Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘effective leaders

Awash in Data But Starved For Knowledge

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Leaders are awash in data and information but starve for knowledge. Information is useless unless it readily provides the leader with key insights that allow him or her to apply their expertise to solve a problem, resolve an issue or improve performance. Additionally, too much information can hinder a leader’s ability to effectively lead their organization.

As corporations grow, they tend to become bureaucratic. Individuals generate reams of reports and forms to justify their position and importance. Some managers hide their inefficiency behind mountains of reports and data. Effective leaders are able to rise above this sea of information and distill it into a series of key metrics and reports. This effort provides them with the knowledge needed to manage their areas of responsibility.

This is important for leaders to understand because it is too easy to get bogged down in meetings and reports that don’t contribute to their productivity and profitability. Leaders use information to their advantage but cast off the burdens of needless information that hinder their ability to lead.

Leaders are able to filter through the bureaucratic sea of information to obtain the specific data and reports they need to effectively manage their activities and organizational unit. They are able to do this by using the following techniques:

Knowing What Is Being Reported and Available

Leaders know what is being reported throughout the corporation and what is available to them. They are able to filter out the reports and information they need to receive. They cancel or delegate other reports to subordinates to analyze for them.

Knowing What Information Is Needed

Leaders know what critical sections or numbers in a report they need to access. Where possible, they use subordinates to generate a simple one-page summary of the information they need to effectively lead and manage their organization. If necessary, they refer to the full reports for additional detail. They understand that delegation frees up their time and ability to effectively lead. This action also allows subordinates to professionally develop critical skills.

Knowing What the Information Reports

Effective leaders ensure they are provided with precise information and data they require to efficiently lead and manage their organization. They also know what every metric means to them at a single glance, gauging whether performance is increasing or lagging. When necessary, they know where to go to obtain the supporting data and analysis required, to assist them to pinpoint problematic areas of performance.

Knowing How Often Information Should Be Received

Effective leaders know the frequency when specific information needs to be reported to them. They know what information they need to have at their fingertips and what can be periodically reported to them. They understand that timeliness of specific information is essential to their success. They also know that information reported too frequently is as hindering as having too much information.

Knowing What to Do with the Information

Effective leaders know what to do with the information they receive and what events and activities each piece of information and data triggers within their organization. They clearly understand what the information means to them and how they need to apply it.

Knowing What Will Happen if Information Is Not Received

Leaders understand that there is certain information that is essential to effectively direct and lead their organizations. They also wisely know that a great deal of information will never be missed if they never receive it. Unessential information is delegated to subordinates or eliminated all together.

Knowing How to Maximize Time by Minimizing Information

Information can take many forms besides reports. Many leaders are needlessly copied letters, faxes and emails by subordinates. More are included in countless meetings. Effective leaders learn how to delegate and eliminate many sources of unnecessary information. They understand this works to hamper their ability to effectively lead and manage their organizations. If their presence is requested at a meeting, they assign a subordinate to represent them or turn down the request if their presence is not totally necessary.

Effective leaders understand that a specific amount of information is required to manage the organization. Anything above that level is a needless burden. If they allow it, an oversaturation of information decreases their effectiveness and productivity. They use their expertise, wisdom and experience to distinguish between the information they need to know and the information that carries little or no value to their efforts.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Performance Management Must Begin With the Managers

Attaining Organizational Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Don’t Push Out Figures When Facts Are Going in the Opposite Direction

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Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

In addition to investigating new possibilities, effective leaders tend to possess an investigative mindset. Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) stated,

“Sit down before the facts with an open mind. Be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you learn nothing. Don’t push out figures when facts are going in the opposite direction.”

Peter Drucker described Alfred Sloan (General Motors) in The Effective Executive. “Sloan, was anything but an ‘intuitive’ decision-maker. He always emphasized the need to test opinions against facts and the need to make absolutely sure that one did not start out with the conclusion and then look for the facts that would support it. But he knew that the right decision demands adequate disagreement.”

Meg Whitman (eBay) noted, “My job was to uncover what was going well. I think sometimes when a new senior executive comes into a company, the instinctive thing to do is to find out what’s wrong and fix it. That doesn’t actually work very well.

People are very proud of what they’ve created, and it just feels like you are second-guessing them all the time. You are much more successful coming in and finding out what’s going right and nurturing that. Along the way, you’ll find out what’s going wrong and fix that.”

Other effective leaders used other specific techniques that were extremely beneficial and fruitful, including probing for answers. Irwin Miller (Cummins) was noted for this attribute. “He was a teacher, not by providing answers, but by asking tough questions.

On many occasions his question ‘Ten years from now, what will you wish you had done differently today?’ caused business colleagues, community leaders, friends, and family members to reassess their points of view and reach for higher goals. If you came to tell him what you had already done, he always simply asked, ‘Did you do the right thing?’ ”

Andy Grove (Intel) was also a tough questioner, with an equally strong purpose behind it. “Andy will test his staff endlessly… If someone makes a suggestion, he’ll ask, ‘How would you do that?’ Andy wants answers that are well thought out. Gut feel doesn’t cut it with him. His test is: ‘How would you implement it?’ . . . And he challenges his staff to convince him that a particular direction is the right way to go.’

In some organizations, taking such a rigorous approach and insisting that people be prepared to thoroughly defend their ideas might discourage timid subordinates from offering suggestions – and thus stifle creative thinking. But Grove insists that isn’t really an issue.

‘If it discourages you,’ he says, ‘then you probably had a poor idea that you didn’t have much confidence in – or you are the kind of person who wouldn’t execute the idea anyway. If you can’t be expected to fill out the details of your concept, how can you be expected to execute it? It is almost a test:

‘Do you really believe in your idea well enough to defend it? And, if you are given a go-ahead, will you have enough devotion to it – a serious enough commitment to it – to make it happen?’

Clearly, Andy Grove understands how to make things happen, which helps to explain why Intel has played such a major role in shaping the digital world of the future.’ ”

William Blackie (Caterpillar) used his own power of observation to investigate the facts prior to making key decisions. During the post-Second World War years, replete with growth opportunities for Caterpillar,

“Blackie didn’t make his decisions in some comfortable office. He went out in the field to see for himself and advised others to do the same – even though doing so in the postwar years wasn’t comfortable.

‘Seeing the changes and their effects creates more conviction than being told about it or reading about it,’ he told Iron Age. ‘Therefore, one of the first things I urge any interested or skeptical U.S. businessman to do is to go abroad himself to see what’s going on.’”

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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