CategoryLeading/Managing

Managing Yourself

This post introduces an essay with ideas and resources on personal productivity. It is the third in a three-part series on entrepreneurship. 

Like other business owners, I learned along the way and grew into my role as a CEO. Possibly the biggest lesson has been the importance of rigorously, even ruthlessly, managing my time and energy.

In practice, we tend towards self-indulgence and do the things we like to do, or want to do in the moment, rather than those things that help us achieve our goals. Having clear priorities and a sensible approach to managing time has helped me tremendously, and will help you, too.

Click here to read the essay.

Ideas for Managers

This post introduces an essay with advice on managing a business, setting expectations and working with teams. It is the second in a three-part series on entrepreneurship. 

Starting Forisk Consulting was not part of a long-term goal. Rather, it came together serendipitously. When the phone started ringing with questions relevant to my forestry research, the two ingredients required for starting a business presented themselves: a product or service to offer and clients willing to pay for it. 

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about managing. I also absorbed more about insurance, taxes and postage meters than a person needs to know for the afterlife. In this second essay on entrepreneurship, I summarize lessons on managing a business and teams.

Click here to read the essay.

Ideas for Entrepreneurs

This post introduces an essay with advice on starting a business. It is the first in a three-part series

Forisk is not my first business. In elementary school, after reading all of the Encyclopedia Brown mystery books from the local library, I started a detective agency with my younger brother. We had one client and we helped her find a lost dog. She paid us in milk and cookies. They were delicious. 

Over the years, there have been other businesses, in addition to lemon aide stands and lawn mowing. Sometimes the businesses worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. You learn and try again. For this question-and-answer essay, I share a few thoughts on starting a business based on my experiences and what I’ve learned from mentors. 

Click here to read the essay.

What is the Question?

This post introduces a recent essay on mobilizing teams and making decisions during difficult times.

When faced with ambiguity and uncertainty, we seek solid ground for making decisions. For novel and contentious issues, following our “gut” or simple frameworks may prove insufficient. What can we do to filter distraction and organize thinking in ways that move us forward? 

When uncertain, define an answerable question. Then answer it and take action.

In difficult situations, I often start by clearly defining the question. Good questions clarify our context, risks and options. Through shaping “positive” questions we build a process for developing new information and next steps. These questions help us distinguish the important, relevant and actionable from the unsubstantiated and uncontrollable, while balancing the desire for insight with the need for action.

Click here to read the essay.

Managers Manage Well, Even During Pandemics

In my roles as a business advisor and as a team leader, I have the opportunity to continually discuss and test ideas on managing and making decisions, especially in turbulent times. The intensity and urgency of these conversations increased with the arrival in 2020 of COVID-19 and another economic recession. Here I summarize observations shared more fully in a recent Forisk blog post.

Good managers manage well, even during a pandemic

A few times over the past several months I’ve gotten up in the morning, looked in the mirror and thought, “how do I help today (given that I don’t know what’s going to happen)?” I hear the same from clients. At the end of the day, good managers and colleagues do what they say they’re going to do and communicate in advance if complications arise. Just as they would during normal times. Along the way, they share information and updates which helps others support the problem solving and decision making. 

Leaders have more freedom to decide up front when less information exists

While counterintuitive, less information offers more flexibility. The onset of the COVID pandemic and the responses by corporate executives highlighted where decisions made in the “fog of war” actually helped or hurt. We have known from the first weeks what data we needed. Regardless the success or failure of getting this data, the forest industry, for example, demonstrated discipline. Conversations with managers and executives centered on (1) supporting employees and reinforcing safety; (2) “right-sizing” production to support and keep clients and customers; and (3) managing cash. The thinking was clear and focused on dealing with the current situation given limited information. 

Effective teams share common values

Leaders require a core set of beliefs and values against which to test ideas and make decisions, especially during uncertain times. Consider the context. With no data and little clarity about the future, how does one choose a course of action? With common values, clearly communicated over time with a team, decisions have, at a minimum, a source of validity and rigor.