Leadership Lessons: The First Few

By Richard L Grimes


Recently my son gave me the kind of opportunity that parents always hope for but do not always get: the chance to be relevant in their child’s eyes.

He has worked in restaurants since college and now, at 27, his work ethic has apparently paid off. The owner wants to open another one and wants him to manage it for him.

Suddenly the world has shifted from being an employee able to safely second guess management decisions because they had no stake in the game to being the “decider.”sadiq-7

“Dad,” the opportunity began, “you’ve been in management, taught it, and wrote about it for a long time. What kind of things do I need to know so I don’t screw up my big chance?”

My second reaction (the first being shock at his asking) was to construct mentally a data dump of wisdom covering every possible situation he would ever encounter. But it would take too long to assemble that and he would never read it, anyway.

The next thought was to give him a list of references that would always be available online anytime. But again, he probably would not take the time to look them up: especially after something had happened.

Finally, I decided to use one of my favorite questions that I would ask when planning a learning event: “What is the least they need to know to get started safely?” It is based on the high school driver’s education course model where students learn enough about driving in traffic and parallel parking that they can go out on their own safely and accumulate more experience.sadiq-5

So I compiled a list of things he would need to know – the least he would need to know to get started safely – and told him to print the list. Then take two or three at a time and think about them in relation to events at work. Make notes and get back with me periodically to talk about them.

Maybe these will be useful for you, too. I will publish a few at a time to keep the article short and try not to do a data dump on you. If you find them useful, want to talk about them, or add a few from your own experiences, tell me in the blog on my website. I look forward to hearing from you.

1) Motivating People – You cannot motivate people to act; you can only create a situation in which you hope they decide to act the way you want them to act. “Finish that work by 5:00PM or you’re fired!” is not motivating them, it is threatening them. They still have the decision to make whether they would rather stay employed or walk out.

Ask yourself, “Why would they want to do this thing I have for them” if you want them to be self-motivated to act the way you want.

If you are not sure, ask them this simple question: “Other than a spot bonus or a raise which I don’t have the authority to give, what are the two or three things I could give you that would mean the most to you?”

(Then if possible, give them those things because now you have something to take back if they do not perform as you want.)sadiq-6

2) Most people do not stay with or leave their employers; they stay with or leave their supervisors. Employees will tolerate a lot from their job if they get along well with their supervisor (leader). Conversely, “you couldn’t pay me enough to work for someone like that” reflects the opposite view.

3) Coaching people – use the PACER model. It can be done in less than 30 seconds.

  • Performance – identify the performance you saw that you want repeated. “Nice job on that report. You got it in on time, it was accurate, and well-documented.”
  • Ask – “How were you able to do that?”
  • Check – Listen to their explanation to make sure that is how you want it done.
  • Else – Ask, “What else can you (or I) do to make sure that keeps happening?”
  • Recognition – Recognize or reward their behavior to reinforce it happening again.

4) Productivity vs. Just Busy Productivity (QQT – quality, quantity, & time) requires these three elements being present in a situation. If they are not present, the employee is just wasting time.

  • Quality – How good must it be? (98% error free)
  • Quantity – How many do you want?
  • Time – When do you want it?

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