• Article
  • November 7, 2018

How to Perform Better at Work Without Doing More

Morten Hansen outlines traits and practices of people who work less and achieve more.

Morten Hansen

A long list of to-do's or a tall stack of project files is not always proof of a busy, productive worker. Morten Hansen, Ph.D., is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, and is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world's most influential management thinkers. He studied 5,000 managers and employees to reveal practices of top performers and detail how everyone can perform better without doing more.

Hansen's work is featured in his latest book, Great at Work, and he delivered the closing session at CHA's 2018 Annual Leadership Conference and Meeting of the Membership in November. Here, he discusses a few of the traits and practices leaders use to foster success in their organization. 

Why were you drawn to studying management and productivity? Management is one of the most important activities to make sure organizations achieve their goals. Good management can accomplish amazing things, while bad management destroys much. We still don't have a lot of empirical evidence about what separates the good from the bad. I did the study to find out why some leaders do better than others and how everyone can improve and perform better.

What leadership principles are especially important? We found that only seven principles explain 66 percent of the difference in performance among the managers I studied. The first two principles concern focus: top performers focus on a few activities that create the most value and say "no" to all others. They then apply intense learning to become better every day. They get their drive from infusing work with passion and purpose for themselves and their teams.

To get things done in complex organizations like hospitals, they are very good "forceful champions"—they inspire their colleagues and are very good at persuasion. As for group meetings, they instill a culture of rigorous debate in meetings. Finally, they don't collaborate too much but rather instill disciplined collaboration—they collaborate on the most important things and ditch the rest.

What are key traits of a successful champion? Forceful champions are good at two things: they inspire and persuade others. This is important because managers must work with others over whom they have no formal authority, such as working across the many departments in a hospital or health system.

If you can't inspire, people won't be excited about following your direction, and you fail as a leader. If you can't persuade, you can't convince fence-sitters and the naysayers in the organization.

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