Vision and strategy are important, future-focused and long-term concerns, especially for company executives. But sometimes they take a back seat to present-day pressures on the job, especially for middle managers.

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They have important tasks to tackle today, tomorrow or next week. The priorities of next month and next year may have to wait.

Urgent priorities push aside future, non-urgent priorities. For budgets, this year is more important than next year. This month is more important than next month if this month is falling short and there are immediate, concrete steps that managers can take to improve results.

Some managers even…

Effective leaders use both rewards and punishments, carrots and sticks with employees in order to motivate them.

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But good leaders nudge and nurture their employees as much as possible with carrots. Bad leaders hammer too much with sticks.

Rewards and punishments both belong in any manager’s toolbox. But how much managers use rewards versus how much they use punishments says quite a bit about their styles and personalities.

Rewards have both short and long term benefits to employees. They give an immediate boost to employee self esteem as well as their job security. …

Political leaders put country first and party second. Political hacks put party first and country second.

Liz Cheney
Liz Cheney

Consider the following two statements:

“This is not about policy, this is not about partisanship, this is about our duty as Americans.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

The first statement comes from someone who has shifted from hack to leader. That someone is Liz Cheney, who sounds suspiciously like someone running for President in 2024.

The second statement comes from someone who toyed with being a leader — for once in…

The annual budget process leads to worry, stress and job insecurity for many managers, especially when executives have aggressive demands.

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Middle managers with a staff of two people have a budget. Regardless of whether they own it or have it inflicted on them, that budget reflects the cost of their salaries and benefits and the value of what they produce.

Middle and senior managers who don’t manage the process or try to influence it in some way run the risk of ending up with a budget they despise and sometimes even fear. It may have unrealistic goals and objectives, a…

Conflicts abound in a management career. Managers inevitably will have conflicts with staff, bosses, peers, customers and other departments or divisions. Resolutions often depend quite a bit on two key principles in negotiations and interpersonal relations.

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I have seen countless management conflicts during four decades in management and management consulting. Nearly every one that comes to mind had some degree of fairness and respect that impacted the level of hostility and whether the conflict had a successful conclusion.

Managers who resolve that they will treat the other party with fairness and respect will increase their odds of settling the conflict…

A strategy is a plan. The concept is that simple. But developing a good plan isn’t simple at all.

Strategy map
Strategy map
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Even middle managers have or should have strategies because strategies arise from the rivers of information that flow their way. They have budgets, guidance from bosses, feedback from clients and employees, competitor activities, reports, memos, analytics and much more. This heavy flow of information develops the need for a business strategy.

“A business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy is therefore about how…

A children’s football coach is a paternalistic leader but hardly bureaucratic or transactional. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license

Leadership style is a dry abstract for young and inexperienced managers. It becomes concrete with time and maturity.

Business experts go into great detail about various leadership styles. The list includes:

  • Autocratic
  • Bureaucratic
  • Coach
  • Democratic
  • Paternalistic
  • Servant
  • Transactional
  • Transformational
  • Visionary

But no mature leaders follow just one style. They act according to a combination of styles that reflect their personalities and situations. Personalities reflect a bias toward certain styles. Some situations may demand an emphasis on one style or just a few of them while others require a completely different approach.

An actual division president I knew was quite autocratic…

Managers spend most of their days acting on behalf of six major tasks. According to classical management theory, five of them are planning, staffing, organizing, leading and controlling.

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In real life workplaces, self management is a sixth and unique task that demands regular attention. Managers who can’t manage themselves are hardly inspirations or role models for the people they are supposed to lead.

But it isn’t just for the sake of being inspirational or role models that managers must learn how to manage themselves. In a society that is increasingly data-driven, information overload can swamp them, especially when clients, bosses…

Vision precedes action and action precedes achievement in both personal lives and in management.

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Consider a simple example. Thoughts are usually visual and verbal. We picture going to work, we tell our spouse we are going to work, we drive to work and we get there. Vision, action and achievement.

This same simple process works in management planning. Any manager who goes through a budget process has to picture how to achieve the numbers and then verbalize that vision. A project manager does the same with the likes of future-focused Gantt charts and other tools. …

Compassionate leaders support employees who struggle with deep personal and family problems.

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They see their compassion as the right thing to do. They also understand that their compassion sends an important message to other employees: I care about you. This caring nature creates an emotional bond that motivates employees and gives them yet another reason to keep working for such a leader.

There also is a limit to how far compassion can go in the workplace because leaders have a responsibility to deliver results to the company. Consider the following real-life examples.

The Dying Employee

A new manager arrives at a business unit…

Scott S. Bateman

Scott S. Bateman is a journalist and publisher. He spent nearly 3 decades in management including 2 major media companies.

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