Leading with the ABCs

By Ann Elliott

When the ABCs are missing, leaders undermine the success of the team and the organization they are leading. The building blocks of success include these basics: Accountability – expect employees to honor commitments Boundaries—have a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is not Consequences—determine the outcomes that are expected ABCs Recently I met some talented employees of a small organization. They are frustrated because the same standards do not apply to everyone on the team. Resentment is building because one employee consistently misses deadlines and does not complete assignments. Her projects are last minute scrambles that engulf the teams in other departments, consume resources, and reflect poorly on the service of the organization. The best I can determine, they are not practicing the ABCs and it shows in tension, stress and inefficiencies. Without the ABCs, there are significant costs to the organization and its employees: • Low morale is pervasive • Projects stall • Customers are unhappy • Teamwork suffers • Responsibility rests with the manager • Inefficiency prevails • Costs escalate It is easy to understand how leaders find themselves in this predicament. It is faster to tell someone what to do, how to do it and when to do it—at least initially. The problem with this approach is that the “commander” still has all the responsibility. Employees have no stake in the outcome. They had no hand in creating the process and no voice in the deadlines. In the end, this approach takes more time and energy. Employees who could otherwise contribute are disengaged. The ABCs start with these steps: 1. Create a culture of accountability at all levels of the organization 2. Devise measurable outcomes. Can you graph the results? 3. Track progress and celebrate. Give away credit liberally. 4. Follow up. Were commitments achieved by the target date? 5. Define the boundaries. What are the parameters that guide the choices within the organization? For example, consistently address all customer concerns within 24 hours. 6. Understand the consequences of achieving success or missing the mark. What motivates your employees to go the extra mile to do the work? 7. Recognize the difference in the ability and the desire to achieve results. Offer training and mentoring to develop employees and be willing to weed out the folks who are not motivated. A small business owner asked me to give him some ideas about marketing and sales in exchange for his service. I agreed to the exchange. The more I learned about his business and his marketing strategies, the more I realized he was not motivated to do anything differently. “Knocking on doors” had no appeal and spending money to hire someone did not strike a chord with him either. I am not sure if he is willing to fire himself as the CEO but it might be a good option. Get back to the basics of the ABCs to lead and manage for success. By holding others accountable, you are expressing confidence in their ability to achieve results. Boundaries make decisions easier and faster. It eliminates the guesswork and lays the groundwork for predictable success. Consequences give people a reason to act. With a clear picture of the results, taking the right action flows naturally. Did you think the ABCs were just for kids? They are the building blocks of serving your customers and they create a work place that empowers. Lead with the ABCs. © Ann Elliott 2012 All rights reserved

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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