July 21, 2015
This week, a jarring headline floated through the corridors of American business: Only 18% of All Managers Are Truly Qualified. What if that's wrong? Let's be giddily optimistic and defy that declaration and say instead, "Only 36% of all American managers are qualified." In either case, there's a lot of ground to re-take in an increasingly tough political and economic environment.
There has never been a perfect company, a perfect boss or a 100% complete radio brand. No organization has ever done anything with 100% efficiency. In fact when you boil it down to days, weeks and years, most action is relatively inefficient. It's only when inefficiency rises to dysfunction that effectiveness, too, begins to erode and collapse into tactical disintegration. As an example, if your cash-flow-to-net-sales percentage is 37% when it's targeted for 40%, your company can survive, even profitably. Your board of directors and shareholders may not send wall plaques of flowering congratulations, but you can survive.
The important truth then is not that errors and frustrations won't occur; but instead as a leader, the better your grasp on strategy, the more tactical upset (daily setbacks and plan changes) you can tolerate. The great conflict of media's current-state is that while more disruption and dysfunction occur, the less commitment to long-range insight through research and planning are at hand. That in-turn means waiting only to react instead of war-gaming possibilities and anticipating solutions. Lincoln had an answer for that: "If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
It's not enough to "talk." How many times have you heard the postulate, "An effective manager must be decisive?" The plain fact is any leader must be decisive. But decisiveness is not a posture, nor is it stubbornness or bellicosity. It is rather a willingness, after weighing all the critical factors, to act ... to move forward with relentless purpose. In this moment and over the ages, decisiveness is not a strategic secret advantage but the price of admission for managers and leaders ascending to the top. Apparently if the aforementioned headline is correct, too few of us are achieving it.
The way you approach a problem-set and the things you accomplish can make decisiveness a core trait that will never betray you. Step back and look at the global mess the world has become: ISIS, a bellicose Russian president, internal strife, and government agencies running amok like locusts upon the land. Sure, everyone has an opinion -- so long as there is no contingent liability, nor any requirement for them to personally act on a situation. That's not "decisiveness," but a model for the old adage "There are only a few hunters, but everyone wants a taste of the meat."
Circling back to the domain over which we have immediate responsibility, decisiveness means self-confidence, integrity, and a willingness to endure your critics so that you can push and shove when push comes to shove.
No one will flag you in the hall today and say, "Please be decisive." Yet from a radio cluster to a department at Google, that's what uncertain people in an uncertain world crave and thrive on. The most decisive people I've known are filled with the belief that anything can be accomplished through great planning, executed by good people.