The Seven Rules of Tough--and Effective--Management

Work today is more demanding than ever before. The world of work is forever changed, with no signs that it will ever go back to the way it was.

The bottom-line orientation required for budget-constrained organizations is the new way of life. The forever increasing need for output without a proportionate increase in manpower is driving shareholders, executives, and managers to demand more, both from those who work for them as well as from themselves.

Everyone is affected, as the burden falls on you, the people you manage, the people who manage you, your customers, their customers, and the employees and managers at all those places. Everyone is in the same situation with the work mantra of today: Do More With Less. People throughout the ranks are getting worn down and it involves everyone.

Getting re-charged and tackling tough decisions in these tough times requires a new, hardened approach by managers, with an eye toward pragmatically achieving results. Everyone in any type or size business faces this new reality: how to do more with less, deliver more, increase more without a total emotional drain. These tough times demand tough management.

Tough management is a way to approach work. It is a practical, reasonable, and organized way to get to decisions more easily, make the numbers on a consistent basis, have those around you understand where you stand, and increase the business.

The business world today is tougher than it’s ever been, providing a challenging environment to all:

  • Over the past few years, workload has increased for 80 percent of executives and managers, and significantly increased for almost half of them.
  • Compensation has not increased significantly for 90 percent of executives and managers.
  • The workplace of today is highly stressed, with 80 percent of executives and managers saying they are stressed, with almost a third feeling highly stressed. The reasons, in order, are budget constraints, deadlines, customer demands, and the number of hours worked.
  • The amount of time executives and managers plan to stay with their organizations is changing, with the majority now planning to stay years rather than decades. The social contract between employer and employee has disappeared, thanks to actions by both parties.
  • While 95 percent of executives and managers keep a list of things to do during the workday, 99 percent of them do not complete the tasks on those lists.
  • Businesspeople today see keeping overall perspective as one of the most important skills to succeed, with more than two thirds of them saying it is the most important skill for them to be successful both today and in the future.
It is a combination of factors such as these that require managers to practice tough management. With tough management, workers constantly know where they stand, the focus on results is relentless, productivity increases and customers ultimately receive better service.

Chuck Martin’s Seven Rules

  1. Communicate Clearly. Though many senior executives and managers feel they communicate well, the message does not get through. Tough management requires an overabundance of communication that is clear, concise, timely, and truthful. Clear communication that is clearly received aligns those creating strategy with those executing throughout the ranks.
  2. Force the Hard Decisions. Making the hard decisions when they need to be made at work is tough. The majority of executives and managers say their superiors do not deal with tough decisions right away. Managers need to collect all the necessary information available at the time, make the decision, communicate it, and then move on. The toughest decisions involve people, but they still have to be dealt with in a timely matter. Forcing the hard decisions also requires forcing office politics out of the equation.
  3. Focus on Results. Tough management requires that every person identify exactly the results that matter most at any given time, and determine actions that produce those results. This requires focus, working smarter and harder, increasing productivity, and delegating. It also means being more realistic about what results are being demanded and that the proper tools and timeframe be provided to deliver those results.
  4. Remain Flexible. Managers today need to be self-organized to be able to change directions quickly, to keep pace with the changing needs of their organization and customers. Executives and managers are under increasing stress at work, especially because there is more to do than there is time to do it. Tough management requires pushing back and saying ‘no’ at times, as well as “morphing” to be flexible. It also requires stopping something at work and viewing yourself as more of a ‘virtual enterprise.’ New flexibility can help deal with changing employee loyalty.
  5. Prove Your Value to the Company. It is essential that you align with your company’s values so that you can prove your value inside the enterprise. This means accepting even more new challenges and becoming the person everyone turns to for solutions. However, there is a fine line between proving your value and having the organization take advantage of you. Working away from the office and using commuting time can help focus more on what you deliver rather than on number of hours worked.
  6. Force Collaboration. Teamwork at every level is required for tough management. Forced collaboration can be practiced by mapping vision statements specifically to members of the management team, with integrated results. This means new levels of information sharing and a new willingness to learn.
  7. Tough Management Without Being a Tough Guy. Quantitative results can be delivered without having to be brutal to subordinates in the process. Tough management requires executives and managers to pause at work, since workload and hours worked are getting out of control, potentially causing lost perspective. It means breaking away, improving employee morale, and taking steps to protect the talent. It also involves recognizing people for doing a good job and providing what is necessary for them to do their jobs better.

Excerpted from Tough Management: The 7 Ways to Make Tough Decisions Easier, Deliver the Numbers, and Grow Business in Good Times and Bad (McGraw-Hill, 2005). Copyright 2005 by Chuck Martin.

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