#BookNotes: The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker

Below are the notes I took while listening to the audiobook, The Effective Executive, written by Peter Drucker. Many of these notes were initially typed on my phone, sometimes while running. So, please excuse the brevity and any typos I overlooked. The book is a classic management book. It's more informative than it is entertaining. Frankly, it took me awhile to get through this one, though I'm glad I did finish it. These are notes I took for myself and are intended to serve as a supplement to your reading or serve as a refresher if you've already read it. Hopefully it is of some value to you. If you enjoy, please be sure to check out other book notes and reviews by clicking on the #BookNotes tag below. Thank you!

Reviews of decisions need to be put in place to prevent too much damage from wrong decisions. 

This is particularly important for the most important decisions, like hiring and promoting people. Studies show that 1/3 of these decisions will be truly successful. 1/3 will be draws. 1/3 will be outright failures. Check in 6-9 months later and if the decision was a failure, recognize it is the failure of the executive. Not the employee. 

People that fail at their job after promotion should be given the opportunity to return to a previous job at their former level and salary. This encourages people to take risks with new jobs. 

Good executives know their strengths and weaknesses and in areas that are not their strength, they delegate. 

Organizations are held together by information. Not ownership or command. The effective executive identifies the correct information they need and doesn't stop asking until he gets it. 

Effective executives treat change as an opportunity rather than a threat - changes inside and outside the enterprise. 

Effective executives don't let problems overwhelm opportunities. And effective executives put their best people on opportunities rather than problems. 

Make meetings productive. 

Listen first. Speak last. 

Executives are often intelligent, imaginative, and have a high level of knowledge. But that does not make them effective. The imaginative idea alone is nothing if an executive is not able to execute effectively. 

Efficiency is getting things done right. Not necessarily getting the right things done. 

Reasons executives are ineffective, built into the process. 

  1. Executives time is other people's
  2. Executives are forced to keep operating unless they change the direction 
  3. Executives are within an organization so they're limited by what and how others use his work
  4. Executives are within an organization and limited in what they know outside of the organization

5 habits to acquire

  1. Know where time goes
  2. Focus on outward contribution - results
  3. Build on strengths, not weakness
  4. Concentrate on few areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results
  5. Make effective decisions  

Effective executives start with their time, not tasks. Memory is not reliable, you must track it to determine where time is going. 

It's amazing how many things busy people are doing that will never be missed. 

Record your time. Which activities can be eliminated? Which delegated? Which are wastes of of other people's time? 

A well managed organization is a boring one, because good preparation eliminates nearly all chaos.

Hire only people you need on day to day basis. Don't over staff. Over skilled and under worked people on your staff bring only mischief. 

You can be working or you can be meeting. You can't do both at the same time. 

Misuse of information is a key waste of time. 

Executives that say they have 50% of their time under their control rarely have any idea where there time is going. 

Small dribbles of time - 15 min here and there - are worthless. Chunks of 90 min are far more productive. Many executives block time at home to do important matters. Morning is better than evening. 

If time isn't managed, nothing else can be managed. 

Focus on contribution is key to the effective executive. Don't focus on effort, focus on results. 

The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. The man who focuses on contributions and who takes responsibility for results no matter how junior is in the most literal sense of the phrase, top management. He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole. 

An effective organization should steadily upgrade it human resources. 

The most common reason executives fail is inability or unwillingness to change with demands of the position. 

Hire to maximize strengths, not minimize weakness. 

Effective executives know that subordinates are paid to perform and not please their superiors. It doesn't matter how many tantrums a prima donna throws, it matters if they bring in the customers. 

Effective executives do first things first, one thing at a time, and focuses on results instead of being busy. 

There's no sense in having the most efficient buggy whip company. Effective executives abandon the old when the old is no longer valuable. Failing to do so prevents the new and innovate from coming about. 

What gets postponed gets abandoned. 

Those research scientists who pick their projects according to the greatest likelihood of quick success rather than according to the challenge of the problem are unlikely to achieve distinction. 

Successful companies don't just develop new products for the existing line. They innovate for new markets. 

It's just as risky to do something small as it is something big. 

Effective executives don't make a great many decisions. They concentrate on the important ones. They aren't overly impressed by speed in decision making. Speed can mean sloppy thinking. They focus on being sound over being clever. 

Effective executives don't make many decisions because he solves generic situations through rule and policy. An executive who makes many decisions is both lazy and ineffectual. 

One has to start with what is right, not what is acceptable. 

If the greatest rewards are given for behavior that the course of action requires everyone will conclude the contradictory behavior is what management really wants. 

