FlipMyFunnel Post

3 Lessons From Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive”

This post is based on a podcast about Peter Drucker’s book. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many amazing leaders on my #FlipMyFunnel podcast. From the tech industry, to marketing leaders, CEOs, team players and team innovators, … but one that I wish I could have had the opportunity to interview? Peter Drucker.

You may recognize the name. Peter Drucker wrote what is considered one of the seminal works on effective leadership: The Effective Executive.

The book wastes no time. He gives away many of his secrets to powerful leadership on the first page, and then develops these ideas throughout the book. We talked about some of these on a #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episode, and today, I want to share with you three of Peter’s leadership secrets on effective leadership.

The books jumps right in, so we will too:

1. Ask Yourself 2 Important Questions

What needs to be done?
This sounds simple. But how many times a day do we stop and ask ourselves, “what needs to be done?” The simplicity makes it easy to bypass.

What is the right thing for the company?

On the top of every notebook I have, is this one question: “What is right for the company?” This may sound inhuman, and Peter Drucker acknowledges this point in his book. Ultimately, though, he says that if you determine what is right for the company, it will end up being what is right for the team, and for the individual.

One of my favorite leaders is Jack Welch, who was interviewed by Peter Drucker for this book. Jack employed this principle surprisingly well during his 20 year stint as chairman and CEO of GE.

Before his meetings with his leadership team, Jack would make a list of what he thought were the primary concerns he needed to attack. When he attended the meetings, he would not share his list, instead he would ask his team what needed to be done for the company. If what they said wasn’t on his list, he would put his own ideas on hold until the other team-established company-focused tasks were completed.

2. Put A Plan Together As One Team

Ask the right questions, then act on them, Drucker says. Here’s his simple process:

Develop an action plan
Don’t simply ask yourself the right questions, then stop after you have the answers. Develop actionable steps to accomplishing those goals.

Take responsibility for the decisions
Just like Jeff Bezos says, “Disagree, but commit.” If the team has determined the direction and action steps the company is going to take, then everyone needs to agree they are going to do everything possible to address these issues.

Communicate what was agreed upon
Within the next hour, a leader needs to ensure that was agreed upon is communicated to the entire team.

Focus on opportunities rather than the problem
Once actions are set, it’s time to set the focus on the opportunities. That’s what great leadership is all about — focusing on what the opportunities are rather than just putting out fires.

This requires time and space, a.k.a., “breathing room” to allow your mind to be creative. For me? I block off an entire day to come up with new ideas.

The other benefit of giving yourself time to to focus on opportunities is that it allows you to have a stress reducer built into your probably action-packed schedule. If you have an hour a day to “catch up” where you have nothing scheduled, you’ll constantly be able to tell yourself you have that hour available, and the immediate stress will lessen.

3. Set clear accountability at a picture of success

Peter Drucker puts it this way: There are only two types of meetings:

  • Productive
  • Waste of time

Everything, including meetings, should be accountable to answering the question, “What is right for the company?” If a goal or task is more self-serving or achieving a individualized goal instead of solving the company issues, there’s a problem.

As a litmus test: Consider what your team is saying. Are you hearing the word “we” or “I”?

Lastly, One Thing
If I have to leave you with one thing, it’s exactly that: One Thing.

After interviewing hundreds of executives at large, medium and small companies, Peter Drucker discovered a common denominator among the most successful: Each of them would only focus on one goal or priority at at a time. Not five or 10, not 100, exactly one.

If that’s what successful CEOs of Fortune 100 companies are doing, who am I to try to take on more?