10 Key Andy Grove Quotes on Leadership from High Output Management

Andy Grove Quotes Andy Grove is one of best CEOs ever. He co-founded Intel and grew it to over $20 Billion in revenue over a 30 year run as CEO. His approaches to leadership and management are legendary. He’s shared many of his ideas in a series of books, including the management guide, High Output Management.  I highly recommend the book for any manager, as do others:

The following Andy Grove quotes are my favorites from the book, which has a lot more depth and ideas well worth learning for any manager.

1) You can be a great manager regardless of your situation.

“As a middle manager, you are in effect a chief executive of an organization yourself….As a micro CEO, you can improve your own and your group’s performance and productivity, whether or not the rest of the company follows suit.”

Be great no matter what’s happening in the rest of your company. Don’t use the failings of those around you as an excuse; great management will make your team follow you anywhere you go.

Especially in larger organizations, you may not be able to change or fix everything, but you can do a lot to help shield your team and make their lives better.

If you produce solid results (and good management will help you do so), in most cases your company well give you leeway to continue what you’re doing, even if it’s not standard in the company. Don’t wait for permission to be a good manager for your team; take the initiative yourself. Your team will thank you.

Further Reading: Learn how to help your team even in a tough company environment here.

2) Fix Problems when they’re small.

“A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem at the lowest-value stage possible.”

It bears repeating: Fix problems when they’re small! As a manager, you have plenty of tools to detect them if you just listen to your team.

Don’t wait until you have a major crisis on your hands.  By then, it will take a ton of your time to address and it risks putting you into a reactive management mode that is hard to break out of.

This is where one-on-ones can help (more on this later) as well as surveys and open communication with your team. The key is to be sure you’re asking the right questions, and following through on what you hear.  If you don’t ask, you won’t know, and if you don’t follow through, your team will stop telling you about things you need to know.

Further Reading: Stuck fire-fighting too often? Learn how to break the vicious cycle of reactive management here.

3) Measure what’s important and set a standard.

“Measurement against a standard makes you think through WHY the results were what they were.”

You manage what you measure. The act of planning and then creating a way to measure the result: a number, a deadline, etc will have many benefits beyond just the assigned task.

Measurement also makes you think in ways you may not always think if you’re rushing around all the time. It sets the expectations for your people on what they must do and how their work will be evaluated.  As Dale Carnegie recommends, “Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to” and with the right measure, you might just be surprised the results you will get.

Further Reading: Accountability and measurement starts with managers. Learn how Google measures their managers here, and get your own Manager Score here.

4) Time is your scarcest resource as a manager.

 “The single most important resource that we allocate from one day to the next is our own time.”

Managers must ruthlessly manage their time. Consider it an investment (Grove, even in writing the book in 1983, valued a manager’s time at $100/hr). Avoid being in constant, reactive management and focus on priority management not time management.

As Grove puts it, ‘When you say “yes” to one thing, you are inevitably saying “no” to another.”

You can find yourself in meetings all day every day if you’re not careful, but that’s no way to be effective and keeps you from many other important activities.  Budget your time and invest in yourself by blocking off time for big picture thinking and not shortchanging the investment in your people with regular time for one-on-ones. 

Further Reading: Need to find more hours in the day? Learn how to better budget your time via priority management here.

5) Leading by example trumps everything else.

“Values and behavioral norms are simply not transmitted easily by talk or memo, but are conveyed very effective by doing and doing visibly.”

Lead by example. What you do is what your team will emulate and believe is expected and valued. Ask yourself: What is your team emulating from you…both good and bad? Grove believes, “The responsibility for transmitting common values rests squarely with the supervisor.”

In Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, one of the stories he recalls is that his swearing was picked up by the rest of his team. It ended up becoming a big issue and he had to explain to the whole company exactly the kind of swearing that would and would not be acceptable at the company and set his own example to follow it.

Even simple things are noted by your team.

This is especially true and important when considering promotions. When you promote someone, it signals to the rest of the organization what is valued most (promotions are a huge reward with many benefits after all).

Someone who lives a value and is promoted will set an example for others, while someone who is not a good example, but was promoted anyways, says that behavior is not just tolerated, but rewarded.

Further Reading: Do you promote from within at your company? Here’s 10 common pitfalls to avoid when promoting from within.

6) Delegate what you know best.

“Because it is easier to monitor something with which you are familiar, if you have a choice you should delegate those activities you know best.”

This may seem counter-intuitive. It was to me when I first read it, but Grove’s case makes a lot of sense.

If you’re familiar with a task, it’s easier to tell if someone else is well-qualified to take it on.  Also, once they’re doing the task, you’ll need less oversight to tell if things are going well or not.  This helps everyone win, as you’re less likely to make a hiring mistake, and won’t be as likely to need to micro-manage.

Now, don’t confuse delegation with abdication; you still need to monitor work to maintain quality and to make your team feel connected and appreciated. The best way to do that is to look at rough drafts, so you catch problems while they can still be privately fixed as well as give specific feedback that will shape the outcome you desire.

Further Reading: Learn more about how Andy Grove decides how hands on to be with someone via his concept Task Relevant Maturity here.

7) Regular one-on-ones are a high value investment.

“Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours.”

One-on-ones matter. A lot. Ben Horowitz was willing to fire over someone not having one-on-ones. If you’re not having them, get started now and if you’re canceling one-on-ones a lot now, get committed.

