The four activities successful managers need to lead effectively

I like to keep things as simply as possible. It helps me to cope with the ever-increasing complexity of sales, marketing and management. Keeping things simple is also practical and effective. As managers, we really have only four activities.

Every day we face an untold number of decisions we must make about an untold number of projects, people and clients. There are some days when a project, a team member or a client requires nothing from you. Other times, you have four choices.

You can nudge a little to see if you can stimulate a tiny bit of progress. You can push hard to see if you can force some significant movement. You can hatch a new project or initiative, or you can pull the plug on a current activity, employee or client.

Four ‘aces’ are the key

Some people walk past my office and wonder how I can manage the piles of paper and the stacks of notes. Some also wonder how I can get so many things done and affect so many projects at the same time. This is because I follow the “four activities” model.

I look through my notes to see if I have any opportunities for progress. I look at a note and consider, “Is today a good day for action?” If I decide it is not, then the note goes back into the hopper. If today is a good day for action, which activity is most appropriate?

Does this require a nudge? If so, I might email someone a reminder about the goal or project in question. I might call someone on the phone to place a reminder or ask for an update.

If it is a good day for a push, I might gather the group involved to push for a breakthrough or a decision.

Is it a good day to hatch the idea that the note references? If so, I make the plan to put it into play and put together the team that will see it through. I spend my day hatching the concept.

Some days one just needs to pull the plug. If an idea isn’t ripe for hatching, then the idea must be discarded. There are also days when current projects need to be discontinued or a client negotiation needs to stop.

Like a fleet of stones

Sometimes a manager feels like he or she is in charge of getting a fleet of stones to the top of a hill. Some days you can give each a little nudge. Some days you need to push hard on one or two of them. Occasionally, you need to put a new rock on the hill and start moving it to the top.

And then there are days when you will let a rock roll back to the valley or leave one where it lies as you continue moving the rest to the top. A visual like this helps to keep things simple.

If you consider that you only do four things as a manager, you might be able to feel more productive, less stressed and more focused. After all, you can count the activities you are responsible for on one hand.