Three Practices No Leader Can Ignore (Part I)

In today’s business environment we see an increasing emphasis on bottom-line activities—certainly incredibly important if a business is to survive. But, I want to take the discussion a slightly different direction and talk about the element of a business that is equally critical to surviving—people.

Leaders lead people. Without the ability to gather followers, we are not leading. So the CEO, senior and middle manager and first-line supervisor all have a common thread—they lead people.

One could cite dozens of characteristics a leader can use to effectively lead people. However, there are fundamental issues that no leader can afford to ignore. Those issues are the heart of this article.

Leaders Set the Tolerance Level: A major mistake leaders make is not being clear on the expectations desired. In every facet of a business, leaders must be very clear what they want to accomplish, what the picture of the business will look like when fully in place and the behaviors needed to make all this happen.

Leaders must articulate the “box” of acceptable behaviors. They educate to expectations and hold everyone, including themselves, accountable for living those expectations. Workers are trained until understanding of job requirements occurs. It is the leader’s job to make sure there is understanding before monitoring for compliance. When deviations occur, leaders should first examine where things went astray before losing their cool. If an investigation shows a deficiency in the original training, changes are warranted and necessary. Once these deficiencies have been corrected, future monitoring will either show compliance or a lack of performance.

When behaviors don’t meet standards agreed upon, workers are then accountable for their performance. Consequences for failed accountability may vary but should be unmistakably understood from the beginning. Sometimes this hurts. But it is critically important that consequences occur. Wavering lowers the bar of expectations reducing tolerance levels. If continued, a leader will soon find a worker that exhibits behavior nowhere near what was originally expected.

In all cases, patience and understanding make the process smoother. Blend all this with a caring attitude intended to maximize the success of every worker and you build a mechanism for success at every level.

Setting a proper and sensible tolerance level is probably one of the most critical processes that need implementation. Failing to do this can only lead to chaos, loss of profits and disgruntled and confused workers.

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