Posted: October 27th, 2022

Synopsis of Two Articles

The following seven readings from the HBR course pack titled “Managing Yourself” are included in Module 2:

1. Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?

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2. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time 

3. Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life

4. Reclaim Your Job

5. Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership

6. What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

7. Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance

I encourage you to read all seven of the articles as I believe they support your understanding of some of the issues that face you now – and highlight things you are likely to encounter as you progress in your career (“What to Ask the Person in the Mirror” is aimed at senior leaders but will give you insight into the issues that your executives face). 

For this assignment, you will review any two (2) of the seven articles listed above. Select the ones that are of most interest to you. 

Each article synopsis should be 1 ½ to 2 pages, double-spaced with 1” margins. Your papers should include the following sections. Use headings to separate sections following the title/author. Your heading can be a variation of those shown below but should clearly tell me what you are writing about.

· Article Title / Author

· Why I chose this article (this is your opening paragraph)

· Article key points – a synopsis

· My key take-aways / what I learned

· How I will apply this insight to my job and career (today or in the future)

· If Could Ask the Author(s) ONE thing – it would be… 

· Why I would (or would not) recommend this article to a colleague (this is your closing paragraph)

Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Consider asking someone else to proof-read your paper before you submit it.

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M
an
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g Y
ou
rself
On
Managing
Yourself
If you read nothing else on managing yourself, read
these 10 articles. We’ve combed through hundreds of
Harvard Business Review articles to select the most
important ones to help you maximize yourself.
This book will inspire you to:
• Stay engaged throughout your 50-year work life
• Tap into your deepest values
• Solicit candid feedback
• Replenish physical and mental energy
• Balance work, home, community, and self
• Spread positive energy throughout your organization
• Rebound from tough times
• Decrease distractibility and frenzy
• Delegate and develop employees’ initiative
On
Managing
Yourself
If you read nothing else on managing yourself, read
these definitive articles from Harvard Business Review.
The path to your professional success
starts with a critical look in the mirror.
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BONUS ARTICLE
“How Will You
Measure Your life?”
By Clayton M. Christensen
In the series:
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HBR’S10
MUST
READS
On
Managing Yourself
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HBR’S10
MUST
READS
On
Managing
Yourself
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW PRESS
Boston, Massachusetts
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Copyright 2010 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation
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correct at the time of the book’s publication but may be subject to change.
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http://www.hbr.org

BONUS ARTICLE
How Will You Measure Your Life? 1
Clayton M. Christensen, 2010 McKinsey Award Winner
Managing Oneself 13
Peter F. Drucker
Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? 33
William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass
How Resilience Works 47
Diane L. Coutu
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time 61
Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy
Overloaded Circuits 79
Edward M. Hallowell
Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life 97
Stewart D. Friedman
Reclaim Your Job 115
Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch
Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State
of Leadership 127
Robert E. Quinn
What to Ask the Person in the Mirror 147
Robert S. Kaplan
Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great
Performance 169
Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
About the Contributors 189
Index 191
v
Contents
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HBR’S10
MUST
READS
On
Managing Yourself
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1
B
How Will You
Measure Your
Life?
by Clayton M. Christensen
BEFORE I PUBLISHED The Innovator’s Dilemma, I got a call from
Andrew Grove, then the chairman of Intel. He had read one of
my early papers about disruptive technology, and he asked if I
could talk to his direct reports and explain my research and
what it implied for Intel. Excited, I flew to Silicon Valley and
showed up at the appointed time, only to have Grove say,
“Look, stuff has happened. We have only 10 minutes for you.
Tell us what your model of disruption means for Intel.” I said
that I couldn’t—that I needed a full 30 minutes to explain the
model, because only with it as context would any comments
about Intel make sense. Ten minutes into my explanation,
Grove interrupted: “Look, I’ve got your model. Just tell us
what it means for Intel.”
I insisted that I needed 10 more minutes to describe how
the process of disruption had worked its way through a very
different industry, steel, so that he and his team could under-
stand how disruption worked. I told the story of how Nucor
and other steel minimills had begun by attacking the lowest
end of the market—steel reinforcing bars, or rebar—and later
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moved up toward the high end, undercutting the traditional steel
mills.
When I finished the minimill story, Grove said, “OK, I get it. What
it means for Intel is …,” and then went on to articulate what would
become the company’s strategy for going to the bottom of the mar-
ket to launch the Celeron processor.
I’ve thought about that a million times since. If I had been suck-
ered into telling Andy Grove what he should think about the micro-
processor business, I’d have been killed. But instead of telling him
what to think, I taught him how to think—and then he reached what
I felt was the correct decision on his own.
That experience had a profound influence on me. When people
ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question di-
rectly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models.
I’ll describe how the process in the model worked its way through an
industry quite different from their own. And then, more often than
not, they’ll say, “OK, I get it.” And they’ll answer their own question
more insightfully than I could have.
My class at HBS is structured to help my students understand
what good management theory is and how it is built. To that back-
bone I attach different models or theories that help students think
about the various dimensions of a general manager’s job in stimulat-
ing innovation and growth. In each session we look at one company
through the lenses of those theories—using them to explain how the
company got into its situation and to examine what managerial ac-
tions will yield the needed results.
On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoreti-
cal lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions:
First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how
can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family
become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure
I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s
not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in
jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS.
These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in
the wrong direction.
2
CHRISTENSEN
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As the students discuss the answers to these questions, I open my
own life to them as a case study of sorts, to illustrate how they can
use the theories from our course to guide their life decisions.
One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—
how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick
Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t
money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, con-
tribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the stu-
dents about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I
founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of
my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong
3
HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
Idea in Brief
Harvard Business School’s Chris-
tensen teaches aspiring MBAs how
to apply management and innova-
tion theories to build stronger
companies. But he also believes
that these models can help peo-
ple lead better lives. In this arti-
cle, he explains how, exploring
questions everyone needs to ask.
How can I be happy in my career?
How can I be sure that my rela-
tionship with my family is an en-
during source of happiness? And
how can I live my life with in-
tegrity? The answer to the first
question comes from Frederick
Herzberg’s assertion that the most
powerful motivator isn’t money;
it’s the opportunity to learn, grow
in responsibilities, contribute, and
be recognized. That’s why man-
agement, if practiced well, can be
the noblest of occupations; no
others offer as many ways to help
people find those opportunities.
It isn’t about buying, selling, and
investing in companies, as many
think. The principles of resource
allocation can help people attain
happiness at home. If not
managed masterfully, what
emerges from a firm’s resource
allocation process can be very
different from the strategy man-
agement intended to follow.
That’s true in life too: If you’re not
guided by a clear sense of pur-
pose, you’re likely to fritter away
your time and energy on obtaining
the most tangible, short-term
signs of achievement, not what’s
really important to you. And just
as a focus on marginal costs can
cause bad corporate decisions, it
can lead people astray. The mar-
ginal cost of doing something
wrong “just this once” always
seems alluringly low. You don’t
see the end result to which that
path leads. The key is to define
what you stand for and draw the
line in a safe place.
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4
CHRISTENSEN
level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family
10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and
demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem af-
fected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my
mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with
greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recog-
nized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in
the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how posi-
tively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Man-
agement is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No
other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow,
take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and con-
tribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come
to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling,
and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t
yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.
I want students to leave my classroom knowing that.
Create a Strategy for Your Life
A theory that is helpful in answering the second question—How can I
ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring
source of happiness?—concerns how strategy is defined and imple-
mented. Its primary insight is that a company’s strategy is deter-
mined by the types of initiatives that management invests in. If a
company’s resource allocation process is not managed masterfully,
what emerges from it can be very different from what management
intended. Because companies’ decision-making systems are de-
signed to steer investments to initiatives that offer the most tangible
and immediate returns, companies shortchange investments in ini-
tiatives that are crucial to their long-term strategies.
Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from
1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions un-
happy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee
you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strat-
egy of getting divorced and raising children who would become
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5
HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them imple-
mented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of
their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time,
talents, and energy.
It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students
that HBS draws each year from the world’s best have given little
thought to the purpose of their lives. I tell the students that HBS might
be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they
think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re
nuts, because life only gets more demanding: You take on a mortgage;
you’re working 70 hours a week; you have a spouse and children.
For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it
was something I had to think long and hard about before I under-
stood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding ac-
ademic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into
my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading,
thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was
a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent
doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted
about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my
studies, but I stuck with it—and ultimately figured out the purpose
of my life.
Had I instead spent that hour each day learning the latest tech-
niques for mastering the problems of autocorrelation in regression
analysis, I would have badly misspent my life. I apply the tools of
econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the
purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve
ever learned. I promise my students that if they take the time to fig-
ure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most impor-
tant thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they
will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough
seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of
activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, dis-
ruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.
My purpose grew out of my religious faith, but faith isn’t the only
thing that gives people direction. For example, one of my former
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6
CHRISTENSEN
students decided that his purpose was to bring honesty and
economic prosperity to his country and to raise children who were as
capably committed to this cause, and to each other, as he was. His
purpose is focused on family and others—as mine is.
The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool
for achieving your purpose. But without a purpose, life can become
hollow.
Allocate Your Resources
Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and
talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources:
I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great
kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, contribute
The Class of 2010
“I CAME TO BUSINESS SCHOOL knowing exactly what I wanted to do—
and I’m leaving choosing the exact opposite. I’ve worked in the private sector
all my life, because everyone always told me that’s where smart people are.
But I’ve decided to try government and see if I can find more meaning there.
“I used to think that industry was very safe. The recession has shown us that
nothing is safe.”
Ruhana Hafiz, Harvard Business School, Class of 2010
Her Plans: To join the FBI as a special adviser (a management track position)
“You could see a shift happening at HBS. Money used to be number one in the
job search. When you make a ton of money, you want more of it. Ironic thing.
You start to forget what the drivers of happiness are and what things are re-
ally important. A lot of people on campus see money differently now. They
think, ‘What’s the minimum I need to have, and what else drives my life?’ in-
stead of ‘What’s the place where I can get the maximum of both?’”
Patrick Chun, Harvard Business School, Class of 2010
His Plans: To join Bain Capital
“The financial crisis helped me realize that you have to do what you really love
in life. My current vision of success is based on the impact I can have, the
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7
HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
experiences I can gain, and the happiness I can find personally, much more so
than the pursuit of money or prestige. My main motivations are (1) to be with
my family and people I care about; (2) to do something fun, exciting, and im-
pactful; and (3) to pursue a long-term career in entrepreneurship, where I can
build companies that change the way the world works.”
Matt Salzberg, Harvard Business School, Class of 2010
His Plans: To work for Bessemer Venture Partners
“Because I’m returning to McKinsey, it probably seems like not all that much
has changed for me. But while I was at HBS, I decided to do the dual degree
at the Kennedy School. With the elections in 2008 and the economy looking
shaky, it seemed more compelling for me to get a better understanding of the
public and nonprofit sectors. In a way, that drove my return to McKinsey,
where I’ll have the ability to explore private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
“The recession has made us step back and take stock of how lucky we are.
The crisis to us is ‘Are we going to have a job by April?’ Crisis to a lot of people
is ‘Are we going to stay in our home?’”
John Coleman, Harvard Business School, Class of 2010
His Plans: To return to McKinsey & Company
to my church, and so on. And I have exactly the same problem that a
corporation does. I have a limited amount of time and energy and
talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?
Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different
from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that
you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources,
the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who
inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help
believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term
perspective.
When people who have a high need for achievement—and that in-
cludes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour
of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to
activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our
careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving
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8
CHRISTENSEN
forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presenta-
tion, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get pro-
moted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship
with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same im-
mediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really
not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on
your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can
neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day
basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are
driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in
their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate
and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful
and enduring source of happiness.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over
you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immedi-
ate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens,
you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating
fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said
mattered most.
Create a Culture
There’s an important model in our class called the Tools of Coopera-
tion, which basically says that being a visionary manager isn’t all it’s
cracked up to be. It’s one thing to see into the foggy future with acu-
ity and chart the course corrections that the company must make.
But it’s quite another to persuade employees who might not see the
changes ahead to line up and work cooperatively to take the com-
pany in that new direction. Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the
needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.
The theory arrays these tools along two dimensions—the extent to
which members of the organization agree on what they want from
their participation in the enterprise, and the extent to which they
agree on what actions will produce the desired results. When there
is little agreement on both axes, you have to use “power tools”—
coercion, threats, punishment, and so on—to secure cooperation.
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