This is a meeting that’s an investment in your team. They’re humans, not robots.

You will have different situations to always handle and fix, and as we discussed in #2, you want to catch problems when they’re small. That’s where one-on-ones come in because they’re lower pressure than coming to your office or interrupting you, no matter how open your open door policy is.

Remember, one-on-ones are about them as Grove writes,“the most important criterion governing matters to be talked about is that they be issues that preoccupy and nag the subordinate.”

Having these discussions every week or two ensures no problem goes too long without being addressed.

Want to have awesome 1 on 1s like Andy Grove? Then sign up for a free trial of Lighthouse, because it’s based on many of the principles in High Output Management.

8) When your team member shares something important, write it down!

“Equally important is what “writing it down” symbolizes…the act implies a commitment, like a handshake, that something will be done. The supervisor, also having taken notes, can then follow up at the next one-on-one.”

Don’t take notes in your one-on-ones? You should. They WANT you to.

If a team member takes the time to bring it up, it matters to them. They want you to take action, not just talk about it. So take your notes and set some action items by the end of your one-on-ones and other critical meetings.

With how busy the average manager is, it’s a mistake to assume you’ll remember something later. Even if you can remember, you’re stressing your brain to juggling that and the many other items competing for your attention each day.  It shouldn’t be surprising that things are easily forgotten when that is the case.  Fortunately, an app like Lighthouse can help you stay organized and manage those action items for you and your team member for those crucial one-on-one discussions.

Further Reading: Want some tips on how to take notes in a variety of environments? Here’s our best tips for always taking good notes.

9) Your team often has more perspective than you.

“We managers get a little more obsolete every day.”

As you rise in the ranks and spend more time managing, realize you become disconnected from the experiences you have as an individual contributor. Be careful to not lose touch. Trust your people to help you stay grounded.

This is why the Toyota Total Production System is focused on getting insights from the front lines. There they train their managers to get feedback and insights directly from people on the assembly line. Tap your team for insights when you can and reward candor. You need the harsh truth before you get blindsided.

This is why Grove challenges managers to Ask: “What do I have to do today to solve — or better, avoid — tomorrow’s problem?”
If you’re always thinking about that, you’ll likely ask the right questions of your team to find out.

Further Reading: Do you have managers reporting to you? If so, consider asking these questions in manager one on ones, and use skip level one on ones from time to time to get more direct feedback from the front lines of your company.

10) Only you can save your team member from quitting.

“In almost all cases, the employee is quitting because he feels he is not important… If you do not deal with the situation right at the first mention, you’ll confirm his feelings and the outcome is inevitable.”

If you’re at risk to lose someone from your team, you must act immediately. A lot has to happen for someone to want to interview and change jobs and so the status quo will not keep them. Grove outlines 5 key steps to save a lost employee:

  1. Drop what you’re doing. Sit down and ask why they’re quitting.
  2. Listen to everything they have to say, and ask questions to clarify.
  3. Don’t try to change their mind at that moment. Instead, look for opportunities to change things in the ways they want.
  4. You MUST follow through on whatever you commit to doing. You become the Project Manager of the solution to keeping them.
  5. Even if you will lose them to another department, you owe it to the company to keep them in the company. Karma will pay you back some day.

A story: A frustrated friend

A friend of mine experienced this first-hand. Once he got extremely frustrated at work. He was out of the loop on a few things, his job was super-demanding at the time, and some of his favorite coworkers who were early employees left.

One day, he was totally fed up and he stormed out of the office to get some fresh air. An hour later he returned calmer, but still thinking about quitting.

During that hour, a close coworker interrupted one of the leaders in the organization to tell them they feared they were about to lose one of their best teammates. The leader immediately took action.

He canceled his meetings and went to get coffee with my friend. He listened intently and helped alleviate my friend’s concerns over the next few days.

Because they acted so quickly and effectively, a year and a half later, my friend is still at the company.

Don’t take your best people for granted.

As Grove writes, “Concentrating on the stars is a high-leverage activity: if they get better, the impact on group output is very great indeed.”

This is why even when things are going great you should be having one-on-ones; your good people want to grow and be challenged. They also likely have great insights to the front lines discussed in #9.

Further Reading: Need to turn around morale issues? Here’s a few places to start:

Bonus: Management is not 1-size, fits-all:

“Don’t confuse people’s Task-Relevant Maturity with their general competence.”

Just because someone was great at one task does not mean they’re well-prepared for another. As a manager, you must recognize that you need to adapt to the skills, personalities, and needs of your team. You cannot manage in a 1-size, fits-all approach.

When it comes to skill sets, Grove recommends handling management through his concept of Task Relevant Maturity:

  • When someone’s skills for a task are LOW, give structured, task-oriented instructions. Tell them when, what, and how.
  • When someone’s skills for a task are MEDIUM, give emphasis to 2-way communication, support, mutual reasoning. Focus on the individual and any needs they have.
  • When someone’s skills for a task are HIGH, be hands off. Establish objectives and monitor as needed.

Management is a series of never-ending challenges.  Being able to adapt, empathize, and listen well are critical skills.  Grove covers a lot of ground in his book and these are just a few of the awesome quotes from the book. I highly recommend you pick up your own copy of High Output Management.

What are your favorite Andy Grove quotes?

Want to have awesome 1 on 1s like Andy Grove? Then sign up for a free trial of Lighthouse, because it’s based on many of the principles in High Output Management.