Before we dig into the first of our management pitfalls, we must first take a look at why businesses succeed. What are the basic elements that make up that success and what is the real key to it?
Five Prerequisites for Business Success
These elements are essential to the success of any organisation:
- A quality and/or unique product or service
- Proper timing of the introduction of our ideas in the market
- Sufficient capital and the ability to manage it effectively
- Productive people
- Effective management and leadership
If you lack the fifth element, you will not have the first four. Why? Take a look at the influence the final one has on the first four. Without effective management and leadership, correct decisions can’t be made about the product’s functionality or the right time for its introduction. A company lacking proper management cannot acquire, much less sustain adequate capital. Above all, it takes good management to attract people, coach and develop them, and retain them. Every forward-looking manager recognises that the greatest untapped resource within any company is the potential of its people. As managers, we have a responsibility to unleash this great store of talent.
If You Don’t Stop the Buck, It Stops You
In business, everything begins and ends with the quality of leadership and the quality of management. And in order to work effectively, management must be accountable. When management finds itself in trouble or under pressure, and danger signals begin to flash, we often hear managers say, “Well my office is different – my territory is different.” Nonsense! When a manager makes such a statement, they may kid themselves, but they don’t kid anyone else. What they actually mean is, “Hey, don’t evaluate me by the same criteria you use to evaluate other people. Don’t judge me on the same basis you judge others; because if you do, I’m going to fail, I’m going to look bad. But as long as you’ll go along with the idea that my territory or function is different, then the territory or function can fail, but my hands are clean.”
Choose Your Path
Essentially there are two actions in life: performance and excuses. Make a decision as to which of these you will accept from yourself – and from the people you manage.
These two actions arise from two distinct and entirely different attitudinal approaches to life, and only one of them has any chance of managing successfully. The first approach is that of the internalist; these people are performance oriented, and readily accept personal accountability for their actions, successes and failures. They know that if they are unhappy with their results, they need only look in the mirror to stare the culprit in the eye.
Others refuse to accept the responsibility for their position in life and hide behind excuses. Because they constantly blame some external source, condition or other people for their personal failures, we call them externalists. We’d rather not call them managers.
The Failure Formula
You can predict the amount of failure an individual will experience by this formula: People fail in direct proportion to their willingness to make ‘socially acceptable’ excuses for failure. Externalists abound, and their socially acceptable excuses form a list that would fill the first 50 pages of a Google search. A condensed list includes statements such as: “I’d be successful, if it weren’t for my daughter/son/partner/wife/husband (take your pick).” “Let me tell you, I’d be making it, if it weren’t for where interest rates are at the moment.” “We would really be making it in my branch, if it weren’t for the policies that come from corporate management.” “You know, we would really be successful, if it weren’t for this, that, or the other.”
Listen closely to an externalist, and you’ll hear them position themselves as a victim. Being a victim, in their view, gives them a claim on the sympathy of others. It means they’re not responsible for what happens, and therefore they escape the responsibility for their own failure. Today, one of the most prevalent ‘socially acceptable’ excuses for whatever hasn’t happened, but should have, is: “I just didn’t have the time.” Well, if we’re created equal in any way it’s in how much time we all get allotted (exactly the same amount: 1440 minutes every day) so they need to figure out how to make better use of their allotment.
The internalist, on the other hand, takes the hand life deals them and plays it to the best of their ability. In management, we just cannot escape the fact that we must be internalists.
A Philosophy of Management and Leadership
In all our years of experience, working with managers in every type of business imaginable, we at the Fortune Group have developed a definition of management and leadership that we believe expresses a very viable philosophy: “Management and Leadership are the skills of attaining predetermined objectives with and through the voluntary cooperation and effort of other people.” This definition and philosophy is embedded in our Practical Sales Management and Leadership In Action multimedia training programs.
We believe the definition works because of the semantics – the words that make it up – especially the following three key words.
SKILL: Managing and leading are skills that we can learn, and with practice, get good at them. As a manager you have an opportunity and an obligation to become more adept at leading and managing people. Why? Because as a manager, for a time, you “deal” with the lives of other people, and you should dedicate yourself to acquiring the knowledge necessary to liberate people to do their best work, to achieve and succeed.
ATTAINING: Management is not the skill of working hard or giving it your best effort. Management by necessity must focus on results.
VOLUNTARY: Management is based on attaining predetermined objectives with and through the voluntary cooperation and effort of other people. Sometimes those of us in management forget that a business is not a shrine at which people worship, that a business, yours or mine, is simply nothing more than a vehicle designed to meet human needs and solve human problems. We meet human needs and solve human problems through the functionality and value we embed in our products and services. To manage any business successfully and get the voluntary cooperation and effort from our employees, our business must also meet the needs of those employees. Too many managers fall into the trap of believing that their employees are there to serve them, rather than to fulfill their own needs.
If management is not accountable, and is making ‘socially acceptable’ excuses for a lack of productivity then effective management and leadership is not possible.
In our third post in this series we'll discuss Major Mistake #2 "Having a We/They Attitude".