Peter Drucker was known as the ‘father of modern management’. His book ‘The Effective Executive” is one of the most helpful books on the subject of effectiveness in the workplace. I believe the lessons in this book are valuable enough that we can use them in our daily lives. Below are 8 lessons from the book that we can learn and use to help us become more effective.
1. Effectiveness is a skill that can be learned.
Learning to be effective is a skill that we can learn just like riding a bike. Have you ever tried learning how to ride a bike when you were very young? You get up on the bike and you start pedaling but then you lose your balance and perhaps you fall. No one is born knowing how to ride a bike. When we learn to be effective we will make mistakes. The important thing is getting back up and continuing to do it. Sooner or later we become very effective in accomplishing our goals and we’ll realize one day that we are pedaling without the training wheels.
2. Know where your time goes.
There I am watching TV at 6:00 PM and the next time I look up at the clock I realized it is already 9:00 PM! Where did all the time go? I’m sure a lot of us have had this moment where somehow TV sucked out all our time. The first thing we will need to realize to become effective is to know how we spend our time. When we manage our time appropriately we can become effective. A good metaphor is looking at time like money that is a limited commodity. We can spend it on activities that will yield us results or gamble it away. A great idea to help us is to use a “To-do” list. Our list should have two or three things associated to our long-term goals. When we invest our time on activities that further accomplish our goals we don’t waste it on activities that will not help us in the long haul.
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.“ – Peter F. Drucker
2. Visualize and focus on results.
We are sometimes too bogged down with minutiae that we forget exactly why we are doing what we are doing. Visualizing and focusing on results will lead us to clarity on what type of results we need to produce. A lot of us get too hung up on the “how” that we lose ground on what end result we are aiming to accomplish. There are plenty of tools and techniques out there, but we must be clear with our intended results for any of them to be helpful.
“What do you want to get done? In what order of importance? Over what period of time? What is the time available? What is the best strategy for application of time to projects for the most effective results?“– Ted W. Engstrom
3. Build on strengths instead of improving on weaknesses.
All of us have one or two things we are great at doing! When we focus on improving what we are already great at, we build on our strengths and we become more effective. Improving on our strengths produces a greater impact to us and to everyone around us. Along with this, we need to recognize not only our strengths but also that of others, such as our family, friends, or colleagues at work. As we recognize strengths in others and in ourselves we can utilize those strengths to become very effective.
“The bottom line on skills is this: A skill is designed to make the secrets of the best easily transferable. If you learn a skill, it will help you get a little better, but it will not cover for a lack of talent. Instead, as you build your strengths, skills will actually prove most valuable when they are combined with genuine talent.”
– Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths
4. Concentrate on a few areas where your amazing performance will produce amazing results.
When we have a lot of things on our hands, we tend to get very overwhelmed. The key word we can learn to become more effective is concentration. If we focus our energy into one task that we can do well and put all our efforts in it we produce amazing results that we can be proud of. A concentrated effort is more effective than when we multi-task. Doing one thing at a time is a better more effective approach.
5. Focus on First-Things-First.
If we have a bunch of things we need to do we need to pick the one thing worth doing. How do we know which one that would be? The concept of ‘first-things-first’ is to realize we need to attach importance on each task we do and prioritize them accordingly. The priority should be based on the goal most important to our hearts. If our number one goal for the year is to be ‘a great parent’ the task we prioritize should be related to that — example spending time with our kids. We should do the activities that is from our highest goal and not let the secondary or tertiary activities get in the way.
6. Don’t defer important decisions.
A decision has to be made in order for us to move forward to accomplishing our goals. Often times out of fear that we make the wrong decision we defer the process to someone else. This is not a great idea because it disempowers us from all the responsibilities attached to the decision. We have to make the important decisions ourselves. We can make the best decisions we can through fact finding and research but owning the decision process is a great learning experience for us to become more effective.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
7. Focus on opportunities instead of solving problems.
There are never enough problems in the world to solve. If we keep solving one there is another one in line pleading for our attention. We can get stuck in this loop of solving problems but this is not the most effective way for us to accomplish our goals. The difference between problems and solutions is that problems will need to get our attention right now. Opportunities on the other hand are the silent type that we tend to gloss over and don’t even realize they exist. When we focus on opportunities we can utilize our strengths now! When we solve problems we maintain the current status quo the way it is. When we focus on opportunities we see a new way to rebuild the whole thing from the ground up to something totally new and better.
8. Make effective decisions and turn them into actions.
When we make a decision we make a judgment call. We are not making a choice between right and wrong. Effective decisions rely on facts rather than on opinions. An opinion is someone’s view and they can be wrong. Your co-worker’s opinion that he thinks it will rain tomorrow is not as reliable compared to tuning into the Weather channel’s forecast of sunny skies. Effective decisions are based on facts. When we do make decisions we should be clear to ourselves and to everyone about our decision so we own up to them. We can then use our decisions to come up with action steps to get that decision carried out which is doubly important in becoming effective.