Time to Practice Tough Management


Mon, June 06, 2005

CIO — It is no secret that work today is more demanding than ever. With the bottom-line orientation of budget-constrained organizations as the new way of life, the increasing need for output without a proportionate increase in personnel is driving shareholders, executives and managers to demand more from those who work for them, as well as from themselves.

Getting recharged and tackling tough decisions in these tough times requires a new, hardened approach by managers, with an eye toward pragmatically achieving results. Everyone in businesses of all types and sizes faces this new reality: the requirement to do more with less, deliver more and increase more without a total emotional drain.

The work environment of today requires what I call tough management, which is a way to approach work in 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.

There are seven steps to practice tough management:

  1. Communicate clearly. Though many senior executives and managers feel they communicate well, the message does not always get through. Tough management requires an abundance 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. 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. Forcing the hard decisions also requires forcing office politics out of the equation.
  3. Focus on results. Every manager must 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 by those doing the demanding as well as those who are being demanded to execute.
  4. Remain flexible. Managers need to be organized so they can 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. This means pushing back and saying no at times. It also requires stopping something, such as institutionalized tasks, projects or meetings at work.
  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.
  6. Force collaboration. Teamwork is required at every level. You can force collaboration by mapping vision statements specifically to members of the management team, with integrated results. This requires a high level of information sharing and a willingness to learn.
  7. Don’t be a tough guy. You can deliver quantitative results without being brutal to subordinates in the process. This means that executives and managers should take 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 involves recognizing people for doing a good job and providing what’s necessary for them to do their jobs better.
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