5 Managerial Activities You Can Do Right Now

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "High Output Management" by Andrew S. Grove. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the top managerial activities? Why should you participate in these activities?

The top managerial activities work to gather information, make decisions, and motivate your team to do better. As a manager, you can do these managerial activities to evaluate your team and to improve your own skills.

Read more about managerial activities and what you can do.

Five Valuable or High-Leverage Managerial Activities

You can also increase your output by choosing to do valuable and/or high-leverage managerial activities. We’ll cover five activities in this chapter and the rest in subsequent chapters. 

Activity #1: Information-Gathering

Information-gathering involves collecting data about both the interior and exterior workings of your company. You’ll use what you learn from this activity to inform all of your other managerial activities. 

There are two main sources of information, and you need to gather both:

1. Verbal, via conversations with people both inside and outside the company (competitors, customers, and so on). Verbal information is more up-to-date than written information and therefore valuable, but often insufficient or even incorrect because in conversation, people don’t always mention all relevant context. 

There are two good ways to get access to verbal information:

  • Talk to people who want you to do things for them. They’re often excellent sources of information because they’ll tell you all sorts of things to get you on their side. 
  • Visit part of the company, observe proceedings, and engage in casual conversation. (In contrast, if people come to see you in your office, you spend a lot of time on social niceties and don’t actually exchange that much information.) If you feel awkward about wandering around without a specific goal, schedule a visit that has a task associated with it, such as a safety check. This will give you a good reason to walk around and talk to people.

2. Written, via memos, reports, and so on. Written information travels more slowly than verbal information but is necessary and valuable because:

  • The information is more thorough than what can be covered in a conversation.
  • The author has to think to write the text—the exercise involves self-discipline, precision, and reflection. Even if no one reads the final product, the author will have gained from writing it. 
  • The reader can use written information to validate verbal information and as a reference in the future.

You should have multiple sources of both verbal and written information so that you can compare the different accounts to each other to confirm they’re accurate.

Activity #2: Disseminating Information

A second managerial activity is supplying information to your organization and to the people you influence. Information includes hard facts but also goals, priorities, and preferred methods of doing things. If you don’t share this information, then your reports won’t know how you want things done and their output will be sub-par.

Sharing information also contributes to the development of culture, which we’ll look at more in later chapters.

Activity #3: Decision-Making

Next of the managerial activities is decision-making. As a manager, you have two decision-making roles:

  1. Make decisions yourself.
  2. Help others make decisions by giving them information or opinions, debating with them, and approving or vetoing their choices.

To know which to do, consider the two kinds of power:

  1. Position, which is authority given by an organizational chart and job title.
  2. Knowledge, which comes from working closely with the details of a business.

In traditional industries with a strict organizational hierarchy, decision-making responsibilities were assigned based on position power, so the higher-ups in the chart would make the decisions. However, in knowledge industries, a person with position power may not have as much knowledge power as someone lower in the chart because they’re more distanced from day-to-day operations, and the faster-moving the industry or customer preferences, the larger the disconnect.

  • For example, a recent college graduate will be more up-to-date on current technology than a manager who’s been working for years. 

Therefore, the best way to make decisions is to harness both kinds of power and make the decision at the lowest competent level—lowest because lower people are closer to the action and technical know-how, and competent because technical knowledge doesn’t always come with judgment or experience. As a middle manager, you’re uniquely positioned to do this because you’re in contact with both power-holders. 

If you can’t find people who have both the technical knowledge and judgment to make, or help you make, the decision, then create a decision-making group that includes a mix of people: some of whom have technical expertise, and some of whom have proven strong judgment. It’s fine to include someone senior, but she must act as an equal to everyone else involved so that everyone feels comfortable participating in the discussion rather than deferring to the senior leader.

Activity #4: Nudging

The fourth managerial activity is nudging, which is a softer version of decision-making (and a stronger version of disseminating information) in which you influence people but don’t command them. 

  • For example, instead of telling someone what decision to make, you might offer an opinion in a meeting about it. 

Nudging and decision-making should be distinct. You’ll probably nudge a dozen times as much as you decide.

Activity #5: Role Modelling

The fifth activity is role modeling, in which you share your values and the kind of behavior you want to see by demonstrating it. Telling people what you want in a memo will never be as effective as showing them visibly. You can do this in whatever way fits your leadership style—such as working one-on-one or giving a presentation.

  • (Shortform example: If you want employees to be punctual, always be on time yourself.)
5 Managerial Activities You Can Do Right Now

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Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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