Do You Really Walk Your Talk?

I recently attended a conference, and, as a part of the presentation, was asked to list how effective consultants spend their time.  Next, I was asked to compare this list with a journal of how I actually spent my time at work.  I was surprised!  While I spent a majority of my time on tasks I had listed as necessary, I also spent a substantial amount of time on activities I had not (and do not) believe are the best use of my time.  This finding caused me sufficient discomfort to prompt me to start changing some of my habits at work.  (I am a believer of continuous self-improvement.) 

So, now I ask you, what are the critical tasks effective managers perform?  Take the risk of evaluating how you actually spend your time. (I know, “I’m too busy” to do this, but how you think you spend your time could be quite different than how you actually spend it.  Base your effectiveness assessment on accurate data.  If you’re not getting the results you hope for, look at what activities you actually engage in.

What is the real role of a manager?

Many organizations have managers who really don’t manage.  They spend hours on tactics and actually performing the tasks their reports should be carrying out.  They may be able to generate and articulate accurate financial reports, but they are less likely to be actually managing their people.  All the time spent on strategy, processes and carrying out tactical activities does not impact employee attitudes to anywhere near the extent that individual managers do. 

So, what is important about employee attitudes?  A new book, “Practice what You Preach” by David Maister, a successful consultant and former professor at Harvard Business School, reported results of a survey to determine whether employee attitudes have a measurable impact on profitability.  The survey provided hard data to support the direct connection between employee attitudes and financial success.  Organizations that rated best on employee attitudes were found to be measurably more profitable.

*The survey also found that the behaviors of individual managers are one of the most critical determinants of employee attitude.

What are key behaviors for effective managers?

Maister and others have come up with several critical behaviors for enhancing employee’s attitudes.  They include:

-Be a good listener 
-Be a magnet for talent 
-Be sincere and unquestionably honest 
-Be consistent 
-Believe that by building your people, success will follow 
-Give respect and you’ll get it 
-Be a creator of excitement, enthusiasm, passion and ambition 
-Inspire, support, critique, praise, encourage, confront, and comfort as individuals struggle to achieve high standards 
-Foster, model and do what it takes to enable trust and respect among employees and between management and employees (It takes trust to delegate.) (The survey showed that a main driver of profitability is whether people agree with the statement “Everyone treats people with respect around here”) 
-AND…the #1 quality required by managers is COURAGE—the courage to enforce standards that are espoused.

These behaviors are not easy to achieve.  Attaining them takes committed managers who have dedication to developing their employees and the courage to follow their beliefs in all situations.  This fosters the growth of trust and respect.  These standards also require managers to focus on long-term perspectives despite the seduction and pressure to focus on short-term gratification.  Specific, clear, measurable and demanding standards are critical to financial success.

So…are you actually managing?  When you look at how the hours in your day are spent, are you engaged in those behaviors that foster trust and respect?  Are you behaving courageously by being consistent and always striving to do that which is in alignment with your identified standards?  If not, you’re not alone.  Most of us get sidetracked in our whirlwind days, weeks and months.  However, there exists the ability to change-to continuously improve-as managers.  It takes the courage to look at how you invest your time and energy and the courage to try new ways of relating and working.  Its important to make sure your actions are in alignment with your values and that the majority (if not all) of your time is spent in developing your employees to focus on being the best they can be in a climate of mutual trust and respect.

Are you walking your talk?

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