A few months back Bill Parcells, the great NFL coach outlined 11 commandments for quaterbacks. I thought this list had a lot of relevance to managers as much as it did to football quarterbacks. Here’s my adapted version of the 11 commandments for managers:
1. Ignore other opinions: Focus on the important stuff. As a manager, every day there will be a number of forces that will work against you. Infrastructure will fail. Costs will rise. Payments will be delayed. Your job is to stay focused and keep pushing ahead. Know what your key goals/tasks are and pay attention to those. Delegate.
2. Clowns can’t run a huddle: Be smart in communicating your actions, opinions and decisions. Have fun but don’t be the class clown. Don’t try to win over everyone. The goal of a manager isn’t always to get everyone to like your decisions or convince everyone that your opinion is the right one. In fact, many times you will make decisions that will not be liked or accepted by everyone. In those situations, prepare to explain why you are making the decision. Explain the facts that led you to your decision. Listen patiently to differing opinions. Agree to disagree, especially if some remain unconvinced with your perspective.
3. Fat QBs can’t avoid the rush: Make quick decisions. Far too many managers, wait for the next piece of data to come along hoping it will make the decision easier. Sure, its important to make decisions on good data, but don’t let indecisiveness bog you down. In business, timing is everything. Every second you wait, is a second that your competition is getting a step on you. My advice: Set a milestone and make the decision when you hit the milestone, with the best available data.
4. Know your job cold: This is probably the most important and arguably the most difficult of the eleven. Most folks have a good idea of what their job is. If you are a project manager, your job might be to get the project completed on time/on budget. However there might be other aspects like customer satisfaction, team morale, profitability targets that could be just as important but might not have been stated or even acknowledged. Watch out for these unaccounted goals.
Knowing your job though is only half the battle though. Practice at your job. Keep your skills up-to-date. Know what the latest tools are. Learn about the changes in your (or your customer’s) industry. Study your competition. Anticipate risks and put mitigation plans in place. In other words, keep practicing and learning to get better at your job every day.
5. Know your own players: Know the strengths and weaknesses of your company, your business environment, your product and most importantly, your co-workers. Device a game plan to play to the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Be fair in evaluating staff, recognize when they are ready to accept more responsibility, earn their trust by praising them publicly and highlighting mistakes in private, always keep an open channel of communication and most importantly when someone talks to you, listen.
6. Be the same guy every day: Define your core values. Let your team and your customers know what these values are so they know where you stand as a professional. Then work each day to validate those core values in your words, actions and decisions. When faced with a tough decision, go back to those values and ask yourself whether the decision you are making, aligns with those values. Be a genuine person. Always say what you will do, and do as you say.
7. Throwing the ball away is a good play: Take the time to make critical decisions. Very often, when managers are faced with a tough question, a fast-paced situation or a tough customer negotiation, they feel stressed to provide an immediate response. Often times, it might be appropriate and actually better to get back at a later time. First, this can help temper any prevailing emotions. Second, it provides the time to think and confer with others about alternate solutions to the problem. Third, a more structured, genuine and well thought-out response is often viewed more positively than an off-the-cuff response.
8. Learn to manage the game: clock, clock, clock: Know to set the right pace for your team and your organization. Organizations are like marathon runners. There are times when you set the pace, times when you just keep up, and times when you decide to follow. Learn what the pace of your organization is and ask the question: Is it time to step up the pace, slow down the pace or just keep up with your competition? The answer will determine the investments, decisions, business tactic and management metrics to adopt.
9. Get your team in the endzone: Winning does a lot of things. It improves morale. It builds momentum. Best of all it is contagious. But winning the game, means winning each quarter, each possession and each down. Similarly, break down your long-term business goals into annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily targets. Put a plan in place to achieve your targets each day. The small successes will all add up and eventually lead to bigger ones.
10. Don’t panic: In times of distress, your team will look to you for leadership. Even if the situation is grave and calls for tough measures, don’t let panic show on your face. As a manager and a leader, you have to be the calming influence. Showing patience, discipline and calm in these situations will earn you the respect of your team, your peers and your superiors.
11. Don’t be a celebrity quarterback: Finally, show humility in your success. More importantly, share the accolades, rewards, and success with your team. Acknowlege their efforts publicly. Realize that behind every successful manager lies a strong team of over-achievers.
There you have it. The 11 commandments for quarterbacks as adapted for managers.