Morganisms

Learning to be a better manager is a lifelong process. Frequent review of basic principles — followed by course correction if necessary — is critical. Below I have listed my 10 key Morganisms for you to reflect upon in assessing whether your management style aligns with these principles.

Respect and trust your people.

Without those values, you will never be a successful manager. A key element of respect is modeling every behavior you expect in your organization and encouraging personal discipline and healthy habits so your teams have the stamina and energy to enjoy long term success.

Value collaboration.

Most organizations must develop the ability to collaborate internally among teams and also with outside partners. When you are engaged in any effort that demands collaboration, you must treat your partner’s issues as paramount and do everything you can to resolve friction and help your partner succeed.

Always listen for and even seek out signs of trouble. Bad news is good news if you do something about it.

“Good news is no news, no news is bad news, and bad news is good news — if you do something about it.” Create a culture that looks for and identifies problems as they occur and rewards quick response.

Develop court sense and align with driving forces around you to create momentum.

In making decisions about the future direction of an organization, it’s critical to assess the driving forces. Driving forces can be macroeconomic factors, technology innovations, industry directions, and global trends.

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Stress the importance of making decisions and managing the consequences.

Voltaire said, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” That’s good advice. Time is wasted and opportunities are lost when people become fixated on having perfect information rather than trusting their instincts, making decisions, and then managing the consequences.

Build teams deliberately; look for both competence and complementary skills and character.

Competence is essential, but not sufficient, for success. When assembling a team, seek a complementary mix of personalities, communication styles, experience, and ambitions.

Understand and commit to doing the “whole job.”

Most organizations are like airplanes. An airplane has distinct systems that work together to deliver the optimal result. Some help the plane take off, some keep it flying in a stable path, some monitor passenger safety and comfort, some create back-up resources for emergencies. All key functions must work, or the airplane won’t fly; if only some work, the airplane may reach altitude but eventually will crash.

Reinforce individual ownership of problems by always asking, “Who owns the monkey?”

Effective organizations communicate well and empower people to make decentralized decisions. Ultimately, when you lead a growing organization, it’s useful to think of yourself as “first assistant to” your direct reports. You want people at every level to understand the organization’s goals and objectives and make decisions that align with those goals.

Proactively prepare for the next major shift and always “face the elevator door.” All organizations grapple with cycles.

At some level all organizations, including non-profits, grapple with cycles. Early at Applied we developed the idea that we could best manage through cycles by reminding ourselves to “face the elevator door.”

Since modern life is filled with paradoxes, help your teams understand and work within those tensions.

Today’s most effective organizations must be global and local; product development must be fast and also low-defect; companies must attain critical mass but interact with customers in a personal, human way (this is sometimes called being both big and small). Non-profits face their own set of paradoxes: They need to be efficient and develop repeatable processes, but they need to be flexible to deal with individual human beings with unique challenges and capacities.