Benchmark Business Group

Leadership By Design

February 1, 2010

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Setting an employee up for success is good leadership.  Hammering on an employee who is not successful – that’s assault.  In our work with hundreds of businesses each year one of the top complaints we hear from business owners is; you just can’t hire good people. As we inquire deeper about this statement we hear the gory details of seemingly uncaring employees who just can’t seem to get the job done – they don’t follow through, don’t listen, don’t care, don’t show up and don’t last long.  We invariably find the very same business leaders who are convinced you just can’t hire good people, have not designed their business to ensure their employees are successful.  More often than not, these very same leaders point the finger of blame at the employee, without recognizing that their business is not designed to ensure employee success. 

It’s all so predictable.  And curable.  What’s missing most often in these businesses is clarity.  Clarity of results.  Clarity of action.  Clarity of accountability. 

Clarity of Results:  Be clear with your employees on the results of their tasks and connect them to the importance of the work they do.  Most businesses hire people to do tasks, such as; answer the phone, wait on customers, fill orders, do the books or take care of inventory.  Quite often the employee is never told what the result of the task should be, they are just told to perform the task.  For example, one can hire an employee to answer the phone, however that is not the result the business really needs the employee to achieve.  The true result that a business needs is for an employee to make certain every call is handled with courteous, sincere, professional care in order to retain customers and support the flow of information through the company.  Or perhaps in another company the result of answering the phone is to make certain every callers needs are met through a friendly and caring experience with our company.  Answering the phone is a task.  The attitude and spirit by which the phone is answered is dictated by the result the company is looking to achieve.  Once you have established what tasks an employee needs to be doing, focus on “why” the task needs done and then you will be able to clearly describe the results the employee needs to achieve.  This clarity of results will support your employees to adopt the necessary attitude and spirit that support achieving the result.

Clarity of Action:  Design clear tools and processes that direct the actions employees should take to be successful.  Now that the employee answering the phone clearly understands the results they need to achieve, the next step is to ensure they have clarity regarding the actions they must take to achieve the result.  Clearly documented process, job aids, checklists and trainings are examples of business systems that set your employees up for taking successful action.  An easily accessible laminated guide that provides information on extension numbers, transferring of calls, directing calls to voice mail and conferencing calls is a good example of a job aid for any employee that answers the phone.  Training employees that handle calls on product knowledge, company specific information and providing a list of the most commonly asked questions and the answers to those questions, will provide an employee with confidence and give them a clear understanding of the actions they must take to achieve the results of their position.  

Clarity of Accountability: Design a clear structure of accountability for your employee to depend on and work within.  Now that the employee answering the phone is clear about the result of their tasks and has the tools and training to take the actions needed to achieve those results, they need to be clear about their accountabilities.  Employees should know what they are accountable for, when it should be done and who will be holding them accountable for doing it.  Every business should have an organization chart showing a graphic representation of the lines of communication and accountability within the company.  The line of accountability shown on the organization chart should also be an employee’s line of dependability.  Employees should be able to depend on their managers for direction, information and support.  Managers should ensure employees are clear about their accountabilities and have the tools and training to achieve success.

Leadership by design is leading through clarity of results, action and accountability.  You can hire good people and you can lead them to great results through designing your company for success.  Set yourself and your employees up for success by designing your business with clarity!

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