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In A Bias for Action, leadership expert Heike Bruch and management expert Sumantra Ghoshal demonstrate that managers often confuse activity with accomplishments, and motivation with true leadership. Their new study reveals that 90 percent of managers waste their time by procrastinating, becoming emotionally detached, and distracting themselves with busywork. They point out that only 10 percent of managers truly act purposefully to get the most important work accomplished.
Based on the authors' research across numerous industries, and illustrated with personal case studies from BP, Sony, GE, Philips and others, A Bias for Action reveals how great managers get results by engaging their own willpower through a combination of energy and focus. The authors present simple strategies for bolstering willpower and provide ways managers can use the willpower of others to encourage collective action.
One Manager's Story
Laura McCormick had just landed the most challenging role in her career. IBG, a $7 billion conglomerate, had acquired her employer, Delta Technologies, a telecommunications supplier - and appointed her, at 33, one of two instructors in IBG's much-touted total quality program. Energetic, enthusiastic and articulate, she had risen quickly in her seven years at Delta.
Early in her new position, however, McCormick began to stall. Having squabbled before with Sam Butler, a manager from the factory floor, she considered him entirely unsuitable for the job of the second instructor and avoiding him whenever possible.
After three months and several managerial shifts that included the demotion of her boss and mentor, McCormick pushed on, running one program after another, attending meetings, tackling problems that cropped up, and spending hours each day answering e-mails and returning phone calls. She was constantly busy, but could see that morale was dipping and Delta was headed for its first quarterly loss.
When McCormick finally asked to relinquish the teaching role, her boss said, "I do not want to lose you." She polished her résumé and resigned a month later.
What could have happened, for example, if instead of avoiding contact with Sam Butler, McCormick had tried to build a great relationship with him from the beginning? Like Laura McCormick, managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with the organization's most crucial issues. Most managers spend their time making the inevitable happen instead of putting their energy into the exceptional things that create a company's future.
How can managers turn busyness, or what the authors call "active nonaction," into purposeful action - consistent, conscious and energetic behavior that shows a bias for action? Purposeful action is action-taking with undivided resolve to produce results.
Purposeful managers make deliberate choices and embody both focus and energy. They tend to exhibit a strong sense of personal significance, an ability to thrive in chaos, and an ability to step back and reflect. These managers also appear more self-aware than most people. Their clarity about their intentions, combined with discipline, helps them make careful, high-quality decisions about where and how they spend their time. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
PART I: Harnessing Your Willpower to Achieve Results
Chapter 1: Management is the Art of Doing and Getting Done
Chapter 2: Distinguishing Purposeful Action from Active Non-Action
Chapter 3: Marshaling Energy and Developing Focus
Chapter 4: Moving Beyond Motivation to Willpower
Chapter 5: Crossing the Rubicon
Chapter 6: Overcoming the Three Traps of Non-action
PART II: Cultivating a Company of Action-Takers
Chapter 7: Developing Purposeful Managers: The Organization's Responsibility
Chapter 8: Unleashing Organizational Energy for Collective Action
Chapter 9: Freeing Your People to Act: A Mandate for Leaders
About the authors