Many companies start in this quadrant, which is why the founding
executive team must play such an assertive role in defining what
must be done and how. If employees’ ways of working together to ad-
dress those tasks succeed over and over, consensus begins to form.
MIT’s Edgar Schein has described this process as the mechanism by
which a culture is built. Ultimately, people don’t even think about
whether their way of doing things yields success. They embrace pri-
orities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than
by explicit decision—which means that they’ve created a culture.
Culture, in compelling but unspoken ways, dictates the proven, ac-
ceptable methods by which members of the group address recurrent
problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of
problems. It can be a powerful management tool.
In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure
that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my stu-
dents quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to
elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a
point during the teen years when power tools no longer work.
At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working
with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in
which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one an-
other, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families
have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built
consciously or evolve inadvertently.
If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence
that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically
materialize in high school. You have to design them into your fam-
ily’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like
employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard
and learning what works.
Avoid the “Marginal Costs” Mistake
We’re taught in finance and economics that in evaluating alterna-
tive investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and in-
stead base decisions on the marginal costs and marginal revenues
9
HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
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10
CHRISTENSEN
that each alternative entails. We learn in our course that this doc-
trine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to
succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabili-
ties they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be ex-
actly the same as the past, that approach would be fine. But if the
future’s different—and it almost always is—then it’s the wrong
thing to do.
This theory addresses the third question I discuss with my stu-
dents—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). Uncon-
sciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our
personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in
our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people
shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance,
just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something
wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you
in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed
and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infi-
delity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the mar-
ginal cost economics of “just this once.”
I’d like to share a story about how I came to understand the poten-
tial damage of “just this once” in my own life. I played on the Oxford
University varsity basketball team. We worked our tails off and fin-
ished the season undefeated. The guys on the team were the best
friends I’ve ever had in my life. We got to the British equivalent of the
NCAA tournament—and made it to the final four. It turned out the
championship game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. I had
made a personal commitment to God at age 16 that I would never play
ball on Sunday. So I went to the coach and explained my problem. He
was incredulous. My teammates were, too, because I was the starting
center. Every one of the guys on the team came to me and said,
“You’ve got to play. Can’t you break the rule just this one time?”
I’m a deeply religious man, so I went away and prayed about what
I should do. I got a very clear feeling that I shouldn’t break my com-
mitment—so I didn’t play in the championship game.
In many ways that was a small decision—involving one of several
thousand Sundays in my life. In theory, surely I could have crossed
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11
HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
over the line just that one time and then not done it again. But look-
ing back on it, resisting the temptation whose logic was “In this ex-
tenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” has proven to be one
of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been
one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed
the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years
that followed.
The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your
principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the
time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost
analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret
where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand
for and draw the line in a safe place.
Remember the Importance of Humility
I got this insight when I was asked to teach a class on humility at Har-
vard College. I asked all the students to describe the most humble
person they knew. One characteristic of these humble people stood
out: They had a high level of self-esteem. They knew who they were,
and they felt good about who they were. We also decided that humil-
ity was defined not by self-deprecating behavior or attitudes but by
the esteem with which you regard others. Good behavior flows nat-
urally from that kind of humility. For example, you would never
steal from someone, because you respect that person too much.
You’d never lie to someone, either.
It’s crucial to take a sense of humility into the world. By the time
you make it to a top graduate school, almost all your learning has
come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you:
parents, teachers, bosses. But once you’ve finished at Harvard Busi-
ness School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority
of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be
smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people
have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be
very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something
from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited.
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12
CHRISTENSEN
Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about
yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good
about themselves, too. When we see people acting in an abusive,
arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior
almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need
to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
Choose the Right Yardstick
This past year I was diagnosed with cancer and faced the possibility
that my life would end sooner than I’d planned. Thankfully, it now
looks as if I’ll be spared. But the experience has given me important
insight into my life.
I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous
revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a
substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been inter-
esting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now. I’ve con-
cluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but
the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.
I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the
level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the
individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final
recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be
judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end,
your life will be judged a success.
Originally published in July 2010. Reprint R1007B
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13
H
Managing
Oneself
by Peter F. Drucker
HISTORY’S GREAT ACHIEVERS—a Napoléon, a da Vinci, a Mozart—
have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what
makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so un-
usual both in their talents and their accomplishments as to be
considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence.
Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will
have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop
ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the
greatest contribution. And we will have to stay mentally alert and
engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how
and when to change the work we do.
What Are My Strengths?
Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usu-
ally wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and
even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can
perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on
weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.
Throughout history, people had little need to know their strengths.
A person was born into a position and a line of work: The peasant’s son
would also be a peasant; the artisan’s daughter, an artisan’s wife; and
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DRUCKER
14
so on. But now people have choices. We need to know our strengths in
order to know where we belong.
The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback
analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action,
write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later,
compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been prac-
ticing this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am
surprised. The feedback analysis showed me, for instance—and to
my great surprise—that I have an intuitive understanding of techni-
cal people, whether they are engineers or accountants or market re-
searchers. It also showed me that I don’t really resonate with
generalists.
Feedback analysis is by no means new. It was invented sometime
in the fourteenth century by an otherwise totally obscure German
theologian and picked up quite independently, some 150 years later,
by John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola, each of whom incorporated it
into the practice of his followers. In fact, the steadfast focus on per-
formance and results that this habit produces explains why the insti-
tutions these two men founded, the Calvinist church and the Jesuit
order, came to dominate Europe within 30 years.
Practiced consistently, this simple method will show you within a
fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, where your
strengths lie—and this is the most important thing to know. The
method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that de-
prives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you
where you are not particularly competent. And finally, it will show
you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.
Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis.
First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself
where your strengths can produce results.
Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly
show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will
also show the gaps in your knowledge—and those can usually be
filled. Mathematicians are born, but everyone can learn trigonometry.
Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing dis-
abling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people—especially
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MANAGING ONESELF
15
Idea in Brief
We live in an age of unprece-
dented opportunity: If you’ve got
ambition, drive, and smarts, you
can rise to the top of your chosen
profession—regardless of where
you started out. But with opportu-
nity comes responsibility. Compa-
nies today aren’t managing their
knowledge workers’ careers.
Rather, we must each be our own
chief executive officer.
Simply put, it’s up to you to carve
out your place in the work world
and know when to change course.
And it’s up to you to keep yourself
engaged and productive during a
work life that may span some 50
years.
To do all of these things well,
you’ll need to cultivate a deep
understanding of yourself. What
are your most valuable strengths
and most dangerous weaknesses?
Equally important, how do you
learn and work with others? What
are your most deeply held values?
And in what type of work environ-
ment can you make the greatest
contribution?
The implication is clear: Only when
you operate from a combination of
your strengths and self-knowledge
can you achieve true—and lasting—
excellence.
people with great expertise in one area—are contemptuous of knowl-
edge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for
knowledge. First-rate engineers, for instance, tend to take pride in not
knowing anything about people. Human beings, they believe, are
much too disorderly for the good engineering mind. Human resources
professionals, by contrast, often pride themselves on their ignorance
of elementary accounting or of quantitative methods altogether. But
taking pride in such ignorance is self-defeating. Go to work on acquir-
ing the skills and knowledge you need to fully realize your strengths.
It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits—the things you
do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance. Such
habits will quickly show up in the feedback. For example, a planner
may find that his beautiful plans fail because he does not follow
through on them. Like so many brilliant people, he believes that
ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show
where the bulldozers should go to work. This planner will have to
learn that the work does not stop when the plan is completed. He
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DRUCKER
16
To build a life of excellence, begin
by asking yourself these questions:
“What are my strengths?”
To accurately identify your
strengths, use feedback analysis.
Every time you make a key deci-
sion, write down the outcome you
expect. Several months later,
compare the actual results with
your expected results. Look for
patterns in what you’re seeing:
What results are you skilled at
generating? What abilities do you
need to enhance in order to get
the results you want? What unpro-
ductive habits are preventing you
from creating the outcomes you
desire? In identifying opportunities
for improvement, don’t waste time
cultivating skill areas where you
have little competence. Instead,
concentrate on—and build on—
your strengths.
“How do I work?”
In what ways do you work best? Do
you process information most ef-
fectively by reading it, or by hear-
ing others discuss it? Do you
accomplish the most by working
with other people, or by working
alone? Do you perform best while
making decisions, or while advis-
ing others on key matters? Are
you in top form when things get
stressful, or do you function
optimally in a highly predictable
environment?
“What are my values?”
What are your ethics? What do you
see as your most important re-
sponsibilities for living a worthy,
ethical life? Do your organization’s
ethics resonate with your own val-
ues? If not, your career will likely
be marked by frustration and poor
performance.
“Where do I belong?”
Consider your strengths, preferred
work style, and values. Based on
these qualities, in what kind of
work environment would you fit
in best? Find the perfect fit, and
you’ll transform yourself from a
merely acceptable employee into
a star performer.
“What can I contribute?”
In earlier eras, companies told
businesspeople what their contri-
bution should be. Today, you have
choices. To decide how you can
best enhance your organization’s
performance, first ask what the
situation requires. Based on your
strengths, work style, and values,
how might you make the greatest
contribution to your organization’s
efforts?
Idea in Practice
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MANAGING ONESELF
17
must find people to carry out the plan and explain it to them.
He must adapt and change it as he puts it into action. And finally, he
must decide when to stop pushing the plan.
At the same time, feedback will also reveal when the problem is a
lack of manners. Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization.
It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other
create friction. This is as true for human beings as it is for inanimate
objects. Manners—simple things like saying “please” and “thank
you” and knowing a person’s name or asking after her family—enable
two people to work together whether they like each other or not.
Bright people, especially bright young people, often do not under-
stand this. If analysis shows that someone’s brilliant work fails again
and again as soon as cooperation from others is required, it probably
indicates a lack of courtesy—that is, a lack of manners.
Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what
not to do. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no tal-
ent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas
a person—and especially a knowledge worker—should not take on
work, jobs, and assignments. One should waste as little effort as possi-
ble on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy
and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes
to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. And yet most
people—especially most teachers and most organizations—concen-
trate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy,
resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person
into a star performer.
How Do I Perform?
Amazingly few people know how they get things done. Indeed, most
of us do not even know that different people work and perform
differently. Too many people work in ways that are not their ways,
and that almost guarantees nonperformance. For knowledge work-
ers, How do I perform? may be an even more important question
than What are my strengths?
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DRUCKER
18
Like one’s strengths, how one performs is unique. It is a matter of
personality. Whether personality be a matter of nature or nurture, it
surely is formed long before a person goes to work. And how a
person performs is a given, just as what a person is good at or not
good at is a given. A person’s way of performing can be slightly mod-
ified, but it is unlikely to be completely changed—and certainly not
easily. Just as people achieve results by doing what they are good at,
they also achieve results by working in ways that they best perform.
A few common personality traits usually determine how a person
performs.
Am I a reader or a listener?
The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener. Far
too few people even know that there are readers and listeners and
that people are rarely both. Even fewer know which of the two they
themselves are. But some examples will show how damaging such
ignorance can be.
When Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied
forces in Europe, he was the darling of the press. His press confer-
ences were famous for their style—General Eisenhower showed
total command of whatever question he was asked, and he was able
to describe a situation and explain a policy in two or three beauti-
fully polished and elegant sentences. Ten years later, the same jour-
nalists who had been his admirers held President Eisenhower in
open contempt. He never addressed the questions, they com-
plained, but rambled on endlessly about something else. And they
constantly ridiculed him for butchering the King’s English in inco-
herent and ungrammatical answers.
Eisenhower apparently did not know that he was a reader, not a
listener. When he was Supreme Commander in Europe, his aides
made sure that every question from the press was presented in
writing at least half an hour before a conference was to begin. And
then Eisenhower was in total command. When he became presi-
dent, he succeeded two listeners, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry
Truman. Both men knew themselves to be listeners and both en-
joyed free-for-all press conferences. Eisenhower may have felt that
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MANAGING ONESELF
19
he had to do what his two predecessors had done. As a result, he
never even heard the questions journalists asked. And Eisenhower is
not even an extreme case of a nonlistener.
A few years later, Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency,
in large measure, by not knowing that he was a listener. His predeces-
sor, John Kennedy, was a reader who had assembled a brilliant group
of writers as his assistants, making sure that they wrote to him before
discussing their memos in person. Johnson kept these people on his
staff—and they kept on writing. He never, apparently, understood
one word of what they wrote. Yet as a senator, Johnson had been su-
perb; for parliamentarians have to be, above all, listeners.
Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into
competent readers—and vice versa. The listener who tries to be a
reader will, therefore, suffer the fate of Lyndon Johnson, whereas
the reader who tries to be a listener will suffer the fate of Dwight
Eisenhower. They will not perform or achieve.
How do I learn?
The second thing to know about how one performs is to know how
one learns. Many first-class writers—Winston Churchill is but one
example—do poorly in school. They tend to remember their schooling
as pure torture. Yet few of their classmates remember it the same way.
They may not have enjoyed the school very much, but the worst they
suffered was boredom. The explanation is that writers do not, as a
rule, learn by listening and reading. They learn by writing. Because
schools do not allow them to learn this way, they get poor grades.
Schools everywhere are organized on the assumption that
there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for
everybody. But to be forced to learn the way a school teaches is sheer
hell for students who learn differently. Indeed, there are probably
half a dozen different ways to learn.
There are people, like Churchill, who learn by writing. Some
people learn by taking copious notes. Beethoven, for example, left
behind an enormous number of sketchbooks, yet he said he never
actually looked at them when he composed. Asked why he kept
them, he is reported to have replied, “If I don’t write it down
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DRUCKER
20
immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it into a sketchbook, I
never forget it and I never have to look it up again.” Some people
learn by doing. Others learn by hearing themselves talk.
A chief executive I know who converted a small and mediocre
family business into the leading company in its industry was one of
those people who learn by talking. He was in the habit of calling his
entire senior staff into his office once a week and then talking at
them for two or three hours. He would raise policy issues and argue
three different positions on each one. He rarely asked his associates
for comments or questions; he simply needed an audience to hear
himself talk. That’s how he learned. And although he is a fairly ex-
treme case, learning through talking is by no means an unusual
method. Successful trial lawyers learn the same way, as do many
medical diagnosticians (and so do I).
Of all the important pieces of self-knowledge, understanding how
you learn is the easiest to acquire. When I ask people, “How do you
learn?” most of them know the answer. But when I ask, “Do you act on
this knowledge?” few answer yes. And yet, acting on this knowledge
is the key to performance; or rather, not acting on this knowledge con-
demns one to nonperformance.
Am I a reader or a listener? and How do I learn? are the first ques-
tions to ask. But they are by no means the only ones. To manage
yourself effectively, you also have to ask, Do I work well with people,
or am I a loner? And if you do work well with people, you then must
ask, In what relationship?
Some people work best as subordinates. General George Patton,
the great American military hero of World War II, is a prime example.
Patton was America’s top troop commander. Yet when he was
proposed for an independent command, General George Marshall,
the U.S. chief of staff—and probably the most successful picker
of men in U.S. history—said, “Patton is the best subordinate the
American army has ever produced, but he would be the worst
commander.”
Some people work best as team members. Others work best
alone. Some are exceptionally talented as coaches and mentors; oth-
ers are simply incompetent as mentors.
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MANAGING ONESELF
21
Another crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision
maker or as an adviser? A great many people perform best as advis-
ers but cannot take the burden and pressure of making the decision.
A good many other people, by contrast, need an adviser to force
themselves to think; then they can make decisions and act on them
with speed, self-confidence, and courage.
This is a reason, by the way, that the number two person in an or-
ganization often fails when promoted to the number one position.
The top spot requires a decision maker. Strong decision makers
often put somebody they trust into the number two spot as their
adviser—and in that position the person is outstanding. But in the
number one spot, the same person fails. He or she knows what the
decision should be but cannot accept the responsibility of actually
making it.
Other important questions to ask include, Do I perform well
under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable envi-
ronment? Do I work best in a big organization or a small one? Few
people work well in all kinds of environments. Again and again, I
have seen people who were very successful in large organizations
flounder miserably when they moved into smaller ones. And the re-
verse is equally true.
The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself—you
are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you
perform. And try not to take on work you cannot perform or will only
perform poorly.
What Are My Values?
To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my
values? This is not a question of ethics. With respect to ethics, the
rules are the same for everybody, and the test is a simple one. I call it
the “mirror test.”
In the early years of this century, the most highly respected diplo-
mat of all the great powers was the German ambassador in London.
He was clearly destined for great things—to become his country’s
foreign minister, at least, if not its federal chancellor. Yet in 1906 he
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DRUCKER
22
abruptly resigned rather than preside over a dinner given by the
diplomatic corps for Edward VII. The king was a notorious woman-
izer and made it clear what kind of dinner he wanted. The ambassa-
dor is reported to have said, “I refuse to see a pimp in the mirror in
the morning when I shave.”
That is the mirror test. Ethics requires that you ask yourself,
What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?
What is ethical behavior in one kind of organization or situation
is ethical behavior in another. But ethics is only part of a value
system—especially of an organization’s value system.
To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable
or incompatible with one’s own condemns a person both to frustra-
tion and to nonperformance.
Consider the experience of a highly successful human resources
executive whose company was acquired by a bigger organization.
After the acquisition, she was promoted to do the kind of work she
did best, which included selecting people for important positions.
The executive deeply believed that a company should hire people
for such positions from the outside only after exhausting all the in-
side possibilities. But her new company believed in first looking out-
side “to bring in fresh blood.” There is something to be said for both
approaches—in my experience, the proper one is to do some of both.
They are, however, fundamentally incompatible—not as policies but
as values. They bespeak different views of the relationship between
organizations and people; different views of the responsibility of an
organization to its people and their development; and different
views of a person’s most important contribution to an enterprise.
After several years of frustration, the executive quit—at consider-
able financial loss. Her values and the values of the organization
simply were not compatible.
Similarly, whether a pharmaceutical company tries to obtain
results by making constant, small improvements or by achieving
occasional, highly expensive, and risky “breakthroughs” is not pri-
marily an economic question. The results of either strategy may be
pretty much the same. At bottom, there is a conflict between a value
system that sees the company’s contribution in terms of helping
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MANAGING ONESELF
23
physicians do better what they already do and a value system that is
oriented toward making scientific discoveries.
Whether a business should be run for short-term results or with a
focus on the long term is likewise a question of values. Financial an-
alysts believe that businesses can be run for both simultaneously.
Successful businesspeople know better. To be sure, every company
has to produce short-term results. But in any conflict between short-
term results and long-term growth, each company will determine its
own priority. This is not primarily a disagreement about economics.
It is fundamentally a value conflict regarding the function of a busi-
ness and the responsibility of management.
Value conflicts are not limited to business organizations. One of
the fastest-growing pastoral churches in the United States measures
success by the number of new parishioners. Its leadership believes
that what matters is how many newcomers join the congregation.
The Good Lord will then minister to their spiritual needs or at least
to the needs of a sufficient percentage. Another pastoral, evangelical
church believes that what matters is people’s spiritual growth. The
church eases out newcomers who join but do not enter into its spiri-
tual life.
Again, this is not a matter of numbers. At first glance, it appears
that the second church grows more slowly. But it retains a far larger
proportion of newcomers than the first one does. Its growth, in other
words, is more solid. This is also not a theological problem, or only
secondarily so. It is a problem about values. In a public debate, one
pastor argued, “Unless you first come to church, you will never find
the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“No,” answered the other. “Until you first look for the gate to the
Kingdom of Heaven, you don’t belong in church.”
Organizations, like people, have values. To be effective in an or-
ganization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organiza-
tion’s values. They do not need to be the same, but they must be
close enough to coexist. Otherwise, the person will not only be frus-
trated but also will not produce results.
A person’s strengths and the way that person performs rarely con-
flict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict
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DRUCKER
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between a person’s values and his or her strengths. What one does
well—even very well and successfully—may not fit with one’s value
system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting
one’s life to (or even a substantial portion thereof).
If I may, allow me to interject a personal note. Many years ago,
I too had to decide between my values and what I was doing success-
fully. I was doing very well as a young investment banker in London
in the mid-1930s, and the work clearly fit my strengths. Yet I did not
see myself making a contribution as an asset manager. People, I real-
ized, were what I valued, and I saw no point in being the richest man
in the cemetery. I had no money and no other job prospects. Despite
the continuing Depression, I quit—and it was the right thing to do.
Values, in other words, are and should be the ultimate test.
Where Do I Belong?
A small number of people know very early where they belong. Math-
ematicians, musicians, and cooks, for instance, are usually mathe-
maticians, musicians, and cooks by the time they are four or five years
old. Physicians usually decide on their careers in their teens, if not
earlier. But most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really
know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties.
By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three
questions: What are my strengths? How do I perform? and, What are
my values? And then they can and should decide where they belong.
Or rather, they should be able to decide where they do not belong.
The person who has learned that he or she does not perform well in
a big organization should have learned to say no to a position in one.
The person who has learned that he or she is not a decision maker
should have learned to say no to a decision-making assignment. A
General Patton (who probably never learned this himself) should
have learned to say no to an independent command.
Equally important, knowing the answer to these questions en-
ables a person to say to an opportunity, an offer, or an assignment,
“Yes, I will do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the
way it should be structured. This is the way the relationships should
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MANAGING ONESELF
25
be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in
this time frame, because this is who I am.”
Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people
are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths,
their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs
can transform an ordinary person—hardworking and competent but
otherwise mediocre—into an outstanding performer.
What Should I Contribute?
Throughout history, the great majority of people never had to ask
the question, What should I contribute? They were told what to con-
tribute, and their tasks were dictated either by the work itself—as it
was for the peasant or artisan—or by a master or a mistress—as it was
for domestic servants. And until very recently, it was taken for
granted that most people were subordinates who did as they were
told. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, the new knowledge workers (the
so-called organization men) looked to their company’s personnel
department to plan their careers.
Then in the late 1960s, no one wanted to be told what to do any
longer. Young men and women began to ask, What do I want to do?
And what they heard was that the way to contribute was to “do your
own thing.” But this solution was as wrong as the organization men’s
had been. Very few of the people who believed that doing one’s own
thing would lead to contribution, self-fulfillment, and success
achieved any of the three.
But still, there is no return to the old answer of doing what you are
told or assigned to do. Knowledge workers in particular have to learn
to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my
contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct ele-
ments: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my
way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest
contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results
have to be achieved to make a difference?
Consider the experience of a newly appointed hospital adminis-
trator. The hospital was big and prestigious, but it had been coasting
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DRUCKER
26
on its reputation for 30 years. The new administrator decided that
his contribution should be to establish a standard of excellence in
one important area within two years. He chose to focus on the emer-
gency room, which was big, visible, and sloppy. He decided that
every patient who came into the ER had to be seen by a qualified
nurse within 60 seconds. Within 12 months, the hospital’s emer-
gency room had become a model for all hospitals in the United
States, and within another two years, the whole hospital had been
transformed.
As this example suggests, it is rarely possible—or even particu-
larly fruitful—to look too far ahead. A plan can usually cover no
more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific. So
the question in most cases should be, Where and how can I achieve
results that will make a difference within the next year and a half?
The answer must balance several things. First, the results should be
hard to achieve—they should require “stretching,” to use the current
buzzword. But also, they should be within reach. To aim at results
that cannot be achieved—or that can be only under the most un-
likely circumstances—is not being ambitious; it is being foolish. Sec-
ond, the results should be meaningful. They should make a
difference. Finally, results should be visible and, if at all possible,
measurable. From this will come a course of action: what to do,
where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set.
Responsibility for Relationships
Very few people work by themselves and achieve results by them-
selves—a few great artists, a few great scientists, a few great ath-
letes. Most people work with others and are effective with other
people. That is true whether they are members of an organization or
independently employed. Managing yourself requires taking re-
sponsibility for relationships. This has two parts.
The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much indi-
viduals as you yourself are. They perversely insist on behaving like
human beings. This means that they too have their strengths; they
too have their ways of getting things done; they too have their
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MANAGING ONESELF
27
values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths,
the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers.
That sounds obvious, but few people pay attention to it. Typical is
the person who was trained to write reports in his or her first assign-
ment because that boss was a reader. Even if the next boss is a lis-
tener, the person goes on writing reports that, invariably, produce no
results. Invariably the boss will think the employee is stupid, incom-
petent, and lazy, and he or she will fail. But that could have been
avoided if the employee had only looked at the new boss and ana-
lyzed how this boss performs.
Bosses are neither a title on the organization chart nor a “func-
tion.” They are individuals and are entitled to do their work in the
way they do it best. It is incumbent on the people who work with
them to observe them, to find out how they work, and to adapt
themselves to what makes their bosses most effective. This, in fact,
is the secret of “managing” the boss.
The same holds true for all your coworkers. Each works his or her
way, not your way. And each is entitled to work in his or her way.
What matters is whether they perform and what their values are. As
for how they perform—each is likely to do it differently. The first se-
cret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with and
depend on so that you can make use of their strengths, their ways of
working, and their values. Working relationships are as much based
on the people as they are on the work.
The second part of relationship responsibility is taking responsi-
bility for communication. Whenever I, or any other consultant, start
to work with an organization, the first thing I hear about are all the
personality conflicts. Most of these arise from the fact that people do
not know what other people are doing and how they do their work,
or what contribution the other people are concentrating on and what
results they expect. And the reason they do not know is that they
have not asked and therefore have not been told.
This failure to ask reflects human stupidity less than it reflects
human history. Until recently, it was unnecessary to tell any of these
things to anybody. In the medieval city, everyone in a district plied
the same trade. In the countryside, everyone in a valley planted the
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DRUCKER
28
same crop as soon as the frost was out of the ground. Even those few
people who did things that were not “common” worked alone, so
they did not have to tell anyone what they were doing.
Today the great majority of people work with others who have
different tasks and responsibilities. The marketing vice president
may have come out of sales and know everything about sales, but
she knows nothing about the things she has never done—pricing,
advertising, packaging, and the like. So the people who do these
things must make sure that the marketing vice president under-
stands what they are trying to do, why they are trying to do it, how
they are going to do it, and what results to expect.
If the marketing vice president does not understand what these
high-grade knowledge specialists are doing, it is primarily their
fault, not hers. They have not educated her. Conversely, it is the
marketing vice president’s responsibility to make sure that all of her
coworkers understand how she looks at marketing: what her goals
are, how she works, and what she expects of herself and of each one
of them.
Even people who understand the importance of taking responsi-
bility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with
their associates. They are afraid of being thought presumptuous or
inquisitive or stupid. They are wrong. Whenever someone goes to his
or her associates and says, “This is what I am good at. This is how
I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concen-
trate on and the results I should be expected to deliver,” the response
is always, “This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
And one gets the same reaction—without exception, in my
experience—if one continues by asking, “And what do I need to
know about your strengths, how you perform, your values, and your
proposed contribution?” In fact, knowledge workers should request
this of everyone with whom they work, whether as subordinate, su-
perior, colleague, or team member. And again, whenever this is
done, the reaction is always, “Thanks for asking me. But why didn’t
you ask me earlier?”
Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The exis-
tence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they
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MANAGING ONESELF
29
like one another. It means that they understand one another. Taking
responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. It
is a duty. Whether one is a member of the organization, a consultant
to it, a supplier, or a distributor, one owes that responsibility to all
one’s coworkers: those whose work one depends on as well as those
who depend on one’s own work.
The Second Half of Your Life
When work for most people meant manual labor, there was no need
to worry about the second half of your life. You simply kept on doing
what you had always done. And if you were lucky enough to survive
40 years of hard work in the mill or on the railroad, you were quite
happy to spend the rest of your life doing nothing. Today, however,
most work is knowledge work, and knowledge workers are not “fin-
ished” after 40 years on the job, they are merely bored.
We hear a great deal of talk about the midlife crisis of the execu-
tive. It is mostly boredom. At 45, most executives have reached the
peak of their business careers, and they know it. After 20 years of
doing very much the same kind of work, they are very good at their
jobs. But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge
and satisfaction from the job. And yet they are still likely to face an-
other 20 if not 25 years of work. That is why managing oneself in-
creasingly leads one to begin a second career.
There are three ways to develop a second career. The first is actu-
ally to start one. Often this takes nothing more than moving from
one kind of organization to another: the divisional controller in a
large corporation, for instance, becomes the controller of a medium-
sized hospital. But there are also growing numbers of people who
move into different lines of work altogether: the business executive
or government official who enters the ministry at 45, for instance; or
the midlevel manager who leaves corporate life after 20 years to at-
tend law school and become a small-town attorney.
We will see many more second careers undertaken by people
who have achieved modest success in their first jobs. Such people
have substantial skills, and they know how to work. They need a
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DRUCKER
30
community—the house is empty with the children gone—and they
need income as well. But above all, they need challenge.
The second way to prepare for the second half of your life is to de-
velop a parallel career. Many people who are very successful in their
first careers stay in the work they have been doing, either on a full-
time or part-time or consulting basis. But in addition, they create a
parallel job, usually in a nonprofit organization, that takes another
ten hours of work a week. They might take over the administration
of their church, for instance, or the presidency of the local Girl
Scouts council. They might run the battered women’s shelter, work
as a children’s librarian for the local public library, sit on the school
board, and so on.
Finally, there are the social entrepreneurs. These are usually peo-
ple who have been very successful in their first careers. They love
their work, but it no longer challenges them. In many cases they
keep on doing what they have been doing all along but spend less
and less of their time on it. They also start another activity, usually a
nonprofit. My friend Bob Buford, for example, built a very successful
television company that he still runs. But he has also founded and
built a successful nonprofit organization that works with Protestant
churches, and he is building another to teach social entrepreneurs
how to manage their own nonprofit ventures while still running
their original businesses.
People who manage the second half of their lives may always be a
minority. The majority may “retire on the job” and count the years
until their actual retirement. But it is this minority, the men and
women who see a long working-life expectancy as an opportunity
both for themselves and for society, who will become leaders and
models.
There is one prerequisite for managing the second half of your
life: You must begin long before you enter it. When it first became
clear 30 years ago that working-life expectancies were lengthening
very fast, many observers (including myself) believed that retired
people would increasingly become volunteers for nonprofit institu-
tions. That has not happened. If one does not begin to volunteer be-
fore one is 40 or so, one will not volunteer once past 60.
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MANAGING ONESELF
31
Similarly, all the social entrepreneurs I know began to work in
their chosen second enterprise long before they reached their peak
in their original business. Consider the example of a successful
lawyer, the legal counsel to a large corporation, who has started a
venture to establish model schools in his state. He began to do vol-
unteer legal work for the schools when he was around 35. He was
elected to the school board at age 40. At age 50, when he had
amassed a fortune, he started his own enterprise to build and to run
model schools. He is, however, still working nearly full-time as the
lead counsel in the company he helped found as a young lawyer.
There is another reason to develop a second major interest, and to
develop it early. No one can expect to live very long without experi-
encing a serious setback in his or her life or work. There is the com-
petent engineer who is passed over for promotion at age 45. There is
the competent college professor who realizes at age 42 that she will
never get a professorship at a big university, even though she may be
fully qualified for it. There are tragedies in one’s family life: the
breakup of one’s marriage or the loss of a child. At such times, a sec-
ond major interest—not just a hobby—may make all the difference.
The engineer, for example, now knows that he has not been very
successful in his job. But in his outside activity—as church treasurer,
for example—he is a success. One’s family may break up, but in that
outside activity there is still a community.
In a society in which success has become so terribly important,
having options will become increasingly vital. Historically, there
was no such thing as “success.” The overwhelming majority of
people did not expect anything but to stay in their “proper station,”
as an old English prayer has it. The only mobility was downward
mobility.
In a knowledge society, however, we expect everyone to be a suc-
cess. This is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there
is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has
to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and
equally for the individual’s family, to have an area in which he or she
can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. That means
finding a second area—whether in a second career, a parallel career,
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DRUCKER
32
or a social venture—that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for
being respected, for being a success.
The challenges of managing oneself may seem obvious, if not
elementary. And the answers may seem self-evident to the point of
appearing naïve. But managing oneself requires new and unprece-
dented things from the individual, and especially from the knowledge
worker. In effect, managing oneself demands that each knowledge
worker think and behave like a chief executive officer. Further,
the shift from manual workers who do as they are told to knowledge
workers who have to manage themselves profoundly challenges so-
cial structure. Every existing society, even the most individualistic
one, takes two things for granted, if only subconsciously: that organi-
zations outlive workers, and that most people stay put.
But today the opposite is true. Knowledge workers outlive organ-
izations, and they are mobile. The need to manage oneself is there-
fore creating a revolution in human affairs.
Originally published in January 1999. Reprint R0501K
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33
W
Management Time:
Who’s Got the
Monkey?
by William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass
WHY IS IT THAT MANAGERS are typically running out of time while
their subordinates are typically running out of work? Here we shall
explore the meaning of management time as it relates to the inter-
action between managers and their bosses, their peers, and their
subordinates.
Specifically, we shall deal with three kinds of management time:
Boss-imposed time—used to accomplish those activities that
the boss requires and that the manager cannot disregard
without direct and swift penalty.
System-imposed time—used to accommodate requests from
peers for active support. Neglecting these requests will also
result in penalties, though not always as direct or swift.
Self-imposed time—used to do those things that the manager
originates or agrees to do. A certain portion of this kind of
time, however, will be taken by subordinates and is called
subordinate-imposed time. The remaining portion will be the
manager’s own and is called discretionary time. Self-imposed
time is not subject to penalty since neither the boss nor the
system can discipline the manager for not doing what they
didn’t know he had intended to do in the first place.
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To accommodate those demands, managers need to control the
timing and the content of what they do. Since what their bosses and
the system impose on them are subject to penalty, managers cannot
tamper with those requirements. Thus their self-imposed time
becomes their major area of concern.
Managers should try to increase the discretionary component of
their self-imposed time by minimizing or doing away with the sub-
ordinate component. They will then use the added increment to
get better control over their boss-imposed and system-imposed
activities. Most managers spend much more time dealing with sub-
ordinates’ problems than they even faintly realize. Hence we shall
use the monkey-on-the-back metaphor to examine how subordi-
nate-imposed time comes into being and what the superior can do
about it.
Where Is the Monkey?
Let us imagine that a manager is walking down the hall and that he
notices one of his subordinates, Jones, coming his way. When the
two meet, Jones greets the manager with, “Good morning. By the
way, we’ve got a problem. You see . . . .” As Jones continues, the man-
ager recognizes in this problem the two characteristics common to
all the problems his subordinates gratuitously bring to his attention.
Namely, the manager knows (a) enough to get involved, but (b) not
enough to make the on-the-spot decision expected of him. Eventu-
ally, the manager says, “So glad you brought this up. I’m in a rush
right now. Meanwhile, let me think about it, and I’ll let you know.”
Then he and Jones part company.
Let us analyze what just happened. Before the two of them met,
on whose back was the “monkey”? The subordinate’s. After they
parted, on whose back was it? The manager’s. Subordinate-imposed
time begins the moment a monkey successfully leaps from the back
of a subordinate to the back of his or her superior and does not end
until the monkey is returned to its proper owner for care and feed-
ing. In accepting the monkey, the manager has voluntarily assumed
a position subordinate to his subordinate. That is, he has allowed
ONCKEN AND WASS
34
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
35
Idea in Brief
You’re racing down the hall. An
employee stops you and says,
“We’ve got a problem.” You
assume you should get involved
but can’t make an on-the-spot
decision. You say, “Let me think
about it.”
You’ve just allowed a “monkey”
to leap from your subordinate’s
back to yours. You’re now working
for your subordinate. Take on
enough monkeys, and you won’t
have time to handle your real
job: fulfilling your own boss’s
mandates and helping peers
generate business results.
How to avoid accumulating
monkeys? Develop your sub-
ordinates’ initiative, say Oncken
and Wass. For example, when
an employee tries to hand you
a problem, clarify whether he
should: recommend and imple-
ment a solution, take action then
brief you immediately, or act and
report the outcome at a regular
update.
When you encourage employees
to handle their own monkeys,
they acquire new skills—and you
liberate time to do your own job.
Jones to make him her subordinate by doing two things a subordinate
is generally expected to do for a boss—the manager has accepted a
responsibility from his subordinate, and the manager has promised
her a progress report.
The subordinate, to make sure the manager does not miss this
point, will later stick her head in the manager’s office and cheerily
query, “How’s it coming?” (This is called supervision.)
Or let us imagine in concluding a conference with Johnson,
another subordinate, the manager’s parting words are, “Fine. Send
me a memo on that.”
Let us analyze this one. The monkey is now on the subordinate’s
back because the next move is his, but it is poised for a leap. Watch
that monkey. Johnson dutifully writes the requested memo and
drops it in his out-basket. Shortly thereafter, the manager plucks it
from his in-basket and reads it. Whose move is it now? The man-
ager’s. If he does not make that move soon, he will get a follow-up
memo from the subordinate. (This is another form of supervision.)
The longer the manager delays, the more frustrated the subordinate
will become (he’ll be spinning his wheels) and the more guilty the
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ONCKEN AND WASS
36
Idea in Practice
How to return monkeys to their
proper owners? Oncken, Wass,
and Steven Covey (in an after-
word to this classic article) offer
these suggestions.
Make Appointments to Deal
with Monkeys
Avoid discussing any monkey
on an ad hoc basis—for example,
when you pass a subordinate in
the hallway. You won’t convey
the proper seriousness. Instead,
schedule an appointment to
discuss the issue.
Specify Level of Initiative
Your employees can exercise
five levels of initiative in handling
on-the-job problems. From lowest
to highest, the levels are:
1. Wait until told what to do.
2. Ask what to do.
3. Recommend an action,
then with your approval,
implement it.
4. Take independent action
but advise you at once.
5. Take independent action and
update you through routine
procedure.
When an employee brings a
problem to you, outlaw use of
level 1 or 2. Agree on and assign
level 3, 4, or 5 to the monkey.
Take no more than 15 minutes
to discuss the problem.
Agree on a Status Update
After deciding how to proceed,
agree on a time and place when
the employee will give you a
progress report.
Examine Your Own Motives
Some managers secretly worry
that if they encourage subor-
dinates to take more initiative,
they’ll appear less strong, more
vulnerable, and less useful.
Instead, cultivate an inward
sense of security that frees you
to relinquish direct control and
support employees’ growth.
Develop Employees’ Skills
Employees try to hand off monkeys
when they lack the desire or ability
to handle them. Help employees
develop needed problem-solving
skills. It’s initially more time con-
suming than tackling problems
yourself—but it saves time in
the long run.
Foster Trust
Developing employees’ initiative
requires a trusting relationship
between you and your sub-
ordinates. If they’re afraid of
failing, they’ll keep bringing
their monkeys to you rather
than working to solve their own
problems. To promote trust,
reassure them it’s safe to make
mistakes.
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
37
manager will feel (his backlog of subordinate-imposed time will be
mounting).
Or suppose once again that at a meeting with a third subordinate,
Smith, the manager agrees to provide all the necessary backing for a
public relations proposal he has just asked Smith to develop. The
manager’s parting words to her are, “Just let me know how I can help.”
Now let us analyze this. Again the monkey is initially on the subor-
dinate’s back. But for how long? Smith realizes that she cannot let the
manager “know” until her proposal has the manager’s approval. And
from experience, she also realizes that her proposal will likely be
sitting in the manager’s briefcase for weeks before he eventually gets
to it. Who’s really got the monkey? Who will be checking up on whom?
Wheel spinning and bottlenecking are well on their way again.
A fourth subordinate, Reed, has just been transferred from another
part of the company so that he can launch and eventually manage a
newly created business venture. The manager has said they should
get together soon to hammer out a set of objectives for the new job,
adding, “I will draw up an initial draft for discussion with you.”
Let us analyze this one, too. The subordinate has the new job (by
formal assignment) and the full responsibility (by formal delegation),
but the manager has the next move. Until he makes it, he will have
the monkey, and the subordinate will be immobilized.
Why does all of this happen? Because in each instance the manager
and the subordinate assume at the outset, wittingly or unwittingly,
that the matter under consideration is a joint problem. The monkey in
each case begins its career astride both their backs. All it has to do is
move the wrong leg, and—presto!—the subordinate deftly disappears.
The manager is thus left with another acquisition for his menagerie.
Of course, monkeys can be trained not to move the wrong leg. But it is
easier to prevent them from straddling backs in the first place.
Who Is Working for Whom?
Let us suppose that these same four subordinates are so thoughtful
and considerate of their superior’s time that they take pains to allow
no more than three monkeys to leap from each of their backs to his
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ONCKEN AND WASS
38
in any one day. In a five-day week, the manager will have picked up
60 screaming monkeys—far too many to do anything about them
individually. So he spends his subordinate-imposed time juggling
his “priorities.”
Late Friday afternoon, the manager is in his office with the door
closed for privacy so he can contemplate the situation, while his
subordinates are waiting outside to get their last chance before
the weekend to remind him that he will have to “fish or cut bait.”
Imagine what they are saying to one another about the manager as
they wait: “What a bottleneck. He just can’t make up his mind. How
anyone ever got that high up in our company without being able to
make a decision we’ll never know.”
Worst of all, the reason the manager cannot make any of these
“next moves” is that his time is almost entirely eaten up by meeting
his own boss-imposed and system-imposed requirements. To con-
trol those tasks, he needs discretionary time that is in turn denied
him when he is preoccupied with all these monkeys. The manager is
caught in a vicious circle. But time is a-wasting (an understatement).
The manager calls his secretary on the intercom and instructs her to
tell his subordinates that he won’t be able to see them until Monday
morning. At 7 PM, he drives home, intending with firm resolve to
return to the office tomorrow to get caught up over the weekend. He
returns bright and early the next day only to see, on the nearest
green of the golf course across from his office window, a foursome.
Guess who?
That does it. He now knows who is really working for whom.
Moreover, he now sees that if he actually accomplishes during this
weekend what he came to accomplish, his subordinates’ morale will
go up so sharply that they will each raise the limit on the number of
monkeys they will let jump from their backs to his. In short, he now
sees, with the clarity of a revelation on a mountaintop, that the more
he gets caught up, the more he will fall behind.
He leaves the office with the speed of a person running away from
a plague. His plan? To get caught up on something else he hasn’t had
time for in years: a weekend with his family. (This is one of the many
varieties of discretionary time.)
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
39
Sunday night he enjoys ten hours of sweet, untroubled slumber,
because he has clear-cut plans for Monday. He is going to get rid of
his subordinate-imposed time. In exchange, he will get an equal
amount of discretionary time, part of which he will spend with his
subordinates to make sure that they learn the difficult but rewarding
managerial art called “The Care and Feeding of Monkeys.”
The manager will also have plenty of discretionary time left over
for getting control of the timing and the content not only of his boss-
imposed time but also of his system-imposed time. It may take
months, but compared with the way things have been, the rewards
will be enormous. His ultimate objective is to manage his time.
Getting Rid of the Monkeys
The manager returns to the office Monday morning just late enough
so that his four subordinates have collected outside his office wait-
ing to see him about their monkeys. He calls them in one by one. The
purpose of each interview is to take a monkey, place it on the desk
between them, and figure out together how the next move might
conceivably be the subordinate’s. For certain monkeys, that will take
some doing. The subordinate’s next move may be so elusive that the
manager may decide—just for now—merely to let the monkey sleep
on the subordinate’s back overnight and have him or her return with
it at an appointed time the next morning to continue the joint quest
for a more substantive move by the subordinate. (Monkeys sleep
just as soundly overnight on subordinates’ backs as they do on
superiors’.)
As each subordinate leaves the office, the manager is rewarded by
the sight of a monkey leaving his office on the subordinate’s back.
For the next 24 hours, the subordinate will not be waiting for the
manager; instead, the manager will be waiting for the subordinate.
Later, as if to remind himself that there is no law against his en-
gaging in a constructive exercise in the interim, the manager strolls
by the subordinate’s office, sticks his head in the door, and cheerily
asks, “How’s it coming?” (The time consumed in doing this is discre-
tionary for the manager and boss imposed for the subordinate.)
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ONCKEN AND WASS
40
Making Time for Gorillas
by Stephen R. Covey
WHEN BILL ONCKEN WROTE this article in 1974, managers were in a terrible
bind. They were desperate for a way to free up their time, but command and
control was the status quo. Managers felt they weren’t allowed to empower
their subordinates to make decisions. Too dangerous. Too risky. That’s why
Oncken’s message—give the monkey back to its rightful owner—involved a
critically important paradigm shift. Many managers working today owe him a
debt of gratitude.
It is something of an understatement, however, to observe that much has
changed since Oncken’s radical recommendation. Command and control as a
management philosophy is all but dead, and “empowerment” is the word of
the day in most organizations trying to thrive in global, intensely competitive
markets. But command and control stubbornly remains a common practice.
Management thinkers and executives have discovered in the last decade
that bosses cannot just give a monkey back to their subordinates and then
merrily get on with their own business. Empowering subordinates is hard and
complicated work.
The reason: when you give problems back to subordinates to solve them-
selves, you have to be sure that they have both the desire and the ability to do
so. As every executive knows, that isn’t always the case. Enter a whole new
set of problems. Empowerment often means you have to develop people,
which is initially much more time consuming than solving the problem on
your own.
Just as important, empowerment can only thrive when the whole organiza-
tion buys into it—when formal systems and the informal culture support it.
Managers need to be rewarded for delegating decisions and developing peo-
ple. Otherwise, the degree of real empowerment in an organization will vary
according to the beliefs and practices of individual managers.
But perhaps the most important lesson about empowerment is that
effective delegation—the kind Oncken advocated—depends on a trusting
relationship between a manager and his subordinate. Oncken’s message
may have been ahead of his time, but what he suggested was still a fairly dic-
tatorial solution. He basically told bosses, “Give the problem back!” Today,
we know that this approach by itself is too authoritarian. To delegate effec-
tively, executives need to establish a running dialogue with subordinates.
They need to establish a partnership. After all, if subordinates are afraid of
failing in front of their boss, they’ll keep coming back for help rather than
truly take initiative.
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
41
Oncken’s article also doesn’t address an aspect of delegation that has
greatly interested me during the past two decades—that many managers are
actually eager to take on their subordinates’ monkeys. Nearly all the
managers I talk with agree that their people are underutilized in their present
jobs. But even some of the most successful, seemingly self-assured executives
have talked about how hard it is to give up control to their subordinates.
I’ve come to attribute that eagerness for control to a common, deep-seated
belief that rewards in life are scarce and fragile. Whether they learn it from
their family, school, or athletics, many people establish an identity by com-
paring themselves with others. When they see others gain power, information,
money, or recognition, for instance, they experience what the psychologist
Abraham Maslow called “a feeling of deficiency”—a sense that something is
being taken from them. That makes it hard for them to be genuinely happy
about the success of others—even of their loved ones. Oncken implies that
managers can easily give back or refuse monkeys, but many managers may
subconsciously fear that a subordinate taking the initiative will make them
appear a little less strong and a little more vulnerable.
How, then, do managers develop the inward security, the mentality of
“abundance,” that would enable them to relinquish control and seek the
growth and development of those around them? The work I’ve done with
numerous organizations suggests that managers who live with integrity accord-
ing to a principle-based value system are most likely to sustain an empowering
style of leadership.
Given the times in which he wrote, it was no wonder that Oncken’s message
resonated with managers. But it was reinforced by Oncken’s wonderful gift for
storytelling. I got to know Oncken on the speaker’s circuit in the 1970s, and I
was always impressed by how he dramatized his ideas in colorful detail. Like
the Dilbert comic strip, Oncken had a tongue-in-cheek style that got to the
core of managers’ frustrations and made them want to take back control of
their time. And the monkey on your back wasn’t just a metaphor for Oncken—it
was his personal symbol. I saw him several times walking through airports
with a stuffed monkey on his shoulder.
I’m not surprised that his article is one of the two best-selling HBR articles
ever. Even with all we know about empowerment, its vivid message is even
more important and relevant now than it was 25 years ago. Indeed, Oncken’s
insight is a basis for my own work on time management, in which I have peo-
ple categorize their activities according to urgency and importance. I’ve
heard from executives again and again that half or more of their time is spent
on matters that are urgent but not important. They’re trapped in an endless
(continued)
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ONCKEN AND WASS
42
cycle of dealing with other people’s monkeys, yet they’re reluctant to help
those people take their own initiative. As a result, they’re often too busy to
spend the time they need on the real gorillas in their organization. Oncken’s
article remains a powerful wake-up call for managers who need to delegate
effectively.
Stephen R. Covey is vice chairman of the Franklin Covey Company, a global provider of
leadership development and productivity services and products.
When the subordinate (with the monkey on his or her back) and
the manager meet at the appointed hour the next day, the manager
explains the ground rules in words to this effect:
“At no time while I am helping you with this or any other problem
will your problem become my problem. The instant your problem
becomes mine, you no longer have a problem. I cannot help a person
who hasn’t got a problem.
“When this meeting is over, the problem will leave this office
exactly the way it came in—on your back. You may ask my help at
any appointed time, and we will make a joint determination of what
the next move will be and which of us will make it.
“In those rare instances where the next move turns out to be
mine, you and I will determine it together. I will not make any move
alone.”
The manager follows this same line of thought with each subordi-
nate until about 11 AM, when he realizes that he doesn’t have to close
his door. His monkeys are gone. They will return—but by appoint-
ment only. His calendar will assure this.
Transferring the Initiative
What we have been driving at in this monkey-on-the-back analogy is
that managers can transfer initiative back to their subordinates and
keep it there. We have tried to highlight a truism as obvious as it is
subtle: namely, before developing initiative in subordinates, the
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
43
manager must see to it that they have the initiative. Once the man-
ager takes it back, he will no longer have it and he can kiss his discre-
tionary time good-bye. It will all revert to subordinate-imposed
time.
Nor can the manager and the subordinate effectively have the
same initiative at the same time. The opener, “Boss, we’ve got a
problem,” implies this duality and represents, as noted earlier, a
monkey astride two backs, which is a very bad way to start a monkey
on its career. Let us, therefore, take a few moments to examine what
we call “The Anatomy of Managerial Initiative.”
There are five degrees of initiative that the manager can exercise
in relation to the boss and to the system:
1. wait until told (lowest initiative);
2. ask what to do;
3. recommend, then take resulting action;
4. act, but advise at once;
5. and act on own, then routinely report (highest initiative).
Clearly, the manager should be professional enough not to indulge
in initiatives 1 and 2 in relation either to the boss or to the system.
A manager who uses initiative 1 has no control over either the timing
or the content of boss-imposed or system-imposed time and thereby
forfeits any right to complain about what he or she is told to do or
when. The manager who uses initiative 2 has control over the timing
but not over the content. Initiatives 3, 4, and 5 leave the manager in
control of both, with the greatest amount of control being exercised
at level 5.
In relation to subordinates, the manager’s job is twofold. First, to
outlaw the use of initiatives 1 and 2, thus giving subordinates no
choice but to learn and master “Completed Staff Work.” Second, to
see that for each problem leaving his or her office there is an agreed-
upon level of initiative assigned to it, in addition to an agreed-upon
time and place for the next manager-subordinate conference. The
latter should be duly noted on the manager’s calendar.
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ONCKEN AND WASS
44
The Care and Feeding of Monkeys
To further clarify our analogy between the monkey on the back and
the processes of assigning and controlling, we shall refer briefly to
the manager’s appointment schedule, which calls for five hard-and-
fast rules governing the “Care and Feeding of Monkeys.” (Violation
of these rules will cost discretionary time.)
Rule 1
Monkeys should be fed or shot. Otherwise, they will starve to death,
and the manager will waste valuable time on postmortems or
attempted resurrections.
Rule 2
The monkey population should be kept below the maximum num-
ber the manager has time to feed. Subordinates will find time to
work as many monkeys as he or she finds time to feed, but no more.
It shouldn’t take more than five to 15 minutes to feed a properly
maintained monkey.
Rule 3
Monkeys should be fed by appointment only. The manager should
not have to hunt down starving monkeys and feed them on a catch-
as-catch-can basis.
Rule 4
Monkeys should be fed face-to-face or by telephone, but never by
mail. (Remember—with mail, the next move will be the manager’s.)
Documentation may add to the feeding process, but it cannot take
the place of feeding.
Rule 5
Every monkey should have an assigned next feeding time and degree
of initiative. These may be revised at any time by mutual consent but
never allowed to become vague or indefinite. Otherwise, the monkey
will either starve to death or wind up on the manager’s back.
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MANAGEMENT TIME: WHO’S GOT THE MONKEY?
45
“Get control over the timing and content of what you do” is appro-
priate advice for managing time. The first order of business is for
the manager to enlarge his or her discretionary time by eliminating
subordinate-imposed time. The second is for the manager to use a
portion of this newfound discretionary time to see to it that each
subordinate actually has the initiative and applies it. The third is for
the manager to use another portion of the increased discretionary
time to get and keep control of the timing and content of both boss-
imposed and system-imposed time. All these steps will increase
the manager’s leverage and enable the value of each hour spent in
managing management time to multiply without theoretical limit.
Originally published in November 1999. Reprint 99609
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47
W
How Resilience
Works
by Diane L. Coutu
WHEN I BEGAN MY CAREER IN JOURNALISM—I was a reporter at a
national magazine in those days—there was a man I’ll call Claus
Schmidt. He was in his mid-fifties, and to my impressionable eyes, he
was the quintessential newsman: cynical at times, but unrelentingly
curious and full of life, and often hilariously funny in a sandpaper-dry
kind of way. He churned out hard-hitting cover stories and features
with a speed and elegance I could only dream of. It always astounded
me that he was never promoted to managing editor.
But people who knew Claus better than I did thought of him not
just as a great newsman but as a quintessential survivor, someone
who had endured in an environment often hostile to talent. He had
lived through at least three major changes in the magazine’s leader-
ship, losing most of his best friends and colleagues on the way. At
home, two of his children succumbed to incurable illnesses, and
a third was killed in a traffic accident. Despite all this—or maybe
because of it—he milled around the newsroom day after day, mentor-
ing the cub reporters, talking about the novels he was writing—always
looking forward to what the future held for him.
Why do some people suffer real hardships and not falter? Claus
Schmidt could have reacted very differently. We’ve all seen that hap-
pen: One person cannot seem to get the confidence back after a
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layoff; another, persistently depressed, takes a few years off from
life after her divorce. The question we would all like answered is,
Why? What exactly is that quality of resilience that carries people
through life?
It’s a question that has fascinated me ever since I first learned of
the Holocaust survivors in elementary school. In college, and later in
my studies as an affiliate scholar at the Boston Psychoanalytic Soci-
ety and Institute, I returned to the subject. For the past several
months, however, I have looked on it with a new urgency, for it
seems to me that the terrorism, war, and recession of recent months
have made understanding resilience more important than ever.
I have considered both the nature of individual resilience and what
makes some organizations as a whole more resilient than others.
Why do some people and some companies buckle under pressure?
And what makes others bend and ultimately bounce back?
My exploration has taught me much about resilience, although
it’s a subject none of us will ever understand fully. Indeed, resilience
is one of the great puzzles of human nature, like creativity or the re-
ligious instinct. But in sifting through psychological research and in
reflecting on the many stories of resilience I’ve heard, I have seen a
little more deeply into the hearts and minds of people like Claus
Schmidt and, in doing so, looked more deeply into the human psy-
che as well.
The Buzz About Resilience
Resilience is a hot topic in business these days. Not long ago, I was
talking to a senior partner at a respected consulting firm about how to
land the very best MBAs—the name of the game in that particular in-
dustry. The partner, Daniel Savageau (not his real name), ticked off a
long list of qualities his firm sought in its hires: intelligence, ambition,
integrity, analytic ability, and so on. “What about resilience?” I asked.
“Well, that’s very popular right now,” he said. “It’s the new buzzword.
Candidates even tell us they’re resilient; they volunteer the informa-
tion. But frankly, they’re just too young to know that about them-
selves. Resilience is something you realize you have after the fact.”
COUTU
48
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
49
Idea in Brief
These are dark days: people are
losing jobs, taking pay cuts,
suffering foreclosure on their
homes. Some of them are
snapping—sinking into depression
or suffering a permanent loss of
confidence.
But others are snapping back; for
example, taking advantage of a
layoff to build a new career. What
carries them through tough times?
Resilience.
Resilient people possess three
defining characteristics: They
coolly accept the harsh realities
facing them. They find meaning
in terrible times. And they have
an uncanny ability to improvise,
making do with whatever’s at
hand.
In deep recessions, resilience
becomes more important than
ever. Fortunately, you can learn
to be resilient.
“But if you could, would you test for it?” I asked. “Does it matter
in business?”
Savageau paused. He’s a man in his late forties and a success per-
sonally and professionally. Yet it hadn’t been a smooth ride to the top.
He’d started his life as a poor French Canadian in Woonsocket, Rhode
Island, and had lost his father at six. He lucked into a football scholar-
ship but was kicked out of Boston University twice for drinking. He
turned his life around in his twenties, married, divorced, remarried,
and raised five children. Along the way, he made and lost two fortunes
before helping to found the consulting firm he now runs. “Yes, it does
matter,” he said at last. “In fact, it probably matters more than any of
the usual things we look for.” In the course of reporting this article,
I heard the same assertion time and again. As Dean Becker, the presi-
dent and CEO of Adaptiv Learning Systems, a four-year-old company
in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, that develops and delivers programs
about resilience training, puts it: “More than education, more than
experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will
determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer
ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”
Academic research into resilience started about 40 years ago with
pioneering studies by Norman Garmezy, now a professor emeritus at
the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After studying why
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COUTU
50
Idea in Practice
Resilience can help you survive
and recover from even the most
brutal experiences. To cultivate
resilience, apply these practices.
Face Down Reality
Instead of slipping into denial to
cope with hardship, take a sober,
down-to-earth view of the reality
of your situation. You’ll prepare
yourself to act in ways that enable
you to endure—training yourself
to survive before the fact.
Example: Admiral Jim Stockdale
survived being held prisoner
and tortured by the Vietcong
in part by accepting he could
be held for a long time. (He
was held for eight years.) Those
who didn’t make it out of the
camps kept optimistically
assuming they’d be released
on shorter timetables—by
Christmas, by Easter, by the
Fourth of July. “I think they
all died of broken hearts,”
Stockdale said.
Search for Meaning
When hard times strike, resist
any impulse to view yourself as
a victim and to cry, “Why me?”
Rather, devise constructs about
your suffering to create meaning
for yourself and others. You’ll
build bridges from your present-
day ordeal to a fuller, better
future. Those bridges will make
the present manageable, by
removing the sense that the
present is overwhelming.
Example: Austrian psychiatrist
and Auschwitz survivor Victor
Frankl realized that to survive
many children of schizophrenic parents did not suffer psychological
illness as a result of growing up with them, he concluded that a cer-
tain quality of resilience played a greater role in mental health than
anyone had previously suspected.
Today, theories abound about what makes resilience. Looking at
Holocaust victims, Maurice Vanderpol, a former president of the
Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, found that many of the
healthy survivors of concentration camps had what he calls a “plas-
tic shield.” The shield was comprised of several factors, including a
sense of humor. Often the humor was black, but nonetheless it pro-
vided a critical sense of perspective. Other core characteristics that
helped included the ability to form attachments to others and the
possession of an inner psychological space that protected the sur-
vivors from the intrusions of abusive others. Research about other
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
51
the camp, he had to find some
purpose. He did so by imagining
himself giving a lecture after
the war on the psychology of
the concentration camp to
help outsiders understand
what he had been through.
By creating concrete goals
for himself, he rose above the
sufferings of the moment.
Continually Improvise
When disaster hits, be inventive.
Make the most of what you have,
putting resources to unfamiliar
uses and imagining possibilities
others don’t see.
Example: Mike founded a
business with his friend Paul,
selling educational materials
to schools, businesses, and
consulting firms. When a
recession hit, they lost many
core clients. Paul went through
a bitter divorce, suffered a
depression, and couldn’t work.
When Mike offered to buy him
out, Paul slapped him with a
lawsuit claiming Mike was
trying to steal the business.
Mike kept the company going
any way he could—going into
joint ventures to sell English-
language training materials to
Russian and Chinese competi-
tors, publishing newsletters
for clients, and even writing
video scripts for competitors.
The lawsuit was eventually
settled in his favor, and he
had a new and much more
solid business than the one
he started out with.
groups uncovered different qualities associated with resilience. The
Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that
focuses on resilience and youth, found that the more resilient kids
have an uncanny ability to get adults to help them out. Still other
research showed that resilient inner-city youth often have talents
such as athletic abilities that attract others to them.
Many of the early theories about resilience stressed the role of
genetics. Some people are just born resilient, so the arguments went.
There’s some truth to that, of course, but an increasing body of empir-
ical evidence shows that resilience—whether in children, survivors of
concentration camps, or businesses back from the brink—can be
learned. For example, George Vaillant, the director of the Study of
Adult Development at Harvard Medical School in Boston, observes
that within various groups studied during a 60-year period, some
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people became markedly more resilient over their lifetimes. Other
psychologists claim that unresilient people more easily develop
resiliency skills than those with head starts.
Most of the resilience theories I encountered in my research make
good common sense. But I also observed that almost all the theories
overlap in three ways. Resilient people, they posit, possess three
characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often
buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an
uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship
with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly
resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for
resilient organizations as well. Let’s take a look at each of them in
turn.
Facing Down Reality
A common belief about resilience is that it stems from an optimistic
nature. That’s true but only as long as such optimism doesn’t distort
your sense of reality. In extremely adverse situations, rose-colored
thinking can actually spell disaster. This point was made poignantly
to me by management researcher and writer Jim Collins, who hap-
pened upon this concept while researching Good to Great, his book
on how companies transform themselves out of mediocrity. Collins
had a hunch (an exactly wrong hunch) that resilient companies were
filled with optimistic people. He tried out that idea on Admiral Jim
Stockdale, who was held prisoner and tortured by the Vietcong for
eight years.
Collins recalls: “I asked Stockdale: ‘Who didn’t make it out of the
camps?’ And he said, ‘Oh, that’s easy. It was the optimists. They
were the ones who said we were going to be out by Christmas. And
then they said we’d be out by Easter and then out by Fourth of July
and out by Thanksgiving, and then it was Christmas again.’ Then
Stockdale turned to me and said, ‘You know, I think they all died of
broken hearts.’”
In the business world, Collins found the same unblinking attitude
shared by executives at all the most successful companies he studied.
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
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Like Stockdale, resilient people have very sober and down-to-earth
views of those parts of reality that matter for survival. That’s not to
say that optimism doesn’t have its place: In turning around a demor-
alized sales force, for instance, conjuring a sense of possibility can
be a very powerful tool. But for bigger challenges, a cool, almost
pessimistic, sense of reality is far more important.
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Do I truly understand—and
accept—the reality of my situation? Does my organization?” Those
are good questions, particularly because research suggests most
people slip into denial as a coping mechanism. Facing reality, really
facing it, is grueling work. Indeed, it can be unpleasant and often
emotionally wrenching. Consider the following story of organiza-
tional resilience, and see what it means to confront reality.
Prior to September 11, 2001, Morgan Stanley, the famous invest-
ment bank, was the largest tenant in the World Trade Center. The
company had some 2,700 employees working in the south tower on
22 floors between the 43rd and the 74th. On that horrible day, the
first plane hit the north tower at 8:46 AM, and Morgan Stanley
started evacuating just one minute later, at 8:47 AM. When the sec-
ond plane crashed into the south tower 15 minutes after that, Mor-
gan Stanley’s offices were largely empty. All told, the company lost
only seven employees despite receiving an almost direct hit.
Of course, the organization was just plain lucky to be in the second
tower. Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were hit in the first attack,
couldn’t have done anything to save its employees. Still, it was Mor-
gan Stanley’s hard-nosed realism that enabled the company to bene-
fit from its luck. Soon after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center,
senior management recognized that working in such a symbolic cen-
ter of U.S. commercial power made the company vulnerable to atten-
tion from terrorists and possible attack.
With this grim realization, Morgan Stanley launched a program
of preparedness at the micro level. Few companies take their fire
drills seriously. Not so Morgan Stanley, whose VP of security for the
Individual Investor Group, Rick Rescorla, brought a military disci-
pline to the job. Rescorla, himself a highly resilient, decorated Viet-
nam vet, made sure that people were fully drilled about what to do
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in a catastrophe. When disaster struck on September 11, Rescorla
was on a bullhorn telling Morgan Stanley employees to stay calm
and follow their well-practiced drill, even though some building
supervisors were telling occupants that all was well. Sadly, Rescorla
himself, whose life story has been widely covered in recent months,
was one of the seven who didn’t make it out.
“When you’re in financial services where so much depends on
technology, contingency planning is a major part of your business,”
says President and COO Robert G. Scott. But Morgan Stanley was
prepared for the very toughest reality. It had not just one, but three,
recovery sites where employees could congregate and business
could take place if work locales were ever disrupted. “Multiple
backup sites seemed like an incredible extravagance on September
10,” concedes Scott. “But on September 12, they seemed like genius.”
Maybe it was genius; it was undoubtedly resilience at work. The
fact is, when we truly stare down reality, we prepare ourselves to act
in ways that allow us to endure and survive extraordinary hardship.
We train ourselves how to survive before the fact.
The Search for Meaning
The ability to see reality is closely linked to the second building
block of resilience, the propensity to make meaning of terrible
times. We all know people who, under duress, throw up their hands
and cry, “How can this be happening to me?” Such people see them-
selves as victims, and living through hardship carries no lessons for
them. But resilient people devise constructs about their suffering to
create some sort of meaning for themselves and others.
I have a friend I’ll call Jackie Oiseaux who suffered repeated psy-
choses over a ten-year period due to an undiagnosed bipolar disor-
der. Today, she holds down a big job in one of the top publishing
companies in the country, has a family, and is a prominent member
of her church community. When people ask her how she bounced
back from her crises, she runs her hands through her hair. “People
sometimes say, ‘Why me?’ But I’ve always said, ‘Why not me?’ True,
I lost many things during my illness,” she says, “but I found many
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
55
more—incredible friends who saw me through the bleakest times
and who will give meaning to my life forever.”
This dynamic of meaning making is, most researchers agree, the
way resilient people build bridges from present-day hardships to a
fuller, better constructed future. Those bridges make the present
manageable, for lack of a better word, removing the sense that the
present is overwhelming. This concept was beautifully articulated by
Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and an Auschwitz survivor.
In the midst of staggering suffering, Frankl invented “meaning ther-
apy,” a humanistic therapy technique that helps individuals make the
kinds of decisions that will create significance in their lives.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl described the piv-
otal moment in the camp when he developed meaning therapy. He
was on his way to work one day, worrying whether he should trade
his last cigarette for a bowl of soup. He wondered how he was going
to work with a new foreman whom he knew to be particularly sadis-
tic. Suddenly, he was disgusted by just how trivial and meaningless
his life had become. He realized that to survive, he had to find some
purpose. Frankl did so by imagining himself giving a lecture after the
war on the psychology of the concentration camp, to help outsiders
understand what he had been through. Although he wasn’t even
sure he would survive, Frankl created some concrete goals for him-
self. In doing so, he succeeded in rising above the sufferings of the
moment. As he put it in his book: “We must never forget that we may
also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situ-
ation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.”
Frankl’s theory underlies most resilience coaching in business.
Indeed, I was struck by how often businesspeople referred to his
work. “Resilience training—what we call hardiness—is a way for us
to help people construct meaning in their everyday lives,” explains
Salvatore R. Maddi, a University of California, Irvine psychology pro-
fessor and the director of the Hardiness Institute in Newport Beach,
California. “When people realize the power of resilience training,
they often say, ‘Doc, is this what psychotherapy is?’ But psychother-
apy is for people whose lives have fallen apart badly and need repair.
We see our work as showing people life skills and attitudes. Maybe
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those things should be taught at home, maybe they should be taught
in schools, but they’re not. So we end up doing it in business.”
Yet the challenge confronting resilience trainers is often more dif-
ficult than we might imagine. Meaning can be elusive, and just
because you found it once doesn’t mean you’ll keep it or find it
again. Consider Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who survived the war
against the Nazis, imprisonment in the gulag, and cancer. Yet when
he moved to a farm in peaceful, safe Vermont, he could not cope
with the “infantile West.” He was unable to discern any real meaning
in what he felt to be the destructive and irresponsible freedom of the
West. Upset by his critics, he withdrew into his farmhouse, behind a
locked fence, seldom to be seen in public. In 1994, a bitter man,
Solzhenitsyn moved back to Russia.
Since finding meaning in one’s environment is such an important
aspect of resilience, it should come as no surprise that the most suc-
cessful organizations and people possess strong value systems.
Strong values infuse an environment with meaning because they
offer ways to interpret and shape events. While it’s popular these
days to ridicule values, it’s surely no coincidence that the most
resilient organization in the world has been the Catholic Church,
which has survived wars, corruption, and schism for more than
2,000 years, thanks largely to its immutable set of values. Businesses
that survive also have their creeds, which give them purposes be-
yond just making money. Strikingly, many companies describe their
value systems in religious terms. Pharmaceutical giant Johnson &
Johnson, for instance, calls its value system, set out in a document
given to every new employee at orientation, the Credo. Parcel com-
pany UPS talks constantly about its Noble Purpose.
Value systems at resilient companies change very little over the
years and are used as scaffolding in times of trouble. UPS Chairman
and CEO Mike Eskew believes that the Noble Purpose helped the com-
pany to rally after the agonizing strike in 1997. Says Eskew: “It was a
hugely difficult time, like a family feud. Everyone had close friends on
both sides of the fence, and it was tough for us to pick sides. But what
saved us was our Noble Purpose. Whatever side people were on, they
all shared a common set of values. Those values are core to us and
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
57
never change; they frame most of our important decisions. Our
strategy and our mission may change, but our values never do.”
The religious connotations of words like “credo,” “values,” and
“noble purpose,” however, should not be confused with the actual
content of the values. Companies can hold ethically questionable
values and still be very resilient. Consider Phillip Morris, which has
demonstrated impressive resilience in the face of increasing unpop-
ularity. As Jim Collins points out, Phillip Morris has very strong val-
ues, although we might not agree with them—for instance, the value
of “adult choice.” But there’s no doubt that Phillip Morris executives
believe strongly in its values, and the strength of their beliefs sets
the company apart from most of the other tobacco companies. In
this context, it is worth noting that resilience is neither ethically
good nor bad. It is merely the skill and the capacity to be robust
under conditions of enormous stress and change. As Viktor Frankl
wrote: “On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who,
after years of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in
their fight for existence; they were prepared to use every means,
honest and otherwise, even brutal . . ., in order to save themselves.
We who have come back . . . we know: The best of us did not return.”
Values, positive or negative, are actually more important for orga-
nizational resilience than having resilient people on the payroll. If
resilient employees are all interpreting reality in different ways,
their decisions and actions may well conflict, calling into doubt the
survival of their organization. And as the weakness of an organiza-
tion becomes apparent, highly resilient individuals are more likely
to jettison the organization than to imperil their own survival.
Ritualized Ingenuity
The third building block of resilience is the ability to make do with
whatever is at hand. Psychologists follow the lead of French anthro-
pologist Claude Levi-Strauss in calling this skill bricolage.1 Intriguingly,
the roots of that word are closely tied to the concept of resilience,
which literally means “bouncing back.” Says Levi-Strauss: “In its old
sense, the verb bricoler . . . was always used with reference to some
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58
extraneous movement: a ball rebounding, a dog straying, or a horse
swerving from its direct course to avoid an obstacle.”
Bricolage in the modern sense can be defined as a kind of
inventiveness, an ability to improvise a solution to a problem with-
out proper or obvious tools or materials. Bricoleurs are always tin-
kering—building radios from household effects or fixing their own
cars. They make the most of what they have, putting objects to unfa-
miliar uses. In the concentration camps, for example, resilient in-
mates knew to pocket pieces of string or wire whenever they found
them. The string or wire might later become useful—to fix a pair of
shoes, perhaps, which in freezing conditions might make the differ-
ence between life and death.
When situations unravel, bricoleurs muddle through, imagining
possibilities where others are confounded. I have two friends, whom
I’ll call Paul Shields and Mike Andrews, who were roommates through-
out their college years. To no one’s surprise, when they graduated,
they set up a business together, selling educational materials to
schools, businesses, and consulting firms. At first, the company was a
great success, making both founders paper millionaires. But the reces-
sion of the early 1990s hit the company hard, and many core clients fell
away. At the same time, Paul experienced a bitter divorce and a depres-
sion that made it impossible for him to work. Mike offered to buy Paul
out but was instead slapped with a lawsuit claiming that Mike was try-
ing to steal the business. At this point, a less resilient person might
have just walked away from the mess. Not Mike. As the case wound
through the courts, he kept the company going any way he could—
constantly morphing the business until he found a model that worked:
going into joint ventures to sell English-language training materials to
Russian and Chinese companies. Later, he branched off into publish-
ing newsletters for clients. At one point, he was even writing video
scripts for his competitors. Thanks to all this bricolage, by the time the
lawsuit was settled in his favor, Mike had an entirely different, and
much more solid, business than the one he had started with.
Bricolage can be practiced on a higher level as well. Richard
Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics, exemplified
what I like to think of as intellectual bricolage. Out of pure curiosity,
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HOW RESILIENCE WORKS
59
Feynman made himself an expert on cracking safes, not only looking
at the mechanics of safecracking but also cobbling together psy-
chological insights about people who used safes and set the locks.
He cracked many of the safes at Los Alamos, for instance, because
he guessed that theoretical physicists would not set the locks with
random code numbers they might forget but would instead use a
sequence with mathematical significance. It turned out that the
three safes containing all the secrets to the atomic bomb were set to
the same mathematical constant, e, whose first six digits are 2.71828.
Resilient organizations are stuffed with bricoleurs, though not all
of them, of course, are Richard Feynmans. Indeed, companies that
survive regard improvisation as a core skill. Consider UPS, which
empowers its drivers to do whatever it takes to deliver packages on
time. Says CEO Eskew: “We tell our employees to get the job done. If
that means they need to improvise, they improvise. Otherwise we
just couldn’t do what we do every day. Just think what can go wrong:
a busted traffic light, a flat tire, a bridge washed out. If a snowstorm
hits Louisville tonight, a group of people will sit together and dis-
cuss how to handle the problem. Nobody tells them to do that. They
come together because it’s our tradition to do so.”
That tradition meant that the company was delivering parcels in
southeast Florida just one day after Hurricane Andrew devastated
the region in 1992, causing billions of dollars in damage. Many peo-
ple were living in their cars because their homes had been destroyed,
yet UPS drivers and managers sorted packages at a diversion site and
made deliveries even to those who were stranded in their cars. It was
largely UPS’s improvisational skills that enabled it to keep function-
ing after the catastrophic hit. And the fact that the company contin-
ued on gave others a sense of purpose or meaning amid the chaos.
Improvisation of the sort practiced by UPS, however, is a far cry
from unbridled creativity. Indeed, much like the military, UPS lives
on rules and regulations. As Eskew says: “Drivers always put their
keys in the same place. They close the doors the same way. They wear
their uniforms the same way. We are a company of precision.” He be-
lieves that although they may seem stifling, UPS’s rules were what
allowed the company to bounce back immediately after Hurricane
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60
Andrew, for they enabled people to focus on the one or two fixes
they needed to make in order to keep going.
Eskew’s opinion is echoed by Karl E. Weick, a professor of organi-
zational behavior at the University of Michigan Business School in
Ann Arbor and one of the most respected thinkers on organizational
psychology. “There is good evidence that when people are put under
pressure, they regress to their most habituated ways of responding,”
Weick has written. “What we do not expect under life-threatening
pressure is creativity.” In other words, the rules and regulations that
make some companies appear less creative may actually make them
more resilient in times of real turbulence.
Claus Schmidt, the newsman I mentioned earlier, died about five
years ago, but I’m not sure I could have interviewed him about his
own resilience even if he were alive. It would have felt strange,
I think, to ask him, “Claus, did you really face down reality? Did you
make meaning out of your hardships? Did you improvise your recov-
ery after each professional and personal disaster?” He may not have
been able to answer. In my experience, resilient people don’t often
describe themselves that way. They shrug off their survival stories
and very often assign them to luck.
Obviously, luck does have a lot to do with surviving. It was luck
that Morgan Stanley was situated in the south tower and could put
its preparedness training to work. But being lucky is not the same as
being resilient. Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understand-
ing the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul.
Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make
meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise
solutions from thin air. Others do not. This is the nature of resilience,
and we will never completely understand it.
Originally published in May 2002. Reprint R0205B
Note
1. See, e.g., Karl E. Weick, “The Collapse of Sense-making in Organizations: The
Mann Gulch Disaster,” Administrative Science Quarterly, December 1993.
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61
S
Manage Your Energy,
Not Your Time
by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy
STEVE WANNER IS A HIGHLY respected 37-year-old partner at Ernst &
Young, married with four young children. When we met him a year
ago, he was working 12- to 14-hour days, felt perpetually exhausted,
and found it difficult to fully engage with his family in the evenings,
which left him feeling guilty and dissatisfied. He slept poorly, made
no time to exercise, and seldom ate healthy meals, instead grabbing
a bite to eat on the run or while working at his desk.
Wanner’s experience is not uncommon. Most of us respond to ris-
ing demands in the workplace by putting in longer hours, which
inevitably take a toll on us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
That leads to declining levels of engagement, increasing levels of
distraction, high turnover rates, and soaring medical costs among
employees. We at the Energy Project have worked with thousands of
leaders and managers in the course of doing consulting and coach-
ing at large organizations during the past five years. With remarkable
consistency, these executives tell us they’re pushing themselves
harder than ever to keep up and increasingly feel they are at a break-
ing point.
The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite
resource. Energy is a different story. Defined in physics as the capac-
ity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human
beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be
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systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing spe-
cific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely
scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and auto-
matic as quickly as possible.
To effectively reenergize their workforces, organizations need to
shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing
more in them, so they are motivated—and able—to bring more of
themselves to work every day. To recharge themselves, individuals
need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then
take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circum-
stances they’re facing.
The rituals and behaviors Wanner established to better manage
his energy transformed his life. He set an earlier bedtime and gave
up drinking, which had disrupted his sleep. As a consequence, when
he woke up he felt more rested and more motivated to exercise,
which he now does almost every morning. In less than two months
he lost 15 pounds. After working out he now sits down with his fam-
ily for breakfast. Wanner still puts in long hours on the job, but he
renews himself regularly along the way. He leaves his desk for lunch
and usually takes a morning and an afternoon walk outside. When
he arrives at home in the evening, he’s more relaxed and better able
to connect with his wife and children.
Establishing simple rituals like these can lead to striking results
across organizations. At Wachovia Bank, we took a group of employ-
ees through a pilot energy management program and then measured
their performance against that of a control group. The participants
outperformed the controls on a series of financial metrics, such
as the value of loans they generated. They also reported substantial
improvements in their customer relationships, their engagement
with work, and their personal satisfaction. In this article, we’ll
describe the Wachovia study in a little more detail. Then we’ll explain
what executives and managers can do to increase and regularly
renew work capacity—the approach used by the Energy Project,
which builds on, deepens, and extends several core concepts devel-
oped by Tony’s former partner Jim Loehr in his seminal work with
athletes.
SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
62
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
63
Idea in Brief
Organizations are demanding
ever-higher performance from
their workforces. People are
trying to comply, but the usual
method—putting in longer hours—
has backfired. They’re getting
exhausted, disengaged, and sick.
And they’re defecting to healthier
job environments.
Longer days at the office don’t
work because time is a limited
resource. But personal energy
is renewable, say Schwartz and
McCarthy. By fostering deceptively
simple rituals that help employ-
ees regularly replenish their en-
ergy, organizations build workers’
physical, emotional, and mental
resilience. These rituals include
taking brief breaks at specific
intervals, expressing appreciation
to others, reducing interruptions,
and spending more time on activi-
ties people do best and enjoy most.
Help your employees systemati-
cally rejuvenate their personal
energy, and the benefits go straight
to your bottom line. Take Wachovia
Bank: Participants in an energy
renewal program produced 13 per-
centage points greater year-over-
year in revenues from loans than
a control group did. And they
exceeded the control group’s
gains in revenues from deposits
by 20 percentage points.
Linking Capacity and Performance at Wachovia
Most large organizations invest in developing employees’ skills,
knowledge, and competence. Very few help build and sustain their
capacity—their energy—which is typically taken for granted. In fact,
greater capacity makes it possible to get more done in less time at a
higher level of engagement and with more sustainability. Our expe-
rience at Wachovia bore this out.
In early 2006 we took 106 employees at 12 regional banks in
southern New Jersey through a curriculum of four modules, each of
which focused on specific strategies for strengthening one of the
four main dimensions of energy. We delivered it at one-month inter-
vals to groups of approximately 20 to 25, ranging from senior leaders
to lower-level managers. We also assigned each attendee a fellow
employee as a source of support between sessions. Using Wachovia’s
own key performance metrics, we evaluated how the participant
group performed compared with a group of employees at similar
levels at a nearby set of Wachovia banks who did not go through the
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
64
Idea in Practice
Schwartz and McCarthy recommend
these practices for renewing four
dimensions of personal energy.
Physical Energy
• Enhance your sleep by setting
an earlier bedtime and reducing
alcohol use.
• Reduce stress by engaging in
cardiovascular activity at least
three times a week and strength
training at least once.
• Eat small meals and light
snacks every three hours.
• Learn to notice signs of immi-
nent energy flagging, including
restlessness, yawning, hunger,
and difficulty concentrating.
• Take brief but regular breaks,
away from your desk, at 90- to
120-minute intervals through-
out the day.
Emotional Energy
• Defuse negative emotions—
irritability, impatience, anxiety,
insecurity—through deep
abdominal breathing.
• Fuel positive emotions in your-
self and others by regularly
expressing appreciation to
others in detailed, specific
terms through notes, e-mails,
calls, or conversations.
• Look at upsetting situations
through new lenses. Adopt a
“reverse lens” to ask, “What
would the other person in this
conflict say, and how might he
be right?” Use a “long lens”
to ask, “How will I likely view
this situation in six months?”
Employ a “wide lens” to ask,
“How can I grow and learn
from this situation?”
Mental Energy
• Reduce interruptions by per-
forming high-concentration tasks
away from phones and e-mail.
• Respond to voice mails and
e-mails at designated times
during the day.
training. To create a credible basis for comparison, we looked at year-
over-year percentage changes in performance across several metrics.
On a measure called the “Big 3”—revenues from three kinds of
loans—the participants showed a year-over-year increase that was
13 percentage points greater than the control group’s in the first
three months of our study. On revenues from deposits, the partici-
pants exceeded the control group’s year-over-year gain by 20 percent-
age points during that same period. The precise gains varied month
by month, but with only a handful of exceptions, the participants
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
65
• Every night, identify the most
important challenge for the
next day. Then make it your
first priority when you arrive
at work in the morning.
Spiritual Energy
• Identify your “sweet spot”
activities—those that give
you feelings of effectiveness,
effortless absorption, and
fulfillment. Find ways to do
more of these. One executive
who hated doing sales reports
delegated them to someone
who loved that activity.
• Allocate time and energy to
what you consider most
important. For example,
spend the last 20 minutes
of your evening commute
relaxing, so you can connect
with your family once you’re
home.
• Live your core values. For
instance, if consideration is
important to you but you’re
perpetually late for meetings,
practice intentionally showing
up five minutes early for
meetings.
How Companies Can Help
To support energy renewal rituals
in your firm:
• Build “renewal rooms” where
people can go to relax and re-
fuel.
• Subsidize gym memberships.
• Encourage managers to gather
employees for midday workouts.
• Suggest that people stop
checking e-mails during
meetings.
continued to significantly outperform the control group for a full year
after completing the program. Although other variables undoubtedly
influenced these outcomes, the participants’ superior performance
was notable in its consistency. (See the exhibit “How Energy Renewal
Programs Boosted Productivity at Wachovia.”)
We also asked participants how the program influenced them per-
sonally. Sixty-eight percent reported that it had a positive impact on
their relationships with clients and customers. Seventy-one percent
said that it had a noticeable or substantial positive impact on their
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
66
How energy renewal programs boosted productivity
at Wachovia
At Wachovia Bank, employees participating in an energy renewal program
outperformed a control group of employees, demonstrating significantly
greater improvements in year-over-year performance during the first
quarter of 2006.
Participants
Control group
Percentage increase in deposit revenues
0 10
*From three critical kinds of loans
20 30 40 50
Percentage increase in loan revenues*
Participants
Control group
0 10 20 30 40 50
productivity and performance. These findings corroborated a raft of
anecdotal evidence we’ve gathered about the effectiveness of this
approach among leaders at other large companies such as Ernst &
Young, Sony, Deutsche Bank, Nokia, ING Direct, Ford, and MasterCard.
The Body: Physical Energy
Our program begins by focusing on physical energy. It is scarcely
news that inadequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest diminish
people’s basic energy levels, as well as their ability to manage their
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
67
emotions and focus their attention. Nonetheless, many executives
don’t find ways to practice consistently healthy behaviors, given all
the other demands in their lives.
Before participants in our program begin to explore ways to in-
crease their physical energy, they take an energy audit, which includes
four questions in each energy dimension—body, emotions, mind,
and spirit. (See the exhibit “Are You Headed for an Energy Crisis?”)
On average, participants get eight to ten of those 16 questions
“wrong,” meaning they’re doing things such as skipping breakfast,
failing to express appreciation to others, struggling to focus on one
thing at a time, or spending too little time on activities that give
them a sense of purpose. While most participants aren’t surprised to
learn these behaviors are counterproductive, having them all listed
in one place is often uncomfortable, sobering, and galvanizing. The
audit highlights employees’ greatest energy deficits. Participants
also fill out charts designed to raise their awareness about how their
exercise, diet, and sleep practices influence their energy levels.
The next step is to identify rituals for building and renewing
physical energy. When Gary Faro, a vice president at Wachovia,
began the program, he was significantly overweight, ate poorly,
lacked a regular exercise routine, worked long hours, and typically
slept no more than five or six hours a night. That is not an unusual
profile among the leaders and managers we see. Over the course of
the program, Faro began regular cardiovascular and strength train-
ing. He started going to bed at a designated time and sleeping longer.
He changed his eating habits from two big meals a day (“Where
I usually gorged myself,” he says) to smaller meals and light snacks
every three hours. The aim was to help him stabilize his glucose lev-
els over the course of the day, avoiding peaks and valleys. He lost
50 pounds in the process, and his energy levels soared. “I used to
schedule tough projects for the morning, when I knew that I would
be more focused,” Faro says. “I don’t have to do that anymore
because I find that I’m just as focused now at 5 PM as I am at 8 AM.”
Another key ritual Faro adopted was to take brief but regular
breaks at specific intervals throughout the workday—always leaving
his desk. The value of such breaks is grounded in our physiology.
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
68
Are you headed for an energy crisis?
Please check the statements below that are true for you.
Body
I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake
up feeling tired.
I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.
I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times
a week and strength training at least once a week).
I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or
I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all.
Emotions
I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work,
especially when work is demanding.
I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with
them, I’m not always really with them.
I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to
savor my accomplishments and blessings.
Mind
I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted
during the day, especially by e-mail.
I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather
than focusing on activities with longer-term value and high leverage.
I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.
I work in the evenings or on weekends, and I almost never take an e-mail–free
vacation.
Spirit
I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most.
There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my
life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.
My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than
by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others
or to the world.
How is your overall energy?
Total number of statements checked: —
Guide to scores
0–3: Excellent energy management skills
4–6: Reasonable energy management skills
(continued)
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
69
7–10: Significant energy management deficits
11–16: A full-fledged energy management crisis
What do you need to work on?
Number of checks in each category:
Body ___
Mind ___
Emotions ___
Spirit ___
Guide to category scores
0: Excellent energy management skills
1: Strong energy management skills
2: Significant deficits
3: Poor energy management skills
4: A full-fledged energy crisis
“Ultradian rhythms” refer to 90- to 120-minute cycles during which
our bodies slowly move from a high-energy state into a physiological
trough. Toward the end of each cycle, the body begins to crave a
period of recovery. The signals include physical restlessness, yawn-
ing, hunger, and difficulty concentrating, but many of us ignore them
and keep working. The consequence is that our energy reservoir—
our remaining capacity—burns down as the day wears on.
Intermittent breaks for renewal, we have found, result in higher
and more sustainable performance. The length of renewal is less
important than the quality. It is possible to get a great deal of recovery
in a short time—as little as several minutes—if it involves a ritual that
allows you to disengage from work and truly change channels. That
could range from getting up to talk to a colleague about something
other than work, to listening to music on an iPod, to walking up and
down stairs in an office building. While breaks are countercultural in
most organizations and counterintuitive for many high achievers,
their value is multifaceted.
Matthew Lang is a managing director for Sony in South Africa.
He adopted some of the same rituals that Faro did, including a
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
70
20-minute walk in the afternoons. Lang’s walk not only gives him
a mental and emotional breather and some exercise but also has
become the time when he gets his best creative ideas. That’s because
when he walks he is not actively thinking, which allows the dominant
left hemisphere of his brain to give way to the right hemisphere with
its greater capacity to see the big picture and make imaginative leaps.
The Emotions: Quality of Energy
When people are able to take more control of their emotions, they
can improve the quality of their energy, regardless of the external
pressures they’re facing. To do this, they first must become more
aware of how they feel at various points during the workday and of
the impact these emotions have on their effectiveness. Most people
realize that they tend to perform best when they’re feeling positive
energy. What they find surprising is that they’re not able to perform
well or to lead effectively when they’re feeling any other way.
Unfortunately, without intermittent recovery, we’re not physio-
logically capable of sustaining highly positive emotions for long
periods. Confronted with relentless demands and unexpected chal-
lenges, people tend to slip into negative emotions—the fight-or-
flight mode—often multiple times in a day. They become irritable
and impatient, or anxious and insecure. Such states of mind drain
people’s energy and cause friction in their relationships. Fight-or-
flight emotions also make it impossible to think clearly, logically,
and reflectively. When executives learn to recognize what kinds of
events trigger their negative emotions, they gain greater capacity to
take control of their reactions.
One simple but powerful ritual for defusing negative emotions is
what we call “buying time.” Deep abdominal breathing is one way to
do that. Exhaling slowly for five or six seconds induces relaxation
and recovery, and turns off the fight-or-flight response. When we
began working with Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe, he had
a habit of lighting up a cigarette each time something especially
stressful occurred—at least two or three times a day. Otherwise, he
didn’t smoke. We taught him the breathing exercise as an alternative,
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
71
and it worked immediately: Nishida found he no longer had the de-
sire for a cigarette. It wasn’t the smoking that had given him relief
from the stress, we concluded, but the relaxation prompted by the
deep inhalation and exhalation.
A powerful ritual that fuels positive emotions is expressing appre-
ciation to others, a practice that seems to be as beneficial to the giver
as to the receiver. It can take the form of a handwritten note, an
e-mail, a call, or a conversation—and the more detailed and specific,
the higher the impact. As with all rituals, setting aside a particular
time to do it vastly increases the chances of success. Ben Jenkins,
vice chairman and president of the General Bank at Wachovia in
Charlotte, North Carolina, built his appreciation ritual into time set
aside for mentoring. He began scheduling lunches or dinners regu-
larly with people who worked for him. Previously, the only sit-downs
he’d had with his direct reports were to hear monthly reports on their
numbers or to give them yearly performance reviews. Now, over
meals, he makes it a priority to recognize their accomplishments and
also to talk with them about their lives and their aspirations rather
than their immediate work responsibilities.
Finally, people can cultivate positive emotions by learning to
change the stories they tell themselves about the events in their lives.
Often, people in conflict cast themselves in the role of victim, blam-
ing others or external circumstances for their problems. Becoming
aware of the difference between the facts in a given situation and the
way we interpret those facts can be powerful in itself. It’s been a rev-
elation for many of the people we work with to discover they have a
choice about how to view a given event and to recognize how power-
fully the story they tell influences the emotions they feel. We teach
them to tell the most hopeful and personally empowering story pos-
sible in any given situation, without denying or minimizing the facts.
The most effective way people can change a story is to view it
through any of three new lenses, which are all alternatives to seeing
the world from the victim perspective. With the reverse lens, for ex-
ample, people ask themselves, “What would the other person in this
conflict say and in what ways might that be true?” With the long lens
they ask, “How will I most likely view this situation in six months?”
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
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With the wide lens they ask themselves, “Regardless of the outcome
of this issue, how can I grow and learn from it?” Each of these lenses
can help people intentionally cultivate more positive emotions.
Nicolas Babin, director of corporate communications for Sony
Europe, was the point person for calls from reporters when Sony
went through several recalls of its batteries in 2006. Over time he
found his work increasingly exhausting and dispiriting. After prac-
ticing the lens exercises, he began finding ways to tell himself a
more positive and empowering story about his role. “I realized,” he
explains, “that this was an opportunity for me to build stronger rela-
tionships with journalists by being accessible to them and to increase
Sony’s credibility by being straightforward and honest.”
The Mind: Focus of Energy
Many executives view multitasking as a necessity in the face of all
the demands they juggle, but it actually undermines productivity.
Distractions are costly: A temporary shift in attention from one task
to another—stopping to answer an e-mail or take a phone call, for
instance—increases the amount of time necessary to finish the pri-
mary task by as much as 25%, a phenomenon known as “switching
time.” It’s far more efficient to fully focus for 90 to 120 minutes, take
a true break, and then fully focus on the next activity. We refer to
these work periods as “ultradian sprints.”
Once people see how much they struggle to concentrate, they can
create rituals to reduce the relentless interruptions that technology
has introduced in their lives. We start out with an exercise that
forces them to face the impact of daily distractions. They attempt to
complete a complex task and are regularly interrupted—an experi-
ence that, people report, ends up feeling much like everyday life.
Dan Cluna, a vice president at Wachovia, designed two rituals to
better focus his attention. The first one is to leave his desk and go
into a conference room, away from phones and e-mail, whenever he
has a task that requires concentration. He now finishes reports in a
third of the time they used to require. Cluna built his second ritual
around meetings at branches with the financial specialists who
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
73
report to him. Previously, he would answer his phone whenever it
rang during these meetings. As a consequence, the meetings he
scheduled for an hour often stretched to two, and he rarely gave any-
one his full attention. Now Cluna lets his phone go to voice mail, so
that he can focus completely on the person in front of him. He now
answers the accumulated voice-mail messages when he has down-
time between meetings.
E&Y’s hard-charging Wanner used to answer e-mail constantly
throughout the day—whenever he heard a “ping.” Then he created
a ritual of checking his e-mail just twice a day—at 10:15 AM and
2:30 PM. Whereas previously he couldn’t keep up with all his mes-
sages, he discovered he could clear his in-box each time he opened it—
the reward of fully focusing his attention on e-mail for 45 minutes at a
time. Wanner has also reset the expectations of all the people he regu-
larly communicates with by e-mail. “I’ve told them if it’s an emergency
and they need an instant response, they can call me and I’ll always pick
up,” he says. Nine months later he has yet to receive such a call.
Michael Henke, a senior manager at E&Y, sat his team down at the
start of the busy season last winter and told them that at certain
points during the day he was going to turn off his Sametime (an
in-house instant-message system). The result, he said, was that he
would be less available to them for questions. Like Wanner, he told
his team to call him if any emergency arose, but they rarely did. He
also encouraged the group to take regular breaks throughout the day
and to eat more regularly. They finished the busy season under
budget and more profitable than other teams that hadn’t followed
the energy renewal program. “We got the same amount of work
done in less time,” says Henke. “It made for a win-win.”
Another way to mobilize mental energy is to focus systematically
on activities that have the most long-term leverage. Unless people
intentionally schedule time for more challenging work, they tend
not to get to it at all or rush through it at the last minute. Perhaps the
most effective focus ritual the executives we work with have adopted
is to identify each night the most important challenge for the next
day and make it their very first priority when they arrive in the
morning. Jean Luc Duquesne, a vice president for Sony Europe in
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
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Paris, used to answer his e-mail as soon as he got to the office, just as
many people do. He now tries to concentrate the first hour of every
day on the most important topic. He finds that he often emerges at
10 AM feeling as if he’s already had a productive day.
The Human Spirit: Energy of Meaning and Purpose
People tap into the energy of the human spirit when their everyday
work and activities are consistent with what they value most and with
what gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. If the work they’re
doing really matters to them, they typically feel more positive energy,
focus better, and demonstrate greater perseverance. Regrettably, the
high demands and fast pace of corporate life don’t leave much time to
pay attention to these issues, and many people don’t even recognize
meaning and purpose as potential sources of energy. Indeed, if we
tried to begin our program by focusing on the human spirit, it would
likely have minimal impact. Only when participants have experienced
the value of the rituals they establish in the other dimensions do they
start to see that being attentive to their own deeper needs dramati-
cally influences their effectiveness and satisfaction at work.
For E&Y partner Jonathan Anspacher, simply having the opportu-
nity to ask himself a series of questions about what really mattered
to him was both illuminating and energizing. “I think it’s important
to be a little introspective and say, ‘What do you want to be remem-
bered for?’” he told us. “You don’t want to be remembered as the
crazy partner who worked these long hours and had his people be
miserable. When my kids call me and ask, ‘Can you come to my band
concert?’ I want to say, ‘Yes, I’ll be there and I’ll be in the front row.’
I don’t want to be the father that comes in and sits in the back and is
on his Blackberry and has to step out to take a phone call.”
To access the energy of the human spirit, people need to clarify
priorities and establish accompanying rituals in three categories:
doing what they do best and enjoy most at work; consciously allo-
cating time and energy to the areas of their lives—work, family,
health, service to others—they deem most important; and living
their core values in their daily behaviors.
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
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When you’re attempting to discover what you do best and what
you enjoy most, it’s important to realize that these two things aren’t
necessarily mutually inclusive. You may get lots of positive feedback
about something you’re very good at but not truly enjoy it. Con-
versely, you can love doing something but have no gift for it, so that
achieving success requires much more energy than it makes sense to
invest.
To help program participants discover their areas of strength, we
ask them to recall at least two work experiences in the past several
months during which they found themselves in their “sweet spot”—
feeling effective, effortlessly absorbed, inspired, and fulfilled. Then
we have them deconstruct those experiences to understand pre-
cisely what energized them so positively and what specific talents
they were drawing on. If leading strategy feels like a sweet spot, for
example, is it being in charge that’s most invigorating or participat-
ing in a creative endeavor? Or is it using a skill that comes to you eas-
ily and so feels good to exercise? Finally, we have people establish
a ritual that will encourage them to do more of exactly that kind of
activity at work.
A senior leader we worked with realized that one of the activities
he least liked was reading and summarizing detailed sales reports,
whereas one of his favorites was brainstorming new strategies. The
leader found a direct report who loved immersing himself in num-
bers and delegated the sales report task to him—happily settling for
brief oral summaries from him each day. The leader also began
scheduling a free-form 90-minute strategy session every other week
with the most creative people in his group.
In the second category, devoting time and energy to what’s
important to you, there is often a similar divide between what peo-
ple say is important and what they actually do. Rituals can help close
this gap. When Jean Luc Duquesne, the Sony Europe vice president,
thought hard about his personal priorities, he realized that spending
time with his family was what mattered most to him, but it often got
squeezed out of his day. So he instituted a ritual in which he
switches off for at least three hours every evening when he gets
home, so he can focus on his family. “I’m still not an expert on
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
76
PlayStation,” he told us, “but according to my youngest son, I’m
learning and I’m a good student.” Steve Wanner, who used to talk on
the cell phone all the way to his front door on his commute home,
has chosen a specific spot 20 minutes from his house where he ends
whatever call he’s on and puts away the phone. He spends the rest of
his commute relaxing so that when he does arrive home, he’s less
preoccupied with work and more available to his wife and children.
The third category, practicing your core values in your everyday
behavior, is a challenge for many as well. Most people are living at
such a furious pace that they rarely stop to ask themselves what they
stand for and who they want to be. As a consequence, they let exter-
nal demands dictate their actions.
We don’t suggest that people explicitly define their values, because
the results are usually too predictable. Instead, we seek to uncover
them, in part by asking questions that are inadvertently revealing,
such as, “What are the qualities that you find most off-putting when
you see them in others?” By describing what they can’t stand, people
unintentionally divulge what they stand for. If you are very offended
by stinginess, for example, generosity is probably one of your key val-
ues. If you are especially put off by rudeness in others, it’s likely that
consideration is a high value for you. As in the other categories, estab-
lishing rituals can help bridge the gap between the values you aspire
to and how you currently behave. If you discover that consideration is
a key value, but you are perpetually late for meetings, the ritual might
be to end the meetings you run five minutes earlier than usual and in-
tentionally show up five minutes early for the meeting that follows.
Addressing these three categories helps people go a long way
toward achieving a greater sense of alignment, satisfaction, and
well-being in their lives on and off the job. Those feelings are a
source of positive energy in their own right and reinforce people’s
desire to persist at rituals in other energy dimensions as well.
This new way of working takes hold only to the degree that organiza-
tions support their people in adopting new behaviors. We have
learned, sometimes painfully, that not all executives and companies
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MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME
77
are prepared to embrace the notion that personal renewal for employ-
ees will lead to better and more sustainable performance. To suc-
ceed, renewal efforts need solid support and commitment from
senior management, beginning with the key decision maker.
At Wachovia, Susanne Svizeny, the president of the region in
which we conducted our study, was the primary cheerleader for
the program. She embraced the principles in her own life and made
a series of personal changes, including a visible commitment to
building more regular renewal rituals into her work life. Next, she
took it upon herself to foster the excitement and commitment of her
leadership team. Finally, she regularly reached out by e-mail to all
participants in the project to encourage them in their rituals and
seek their feedback. It was clear to everyone that she took the work
seriously. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and the results spoke for
themselves.
At Sony Europe, several hundred leaders have embraced the prin-
ciples of energy management. Over the next year, more than 2,000 of
their direct reports will go through the energy renewal program.
From Fujio Nishida on down, it has become increasingly culturally
acceptable at Sony to take intermittent breaks, work out at midday,
answer e-mail only at designated times, and even ask colleagues who
seem irritable or impatient what stories they’re telling themselves.
Organizational support also entails shifts in policies, practices,
and cultural messages. A number of firms we worked with have built
“renewal rooms” where people can regularly go to relax and refuel.
Others offer subsidized gym memberships. In some cases, leaders
themselves gather groups of employees for midday workouts. One
company instituted a no-meeting zone between 8 and 9 AM to ensure
that people had at least one hour absolutely free of meetings. At
several companies, including Sony, senior leaders collectively agreed
to stop checking e-mail during meetings as a way to make the meet-
ings more focused and efficient.
One factor that can get in the way of success is a crisis mentality.
The optimal candidates for energy renewal programs are organizations
that are feeling enough pain to be eager for new solutions but not so
much that they’re completely overwhelmed. At one organization
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SCHWARTZ AND MCCARTHY
78
where we had the active support of the CEO, the company was under
intense pressure to grow rapidly, and the senior team couldn’t tear
themselves away from their focus on immediate survival—even
though taking time out for renewal might have allowed them to be
more productive at a more sustainable level.
By contrast, the group at Ernst & Young successfully went through
the process at the height of tax season. With the permission of their
leaders, they practiced defusing negative emotions by breathing or
telling themselves different stories, and alternated highly focused
periods of work with renewal breaks. Most people in the group
reported that this busy season was the least stressful they’d ever
experienced.
The implicit contract between organizations and their employees
today is that each will try to get as much from the other as they can,
as quickly as possible, and then move on without looking back. We
believe that is mutually self-defeating. Both individuals and the or-
ganizations they work for end up depleted rather than enriched.
Employees feel increasingly beleaguered and burned out. Organiza-
tions are forced to settle for employees who are less than fully
engaged and to constantly hire and train new people to replace those
who choose to leave. We envision a new and explicit contract that
benefits all parties: Organizations invest in their people across all di-
mensions of their lives to help them build and sustain their value.
Individuals respond by bringing all their multidimensional energy
wholeheartedly to work every day. Both grow in value as a result.
Originally published in October 2007. Reprint R0710B
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79
D
Overloaded Circuits
by Edward M. Hallowell
DAVID DRUMS HIS FINGERS on his desk as he scans the e-mail on his
computer screen. At the same time, he’s talking on the phone to an
executive halfway around the world. His knee bounces up and down
like a jackhammer. He intermittently bites his lip and reaches for his
constant companion, the coffee cup. He’s so deeply involved in mul-
titasking that he has forgotten the appointment his Outlook calendar
reminded him of 15 minutes ago.
Jane, a senior vice president, and Mike, her CEO, have adjoining
offices so they can communicate quickly, yet communication never
seems to happen. “Whenever I go into Mike’s office, his phone lights
up, my cell phone goes off, someone knocks on the door, he sud-
denly turns to his screen and writes an e-mail, or he tells me about a
new issue he wants me to address,” Jane complains. “We’re working
flat out just to stay afloat, and we’re not getting anything important
accomplished. It’s driving me crazy.”
David, Jane, and Mike aren’t crazy, but they’re certainly crazed.
Their experience is becoming the norm for overworked managers
who suffer—like many of your colleagues, and possibly like you—
from a very real but unrecognized neurological phenomenon that
I call attention deficit trait, or ADT. Caused by brain overload, ADT
is now epidemic in organizations. The core symptoms are distractibil-
ity, inner frenzy, and impatience. People with ADT have difficulty
staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time. These symp-
toms can undermine the work of an otherwise gifted executive. If
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David, Jane, Mike, and the millions like them understood themselves
in neurological terms, they could actively manage their lives instead
of reacting to problems as they happen.
As a psychiatrist who has diagnosed and treated thousands of
people over the past 25 years for a medical condition called attention
deficit disorder, or ADD (now known clinically as attention-deficit/
hyperactivity disorder), I have observed firsthand how a rapidly
growing segment of the adult population is developing this new,
related condition. The number of people with ADT coming into my
clinical practice has mushroomed by a factor of ten in the past
decade. Unfortunately, most of the remedies for chronic overload
proposed by time-management consultants and executive coaches
do not address the underlying causes of ADT.
Unlike ADD, a neurological disorder that has a genetic component
and can be aggravated by environmental and physical factors, ADT
springs entirely from the environment. Like the traffic jam, ADT is
an artifact of modern life. It is brought on by the demands on our
time and attention that have exploded over the past two decades.
As our minds fill with noise—feckless synaptic events signifying
nothing—the brain gradually loses its capacity to attend fully and
thoroughly to anything.
The symptoms of ADT come upon a person gradually. The suf-
ferer doesn’t experience a single crisis but rather a series of minor
emergencies while he or she tries harder and harder to keep up.
Shouldering a responsibility to “suck it up” and not complain as the
workload increases, executives with ADT do whatever they can to
handle a load they simply cannot manage as well as they’d like. The
ADT sufferer therefore feels a constant low level of panic and guilt.
Facing a tidal wave of tasks, the executive becomes increasingly hur-
ried, curt, peremptory, and unfocused, while pretending that every-
thing is fine.
To control ADT, we first have to recognize it. And control it we
must, if we as individuals and organizational leaders are to be effec-
tive. In the following pages, I’ll offer an analysis of the origins of ADT
and provide some suggestions that may help you manage it.
HALLOWELL
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OVERLOADED CIRCUITS
81
Idea in Brief
Frenzied executives who fidget
through meetings, miss appoint-
ments, and jab at the elevator’s
“door close” button aren’t crazy—
just crazed. They’re suffering from
a newly recognized neurological
phenomenon called attention
deficit trait (ADT). Marked by
distractibility, inner frenzy, and
impatience, ADT prevents man-
agers from clarifying priorities,
making smart decisions, and
managing their time. This insidi-
ous condition turns otherwise
talented performers into harried
underachievers. And it’s reaching
epidemic proportions.
ADT isn’t an illness or character
defect. It’s our brains’ natural
response to exploding demands
on our time and attention. As data
increasingly floods our brains, we
lose our ability to solve problems
and handle the unknown. Creativ-
ity shrivels; mistakes multiply.
Some sufferers eventually melt
down.
How to control ADT’s ravaging
impact on performance? Foster
positive emotions by connecting
face-to-face with people you like
throughout the day. Take physical
care of your brain by getting
enough sleep, eating healthfully,
and exercising regularly. Organize
for ADT, designating part of each
day for thinking and planning, and
setting up your office to foster
mental functioning (for example,
keeping part of your desk clear
at all times).
These strategies may seem like
no-brainers. But they’ll help you
vanquish the ADT demon before it
can strike.
Attention Deficit Cousins
To understand the nature and treatment of ADT, it’s useful to know
something of its cousin, ADD.
Usually seen as a learning disability in children, ADD also afflicts
about 5% of the adult population. Researchers using MRI scans have
found that people with ADD suffer a slightly diminished volume in
four specific brain regions that have various functions such as mod-
ulating emotion (especially anger and frustration) and assisting in
learning. One of the regions, made up of the frontal and prefrontal
lobes, generates thoughts, makes decisions, sets priorities, and organ-
izes activities. While the medications used to treat ADD don’t change
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HALLOWELL
82
Idea in Practice
How You Can Combat ADT
Promote positive emotions.
Negative emotions—especially
fear—can hamper productive brain
functioning. To promote positive
feelings, especially during highly
stressful times, interact directly
with someone you like at least
every four to six hours. In envi-
ronments where people are in
physical contact with people they
trust, brain functioning hums.
By connecting comfortably with
colleagues, you’ll help your brain’s
“executive” center (responsible
for decision making, planning,
and information prioritizing)
perform at its best.
Take physical care of your brain.
Ample sleep, a good diet, and
exercise are critical for staving
off ADT. You’re getting enough
sleep if you can awake without an
alarm clock. You’re eating well if
you’re avoiding sugar and white
flour and consuming more fruits,
whole grains, vegetables, and
protein instead. You’re exercising
enough if you’re taking a brisk
walk or going up and down a flight
of stairs a few times a day.
Organize for ADT. Instead of get-
ting sucked into the vortices of e-
mail or voice mail first thing in the
morning, attend to a critical task.
With paperwork, apply the OHIO
(“Only handle it once”) rule:
Whenever you touch a document,
act on it, file it, or throw it away.
Do crucial work during times of
the day when you perform at your
best. Use whatever small strate-
gies help you function well men-
tally—whether it’s listening to
music or walking around while
working, or doodling during meet-
ings. And before you leave for the
day, list three to five priority items
you’ll need to address tomorrow.
What Your Company Can Do. In
firms that ignore ADT symptoms,
employees underachieve, create
clutter, and cut corners. Careless
mistakes, illness, and turnover
increase, as people squander
their brainpower. To counteract
ADT and harness employees’
brainpower, invest in amenities
that foster a positive, productive
atmosphere.
Example: Major software com-
pany SAS Institute creates a
warm, connected, and relaxed
work environment by offering
employees perks such as a
seven-hour workday that ends
at 5:00; large on-site gym and
day-care facility; and cafeteria
that provides baby seats and
high chairs so parents can eat
lunch with their children. The
payoff? Employees return the
favors with high productivity.
And SAS’s turnover never
exceeds 5%—saving the com-
pany millions on recruiting,
training, and severance.
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OVERLOADED CIRCUITS
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the anatomy of the brain, they alter brain chemistry, which in turn
improves function in each of the four regions and so dramatically
bolsters the performance of ADD sufferers.
ADD confers both disadvantages and advantages. The negative
characteristics include a tendency to procrastinate and miss dead-
lines. People with ADD struggle with disorganization and tardiness;
they can be forgetful and drift away mentally in the middle of a
conversation or while reading. Their performance can be inconsis-
tent: brilliant one moment and unsatisfactory the next. ADD suffer-
ers also tend to demonstrate impatience and lose focus unless,
oddly enough, they are under stress or handling multiple inputs.
(This is because stress leads to the production of adrenaline, which
is chemically similar to the medications we use to treat ADD.) Fi-
nally, people with ADD sometimes also self-medicate with excessive
alcohol or other substances.
On the positive side, those with ADD usually possess rare talents
and gifts. Those gifts often go unnoticed or undeveloped, however,
because of the problems caused by the condition’s negative symp-
toms. ADD sufferers can be remarkably creative and original. They
are unusually persistent under certain circumstances and often pos-
sess an entrepreneurial flair. They display ingenuity and encourage
that trait in others. They tend to improvise well under pressure.
Because they have the ability to field multiple inputs simultane-
ously, they can be strong leaders during times of change. They also
tend to rebound quickly after setbacks and bring fresh energy to the
company every day.
Executives with ADD typically achieve inconsistent results.
Sometimes they fail miserably because they’re disorganized and
make mistakes. At other times, they perform brilliantly, offering
original ideas and strategies that lead to performance at the highest
level.
David Neeleman, the CEO of JetBlue Airways, has ADD. School
was torture; unable to focus, he hated to study and procrastinated
endlessly. “I felt like I should be out doing things, moving things
along, but here I was, stuck studying statistics, which I knew had no
application to my life,” Neeleman told me. “I knew I had to have an
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HALLOWELL
84
education, but at the first opportunity to start a business, I just blew
out of college.” He climbed quickly in the corporate world, making
use of his strengths—original thinking, high energy, an ability to
draw out the best in people—and getting help with organization and
time management.
Like most people with ADD, Neeleman could sometimes offend
with his blunt words, but his ideas were good enough to change the
airline industry. For example, he invented the electronic ticket.
“When I proposed that idea, people laughed at me, saying no one
would go to the airport without a paper ticket,” he says. “Now every-
one does, and it has saved the industry millions of dollars.” It seems
fitting that someone with ADD would invent a way around having to
remember to bring a paper ticket. Neeleman believes ADD is one of
the keys to his success. Far from regretting having it, he celebrates it.
But he understands that he must manage his ADD carefully.
Attention deficit trait is characterized by ADD’s negative symp-
toms. Rather than being rooted in genetics, however, ADT is purely a
response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live. Indeed,
modern culture all but requires many of us to develop ADT. Never in
history has the human brain been asked to track so many data
points. Everywhere, people rely on their cell phones, e-mail, and
digital assistants in the race to gather and transmit data, plans, and
ideas faster and faster. One could argue that the chief value of the
modern era is speed, which the novelist Milan Kundera described as
“the form of ecstasy that technology has bestowed upon modern
man.” Addicted to speed, we demand it even when we can’t possibly
go faster. James Gleick wryly noted in Faster: The Acceleration of Just
About Everything that the “close door” button in elevators is often
the one with the paint worn off. As the human brain struggles to
keep up, it falters and then falls into the world of ADT.
This Is Your Brain
While brain scans cannot display anatomical differences between
people with “normal” brains and people suffering from ADT, studies
have shown that as the human brain is asked to process dizzying
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OVERLOADED CIRCUITS
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amounts of data, its ability to solve problems flexibly and creatively
declines and the number of mistakes increases. To find out why, let’s
go on a brief neurological journey.
Blessed with the largest cortex in all of nature, owners of this
trillion-celled organ today put singular pressure on the frontal and
prefrontal lobes, which I’ll refer to in this article as simply the frontal
lobes. This region governs what is called, aptly enough, executive
functioning (EF). EF guides decision making and planning; the organ-
ization and prioritization of information and ideas; time manage-
ment; and various other sophisticated, uniquely human, managerial
tasks. As long as our frontal lobes remain in charge, everything is fine.
Beneath the frontal lobes lie the parts of the brain devoted to sur-
vival. These deep centers govern basic functions like sleep, hunger,
sexual desire, breathing, and heart rate, as well as crudely positive
and negative emotions. When you are doing well and operating at
peak level, the deep centers send up messages of excitement, satis-
faction, and joy. They pump up your motivation, help you maintain
attention, and don’t interfere with working memory, the number of
data points you can keep track of at once. But when you are con-
fronted with the sixth decision after the fifth interruption in the
midst of a search for the ninth missing piece of information on the
day that the third deal has collapsed and the 12th impossible request
has blipped unbidden across your computer screen, your brain
begins to panic, reacting just as if that sixth decision were a blood-
thirsty, man-eating tiger.
As a specialist in learning disabilities, I have found that the most
dangerous disability is not any formally diagnosable condition like
dyslexia or ADD. It is fear. Fear shifts us into survival mode and thus
prevents fluid learning and nuanced understanding. Certainly, if a
real tiger is about to attack you, survival is the mode you want to be
in. But if you’re trying to deal intelligently with a subtle task, sur-
vival mode is highly unpleasant and counterproductive.
When the frontal lobes approach capacity and we begin to fear
that we can’t keep up, the relationship between the higher and lower
regions of the brain takes an ominous turn. Thousands of years of
evolution have taught the higher brain not to ignore the lower brain’s
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HALLOWELL
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distress signals. In survival mode, the deep areas of the brain assume
control and begin to direct the higher regions. As a result, the whole
brain gets caught in a neurological catch-22. The deep regions inter-
pret the messages of overload they receive from the frontal lobes in
the same way they interpret everything: primitively. They furiously
fire signals of fear, anxiety, impatience, irritability, anger, or panic.
These alarm signals shanghai the attention of the frontal lobes, forc-
ing them to forfeit much of their power. Because survival signals are
irresistible, the frontal lobes get stuck sending messages back to the
deep centers saying, “Message received. Trying to work on it but
without success.” These messages further perturb the deep centers,
which send even more powerful messages of distress back up to the
frontal lobes.
Meanwhile, in response to what’s going on in the brain, the rest of
the body—particularly the endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular,
musculoskeletal, and peripheral nervous systems—has shifted into
crisis mode and changed its baseline physiology from peace and
quiet to red alert. The brain and body are locked in a reverberating
circuit while the frontal lobes lose their sophistication, as if vinegar
were added to wine. In this state, EF reverts to simpleminded black-
and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. Intel-
ligence dims. In a futile attempt to do more than is possible, the
brain paradoxically reduces its ability to think clearly.
This neurological event occurs when a manager is desperately
trying to deal with more input than he possibly can. In survival
mode, the manager makes impulsive judgments, angrily rushing to
bring closure to whatever matter is at hand. He feels compelled to
get the problem under control immediately, to extinguish the per-
ceived danger lest it destroy him. He is robbed of his flexibility, his
sense of humor, his ability to deal with the unknown. He forgets the
big picture and the goals and values he stands for. He loses his cre-
ativity and his ability to change plans. He desperately wants to kill
the metaphorical tiger. At these moments he is prone to melting
down, to throwing a tantrum, to blaming others, and to sabotaging
himself. Or he may go in the opposite direction, falling into denial
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OVERLOADED CIRCUITS
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and total avoidance of the problems attacking him, only to be de-
voured. This is ADT at its worst.
Though ADT does not always reach such extreme proportions, it
does wreak havoc among harried workers. Because no two brains are
alike, some people deal with the condition better than others. Regard-
less of how well executives appear to function, however, no one has
total control over his or her executive functioning.
Managing ADT
Unfortunately, top management has so far viewed the symptoms of
ADT through the distorting lens of morality or character. Employees
who seem unable to keep up the pace are seen as deficient or weak.
Consider the case of an executive who came to see me when he was
completely overloaded. I suggested he talk the situation over with
his superior and ask for help. When my client did so, he was told that
if he couldn’t handle the work, he ought to think about resigning.
Even though his performance assessments were stellar and he’d
earned praise for being one of the most creative people in the organ-
ization, he was allowed to leave. Because the firm sought to preserve
the myth that no straw would ever break its people’s backs, it could
not tolerate the manager’s stating that his back was breaking. After
he went out on his own, he flourished.
How can we control the rampaging effects of ADT, both in our-
selves and in our organizations? While ADD often requires medica-
tion, the treatment of ADT certainly does not. ADT can be controlled
only by creatively engineering one’s environment and one’s emo-
tional and physical health. I have found that the following preven-
tive measures go a long way toward helping executives control their
symptoms of ADT.
Promote positive emotions
The most important step in controlling ADT is not to buy a supertur-
bocharged BlackBerry and fill it up with to-dos but rather to create
an environment in which the brain can function at its best. This
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HALLOWELL
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means building a positive, fear-free emotional atmosphere, because
emotion is the on/off switch for executive functioning.
There are neurological reasons why ADT occurs less in environ-
ments where people are in physical contact and where they trust
and respect one another. When you comfortably connect with a col-
league, even if you are dealing with an overwhelming problem, the
deep centers of the brain send messages through the pleasure center
to the area that assigns resources to the frontal lobes. Even when
you’re under extreme stress, this sense of human connection causes
executive functioning to hum.
By contrast, people who work in physical isolation are more likely
to suffer from ADT, for the more isolated we are, the more stressed we
become. I witnessed a dramatic example of the danger of a discon-
nected environment and the healing power of a connected one when
I consulted for one of the world’s foremost university chemistry
departments. In the department’s formerly hard-driven culture, ADT
was rampant, exacerbated by an ethic that forbade anyone to ask for
help or even state that anything was wrong. People did not trust one
another; they worked on projects alone, which led to more mistrust.
Most people were in emotional pain, but implicit in the department’s
culture was the notion that great pain led to great gain.
In the late 1990s, one of the department’s most gifted graduate
students killed himself. His suicide note explicitly blamed the uni-
versity for pushing him past his limit. The department’s culture was
literally lethal.
Instead of trying to sweep the tragedy under the rug, the chair of
the department and his successor acted boldly and creatively. They
immediately changed the structure of the supervisory system so that
each graduate student and postdoc was assigned three supervisors,
rather than a single one with a death grip on the trainee’s career. The
department set up informal biweekly buffets that allowed people to
connect. (Even the most reclusive chemist came out of hiding for food,
one of life’s great connectors.) The department heads went as far as
changing the architecture of the department’s main building, taking
down walls and adding common areas and an espresso bar complete
with a grand piano. They provided lectures and written information to
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all students about the danger signs of mental wear and tear and offered
confidential procedures for students who needed help. These steps,
along with regular meetings that included senior faculty and univer-
sity administrators, led to a more humane, productive culture in which
the students and faculty felt fully engaged. The department’s perform-
ance remained first-rate, and creative research blossomed.
The bottom line is this: Fostering connections and reducing fear
promote brainpower. When you make time at least every four to six
hours for a “human moment,” a face-to-face exchange with a person
you like, you are giving your brain what it needs.
Take physical care of your brain
Sleep, a good diet, and exercise are critical for staving off ADT.
Though this sounds like a no-brainer, too many of us abuse our
brains by neglecting obvious principles of care.
You may try to cope with ADT by sleeping less, in the vain hope
that you can get more done. This is the opposite of what you need to
do, for ADT sets in when you don’t get enough sleep. There is ample
documentation to suggest that sleep deprivation engenders a host
of problems, from impaired decision making and reduced creativity
to reckless behavior and paranoia. We vary in how much sleep we
require; a good rule of thumb is that you’re getting enough sleep if
you can wake up without an alarm clock.
Diet also plays a crucial role in brain health. Many hardworking
people habitually inhale carbohydrates, which cause blood glucose
levels to yo-yo. This leads to a vicious cycle: Rapid fluctuations in
insulin levels further increase the craving for carbohydrates. The
brain, which relies on glucose for energy, is left either glutted or
gasping, neither of which makes for optimal cognitive functioning.
The brain does much better if the blood glucose level can be held
relatively stable. To do this, avoid simple carbohydrates containing
sugar and white flour (pastries, white bread, and pasta, for example).
Rely on the complex carbohydrates found in fruits, whole grains, and
vegetables. Protein is important: Instead of starting your day with cof-
fee and a Danish, try tea and an egg or a piece of smoked salmon on
wheat toast. Take a multivitamin every day as well as supplementary
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HALLOWELL
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omega-3 fatty acids, an excellent source of which is fish oil. The
omega-3s and the E and B complex contained in multivitamins pro-
mote healthy brain function and may even stave off Alzheimer’s
disease and inflammatory ills (which can be the starting point for
major killers like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer). Moder-
ate your intake of alcohol, too, because too much kills brain cells and
accelerates the development of memory loss and even dementia. As
you change your diet to promote optimal brain function and good
general health, your body will also shed excess pounds.
If you think you can’t afford the time to exercise, think again. Sit-
ting at a desk for hours on end decreases mental acuity, not only be-
cause of reduced blood flow to the brain but for other biochemical
reasons as well. Physical exercise induces the body to produce an
array of chemicals that the brain loves, including endorphins, sero-
tonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, as well as two
recently discovered compounds, brain-derived neurotrophic factor
(BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF). Both BDNF and NGF pro-
mote cell health and development in the brain, stave off the ravages
of aging and stress, and keep the brain in tip-top condition. Nothing
stimulates the production of BDNF and NGF as robustly as physical
exercise, which explains why those who exercise regularly talk
about the letdown and sluggishness they experience if they miss
their exercise for a few days. You will more than compensate for the
time you invest on the treadmill with improved productivity and
efficiency. To fend off the symptoms of ADT while you’re at work,
get up from your desk and go up and down a flight of stairs a few
times or walk briskly down a hallway. These quick, simple efforts
will push your brain’s reset button.
Organize for ADT
It’s important to develop tactics for getting organized, but not in the
sense of empty New Year’s resolutions. Rather, your goal is to order
your work in a way that suits you, so that disorganization does not
keep you from reaching your goals.
First, devise strategies to help your frontal lobes stay in control.
These might include breaking down large tasks into smaller ones
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and keeping a section of your work space or desk clear at all times.
(You do not need to have a neat office, just a neat section of your
office.) Similarly, you might try keeping a portion of your day free of
appointments, e-mail, and other distractions so that you have time
to think and plan. Because e-mail is a wonderful way to procrasti-
nate and set yourself up for ADT at the same time, you might con-
sider holding specific “e-mail hours,” since it isn’t necessary to reply
to every e-mail right away.
When you start your day, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into
vortices of e-mail or voice mail or into attending to minor tasks that
eat up your time but don’t pack a punch. Attend to a critical task
instead. Before you leave for the day, make a list of no more than five
priority items that will require your attention tomorrow. Short lists
force you to prioritize and complete your tasks. Additionally, keep
torrents of documents at bay. One of my patients, an executive with
ADD, uses the OHIO rule: Only handle it once. If he touches a docu-
ment, he acts on it, files it, or throws it away. “I don’t put it in a pile,”
he says. “Piles are like weeds. If you let them grow, they take over
everything.”
Pay attention to the times of day when you feel that you perform
at your best; do your most important work then and save the rote
work for other times. Set up your office in a way that helps mental
functioning. If you focus better with music, have music (if need be,
use earphones). If you think best on your feet, work standing up or
walk around frequently. If doodling or drumming your fingers helps,
figure out a way to do so without bothering anyone, or get a fidget
toy to bring to meetings. These small strategies sound mundane, but
they address the ADT devil that resides in distracting details.
Protect your frontal lobes
To stay out of survival mode and keep your lower brain from usurp-
ing control, slow down. Take the time you need to comprehend what
is going on, to listen, to ask questions, and to digest what’s been said
so that you don’t get confused and send your brain into panic. Em-
power an assistant to ride herd on you; insist that he or she tell you
to stop e-mailing, get off the telephone, or leave the office.
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HALLOWELL
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If you do begin to feel overwhelmed, try the following mind-
clearing tricks. Do an easy rote task, such as resetting the calendar
on your watch or writing a memo on a neutral topic. If you feel anx-
ious about beginning a project, pull out a sheet of paper or fire up
your word processor and write a paragraph about something unre-
lated to the project (a description of your house, your car, your
shoes—anything you know well). You can also tackle the easiest part
of the task; for example, write just the title of a memo about it. Open
a dictionary and read a few definitions, or spend five minutes doing
a crossword puzzle. Each of these little tasks quiets your lower brain
by tricking it into shutting off alarmist messages and puts your
frontal lobes back in full control.
Control Your ADT
In General
• Get adequate sleep.
• Watch what you eat. Avoid simple, sugary carbohydrates, moderate
your intake of alcohol, add protein, stick to complex carbohydrates
(vegetables, whole grains, fruit).
• Exercise at least 30 minutes at least every other day.
• Take a daily multivitamin and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
At Work
• Do all you can to create a trusting, connected work environment.
• Have a friendly, face-to-face talk with a person you like every four to six
hours.
• Break large tasks into smaller ones.
• Keep a section of your work space or desk clear at all times.
• Each day, reserve some “think time” that’s free from appointments,
e-mail, and phone calls.
• Set aside e-mail until you’ve completed at least one or two more
important tasks.
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Finally, be ready for the next attack of ADT by posting the sidebar
“Control Your ADT” near your desk where you can see it. Knowing
that you are prepared diminishes the likelihood of an attack, because
you’re not susceptible to panic.
What Leaders Can Do
All too often, companies induce and exacerbate ADT in their em-
ployees by demanding fast thinking rather than deep thinking.
Firms also ask employees to work on multiple overlapping projects
and initiatives, resulting in second-rate thinking. Worse, companies
that ask their employees to do too much at once tend to reward
• Before you leave work each day, create a short list of three to five items
you will attend to the next day.
• Try to act on, file, or toss every document you touch.
• Don’t let papers accumulate.
• Pay attention to the times of day when you feel that you are at your
best; do your most important work then, and save the rote work for
other times.
• Do whatever you need to do to work in a more focused way: Add back-
ground music, walk around, and so on.
• Ask a colleague or an assistant to help you stop talking on the tele-
phone, e-mailing, or working too late.
When You Feel Overwhelmed
• Slow down.
• Do an easy rote task: Reset your watch, write a note about a neutral
topic (such as a description of your house), read a few dictionary defi-
nitions, do a short crossword puzzle.
• Move around: Go up and down a flight of stairs or walk briskly.
• Ask for help, delegate a task, or brainstorm with a colleague. In short,
do not worry alone.
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HALLOWELL
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those who say yes to overload while punishing those who choose to
focus and say no.
Moreover, organizations make the mistake of forcing their employ-
ees to do more and more with less and less by eliminating support
staff. Such companies end up losing money in the long run, for the
more time a manager has to spend being his own administrative assis-
tant and the less he is able to delegate, the less effective he will be in
doing the important work of moving the organization forward. Addi-
tionally, firms that ignore the symptoms of ADT in their employees
suffer its ill effects: Employees underachieve, create clutter, cut cor-
ners, make careless mistakes, and squander their brainpower. As
demands continue to increase, a toxic, high-pressure environment
leads to high rates of employee illness and turnover.
To counteract ADT and harness employee brainpower, firms
should invest in amenities that contribute to a positive atmosphere.
One company that has done an excellent job in this regard is SAS
Institute, a major software company in North Carolina. The company
famously offers its employees a long list of perks: a 36,000-square-
foot, on-site gym; a seven-hour workday that ends at 5 PM; the
largest on-site day care facility in North Carolina; a cafeteria that pro-
vides baby seats and high chairs so parents can eat lunch with their
children; unlimited sick days; and much more. The atmosphere at
SAS is warm, connected, and relaxed. The effect on the bottom line is
profoundly positive; turnover is never higher than 5%. The company
saves the millions other software companies spend on recruiting,
training, and severance (estimated to be at least 1.5 times salary in the
software industry). Employees return the favors with high productiv-
ity. The forces of ADT that shred other organizations never gain
momentum at SAS.
Leaders can also help prevent ADT by matching employees’ skills
to tasks. When managers assign goals that stretch people too far or
ask workers to focus on what they’re not good at rather than what
they do well, stress rises. By contrast, managers who understand the
dangers of ADT can find ways of keeping themselves and their or-
ganizations on track. JetBlue’s David Neeleman, for example, has
shamelessly and publicly identified what he is not good at and found
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OVERLOADED CIRCUITS
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ways to deal with his shortcomings, either by delegating or by em-
powering his assistant to direct him. Neeleman also models this be-
havior for everyone else in the organization. His openness about the
challenges of his ADD gives others permission to speak about their
own attention deficit difficulties and to garner the support they
need. He also encourages his managers to match people with tasks
that fit their cognitive and emotional styles, knowing that no one
style is best. Neeleman believes that helping people work to their
strengths is not just a mark of sophisticated management; it’s also an
excellent way to boost worker productivity and morale.
ADT is a very real threat to all of us. If we do not manage it, it man-
ages us. But an understanding of ADT and its ravages allows us to
apply practical methods to improve our work and our lives. In the
end, the most critical step an enlightened leader can take to address
the problem of ADT is to name it. Bringing ADT out of the closet and
describing its symptoms removes the stigma and eliminates the
moral condemnation companies have for so long mistakenly leveled
at overburdened employees. By giving people permission to ask for
help and remaining vigilant for signs of stress, organizations will go
a long way toward fostering more productive, well-balanced, and
intelligent work environments.
Originally published in January 2005. Reprint R0501E
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97
I
Be a Better Leader,
Have a Richer Life
by Stewart D. Friedman
IN MY RESEARCH AND COACHING WORK over the past two decades,
I have met many people who feel unfulfilled, overwhelmed, or stag-
nant because they are forsaking performance in one or more aspects
of their lives. They aren’t bringing their leadership abilities to bear in
all of life’s domains—work, home, community, and self (mind, body,
and spirit). Of course, there will always be some tension among the
different roles we play. But, contrary to the common wisdom, there’s
no reason to assume that it’s a zero-sum game. It makes more sense
to pursue excellent performance as a leader in all four domains—
achieving what I call “four-way wins”—not trading off one for another
but finding mutual value among them.
This is the main idea in a program called Total Leadership that
I teach at the Wharton School and at companies and workshops
around the world. “Total” because it’s about the whole person and
“Leadership” because it’s about creating sustainable change to ben-
efit not just you but the most important people around you.
Scoring four-way wins starts by taking a clear view of what you
want from and can contribute to each domain of your life, now and
in the future, with thoughtful consideration of the people who mat-
ter most to you and the expectations you have for one another. This
is followed by systematically designing and implementing carefully
crafted experiments—doing something new for a short period to see
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how it affects all four domains. If an experiment doesn’t work out,
you stop or adjust, and little is lost. If it does work out, it’s a small
win; over time these add up so that your overall efforts are focused
increasingly on what and who matter most. Either way, you learn
more about how to lead in all parts of your life.
This process doesn’t require inordinate risk. On the contrary, it
works because it entails realistic expectations, short-term changes
that are in your control, and the explicit support of those around
you. Take, for instance, Kenneth Chen, a manager I met at a work-
shop in 2005. (All names in this article are pseudonyms.) His profes-
sional goal was to become CEO, but he had other goals as well, which
on the face of it might have appeared conflicting. He had recently
moved to Philadelphia and wanted to get more involved with his
community. He also wished to strengthen bonds with his family.
To further all of these goals, he decided to join a city-based commu-
nity board, which would not only allow him to hone his leadership
skills (in support of his professional goal) but also have benefits
in the family domain. It would give him more in common with his
sister, a teacher who gave back to the community every day, and
he hoped his fiancée would participate as well, enabling them to
do something together for the greater good. He would feel more spir-
itually alive and this, in turn, would increase his self-confidence
at work.
Now, about three years later, he reports that he is not only on a
community board with his fiancée but also on the formal succession
track for CEO. He’s a better leader in all aspects of his life because he
is acting in ways that are more consistent with his values. He is cre-
atively enhancing his performance in all domains of his life and lead-
ing others to improve their performance by encouraging them to
better integrate the different parts of their lives, too.
Kenneth is not alone. Workshop participants assess themselves
at the beginning and the end of the program, and they consistently
report improvements in their effectiveness, as well as a greater sense of
harmony among the once-competing domains of their lives. In a study
over a four-month period of more than 300 business professionals
FRIEDMAN
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(whose average age was about 35), their satisfaction increased by an
average of 20% in their work lives, 28% in their home lives, and 31%
in their community lives. Perhaps most significant, their satisfaction
in the domain of the self—their physical and emotional health and
their intellectual and spiritual growth—increased by 39%. But they
also reported that their performance improved: at work (by 9%),
at home (15%), in the community (12%), and personally (25%). Para-
doxically, these gains were made even as participants spent less time
on work and more on other aspects of their lives. They’re working
smarter—and they’re more focused, passionate, and committed to
what they’re doing.
While hundreds of leaders at all levels go through this program
every year, you don’t need a workshop to identify worthwhile exper-
iments. The process is pretty straightforward, though not simple. In
the sections that follow, I will give you an overview of the process
and take you through the basics of designing and implementing
experiments to produce four-way wins.
BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
99
Idea in Brief
Life’s a zero-sum game, right?
The more you strive to win in
one dimension (e.g., your work),
the more the other three dimen-
sions (your self, your home, and
your community) must lose. Not
according to Friedman. You don’t
have to make trade-offs among
life’s domains. Nor should you:
trading off can leave you feeling
exhausted, unfulfilled, or isolated.
And it hurts the people you care
about most.
To excel in all dimensions of life,
use Friedman’s Total Leadership
process. First, articulate who and
what matters most in your life.
Then experiment with small
changes that enhance your
satisfaction and performance
in all four domains. For example,
exercising three mornings a week
gives you more energy for work
and improves your self-esteem
and health, which makes you a
better parent and friend.
Friedman’s research suggests
that people who focus on the
concept of Total Leadership
have a 20%–39% increase in
satisfaction in all life domains,
and a 9% improvement in job
performance—even while working
shorter weeks.
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FRIEDMAN
100
Idea in Practice
Total Leadership helps you mitigate
a range of problems that stem
from making trade-offs among
the different dimensions of your
life:
• Feeling unfulfilled because
you’re not doing what you love
• Feeling inauthentic because
you’re not acting according
to your values
• Feeling disconnected from
people who matter to you
• Feeling exhausted by trying to
keep up with it all
To tackle such problems using
Total Leadership, take these steps.
1. Reflect
For each of the four domains of
your life—work, home, community,
and self, reflect on how important
each is to you, how much time and
energy you devote to each, and
how satisfied you are in each.
Are there discrepancies between
what is important to you and
how you spend your time and
energy? What is your overall life
satisfaction?
2. Brainstorm Possibilities
Based on the insights you’ve
achieved during your four-way
reflection, brainstorm a long list
of small experiments that may
help you move closer to greater
satisfaction in all four domains.
These are new ways of doing
things that would carry minimal
risk and let you see results quickly.
For example:
• Turning off cell phones during
family dinners could help you
sharpen your focus on the peo-
ple who matter most to you.
• Exercising several times a week
could give you more energy.
• Joining a club with coworkers
could help you forge closer
friendships with them.
• Preparing for the week ahead
on Sunday evenings could help
you sleep better and go into
the new week refreshed.
3. Choose Experiments
Narrow the list of experiments
you’ve brainstormed to the three
most promising. They should:
The Total Leadership Process
The Total Leadership concept rests on three principles:
• Be real: Act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important.
• Be whole: Act with integrity by respecting the whole person.
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BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
101
Experiment: Exercise three mornings a week with spouse.
Life
dimension Experiment’s goals
How I will measure
success
Implementation
steps
Work Improved alertness
and productivity
No caffeine to get
through the day;
more productive
sales calls
• Get doctor’s
feedback on
exercise plan.
• Join gym.
• Set alarm
earlier on
exercise days.
• Tell coworkers,
family, and
friends about
my plan, how
I need their
help, and how
it will benefit
them.
Home Increased closeness
with spouse
Fewer arguments
with spouse
Community Greater strength
to participate in
athletic fundraising
events with friends
Three 10K fundraising
walks completed by
end of year
Self Improved self-
esteem
Greater confidence
• Improve your satisfaction
and performance in all four
dimensions of your life.
• Have effects viewed as positive
by the people who matter to
you in every dimension of your
life.
• Be the most costly—in regret
and missed opportunities—if
you don’t do them.
• Position you to practice skills
you most want to develop and
do more of what you want to
be doing.
4. Measure Progress
Develop a scorecard for each
experiment you’ve chosen. For
example:
• Be innovative: Act with creativity by experimenting with how
things get done.
You begin the process by thinking, writing, and talking with peer
coaches to identify your core values, your leadership vision, and the
current alignment of your actions and values—clarifying what’s
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FRIEDMAN
102
important. Peer coaching is enormously valuable, at this stage and
throughout, because an outside perspective provides a sounding
board for your ideas, challenges you, gives you a fresh way to see the
possibilities for innovation, and helps hold you accountable to your
commitments.
You then identify the most important people—“key stakeholders”—
in all domains and the performance expectations you have of one
another. Then you talk with them: If you’re like most participants,
you’ll be surprised to find that what, and how much, your key stake-
holders actually need from you is different from, and less than, what
you thought beforehand.
These insights create opportunities for you to focus your attention
more intelligently, spurring innovative action. Now, with a firmer
grounding in what’s most important, and a more complete picture of
your inner circle, you begin to see new ways of making life better, not
just for you but for the people around you.
The next step is to design experiments and then try them out dur-
ing a controlled period of time. The best experiments are changes
that your stakeholders wish for as much as, if not more than, you do.
Designing Experiments
To pursue a four-way win means to produce a change intended to ful-
fill multiple goals that benefit each and every domain of your life. In
the domain of work, typical goals for an experiment can be captured
under these broad headings: taking advantage of new opportunities
for increasing productivity, reducing hidden costs, and improving
the work environment. Goals for home and community tend to re-
volve around improving relationships and contributing more to soci-
ety. For the self, it’s usually about improving health and finding
greater meaning in life.
As you think through the goals for your experiment, keep in mind
the interests and opinions of your key stakeholders and anyone else
who might be affected by the changes you are envisioning. In explor-
ing the idea of joining a community board, for instance, Kenneth
Chen sought advice from his boss, who had served on many boards,
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BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
103
and also from the company’s charitable director and the vice presi-
dent of talent. In this way, he got their support. His employers could
see how his participation on a board would benefit the company by
developing Kenneth’s leadership skills and his social network.
Some experiments benefit only a single domain directly while
having indirect benefits in the others. For example, setting aside
three mornings a week to exercise improves your health directly but
may indirectly give you more energy for your work and raise your
self-esteem, which in turn might make you a better father and
friend. Other activities—such as running a half-marathon with your
kids to raise funds for a charity sponsored by your company—occur
in, and directly benefit, all four domains simultaneously. Whether
the benefits are direct or indirect, achieving a four-way win is the
goal. That’s what makes the changes sustainable: Everyone benefits.
The expected gains need not accrue until sometime in the future, so
keep in mind that some benefits may not be obvious—far-off career
advancements, for instance, or a contact who might ultimately offer
valuable connections.
Identify possibilities
Open your mind to what’s possible and try to think of as many poten-
tial experiments as you can, describing in a sentence or two what you
would do in each. This is a time to let your imagination run free.
Don’t worry about all the potential obstacles at this point.
At first blush, conceiving of experiments that produce benefits
for all the different realms may seem a formidable task. After all, if it
were easy, people wouldn’t be feeling so much tension between
work and the rest of their lives. But I’ve found that most people real-
ize it’s not that hard once they approach the challenge systemati-
cally. And, like a puzzle, it can be fun, especially if you keep in mind
that experiments must fit your particular circumstances. Experi-
ments can and do take myriad forms. But having sifted through hun-
dreds of experiment designs, my research team and I have found
that they tend to fall into nine general types. Use the nine categories
described in the exhibit “How Can I Design an Experiment to Improve
All Domains of My Life?” to organize your thinking.
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FRIEDMAN
104
How can I design an experiment to improve all domains
of my life?
Our research has revealed that most successful experiments combine
components of nine general categories. Thinking about possibilities in this
way will make it easier for you to conceive of the small changes you can
make that will mutually benefit your work, your home, your community, and
yourself. Most experiments are a hybrid of some combination of these
categories.
Tracking and Reflecting
Keeping a record of activities, thoughts, and feelings (and perhaps distributing
it to friends, family, and coworkers) to assess progress on personal and profes-
sional goals, thereby increasing self-awareness and maintaining priorities.
Examples
• Record visits to the gym along with changes in energy levels
• Track the times of day when you feel most engaged or most lethargic
Planning and Organizing
Taking actions designed to better use time and prepare and plan for
the future.
Examples
• Use a PDA for all activities, not just work
• Share your schedule with someone else
• Prepare for the week on Sunday evening
Rejuvenating and Restoring
Attending to body, mind, and spirit so that the tasks of daily living and working
are undertaken with renewed power, focus, and commitment.
Examples
• Quit unhealthy physical habits (smoking, drinking)
• Make time for reading a novel
• Engage in activities that improve emotional and spiritual health (yoga,
meditation, etc.)
Appreciating and Caring
Having fun with people (typically, by doing things with coworkers outside work),
caring for others, and appreciating relationships as a way of bonding at a basic
human level to respect the whole person, which increases trust.
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105
Examples
• Join a book group or health club with coworkers
• Help your son complete his homework
• Devote one day a month to community service
Focusing and Concentrating
Being physically present, psychologically present, or both when needed to pay
attention to stakeholders who matter most. Sometimes this means saying no
to opportunities or obligations. Includes attempts to show more respect to
important people encountered in different domains and the need to be accessible
to them.
Examples
• Turn off digital communication devices at a set time
• Set aside a specific time to focus on one thing or person
• Review e-mail at preset times during the day
Revealing and Engaging
Sharing more of yourself with others—and listening—so they can better support
your values and the steps you want to take toward your leadership vision. By
enhancing communication about different aspects of life, you demonstrate
respect for the whole person.
Examples
• Have weekly conversations about religion with spouse
• Describe your vision to others
• Mentor a new employee
Time Shifting and “Re-Placing”
Working remotely or during different hours to increase flexibility and thus better
fit in community, family, and personal activities while increasing efficiency;
questioning traditional assumptions and trying new ways to get things done.
Examples
• Work from home
• Take music lessons during your lunch hour
• Do work during your commute
Delegating and Developing
Reallocating tasks in ways that increase trust, free up time, and develop skills
in yourself and others; working smarter by reducing or eliminating low-priority
activities.
(continued)
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FRIEDMAN
106
One category of experiment involves changes in where and when
work gets done. One workshop participant, a sales director for a
global cement producer, tried working online from his local public
library one day a week to free himself from his very long commute.
This was a break from a company culture that didn’t traditionally
support employees working remotely, but the change benefited
everyone. He had more time for outside interests, and he was more
engaged and productive at work.
Another category has to do with regular self-reflection. As an
example, you might keep a record of your activities, thoughts, and
feelings over the course of a month to see how various actions influ-
ence your performance and quality of life. Still another category
focuses on planning and organizing your time—such as trying out a
new technology that coordinates commitments at work with those
in the other domains.
Conversations about work and the rest of life tend to emphasize
segmentation: How do I shut out the office when I am with my fam-
ily? How can I eliminate distractions and concentrate purely on
work? But, in some cases, it might be better to make boundaries
between domains more permeable, not thicker. The very technolo-
gies that make it hard for us to maintain healthy boundaries among
domains also enable us to blend them in ways—unfathomable even
Examples
• Hire a personal assistant
• Have a subordinate take on some of your responsibilities
Exploring and Venturing
Taking steps toward a new job, career, or other activity that better aligns your
work, home, community, and self with your core values and aspirations.
Examples
• Take on new roles at work, such as a cross-functional assignment
• Try a new coaching style
• Join the board of your child’s day care center
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a decade ago—that can render us more productive and more ful-
filled. These tools give us choices. The challenge we all face is learn-
ing how to use them wisely, and smart experiments give you an
opportunity to increase your skill in doing so. The main point is to
identify possibilities that will work well in your unique situation.
All effective experiments require that you question traditional as-
sumptions about how things get done, as the sales director did. It’s
easier to feel free to do this, and to take innovative action, when you
know that your goal is to improve performance in all domains and
that you’ll be gathering data about the impact of your experiment to
determine if indeed it is working—for your key stakeholders and for
you.
Whatever type you choose, the most useful experiments feel like
something of a stretch: not too easy, not too daunting. It might be
something quite mundane for someone else, but that doesn’t matter.
What’s critical is that you see it as a moderately difficult challenge.
Choose a few, get started, and adapt
Coming up with possibilities is an exercise in unbounded imagina-
tion. But when it comes time to take action, it’s not practical to try
out more than three experiments at once. Typically, two turn out to
be relatively successful and one goes haywire, so you will earn some
small wins, and learn something useful about leadership, without
biting off more than you can chew. Now the priority is to narrow the
list to the three most-promising candidates by reviewing which will:
• Give you the best overall return on your investment
• Be the most costly in regret and missed opportunities if you
don’t do it
• Allow you to practice the leadership skills you most want to
develop
• Be the most fun by involving more of what you want to be
doing
• Move you furthest toward your vision of how you want to
lead your life
BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
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FRIEDMAN
108
Once you choose and begin to move down the road with your
experiment, however, be prepared to adapt to the unforeseen. Don’t
become too wedded to the details of any one experiment’s plan,
because you will at some point be surprised and need to adjust. An
executive I’ll call Lim, for example, chose as one experiment to run
the Chicago Marathon. He had been feeling out of shape, which in
turn diminished his energy and focus both at work and at home. His
wife, Joanne, was pregnant with their first child and initially sup-
ported the plan because she believed that the focus required by the
training and the physical outlet it provided would make Lim a better
father. The family also had a strong tradition of athleticism, and
Joanne herself was an accomplished athlete. Lim was training with
his boss and other colleagues, and all agreed that it would be a healthy
endeavor that would improve professional communication (as they
thought there would be plenty of time to bond during training).
But as her delivery date approached, Joanne became apprehen-
sive, which she expressed to Lim as concern that he might get in-
jured. Her real concern, though, was that he was spending so much
time on an activity that might drain his energy at a point when the
family needed him most. One adjustment that Lim made to reassure
Joanne of his commitment to their family was to initiate another
experiment in which he took the steps needed to allow him to work
at home on Thursday afternoons. He had to set up some new tech-
nologies and agree to send a monthly memo to his boss summarizing
what he was accomplishing on those afternoons. He also bought a
baby sling, which would allow him to keep his new son with him
while at home.
In the end, not only were Joanne and their baby on hand to cheer
Lim on while he ran the marathon, but she ended up joining him for
the second half of the race to give him a boost when she saw his
energy flagging. His business unit’s numbers improved during the
period when he was training and working at home. So did the unit’s
morale—people began to see the company as more flexible, and they
were encouraged to be more creative in how they got their own work
done—and word got around. Executives throughout the firm began
to come up with their own ideas for ways to pay more attention to
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BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
109
other sides of their employees’ lives and so build a stronger sense of
community at work.
The investment in a well-designed experiment almost always
pays off because you learn how to lead in new and creative ways in
all parts of your life. And if your experiments turn out well—as they
usually, but not always, do—it will benefit everyone: you, your busi-
ness, your family, and your community.
Measuring Progress
The only way to fail with an experiment is to fail to learn from it, and
this makes useful metrics essential. No doubt it’s better to achieve
the results you are after than to fall short, but hitting targets does not
in itself advance you toward becoming the leader you want to be.
Failed experiments give you, and those around you, information
that helps create better ones in the future.
The exhibit “How Do I Know If My Experiment Is Working?”
shows how Kenneth Chen measured his progress. He used this sim-
ple chart to spell out the intended benefits of his experiment in each
of the four domains and how he would assess whether he had real-
ized these benefits. To set up your own scorecard, use a separate
sheet for each experiment; at the top of the page, write a brief de-
scription of it. Then record your goals for each domain in the first
column. In the middle column, describe your results metrics: how
you will measure whether the goals for each domain have been
achieved. In the third column, describe your action metrics—the
plan for the steps you will take to implement your experiment. As
you begin to implement your plan, you may find that your initial
indicators are too broad or too vague, so refine your scorecard as you
go along to make it more useful for you. The main point is to have
practical ways of measuring your outcomes and your progress
toward them, and the approach you take only needs to work for you
and your stakeholders.
Workshop participants have used all kinds of metrics: cost savings
from reduced travel, number of e-mail misunderstandings averted, de-
gree of satisfaction with family time, hours spent volunteering at a
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H
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110
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

