10 Reminders for Effective Management

Your Business Blogger was recently asked by a small business owner to evaluate a manager’s management skill set. The manager was being overwhelmed. And he is not alone.

If you are like most managers, you feel you could be doing better. Much better.

As you set out to plan, organize, lead and control, how can you get the results you want?

The most common complaint I hear from managers is on time management.

But there may be something even more important on which a manager should focus.


We all want military-like discipline as we run our business units.

The Army has the perfect definition for discipline. It has two components. Most would be familiar with the first part:

1) Prompt obedience to orders.

But it’s the second part that managers really need from subordinates:

2) Initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders.

Most often, we think prompt obedience will get the manager more time. Efficiency.

But what most managers really need is initiative from their team. More effectiveness.

This is a review of the basics to get more discipline in your business. Following are 10 tips to remember as you knock about your office:

1) Desk

Think of your desk as a pyramid with the apex pointing up. Paper does not rest on your desk, nor your boss’s desk. Paper is never allowed in horizontal file piles. Whenever a memo or an email attachment comes to you, it will slide off — back to whoever carried it in. Using your OPT-in management skills. It will have your signature on it, an action to be taken (by someone else), filed or destroyed (by someone else). You will not let it rest on your desk as you think about it because you use your…

2) Calendar 

If an action comes to you from a subordinate, it should only require a decision. If you cannot make a decision immediately, direct your staff to return later with more detail. Open your calendar and you both set an appointment.

Do not say, “I’ll think about it.” This puts the action on your desk and nothing, of course, is on your desk. And nothing should be on your mind, except making your tee time.

Here’s the sign of a real professional manager: Say those same words, “I’ll think about it,” and have the subordinate to return later with the action item. The seasoned manager knows that most any decision will be OBE, overcome by events and become irrelevant.

But use this as a learning experience. You synchronize calendars with your subordinate and ink in a return time for him to brief you. Again. If some thought is necessary, your direct report does the thinking. (Because you ask all the right questions.)

Your staff develops options, and returns with suggested courses of actions and recommendations. You do not have to have all the answers all the time. And nobody needs to know this. With a fully staffed, staff recommendation you can use your…

3) Phone

Which you will use to get the resources your staff needs to accomplish the project. Like magic.

Your voice and your charming personality will be needed to secure the extra budget needed to move the enterprise to the next level — with the ideas bubbling up from the cubicle farm down the hall. If you are not getting the responses or the initiative you need, you will use…

4) Shoe leather

Management by walking around made the rounds a few years ago and is still useful if you need to plant your boot on a backside. Or to deliver an atta-boy in real life. The most effective persuasion is done face-to-face. Toe to toe. Walk over and overwhelm in person.

And to memorialize your praise, you will use your…

5) Fountain Pen

A hand-written note, black ink, heavy card stock, delivered by snail mail. Or lugged over by your lackey. Your cursive writing will almost balance your cursive yelling.

Neutron Jack Welsh was hated by many of those he fired (and his first two wives, I think). But loved by those who received his hand-written notes. GE knows how to train.

The single biggest reason people quit jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. They may feel they do not measure up with your…

6) Ruler

Your standards and measurements should be open and transparent. A subordinate should never be surprised by personnel evaluations.

Other measures may be more objective.

It is often difficult to measure precisely a forecast, a budget, a winner. The good manager will include a margin to exploit delightful opportunities or a cushion if blind-sided with setbacks. Keep 20% of any budget up your sleeve. Of your well-tailored…

7) Uniform

Your appearance should mirror the leaders in your industry. Not your staff. You must be seen to be different.

In America we have a common mis-belief: We are all equal in the eyes of the law; but we are not equal to each other.

Understand snobbery. (Just like when Your Business Blogger was a ghost-writer for a former Presidential candidate…)

A white hardhat, custom made shirts (yes, French cuffs and no pocket). You no longer carry a lunch pale, you carry a…

 8 ) Briefcase

This is your tool box. Which is nothing more than a bag to carry cables, adapters and chargers.

As you advance up the food-chain, you will carry less and less. Fewer and fewer ‘tools.’ You will lose the briefcase/sample case, then car keys, then house keys, then cash. I’m not talking senior moments or divorce.

As a professional manager you are not burdened with earthly possessions or a load bearing equipment harness. You will get lighter and lighter. Until, like the President of the United States, or an MLB player you carry nothing at all.

Do not carry papers in your briefcase. You get paid for your wisdom in making decisions. Not schlepping around pulp.

Does the CEO of Enron Exxon lug a briefcase? Or does he have a sherpa to do the heavy lifting?

