Want To Be More Effective?
Conciser These Lessons From The "Dean of American Management

Published in INSIGHT - Winter 2016
By Dr. Charles Waldo

Given the nature of the scope and depth of responsibilities the typical church business administrator shoulders, I will bet somewhere around the first of the New Year you resolved to “improve or do ___ in 2017.” This might mean improving your church’s giving software, getting plans laid for the new education wing, bringing on a new administrative assistant, and so on,  but have you actually figured out a way to do ____ in 2017? To be more effective? To get results? Have you begun to do it? What about on-going tasks?

Anyone who truly wants to be more effective in whatever he does would do well to heed the lessons taught by very long time professor, management consultant, and author Dr. Peter Drucker. Up until a few years before his death in 2005 at the grand old age of 96, Dr. Drucker kept a full teaching schedule at the prestigious Claremont (CA) Graduate Colleges. Organizations wishing to get some of his consulting time and wisdom often had to wait for as long as a year. His name is attached to over 30 books and hundreds of articles in famed publications such as The Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal. Often called the “dean of American management” and the “father of modern management,” Dr. Drucker was a pragmatist who taught and wrote about management practices and strategies he observed working and not working in organizations of all types, both for-profits and not-for-profits. What makes for an “effective” manager and organization? Anyone wishing to be a better manager and leader would do well to absorb his lessons.

Dr. Drucker defined “effectiveness” simply as “Getting the right things done right in a timely manner. Producing the right results.” Here are nine behavioral traits and practices of the consistently effective (and successful) managers he observed in his 75-year career. Ignore them at your own peril.

1. Identify what really needs to be done. Then prioritize, putting the highest impact (“A” tasks) first on your list. Then make “B” and “C” lists. “Urgent” tasks often do not equate to highest impact tasks.
2. Actually work on the “A” tasks first. Put first things first. Drucker observed that very few people can successfully handle more than three major tasks at once, with two more likely, and doing just one at a time until done is ideal… but usually not practical. It takes self-discipline to ignore those “B” and “C” items, with Drucker advising either to try to hand them off to someone else or just to ignore them since, by definition, they have less impact than your “A” tasks and, sometimes just go away. Diversion is so easy….and so deadly.
3. Set goals, make action plans, and establish time tables for accomplishment for each “A” task. Take timely measurements of where you are and make corrections as needed…. Management Towards Objectives (MTO).
4. Take personal responsibility for your decisions and their outcomes. Do not try to pass the buck or make excuses for not getting the job done.
5. Periodically ask: “What additional can I contribute that might significantly enhance the overall performance of my organization?” “What is the unused potential of this job….and me?” “What self-development do I need and how do I get it?” Then do it!
6. Help make others’ strengths more productive. Highly effective administrators, coaches, pastors, principals, and parents ask: “How are the strengths of my ______ being used? What potential is not being used or is under-developed?” Focus on strengths and try to side-step weaknesses. Make jobs as big and demanding as possible since “A” players love challenges and stretch assignments. 
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep people informed as to what is going on… good or bad, but especially emphasize the positive. Use both formal and informal channels. Be a great listener. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “good job”….a lot. Also, “How can I help?” But do not actually do the job. Show or teach the other person.
8. Run or take part in productive meetings, whether with one person or many. Time and again, surveys of meeting participants show most feel that 50 – 75% of the time (or more) they spend in meetings is wasted. What about you? Do not call people into meetings unless they need to be there and can make contributions. Have an agenda and time schedule…and stick to them.
9. Get as much input as possible from a variety of sources before making major decisions but do not get hung up with ”paralysis by analysis.” Listen for and possibly encourage contrary or different views. Do not hold opposition or questioning against people, but make it clear that once the decision is reached, all hands must get on board and support it….or get off board.
Final words from Dr. Drucker
“I’ve observed over many years that effective managers differ wildly in terms of personality, “look,” style, education, and background. What they do have in common are the practices that make them effective wherever they are. Effectiveness is a habit; that is, a complex of practices. And practices can be learned. But they are always exceedingly hard to do well and consistently. We learn by practicing, practicing, and practicing again.”
Why not rate yourself as to how you perform each of the above nine practices? Then get several people who know you well to do likewise. Compare results. If you are not an “A” on each (probably no one will be), take just one point and devise a plan by which to improve, including someone to whom you will be accountable. Then work your plan for a month or so. Then do another. And another. In just a few months you can be much more effective. Good luck!
For a more in-depth look at Drucker and effective management see The Effective Executive (1966) and/or The Effective Executive in Action (2006). For a broader view of Dr. Drucker’s observations see The Drucker Difference (2009).

Charles Waldo, Ph.D. is Professor of Marketing (ret.) at Anderson (Ind.) University’s Falls School of Business. He lives in Indianapolis and can be reached at cnwaldo@comcast.net.