To
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111
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FRIEDMAN
112
teen center, and so on. Metrics may be objective or subjective, qual-
itative or quantitative, reported by you or by others, and frequently
or intermittently observed. When it comes to frequency, for in-
stance, it helps to consider how long you’ll be able to remember
what you did. For example, if you were to go on a diet to get health-
ier, increase energy, and enhance key relationships, food intake
would be an important metric. But would you be able to remember
what you ate two days ago?
Small Wins for Big Change
Experiments shouldn’t be massive, all-encompassing shifts in the
way you live. Highly ambitious designs usually fail because they’re
too much to handle. The best experiments let you try something
new while minimizing the inevitable risks associated with change.
When the stakes are smaller, it’s easier to overcome the fear of fail-
ure that inhibits innovation. You start to see results, and others take
note, which both inspires you to go further and builds support from
your key stakeholders.
Another benefit of the small-wins approach to experiments is that
it opens doors that would otherwise be closed. You can say to people
invested in the decision, “Let’s just try this. If it doesn’t work, we’ll
go back to the old way or try something different.” By framing an ex-
periment as a trial, you reduce resistance because people are more
likely to try something new if they know it’s not permanent and if
they have control over deciding whether the experiment is working
according to their performance expectations.
But “small” is a relative term—what might look like a small step for
you could seem like a giant leap to me, and vice versa. So don’t get
hung up on the word. What’s more, this isn’t about the scope or impor-
tance of the changes you eventually make. Large-scale change is
grounded in small steps toward a big idea. So while the steps in an ex-
periment might be small, the goals are not. Ismail, a successful
50-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of an engineering services com-
pany, described the goal for his first experiment this way: “Restructure
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BE A BETTER LEADER, HAVE A RICHER LIFE
113
my company and my role in it.” There’s nothing small about that. He
felt he was missing a sense of purpose.
Ismail designed practical steps that would allow him to move
toward his large goal over time. His first experiments were small and
achievable. He introduced a new method that both his colleagues
and his wife could use to communicate with him. He began to hold
sacrosanct time for his family and his church. As he looked for ways
to free up more time, he initiated delegation experiments that had
the effect of flattening his organization’s structure. These small wins
crossed over several domains, and eventually he did indeed trans-
form his company and his own role in it. When I spoke with him 18
months after he’d started, he acknowledged that he’d had a hard
time coping with the loss of control over tactical business matters,
but he described his experiments as “a testament to the idea of
winning the small battles and letting the war be won as a result.” He
and his leadership team both felt more confident about the firm’s
new organizational structure.
People try the Total Leadership program for a variety of reasons.
Some feel unfulfilled because they’re not doing what they love.
Some don’t feel genuine because they’re not acting according to
their values. Others feel disconnected, isolated from people who
matter to them. They crave stronger relationships, built on trust,
and yearn for enriched social networks. Still others are just in a rut.
They want to tap into their creative energy but don’t know how (and
sometimes lack the courage) to do so. They feel out of control and
unable to fit in all that’s important to them.
My hunch is that there are more four-way wins available to you
than you’d think. They are there for the taking. You have to know
how to look for them and then find the support and zeal to pursue
them. By providing a blueprint for how you can be real, be whole,
and be innovative as a leader in all parts of your life, this program
helps you perform better according to the standards of the most im-
portant people in your life; feel better in all the domains of your life;
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and foster greater harmony among the domains by increasing the re-
sources available to you to fit all the parts of your life together. No
matter what your career stage or current position, you can be a bet-
ter leader and have a richer life—if you are ready and willing to rise
to the challenge.
Originally published in April 2008. Reprint R0804H
FRIEDMAN
114
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115
T
Reclaim Your Job
by Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch
ASK MOST MANAGERS WHAT GETS in the way of success at work, and
you hear the familiar litany of complaints: Not enough time. Shrinking
resources. Lack of opportunity. When you look more closely, you
begin to see that these are, for the most part, excuses. What gets in
the way of managers’ success is something much more personal—a
deep uncertainty about acting according to their own best judgment.
Rather than doing what they really need to do to advance the com-
pany’s fortunes—and their own careers—they spin their wheels
doing what they presume everyone else wants them to do.
Over the past five years, we have studied hundreds of managers
as they have gone about their daily work in a variety of settings,
including a global airline and a large U.S. oil company. As we demon-
strated in “Beware the Busy Manager” (HBR February 2002), fully
90% of the managers we observed wasted their time and frittered
away their productivity, despite having well-defined projects, goals,
and the knowledge necessary to get their jobs done. Such managers
remain trapped in inefficiency because they simply assume that
they do not have enough personal discretion or control. The ability
to seize initiative is the most essential quality of any truly successful
manager.
In most instances, the demands that managers accept as givens are
actually discretionary in nature. We have repeatedly confronted in our
research a curious but pervasive reality of corporate life: Most man-
agers complain about having too little freedom in their jobs, while
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their bosses complain about managers’ failure to grasp opportunities.
The truly effective managers we’ve observed are purposeful, trust in
their own judgment, and adopt long-term, big-picture views to fulfill
personal goals that tally with those of the organization as a whole.
They break out of their perceived boxes, take control of their jobs, and
become more productive by learning to do the following:
Manage demands
Most managers feel overwhelmed by demands. They assume that
the business will come to a crashing halt without them and so allow
real or imagined day-to-day work demands to subsume their own
judgment. Effective managers proactively control their tasks and the
expectations of their major stakeholders, which allows them to meet
strategic goals rather than fight fires.
Generate resources
By following what they believe are strict orders from the top, many
typical managers tend to concentrate on working within budget and
resource constraints—thereby developing a boxed-in, “can’t do”
mind-set. By contrast, effective managers develop inventive strate-
gies for circumventing real or imagined limitations. They map out
ways around constraints by developing and acting on long-term
strategies, making trade-offs, and occasionally breaking rules to
achieve their goals.
Recognize and exploit alternatives
Average managers don’t have enough perspective on the company’s
overall business strategy to present an alternative view. Effective
managers, by contrast, develop and use deep expertise about an
individual area that dovetails with the company’s strategy. This tac-
tic allows them to come up with a variety of innovative approaches
to a given situation.1
In short, truly effective managers don’t operate in the context of
individual tasks or jobs but in the much broader context of their organ-
izations and careers. That approach sounds simple enough, but it is
sometimes hard to act on because some organizational cultures that
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RECLAIM YOUR JOB
117
Idea in Brief
90% of managers waste time and
fritter away their productivity by
grappling with an endless list of
demands from others. Why? We
assume—wrongly—that those
demands are requirements, and
that we lack personal discretion
or control over our jobs. The
consequence? We remain trapped
in inefficiency.
But we can escape this trap—if we
learn how to grasp opportunities,
trust our own judgment, and
methodically fulfill personal goals
that tally with our organizations’
objectives. The keys? Set priorities—
then stick to them, focusing on
efforts that support those priorities.
Overcome resource constraints
by attacking goals strategically,
demonstrating success at every
step. And develop a range of
alternatives to exploit when plan
A fails.
We all want to make a difference
in our organizations, as well as
build satisfying careers. By under-
standing how we inhibit ourselves
and taking purposeful, strategic
action, we can seize control of our
jobs—rather than letting our jobs
control us. The payoff? Impressive
results for our companies and
rewarding work lives for us.
tout “empowerment” actually discourage volition among their man-
agers. Young, high-tech companies, for example, sometimes hold their
managers hostage to frenzy, thus inhibiting the reflective and persist-
ent pursuit of long-term goals. Other cultures—particularly those of old
and established corporations with command-and-control hierarchies—
can encourage people to go along with the status quo, regardless of the
level of organizational dysfunction. In both kinds of environments,
managers tend to fall into a reactive state of mind, assuming that any
initiative they show will be either ignored or discouraged.
In most cases, however, it is not the environment that inhibits
managers from taking purposeful action. Rather, it is managers
themselves. We have found that managers can learn to act on their
own potential and make a difference. Here’s how.
Dealing with Demands
Almost everyone complains about not having enough time to deal
with all the demands on them, but, in reality, a highly fragmented
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GHOSHAL AND BRUCH
118
Idea in Practice
To reclaim your job and better
support your company’s priorities,
apply three strategies.
Prioritize Demands
To achieve personal and organiza-
tional goals quickly, slow down
and focus your time and attention.
Example: McKinsey associate
principal Jessica Spungin took
on too many projects that had
little connection to her skills
and interests. Result? Her proj-
ect teams rated her second
from the bottom among her
peers.
Realizing her desire to be indis-
pensable sprang from lack of
confidence, Spungin took steps
to manage demands. She clari-
fied her goal: to become a part-
ner. Then she set long-term
priorities supporting that goal.
She began managing her own
development; for example,
choosing assignments that
most interested her. And she
started orchestrating her time,
meeting only with people who
really needed her and working
on long-term projects during
months when she traveled less.
Her reward? She scored second
from the top in her peer
group—and was named a
McKinsey partner.
Liberate Resources
To relax resource constraints and
win the backing you want, attack
your goals strategically. Be patient.
The process can take years.
Example: As the new head of
HR development at airline
Lufthansa, Thomas Sattel-
berger dreamed of launching
Germany’s first corporate
business school. Knowing
he needed several years to
establish his credibility, he first
overhauled inefficient HR
processes. He then developed
day is also a very lazy day. It can seem easier to fight fires than to
set priorities and stick to them. The truth is that managers who
carefully set boundaries and priorities achieve far more than busy
ones do.
To beat the busy habit, managers must overcome the psychologi-
cal desire to be indispensable. Because their work is interactive and
interdependent, most managers thrive on their sense of importance
to others. When they are not worrying about meeting their superi-
ors’ (or their clients’) expectations, they fret about their direct
reports, often falling victim to the popular fallacy that good bosses
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RECLAIM YOUR JOB
119
initiatives supporting the
school, raising money for these
projects by presenting com-
pelling facts and arguments to
his counterparts and CEO.
After four years of methodical
work on Sattelberger’s part,
Lufthansa’s CEO and board
understood how his programs
fit together. When he wrote a
memo to directors requesting
creation of the school before
Daimler-Benz could beat
Lufthansa to the punch, the
board promptly approved the
request.
Exploit Alternatives
Use your expertise to anticipate—
and circumvent—possible obsta-
cles to your goals. You’ll expand
the scope of opportunity for your
company and yourself.
Example: Dan Andersson, a
manager at oil refiner Conoco-
Phillips, was part of a team
exploring Conoco’s entrance
into the Finnish market.
Conoco decided to store
petrol in tanks in Finland that
Shell had abandoned. But
Andersson developed contin-
gency plans. Plan B, for
instance, involved building
a new facility.
His efforts paid off. When
research revealed the aban-
doned tanks were unsuitable
for petrol storage, Andersson
activated Plan B. Though the
new-facility target site was
contaminated, Andersson
discovered that Shell was
responsible for cleaning the
site. Once cleanup ended,
Conoco built the tanks.
Conoco became the most
efficient operator of automated
self-service filling stations in
Finland. Andersson now heads
Conoco’s retail development
in Europe.
always make themselves available. At first, managers—particularly
novices—seem to thrive on all this clamoring for their time; the
busier they are, the more valuable they feel. Inevitably, however,
things start to slip. Eventually, many managers simply burn out and
fail, not only because they find little time to pursue their own agen-
das but also because, in trying to please everyone, they typically end
up pleasing no one.
Jessica Spungin found herself caught in this trap when she was
promoted to associate principal in McKinsey’s London office. As an
AP, a consultant is expected to take on more responsibilities of the
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GHOSHAL AND BRUCH
120
partnership group, juggle multiple projects, serve as a team leader,
and play an active role in office life. Spungin dove in to all these tasks
headfirst. While she was handling two major client projects, she was
asked to jointly lead recruitment for U.K. universities and business
schools, participate in an internal research initiative, serve as a sen-
ior coach for six business analysts, run an office party for 750 people,
get involved in internal training, and help out on a new project for a
health care company.
In her first round of feedback from the three project teams she
oversaw, she was rated second from the bottom among her peers.
Spungin realized that her desire to be indispensable sprang from a
lack of confidence. “I never said no to people in case they thought
I couldn’t cope. I never said no to a client who wanted me to be pres-
ent at a meeting,” she told us. “I did what I thought was expected—
regardless of what I was good at, what was important, or what
I could physically do.”
The first step in Spungin’s transformation from a busy to an effec-
tive manager was to develop a vision of what she really wanted to
achieve at McKinsey: to be named a partner. In developing a clear
mental picture of herself in that role, she traded in her habit of think-
ing in short time spans of three to six months to thinking in strategic
time spans of one to five years.
This longer-term planning allowed Spungin to develop a set of
long-term goals and priorities. Soon, she took control of her own
development. For example, it became clear to Spungin that corporate
banking—which her colleagues believed to be her area of expertise
based on her past experience—did not hold any real interest for her,
even though she had accepted one banking project after another.
Instead, she decided to shift her focus to the organizational practice,
something she really enjoyed. (McKinsey, like many companies,
allows its consultants significant flexibility in terms of choosing
assignments, but most managers do not avail themselves of this
opportunity.) By claiming a personal agenda and integrating short-,
medium-, and long-term responsibilities into her broader master
plan, Spungin felt much more motivated and excited about her work
than she had when she was merely responding to everyday demands.
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RECLAIM YOUR JOB
121
Finally, Spungin took charge of her time. She realized that trying
to be accessible to everyone made her inaccessible to those who
really needed her. She began prioritizing the time she spent with
clients and team members. With her personal assistant’s help, she
streamlined her work. Previously, her assistant would schedule
meetings in an ad hoc manner. Now, Spungin drove the calendar, so
she could make the calls about which meetings she needed to attend.
She began to recognize patterns of work intensity according to the
time of year; for example, she travelled less in the fall, so Spungin set
aside half a day each week to work on her long-term projects then. In
the end, Spungin realized the irony of effective management: To
quickly achieve the goals that mattered, she had to slow down and
take control. To her surprise, the people who reported to her, as well
as her supervisors and clients, responded well to her saying no.
Spungin was better able to respond to and shape the demands
she chose to meet once she stopped trying to please everyone. She
became more proactive—presenting her own goals and ideas to influ-
ence what others expected of her. By focusing on the most important
demands, she exceeded expectations. One year after having been
rated second from the bottom in her peer group, she scored second
from the top. In June 2003, Spungin was named a McKinsey partner.
Developing Resources
In addition to lack of time, many managers complain about a short-
age of people, money, and equipment, and a surplus of rules and
regulations. They struggle with limited resources. While some feel
frustrated and keep beating their heads against a wall to no avail,
others just give up. Managers who develop a long-term strategy and
attack their goals slowly, steadily, and strategically, on the other
hand, can eventually win the backing they want.
Thomas Sattelberger faced all kinds of impossible constraints in
1994 when he left Daimler-Benz to join Lufthansa as the head of cor-
porate management and human resources development. At the time,
Lufthansa was in the middle of a strategic cost-savings program that
required every unit to reduce its total expenditures by 4% each year
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GHOSHAL AND BRUCH
122
for the next five years. Employees generally interpreted the cost-
cutting directive to mean that investing in anything other than what
was necessary to keep the lights on was verboten. Additionally,
Lufthansa’s HR processes were a mess; responses to routine requests
often took months, and contracts frequently contained typographi-
cal errors. These kinds of operational problems had existed in the
department for years.
For most managers in Sattelberger’s position, the goals would
have been simple: Get the HR department to a functional level with-
out increasing costs, make sure it doesn’t backslide, and collect a
paycheck. But Sattelberger had much higher aspirations. He had
come to Lufthansa with the dream of building Germany’s most pro-
gressive corporate human resources organization, which would help
transform the formerly state-operated company into a world-class
airline. Specifically, he envisioned starting Germany’s first corporate
university, the Lufthansa School of Business, which would extend
far beyond traditional approaches to training and development. The
university would tighten the links between strategy and organiza-
tional and individual development. Its curricula, including master’s
and nondegree management programs, would be designed, run, and
evaluated by academics and leaders from global companies, so
Lufthansa’s managers would learn from the best.
In pursuing his dream, Sattelberger chose a methodical, clever, and
patient mode of attack. First, he created an imaginary blueprint depict-
ing his university as a kind of leadership development temple. The
architectural conceit—the temple being built brick by brick and pillar
by pillar—helped Sattelberger develop a long-term, strategic imple-
mentation plan. Cleaning up basic HR processes, he reasoned, was
analogous to laying the foundation. With that accomplished, he would
erect a series of development programs, each acting as a pillar that
would hold up the “roof” of Lufthansa’s overall corporate strategy. See-
ing his plan as a blueprint also helped Sattelberger separate the “must-
haves” from the “nice-to-haves” and the “can-live-withouts,” which
enabled him to focus on only the most vital and achievable elements.
Sattelberger understood that he had to be flexible and that build-
ing his temple would demand years of methodical work. He never
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RECLAIM YOUR JOB
123
spoke about his vision as a whole because its overall cost would have
frightened most of the stakeholders. Instead, he secured their com-
mitment for individual projects and programs and implemented the
initiatives sequentially.
Step two was to lay the foundation that he had imagined. Over the
course of two years, Sattelberger reorganized HR processes so that
requests were met in a timely matter and operations made more
efficient. Given the dismal state of Lufthansa’s HR systems, no one
anticipated that Sattelberger could possibly meet, much less exceed,
expectations. He showed them wrong.
Capitalizing on his new credibility, he next set to work on step
three: building the individual pillars. One project, Explorer 21, was a
comprehensive development initiative in which managers would
learn from one another. A separate program, ProTeam, was designed
for management trainees. And another large-scale program focused
on emulating best practices from companies such as General Elec-
tric, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Daimler-Benz, and SAS.
The spending cap was a significant hurdle. Sattelberger had per-
suaded top management to allow him to rent out some training
rooms to other companies to raise money for these projects, but he
needed more. He understood that there was a limit to how far and
how fast he could push: If he pressed too hard, a backlash would
ensue. So in petitioning for funds, Sattelberger made sure he was
better prepared than his counterparts with arguments and facts.
When the controller failed to give him the green light, he made his
case directly to Jürgen Weber, the CEO. Weber agreed in principle
that the corporate university project was worthwhile, although the
conversation was not an easy one. “For God’s sake, do it,” he ended
up telling Sattelberger, “but do it right and stick to your budget.”
Weber and the board eventually began to see how Sattelberger’s
development programs fit together. Then, in March 1998—when he
learned that Daimler-Benz was about to beat Lufthansa to the punch
with a corporate university of its own—Sattelberger made his final
move. Determined not to let Daimler prevail, he wrote a memo
requesting the creation of the Lufthansa School of Business to the
board of directors. It approved the request without a moment’s
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GHOSHAL AND BRUCH
124
hesitation or debate, and Lufthansa opened Europe’s first corporate
university the following month.
The whole process took time, something purposeful managers, as
we have shown previously, claim for themselves. Sattelberger coped
with many setbacks and accepted significant delays and even can-
cellations of different aspects of his initiative. He delayed his plans
for the corporate university for the first two years so he could focus
solely on putting HR in order. Then, slowly and progressively, he
worked to relax resource constraints. Although he started with
much less than he expected, he never allowed his resolve to wither.
Lufthansa has never measured the precise payback from its school
of business, but the subjective judgment of top management is that
the return has been much higher than the investment.
Exploiting Alternatives
When it comes to making decisions or pursuing initiatives, managers
also fall victim to the trap of unexplored choices. Specifically, they
either do not recognize that they have choices or do not take advan-
tage of those they know they have. Because managers ignore their
freedom to act, they surrender their options. Purposeful initiators, by
contrast, hone their personal expertise, which confers confidence, a
wide perspective of a particular arena, and greater credibility. These
managers develop the ability to see, grasp, and fight for opportuni-
ties as they arise.
Dan Andersson was a midlevel manager who worked for the oil-
refining company ConocoPhillips in Stockholm. As a native of Finland,
he brought to Conoco a precious managerial commodity: deep knowl-
edge of the Finnish market. This knowledge enabled him to convey
information about specific regional conditions to senior managers,
who did not speak the language or understand Finland’s business
issues. Because he had been mentored by the managing director of
Conoco’s Nordic operations, Andersson quickly grasped how the
managerial invisibles—informal rules and norms, decision-making
processes, interpersonal relationships, and social dynamics—
influenced the reception of new ideas. He intuitively sensed the right
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RECLAIM YOUR JOB
125
way to present a proposal and the extent to which he could push at a
particular point of time.
Andersson was assigned to a team charged with exploring
Conoco’s possible entrance into the Finnish market, which involved
breaking a 50-year monopoly in the region. The first task was to set
up storage facilities in Finland, an estimated $1 million project that
would allow Conoco to import its own petrol. After several months
of intense searching, the team eventually found an existing tank ter-
minal, located in the city of Turku, that Shell had abandoned
decades previously. Built in the 1920s, the old tanks appeared to be
clean and usable. The Conoco team thought the solution had been
found. In the back of his mind, however, Andersson was already at
work on contingency plans. Plan B was to build a new facility, plan C
was to create a joint venture with a competitor, and plan D was to
find an investor for the tanks.
After months of negotiation, Turku’s officials approved Conoco’s
lease of the old tanks. Then came the fateful phone call from
Conoco’s laboratory: There was too much carbon in the steel; the
tanks were unsuitable for storing petrol. Without its own storage
facility, Conoco could not enter the Finnish market. There was no
other facility in the country that Conoco could buy. Abandoning
the project seemed the only choice. Everyone on the team gave up
except Andersson, who proposed putting plan B into action.
With the support of the local authorities, he persuaded the
Conoco senior team to visit Finland for face-to-face discussions
about the possibility of Conoco building its own tanks at the site.
Once Andersson’s boss saw the land and sensed the opportunity, he
grew enthusiastic about a ground-up approach. As it happened,
however, the land was contaminated; cleanup would have cost tens
of millions of euros. Still, Andersson persisted. Working with city
officials, he discovered the original contracts clearly showed that
Shell was responsible for the cleanup of the land. Once the cleanup
was complete, Conoco began work on the new tanks. When the first
Conoco ship arrived at the harbor, three years after the project
had begun, city representatives, hundreds of spectators, Finnish
television crews, and Conoco’s top management were present to
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GHOSHAL AND BRUCH
126
celebrate. Today, Conoco is the most efficient operator of automated
self-service filling stations in Finland.
As a manager, Andersson’s allegiance was not merely to a job but
to accomplishing, one way or another, the strategic goals of his com-
pany. By scanning the environment for possible obstacles and
searching for ways around them, he was able to expand his com-
pany’s, and his own, scope of opportunity. Today, he is responsible
for ConocoPhillips’ retail development in Europe.
A bias for action is not a special gift of a few. Most managers can
develop this capacity. Spungin’s story demonstrates how focusing
on a clear, long-term goal widened her horizon. Sattelberger and
Andersson countered limitations with plans of their own and
showed their companies what was possible.
In our studies of managers, we have found that the difference be-
tween those who take the initiative and those who do not becomes
particularly evident during phases of major change, when manage-
rial work becomes relatively chaotic and unstructured. Managers
who fret about conforming to the explicit or imagined expectations
of others respond to lack of structure by becoming disoriented and
paralyzed. Effective managers, by contrast, seize the opportunity to
extend the scope of their jobs, expand their choices, and pursue
ambitious goals.
Once managers command their agendas and sense their own free-
dom of choice, they come to relish their roles. They begin to search
for situations that go beyond their scope and enjoy seizing opportu-
nities as they arise. Above all, effective managers with a bias for ac-
tion aren’t managed by their jobs; rather, the reverse is true.
Originally published in March 2004. Reprint R0403B
Note
1. The framework of demands, constraints, and choices as a way to think about
managerial jobs was first suggested by Rosemary Stewart in her book Managers
and Their Jobs (Macmillan, 1967). See also Rosemary Stewart, Choices for the
Manager (Prentice Hall, 1982).
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127
A
Moments
of Greatness
Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership.
by Robert E. Quinn
AS LEADERS, SOMETIMES we’re truly “on,” and sometimes we’re not.
Why is that? What separates the episodes of excellence from those of
mere competence? In striving to tip the balance toward excellence,
we try to identify great leaders’ qualities and behaviors so we can
develop them ourselves. Nearly all corporate training programs and
books on leadership are grounded in the assumption that we should
study the behaviors of those who have been successful and teach
people to emulate them.
But my colleagues and I have found that when leaders do their
best work, they don’t copy anyone. Instead, they draw on their own
fundamental values and capabilities—operating in a frame of mind
that is true to them yet, paradoxically, not their normal state of
being. I call it the fundamental state of leadership. It’s the way we
lead when we encounter a crisis and finally choose to move forward.
Think back to a time when you faced a significant life challenge: a
promotion opportunity, the risk of professional failure, a serious ill-
ness, a divorce, the death of a loved one, or any other major jolt.
Most likely, if you made decisions not to meet others’ expectations
but to suit what you instinctively understood to be right—in other
words, if you were at your very best—you rose to the task because
you were being tested.
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Is it possible to enter the fundamental state of leadership without
crisis? In my work coaching business executives, I’ve found that if
we ask ourselves—and honestly answer—just four questions, we can
make the shift at any time. It’s a temporary state. Fatigue and exter-
nal resistance pull us out of it. But each time we reach it, we return
to our everyday selves a bit more capable, and we usually elevate the
performance of the people around us as well. Over time, we all can
become more effective leaders by deliberately choosing to enter the
fundamental state of leadership rather than waiting for crisis to
force us there.
Defining the Fundamental State
Even those who are widely admired for their seemingly easy and
natural leadership skills—presidents, prime ministers, CEOs—do not
usually function in the fundamental state of leadership. Most of the
time, they are in their normal state—a healthy and even necessary
condition under many circumstances, but not one that’s conducive
to coping with crisis. In the normal state, people tend to stay within
their comfort zones and allow external forces to direct their behav-
iors and decisions. They lose moral influence and often rely on
rational argument and the exercise of authority to bring about
change. Others comply with what these leaders ask, out of fear, but
the result is usually unimaginative and incremental—and largely
reproduces what already exists.
To elevate the performance of others, we must elevate ourselves
into the fundamental state of leadership. Getting there requires a
shift along four dimensions. (See the exhibit “There’s Normal, and
There’s Fundamental.”)
First, we move from being comfort centered to being results cen-
tered. The former feels safe but eventually leads to a sense of lan-
guishing and meaninglessness. In his book The Path of Least
Resistance, Robert Fritz carefully explains how asking a single ques-
tion can move us from the normal, reactive state to a much more
generative condition. That question is this: What result do I want to
QUINN
128
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
129
Idea in Brief
Like all leaders, sometimes you’re
“on,” and sometimes you’re not.
How to tip the scale toward
excellence and away from mere
competence? Don’t rely on imitat-
ing other leaders or poring over
leadership manuals. Instead, enter
the fundamental state of leader-
ship: the way you lead when a
crisis forces you to tap into your
deepest values and instincts. In
this state, you instinctively know
what to do: You rise to the occa-
sion and perform at your best.
Fortunately, you don’t need a crisis
to shift into the fundamental state
of leadership. You can do so any
time (before a crucial conversa-
tion, during a key meeting) by
asking four questions:
• “Am I results centered?”
Have you articulated the result
you want to create?
• “Am I internally directed?”
Are you willing to challenge
others’ expectations?
• “Am I other focused?” Have
you put your organization’s
needs above your own?
• “Am I externally open?” Do
you recognize signals suggest-
ing the need for change?
No one can operate at the top of
their game 24/7. But each time
you enter the fundamental state
of leadership, you make it easier
to return to that state again. And
you inspire others around you to
higher levels of excellence.
create? Giving an honest answer pushes us off nature’s path of least
resistance. It leads us from problem solving to purpose finding.
Second, we move from being externally directed to being more in-
ternally directed. That means that we stop merely complying with
others’ expectations and conforming to the current culture. To be-
come more internally directed is to clarify our core values and
increase our integrity, confidence, and authenticity. As we become
more confident and more authentic, we behave differently. Others
must make sense of our new behavior. Some will be attracted to it,
and some will be offended by it. That’s not prohibitive, though: When
we are true to our values, we are willing to initiate such conflict.
Third, we become less self-focused and more focused on others.
We put the needs of the organization as a whole above our own. Few
among us would admit that personal needs trump the collective
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

