450293517From a young age, we’re taught the importance of hard work. If we work hard, we’ll succeed. If we work hard, we’ll be able to achieve our goals. As Thomas Edison said, “There is no substitute for hard work.” Well, turns out that’s not all there is to it. Say you are tasked with digging out sod and creating a 15 foot x 15 foot garden plot. You could spend all day with a shovel, or you could rent a rototiller and get it done in an hour or so.

This is working hard versus working smart. Effective managers are those who work smart because they know it’s the only way to do everything they need to in a day – and still have time to get and try some of that work/life balance everyone’s talking about.

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Sometimes, the hardest working people are not necessarily the most effective. The manager who is in at 7:00am and out at 7:00pm may not be effective. Sure, he/she is putting in the time and probably working very hard. But is he/she working smart? Here are 4 characteristics of the most effective managers: 

  1. Delegate with knowledge and foresight, making sure the right people are doing the right jobs at the right time. They decide what they need to do themselves to add value, and what to delegate.
  2. Focus on the important, value-added tasks and not just the urgent, day-to-day situations. Without discipline, the urgent always wins out over the important.
  3. Set context and boundaries for your team, and manage their expectations to ensure there is the right balance of access and leadership time. They realize time management is healthy and part of managing effectively.
  4. Do not delegate too many tasks and max out their employees. It is very easy for a manager to keep piling on new work, without taking any of the previously delegated work off the list! They know it is their job to set enough context that direct reports can balance their priorities.

What makes a manager effective? It’s not 12 hour days and vending machine lunches on the go. It’s not always working hard, although managers must do their fair share of that, no matter how smart they are! It is about knowing how to use time, resources, and most especially people (including themselves) to their best advantage. It is about knowing, and keeping, their boundaries and fostering that quality in their team. It is about using the rototiller and saving your time, and back, for other tasks.