Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art Of War’ and Management

Both people and time are instinctively managed by most people. Families, friends, cultures, and societies have taught us these instincts like program machines. When it comes to people and time management, our instincts can range from dysfunctional and self-sabotaging to extraordinary and effective. 

If we are to succeed, we need to refine our approach to people and time management.

Sun Tzu-inspired methods helped me achieve both. As one of the greatest leadership books of all time, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is a classic that has been revered for 2,500 years. I began studying the Chinese classic at 16 after being captivated by its influence and longevity.

For further insight into the challenges of managing people and time, I researched and correlated international leadership studies. 

The world study on cross-cultural leadership, as well as Sun Tzu, emphasize the importance of developing people and time management skills.

To manage people like Sun Tzu, follow these six tips:

1. Create a manageable team size

In order to scale agilely, high-performing teams limit their number of members. I recommend that my clients have a team of no more than twenty people, depending on their industry and corporate culture.

2. Evaluate people’s states of being

People’s motivations and moods are explained by Sun Tzu, as well as how to navigate various situations based on them. Although his organization’s funding was dwindling, I once had a client who would not consider any suggested solutions. 

Even though he said he wanted to “save the organization,” he made no effort to do so. But why? For the simple reason that he disliked his job. He found a new job after sending a few resumes and the organization identified new, more motivated leaders.

3. Do a self-assessment first

People management is among Sun Tzu’s five advantages for identifying your improvement areas, found in chapter 8. To better understand yourself and your enemy, he suggests self-assessment. Our clients can also send anonymous 360-degree personal branding assessments out to 50 of their peers. 

The correlation between their self-assessment and feedback from others often appears as we review their self-assessment and feedback from others. This is a great opportunity for our clients to learn how to improve!

4. Find out how other people prepare for conflict

You should also look to your team when preparing for conflict, as Sun Tzu did. We typically role play various conflict resolution outcomes with our clients to ensure successful conflict resolution. By doing so, they are better able to understand the nature of conflict and create solutions that are win-win.

5. Don’t micromanage or rush

In chapter 10, Sun Tzu describes the faults of the leader “who rushes, tarries, falls, crumbles, riots and is beaten.” A former client had these traits, as he had no ability to delegate. After watching videos all day, the team was given a last-minute deadline. It was often necessary for team members to work late or overnight. There was a high turnover rate.

6. Determining whether your organization contains “double agents”

The five types of spies are discussed in chapter 13 by Sun Tzu. Five different types of people are outlined, including how to gather information from them. Our leadership program revolves around Sun Tzu’s advice on dealing with spies, and we recognize the importance of recognizing “double agents” within your organization.

In addition to managing people more effectively, you must also manage your greatest resource: time. 

The following are five Sun Tzu-inspired time management tips:

1. Time is of the essence 

Politicians often introduce new policies when I work with them. Getting these new policies approved with the least amount of resistance is one of the strategies, which could happen right before summer or winter vacation. It’s all about timing!

2. Get things done by using your natural momentum

In chapter 5 of Sun Tzu’s book, he discusses how you can use your natural momentum to accomplish your goals. To determine the best time to work, create, and network with artists, we conduct a time audit. We must recognize and ride our natural waves.

3. The key to victory (and overtime) is planning

Sun Tzu illustrates the route to victory in chapter 7. In his book, he discusses how to capture victory day and night, preferably without fighting. In the same way, many of our clients are required to work overtime in order to reach their goals.

4. Increase flexibility by removing resources

This principle guides our strategic planning sessions, which are a part of our Chief Strategic Officer program; we often recommend company-wide retreats that take place off-site, so that employees can talk honestly without their families present.

5. Get ready for the next step

Our clients typically capitalize on the losses of their competitors when planning their marketing efforts, sales, and one-time promotions. For example, Sun Tzu suggests preparing for your next steps after destruction, including the destruction of your enemies.

I have helped numerous clients reach seemingly impossible goals by using these 11 tips on how to manage people and time. The greatest teacher is experience, and no one can take your people and time management skills away from you.

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Take a chance. Try for higher-level jobs. Your descendants will be proud of you if you accomplish things that would squirm your ancestors. Be like Sun Tzu in managing people and time.

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