Watch your lower-level employees to see if get it by carrying a bag that is exactly like thier immediate boss’s. Imitation and flattery and discreet sucking-up is necessary for the smooth functioning of the machinery of a small business. And to hit your tee time.

However, just like a big-time CEO, you won’t always be caught red-handed empty-handed. Like an out-of-town-consultant, you will always be carrying your…

9) Laptop

With a detailed dossier on everyone you know. (Translation: CRM) And noting every time you send them a thank you card. (Using the fountain pen, natch.)

With a separate contact database for your Christmas card list. The typical congressman has 1500 names of his closest friends on his yearly season’s greeting snail mail card. Set a goal of 200 names for your yearly mass mailing. This will complement your more frequent emails from your…

10) Blackberry

A  typical span of control is 10. An Army squad. A football team. (The President’s Cabinet is a bit unwieldy at 14.) You do not need to control every action of every individual in your organization.

Just your 10 direct reports. That’s all.

Follow-up and pestering supervision these days is easier with email. Remember with any incoming email, reply ASAP even if you have no substance — do let the sender know his message was received and acknowledged. Your email inbox must be treated the same manner as your desk. They both are pyramids where everything slides off.

You will notice one office accoutrement not listed above: A clock.

Forget Time Management

This was not an exercise in time management.

The above ten tips will get most small business owners more discretionary time. More time to simply think and to dispense wisdom.

Initiation of appropriate action by your team will free-up time. True discipline will give you those moments to reflect, per chance to dream.

The clock will now become your friend.


Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

27 Reactions
  1. Well, Jack, you got them talking once again with your unique brand of military management and humor….

  2. Zoli’s Blog,

    Thank you for your comment. You do offer us some interesting comparing and contrastings. I’ll emphasize:


    What’s the difference?

    I once had a basketball coach who taught us “over-extension” in our physical training. I soaked this up like a Brawny. (As the team captain, I learned the fine art of sycophancy.) If say, on defense, our body’s center of gravity (butt) was to be two feet from the court’s surface — in a game — Coach Brown would make us practice one foot from the surface. We’d practice at 12 inches, but during a game, getting tired, we’d only be able to lower the gravity down to 24 inches.

    Over extension might apply to learning and certainly to marketing. Ever wonder why a product manager would release a perfectly awful TV ad? Some times to make it memorable.

    You’d see the product on the crowded supermarket shelf and you would remember the product — maybe not remembering why — but slowing down, noticing the product. Increased awarness, and all that.

    And maybe remember the content of a perfectly awful post.

    (Got to run. Got a meeting with Callaway.)

    Thanks again for your comment,


    PS We had a crappy basket ball team. I blame the coach, certainly not the brilliant leadership of the team captain…See http://www.yoest.org/archives/2006/04/the_manager_as_sociopath_a_12.php

  3. An odd list for effective management tips. Communication and respect of others is key. They seem to get lost.

  4. Shawn, surely you jest, “communication” and “respect of others”? Goodness.

    My young knave, they were never, never on the list of the successful manager’s character traits.

    To reach the heights of the c-level corner office you must abandon hope and humanity.

    You must become a socio-path. Start here:


    And let me know how it goes.

    Not that I care.

    Your New Best Friend,

  5. pl. u send update knowladge regading same , i have read this one , that is really help olats to me .

  6. Great, especially “Initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders.”

  7. Catherine Warchot

    I feel like these ten tops are really helpful in terms of time management when working for a business. I also found that these work in other instances too. As I am a student, I have a lot of work that has to be done in a timely manner. In the past week, I’ve these tips out and they worked really well and I was able to be really efficient in getting my work done. If they work for a student who is notorious for procrastinating, then they will work really well for a swamped manager who has trouble managing his or her time.

    • Catherine, the manager gets graded on effectiveness, that is, achieving organizational goals.

      The individual contributor get graded on efficiency, that is, faster, better, cheaper.

      If we all, as managers of our own time, can handle an item, a task or a piece of paper and remove the action from our in-box, then we will be able to get more done in less time.

      And this, as you suggest can help us to get started, knowing the end is not far behind.


  8. Madalaina D'Angelo

    It’s an interesting list, and makes me smile because quite a few things reminded me of my own managers, particularly “sole leather;”– I work at a bar and my one manager I don’t think has ever been in the offices for more than 10 minutes per shift, he walks around the complex and is constantly checking in face to face with employees to see how things are running, and stepping in to help when he needs to.

