Whether a specific company focuses on profits,\n\nsales, customer satisfaction or any other measurement, everyone in\n\nevery organization faces some bottom-line measurement they have to\n\nmake, either individually, as groups or departments. No matter the\n\nmeasure, every organization has its own type of result that matters\n\nmost in various parts of that organization. \n\nWhile this may seem obvious, it is still easy to be distracted by the\n\ncrisis of the moment throwing even the most stable manager off course.\n\nTough management requires that every person determine precisely\n\nwhat results matter most to him or her at the time and create the\n\nproper focus to achieve those results. Every action should have\n\nconsequences that produce results. \n\nResults can be a moving target: The results that matter most today may\n\nnot be the same as those that matter tomorrow. It is up to the\n\nindividual to self-monitor the result-of-the-day, though it can be\n\ndifficult to even determine what matters most when conflicting signals\n\ncome from executives or managers. \n\nThe key is to do more work up front, before the results are expected.\n\nToo many people end up scrambling at the last minute, seemingly\n\nincessantly, on every project or task. As a result, managers often end\n\nup working in serial fashion, since all they can do is handle the\n\ndeadline of the moment. This is a losing proposition, since as tasks\n\nincrease, managers hit the ceiling in terms of potential hours to work.\n\nTo keep track of what matters most at any given time takes an\n\nextraordinary amount of focus. If not properly done, this can lead to a\n\nlack of true productivity or, at the very least, the personal sense of\n\ngetting nothing done. Just because a memo from above demands some\n\nimmediate action, it doesn\u2019t mean the manager should change gears and\n\nleave unfinished business on the table. Yes, the directive has to be\n\ndealt with, but the context of what the manager was already working on\n\ncannot be lost. Otherwise, all the time and resource spent will have\n\nbeen wasted and, in effect, become an unrecoverable cost of business\n\nwith no offsetting upside. Even though everyone is juggling more balls\n\nin business these days, it doesn\u2019t mean more can be added to the mix\n\nwithout negative repercussions. \n\nFor executives and managers to succeed takes more focus on the part of\n\nthe individual, which is easier said than done. After the ability to\n\ncommunicate well, the most sought after skill for businesspeople today\n\nis the ability to stay focused. \n\nIn fact, more than three-quarters of senior executives and managers say\n\nstaying focused is the most important skill for the future.\n\n(Communicating well is viewed by the overwhelming majority of managers\n\nas the number one skill). However, with so many distractions in the\n\nbusiness environment, it can be difficult to retain that focus. \n\nWith the majority of business people working 10 or more hours a day,\n\nand internal and external needs frequently changing, it is challenging\n\nto keep an eye on what matters most. Though you may have a great\n\ncapacity and capability to focus, if superiors keep changing\n\npriorities, the focus could be wasted on what instantly became the\n\nwrong things.\n\nThe amount of focus determines what stays at the top of\n\nmanagers\u2019 lists and what gets done. However, it is very easy to end up\n\njuggling items on the list, as priorities seem to change, whether based\n\non individual judgments or external forces. Changing priorities with\n\nthe resultant shifts in focus can cause chaos in an organization.\n\nMany top executives will say that the top priorities remain\n\nrelatively constant, but this is not true at the day-to-day level of\n\nmany managers. Because everything is relative to everything else,\n\npriorities very naturally shift. It may be because of market\n\nconditions, required end-of-quarter results or even personnel issues,\n\nsuch as a colleague calling in sick or leaving. No matter the cause, a\n\nperson can end up in a different hot seat on any given day or week.\n\nHowever, a larger issue of staying focused at work is the\n\namount of information flow that everyone is barraged with on a daily\n\nbasis. Voicemail, e-mail, cell phones, instant messages, the Net and\n\n24-hour news television can make whatever is happening at the moment\n\nlook like the most important issue, causing a shift in priorities,\n\nleading to a change in focus. It is so easy today to have a crisis\n\ncreated by e-mail or voice mail when an executive or manager too\n\nquickly panics when a competitor moves or there\u2019s a change in sales. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWorking Smarter and Harder \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nJust because you\u2019re working smarter doesn\u2019t mean that hard work is not\n\ninvolved. However, by combining working smarter with working harder,\n\nthe results can be more predictable and better with time left over. The\n\nkey is to work smart and hard all the time that you are working, with\n\ntotal focus on doing only those things that pertain to the desired\n\nresult. \n\nPeople tend to equate working more hours with working harder, which is\n\nnot necessarily the case. By working more hours, hourly efficiency\n\ntends to decrease and it becomes easier to lose sight of activities\n\nthat best produce the desired results.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s so easy to let yourself get distracted,\u201d says Phil\n\nMerdinger, Principal and Worldwide Partner in Business Development at\n\nMercer, the operational and strategic human resource consulting firm.\n\nMerdinger\u2019s role is to focus on client development, essentially,\n\nfinding ways to bring new business into the firm.\n\n\u201cOver the past several years, it\u2019s been more difficult to\n\nbalance the focus on results with reality,\u201d says Merdinger. \u201cYou focus\n\non what looked like reasonable results but then ended up being not\n\nrealistic. This increases the level of frustration and anxiety. Nobody\n\nanticipated what happened to the economy. We\u2019re working harder with\n\nless resource, because of adjusting staff size downward, so we\u2019re\n\ntrying to do more with less. Combine that with the fact that when the\n\neconomy slows down, you start to watch the bank account. That makes it\n\nmore difficult to produce revenue.\u201d\n\nWhen market conditions are tight and managers are pressed to\n\nmake the numbers, the concept of working smarter and harder can easily\n\nbe forgotten. This can result not only in lost focus on ultimate goals,\n\nbut also misdirection to areas that are detrimental. \n\nFocusing on results is not necessarily something that is needed just\n\nfor a few minutes or hours, but rather something that has to be\n\npracticed throughout the day and week. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBe Realistic About Results \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nTough management requires business leaders to be more realistic in the\n\nresults they demand from those who work for them. It\u2019s no secret that\n\nmany organizations have become more results oriented in recent years.\n\nThe economy, market conditions, increased competition, price pressures,\n\nglobalization and more selective customers all have forced businesses\n\nto watch the bottom line more closely. Everyone is doing more with\n\nless, while even more is being expected by unforgiving shareholders and\n\ntop management.\n\nAs a result, the overwhelming majority of senior executives and\n\nmanagers see the top management at their organizations as either\n\nextremely or somewhat demanding. And the larger the company, the more\n\ndemanding is top management. Leaders must demand results. But that\u2019s not\n\nthe issue. Top management is not always realistic about the level of\n\nresults demanded and how well those results can be delivered by those\n\nbelow. In fact, almost 80 percent of executives and managers do not see\n\nthe results expected as extremely realistic for them to deliver. In\n\ncompanies with more than 10,000 employees, it\u2019s almost 90 percent. Top\n\nexecutives have a right to be highly demanding from those who are paid\n\nto deliver results. The problem comes in setting proper expectations,\n\nbased on the real capability of delivering. \n\n\n\nTough management requires positive answers to two questions: \n\n\n\nDo the original demands remain consistent?\n\n\n\nAre those who are expected to deliver properly equipped?\n\n\n\n\n\nFor tough management, it is important for top executives to stay highly\n\ndemanding in requiring results, while making sure that managers are\n\nprovided constant feedback on how to deliver those results. \n\nWhen more managers face what they consider to be more realistic\n\ndemands, better (or at least more predictable) numbers will be\n\ndelivered.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nExcerpted 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.