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Continue Your Education

Originally published
Originally published: 11/1/2014

I've always believed in continuing education beyond our formal years in school.

Having started my career in sales, I immersed myself in books on selling — from Tom Hopkin's classic How to Master the Art of Selling to Zig Ziglar's Secrets of Closing the Sale

Being a willing learner not only helped me be a successful salesman in those early years, it's also helped sustain my effectiveness throughout my career, regardless of my role in the organization.

Moving from sales to general management was an especially challenging time. Thankfully, there's no shortage of management books (see our Management Resource Shelf on pg. 6 for just a few titles worth reading). 

Most are focused on management and leadership, with many centered on the thought leadership — idea of the day — of a particular author. 

From time to time, I'd pick up some terrific guidance related to this new experience of managing. But still, I struggled with the new responsibilities. Many large organizations have intensive management training programs, but my mid-size employer did not. I knew my journey into management would need to be self-propelled.

I learned there is no manual on how to manage effectively and that true improvement comes from being in the job, doing the work, assessing the results and reflecting on the outcome. 

Over the years, I've kept a journal of some of the ideas that shaped the way I approach management. 

I come back to these time and again, so as not to let the pressures and issues of the day move me too far from the important concepts.

Maybe you'll find some of these timely and helpful as you face a current challenge, or opportunity.

  • Be an enabler, rather than a boss.
  • We are effective only to the degree to which we help other people be effective.
  • Coach and facilitate, as opposed to supervise and control.
  • Tomorrow's results will be determined largely by today's actions.
  • Our managerial work is defined by business results.
  • Understand what the customer values, and build capabilities accordingly.
  • Build on strengths — your own and your teams — and look to make weakness (which inevitably exist) irrelevant. 
  • Managers who lead productive teams and companies set priorities. No matter how simple and organized a business is, there's always more to be done than there are resources available to do it. 
  • Organizations are made up of processes as well as people — a great performer is no match for a bad process.
  • Employees appreciate frequent and honest communications, and can better focus on results when they're informed and begin to acquire managerial sight.  
  • Non-communication succeeds at one thing: fueling the rumor mill.

I don't claim any of these points as my own original thinking and, sadly, I can't source each and every one of them. I can tell you, however, where to go for bi-annual updates to the Top 50 management thinkers:

The Thinkers50 is a ranking of the most influential management thinkers in the world. They have a growing reputation for innovation in the thought-leadership world. Developing new ways to share the best thinking is at the heart of what they do. 

If you're like me, you'll find this is a useful tool to spur new ideas and a valuable resource to help you continue your management education.

Even though it's been years since I've moved from sales to management, I continue to learn every day. Always bettering myself, and the people around me. As leaders, it's our responsibility to encourage learning — and lead by example.

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