Monday, April 3, 2017

A Manager’s Mirror, Episode II

Understand yesterday, deliver today, plan for tomorrow!
by Georgina Popescu

Simple and self-explanatory, no further details needed.

Let's still expand this a bit, just to make a point: one should neither overdo nor ignore any of those three equally important time dimensions of the managerial experience. And by overdoing it I purely mean outlining one as being the most important, to the detriment of the others.

Past is all about understanding. And not for the sake of curiosity or revenge, but for the sake of forward-looking improvement and growth.

Digging too deep backwards and playing blame-games more than reasonably necessary to prove a point, find a solution and prevent future mistakes will gradually build tension, eliminate trust and erode motivation within a team. Questions need to be asked and lessons learned from the perspective of their relevance to the present and usefulness to the improvement of the company. Long-term vision is something that every manager somehow has - the question is if it's focusing on inner fears or glazing into new beginnings.

Sometimes the past should be left behind, in order to overcome present difficulties and move boldly into a better future. Even in such cases, the need to understand what went wrong is important, at least to avoid tailoring the future in the same way...

On the other hand, past can be an excellent teacher and the source of present wealth – brand awareness, functional process, best practice, team spirit, and so on. Even in such cases, it should not be worshiped without questioning or maintained without permanently looking around and ahead, as the world changes and even great empires eventually fall.

And so, here comes the present – the only one which is actually happening to us, every day!

Present is all about delivery – properly as expected when due, reasonably exceeding whenever possible, but always fair and thus consolidating the past and preparing for the future.

A manager should not lead like there's no tomorrow, as this would be wrong almost all the time - except the day before last. The present should be approached wisely, making the best of resources and opportunities, preparing for the next probable steps in accordance with available information and (yes…) past experience. Just like when planning to go on a holiday to a distant island - check weather conditions, flight schedules and time zone, currency and insurance, local culture and must-see places, best food locations, safety concerns, and so on. Decide, book, pack accordingly and then prepare… to be unprepared.

Really now… if you want a practical hint from my experience, the best way to organise is to close your eyes and bring the future into the present moment – imagine you are already there and picture what you need to have in order to deliver what is expected of you. And make your list(s). Timely preparation gives you comfort, as long as the most important feature of the plan is flexibility! Allow reasonable room for unforeseen events and turns of luck (no matter if we talk about good or nasty luck – you should distribute attention to both!). And be ready to fill holes with creativity, even in case everything goes as planned.

Almost every successful manager I know recognises planning as being the key to balance their assumed past with a fulfilling present and promising future. Everything flows and is correlated – understand cause and deal with the effect (until you learn to influence both), take action (or inaction or reaction) and assume the consequence.

The past and the future are always knitted into, respectively out of the present, where balance (or imbalance!) gets created. And only those well prepared are comfortable enough to deal with the unexpected.

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