People start with opinions. As they should. People experienced in an area without an opinion are either unobservant or have a sluggish mind. And typically people will look for the facts that support their opinion. Opinions come first. As they should. As such, the effective executive encourages opinions and identifies what needs to be tested as a hypothesis. 

A blind Venetian is not the same thing as a Venetian blind. 

Assume people that disagree with you are rational, then seek to understand their view. This is what a smart lawyer does before a trial. 

If one asks, what will happen if we do nothing and the answer is, it will take care of itself, only a fool does something. 

Executives aren't paid to do things they like to do. They're paid to do the right things. 

Effectiveness can be learned. But it is a self discipline, not a subject. 

#BestAdvice: Five year plans

45 minutes into episode #175 of The Tim Ferriss show, Ferriss explains that he's never had reliable 5 or 10 year plans and has instead focused on 2 week experiments and 6 month projects. His view is: 

If you make a 5 or 10 year plan that you can reliably hit, almost by definition you have to set a plan that is below your current capabilities. If you're an A student you have to set a C+ plan for it to be 100% achievable. That, I think is just a great way to paint yourself into a very unattractive corner.

It's a unique perspective on long-term plans and most certainly made me pause to consider my own plans and whether or not I'm shorting myself. 


This post is part of my #BestAdvice blog series, which is a personal project of mine to document the best advice I come across in a retrievable manner. Read more about it here

#BestAdvice: A new blog series

Yesterday I wanted to know where a terrific quote I saved a few months ago was. I checked Notes on my phone, checked Evernote, scrolled through my tweets, searched Gmail. No go. Couldn't find it. Lost forever, or for awhile. 

This got me thinking. I'm constantly consuming information. And occasionally I come across something really terrific that I want to save for later. Not the run of the mill good stuff, but the stuff that really makes me think and I don't ever want to forget. But saving it and finding it later isn't always that simple. I may hear it on a podcast, an audiobook, a read it in a magazine, or, heaven forbid, hear it an actual conversation with another human being. I try to save them, but I seem to have them littered in all the various places I save things. 

So, I elected to solve my own problem using my blog and Twitter. Here's how. 

When I come across something I love and want to save for later, I'm posting it here and sharing it on Twitter. I'll be able to find it by clicking on the #BestAdvice tag below or #BestAdvice hashtag on Twitter

Problem solved. 

Bonus: It's public, so if you want to check out what I think is the best of the best, have at it. Click on the tag below or search the hashtag on Twitter. Hell, feel free to contribute anything you happen to find to be amazing advice with the hashtag. Would love to see what you think is advice worth remembering forever. 

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out and contact me to let me know what you think. And I wouldn't mind if you followed me on Twitter

The best hour and a half of audio I've listened to in a long time

There are a couple podcasts to I listen to periodically, but like most people, I don't have time to listen to as many as I'd like. That said, the podcast I do find time to listen to pretty regularly is Tim Ferriss'. I've listened (and re-listened) to a great many episodes and every time I tune in, I learn something new. And I usually laugh a little while I do. Learning is, of course, the point of Ferriss' show since most episodes are conversations or interviews with the brightest and highest performing people in a very diverse set of professional fields. 

Every episode is informative, so I've never taken the time to link to a specific one. Until now. This episode is different in the sense that Tim is being interviewed instead of the other way around. It's densely packed with new and useful information on stoicism, productivity, and all the other things he has become known for. It's an hour and a half long, which is a significant investment of time. That said, in my very humble opinion, it will pay dividends. This is hands down the best hour and a half of audio I've listened to in a long time. Hope you enjoy. 

My case for meditation, and how mindfulness can improve your life

Driving home several months ago I approached a red light and for no reason whatsoever, I reached for my phone and started swiping through apps like a habitual channel flipper bounces from station to station. I wasn’t looking for anything specific. I was just doing shit to do shit, and as I did, seeds of mindfulness that have been planted in my mind over the last few years began to sprout. Why was it that the very moment I had an opportunity to sit still, I sought a way to escape it?  

Mental restlessness is nothing new to me. “He has a long attention span,” said no one ever about me. Generally speaking I’ve accepted the mental chaos because I like the output of creativity and ideas that spring from the randomness. When I realized I had what amounts to a nervous tick when I’m stuck with myself, however, I figured it was time to explore this mindfulness thing a little more. 

I did a fair share of reading and exploring on the subject, which amounted to learning a little about Buddhism, stoicism, and meditation from a variety of authorities. The best introductory books I read were The Antidote, by Oliver Burkeman and The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday. Some further exploration led me to the audiobook series, The Tao of Seneca by Tim Ferriss and John A. Robinson, and Letters from a Stoic, by Seneca the Younger himself. 