    • Madalaina, Well written — your manager ‘walking around’ is doing the ‘control’ part of management where he compares the results/performance to the plan.

      The job of the manager is to check and follow-up and offer course corrections, if needed.


  9. I believe an effective leader, especially in today’s world, trusts his or her employees to take action and not wait for their orders. An effective leader builds a team that encompasses various skill sets that complement each other, he or she then communicates the mission, and then provides the freedom for the team to complete the task. Now it is vital for the leader to observe still, but not necessary for them to provide each and every direction to achieve. General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, provides several examples of this new effective leadership style which allows employees more responsibility in accomplishing tasks, which allows their expertise to shine as it provides more ownership in their work, and a better spirit of trust, purpose, and teamwork among the “troops”.

    • Katie, You are right: General McCrystal’s book is an outstanding read — he makes the point, as you note, that organizational goals are not accomplished by The Lone Ranger; — but real work gets done with teams.

      It is the NASCAR pit-crew that gets things done — not the solitary cowboy.

      Well done,

  10. The 10 tips given in the article would make offices life much easier. The list gives examples of ways to better yourself in the eyes of your employers. The most important aspect of the article in my mind was the initiation of appropriate action. I felt like this was important because having worked in an office/cube style job for a summer internship I learned that when I performed the tasks without being asked or if I was a step ahead of the manager it made my job a whole lot easier. Initiating appropriate action shows how invested you are in the company and a sense of worth. The other tip I found helpful was the uniform time, this is useful because its a nice reminder to dress for the job you want. The list of tips is very useful for an office style job and can even help small business owners maximize their time and efforts in their hectic work days.

  11. Leanne Robinson

    These tips are relevant to so many different situations. Whether you are a manager, an employee or even a student, these tips can take you far! I honestly think that working effectively begins with great organization, just as you stated at the beginning of this piece. Every item on this list symbolizes key characteristics each manager should embody. Success truly is in the basics! By being charismatic and thinking strategically, a manager can achieve much more than they would by sitting at a desk. Your tips are truly a lifesaver because they are more about trying to get what YOU want, rather than what you think you should do. By organizing your life, you can make every challenge a little easier. I can also personally attest to your note on emails. I really do appreciate an email that is promptly responded to. Great work, this article was helpful and clever!

  12. since step 1, I thought that apart from the paper work, you desk should ALWAYS be organized. Apart from being an example, your setting the standard for the rest of the work force, if the manager has an organized desk, everyone should too. Calendar and phone are ways of communicating effectively with others in my opinion. I also agree with shoe leather because it is also part of communication and just like mentioned in this article there is no better way of communicating than face to face. Additionally the next items are tools necessary to do your work more efficiently.

  13. Joseph Lasaracino

    My football coach in high school put a strong emphasis on discipline, and that has stayed with me since I graduated high school. Discipline is vital especially when one is managing, because it install’s self-control. The ten reminders of effective management resemble commandants like the constitution, in which it portrays the attributes it takes to be a leader in business. The analogy of the 10 reminders depicts symbolization, illustrating the fundamentals of how to manage an organization. Understanding the reminders as a representation for effective business is a model for small business owners to run successful companies.

    • JL, You are right about discipline — I would endorse the Army’s definition:

      1) Prompt obedience to orders, and,

      2) Initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders,


  14. Michael Kvartunas

    Interesting that almost all of these things can be used for communication. From what I have learned about management is that much of managing a company or managing anything, communication is the most important thing. This is also a good thing for time management for a personal use, not just in a business management setting

  15. Mary Margaret Sheridan

    I think these are good rules for managers to follow in order to gain discipline in their business. Practicing discipline will help a manager to free up time. Some of the pieces of advice that I thought were particularly important were “Your standards and measurements should be open and transparent. A subordinate should never be surprised by personnel evaluations,” and “Your appearance should mirror the leaders in your industry. Not your staff. You must be seen to be different.” I think it is very important for a manager to lay out exactly what their expectations are so that the employees know what they are working towards and how to conduct themselves. I also think it is important for managers to dress the part. A manager’s appearance can garner respect from employees and it can help them distinguish themselves. These tips along with the others mentioned will help managers practice discipline so that they have more time to focus their energy where it is needed.

  16. Discipline is key in almost everything we do on a daily basis. If someone lacks discipline then businesses would be less inclined to hire them. You must be able to get your job done and that’s where discipline plays a key role. One problem I see is how the younger generations today lack discipline.

    • Sam, A manager’s most challenging function is to hire well motivated staff — within his budget.

      And this is why managers earn the incomes that they deserve.

      Well done,