While we covered many topics during this course, I found three main themes that were constant keys to success. These three themes linked the various topics together, and are reasonably easy traits to remember and put in practice. I believe by focusing on these three traits, I will be able to employ the other skills and practices we addressed this semester in a manner that will make me an effective manager.
Responsibility, clarity, and integrity are cornerstones to topics such as self-management, motivation, organizational cultures, communications, leadership, etc. Assuming responsibility for the aspects of being an effective manager fosters proactive behavior and taking action on issues. Clarity in message, expectations, and understanding fosters trust, avoids confusion and inefficient expenditures of effort and emotional capital. Personal integrity is essential for long term success in a position of power and respect, in addition to the personal well being of those in management positions. These themes have been present in the articles we have read, the class discussions we have had, and the presentations of our guest speakers. It is these three principles that I believe will stay with me as I progress forward in my education and career.
Assuming responsibility for the various aspects of successfully managing people generally leads to managerial prosperity. Many of the articles and speakers this semester commented on instances where they were required to handle the responsibility for the results of a project, company, or even their own careers. In instances where people proactively take steps to improve their managing abilities (communication, leadership, management, etc.), those people develop into more effective leaders. In the reverse, people whom have not assumed the responsibility for improving their own management techniques are typically ineffective leaders.
Taking responsibility for career management is an important key to success. No one else is going to take care of your career. In order to be successful you must be responsible for yourself. Managing Oneself discusses several aspects of one’s self that successful people seek to improve. Drucker discusses several instances where people have to seek out self improvement and take responsibility for their own improvement. Another instance where taking responsibility for your career is essential is in mentors, and finding guidance in life. While people are typically more than willing to serve as mentors, that relationship is strongest when both sides contribute. A mentor is only as effective as the mentee is willing to act. I have had many peers who have complained their mentors did not do enough for them and had done little for themselves. They were often unhappy with their careers but unwilling to assume responsibility for where they were heading.
Another area where responsibility is significant is in communications, verbal (or written, etc.) and non-verbal. What Makes an Effective Executive states that effective managers take responsibility for their communication methods and habits. One useful habit we discussed was active listening. In order to practice active listening, a person must be very proactive and concerned with the form and results of their discussions with others. Active listening requires significant involvement in and assessment of conversations, requiring a person to be self aware of their actions. Practices such as active listening build rapport amongst colleagues and help to avoid confusion, things that a good manager must take responsibility for in any organization. Awareness and control of non-verbal communications is also essential for effective management. Those in management must take charge to ensure the story they are telling to their colleagues via their personal appearance, mannerisms, actions, etc. is engaging, inspiring, and believable. Effective leaders and managers also take responsibility when they have “mis-communicated”, such as Marine leaders who assume subordinate failure is their failure to correctly express their message. This is a true sign of an effective, responsible manager.
An effective manager also takes responsibility to ensure they are doing the things they are hired to do: make their results, lead others, motivate their departments, ensure the integrity of the organization, etc. Col. Stas Preczewski from the Letting Conflicts Fester took the initiative to build a better relation amongst his rowers – that does not happen without his efforts. It also takes a large amount of responsibility to be an effective team member. Several articles and speakers have discussed the need for people to fit a role, not try to be a star in every situation. Managers and leaders also need to be responsible to deliver results – that is the common answer people give when asked what a good leader does. A person I often try to emulate as a leader always took the responsibility for the failure to achieve his organization’s results – and was responsible in spreading the credit when those results were made. One of the reasons I see him as a good role model is he typically gets results while at the same time mentoring, developing others’ skills, and portraying a calm, fun presence at the same time. I believe one of the reasons he is able to do all these things consistently is because he takes responsibility to ensure he is always clear in his messages, clear in his expectations, and clear with what he wants to himself.
Another important concept that ran throughout the course materials was clarity, and the consequences of a lack thereof. Clarity in communications affects nearly all aspects of effective managing. More importantly, one has to be clear in their own minds with what they expect of others and of themselves. It is difficult to effectively lead if you are unclear about where you would like to go.
From personal experience, clarity in communications is a key aspect of working with others. So often people misunderstand each other not because they disagree, but because they do not take the time to both present and understand clearly what is being communicated. As recently as a month ago I lost an entire day of work because what I thought was needed was not what was wanted by one of my superiors. What I produced was right in line with what was asked, but neither party took the time to clarify before going their separate ways. Carly Fiorina’s efforts to reshape HP were plagued with communication problems, and eventually resulted in her dismissal. Employees misinterpreted her communications (verbal and physical) which led to confusion and uncertainty, the very thing a good manager is trying to combat (never-mind create!). Taking the time to be clear also demonstrates that a manager/leader cares about their coworkers, are considering their input, and ensuring to gather as much information as possible before enacting decisions. This in turn fosters greater trust and cooperation, which fosters better communication, and the circle of life continues.
