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News Disney stock skyrockets after earnings beat—days before Disney Plus debut. News This new calculator tells billionaires how much tax Elizabeth Warren would make them pay. News Kanye just unveiled a new foam sneaker made from algae. And they are easily overwhelmed by unexpected events. While some managers are inherently more likely than others to distance themselves from their work, disengagement is often a result of organizational processes.
In a major U. An IT specialist, he was assigned to an interdisciplinary strategy-development task force that was charged with creating a new business model for an upstream division. The team came up with several radical proposals, but they were met with lukewarm responses from senior managers. What had once been an exciting task became a farce, from his point of view. Believing that no one was interested in new ideas, he concluded that he was foolish to have been as engaged as he was.
So I continued working out concepts and ideas—but with no skin in the game. To be fair, even the best organizations occasionally create cynics out of enthusiasts. But some organizations seem to make a practice of it by consistently sabotaging any flickers of creativity or initiative. That makes them as dangerous as the proverbial bull in a china shop. Distracted managers feel a desperate need to do something—anything.
We had to re-recruit them and hire them back later at higher salaries. Moreover, because distracted managers tend to be shortsighted, they often find themselves overcommitted. They get involved in multiple projects with the best of intentions, but eventually their interest pales, and they wind up either constantly fighting fires or abandoning the projects altogether. In the space of two months, one HR executive we observed enthusiastically took on three enormous projects—redefining the role of the HR department, renewing the degree feedback system, and creating a leadership development program—over and above his everyday job requirements.
In the end, he abandoned one project, passed on responsibility for another, and did a poor job on the third.
Managers are more likely to feel distracted during a crisis, but the behavior is by no means limited to turbulent times. Even in stable business situations, many managers feel enormous pressure to be busy. Of course, some of this pressure is internal: Many insecure managers try to impress others with how much work they have. But the pressure to perform can be amplified by organizations themselves.
Indeed, many companies encourage, and even reward, frantic activity. Not only do such managers put in more effort than their counterparts, but they also achieve critical, long-term goals more often. Purposeful managers tend to be more self-aware than most people. Their clarity about their intentions, in combination with strong willpower, seems to help them make sound decisions about how to spend their time.
They pick their goals—and their battles—with far more care than other managers do. Making deliberate choices can be a hard and sometimes painful process.
One young lawyer, assigned a key role in an important merger project, was initially excited about the prospect of making a presentation to the executive board. Yes or No To be able to answer yes, consider whether your practice: backs-up its computer system each day stores all back-up data off site regularly checks that the backed-up data is not corrupt tests the back-up system regularly has staff who are specifically responsible for backing-up data, and has a written procedure for backing-up data daily. It is advantageous for staff to know about your anti-virus software and know how to make sure it is working properly because your practice can then benefit from electronic records that remain uncorrupted. It has been my experience that most poorly written or non-meaningful dissertations were a result of the wrong research design. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners. Their clarity about their intentions, in combination with strong willpower, seems to help them make sound decisions about how to spend their time.
Consider the plight of one middle manager at Lufthansa. He had been offered the difficult job of assuring the implementation of do-or-die operations projects that would be overseen by managers more senior than he was.
Convinced that the organization needs them, purposeful managers feel accountable for making a meaningful contribution. While one could infer that managers become purposeful only when faced with a crisis, the managers we studied did not lose their energy or focus once the turbulence had passed. Rather, they continued to welcome opportunities and pursue new goals. By watching costs, he believed, Lufthansa would not merely survive, but thrive.
One reason that purposeful managers are so effective is that they are adept at husbanding energy. Aware of the value of time, they manage it carefully. Some refuse to respond to e-mails, phone calls, or visitors outside certain periods of the day. One executive, for example, frequently arrived at the office at am to ponder issues before his colleagues showed up. Purposeful managers are also skilled at finding ways to reduce stress and refuel. Some work out at the gym or get involved in sports. Others share their fears, frustrations, and thoughts about work with a partner, friend, or colleague.
Still others refuel their inner reserves through hobbies like gardening. Perhaps the biggest difference between purposeful managers and the other types is the way they approach work. Other managers feel constrained by outside forces: their bosses, their peers, their salaries, their job descriptions. In other words, they work from the outside in. Purposeful managers do the opposite. They decide first what they must achieve and then work to manage the external environment—tapping into resources, building networks, honing skills, broadening their influence—so that, in the end, they meet their goals.
A sense of personal volition—the refusal to let other people or organizational constraints set the agenda—is perhaps the subtlest and most important distinction between this group of managers and all the rest.
Indeed, this sense of volition allows purposeful managers to control the external environment. Purposeful managers, by contrast, are acutely aware of the choices they can make—and they systematically extend their freedom to act. To develop the trust required to make the tough change agenda work, he initiated a series of meetings between board members and union leaders. Every two weeks, representatives from each wary camp met for three hours and discussed the critical turnaround steps.
But the executive convinced the board members that a focus on short-term performance would not get them very far in building trusting relationships with union members, which would be essential if they were to turn Lufthansa around.
Over time, the two sides came to trust each other and to reach an extraordinarily high level of consensus. Not only did the company avoid a strike, but the wage concessions achieved in agreement with the union were unique in German history. Senior managers can raise the energy and focus levels of their teams—of that we have no doubt. However, trying to prevent managers from losing energy or focus or both is an ambitious proposition. It involves paying far more attention to how individual managers perceive the broad meaning of their work, what challenges they face, and the degree of autonomy they enjoy.
Instead, teach them the desire for the sea. He wanted to create a network of managers who would drive the change process throughout the company. At the meeting, he revealed the unvarnished facts: Lufthansa was facing a massive shortfall. He gave the managers three days to develop ways to save Lufthansa.
If they determined that it could not be saved, he would accept their conclusion, and bankruptcy was assured. Then he and the executive board left. According to personal accounts of what followed, the place was in chaos for a short time. The managers were shocked at how dire the situation was, and they quickly experienced waves of paralysis, denial, and finger-pointing. But soon they settled down to the problem at hand, and it quickly became clear that they all thought Lufthansa was worth fighting for.
Once that fact was established, a kind of excitement emerged. They committed themselves to ambitious goals. By , Lufthansa had not only recouped its DM million loss, but it had also achieved a record profit of DM 2.
Many factors went into that success, but the combination of challenge and choice that the CEO handed his colleagues was extraordinarily important. In , Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme was in the midst of a crisis. Facing cumulative five-year losses of DM 2. Internally, the vastly different corporate cultures of two merger partners Nixdorf computers and the computer division of Siemens had created a politically vicious, unstable environment—a perfect breeding ground for procrastination, disengagement, and distraction.
Klaus Karl, a young software engineer in the relational database part of the business, had reached the end of his rope. Exhausted by the political battles, Karl grew apathetic and began looking for a new job. He received an excellent offer from software manufacturer Sybase and was less than a month away from his planned departure when he attended a meeting organized by the newly hired CEO, Gerhard Schulmeyer.
My boss made it very clear that it was quite likely that the change effort would fail and that I might find myself looking for a job.