Have you watched an experienced juggler at a carnival or circus? He masterfully juggles several objects in the air, ranging from simple balls and bats to dangerous fire-spitting torches and sharp knives. An awe-inspiring juggling performance involves years of strenuous practice, meticulous planning, precise rhythm and flow, and an incredible presence of mind. A juggler never wings it.
In many respects, running and growing a company, such that it constantly pushes the envelope, is no less challenging than an elaborate and risky juggling act. Great managers never wing it. They pay meticulous attention to every aspect of the business, planning diligently, ensuring rhythmic progress and vigilantly guarding against missteps.
Dropping the ball
When they are not on the top of their game or when they take things for granted, even the most experienced managers drop the ball — or the knife. At times, managers mistakenly believe, because they have been successful so far, they will be successful in the future. They try to wing it, overconfident in their abilities to manage a complex organization. Juggling flaming torches is quite different than juggling balls.
A juggler never takes for granted any object he throws up in the air. Managers must develop the same level of respect for strategic aspects that they may have overlooked or underserved.
A good example is culture. Too often in companies, culture develops by default, without regard to the strategic imperatives of the company. Effective managers do not take culture for granted. They carefully cultivate a culture that matches the stated values of the company.
A juggler is diligent and methodical. He precisely positions the objects he uses during his act. He understands the sequence and the rhythm. Likewise, managers must understand the beat of their organization.
Take the example of goal setting. Some managers like to set overly aggressive goals. As a result, the organization falls short, and in spite of significant progress, a feeling of failure pervades the atmosphere.
On the other hand, some managers set goals that are too easy to achieve or are not meaningful. The effective manager sets goals with just the right intensity. As a result, the organization strives hard, achieves the goals, feels good and moves on to tackle higher-level goals. A few cycles of successfully executing the right intensity goals creates the rhythm to strongly propel the organization forward.
Systematic management method
The million-dollar question is, as a manager, do you truly follow a systematic management method? Too many managers do not. They manage from the seat of their pants, but fail to realize it. Some use a management system but rarely question how proficiently their method addresses the strategic and management needs of their organization.
An effective manager recognizes the limitations of the human mind. A person can only manage so much from their head. Effective managers employ a well-thought-out systematic method, and importantly, they coherently articulate and explain that method. Then the whole organization appreciates the business drivers and issues, and each member contributes at a strategic level, as opposed to just doing his or her job.
In too many companies, the strategic aspects do not form a cohesive group. Execution is out of sync with strategy. Strategy does not match the mission and goes against the core business model. Goals exist in a vacuum, with the organization unclear on the road map to achieve the goals.
It takes a substantial amount of work and practice to systematically and cohesively connect all of the strategic aspects, from mission, vision, goals, strategy to execution and culture.
You must employ a systematic method as excellent as the experienced juggler’s. It is your most important responsibility. You will then build a successful and outstanding company that excites and motivates its employees and thrills your audience of clients and customers every bit as much as the juggler thrills his audience, tossing a circle of knifes or flaming torches into the air above his head.
Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the “BusinessMakers” show, CBS Radio and “Nightly Business Report,” he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and is president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or feedback@ cohegic.com.