Developing Your Talent

Three Tips to Help Unfocused Managers Get Things Done

By JC Heinen on August 21, 2012

Take a close look at your managers. Are they focused and energized? Are they taking action and getting things done?

In a CNN Money Watch report titled “Study: Most Managers are Ineffective,” author Margaret Heffernan cites a study on “decisive, purposeful action” by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal, which concluded, “Only about 10 percent of the managers took purposeful action.” Heffernan asks, “Does this ring any bells? It certainly reminded me of many places I’ve worked – and run – where a small number of people always seemed to be doing the majority of work that mattered.”

Other data was equally unsettling:

  • 90 percent of managers are ineffective because they lack focus and/or lack energy
  • Of the ineffective 90 percent, 40 percent were classified as energetic but unfocused
  • 30 percent had low energy, little focus and tended to procrastinate
  • 10% were focused, but not very energetic

Heffernan recommends that senior leaders focus their attention on the 40 percent of managers who are energetic but unfocused and ask why. Is it an inability to prioritize or ineffective time management skills? Is there a lack of clarity around priorities? Are the goals of the managers aligned with the goals of the organization?

If a lack of focus is impeding a manager’s ability to achieve goals, there are meaningful steps you can take to help an unfocused manager get things done. It’s the senior leader’s responsibility to:

  1. Make sure goals are clearly understood and prioritized to channel the manager’s energy into “meaningful action.”
  2. Empower managers to make decisions.
  3. Ensure managers have the resources needed to be effective.

As Heffernan emphasizes, senior leadership is responsible for “galvanizing this potential and getting it to move effectively in the right direction.”

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