Courtyard Michael Blum General Manager » Task Manager

Courage in Management

Last week I came across a profound quote by Robert Townsend, former CEO of Avis Rent-a-Car and author of the 1970 best seller, "Up the Organization." He said, "When you get right down to it, one of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people's excuses for failure".

How insightful, how meaningful, how true, and perhaps most important, how courageous. Townsend knew that managing is not just throwing a task at someone and waiting for the results. “Eliminating excuses for failure” requires proactive planning. It takes defining the task, helping the person determine the action steps necessary to complete the task successfully, discovering and finding needed resources, advising from experience and expertise, monitoring progress, being an active cheerleader, removing pitfalls, and giving credit when the work is accomplished. All along the way, the successful manager is eliminating excuses for failure.

If might be easier for the manager to do the task herself, but that significantly reduces overall productivity so the successful manager uses courage to delegate the task to one of her people. Courageous managers do not micromanage delegated tasks and drive their people crazy by always looking over their shoulder. The courageous manager sets review dates and sticks to them, but is always open for a question or a short discussion when initiated by the person working on the project. The courageous manager is well organized and well prepared for scheduled reviews to keep projects moving along in a timely fashion.

There are cowardly managers who relish in the failure of others, waiting for those excuses so they can “save the day” by exerting an abundance of egocentric energy in order to successfully complete the task, hoping their heroic efforts will become noticed because of the outpouring of excess effort. The courageous manager works quietly in the background, setting the agenda, smoothing the way, insuring that people working on delegated projects have the tools, the time, the focus, and vision to see the task through to successful completion. They get noticed for courageous success in managing, not in excuses.

Larry Galler coaches and consults with high-performance executives, professionals, and small businesses since 1993. He is the writer of the long-running (every Sunday since November 2001) business column, "Front Lines with Larry Galler" For a free coaching session, email Larry for an appointment - Sign up for his free newsletter at