The Blog


In the past decade management gurus and the media have advocated that the “secret sauce” to success lies in becoming a leader not a manager.

Management has almost become a dirty word despite the fact that management is the essential component of delivering any leader’s vision. (See my blog defining leadership and management).  The net result of all this is leadership is now regarded as more sexy and seductive than management; more senior executives aspire to be leaders than managers.  This misconception comes at a significant loss in corporate performance.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jos Wintermans, the former CEO of Canadian Tire Acceptance Limited. Jos has successfully led more than a dozen companies during his career.  He likened leadership to a “Mars Bar” – providing a spike of energy or enthusiasm to embolden employees but it fails to sustain in longer term.  He explained that as the impact of leadership fades, so does the enthusiasm and energy within an organization. Management, he explained, is the discipline that sustains energy and enthusiasm within an organization.  It ensures that employees remain engaged, focused and energized and always able to do their best work.

I am not saying that leadership is unimportant.  Leaders point the way forward and describe the road ahead with energy that engages employees. But, after this rhetoric has faded the real hard work of implementation and execution of the plan starts.  It’s all about management.

I believe all CEOs have to face, and understand, that the higher you rise in an organization and the more employees you manage, the more management matters.  Management for chief executives – what I describe as CEO Management – enables you to best utilize every resource at your disposal in order for your organization to achieve its stated goals.  Let me go back to Jos’s comment about Mars Bars.  To effectively prevent the initial enthusiasm and energy from failing, CEOs need to identify the obstacles that hinder their employees’ effectiveness and then implement the required management systems to overcome them.

In the long term employees do not really care how charismatic you are as a leader.  They care about their immediate work environment and their ability to get their work done.  Fix their immediate challenges for them – the job of management – and you will have highly engaged employees.

There exist CEOs who strut up and down the auditorium stage telling their employees what a wonderful future they have and how new systems will enable them to do more with less… but then ignore the critical work of managing their business. Nothing will change in the immediate world of work for their employees.  The same challenges will remain that prevent them doing their best work, and employees will start to disconnect from the strategic plan, as management clearly do not intend on addressing the issues that compromise their ability to do good work and succeed.

Ignoring the management of your business is in effect implementing a long-term employee disengagement strategy!  What steps will you take today to improve your organization’s performance?

Nick Forrest

The two words leadership and management are probably the most ambiguous words in the lexicon of the business world. I believe defining these two words are at the heart of the meaning of the work, and success, of a chief executive officer.

As a CEO or senior executive you have to choose your words carefully. It is your job to effectively “launch a thousand ships” and, in doing so, know when to lead and when to manage. I often ask my clients to define the meaning of Leadership and Management.  The answers are hardly ever consistent. And my clients have strong differing views!  These need to be debated in order to establish a collective understanding and agreement of “how we will manage our company”.

My definition of leadership is about pointing the way; whereas management is how you get to your destination.  To use a football analogy, leadership is getting the team fired up before kick-off. Management is selecting the plays and getting the players to execute them in order to move the chains down the field 10 yards at a time. It requires everybody to understand what is being communicated.

The rules of language apply to all levels of management.  As a chief executive you need  choose a philosophy of management, a language, principles, processes, and structure.  You must then practice them for the rest of your professional career, developing an expertise and an ability to lead and manage in a deeply effective way.

I call this the Craft of CEO Management.

CEO Management is the lifelong pursuit of mastery in an executive’s chosen profession.  Part of achieving excellence in any profession is the requirement to be precise in the meaning of the language of the profession so that everybody understands what is being said.  The profession of management is profoundly poor at this.  It is beset with jargon, there is no universal agreement on the definition and collective meaning of words or language, and is laxly applied.  The existing vocabulary is continually being undermined by jargon.

We’ve all seen what happens when this happens on the football field – when team members misunderstand what the play call is or what route they are running!

CEO Management requires you to design and manage your company environment to maximize your employees’ understanding of their work,  their effectiveness and efficiency. This framework enables them to do their best work. The larger the group of employees, the greater the payback is for doing this. However, the larger the number of employees, the larger the risk of failure if there a clear framework does not exist.

Make the way you choose to manage uniform throughout your company. Give your both your managers and their staff the gift of consistency and clarity of language, principles and process.  They will respond with increased effectiveness and productivity.

To learn the language of effective CEOs, check out How Dare You Manage? Seven Principles For Closing The CEO Gap.

Nick Forrest

In last week’s blog, I related the story of my friend who over the last four years, has been bounced around like a Ping-Pong ball due to the actions of his company’s executive team.

He went from a full-time employee to being outsourced, then called back into the fold of his original employer. The latest corporate decision, due to a change in CEOs, is that outsourcing is back on.

This all-too-familiar tale has led him to question upper management’s strategy (which to be honest, has never been made clear to him).

So let’s look at why managers appear to keep on making the same mistakes.

Nick Forrest