QUINN
130
Idea in Practice
To enter the fundamental state of
leadership, apply these steps:
1. Recognize you’ve already
been there. You’ve faced great
challenges before and, in sur-
mounting them, you entered
the fundamental state. By re-
calling these moments’ les-
sons, you release positive
emotions and see new possibil-
ities for your current situation.
2. Analyze your current state.
Compare your normal
performance with what you’ve
done at your very best. You’ll
fuel a desire to elevate what
you’re doing now and instill
confidence that you can
reenter the fundamental state.
3. Ask the four questions shown
in the following chart.
BY ASKING . . . YOU SHIFT FROM . . . TO . . .
Am I results
centered?
Remaining in your comfort
zone and solving familiar
problems
Moving toward possibilities
that don’t yet exist
Am I internally
directed?
Complying with others’
expectations and conforming
to existing conditions
Clarifying your core values,
acting with authenticity
and confidence, and
willingly initiating
productive conflict
Am I other
focused?
Allowing pursuit of your
own self-interest to shape
your relationships
Committing to the
collective good in your
organization—even at
personal cost
good, but the impulse to control relationships in a way that feeds
our own interests is natural and normal. That said, self-focus over
time leads to feelings of isolation. When we put the collective good
first, others reward us with their trust and respect. We form tighter,
more sensitive bonds. Empathy increases, and cohesion follows.
We create an enriched sense of community, and that helps us tran-
scend the conflicts that are a necessary element in high-performing
organizations.
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
131
Am I externally
open?
Controlling your environment,
making incremental changes,
and relying on established
routines
Learning from your envi-
ronment, acknowledging
the need for major change,
and departing from
routines
Example: John Jones, a suc-
cessful change leader, had
turned around two struggling
divisions in his corporation.
Promised the presidency of the
largest division when the in-
cumbent retired, he was told
meanwhile to bide his time
overseeing a dying division’s
“funeral.” He determined to
turn the division around. After
nine months, though, he’d seen
little improvement. Employees
weren’t engaged.
To enter the fundamental state,
John asked:
• “Am I results oriented?” He
suddenly envisioned a new
strategy for his struggling
division, along with a plan
(including staff reassignments)
for implementing it. With a
clear, compelling strategy in
mind, his energy soared.
• “Am I internally directed?”
He realized that his focus on
the promised plum job had
prevented him from doing the
hard work needed to motivate
his division’s people to give
more.
• “Am I other focused?” He
decided to turn down the
presidency in favor of rescuing
his failing division—a course
truer to his leadership values.
He thus traded personal
security for a greater good.
• “Am I externally open?” He
stopped deceiving himself into
thinking he’d done all he could
for his failing division and
realized he had the capacity
to improve things.
Fourth, we become more open to outside signals or stimuli, in-
cluding those that require us to do things we are not comfortable
doing. In the normal state, we pay attention to signals that we know
to be relevant. If they suggest incremental adjustments, we respond.
If, however, they call for more dramatic changes, we may adopt a
posture of defensiveness and denial; this mode of self-protection
and self-deception separates us from the ever-changing external
world. We live according to an outdated, less valid, image of what is
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QUINN
132
real. But in the fundamental state of leadership, we are more aware
of what is unfolding, and we generate new images all the time. We
are adaptive, credible, and unique. In this externally open state, no
two people are alike.
These four qualities—being results centered, internally directed,
other focused, and externally open—are at the heart of positive
human influence, which is generative and attractive. A person with-
out these four characteristics can also be highly influential, but his
or her influence tends to be predicated on some form of control or
force, which does not usually give rise to committed followers. By
entering the fundamental state of leadership, we increase the likeli-
hood of attracting others to an elevated level of community, a high-
performance state that may continue even when we are not present.
There’s normal, and there’s fundamental
Under everyday circumstances, leaders can remain in their normal state of
being and do what they need to do. But some challenges require a heightened
perspective—what can be called the fundamental state of leadership. Here’s
how the two states differ.
In the normal state, I am . . . In the fundamental state, I am . . .
COMFORT CENTERED RESULTS CENTERED
I stick with what I know. I venture beyond familiar territory to
pursue ambitious new outcomes.
EXTERNALLY DIRECTED INTERNALLY DIRECTED
I comply with others’ wishes in an
effort to keep the peace.
I behave according to my values.
SELF-FOCUSED OTHER FOCUSED
I place my interests above those
of the group.
I put the collective good first.
INTERNALLY CLOSED EXTERNALLY OPEN
I block out external stimuli in order
to stay on task and avoid risk.
I learn from my environment and
recognize when there’s a need for
change.
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
133
Preparing for the Fundamental State
Because people usually do not leave their comfort zones unless
forced, many find it helpful to follow a process when they choose
to enter the fundamental state of leadership. I teach a technique to
executives and use it in my own work. It simply involves asking four
awareness-raising questions designed to help us transcend our nat-
ural denial mechanisms. When people become aware of their
hypocrisies, they are more likely to change. Those who are new to
the “fundamental state” concept, however, need to take two prelim-
inary steps before they can understand and employ it.
Step 1: Recognize that you have previously entered
the fundamental state of leadership
Every reader of this publication has reached, at one time or another,
the fundamental state of leadership. We’ve all faced a great personal
or professional challenge and spent time in the dark night of the
soul. In successfully working through such episodes, we inevitably
enter the fundamental state of leadership.
When I introduce people to this concept, I ask them to identify
two demanding experiences from their past and ponder what hap-
pened in terms of intention, integrity, trust, and adaptability. At
first, they resist the exercise because I am asking them to revisit
times of great personal pain. But as they recount their experiences,
they begin to see that they are also returning to moments of great-
ness. Our painful experiences often bring out our best selves. Recall-
ing the lessons of such moments releases positive emotions and
makes it easier to see what’s possible in the present. In this exercise,
I ask people to consider their behavior during these episodes in rela-
tion to the characteristics of the fundamental state of leadership.
(See the exhibit “You’ve Already Been There” for analyses of two
actual episodes.)
Sometimes I also ask workshop participants to share their stories
with one another. Naturally, they are reluctant to talk about such dark
moments. To help people open up, I share my own moments of great
challenge, the ones I would normally keep to myself. By exhibiting
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

