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
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 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.