9 out of 10 Managers Waste Time

In the book, A Bias for Action, leadership expert Heike Bruch and management expert Sumantra Ghoshal demonstrate that managers often confuse activity with accomplishments, and motivation with true leadership. Their study reveals that a whopping 90 percent of managers waste their time by procrastinating, becoming emotionally detached, and distracting themselves with busy-work. They point out that only 10 percent of managers truly act purposefully to get the most important work accomplished.

Of course managers have many explanations for their lack of accomplishments including a lack of motivation, limited time, not enough money, too much work, and corporate bureaucracy. But new research is pushing back on these excuses and arguing that the amount of willpower managers bring to their jobs can be a critical element in their success.

Managerial Behavior

The following are four kinds of managerial behavior identified in this book:

1. Frenzied

Forty percent of managers are distracted by the many tasks they juggle every day. They are highly energetic but very unfocused and appear to others as frenzied, desperate, and hasty.

2. Procrastinators

Thirty percent of managers procrastinate on doing the work that really matters to the organization because they lack both energy and focus. They often feel insecure and fear failure.

3. Detached

Twenty percent of managers are disengaged from their work altogether. They are focused but lack energy and seem aloof, tense and apathetic.

4. Purposeful

Only 10 percent of managers get the job done. They are highly focused and energetic and come across as reflective and calm amid chaos.

Overcoming the Three Traps Of Non-Action

There are three common traps of non-action that managers must deal with.

1. Overwhelming Demands

Some day-to-day jobs are so demanding that they leave little time for reflection on what really matters. Rather than simply responding to any request that gets thrown at them, purposeful action-takers manage their demands by developing an explicit personal agenda, practicing slow management, structuring contact time, and shaping demands and managing expectations.

2. Unbearable Constraints

Many managers feel discouraged by corporate constraints to pursue goals they consider significant. Rarely are these constraints as absolute as managers make them out to be. To remove themselves from this trap, purposeful action-takers adopt strategies that include: mapping relevant constraints, accepting trade-offs, selectively breaking rules, and tolerating conflicts and ambiguity.

3. Unexplored Choices

Focused on job demands and constraints, most managers develop tunnel vision and concentrate on immediate needs and requirements, and are unable to exploit their freedom to make choices about what they would do and how they would do it. Purposeful action-takers, in contrast, avoid this trap by being aware of their choices; by expanding their opportunities and their freedom to take action on the choices they have; by developing personal competencies that both create choice and enhance their ability to make things happen; and by learning to enjoy both the freedom and the responsibility that choice brings with it.

So what kind of manager do you work for? Or, for those of you that are managers, are you guilty of any of the above?

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