How to be an effective executive

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How to be an effective executive

By Susan Marshall, for SBT

Forget the MBA courses, the executive retreats, the high-powered consultants, and whatever silver bullets you might find on the Internet. The truth about executive effectiveness is that it is available to anyone who wants to do certain things consistently.

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Do you want to be an effective executive? Do this.

1. Return phone calls. Even if you don’t recognize the caller, return the call. It may be someone with an important lead or contact, someone who needs your help, or someone calling to thank you for something you’ve done. If it turns out to be a telemarketer, hang up. People who don’t return phone calls tell others that they’re too busy, too scattered, too disinterested, or too scared to bother with the caller. That’s bad business.
2. Pay attention when people talk to you. To the extent that you can put your own issues aside for the time you’re speaking with someone, do it. You can’t listen well and think about something else at the same time. If you are unable to give full attention to someone, ask if you can speak at another time. Make it soon. When you pretend to listen, but don’t hear what was said, you won’t remember. A bad memory can wreak havoc on your business.
3. Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame someone for something you said. Don’t play two people against each other to make yourself look smart or good. When you say something, mean it. When you do something, have a purpose for it. When you make a mistake, own it.
4. Think before you speak. Anytime you let words fly without having considered their impact on others and their reflection on you, you are playing Russian roulette with your image, credibility, and reputation. Use words that are well understood. Industry jargon and current slang may make you feel important or hip, but you’ll sound pedantic at best and juvenile at worst.
5. Decide before you act. Reacting to fast-changing events is dangerous. There are times when you’ll need to decide something in the moment. When you have the experience to do so, go for it. Responding, however, to a false sense of urgency almost guarantees that you’ll end up regretting your speedy action.
6. Mind your manners. Speak with clarity and intent. Respect people you interact with. Behave in ways that promote professionalism and courtesy Be genuinely proud of yourself and the people you work with. Your reputation and your business will prosper.
7. Please remember that it’s not all about you. As an executive, you are important, there’s no arguing that. What you do has impact far beyond your immediate sight. Think about who will be affected by what you say and do. Realize that you are an instrument for getting things done, not the beginning or end of everyone else’s world.

When you’ve mastered these things to the point that they’ve become second nature, you’ll notice all sorts of improvements in communications, results, self-confidence, and relationships. You’ll be a more effective executive. If you want to pick up advanced education courses, by all means do so. But remember that higher learning will always take a back seat to good practice.

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Susan Marshall is owner of Executive Advisor in Jackson, She can be reached at 262-677-1215.

May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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