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Marshall on Management

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Marshall on Management

Our VP for Editorial and Digital Initiatives, David Marshall , is also a bestselling author and has held numerous executive-level positions with global companies. Here David obliges us with five lessons on management -- three for self-management and two for managing others:

Managing Yourself...

#1 Plan your career, or it will plan you (lifelong tip): In a previous entrepreneurial life, I spent many hours with Richard Bolles, the acclaimed author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Dick says that the vast majority of people fall into jobs that have nothing to do with their values; it’s no wonder so many are unhappy with their careers. Confucius said “find a job you love, and you’ll never work day in your life.” There is much wisdom in those words. In college, I created a 50-year career life chart that I have updated every five years as new life experiences re-shaped the original plan. It is vital to have a vision of where you want to be professionally in 5, 10, and 20 years. If you don’t, you will let external factors drive your career instead of you steering it.

#2 Grow or die (annual tip): Many managers and leaders, usually at the 50-yard line or beyond, conclude that they have learned all there is to learn, figured out what management style works best for them, so just settle in and execute. This is a tragedy. Don’t go stale. No matter how advanced your career, no matter how much success you’ve had, take a blank piece of paper at the beginning of each year (it’s not too late for 2011), and write down five things you want to learn or improve upon as a manager and leader. Choose things that you can realistically accomplish with intention and attention. Pick the most important one and create quarterly milestones for yourself so you can measure your progress. Grade yourself at year end.

#3 Fortify your life blood: your daily time (daily tip): Choose the number of hours you work each week; don’t let it choose you. For some, it’s 40; for others, it’s 70. Embrace that number and then prioritize projects within it. Steven Covey advises us to do first what we prioritize as the most important rather than let others choose which things we do first based on their priorities. Avoid letting new requests from others re-prioritize your day, week, and month. Learn to respectfully say no or “yes, but later” when necessary. Every committed project advances or slips based on what’s in front or behind it. If I lose control of my time, I feel stressed, guilty, and de-motivated-and don’t even want to go to work. It’s deadly.

Managing Others...

Managing myself and managing others are connected at the hip. 1) If I am not happy at work because I am in the wrong career, 2) if I have lost my desire to keep learning throughout life, or 3) if I have lost control of my time, woe be to those I manage; they will suffer because I did not nurture my own management soul first.

#4 Practice permission-based leadership: Employee and company stakeholder empowerment is not just a buzzword. As Harvard Business School professor and new BK author Bill George said to Steve Piersanti and me recently (I’m paraphrasing), “the era of top-down -command and control’ leadership is over.” My experience is that people work harder, longer, and with higher quality if they are inspired and motivated by their manager, not brow beaten. As head of the BK editorial department, it’s not my right to lead the team. I receive permission every day from Bonnie, Jeevan, Neal, and Steve to lead it. They hold the power, not I. If I serve them well, miracles happen. This is equally true of cross-departmental and cross-divisional leadership.

#5 Be hard on the issues, soft on the people: Many assume that you are either soft on the issues and soft on the people (good cop), or hard on the issues and hard on the people (bad cop). However, it is indeed possible to be a strong-willed manager who asks employees to stretch themselves every day without being a tyrant. A common dysfunction resulting from the “hard on the issues, hard on the people” management style is passive-aggressive behavior whereby co-workers, who are under harsh personal treatment from managers, outwardly agree to support the bad cop’s directives but don’t follow through. Managers who learn to be hard on the issues but soft on the people-both good cop and bad cop in the same person-are more effective and successful in the long run.

A final note on humility and resilience: Either lose your ego or don’t seek or accept a management position. I aspire to the five tips above but am not always successful. I regularly fall, but pick myself up and try again. Fail fast and often, learn from the slips, and bounce back; that’s the overriding lifelong learning tip I can share.