Volume 7, Issue 1
ă 2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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The most important work of an executive
is to determine personal and organizational priorities: deciding the most
important things that need to be done to ensure success. The best executives
decide for themselves and their organizations what they won’t do. Clarity on
what won’t be done can be an extremely effective way of communicating
priorities, especially when some individuals want to do those things that a
leader decides need to be forfeited to do something else. Sometimes, it’s
important to take care when deciding what not to do. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
took flak recently for not personally signing bereavement letters to the
families of troops killed in
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Eleven books are recommended with three stars, and four are mildly recommended with two stars. You can also visit our complete 2005 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2005books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all books we’re reading or considering this year. As the year begins, we have a queue of 145 unread books on the “shelf of possibility.” If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering, or if there’s a book lingering on the “shelf of possibility” that you think we should read and review, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever known an executive who’s an expert at getting the wrong things done? Some process-minded executives excel at implementation and at efficiency, sometimes overlooking the ways to decide the most important things to get done. The combination of effectiveness and efficiency can be elusive. There’s a rare interview with 95-year-old Peter Drucker in the December 13 issue of Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/business/forbes/2004/1213/045.html). Here’s an excerpt: “I've seen a great many people who are exceedingly good at execution but exceedingly poor at picking the important things. They are magnificent at getting the unimportant things done. They have an impressive record of achievement on trivial matters. Leaders are purpose-driven. They know how to establish a mission. And another thing, they know how to say no. The pressure on leaders to do 984 different things is unbearable, so the effective ones learn how to say no and stick with it. As a result they don't suffocate themselves. Too many leaders try to do a little bit of 25 different things and get nothing done. They are very popular because they always say yes.”
All of us are likely to face increased stress sometime soon. Some executives are prepared better for the resilience they will need when under increased stress, while others will rely on past habits of quick fixes that are unlikely to provide much help when stress arrives. Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., American Psychological Association executive director for professional practice, offers some advice in a recent Health News Digest article (http://www.psycport.com/stories/helthnewsdigest_2004_12_20_eng-healthnewsdigest_eng-healthnewsdigest_073224_4690211481979667370.xml.html) to help deal with stress and build resilience:
Make connections. Good relationships with family and friends are important. Make an attempt to reconnect with people. Additionally, accepting help and support from those who care about you can help alleviate stress.
Set realistic goals. Take small concrete steps to deal with tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too far-reaching for busy times.
Keep things in perspective. Try to consider stressful situations in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing events out of proportion.
Take decisive actions. Instead of letting stressors get the best of you, make a decision to address the underlying cause of a stressful situation.
Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body primed to deal with stressful situations.
An alternative is to use the practice of many old-time executives: give the stress to others.
What are you doing to take care of yourself to be prepared when stress arrives in 2005? Do the same things cause stress in cycles? What can you do to “address the underlying cause of a stressful situation?” How alert are you to the stress being experienced by those who report to you? To what extent do you increase or decrease that stress?
How do you balance conflicting priorities, like growth and controls? How do you know when spending on controls is less than effective? Who mediates internal bickering, and what do you do to ensure that finger pointing doesn’t distract from effectiveness?
What expectations have you set with your direct reports
concerning your candor and internal issue transparency? How open is your
communication? How comfortable is your team with ambiguity? How does your
personal anxiety influence the quality of communication in this area?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
last time we encouraged readers to stay tuned to the ongoing saga of
executive uncertainty at Coca-Cola was in the March 2004
issue of Executive Times. Those
struggling to stay current will enjoy one more Coke cover story, this one in
the December 20 issue of Business Week
titled, “Gone Flat” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_51/b3913001_mz001.htm).
Here’s one excerpt: “Of all the problems that can beset a corporation, a
dysfunctional culture has to be one of the toughest to fix. How do you get thousands
of employees suddenly to change their most basic assumptions about their
company? After all, the beliefs and attitudes that make up a culture filter
into everything else: decisions on basic strategy, management style,
staffing, performance expectations, product
development. That's why the problems at Coke have proven so intractable. A
succession of managers has focused on trying to do what Coke has always done,
readers who want to read more about Citigroup’s Chuck Prince’s woes in Japan,
Carol Loomis published an in-depth
interview in the November 29 issue of Fortune
titled, “Tough Questions for Citigroup’s CEO” (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/investing/articles/0,15114,782028,00.html).
Here’s one excerpt: “One of the things we’re going to put into place,
starting in 2005, is a series of activities—training, communications,
performance appraisals—that will lend a little more balance to the aggressive
financial culture that we have always celebrated, and that I still do. We're
not going to turn ourselves into a charity. I don't believe we have in any
way a corrupt organization or a bad organization. But I believe the
celebration of financial results causes a few people at the edges to act in
ways that are singular.”
(Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com. When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com. Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2005 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2005books.html).
2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive
Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the
company’s office at
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