Clarity in the personal expectations of one’s self and others is also an essential element of managerial success in the areas we have discussed this semester. In order to be an effective manager, a person needs to understand their own abilities and be clear with their own personal goals. Often times businesses discuss their lack of focus or direction without addressing the focus and direction of the people involved in the business. It seems unreasonable to expect a CEO to have a clear understanding of their role in the firm’s strategy if the CEO has not evaluated their personal position with the company. Setting clear personal goals and expectations helps place the individual in the proper role within the organization, and develops the practice of establishing and evaluating goals. At the Big 4 firm I previously worked for, personal goals were re-evaluated every 6 months and aligned with personal results. This forced me to think about what I wanted to do, and clarified for those around me my position and ideas. I believe this process led me to leave the firm and attend Law/Business School (a good thing).
Most importantly, clarity in your personal values and in the values of the organization(s) you involve yourself with is essential to maintain and build one’s integrity. I believe that personal integrity has been the cornerstone of the class, and the one factor that consistently has appeared in successful people we have encountered.
The one lesson I am going to ensure to take with me for the remainder of my years is that nothing can replace the value of one’s personal integrity. It is so difficult to create and maintain, and so easy to destroy. The trust between people begins on the individual integrity of those involved in the relationship. In all successful teams, managers, leaders, etc. there is a level of trust can not exist without personal integrity.
Defining and maintaining one’s values is important to creating an environment and culture where people believe in a set of values that they share and inject into their work. Corporate cultures play an important role in the success of managers as it helps to foster responsibility for performance, creates an atmosphere of transparency and clarity, and brings an intangible cohesion amongst co-workers. Molecular Inc. is an example of a company where culture clearly has impacted the managers in a positive way. Mr. Folz and Mr. Kogan both espoused the benefits of their culture. I doubt that the culture would have succeeded if they were not genuine and perceived by their employees to sincerely believe what they were supporting.
More importantly, personal integrity is the one measure that a person can always apply to themselves and their actions in any situation. Whether its business, sports, family, friends, etc. a person can always measure their success with how they perceive themselves when they look in the mirror. If they can be honest with themselves, and then happy with what they see, people will be successful, whether in management or any other aspect of life. If a manager cannot maintain their personal integrity in their managerial decisions, they cannot be expected to maintain the integrity of their coworkers and the organizations they represent. Self awareness and ease with one’s morality allows a person to be sane and grounded in the real world, which typically leads to sane and grounded decision-making. From this position a person can take a deep breath and focus on saying what they mean, stand for a culture they believe in, provide advice from a position of confidence, deliver criticism in a useful and constructive manner, evaluate their personal goals, and generally make moral and healthy decisions. I cannot think of a better way to describe a successful manager than the preceding words.
So What Did I Learn
I learned that by ensuring I stay responsible, make myself clear, and maintain my integrity, I will excel at the aspects of effective management that we discussed in this course. While I am sure there are more qualities I will have to remember and practice, I believe these three base traits will appear in successful situations time and again throughout my education and professional life. It probably will not hurt to practice them in other aspects of my life either.
 “Managing Oneself” Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, January 2005
 “Managing Oneself” Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, January 2005 (Seeking constructive negative feedback as high level manager; understanding one’s strengths; surrounding yourself with effective relationships)
 For example, Anne Herzenberg’s “Make yourself useful to someone you would like to be a mentor”.
 “What Makes an Effective Executive” Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review, June 2004
 “Storytelling That Moves People” Robert McKee, Harvard Business Review, June 2003
 “A Few Good Principles” David H. Freedman, Forbes, May 29, 2000
 “Letting Conflicts Fester” Geoffrey Colvin, CnnMoney.com
 “How to Build a Great Team” Jerry Useem, CnnMoney.com; “Why Dream Teams Fail” Geoffrey Colvin, CnnMoney.com
 “Leadership that Gets Results” Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000
 “The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage” John Hamm, Harvard Business Review, May 2006
 “Letters to the Editor” Charles Feltman, Harvard Business Review, December 2002
 “What Makes GE Great?” Fortune Magazine, March 6, 2002 (GE’s culture is credited with creating the high performing culture of their executives.)