134
PA
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.
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
135
vulnerability, I’m able to win the group’s trust and embolden other
people to exercise the same courage. I recently ran a workshop with a
cynical group of executives. After I broke the testimonial ice, one of
the participants told us of a time when he had accepted a new job that
required him to relocate his family. Just before he was to start, his new
boss called in a panic, asking him to cut his vacation short and begin
work immediately. The entire New England engineering team had
quit; clients in the region had no support whatsoever. The executive
started his job early, and his family had to navigate the move without
his help. He described the next few months as “the worst and best
experience” of his life.
Another executive shared that he’d found out he had cancer the
same week he was promoted and relocated to Paris, not knowing
how to speak French. His voice cracked as he recalled these stressful
events. But then he told us about the good that came out of them—
how he conquered both the disease and the job while also becoming
a more authentic and influential leader.
Others came forward with their own stories, and I saw a great
change in the group. The initial resistance and cynicism began to dis-
appear, and participants started exploring the fundamental state of
leadership in a serious way. They saw the power in the concept and
recognized that hiding behind their pride or reputation would only
get in the way of future progress. In recounting their experiences,
they came to realize that they had become more purposive, authen-
tic, compassionate, and responsive.
Step 2: Analyze your current state
When we’re in the fundamental state, we take on various positive
characteristics, such as clarity of vision, self-empowerment, empa-
thy, and creative thinking. (See the exhibit “Are You in the Funda-
mental State of Leadership?” for a checklist organized along the four
dimensions.) Most of us would like to say we display these charac-
teristics at all times, but we really do so only sporadically.
Comparing our normal performance with what we have done at
our very best often creates a desire to elevate what we are doing
now. Knowing we’ve operated at a higher level in the past instills
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

