Leadership: Production – Taking Action

Taking Action is comprised of these 4 mental habits:

  • a clear sense of when to stop planning and start implementing;
  • ability and sense of timing to take initiative to make things happen;
  • is assertive in managing problems;
  • capability to make timely, clear-cut, firm decisions

The successful use of these four abilities requires a continual focus on the organization’s Mission and Values. Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, offers guidance on why and how to develop most of these 4 mental habits. Although it isn’t necessary to read the entire book, it is recommended. The relevant sections of 7 Habits are highlighted below.

In order to know when to stop planning and start implementing, managers need to have strong skills in both planning and implementing. Unfortunately very few managers are strong in both of these skills. Planning is a thinking activity, while implementing is doing. A manager who is effective in only one of the areas can actually use the strength to develop the weaker area. For example, a person strong in planning but weak in implementing can make a plan (and stick to it!) to learn the skills of implementing. The thinker’s plan should include an accountability buddy who is a doer! Similarly, a manager with strengths in implementing can put energy into developing planning skills by making it a task. The doer’s planning task should include an accountability buddy who is a thinker. Working together a thinker and a doer can help each other grow. Stephen Covey’s second habit, “Begin With The End in Mind,” is another resource.

Do you have (1.) the ability and sense of timing to (2.) take initiative to make things happen?

This ability builds on planning and implementing. Some managers have a seemingly innate sense of timing and initiative. The rest of us must learn. Managers need a sense of timing that fits the needs of their people and the needs of the project or activity. Do people need information, time, training, encouragement, direction, or more resources to move forward? To get a project started, when is the best time to announce it, discuss it, and schedule it, given the overall workload and commitment to other projects? Once again, Stephen R. Covey speaks to both of these abilities in his self-development book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 1 (“Be Proactive”), and Habit 2 (“Begin with the End in Mind”), help manager’s grow in timing and initiative.
Covey’s Habit #1 provides a rationale for assertiveness in managing problems, but not much guidance on how to improve an ineffective assertiveness style or overcome a problem with assertiveness. If you have no discomfort with assertiveness and want to fine-tune your assertiveness skills, read Chapters 1, 2, and 3 in Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Some managers may have issues with being assertive and direct and taking charge. Robert Alberti addresses assertiveness in his book, Your Perfect Right.

Without input from others, managers have difficulty making timely, clear-cut, firm decisions. By working as a team a manager can get a better sense of the decisions that need to be made. The key components of this ability are courage, confidence in one’s information, and an understanding the pros and cons of the various options and timing. Managers need to appreciate the need of direct reports have a clear and concrete understanding that a decision has been made

For additional growth in taking action:

  • Ask your supervisor and direct reports for feedback on how you perform in these areas;
  • See selections in 7 Habits, by Covey, and Crucial Conversations, by multiple authors.
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