Peter Drucker was a giant within the world of management consulting. In 2004, he wrote a seminal article targeted specifically towards executives. Given the nature of 2020 and its impact on the world of work, we re-read the article recently and realised that its contents remain very relevant. In fact, they remain vitally important for anyone who has to work somewhat autonomously.

This includes people who work for themselves, obviously, but it now also includes a whole other segment of the workforce who are working, at least in part, from home. So, in our own article this week, we thought we would introduce Drucker’s idea of the Effective Executive.

In his article, Drucker presents eight key practices that he observed over several decades watching effective executives. He concludes the following about the best executives:

  • They asked, “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

Many of these practices speak for themselves – although it is always useful to be reminded of them and to see them summarized in this form. If meetings are online, then making sure those meetings are productive is even more important.

That said, our attention was particularly drawn to the first and the last of the practices. Drucker emphasizes that effective people identify what needs to be done – which is often different from what they want to be doing. This has been so true for businesses that have needed to change their practices in response to the pandemic. As a very simple example, in May the Australian Financial Review ran an inspiring article titled ‘The Top Restaurants Delivering to Your Door.’ The article describes how successful, ‘high-end’ restaurants for which dining in is essentially the whole point responded to the fact that diners could no longer leave their homes to eat. They created systems for delivering their high-end food – and the article even points out that sometimes the chef also did the delivering! We are quite sure that the chefs did not want to become delivery drivers. But that is what needed to be done, and they simply got on with it.

We also love Drucker’s emphasis on ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’ Especially as people work remotely, the sense of being part of a team can be lost and people can feel isolated. Making sure that your thoughts about our work are always expressed in plural terms is a simple way to retain the sense of connection necessary for a workplace to continue to thrive, even in these strange and difficult times.

Have a look through the list above and maybe even read the original article in the Harvard Business Review. (Drucker also wrote a book of the same name, which is still obtainable in both print and soft copy). Think about how these simple practices might be incorporated into your own workstyle. We hope they make the new world of work more fulfilling and effective for you, just as they have done for us.