QUINN
136
At my best
I was …
Today
I am … RESULTS CENTERED
______ ______ Knowing what result I’d like to create
______ ______ Holding high standards
______ ______ Initiating actions
______ ______ Challenging people
______ ______ Disrupting the status quo
______ ______ Capturing people’s attention
______ ______ Feeling a sense of shared purpose
______ ______ Engaging in urgent conversations
INTERNALLY DIRECTED
______ ______ Operating from my core values
______ ______ Finding motivation from within
______ ______ Feeling self-empowered
______ ______ Leading courageously
______ ______ Bringing hidden conflicts to the surface
______ ______ Expressing what I really believe
______ ______ Feeling a sense of shared reality
______ ______ Engaging in authentic conversations
OTHER FOCUSED
______ ______ Sacrificing personal interests for the common
good
______ ______ Seeing the potential in everyone
______ ______ Trusting others and fostering interdependence
______ ______ Empathizing with people’s needs
______ ______ Expressing concern
______ ______ Supporting people
______ ______ Feeling a sense of shared identity
______ ______ Engaging in participative conversations
Are you in the fundamental state of leadership?
Think of a time when you reached the fundamental state of leadership—that is,
when you were at your best as a leader—and use this checklist to identify the
qualities you displayed. Then check off the items that describe your behavior
today. Compare the past and present. If there’s a significant difference, what
changes do you need to make to get back to the fundamental state?
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137
confidence that we can do so again; it quells our fear of stepping into
unknown and risky territory.
Asking Four Transformative Questions
Of course, understanding the fundamental state of leadership and
recognizing its power are not the same as being there. Entering that
state is where the real work comes in. To get started, we can ask our-
selves four questions that correspond with the four qualities of the
fundamental state.
To show how each of these qualities affects our behavior while
we’re in the fundamental state of leadership, I’ll draw on stories
from two executives. One is a company president; we’ll call him
John Jones. The other, Robert Yamamoto, is the executive director of
the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce. Both once struggled
with major challenges that changed the way they thought about
their jobs and their lives.
I met John in an executive course I was teaching. He was a success-
ful change leader who had turned around two companies in his cor-
poration. Yet he was frustrated. He had been promised he’d become
president of the largest company in the corporation as soon as the
current president retired, which would happen in the near future. In
the meantime, he had been told to bide his time with a company that
everyone considered dead. His assignment was simply to oversee the
funeral, yet he took it as a personal challenge to turn the company
MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
EXTERNALLY OPEN
______ ______ Moving forward into uncertainty
______ ______ Inviting feedback
______ ______ Paying deep attention to what’s unfolding
______ ______ Learning exponentially
______ ______ Watching for new opportunities
______ ______ Growing continually
______ ______ Feeling a sense of shared contribution
______ ______ Engaging in creative conversations
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around. After he had been there nine months, however, there was lit-
tle improvement, and the people were still not very engaged.
As for Robert, he had been getting what he considered to be accept-
able (if not exceptional) results in his company. So when the new
board president asked him to prepare a letter of resignation, Robert
was stunned. He underwent a period of anguished introspection,
during which he began to distrust others and question his own
management skills and leadership ability. Concerned for his family
and his future, he started to seek another job and wrote the requested
letter.
As you will see, however, even though things looked grim for both
Robert and John, they were on the threshold of positive change.
Am I results centered?
Most of the time, we are comfort centered. We try to continue doing
what we know how to do. We may think we are pursuing new out-
comes, but if achieving them means leaving our comfort zones, we
subtly—even unconsciously—find ways to avoid doing so. We typi-
cally advocate ambitious outcomes while designing our work for
maximum administrative convenience, which allows us to avoid
conflict but frequently ends up reproducing what already exists.
Often, others collude with us to act out this deception. Being com-
fort centered is hypocritical, self-deceptive, and normal.
Clarifying the result we want to create requires us to reorganize
our lives. Instead of moving away from a problem, we move toward a
possibility that does not yet exist. We become more proactive, inten-
tional, optimistic, invested, and persistent. We also tend to become
more energized, and our impact on others becomes energizing.
Consider what happened with John. When I first spoke with him,
he sketched out his strategy with little enthusiasm. Sensing that lack
of passion, I asked him a question designed to test his commitment
to the end he claimed he wanted to obtain:
What if you told your people the truth? Suppose you told
them that nobody really expects you to succeed, that you
were assigned to be a caretaker for 18 months, and that you
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
139
have been promised a plum job once your assignment is
through. And then you tell them that you have chosen
instead to give up that plum job and bet your career on
the people present. Then, from your newly acquired
stance of optimism for the company’s prospects, you
issue some challenges beyond your employees’ normal
capacity.
To my surprise, John responded that he was beginning to think
along similar lines. He grabbed a napkin and rapidly sketched out a
new strategy along with a plan for carrying it out, including reassign-
ments for his staff. It was clear and compelling, and he was suddenly
full of energy.
What happened here? John was the president of his company
and therefore had authority. And he’d turned around two other
companies—evidence that he had the knowledge and competencies
of a change leader. Yet he was failing as a change leader. That’s be-
cause he had slipped into his comfort zone. He was going through
the motions, doing what had worked elsewhere. He was imitating a
great leader—in this case, John himself. But imitation is not the way
to enter the fundamental state of leadership. If I had accused John of
not being committed to a real vision, he would have been incensed.
He would have argued heatedly in denial of the truth. All I had to do,
though, was nudge him in the right direction. As soon as he envi-
sioned the result he wanted to create and committed himself to it, a
new strategy emerged and he was reenergized.
Then there was Robert, who went to what he assumed would
be his last board meeting and found that he had more support than
he’d been led to believe. Shockingly, at the end of the meeting, he
still had his job. Even so, this fortuitous turn brought on further
soul-searching. Robert started to pay more attention to what he was
doing; he began to see his tendency to be tactical and to gravitate
toward routine tasks. He concluded that he was managing, not lead-
ing. He was playing a role and abdicating leadership to the board
president—not because that person had the knowledge and vision to
lead but because the position came with the statutory right to lead.
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“I suddenly decided to really lead my organization,” Robert said. “It
was as if a new person emerged. The decision was not about me.
I needed to do it for the good of the organization.”
In deciding to “really lead,” Robert started identifying the strate-
gic outcomes he wanted to create. As he did this, he found himself
leaving his zone of comfort—behaving in new ways and generating
new outcomes.
Am I internally directed?
In the normal state, we comply with social pressures in order to
avoid conflict and remain connected with our coworkers. However,
we end up feeling less connected because conflict avoidance results
in political compromise. We begin to lose our uniqueness and our
sense of integrity. The agenda gradually shifts from creating an
external result to preserving political peace. As this problem intensi-
fies, we begin to lose hope and energy.
This loss was readily apparent in the case of John. He was his cor-
poration’s shining star. But since he was at least partially focused on
the future reward—the plum job—he was not fully focused on doing
the hard work he needed to do at the moment. So he didn’t ask
enough of the people he was leading. To get more from them, John
needed to be more internally directed.
Am I other focused?
It’s hard to admit, but most of us, most of the time, put our own needs
above those of the whole. Indeed, it is healthy to do so; it’s a survival
mechanism. But when the pursuit of our own interests controls our re-
lationships, we erode others’ trust in us. Although people may comply
with our wishes, they no longer derive energy from their relationships
with us. Over time we drive away the very social support we seek.
To become more focused on others is to commit to the collective
good in relationships, groups, or organizations, even if it means in-
curring personal costs. When John made the shift into the funda-
mental state of leadership, he committed to an uncertain future for
himself. He had been promised a coveted job. All he had to do was
wait a few months. Still, he was unhappy, so he chose to turn down
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
141
the opportunity in favor of a course that was truer to his leadership
values. When he shifted gears, he sacrificed his personal security in
favor of a greater good.
Remember Robert’s words: “The decision was not about me. I
needed to do it for the good of the organization.” After entering the
fundamental state of leadership, he proposed a new strategic direc-
tion to the board’s president and said that if the board didn’t like it,
he would walk away with no regrets. He knew that the strategy
would benefit the organization, regardless of how it would affect
him personally. Robert put the good of the organization first. When
a leader does this, people notice, and the leader gains respect and
trust. Group members, in turn, become more likely to put the collec-
tive good first. When they do, tasks that previously seemed impossi-
ble become doable.
Am I externally open?
Being closed to external stimuli has the benefit of keeping us on
task, but it also allows us to ignore signals that suggest a need for
change. Such signals would force us to cede control and face risk, so
denying them is self-protective, but it is also self-deceptive. John
convinced himself he’d done all he could for his failing company
when, deep down, he knew that he had the capacity to improve
things. Robert was self-deceptive, too, until crisis and renewed op-
portunity caused him to open up and explore the fact that he was
playing a role accorded him but not using his knowledge and emo-
tional capacity to transcend that role and truly lead his people.
Asking ourselves whether we’re externally open shifts our focus
from controlling our environment to learning from it and helps us
recognize the need for change. Two things happen as a result. First,
we are forced to improvise in response to previously unrecognized
cues—that is, to depart from established routines. And second,
because trial-and-error survival requires an accurate picture of
the results we’re creating, we actively and genuinely seek honest
feedback. Since people trust us more when we’re in this state, they
tend to offer more accurate feedback, understanding that we are
likely to learn from the message rather than kill the messenger.
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A cycle of learning and empowerment is created, allowing us to see
things that people normally cannot see and to formulate transfor-
mational strategies.
Applying the Fundamental Principles
Just as I teach others about the fundamental state of leadership, I
also try to apply the concept in my own life. I was a team leader on
a project for the University of Michigan’s Executive Education Cen-
ter. Usually, the center runs weeklong courses that bring in 30 to 40
executives. It was proposed that we develop a new product, an inte-
grated week of perspectives on leadership. C. K. Prahalad would
begin with a strategic perspective, then Noel Tichy, Dave Ulrich,
Karl Weick, and I would follow with our own presentations. The ob-
jective was to fill a 400-seat auditorium. Since each presenter had a
reasonably large following in some domain of the executive world,
we were confident we could fill the seats, so we scheduled the pro-
gram for the month of July, when our facilities were typically un-
derutilized.
In the early months of planning and organizing, everything went
perfectly. A marketing consultant had said we could expect to secure
half our enrollment three weeks prior to the event. When that time
rolled around, slightly less than half of the target audience had
signed up, so we thought all was well. But then a different consult-
ant indicated that for our kind of event we would get few additional
enrollments during the last three weeks. This stunning prediction
meant that attendance would be half of what we expected and we
would be lucky to break even.
As the team leader, I could envision the fallout. Our faculty
members, accustomed to drawing a full house, would be offended
by a half-empty room; the dean would want to know what went
wrong; and the center’s staff would probably point to the team
leader as the problem. That night I spent several hours pacing the
floor. I was filled with dread and shame. Finally I told myself that
this kind of behavior was useless. I went to my desk and wrote down
the four questions. As I considered them, I concluded that I was
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
143
comfort centered, externally directed, self-focused, and internally
closed.
So I asked myself, “What result do I want to create?” I wrote that I
wanted the center to learn how to offer a new, world-class product
that would be in demand over time. With that clarification came a
freeing insight: Because this was our first offering of the product,
turning a large profit was not essential. That would be nice, of course,
but we’d be happy to learn how to do such an event properly, break
even, and lay the groundwork for making a profit in the future.
I then asked myself, “How can I become other focused?” At
that moment, I was totally self-focused—I was worried about my
reputation—and my first inclination was to be angry with the staff.
But in shifting my focus to what they might be thinking that night, I
realized they were most likely worried that I’d come to work in the
morning ready to assign blame. Suddenly, I saw a need to both chal-
lenge and support them.
Finally, I thought about how I could become externally open. It
would mean moving forward and learning something new, even if
that made me uncomfortable. I needed to engage in an exploratory
dialogue rather than preside as the expert in charge.
I immediately began making a list of marketing strategies, though
I expected many of them would prove foolish since I knew nothing
about marketing. The next day, I brought the staff together—and
they, naturally, were guarded. I asked them what result we wanted
to create. What happened next is a good example of how contagious
the fundamental state of leadership can be.
We talked about strategies for increasing attendance, and after a
while, I told the staff that I had some silly marketing ideas and was
embarrassed to share them but was willing to do anything to help.
They laughed at many of my naive thoughts about how to increase
publicity and create pricing incentives. Yet my proposals also
sparked serious discussion, and the group began to brainstorm its
way into a collective strategy. Because I was externally open, there
was space and time for everyone to lead. People came up with better
ways of approaching media outlets and creating incentives. In that
meeting, the group developed a shared sense of purpose, reality,
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144
identity, and contribution. They left feeling reasonable optimism
and went forward as a committed team.
In the end, we did not get 400 participants, but we filled
more than enough seats to have a successful event. We more than
broke even, and we developed the skills we needed to run such an
event better in the future. The program was a success because
something transformational occurred among the staff. Yet the trans-
formation did not originate in the meeting. It began the night be-
fore, when I asked myself the four questions and moved from the
normal, reactive state to the fundamental state of leadership. And
my entry into the fundamental state encouraged the staff to enter as
well.
While the fundamental state proves useful in times of crisis, it can
also help us cope with more mundane challenges. If I am going to
have an important conversation, attend a key meeting, participate in
a significant event, or teach a class, part of my preparation is to try to
reach the fundamental state of leadership. Whether I am working
with an individual, a group, or an organization, I ask the same four
questions. They often lead to high-performance outcomes, and the
repetition of high-performance outcomes can eventually create a
high-performance culture.
Inspiring Others to High Performance
When we enter the fundamental state of leadership, we immediately
have new thoughts and engage in new behaviors. We can’t remain in
this state forever. It can last for hours, days, or sometimes months,
but eventually we come back to our normal frame of mind. While the
fundamental state is temporary, each time we are in it we learn more
about people and our environment and increase the probability that
we will be able to return to it. Moreover, we inspire those around us
to higher levels of performance.
To this day, Robert marvels at the contrast between his organiza-
tion’s past and present. His transformation into a leader with posi-
tive energy and a willingness and ability to tackle challenges in new
ways helped shape the L.A. Junior Chamber of Commerce into a
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MOMENTS OF GREATNESS
145
high-functioning and creative enterprise. When I last spoke to
Robert, here’s what he had to say:
I have a critical mass of individuals on both the staff and the
board who are willing to look at our challenges in a new way and
work on solutions together. At our meetings, new energy is pres-
ent. What previously seemed unimaginable now seems to hap-
pen with ease.
Any CEO would be delighted to be able to say these things. But the
truth is, it’s not a typical situation. When Robert shifted into the fun-
damental state of leadership, his group (which started off in a nor-
mal state) came to life, infused with his renewed energy and vision.
Even after he’d left the fundamental state, the group sustained a
higher level of performance. It continues to flourish, without signif-
icant staff changes or restructuring.
All this didn’t happen because Robert read a book or an article
about the best practices of some great leader. It did not happen be-
cause he was imitating someone else. It happened because he was
jolted out of his comfort zone and was forced to enter the fundamen-
tal state of leadership. He was driven to clarify the result he wanted
to create, to act courageously from his core values, to surrender his
self-interest to the collective good, and to open himself up to learn-
ing in real time. From Robert, and others like him, we can learn the
value of challenging ourselves in this way—a painful process but one
with great potential to make a positive impact on our own lives and
on the people around us.
Originally published in July 2005. Reprint R0507F
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I
147
What to Ask the
Person in the Mirror
by Robert S. Kaplan
IF YOU’RE LIKE MOST successful leaders, you were, in the early stages
of your career, given plenty of guidance and support. You were closely
monitored, coached, and mentored. But as you moved up the ladder,
the sources of honest and useful feedback became fewer, and after a
certain point, you were pretty much on your own. Now, your boss—if
you have one—is no longer giving much consideration to your day-to-
day actions. By the time any mistakes come to light, it’s probably too
late to fix them—or your boss’s perceptions of you. And by the time
your management missteps negatively affect your business results, it’s
usually too late to make corrections that will get you back on course.
No matter how talented and successful you are, you will make
mistakes. You will develop bad habits. The world will change subtly,
without your even noticing, and behaviors that once worked will be
rendered ineffective. Over a 22-year career at Goldman Sachs, I had
the opportunity to run various businesses and to work with or coach
numerous business leaders. I chaired the firm’s senior leadership
training efforts and cochaired its partnership committee, which fo-
cused on reviews, promotions, and development of managing direc-
tors. Through this experience and subsequent interviews with a large
number of executives in a broad range of industries, I have observed
that even outstanding leaders invariably struggle through stretches
of their careers where they get off track for some period of time.
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It’s hard to see it when you’re in the midst of it; changes in the en-
vironment, competitors, or even personal circumstances can quietly
guide you off your game. I have learned that a key characteristic of
highly successful leaders is not that they figure out how to always
stay on course, but that they develop techniques to help them recog-
nize a deteriorating situation and get back on track as quickly as pos-
sible. In my experience, the best way to do that is to step back
regularly, say, every three to six months (and certainly whenever
things feel as though they aren’t going well), and honestly ask your-
self some questions about how you’re doing and what you may need
to do differently. As simple as this process sounds, people are often
shocked by their own answers to basic management and leadership
questions.
One manager in a large financial services company who had been
passed over for promotion told me he was quite surprised by his
year-end performance review, which highlighted several manage-
ment issues that had not been previously brought to his attention.
His boss read several comments from the review that faulted him for
poor communication, failure to effectively articulate a strategy for
the business, and a tendency to isolate himself from his team. He be-
lieved that the review was unfair. After 15 years at the company, he
began to feel confused and misunderstood and wondered whether
he still had a future there. He decided to seek feedback directly from
five of his key contributors and longtime collaborators. In one-on-
one meetings, he asked them for blunt feedback and advice. He was
shocked to hear that they were highly critical of several of his recent
actions, were confused about the direction he wanted to take the
business, and felt he no longer valued their input. Their feedback
helped him see that he had been so immersed in the day-to-day busi-
ness that he had failed to step back and think about what he was
doing. This was a serious wake-up call. He immediately took steps to
change his behavior and address these issues. His review the follow-
ing year was dramatically better, he was finally promoted, and his
business’s performance improved. The manager was lucky to have
received this feedback in time to get his career back on track,
although he regretted that he had waited for a negative review to ask
KAPLAN
148
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WHAT TO ASK THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR
149
Idea in Brief
If you’re like most managers, the
higher you go up the corporate
ladder, the harder it is to get can-
did feedback on your perform-
ance. And without crucial input
from bosses and colleagues, you
can make mistakes that irrepara-
bly damage your organization—
and your reputation.
How can you figure out how you’re
really doing and avoid business
disasters? Kaplan recommends
looking to yourself for answers.
Regularly ask yourself questions
like these: “Am I communicating a
vision for my business to my em-
ployees?” “Am I spending my time
in ways that enable me to achieve
my priorities?” “Do I give people
timely and direct feedback they
can act on?” “How do I behave
under pressure?”
It’s far more important to ask the
right questions than to have all the
answers. By applying this process,
you tackle the leadership chal-
lenges that inevitably arise during
the course of your career—and
craft new plans for staying on your
game.
basic questions about his leadership activities. He promised himself
he would not make that mistake again.
In this article, I outline seven types of questions that leaders
should ask themselves on some periodic basis. I am not suggesting
that there is a “right” answer to any of them or that they all will res-
onate with a given executive at any point in time. I am suggesting
that successful executives can regularly improve their performance
and preempt serious business problems by stepping back and taking
the time to ask themselves certain key questions.
Vision and Priorities
It’s surprising how often business leaders fail to ask themselves:
How frequently do I communicate a vision and priorities for my busi-
ness? Would my employees, if asked, be able to articulate the vision
and priorities? Many leaders have, on paper, a wealth of leadership
talents: interpersonal, strategic, and analytic skills; a knack for team
building; and certainly the ability to develop a vision. Unfortunately,
in the press of day-to-day activities, they often don’t adequately
communicate the vision to the organization, and in particular, they
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KAPLAN
150
Idea in Practice
Kaplan suggests periodically asking yourself questions related
to seven leadership challenges.
To address
this
leadership
challenge . . . Ask … Because …
Vision and
priorities
How often do I
communicate a
vision and key
priorities to
achieve that
vision?
Employees want to know where the
business is going and what they need to
focus on in order to help drive the busi-
ness. As the world changes, they want
to know how the vision and priorities
might change.
Managing
time
Does the way I
spend my time
match my key
priorities?
Tracking your use of time can reveal
startling—even horrifying—disconnects
between your top priorities and your
actions. Such disconnects send
confusing messages to employees about
your true priorities.
Feedback Do I give people
timely and direct
feedback they
can act on?
Employees want truthful, direct,
and timely feedback. Retention and
productivity improve when employees
trust you to raise issues promptly and
honestly.
don’t convey it in a way that helps their people understand what
they are supposed to be doing to drive the business. It is very diffi-
cult to lead people if they don’t have a firm grasp of where they’re
heading and what’s expected of them.
This was the problem at a large Fortune 200 company that had de-
cided to invest in its 1,000 top managers by having them attend an
intensive, two-day management-training program, 100 at a time. Be-
fore each session, the participants went through a 360-degree
nonevaluative review in which critical elements of their individual
performance were ranked by ten of their subordinates. The company’s
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WHAT TO ASK THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR
151
Succession
planning
Have I identified
potential
successors?
It’s important to nurture future leaders who
can grow the business. If you haven’t identi-
fied possible successors, you’re probably
not delegating as much as you should,
and you may even be a decision-making
bottleneck.
Evaluation
and
alignment
Am I attuned
to business
changes that may
require shifts in
how we run the
company?
All businesses encounter challenges
posed by changes; for example, in cus-
tomers’ needs or the business’s stage of
maturity. To determine how best to evolve
your business, regularly scan for changes,
seek fresh perspectives from talented
subordinates, and envision new organiza-
tional designs.
Leading
under
pressure
How do I behave
under pressure?
During crises, employees watch you with a
microscope—and mimic your behavior. By
identifying your unproductive behaviors
under pressure (such as blaming others or
losing your temper), you can better manage
those behaviors and avoid sending unin-
tended messages to employees about how
they should behave.
Staying true
to yourself
Does my leader-
ship style reflect
who I truly am?
A business career is a marathon, not a
sprint. If you’ve adopted a leadership style
that doesn’t suit your skills, values, and
personality, you’ll wear down.
senior management looked at the results, focusing on the top five
and bottom five traits for each group. Despite this being an ex-
tremely well-managed firm, the ability to articulate a vision ranked
in the bottom five for almost every group. Managers at that company
did articulate a vision, but the feedback from their subordinates
strongly indicated that they were not communicating it frequently
or clearly enough to meet their people’s tremendous hunger for
guidance.
Employees want to know where the business is going and what
they need to focus on. As the world changes, they want to know how
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the business vision and priorities might change along with it. While
managers are taught to actively communicate, many either uninten-
tionally undercommunicate or fail to articulate specific priorities that
would give meaning to their vision. However often you think you dis-
cuss vision and strategy, you may not be doing it frequently enough or
in sufficient detail to suit the needs of your people. Look at the CEO of
an emerging biotechnology company, who was quite frustrated with
what he saw as a lack of alignment within his top management team.
He strongly believed that the company needed to do a substantial eq-
uity financing within the next 18 months, but his senior managers
wanted to wait a few years until two or three of the company’s key
drugs were further along in the FDA approval process. They preferred
to tell their story to investors when the company was closer to gener-
ating revenue. When I asked him about the vision for the company,
the CEO sheepishly realized that he had never actually written down
a vision statement. He had a well-articulated tactical plan relating to
each of the company’s specific product efforts but no fully formed vi-
sion that would give further context to these efforts. He decided to or-
ganize an off-site meeting for his senior management team to discuss
and specifically articulate a vision for the company.
After a vigorous debate, the group quickly agreed on a vision and
strategic priorities. They realized that in order to achieve their
shared goals, the business would in fact require substantial financ-
ing sooner rather than later—or they would need to scale back some
of the initiatives that were central to their vision for the company.
Once they fully appreciated this trade-off, they understood what the
CEO was trying to accomplish and left the meeting united about
their financing strategy. The CEO was quite surprised at how easy it
had been to bring the members of his leadership team together. Be-
cause they agreed on where they were going as a company, specific
issues were much easier to resolve.
A common pitfall in articulating a vision is a failure to boil it down
to a manageable list of initiatives. Culling the list involves thinking
through and then making difficult choices and trade-off decisions.
These choices communicate volumes to your people about how they
should be spending their time. I spoke with the manager of a
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national sales force who felt frustrated that his direct reports were
not focusing on the tasks necessary to achieve their respective re-
gional sales goals. As a result, sales were growing at a slower rate
than budgeted at the beginning of the year. When I asked him to
enumerate the three to five key priorities he expected his salespeo-
ple to focus on, he paused and then explained that there were 15 and
it would be very difficult to narrow the list down to five.
Even as he spoke, a light went on in his head. He realized why
there might be a disconnect between him and his people: They didn’t
know precisely what he wanted because he had not told them in a
prioritized, and therefore actionable, manner. He reflected on this
issue for the next two weeks, thinking at length about his own expe-
rience as a regional manager and consulting with various colleagues.
He then picked three priorities that he felt were crucial to achieving
sales growth. The most important of these involved a major new-
business targeting exercise followed by a substantial new-prospect
calling effort. The regional managers immediately understood and
began focusing on these initiatives. The fact is that having 15 priori-
ties is the same as having none at all. Managers have a responsibility
to translate their vision into a manageable number of priorities that
their subordinates can understand and act on.
Failing to communicate your vision and priorities has direct costs
to you in terms of time and business effectiveness. It’s hard to dele-
gate if your people don’t have a good sense of the big picture; hence
you end up doing more work yourself. This issue can cascade through
the organization if your direct reports are, in turn, unable to commu-
nicate a vision and effectively leverage their own subordinates.
Managing Time
The second area to question is painfully simple and closely relates to
the first: How am I spending my time? Once you know your priorities,
you need to determine whether you’re spending your time—your
most precious asset—in a way that will allow you to achieve them.
For example, if your two major priorities are senior talent develop-
ment and global expansion but you’re spending the majority of your
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Testing Yourself
To assess your performance and stay on track, you should step back and ask
yourself certain key questions.
Vision and Priorities
In the press of day-to-day activities, leaders often fail to adequately commu-
nicate their vision to the organization, and in particular, they don’t communi-
cate it in a way that helps their subordinates determine where to focus their
own efforts.
How often do I communicate a vision for my business?
Have I identified and communicated three to five key priorities to achieve
that vision?
If asked, would my employees be able to articulate the vision and
priorities?
Managing Time
Leaders need to know how they’re spending their time. They also need to en-
sure that their time allocation (and that of their subordinates) matches their
key priorities.
How am I spending my time? Does it match my key priorities?
How are my subordinates spending their time? Does that match the key
priorities for the business?
Feedback
Leaders often fail to coach employees in a direct and timely fashion and, in-
stead, wait until the year-end review. This approach may lead to unpleasant
surprises and can undermine effective professional development. Just as im-
portant, leaders need to cultivate subordinates who can give them advice
and feedback during the year.
Do I give people timely and direct feedback that they can act on?
Do I have five or six junior subordinates who will tell me things I may not
want to hear but need to hear?
Succession Planning
When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate suffi-
ciently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Key employees may
leave if they are not actively groomed and challenged.
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Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or more potential successors?
Am I coaching them and giving them challenging assignments?
Am I delegating sufficiently? Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?
Evaluation and Alignment
The world is constantly changing, and leaders need to be able to adapt their
businesses accordingly.
Is the design of my company still aligned with the key success factors for
the business?
If I had to design my business with a clean sheet of paper, how would I de-
sign it? How would it differ from the current design?
Should I create a task force of subordinates to answer these questions and
make recommendations to me?
Leading Under Pressure
A leader’s actions in times of stress are watched closely by subordinates and
have a profound impact on the culture of the firm and employees’ behavior.
Successful leaders need to be aware of their own stress triggers and con-
sciously modulate their behavior during these periods to make sure they are
acting in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and core values.
What types of events create pressure for me?
How do I behave under pressure?
What signals am I sending my subordinates? Are these signals helpful, or
are they undermining the success of my business?
Staying True to Yourself
Successful executives develop leadership styles that fit the needs of their
business but also fit their own beliefs and personality.
Is my leadership style comfortable? Does it reflect who I truly am?
Do I assert myself sufficiently, or have I become tentative?
Am I too politically correct?
Does worry about my next promotion or bonus cause me to pull punches
or hesitate to express my views?
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time on domestic operational and administrative matters that could
be delegated, then you need to recognize there is a disconnect and
you’d better make some changes.
It’s such a simple question, yet many leaders, myself included,
just can’t accurately answer at times. When leaders finally do track
their time, they’re often surprised by what they find. Most of us go
through periods where unexpected events and day-to-day chaos
cause us to be reactive rather than acting on a proscribed plan.
Crises, surprises, personnel issues, and interruptions make the
workweek seem like a blur. I have recommended to many leaders
that they track how they spend each hour of each day for one week,
then categorize the hours into types of activities: business develop-
ment, people management, and strategic planning, for example. For
most executives, the results of this exercise are startling—even hor-
rifying—with obvious disconnects between what their top priorities
are and how they are spending their time.
For example, the CEO of a midsize manufacturing company was
frustrated because he was working 70 hours a week and never seemed
to catch up. His family life suffered, and, at work, he was constantly
unavailable for his people and major customers. I suggested he step
back and review how he was managing his time hour-by-hour over
the course of a week. We sat down to examine the results and noticed
that he was spending a substantial amount of time approving com-
pany expenditures, some for as little as $500—this in a business with
$500 million in sales. Sitting in my office, he struggled to explain why
he had not delegated some portion of this responsibility; it turned out
that the activity was a holdover from a time when the company was
much smaller. By delegating authority to approve recurring operating
expenses below $25,000, he realized he could save as much as 15
hours per week. He was amazed that he had not recognized this issue
and made this simple change much earlier.
How you spend your time is an important question not only for
you but for your team. People tend to take their cues from the leader
when it comes to time management—therefore, you want to make
sure there’s a match between your actions, your business priorities,
and your team’s activities. The CEO of a rapidly growing, 300-person
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professional services firm felt that, to build the business, senior
managers needed to develop stronger and more substantive rela-
tionships with clients. This meant that senior professionals would
need to spend significantly more time out of their offices in meet-
ings with clients. When asked how his own time was being spent, the
CEO was unable to answer. After tracking it for a week, he was
shocked to find that he was devoting a tremendous amount of his
time to administrative activities related to managing the firm. He re-
alized that the amount of attention he was paying to these matters
did not reflect the business’s priorities and was sending a confusing
message to his people. He immediately began pushing himself to
delegate a number of these administrative tasks and increase the
amount of time he spent on the road with customers, setting a pow-
erful example for his people. He directed each of his senior man-
agers to do a similar time-allocation exercise to ensure they were
dedicating sufficient time to clients.
Of course, the way a leader spends his or her time must be tai-
lored to the needs of the business, which may vary depending on
time of year, personnel changes, and external factors. The key here
is, whatever you decide, time allocation needs to be a conscious de-
cision that fits your vision and priorities for the business. Given the
pressure of running a business, it is easy to lose focus, so it’s impor-
tant to ask yourself this question periodically. Just as you would step
back and review a major investment decision, you need to dispas-
sionately review the manner in which you invest your time.
Feedback
When you think about the ways you approach feedback, you should
first ask: Do I give people timely, direct, and constructive feedback?
And second: Do I have five or six junior people who will tell me things
I don’t want to hear but need to hear?
If they’re like most ambitious employees, your subordinates want
to be coached and developed in a truthful and direct manner. They
want to get feedback while there’s still an opportunity to act on it; if
you’ve waited until the year-end review, it’s often too late. In my
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experience, well-intentioned managers typically fail to give blunt,
direct, and timely feedback to their subordinates.
One reason for this failure is that managers are often afraid that
constructive feedback and criticism will demoralize their employ-
ees. In addition, critiquing a professional in a frank and timely man-
ner may be perceived as overly confrontational. Lastly, many
managers fear that this type of feedback will cause employees not to
like them. Consequently, leaders often wait until year-end perform-
ance reviews. The year-end review is evaluative (that is, the verdict
on the year) and therefore is not conducive to constructive coaching.
The subordinate is typically on the defensive and not as open to crit-
icism. This approach creates surprises, often unpleasant ones,
which undermine trust and dramatically reduce the confidence of
the subordinate in the manager.
The reality is that managers who don’t give immediate and direct
feedback often are “liked” until year-end—at which time they wind
up being strongly disliked. If employees have fallen short of expecta-
tions, the failing is reflected in bonuses, raises, and promotions. The
feeling of injustice can be enormous. What’s worse is the knowledge
that if an employee had received feedback earlier in the year, it is
likely that he or she would have made meaningful efforts to improve
and address the issues.
While people do like to hear positive feedback, ultimately, they
desperately want to know the truth, and I have rarely seen someone
quit over hearing the truth or being challenged to do better—unless
it’s too late. On the contrary, I would argue that people are more
likely to stay if they understand what issues they need to address
and they trust you to bring those issues to their attention in a
straightforward and prompt fashion. They gain confidence that you
will work with them to develop their skills and that they won’t be
blindsided at the end of the year. Employees who don’t land a
hoped-for promotion will be much more likely to forgive you if
you’ve told them all along what they need to do better, even if they
haven’t gotten there yet. They may well redouble their efforts to
prove to you that they can overcome these issues.
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During my career at Goldman Sachs, I consistently found that pro-
fessional development was far more effective when coaching and di-
rect feedback were given to employees throughout the year—well in
advance of the annual performance review process. Internal surveys
of managing directors showed that, in cases where feedback was con-
fined to the year-end review, satisfaction with career development
was dramatically lower than when it was offered throughout the year.
As hard as it is to give effective and timely feedback, many lead-
ers find it much more challenging to get feedback from their employ-
ees. Once you reach a certain stage of your career, junior people are
in a much better position than your boss to tell you how you’re
doing. They see you in your day-to-day activities, and they experi-
ence your decisions directly. Your boss, at this stage, is much more
removed and, as a result, typically needs to talk to your subordinates
to assess your performance at the end of the year. In order to avoid
your own year-end surprises, you need to develop a network of jun-
ior professionals who are willing to give you constructive feedback.
The problem is that, while your direct reports know what you are
doing wrong, most of them are not dying to tell you. With good
reason—there’s very little upside and a tremendous amount of
downside. The more senior and the more important you become,
the less your subordinates will tell you the “awful truth”—things
that are difficult to hear but that you need to know.
It takes a concerted effort to cultivate subordinates who will ad-
vise and coach you. It also takes patience and some relentlessness.
When I ask subordinates for constructive feedback, they will typi-
cally and predictably tell me that I’m doing “very well.” When I fol-
low up and ask “What should I do differently?” they respond,
“Nothing that I can think of.” If I challenge them by saying, “There
must be something!” still they say, “Nothing comes to mind.” I then
ask them to sit back and think—we have plenty of time. By this time,
beads of sweat begin to become visible on their foreheads. After an
awkward silence, they will eventually come up with something—
and it’s often devastating to hear. It’s devastating because it’s a
damning criticism and because you know it’s true.
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What you do with this feedback is critical. If you act on it, you will
improve your performance. Equally important, you will take a big
step in building trust and laying the groundwork for a channel of
honest feedback. When subordinates see that you respond posi-
tively to suggestions, they will often feel more ownership in the
business and in your success. They’ll learn to give you criticisms on
their own initiative because they know you will actually appreciate
it and do something with it. Developing a network of “coaching”
subordinates will help you take action to identify your own leader-
ship issues and meaningfully improve your performance.
Succession Planning
Another question that managers know is important yet struggle to
answer affirmatively is: Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or
more potential successors? This issue is critical because if you aren’t
identifying potential successors, you are probably not delegating as
extensively as you should and you may well be a decision-making
bottleneck. Being a bottleneck invariably means that you are not
spending enough time on vital leadership priorities and are failing to
develop your key subordinates. Ironically, when leaders believe they
are so talented that they can perform tasks far better than any of
their subordinates and therefore insist on doing the tasks them-
selves, they will typically cause their businesses to underperform,
and, ultimately, their careers will suffer as well.
The succession question also has significant implications that
cascade through an organization: If leaders do not develop succes-
sors, then the organization may lack a sufficient number of leaders
to successfully grow the business. Worse, if junior employees are not
developed, they may leave the firm for better opportunities else-
where. For these reasons, many well-managed companies will hesi-
tate to promote executives who have failed to develop successors.
It is sufficient to identify possible successors without actually
telling them you’ve done so—as long as this identification causes you
to manage them differently. In particular, you will want to delegate
more of your major responsibilities to these professionals. This will
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speed their maturation and prepare them to step up to the next level.
By giving demanding assignments to these subordinates, you strongly
signal an interest in their development and career progression—which
will encourage them to turn down offers from competitors. Leaders
who do this are much better able to keep their teams together and
avoid losing up-and-coming stars to competitors.
A loss of talent is highly damaging to a company. It is particularly
painful if you could have retained key employees by simply challeng-
ing them more intensively. I spoke with a division head of a large
company who was concerned about what he perceived to be a talent
deficit in his organization. He felt that he could not use his time to the
fullest because he viewed his direct reports as incapable of assuming
some of his major responsibilities. He believed this talent deficit was
keeping him from launching several new product and market initia-
tives. In the midst of all this, he lost two essential subordinates over
six months—each had left to take on increased responsibilities at
major competitors. He had tried to persuade them to stay, emphasiz-
ing that he was actively considering them for significant new leader-
ship assignments. Because they had not seen evidence of this
previously, they were skeptical and left anyway. I asked him whether,
prior to the defections, he had identified them (or anyone else) as po-
tential successors, put increased responsibilities in their hands, or ac-
tively ratcheted up his coaching of these professionals. He answered
that, in the chaos of daily events and in the effort to keep up with the
business, he had not done so. He also admitted that he had underes-
timated the potential of these two employees and realized he was
probably underestimating the abilities of several others in the com-
pany. He immediately sat down and made a list of potential stars and
next to each name wrote out a career and responsibility game plan.
He immediately got to work on this formative succession plan, al-
though he suspected that he had probably waited too long already.
When you’re challenging and testing people, you delegate to
them more often, which frees you to focus on the most critical
strategic matters facing the business. This will make you more
successful and a more attractive candidate for your own future
promotion.
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Evaluation and Alignment
The world is constantly changing. Your customers’ needs change;
your business evolves (going, for instance, from high growth to ma-
ture); new products and distribution methods emerge as threats.
When these changes happen, if you don’t change along with them,
you can get seriously out of alignment. The types of people you hire,
the way you organize them, the economic incentives you offer them,
and even the nature of the tasks you delegate no longer create the
culture and outcomes that are critical to the success of your busi-
ness. It’s your job to make sure that the design of your organization
is aligned with the key success factors for the business. Ask yourself:
Am I attuned to changes in the business environment that would re-
quire a change in the way we organize and run our business?
Such clear-sightedness is, of course, hard to achieve. As a leader,
you may be too close to the business to see subtle changes that are
continually occurring. Because you probably played a central role in
building and designing the business, it may be emotionally very dif-
ficult to make meaningful changes. You may have to fire certain em-
ployees—people you recruited and hired. You may also have to
acknowledge that you made some mistakes and be open to changing
your own operating style in a way that is uncomfortable for some pe-
riod of time.
Because of the difficulty in facing these issues, it’s sometimes
wise to call on high-potential subordinates to take a fresh look at the
business. This approach can be quite effective because junior em-
ployees are often not as emotionally invested as you are and can see
more objectively what needs to be done. This approach is also a good
way to challenge your future leaders and give them a valuable devel-
opment experience. You’ll give them a chance to exercise their
strategic skills; you’ll get a glimpse of their potential (which relates
to the earlier discussion of succession planning), and you might just
get some terrific new ideas for how to run the business.
This approach worked for the CEO of a high technology business
in northern California, whose company had been one of the early in-
novators in its product space but, in recent years, had begun to falter
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and lose market share. In its early days, the company’s primary suc-
cess factors had been product innovation and satisfying customer
needs. It had aggressively hired innovative engineers and marketing
personnel. As new competitors emerged, customers began to focus
more on cost and service (in the form of more sophisticated applica-
tions development). Stepping back, the CEO sensed that he needed
to redesign the company with a different mix of people, a new or-
ganization, and a revised incentive structure. Rather than try to
come up with a new model himself, he asked a more junior group of
executives to formulate a new company design as if they had a
“clean sheet of paper.” Their study took a number of weeks, but
upon completion, it led to several recommendations that the CEO
immediately began to implement. For example, they suggested
colocating the engineering and sales departments and creating inte-
grated account coverage teams. They also recommended that the
company push more of its engineers to interact with customers and
focus on this skill in recruiting. The CEO regretted that he had not
asked the question—and conducted this assignment—12 months
earlier.
Even the most successful business is susceptible to new chal-
lenges posed by a changing world. Effective executives regularly
look at their businesses with a clean sheet of paper—seeking advice
and other perspectives from people who are less emotionally in-
vested in the business—in order to determine whether key aspects
of the way they run their organizations are still appropriate.
Leading Under Pressure
Pressure is a part of business. Changes in business conditions create
urgent problems. New entrants in the market demand a competitive
response. Valued employees quit, often at the most inopportune
times. Leaders and their teams, no matter how smart they are, make
mistakes.
The interesting thing about stressful events is that they affect
each person differently—what causes you anxiety may not bother
someone else, and vice versa. For some, extreme anxiety may be
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triggered by the prospect of a promotion; for others, by making a se-
rious mistake; still others, by losing a piece of business to a competi-
tor. Regardless of the source of stress, every leader experiences it, so
a good question to ask yourself is: How do I behave under pressure,
and what signals am I sending my employees?
As a leader, you’re watched closely. During a crisis, your people
watch you with a microscope, noting every move you make. In such
times, your subordinates learn a great deal about you and what you
really believe, as opposed to what you say. Do you accept responsi-
bility for mistakes, or do you look for someone to blame? Do you
support your employees, or do you turn on them? Are you cool and
calm, or do you lose your temper? Do you stand up for what you be-
lieve, or do you take the expedient route and advocate what you
think your seniors want to hear? You need to be self-aware enough
to recognize the situations that create severe anxiety for you and
manage your behavior to avoid sending unproductive messages to
your people.
I’ve met a number of leaders who behave in a very composed and
thoughtful manner the great majority of the time. Unfortunately,
when they’re under severe stress, they react in ways that set a very
negative tone. They inadvertently train their employees to mimic
that behavior and behave in a similar fashion. If your instinct is to
shield yourself from blame, to take credit rather than sharing it with
your subordinates, or to avoid admitting when you have made a mis-
take, you will give your employees license to do the same.
The CEO of a large asset-management firm was frustrated that he
was unable to build a culture of accountability and teamwork in his
growing business. At his request, I spoke to a number of his team
members. I asked in particular about the actions of the CEO when in-
vestments they recommended declined in value. They recounted
his frequent temper tantrums and accusatory diatribes, which led to
an overwhelming atmosphere of blame and finger-pointing. The in-
vestment decisions had, in fact, been made jointly through a care-
fully constructed process involving portfolio managers, industry
analysts, and the CEO. As a result of these episodes, employees
learned that when investments went wrong it would be good to try
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to find someone else to blame. Hearing these stories, the CEO real-
ized his actions under pressure were far more persuasive to employ-
ees than his speeches about teamwork and culture. He understood
that he would have to learn to moderate his behavior under stress
and, subsequently, took steps to avoid reacting so angrily to negative
investment results. He also became more aware that subordinates
typically felt quite regretful and demoralized when their invest-
ments declined and were more likely to need a pat on the back and
coaching than a kick in the pants.
It’s extremely difficult to expect employees to alert you to loom-
ing problems when they fear your reaction—and even more so when
they think it’s better to distance themselves from potential prob-
lems. This can create an atmosphere where surprises are, in fact,
more likely as the company’s natural early-warning system has been
inadvertently disarmed. If you have created this kind of culture, it is
quite unlikely that you will learn about problems from subordinates
spontaneously—unless they want to commit career suicide.
Part of the process of maturing as a leader is learning to step back
and think about what creates pressure for you, being self-aware in
these situations, and disciplining your behavior to ensure that you
act in a manner consistent with your core values.
Staying True to Yourself
Most business leaders ask themselves whether their leadership style
fits the needs of their business. Fewer managers ask whether their
style also fits their own beliefs and personality. The question here is:
Does my leadership style reflect who I truly am?
A business career is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you aren’t true
to yourself, eventually you’re going to wear down. As you are devel-
oping in your career, it is advisable to observe various leadership
styles, and pick and choose elements that feel comfortable to you.
Bear in mind, though, that observing and adopting aspects of other
styles does not mean you should try to be someone else. During my
career, I was fortunate to have had several superb bosses and col-
leagues with distinctive and unique leadership skills. While I tried to
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KAPLAN
166
adopt some of their techniques, I also learned that I needed to de-
velop an overall style that fit my unique skills and personality. Your
style needs to fit you; even an unorthodox style can be enormously
effective if it reflects your skills, values, and personality.
As you become more senior, you’ll need to ask yourself an addi-
tional set of questions relating to style: Do I assert myself sufficiently,
or have I become tentative? Am I too politically correct? Does worry
about my next promotion or my year-end bonus cause me to pull
punches or hesitate to clearly express my views? In many companies,
ambitious executives may try to avoid confronting sensitive issues
or making waves. Worse than that, they may spend an inordinate
amount of energy trying to ascertain what their boss thinks and then
act like they think the same thing. If they’re very skilled at this, they
may even get a chance to make their comments before the boss has a
chance to express his opinion—and feel the warm glow of approval
from the boss.
The problem is that confrontation and disagreement are crucial to
effective decision making. Some of the worst decisions I’ve been in-
volved in were made after a group of intelligent people had unani-
mously agreed to the course of action—though, later, several
participants admitted that they had misgivings but were hesitant to
diverge from the apparent group consensus. Conversely, it’s hard for
me to recall a poor decision I was involved in that was made after a
thorough debate in which opposing views were vigorously ex-
pressed (even if I disagreed with the ultimate decision). Companies
need their leaders to express strongly held views rather than mimic
what they believe to be the party line. As a leader, therefore, you
must ask yourself whether you are expressing your views or holding
back and being too politic. At the same time, leaders must encourage
their own subordinates to express their unvarnished opinions, make
waves as appropriate, and stop tiptoeing around significant issues.
Successful leaders periodically struggle during stretches of their ca-
reers. To get back on track, they must devise techniques for stepping
back, getting perspective, and developing a new game plan. In this
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WHAT TO ASK THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR
167
process, having the answers is often far less important than taking
time to ask yourself the right questions and gain key insights. The
questions posed in this article are intended to spark your thinking.
Only a subset of these may resonate with you, and you may find it
more useful to come up with your own list. In either event, a self-
questioning process conducted on a periodic basis will help you
work through leadership challenges and issues that you invariably
must tackle over the course of your career.
Originally published in January 2007. Reprint R0701H
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W
169
Primal Leadership
The Hidden Driver of Great Performance. by Daniel
Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
WHEN THE THEORY OF EMOTIONAL intelligence at work began to re-
ceive widespread attention, we frequently heard executives say—in
the same breath, mind you—“That’s incredible,” and, “Well, I’ve
known that all along.” They were responding to our research that
showed an incontrovertible link between an executive’s emotional
maturity, exemplified by such capabilities as self-awareness and em-
pathy, and his or her financial performance. Simply put, the research
showed that “good guys”—that is, emotionally intelligent men and
women—finish first.
We’ve recently compiled two years of new research that, we sus-
pect, will elicit the same kind of reaction. People will first exclaim,
“No way,” then quickly add, “But of course.” We found that of all the
elements affecting bottom-line performance, the importance of the
leader’s mood and its attendant behaviors are most surprising. That
powerful pair set off a chain reaction: The leader’s mood and behav-
iors drive the moods and behaviors of everyone else. A cranky and
ruthless boss creates a toxic organization filled with negative under-
achievers who ignore opportunities; an inspirational, inclusive
leader spawns acolytes for whom any challenge is surmountable.
The final link in the chain is performance: profit or loss.
Our observation about the overwhelming impact of the leader’s
“emotional style,” as we call it, is not a wholesale departure from our
research into emotional intelligence. It does, however, represent a
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deeper analysis of our earlier assertion that a leader’s emotional in-
telligence creates a certain culture or work environment. High levels
of emotional intelligence, our research showed, create climates in
which information sharing, trust, healthy risk-taking, and learning
flourish. Low levels of emotional intelligence create climates rife
with fear and anxiety. Because tense or terrified employees can be
very productive in the short term, their organizations may post good
results, but they never last.
Our investigation was designed in part to look at how emotional
intelligence drives performance—in particular, at how it travels from
the leader through the organization to bottom-line results. “What
mechanism,” we asked, “binds the chain together?” To answer that
question, we turned to the latest neurological and psychological re-
search. We also drew on our work with business leaders, observa-
tions by our colleagues of hundreds of leaders, and Hay Group data
on the leadership styles of thousands of executives. From this body
of research, we discovered that emotional intelligence is carried
through an organization like electricity through wires. To be more
specific, the leader’s mood is quite literally contagious, spreading
quickly and inexorably throughout the business.
We’ll discuss the science of mood contagion in more depth later,
but first let’s turn to the key implications of our finding. If a leader’s
mood and accompanying behaviors are indeed such potent drivers
of business success, then a leader’s premier task—we would even say
his primal task—is emotional leadership. A leader needs to make
sure that not only is he regularly in an optimistic, authentic, high-
energy mood, but also that, through his chosen actions, his follow-
ers feel and act that way, too. Managing for financial results, then,
begins with the leader managing his inner life so that the right emo-
tional and behavioral chain reaction occurs.
Managing one’s inner life is not easy, of course. For many of us,
it’s our most difficult challenge. And accurately gauging how one’s
emotions affect others can be just as difficult. We know of one CEO,
for example, who was certain that everyone saw him as upbeat and
reliable; his direct reports told us they found his cheerfulness
strained, even fake, and his decisions erratic. (We call this common
GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
170
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PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
171
Idea in Brief
What most influences your com-
pany’s bottom-line performance?
The answer will surprise you—and
make perfect sense: It’s a leader’s
own mood.
Executives’ emotional intelli-
gence—their self-awareness, em-
pathy, rapport with others—has
clear links to their own perform-
ance. But new research shows that
a leader’s emotional style also
drives everyone else’s moods and
behaviors—through a neurological
process called mood contagion.
It’s akin to “Smile and the whole
world smiles with you.”
Emotional intelligence travels
through an organization like
electricity over telephone wires.
Depressed, ruthless bosses
create toxic organizations filled
with negative underachievers.
But if you’re an upbeat, inspira-
tional leader, you cultivate
positive employees who embrace
and surmount even the toughest
challenges.
Emotional leadership isn’t just
putting on a game face every
day. It means understanding
your impact on others—then
adjusting your style accordingly.
A difficult process of self-
discovery—but essential before
you can tackle your leadership
responsibilities.
disconnect “CEO disease.”) The implication is that primal leadership
demands more than putting on a game face every day. It requires an
executive to determine, through reflective analysis, how his emo-
tional leadership drives the moods and actions of the organization,
and then, with equal discipline, to adjust his behavior accordingly.
That’s not to say that leaders can’t have a bad day or week: Life
happens. And our research doesn’t suggest that good moods have to
be high-pitched or nonstop—optimistic, sincere, and realistic will
do. But there is no escaping the conclusion that a leader must first
attend to the impact of his mood and behaviors before moving on to
his wide panoply of other critical responsibilities. In this article, we
introduce a process that executives can follow to assess how others
experience their leadership, and we discuss ways to calibrate that
impact. But first, we’ll look at why moods aren’t often discussed in
the workplace, how the brain works to make moods contagious, and
what you need to know about CEO disease.
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
172
Idea in Practice
Strengthening Your Emotional
Leadership
Since few people have the guts
to tell you the truth about your
emotional impact, you must
discover it on your own. The fol-
lowing process can help. It’s based
on brain science, as well as years
of field research with executives.
Use these steps to rewire your
brain for greater emotional
intelligence.
1. Who do you want to be?
Imagine yourself as a highly ef-
fective leader. What do you
see?
Example: Sofia, a senior man-
ager, often micromanaged oth-
ers to ensure work was done
“right.” So she imagined herself
in the future as an effective
leader of her own company, en-
joying trusting relationships with
coworkers. She saw herself as
relaxed, happy, and empower-
ing. The exercise revealed gaps
in her current emotional style.
2. Who are you now? To see your
leadership style as others do,
gather 360-degree feedback,
especially from peers and sub-
ordinates. Identify your weak-
nesses and strengths.
3. How do you get from here to
there? Devise a plan for clos-
ing the gap between who you
are and who you want to be.
Example: Juan, a marketing
executive, was intimidating,
impossible to please—a
No Way! Yes Way
When we said earlier that people will likely respond to our new find-
ing by saying “No way,” we weren’t joking. The fact is, the emotional
impact of a leader is almost never discussed in the workplace, let
alone in the literature on leadership and performance. For most peo-
ple, “mood” feels too personal. Even though Americans can be
shockingly candid about personal matters—witness the Jerry
Springer Show and its ilk—we are also the most legally bound. We
can’t even ask the age of a job applicant. Thus, a conversation about
an executive’s mood or the moods he creates in his employees might
be construed as an invasion of privacy.
We also might avoid talking about a leader’s emotional style and
its impact because, frankly, the topic feels soft. When was the last
time you evaluated a subordinate’s mood as part of her performance
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PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
173
grouch. Charged with growing
his company, he needed to be
encouraging, optimistic—a
coach with a vision. Setting out
to understand others, he
coached soccer, volunteered at
a crisis center, and got to know
subordinates by meeting out-
side of work. These new situa-
tions stimulated him to break
old habits and try new re-
sponses.
4. How do you make change
stick? Repeatedly rehearse
new behaviors—physically and
mentally—until they’re auto-
matic.
Example: Tom, an executive,
wanted to learn how to coach
rather than castigate struggling
employees. Using his commut-
ing time to visualize a difficult
meeting with one employee, he
envisioned asking questions
and listening, and mentally re-
hearsed how he’d handle feel-
ing impatient. This exercise
prepared him to adopt new be-
haviors at the actual meeting.
5. Who can help you? Don’t
try to build your emotional
skills alone—identify others
who can help you navigate
this difficult process. Man-
agers at Unilever formed
learning groups that helped
them strengthen their
leadership abilities by
exchanging frank feedback
and developing strong
mutual trust.
appraisal? You may have alluded to it—“Your work is hindered by an
often negative perspective,” or “Your enthusiasm is terrific”—but it
is unlikely you mentioned mood outright, let alone discussed its im-
pact on the organization’s results.
And yet our research undoubtedly will elicit a “But of course” re-
action, too. Everyone knows how much a leader’s emotional state
drives performance because everyone has had, at one time or an-
other, the inspirational experience of working for an upbeat man-
ager or the crushing experience of toiling for a sour-spirited boss.
The former made everything feel possible, and as a result, stretch
goals were achieved, competitors beaten, and new customers won.
The latter made work grueling. In the shadow of the boss’s dark
mood, other parts of the organization became “the enemy,” col-
leagues became suspicious of one another, and customers slipped
away.
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
174
Our research, and research by other social scientists, confirms the
verity of these experiences. (There are, of course, rare cases when a
brutal boss produces terrific results. We explore that dynamic in the
sidebar “Those Wicked Bosses Who Win.”) The studies are too nu-
merous to mention here but, in aggregate, they show that when the
leader is in a happy mood, the people around him view everything in
a more positive light. That, in turn, makes them optimistic about
achieving their goals, enhances their creativity and the efficiency of
their decision making, and predisposes them to be helpful. Research
conducted by Alice Isen at Cornell in 1999, for example, found that
an upbeat environment fosters mental efficiency, making people
better at taking in and understanding information, at using decision
rules in complex judgments, and at being flexible in their thinking.
Other research directly links mood and financial performance. In
1986, for instance, Martin Seligman and Peter Schulman of the Uni-
versity of Pennsylvania demonstrated that insurance agents who
had a “glass half-full” outlook were far more able than their more
pessimistic peers to persist despite rejections, and thus, they closed
more sales. (For more information on these studies and a list of our
research base, visit www.eiconsortium.org.)
Many leaders whose emotional styles create a dysfunctional en-
vironment are eventually fired. (Of course, that’s rarely the stated
reason; poor results are.) But it doesn’t have to end that way. Just as
a bad mood can be turned around, so can the spread of toxic feelings
from an emotionally inept leader. A look inside the brain explains
both why and how.
The Science of Moods
A growing body of research on the human brain proves that, for bet-
ter or worse, leaders’ moods affect the emotions of the people
around them. The reason for that lies in what scientists call the open-
loop nature of the brain’s limbic system, our emotional center. A
closed-loop system is self-regulating, whereas an open-loop system
depends on external sources to manage itself. In other words, we rely
on connections with other people to determine our moods. The
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http://www.eiconsortium.org

PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
175
Those Wicked Bosses Who Win
Everyone knows of a rude and coercive CEO who, by all appearances, epito-
mizes the antithesis of emotional intelligence yet seems to reap great busi-
ness results. If a leader’s mood matters so much, how can we explain those
mean-spirited, successful SOBs?
First, let’s take a closer look at them. Just because a particular executive is
the most visible, he may not actually lead the company. A CEO who heads a
conglomerate may have no followers to speak of; it’s his division heads who
actively lead people and affect profitability.
Second, sometimes an SOB leader has strengths that counterbalance his
caustic behavior, but they don’t attract as much attention in the business
press. In his early days at GE, Jack Welch exhibited a strong hand at the helm
as he undertook a radical company turnaround. At that time and in that situ-
ation, Welch’s firm, top-down style was appropriate. What got less press was
how Welch subsequently settled into a more emotionally intelligent leader-
ship style, especially when he articulated a new vision for the company and
mobilized people to follow it.
Those caveats aside, let’s get back to those infamous corporate leaders who
seem to have achieved sterling business results despite their brutish ap-
proaches to leadership. Skeptics cite Bill Gates, for example, as a leader who
gets away with a harsh style that should theoretically damage his company.
But our leadership model, which shows the effectiveness of specific leader-
ship styles in specific situations, puts Gates’s supposedly negative behaviors
in a different light. (Our model is explained in detail in the HBR article “Lead-
ership That Gets Results,” which appeared in the March–April 2000 issue.)
Gates is the achievement-driven leader par excellence, in an organization
that has cherry-picked highly talented and motivated people. His apparently
harsh leadership style—baldly challenging employees to surpass their past
performance—can be quite effective when employees are competent, moti-
vated, and need little direction—all characteristics of Microsoft’s engineers.
In short, it’s all too easy for a skeptic to argue against the importance of lead-
ers who manage their moods by citing a “rough and tough” leader who
achieved good business results despite his bad behavior. We contend that
there are, of course, exceptions to the rule, and that in some specific busi-
ness cases, an SOB boss resonates just fine. But in general, leaders who are
jerks must reform or else their moods and actions will eventually catch up
with them.
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
176
open-loop limbic system was a winning design in evolution because
it let people come to one another’s emotional rescue—enabling a
mother, for example, to soothe her crying infant.
The open-loop design serves the same purpose today as it did
thousands of years ago. Research in intensive care units has shown,
for example, that the comforting presence of another person not
only lowers the patient’s blood pressure but also slows the secretion
of fatty acids that block arteries. Another study found that three or
more incidents of intense stress within a year (for example, serious
financial trouble, being fired, or a divorce) triples the death rate in
socially isolated middle-aged men, but it has no impact on the death
rate of men with many close relationships.
Scientists describe the open loop as “interpersonal limbic regula-
tion”; one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels,
cardiovascular functions, sleep rhythms, even immune functions,
inside the body of another. That’s how couples are able to trigger
surges of oxytocin in each other’s brains, creating a pleasant, affec-
tionate feeling. But in all aspects of social life, our physiologies inter-
mingle. Our limbic system’s open-loop design lets other people
change our very physiology and hence, our emotions.
Even though the open loop is so much a part of our lives, we usu-
ally don’t notice the process. Scientists have captured the attune-
ment of emotions in the laboratory by measuring the physiology—
such as heart rate—of two people sharing a good conversation. As
the interaction begins, their bodies operate at different rhythms. But
after 15 minutes, the physiological profiles of their bodies look re-
markably similar.
Researchers have seen again and again how emotions spread irre-
sistibly in this way whenever people are near one another. As far
back as 1981, psychologists Howard Friedman and Ronald Riggio
found that even completely nonverbal expressiveness can affect
other people. For example, when three strangers sit facing one an-
other in silence for a minute or two, the most emotionally expressive
of the three transmits his or her mood to the other two—without a
single word being spoken.
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PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
177
The same holds true in the office, boardroom, or shop floor;
group members inevitably “catch” feelings from one another. In
2000, Caroline Bartel at New York University and Richard Saavedra
at the University of Michigan found that in 70 work teams across di-
verse industries, people in meetings together ended up sharing
moods—both good and bad—within two hours. One study asked
teams of nurses and accountants to monitor their moods over
weeks; researchers discovered that their emotions tracked together,
and they were largely independent of each team’s shared hassles.
Groups, therefore, like individuals, ride emotional roller coasters,
sharing everything from jealousy to angst to euphoria. (A good
mood, incidentally, spreads most swiftly by the judicious use of
humor. For more on this, see the sidebar “Smile and the World
Smiles with You.”)
Moods that start at the top tend to move the fastest because
everyone watches the boss. They take their emotional cues from
him. Even when the boss isn’t highly visible—for example, the CEO
Smile and the World Smiles with You
Remember that old cliché? It’s not too far from the truth. As we’ve shown,
mood contagion is a real neurological phenomenon, but not all emotions
spread with the same ease. A 1999 study conducted by Sigal Barsade at the
Yale School of Management showed that, among working groups, cheerful-
ness and warmth spread easily, while irritability caught on less so, and de-
pression least of all.
It should come as no surprise that laughter is the most contagious of all emo-
tions. Hearing laughter, we find it almost impossible not to laugh or smile,
too. That’s because some of our brain’s open-loop circuits are designed to
detect smiles and laughter, making us respond in kind. Scientists theorize
that this dynamic was hardwired into our brains ages ago because smiles and
laughter had a way of cementing alliances, thus helping the species survive.
The main implication here for leaders undertaking the primal task of manag-
ing their moods and the moods of others is this: Humor hastens the spread of
an upbeat climate. But like the leader’s mood in general, humor must res-
onate with the organization’s culture and its reality. Smiles and laughter, we
would posit, are only contagious when they’re genuine.
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
178
Get Happy, Carefully
Good moods galvanize good performance, but it doesn’t make sense for a
leader to be as chipper as a blue jay at dawn if sales are tanking or the busi-
ness is going under. The most effective executives display moods and behav-
iors that match the situation at hand, with a healthy dose of optimism mixed
in. They respect how other people are feeling—even if it is glum or defeated—
but they also model what it looks like to move forward with hope and humor.
This kind of performance, which we call resonance, is for all intents and pur-
poses the four components of emotional intelligence in action.
Self-awareness, perhaps the most essential of the emotional intelligence
competencies, is the ability to read your own emotions. It allows people to
know their strengths and limitations and feel confident about their self-
worth. Resonant leaders use self-awareness to gauge their own moods accu-
rately, and they intuitively know how they are affecting others.
Self-management is the ability to control your emotions and act with hon-
esty and integrity in reliable and adaptable ways. Resonant leaders don’t let
their occasional bad moods seize the day; they use self-management to leave
it outside the office or to explain its source to people in a reasonable manner,
so they know where it’s coming from and how long it might last.
Social awareness includes the key capabilities of empathy and organiza-
tional intuition. Socially aware executives do more than sense other people’s
emotions, they show that they care. Further, they are experts at reading the
currents of office politics. Thus, resonant leaders often keenly understand
how their words and actions make others feel, and they are sensitive enough
to change them when that impact is negative.
Relationship management, the last of the emotional intelligence competen-
cies, includes the abilities to communicate clearly and convincingly, disarm
who works behind closed doors on an upper floor—his attitude af-
fects the moods of his direct reports, and a domino effect ripples
throughout the company.
Call That CEO a Doctor
If the leader’s mood is so important, then he or she had better get
into a good one, right? Yes, but the full answer is more complicated
than that. A leader’s mood has the greatest impact on performance
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conflicts, and build strong personal bonds. Resonant leaders use these skills
to spread their enthusiasm and solve disagreements, often with humor and
kindness.
As effective as resonant leadership is, it is just as rare. Most people suffer
through dissonant leaders whose toxic moods and upsetting behaviors wreak
havoc before a hopeful and realistic leader repairs the situation.
Consider what happened recently at an experimental division of the BBC, the
British media giant. Even though the group’s 200 or so journalists and editors
had given their best effort, management decided to close the division.
The shutdown itself was bad enough, but the brusque, contentious mood and
manner of the executive sent to deliver the news to the assembled staff in-
cited something beyond the expected frustration. People became enraged—
at both the decision and the bearer of the news. The executive’s cranky mood
and delivery created an atmosphere so threatening that he had to call secu-
rity to be ushered from the room.
The next day, another executive visited the same staff. His mood was somber
and respectful, as was his behavior. He spoke about the importance of jour-
nalism to the vibrancy of a society and of the calling that had drawn them all
to the field in the first place. He reminded them that no one goes into journal-
ism to get rich—as a profession its finances have always been marginal, job
security ebbing and flowing with the larger economic tides. He recalled a
time in his own career when he had been let go and how he had struggled to
find a new position—but how he had stayed dedicated to the profession. Fi-
nally, he wished them well in getting on with their careers.
The reaction from what had been an angry mob the day before? When this
resonant leader finished speaking, the staff cheered.
PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
179
when it is upbeat. But it must also be in tune with those around him.
We call this dynamic resonance. (For more on this, see the sidebar
“Get Happy, Carefully.”)
We found that an alarming number of leaders do not really know
if they have resonance with their organizations. Rather, they suffer
from CEO disease; its one unpleasant symptom is the sufferer’s
near-total ignorance about how his mood and actions appear to the
organization. It’s not that leaders don’t care how they are perceived;
most do. But they incorrectly assume that they can decipher this
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
180
information themselves. Worse, they think that if they are having a
negative effect, someone will tell them. They’re wrong.
As one CEO in our research explains, “I so often feel I’m not get-
ting the truth. I can never put my finger on it, because no one is ac-
tually lying to me. But I can sense that people are hiding information
or camouflaging key facts. They aren’t lying, but neither are they
telling me everything I need to know. I’m always second-guessing.”
People don’t tell leaders the whole truth about their emotional
impact for many reasons. Sometimes they are scared of being the
bearer of bad news—and getting shot. Others feel it isn’t their place
to comment on such a personal topic. Still others don’t realize that
what they really want to talk about is the effects of the leader’s emo-
tional style—that feels too vague. Whatever the reason, the CEO
can’t rely on his followers to spontaneously give him the full picture.
Taking Stock
The process we recommend for self-discovery and personal reinven-
tion is neither newfangled nor born of pop psychology, like so many
self-help programs offered to executives today. Rather, it is based on
three streams of research into how executives can improve the emo-
tional intelligence capabilities most closely linked to effective leader-
ship. (Information on these research streams can also be found at
www.eiconsortium.org.). In 1989, one of us (Richard Boyatzis) began
drawing on this body of research to design the five-step process itself,
and since then, thousands of executives have used it successfully.
Unlike more traditional forms of coaching, our process is based on
brain science. A person’s emotional skills—the attitude and abilities
with which someone approaches life and work—are not genetically
hardwired, like eye color and skin tone. But in some ways they might
as well be, because they are so deeply embedded in our neurology.
A person’s emotional skills do, in fact, have a genetic component.
Scientists have discovered, for instance, the gene for shyness—
which is not a mood, per se, but it can certainly drive a person to-
ward a persistently quiet demeanor, which may be read as a “down”
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http://eiconsortium.org

PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
181
mood. Other people are preternaturally jolly—that is, their relentless
cheerfulness seems preternatural until you meet their peppy par-
ents. As one executive explains, “All I know is that ever since I was a
baby, I have always been happy. It drives some people crazy, but I
couldn’t get blue if I tried. And my brother is the exact same way; he
saw the bright side of life, even during his divorce.”
Even though emotional skills are partly inborn, experience plays a
major role in how the genes are expressed. A happy baby whose par-
ents die or who endures physical abuse may grow into a melancholy
adult. A cranky toddler may turn into a cheerful adult after discover-
ing a fulfilling avocation. Still, research suggests that our range of
emotional skills is relatively set by our mid-20s and that our accom-
panying behaviors are, by that time, deep-seated habits. And therein
lies the rub: The more we act a certain way—be it happy, depressed,
or cranky—the more the behavior becomes ingrained in our brain cir-
cuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.
That’s why emotional intelligence matters so much for a leader.
An emotionally intelligent leader can monitor his or her moods
through self-awareness, change them for the better through self-
management, understand their impact through empathy, and act in
ways that boost others’ moods through relationship management.
The following five-part process is designed to rewire the brain to-
ward more emotionally intelligent behaviors. The process begins
with imagining your ideal self and then coming to terms with your
real self, as others experience you. The next step is creating a tactical
plan to bridge the gap between ideal and real, and after that, to prac-
tice those activities. It concludes with creating a community of col-
leagues and family—call them change enforcers—to keep the
process alive. Let’s look at the steps in more detail.
“Who do I want to be?”
Sofia, a senior manager at a northern European telecommunications
company, knew she needed to understand how her emotional lead-
ership affected others. Whenever she felt stressed, she tended to
communicate poorly and take over subordinates’ work so that the
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
182
job would be done “right.” Attending leadership seminars hadn’t
changed her habits, and neither had reading management books or
working with mentors.
When Sofia came to us, we asked her to imagine herself eight
years from now as an effective leader and to write a description of a
typical day. “What would she be doing?” we asked. “Where would
she live? Who would be there? How would it feel?” We urged her to
consider her deepest values and loftiest dreams and to explain how
those ideals had become a part of her everyday life.
Sofia pictured herself leading her own tight-knit company staffed
by ten colleagues. She was enjoying an open relationship with her
daughter and had trusting relationships with her friends and
coworkers. She saw herself as a relaxed and happy leader and par-
ent, and as loving and empowering to all those around her.
In general, Sofia had a low level of self-awareness: She was rarely
able to pinpoint why she was struggling at work and at home. All she
could say was, “Nothing is working right.” This exercise, which
prompted her to picture what life would look like if everything were
going right, opened her eyes to the missing elements in her emo-
tional style. She was able to see the impact she had on people in
her life.
“Who am I now?”
In the next step of the discovery process, you come to see your lead-
ership style as others do. This is both difficult and dangerous. Diffi-
cult, because few people have the guts to tell the boss or a colleague
what he’s really like. And dangerous, because such information can
sting or even paralyze. A small bit of ignorance about yourself isn’t
always a bad thing: Ego-defense mechanisms have their advantages.
Research by Martin Seligman shows that high-functioning people
generally feel more optimistic about their prospects and possibilities
than average performers. Their rose-colored lenses, in fact, fuel
the enthusiasm and energy that make the unexpected and the
extraordinary achievable. Playwright Henrik Ibsen called such self-
delusions “vital lies,” soothing mistruths we let ourselves believe in
order to face a daunting world.
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PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
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But self-delusion should come in very small doses. Executives
should relentlessly seek the truth about themselves, especially since
it is sure to be somewhat diluted when they hear it anyway. One way
to get the truth is to keep an extremely open attitude toward cri-
tiques. Another is to seek out negative feedback, even cultivating a
colleague or two to play devil’s advocate.
We also highly recommend gathering feedback from as many
people as possible—including bosses, peers, and subordinates.
Feedback from subordinates and peers is especially helpful because
it most accurately predicts a leader’s effectiveness, two, four, and
even seven years out, according to research by Glenn McEvoy at
Utah State and Richard Beatty at Rutgers University.
Of course, 360-degree feedback doesn’t specifically ask people to
evaluate your moods, actions, and their impact. But it does reveal
how people experience you. For instance, when people rate how
well you listen, they are really reporting how well they think you
hear them. Similarly, when 360-degree feedback elicits ratings about
coaching effectiveness, the answers show whether or not people feel
you understand and care about them. When the feedback uncovers
low scores on, say, openness to new ideas, it means that people ex-
perience you as inaccessible or unapproachable or both. In sum, all
you need to know about your emotional impact is in 360-degree
feedback, if you look for it.
One last note on this second step. It is, of course, crucial to identify
your areas of weakness. But focusing only on your weaknesses can be
dispiriting. That’s why it is just as important, maybe even more so, to
understand your strengths. Knowing where your real self overlaps
with your ideal self will give you the positive energy you need to move
forward to the next step in the process—bridging the gaps.
“How do I get from here to there?”
Once you know who you want to be and have compared it with how
people see you, you need to devise an action plan. For Sofia, this
meant planning for a real improvement in her level of self-awareness.
So she asked each member of her team at work to give her feed-
back—weekly, anonymously, and in written form—about her mood
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
184
and performance and their affect on people. She also committed
herself to three tough but achievable tasks: spending an hour each
day reflecting on her behavior in a journal, taking a class on group
dynamics at a local college, and enlisting the help of a trusted col-
league as an informal coach.
Consider, too, how Juan, a marketing executive for the Latin
American division of a major integrated energy company, completed
this step. Juan was charged with growing the company in his home
country of Venezuela as well as in the entire region—a job that would
require him to be a coach and a visionary and to have an encourag-
ing, optimistic outlook. Yet 360-degree feedback revealed that Juan
was seen as intimidating and internally focused. Many of his direct
reports saw him as a grouch—impossible to please at his worst, and
emotionally draining at his best.
Identifying this gap allowed Juan to craft a plan with manageable
steps toward improvement. He knew he needed to hone his powers
of empathy if he wanted to develop a coaching style, so he commit-
ted to various activities that would let him practice that skill. For in-
stance, Juan decided to get to know each of his subordinates better;
if he understood more about who they were, he thought, he’d be
more able to help them reach their goals. He made plans with each
employee to meet outside of work, where they might be more com-
fortable revealing their feelings.
Juan also looked for areas outside of his job to forge his missing
links—for example, coaching his daughter’s soccer team and volun-
teering at a local crisis center. Both activities helped him to experi-
ment with how well he understood others and to try out new
behaviors.
Again, let’s look at the brain science at work. Juan was trying to
overcome ingrained behaviors—his approach to work had taken
hold over time, without his realizing it. Bringing them into aware-
ness was a crucial step toward changing them. As he paid more at-
tention, the situations that arose—while listening to a colleague,
coaching soccer, or talking on the phone to someone who was
distraught—all became cues that stimulated him to break old habits
and try new responses.
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PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
185
Resonance in Times of Crisis
When talking about leaders’ moods, the importance of resonance cannot be
overstated. While our research suggests that leaders should generally be up-
beat, their behavior must be rooted in realism, especially when faced with a
crisis.
Consider the response of Bob Mulholland, senior VP and head of the client re-
lations group at Merrill Lynch, to the terrorist attacks in New York. On Septem-
ber 11, 2001, Mulholland and his staff in Two World Financial Center felt the
building rock, then watched as smoke poured out of a gaping hole in the build-
ing directly across from theirs. People started panicking: Some ran frantically
from window to window. Others were paralyzed with fear. Those with relatives
working in the World Trade Center were terrified for their safety. Mulholland
knew he had to act: “When there’s a crisis, you’ve got to show people the way,
step by step, and make sure you’re taking care of their concerns.”
He started by getting people the information they needed to “unfreeze.” He
found out, for instance, which floors employees’ relatives worked on and as-
sured them that they’d have enough time to escape. Then he calmed the
panic-stricken, one at a time. “We’re getting out of here now,” he said quietly,
“and you’re coming with me. Not the elevator, take the stairs.” He remained
calm and decisive, yet he didn’t minimize people’s emotional responses.
Thanks to him, everyone escaped before the towers collapsed.
Mulholland’s leadership didn’t end there. Recognizing that this event would
touch each client personally, he and his team devised a way for financial con-
sultants to connect with their clients on an emotional level. They called every
client to ask, “How are you? Are your loved ones okay? How are you feeling?”
As Mulholland explains, “There was no way to pick up and do business
as usual. The first order of ’business’ was letting our clients know we really
do care.”
Bob Mulholland courageously performed one of the most crucial emotional
tasks of leadership: He helped himself and his people find meaning in the
face of chaos and madness. To do so, he first attuned to and expressed the
shared emotional reality. That’s why the direction he eventually articulated
resonated at the gut level. His words and his actions reflected what people
were feeling in their hearts.
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
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This cueing for habit change is neural as well as perceptual. Re-
searchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon Univer-
sity have shown that as we mentally prepare for a task, we activate
the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that moves us into action.
The greater the prior activation, the better we do at the task.
Such mental preparation becomes particularly important when
we’re trying to replace an old habit with a better one. As neuroscien-
tist Cameron Carter at the University of Pittsburgh found, the pre-
frontal cortex becomes particularly active when a person prepares to
overcome a habitual response. The aroused prefrontal cortex marks
the brain’s focus on what’s about to happen. Without that arousal, a
person will reenact tried-and-true but undesirable routines: The
executive who just doesn’t listen will once again cut off his subordi-
nate, a ruthless leader will launch into yet another critical attack,
and so on. That’s why a learning agenda is so important. Without
one, we literally do not have the brainpower to change.
“How do I make change stick?”
In short, making change last requires practice. The reason, again,
lies in the brain. It takes doing and redoing, over and over, to break
old neural habits. A leader must rehearse a new behavior until it be-
comes automatic—that is, until he’s mastered it at the level of im-
plicit learning. Only then will the new wiring replace the old.
While it is best to practice new behaviors, as Juan did, sometimes
just envisioning them will do. Take the case of Tom, an executive
who wanted to close the gap between his real self (perceived by col-
leagues and subordinates to be cold and hard driving) and his ideal
self (a visionary and a coach).
Tom’s learning plan involved finding opportunities to step back
and coach his employees rather than jumping down their throats
when he sensed they were wrong. Tom also began to spend idle mo-
ments during his commute thinking through how to handle encoun-
ters he would have that day. One morning, while en route to a
breakfast meeting with an employee who seemed to be bungling a
project, Tom ran through a positive scenario in his mind. He asked
questions and listened to be sure he fully understood the situation
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before trying to solve the problem. He anticipated feeling impatient,
and he rehearsed how he would handle these feelings.
Studies on the brain affirm the benefits of Tom’s visualization
technique: Imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same
brain cells actually involved in doing that activity. The new brain cir-
cuitry appears to go through its paces, strengthening connections,
even when we merely repeat the sequence in our minds. So to allevi-
ate the fears associated with trying out riskier ways of leading, we
should first visualize some likely scenarios. Doing so will make us
feel less awkward when we actually put the new skills into practice.
Experimenting with new behaviors and seizing opportunities in-
side and outside of work to practice them—as well as using such
methods as mental rehearsal—eventually triggers in our brains the
neural connections necessary for genuine change to occur. Even so,
lasting change doesn’t happen through experimentation and brain-
power alone. We need, as the song goes, a little help from our friends.
“Who can help me?”
The fifth step in the self-discovery and reinvention process is creat-
ing a community of supporters. Take, for example, managers at
Unilever who formed learning groups as part of their executive de-
velopment process. At first, they gathered to discuss their careers
and how to provide leadership. But because they were also charged
with discussing their dreams and their learning goals, they soon re-
alized that they were discussing both their work and their personal
lives. They developed a strong mutual trust and began relying on
one another for frank feedback as they worked on strengthening
their leadership abilities. When this happens, the business benefits
through stronger performance. Many professionals today have cre-
ated similar groups, and for good reason. People we trust let us try
out unfamiliar parts of our leadership repertoire without risk.
We cannot improve our emotional intelligence or change our
leadership style without help from others. We not only practice with
other people but also rely on them to create a safe environment in
which to experiment. We need to get feedback about how our ac-
tions affect others and to assess our progress on our learning agenda.
PRIMAL LEADERSHIP
187
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GOLEMAN, BOYATZIS, AND MCKEE
188
In fact, perhaps paradoxically, in the self-directed learning
process we draw on others every step of the way—from articulating
and refining our ideal self and comparing it with the reality to the
final assessment that affirms our progress. Our relationships offer us
the very context in which we understand our progress and compre-
hend the usefulness of what we’re learning.
Mood over Matter
When we say that managing your mood and the moods of your fol-
lowers is the task of primal leadership, we certainly don’t mean to
suggest that mood is all that matters. As we’ve noted, your actions
are critical, and mood and actions together must resonate with the
organization and with reality. Similarly, we acknowledge all the
other challenges leaders must conquer—from strategy to hiring to
new product development. It’s all in a long day’s work.
But taken as a whole, the message sent by neurological, psycho-
logical, and organizational research is startling in its clarity. Emo-
tional leadership is the spark that ignites a company’s performance,
creating a bonfire of success or a landscape of ashes. Moods matter
that much.
Originally published in December 2001. Reprint R0111C
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RICHARD BOYATZIS chairs the department of organizational behavior
at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve
University.
HEIKE BRUCH is a professor of leadership at the University of St.
Gallen in Switzerland.
CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of
Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
DIANE L. COUTU is a former senior editor of Harvard Business Review.
STEPHEN R. COVEY is vice chairman of Franklin Covey, a global
provider of leadership development and productivity services.
PETER F. DRUCKER was a professor of social science and management
at Claremont Graduate University in California.
STEWART D. FRIEDMAN is the Practice Professor of Management at
the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
SUMANTRA GHOSHAL was a professor of strategy and international
management at London Business School.
DANIEL GOLEMAN cochairs the Consortium for Research on Emo-
tional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University.
EDWARD M. HALLOWELL is a psychiatrist and the founder of the Hal-
lowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health.
ROBERT S. KAPLAN is a professor of management practice at Harvard
Business School.
CATHERINE MCCARTHY is a senior vice president at the Energy Project
in New York.
189
About the Contributors
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ANNIE MCKEE is on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania’s
Graduate School of Education.
WILLIAM ONCKEN, JR., was chairman of the William Oncken Corpo-
ration, a management consulting company.
ROBERT E. QUINN is the Margaret Elliott Tracy Collegiate Professor in
Business Administration at the University of Michigan’s Ross School
of Business.
TONY SCHWARTZ is the president and founder of the Energy Project
in New York.
DONALD L. WASS heads the Dallas–Fort Worth region of The Execu-
tive Committee (TEC), an international organization for presidents
and CEOs.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
190
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accountability, 164–165
action, bias for, 126
adaptation, 108–109
Adaptiv Learning Systems, 49
ADT. See attention deficit trait (ADT)
alignment, 76, 116–117, 155, 162–163
Andersson, Dan, 119, 124–126
Andrews, Mike, 58
Anspacher, Jonathan, 74
appreciation, expressing, 64, 71
arrogance, 14–15
assessment. See self-assessment
assumptions, questioning, 107
attention deficit disorder (ADD), 80,
81, 83–84
attention deficit trait (ADT), 79–95
ADD compared with, 81, 83–84
managing, 80, 87–93
organizational culture and, 82, 87,
88–89, 93–95
symptoms of, 79
audits, energy, 67, 68–69
authenticity, 100, 170–171
Babin, Nicolas, 72
balance, 33, 34, 38–39, 97–114.
See also discretionary time
Barsade, Sigal, 177
Bartel, Caroline, 177
BBC, 179
Beatty, Richard, 183
Becker, Dean, 49
Beethoven, Ludwig von, 19–20
Bessemer Venture Partners, 7
“Beware the Busy Manager”
(Ghoshal and Bruch), 115
boss-imposed time, 33, 45
brain
ADD and, 81, 83
ADT and, 82, 84–87, 88–89
emotional intelligence and, 172,
174, 176, 181–188
brain-derived neurotrophic factor
(BDNF), 90
breaks, taking, 63, 64, 67, 69, 78
breathing, abdominal, 64, 70–72, 78
bricolage, 57–60
Buford, Bob, 30
business school students
purpose in life and career
decisions of, 4–5
rewards of a career in business
for, 4
“buying time” ritual, 70–72
Calvin, John, 14
Cantor Fitzgerald, 53
career management, 3–5, 14–17,
20–21, 24–25, 29–32
Carter, Cameron, 186
Catholic Church, 56
CEO disease, 171–172, 179–180
change, 15–16, 126
maintaining, 173, 181, 184,
186–187
signs of needed, 15–16, 141–142
steps in, 112–113
Chen, Kenneth, 98, 102–103, 109
Chun, Patrick, 6
Churchill, Winston, 19
Cluna, Dan, 72–73
coaching and mentoring, 15–16, 20,
101–102
peer, 101–102
resilience, 55–56
self-assessment of, 154, 157–160
Coleman, John, 7
Collins, Jim, 52, 57
comfort seeking, 128–129
communication
emotional leadership and,
178–179
face-to-face, 44, 89
self-assessment of, 166
191
Index
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communication (continued)
taking responsibility for, 27–28
of vision, 149–153
community, 131, 132
Conference Board, 18
conflict, 27–28, 129, 166
ConocoPhillips, 119, 124–126
contingency planning, 53–54, 119,
125–126
contributions, assessing, 16, 25–26
control, desire for, 41
cooperation
corporate culture and, 8–9
family culture and, 9
tools for, 8
Covey, Steven R., 36, 40–42
creativity, 81, 83, 85–87, 101, 141
resilience and, 49, 51, 52, 57–60
crisis mentality, 77–78
cueing, 184, 186
decision making
ADT and, 82
disagreement in, 166
employee empowerment for, 35,
36, 40–42
fundamental state of leadership
and, 127
marginal costs and, 3, 9–10
reclaiming initiative in, 115–126
strategy and systems for, 4
succession planning and, 160–161
working style and, 21
defense mechanisms, 182–183
defensiveness, 131–132
deficiency, feelings of, 41
delegating, 40, 91–93, 156, 160–161.
See also responsibility
denial, 131–132, 133
diet and nutrition, 64, 66, 81, 82,
89–90
discretionary time, 33, 34
energy management and, 61, 74,
75–76
monkey control and, 38–39, 45
disruptive technology, 1–2
distractions, 72–74. See also
interruptions
Duquesne, Jean Luc, 73–74, 75–76
economic recessions,
resilience and, 49
Eisenhower, Dwight, 18–19
e-mail, 64, 73–74, 82, 84, 91
emotional energy, 64, 70–72
emotional intelligence, 169–188
action plans for, 183–186
assessing, 180–188
authenticity and, 170–171
CEO disease and, 171–172, 179–180
dysfunctional, 173, 174, 175
feedback on, 172, 182–183,
187–188
help with, 187–188
ideal self and, 181–182
impact of leaders’, 172–174
science of, 174–178
emotions
ADT and, 81, 82
awareness of, 70
defusing negative, 70–72, 78
energy management and, 66–67,
70–72
promoting positive, 81, 82, 87–89
spread of, 176–178
empathy, 130, 169
empowerment, 35, 36, 40–42,
141–142
energy management, 61–78
audits for, 67, 68–69
emotional energy, 64, 70–72
energy sources and, 61–62
long work days and, 61, 63
mental energy, 64–65, 72–74
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

physical energy, 64, 66–70
rituals for, 62, 63, 64–65, 67, 69,
70–76
spiritual energy, 65, 74–76
Energy Project, 61, 62
engagement, 15–16, 63, 78
environment, 80, 169–188
Ernst & Young, 61, 73, 74, 78
Eskew, Mike, 56–57
Eskey, 59–60
ethics, 21–22, 57
executive functioning (EF), 85–87,
88–89
exercise, 62, 64, 65, 77, 81, 82, 90
expectations, 17, 98, 107, 115–117, 158
family time, 2, 3, 6–7, 9, 61, 62,
75–76, 98
Faro, Gary, 67, 69
Faster: The Acceleration of Just
About Everything (Gleick), 84
feedback
on emotional impact, 172, 180,
182–183, 187–188
fundamental leadership and,
141–142
self-assessment of, 154, 157–160
sources of, 147, 149, 159–160
on strengths, 14–17
Feynman, Richard, 58–59
fight-or-flight mode, 70, 85–87,
91–93
financial results, 63, 64–65
focus, 73–74, 83, 129–130, 140–141
Frankl, Victor E., 50–51, 55, 57
Friedman, Howard, 176
Fritz, Robert, 128–129
fundamental state of leadership,
127–145
analysis of current state and,
135–137
applying, 142–144
defining, 128–132
external openness in, 131–132,
141–142
focus on others in, 129–130,
140–141
internal direction in, 129, 140
preparing for, 133–137
previous experiences of, 133–135
results orientation in, 128–129,
138–140
transformative questions for,
137–142
Garmezy, Norman, 49–50
genetics, 51, 84, 180–181
Gleick, James, 84
goals, 26, 102–103, 107, 121–124
Goldman Sachs, 147, 159
Good to Great (Collins), 52
Grove, Andrew, 1–2
habits, 15, 17, 60, 184, 186
Hafiz, Ruhana, 6
happiness, sources of, 2, 3, 6–7, 9
hardiness. See resilience
Hardiness Institute, 55–56
Hay Group, 170
Henke, Michael, 73
Herzberg, Frederick, 3
Holocaust survivors, resilience of,
48, 50–51
humility, 11–12
humor, 50, 177
Hurricane Andrew, 59–60
Ibsen, Henrik, 182
Ignatius of Loyola, 14
improvisation, 49, 51, 52,
57–60, 83
initiative, 35, 36, 40–43, 115–126
integrity, 100
intellectual arrogance, 14–15
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

integrity, 11–12
internal direction, 129, 140
interruptions, 63, 64, 72–74,
117–118
Isen, Alice, 174
isolation, 88–89, 130, 176
Jenkins, Ben, 71
Jesuits, 14
JetBlue Airways, 83–84, 94–95
Johnson, Lyndon, 19
Johnson & Johnson, 56
Jones, John, 131, 137–139, 140–141
Kennedy, John, 19
knowledge, 15–16, 26–29
Kundera, Milan, 84
Lang, Matthew, 69–70
laughter, contagiousness of, 177
leadership
emotional, 169–188
feedback on, 147, 149, 150
fundamental state of, 127–145
under pressure, 151, 155,
163–165
self-assessment of, 147–167, 151
staying true to self in, 151, 155,
165–166
Total, 97–114
“Leadership That Gets Results”
(Goleman, Boyatzis, and
McKee), 175
learning styles, 19–21
lenses exercise, 64, 71–72
Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 57–58
limbic system, 174, 176
listeners versus readers, 18–19
Loehr, Jim, 62
loners, 20
luck, 60
Lufthansa, 118–119, 121–124
Maddi, Salvatore R., 55–56
management. See also time
management
ADT and, 93–95
alternatives in, 116–117, 119,
124–126
availability of, 118, 119–121
demands on, 116, 117–118
desire for control in, 41
of emotions, 170–188
of energy versus time, 61–78
indispensability in, 118, 119–121
monkey control in, 33–45
reclaiming initiative in, 115–126
resources for, 116, 121–124
self-, 13–32
succession planning and, 160–161
support for energy management
by, 77–78
Total Leadership for, 97–114
manners, 17
Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl), 55
marginal costs, 9–11
Marshall, George, 20
Maslow, Abraham, 41
McEvoy, Glenn, 183
meaning, finding, 65, 74–76, 185
resilience and, 49, 50–51, 52,
54–57
meaning therapy, 55
mental energy, 64–65. See also
energy management
Merrill Lynch, 185
metrics, 26, 109–112
mirror test, 21–22
monkey control, 33–45
appointments in, 36, 44
care and feeding in, 44–45
determining location of monkeys
in, 33–37
employee skills and, 36
getting rid of monkeys in, 39, 42
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

initiative in, 35, 36
motives in, 36
in practice, 36
status updates in, 36
transferring initiative for,
42–43
trust and, 36
who is working for whom in,
37–39
moods, contagiousness of, 169–188
morale, 158
Morgan Stanley, 53–54, 60
motivation, 36, 62
Mulholland, Bob, 185
multitasking, 72
Neeleman, David, 83–84, 94–95
nerve growth factor (NGF), 90
Nishida, Fujio, 70–71, 77
OHIO (only handle it once) rule,
82, 91
Oiseaux, Jackie, 54–55
openness, external, 129, 130,
131–132, 141–142
opportunities, 15, 24–25, 115–116
optimism, 52–53, 178–179
organization, 79–80, 81–82, 90–91,
106, 162–163
organizational culture
ADT and, 82, 87, 88–89,
93–95
of empowerment, 40, 116–117
energy management and, 65,
77–78
humor and, 177
leadership under pressure and,
163–165
resilience and, 56–57, 59–60
trust in, 28–29
values and, 22–23
overload, 55, 70, 79–95, 92
The Path of Least Resistance (Fritz),
128–129
Patton, George, 20
performance
emotional styles and, 169–188
energy management and, 62–66
feedback analysis and, 14
fundamental leadership and,
144–145
time of day and, 91
Total Leadership and, 99
work styles and, 16, 17–21
performance reviews, 158, 172–173.
See also feedback
perseverance, 74, 83
personalities, 17–21, 151, 155,
165–166
personality, 27–28
personal strategy
career decisions of students and,
4–5, 6
creating, 4–6
humility and, 11–12
marginal costs concept and life of
integrity in, 3, 10–11
metric for measuring, 12
motivators for career decisions
and, 3
purpose in life and, 4–5
resource allocation decisions and,
3, 4, 6–8
perspective, 50, 64, 71–72
Phillip Morris, 57
planning, 82, 106
career, 26
resilience and, 53–54
for second careers, 30–31
succession, 151, 154–155, 160–161
Prahalad, C.K., 142
primal leadership, 169–188
priorities, 38, 107, 118
ADT and, 79–80, 82, 91
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

priorities (continued)
energy management and, 65,
73–74
time management based on, 150,
153, 155–157
vision and, 149–153
procrastination, 83, 91
productivity, 15–16, 65–66, 72
readers versus listeners, 18–19
reality, facing, 49, 50, 52–54
reflection, 100, 106
relationship management, 17,
26–29, 50
ADT and, 88–89
emotional energy and, 70
emotional leadership and,
178–179
energy management and, 65
expressing appreciation and, 64, 71
fundamental leadership and,
129–130, 140–141
neuroscience and, 174, 176
renewal rooms, 65, 77
Rescorla, Rick, 53–54
resilience, 47–60
buzz about, 48–52
facing reality and, 49, 50, 52–54
finding meaning and, 49, 50–51,
54–57
improvisation and, 49, 51, 57–60
research on, 49–52
resonance, 178, 179, 185
resources, generating, 116, 118–119,
121–124
responsibility, 34–42, 40
results, 25–26, 128–129, 138–140
rewards, 41
Riggio, Ronald, 176
rituals, 57–60, 63, 64–65, 67, 69,
70–76
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 18
Saavedra, Richard, 177
Salzberg, Matt, 6–7
SAS Institute, 82, 94
satisfaction, 99
Sattelberger, Thomas, 118–119,
121–124, 126
Savageau, Daniel, 48–49
Schein, Edgar, 9
Schmidt, Claus, 47–48, 60
Schulman, Peter, 174
Schwartz, Tony, 61–78
scorecards, 109, 110–111
Scott, Robert G., 54
Search Institute, 51
self-assessment, 147–167
of alignment, 151, 155, 162–163
of contributions, 16, 25–26
feedback in, 147, 149, 150, 154,
157–160
of leadership under pressure, 151,
155, 163–165
of personal strengths, 13–17
staying true to self and, 151, 155,
165–166
succession planning and, 151,
154–155, 160–161
of time management, 150, 153,
154, 155–157
vision and priorities in, 149–153, 154
self-awareness, 169, 171, 178,
179–180, 181
self-esteem
family culture of cooperation
and, 9
humility and, 11, 12
management success and,
self-knowledge, 15–16
self-management, 13–32
career choices and, 24–25
contribution assessment and,
25–26
relationships and, 26–29
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

second careers and,
29–32
strengths and, 13–17
values-based, 21–24
work style and, 16, 17–21
Seligman, Martin, 174, 182
setbacks, 31
Shields, Paul, 58
Skilling, Jeff, 2
skills, 13–17, 23–24, 36
sleep, 64, 66, 81, 82, 89
social awareness, 178
social entrepreneurs, 30, 31
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr, 56
Sony, 69–70, 72, 73–74, 77
speed, addiction to, 84
spiritual energy, 65, 74–76
Spungin, Jessica, 118, 119–121
stakeholders, key, 102
Stockdale, Jim, 50, 52
stories, changing, 71–72, 78
strategy, corporate
decision-making systems in
businesses and, 4
marginal costs and, 9–10
predisposition toward immediate
gratification and, 8
resource allocation decisions
and, 8
strategy, personal
career decisions of students and,
4–5, 7
creating, 4–6
humility and, 11–12
marginal costs concept and life of
integrity in, 3, 10–11
metric for measuring, 12
motivators for career decisions
and, 3
purpose in life and, 4–5
resource allocation decisions and,
3, 4, 6–8
strengths, 27
assessing, 13–17
career choice based on, 14, 94–95
energy management and, 63, 65,
74–75
values and, 23–24
stress, 21, 47–60, 77–78, 163–165. See
also overload
Study of Adult Development, 51–52
subordinate-imposed time, 33–45
success, 31–32, 49
succession planning, 151, 154–155,
160–161
supervision, 35
support, 94, 187–188
sustainability, 63, 97
Svizeny, Susanne, 77
sweet spot activities, 65, 75
switching time, 72
system-imposed time, 33, 45
teamwork, 20, 164–165
technology, interruptions from,
72–73
terrorism, 53–54
Tichy, Noel, 142
time management
ADT and, 79–80
boss-imposed time in, 33, 35
discretionary time in, 33, 34
monkey control in, 33–45
self-assessment of, 150, 153,
155–157
subordinate-imposed time in,
33–34
system-imposed time in, 33
Tools of Cooperation model, 8
Total Leadership, 97–114
adaptation in, 108–109
experiments in, 97–98, 102–109
four-way wins in, 97–98,
102–109, 113
INDEX
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Washington University in St. Louis from Jan 2021 to Jun 2021.

Total Leadership (continued)
measuring progress in, 109–112
process for, 100–102
Truman, Harry, 18
trust, 28–29, 36, 40, 88–89
fundamental leadership and, 130,
140–141, 141–142
Ulrich, Dave, 142
ultradian rhythms, 69, 72
Unilever, 173
UPS, 56–57, 59–60
Vaillant, George, 51–52
values
energy management and, 65,
74–76
leadership under pressure and,
164–165
living your core, 74, 76
meaning-making and, 56–57
personal versus organizational,
22–23
relationship management and, 27
self-management based on, 16,
21–24
uncovering personal, 76
Vanderpol, Maurice, 50
vision, 149–153, 154
volunteer work, 30–31
Wachovia Bank, 62–66, 71, 72–73, 77
Wanner, Steve, 61, 62, 73, 76
weaknesses, 17
Weick, Karl E., 60, 142
Welch, Jack, 175
wins, four-way, 97–98
work styles, 16, 17–21, 27
writers, learning style of, 19–20
Yamamoto, Robert, 137, 138,
139–140, 141, 144–145
INDEX
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Contents
How Will You Measure Yor Life?
Managing Oneself
Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?
How Resilience Works
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
Overloaded Circuits
Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life
Reclaim Your Job
Moments of Greatness
What to Ask the Person in the Mirror
Primal Leadership—The Hidden Driver of Great Performance
About the Contributors
Index

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