The Effective Executive is Peter Drucker’s classic on effectiveness in the workplace.
- Effectiveness is learned: study it and practice and you’ll become efficient
- Start with your time: how you spend it? Make it more efficient and consolidate it
- Focus on contribution and results, not on effort
Peter Drucker was a management consultant and author who penned 39 (!) books.
The Effective Executive was first published in 1966 and it seems to be mostly aimed at executives in big corporations.
Eight Practices of Effective Executives
- Ask what needs to be done– focus on what your company needs and will make the biggest impact on your goals
- Ask what’s good for the organization – focus on what’s good for the company, not yourself or other executives
- Create an action plan – action without planning can be harmful
- Assume responsibility for your actions – assign responsibilities and take ownership of your action items
- Communicate your plan– both up and down the chain
- Seek opportunities – threats avoid problems, opportunities increase bottom line
- Make your meetings productive – meeting are either productive or a waste of time. Make meetings effective and end them on time
- Go from “I”: to “we” – It doesn’t matter what’s essential for you too. Instead, what’s necessary for the company is what matters
Effectiveness Can Be Learned
A central tenet of The Effective Executive is that effectiveness can be learned and should be learned. Indeed, an effective executive must learn to be effective.
You need to lead by example, and you can only demand efficiency if you first learn to be efficient yourself.
The number one priority of effectiveness is managing your time you well.
To do that you must:
- Track your time: to learn where you spend it
- Manage: eliminate the unnecessary, prioritize and outsource
- Consolidate: put large blocks of focus time together
Simply by tracking you will improve your effectiveness as you won’t want to write “1h wasted on the Youtube cat videos” 🙂
Build on Strengths
Effective executives focus on what they can do well. Make your strengths so strong that you weaknesses won’t matter anymore.
Unless your weaknesses are moral and ethical, in which case you need to address it.
Similarly, they focus on what their teams and the people around them can do well. They delegate based on people’s strengths and delegate tasks in a way that compensates for their own weaknesses.
Put Things First
Prioritization is the essence of effectiveness. Always start with the most urgent and important task.
One Thing At a Time
Multitasking is a myth. The effective executive focuses on the most important task first until it’s done. That’s the secret of those who seem to be doing so many things, Drucker says, they do them one at a time.
Learn What to Say No To
On top of prioritizing and doing things one at a time, learning what to say no to is as important as choosing what to dedicate yourself to.
Demand More of Yourself
Our growth is highly dependent on the demands we place on ourselves. Effective executives demand a lot of themselves.
Focus on Contribution
People who rise through the rank don’t focus on their tasks, but they always ask themselves “what can I contribute” and “how can I help the organization move forward”.
Drucker says that those who focus on effort are always junior. And those who focus on contribution are top management material.
Listen First, Speak Last
Real Life Applications
Focus on Contribution
To me the biggest and most helpful tip of The Effective Executive is to focus on contribution. To move away from your tasks to doing and providing whatever it is that will move the organization forward.
Track Your Time
I like the idea of tracking your time. Indeed simply the act of tracking will improve your efficiency. I really wanna do this soon.
If you have been an executive in the age of information or if you have been reading on self-development, a lot of The Effective Executive advice won’t be new to you.
But it can serve as a good reminder.
Bannister Effect Myth
The Effective Executive perpetuates the self-help myth of the Bannister effect, which is more of a psychology feel-good story than reality.
All Basics Are Here
Most of the basics to be effective are here.
What can I say, The Effective Executive is a classic with raving reviews, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me.
There is nothing wrong with it.
But I personally didn’t find anything groundbreaking, either.
Even if all the tenets are true and make sense, they are not new to anyone who’s been around self-development for a while.
Also, as the founder of a website on power moves, I’m not a huge fan of laws that look good on paper but seldom apply in reality.
For example “do what’s good for the company” leaves a bit “meh” when we know there are as many examples of people who got successful by doing the opposite.