments from all their colleagues—superiors, subordinates, and peers.
  • The information flow from subordinate to boss is usually what gets the most attention. But executives need to pay equal attention to peers’ and superiors’ information needs.

[PH thoughts] – I’ve always tried to pay special attention to the second one as it seems to be where most executives fall short.

#6 – They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.

  • Problems have to be taken care of, of course; they must not be swept under the rug. But problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results.
  • Effective executives treat change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Change could be:
    • a gap between what is and what could be in a market, process, product, or service
    • innovation in a process, product, or service, whether inside or outside the enterprise or its industry;
    • changes in industry structure and market structure;
  • In most companies, the first page of the monthly management report lists key problems. It’s far wiser to list opportunities on the first page and leave problems for the second page. Unless there is a true catastrophe, problems are not discussed in management meetings until opportunities have been analyzed and properly dealt with.

[PH thoughts] – it is easy to get sucked into problem-solving and/or get overwhelmed with change.  Seeking the opportunity is the best way to stay positive.

#7 – They ran productive meetings.

  • If they are to be effective, executives must make meetings productive. They must make sure that meetings are work sessions rather than bull sessions. Effective executives know that any given meeting is either productive or a total waste of time.
  • The key to running an effective meeting is to decide in advance what kind of meeting it will be. Different kinds of meetings require different forms of preparation and different results.
  • Making a meeting productive takes a good deal of self-discipline. It requires that executives determine what kind of meeting is appropriate and then stick to that format. It’s also necessary to terminate the meeting as soon as its specific purpose has been accomplished. Good executives don’t raise another matter for discussion. They sum up and adjourn.
  • Good follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself.

[PH thoughts] – I had another post on this topic.  This one is fun! Meetings and Updates and Calls … Oh My!

#8 – They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

  • Effective executives know that they have ultimate responsibility, which can be neither shared nor delegated. But they have authority only because they have the trust of the organization. This means that they think of the needs and the opportunities of the organization before they think of their own needs and opportunities.
  • This one may sound simple; it isn’t, but it needs to be strictly observed.


Additional posts I mentioned at the beginning. Enjoy.