The more I learned, the more convinced I became in the value of practicing mindfulness and recognizing that time was more precious than money. A lot of reading led to a little practice. The most complete introduction to the practice was the Practicing Mindfulness course taught by Dr. Mark Muesse, of Harvard University and Rhodes College. I practiced for several months with some progress in day-to-day life. Slowly (v-e-r-y slowly) but surely, I began recognizing when my mind wandered off from conversation or my hand instinctually grabbed a device to escape with. When I realized it happened I was able to bring myself back to the present.  

While I was making progress, I found it challenging to make time to practice because the accountability was self enforced. I had no routine, no pattern, no mental training plan. And I’m a training plan kind of guy. 

Enter Headspace, an app that makes meditation simple. 

I downloaded Headspace after reading a post Tim Ferriss shared with readers. Upon first look, I thought it may be too introductory. I was by no means a meditation expert, but I’d done a fair share of practicing over the past several months. What I found was that Headspace was absolutely the tool I needed to make the practice stick. 

My first 10 days with Headspace were insanely productive. The first goal in Headspace is to do 10 minutes a day for 10 days. As Tony Robbins says, “If you don’t have 10 minutes a day, you don’t have a life.” So, I sat down and I did it every day for 10 days. I started a pattern, or as Headspace refers to it, a “run streak,” which is the number of days in a row you’ve meditated. The first 10 days were simple, guided, and helpful to practicers of meditation at probably any level. What I found particularly interesting during the meditation was the time allowed to simply let my brain do whatever it wants with no control, no expectations, and no judgement. 

My 10 day run streak turned into 20 and 20 turned into 30, which is the the complete “Foundation” pack for Headspace. After 30 days I was able to open a library of other packs that include meditation concentrating on performance, relationships, and health. As “unmindful” as it may sound, one of the features of Headspace that keeps me accountable is the data. Headspace keeps track of how many times I've meditated, for how long, and how many days in a row. I didn’t want to miss a day training my mind for the same reason I don’t want to miss a day training my body: I want to check the box, good workout or not, and keep making progress.

After just 10 minutes a day for 30 days straight, I am recognizing some of the benefits of improving awareness and being more mindful. The time meditating is a relief, to be sure. But the practice of mindfulness has started to demonstrate benefits well beyond the meditation, as it is intended to. Here are four that I have recognized.  

Prioritizing the present is a constant reminder of how valuable my time really is. 

I have every excuse in the world to be busy, all the time. I have a family, which includes a 7 month old, several businesses I’m engaged in, a fitness regimen, books to read, podcasts to listen to, learning to do, and, well, the semblance of a personal life. Traditionally speaking, no matter where I am, I often feel like I should be somewhere else, even if I’m in the middle of a conversation. Training my mind to be present in what I am doing has had the effect of training my mind to be grateful for whatever is happening at the moment, no matter what it is. That has the effect of appreciating what I am doing and really appreciating the value of time as a limited resource. In and of itself, that is worth training the mind. 

Appreciating the present tends to improve the quality of relationships. 

When I’m not present with the people I care about most, like my family, teams, and employees, it shows. My mind wanders in conversation and my engagements are more shallow. Choosing to be present means paying more attention to the people that are in front of me. By fully engaging, I improve the quality of time I am spending with people, and by default, the quality of my relationships. 

Mindfulness encourages responses, rather than reactions, to challenging situations. 

High performance and productivity is often accompanied by high stress. And stress has a tendency to cloud judgment and trigger emotional reactions when a frustrating situation arises rather than responses that are thought out and proportionate to the situation. Being aware of stress and anxiety has improved my ability to take a step back from emotionally charged situations and respond thoughtfully, not emotionally.  

Thinking about the here and now dramatically reduces negative thought patterns.  

The interesting thing I’ve learned about negative thought patterns, particularly those like worry or regret, is that what is being thought about is, by very definition, not happening now. More often than not, when you think about the present — literally, the exact moment you are in — very rarely is anything actually wrong. Worrying about what may happen in the future or living in a state of regret about the past does only one thing: ruin the present. 

As a novice, I’m sure more benefits will be realized as time goes on. And don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in a constant state of zen. Far from it. I am the equivalent of an entirely untrained athlete preparing for an Ironman that has just run around the block for the first time. But I do capture more moments of being completely present, and that’s a new thing form me. 

If you’ve been practicing mindfulness, drop me a comment below. I’d love to hear your experience. 

And, if you are interested in trying the Headspace experience for 10 days, you can sign up for free here

If you make it 10 days in a row and want to continue, come back and email me. I have a couple free months I can offer on a first come first serve basis. 

Note: I have no financial affiliation with Headspace. I just love it.