In the 2006 comedy movie Click, Adam Sandler plays Michael Newman, who finds himself in the possession of a new kind of remote control: one that lets him fast forward, rewind, pause and practically control all the events in his life.
Although that kind of remote control is nothing more than fantasy, I would argue that successful managers also have access to their own inner ‘remote control’, which enables them to deal with stress. Indeed, psychologists have suggested that success in business (as in life) can be measured in part by how individuals deal with stress. Imagine the successful manager's remote control as being a very simple one with just four buttons:
Button 1: "Channel"
One of the most difficult choices that managers are required to make on a daily basis is where to focus their attention. They frequently find themselves being pulled in multiple directions as employees demand their time, guidance and advice, sometimes all at the same time. While multitasking is an admirable skill, at some point a manager has to focus on one problem at a time. He needs to select one ‘channel’ and give it his full attention.
Last year I read a book that has proved to be extremely useful: “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller. Its subtitle is even more relevant to what I am suggesting: “The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results”. The ability to choose the appropriate ‘channel’ and stick to it until it’s time to change channel is one of the hallmarks of an effective manager.
Button 2: "Options"
What differentiates effective managers from their less successful counterparts is that they have a clear view of the big picture and are constantly monitoring their performance and options to ensure that their focus is always on the advancement of their own department’s goals and that these, in turn, are fully aligned with the company’s overall strategy.
In his seminal work "Getting Things Done", David Allen proposes to implement a ‘Weekly Review’ in order to gain this clarity. This is a 3-step process: Getting Clear, Getting Current and Getting Creative, where the manager takes stock of where things are currently, organizes their current work and considers new ideas.
Button 3: "Volume"
The manager is working on a great project. He’s planned everything down to the last detail and work has begun. With things under way and everything looking good, it becomes more and more important to focus on the job, free from distractions. That’s when the Volume button comes in handy, to amplify the resources available for the project (staff, employees, equipment) and ensure that it is at the centre of everyone’s attention. It’s all about relentless focus on getting things done and completing the project.
Button 4: "Reset"
There will be times when the current strategy is not yielding the results that the manager or the organisation wants or expects. In certain cases, the best solution is to come up with a new, different and, hopefully, more appropriate approach. That’s when it’s time to press "Reset". It can be difficult to accept defeat or failure but we can always try again. Remember the famous phrase that is usually attributed to Albert Einstein: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sometimes we all need a “Reset” button
The successful manager will probably use all four buttons on his imaginary remote control from time to time and, unlike Michael in the movie Click, he will never have to deal with the consequences of a technical malfunction!
Which option from the above (Channel, Options, Volume, Reset) do you usually find yourself pressing more often on your life's remote control as a manager?