Apr 30

Management Leadership Operating Principles

Leadership Manager as player-coach

The management leadership world changed dramatically after the Great Recession of 2008. Trends showing the decline of the delegating manager in favor of the “player-coach” accelerated rapidly in the face of slow cash flows and expensive salaries. Managers who survived showed strong leadership through creating a team environment.

What Does Leadership Mean in 2013 and Beyond?

In a world where the success of a person is dependent on the success of the team, what leadership operating principles still resonate?

The book, First Break all the Rules by Buckingham and Coffman outlined several qualities seen in top leaders. While no one style provides the answer, experience has shown that Buckingham and Coffman saw something that was key to the way great teams and leaders function.

Starting in 2001, Brad Norton worked with a team of managers to modify the initial ideas based on the experience the group had in the Pharmaceutical industry. During the following 10 years, each team offered inputs to the operating principles. Here is the current iteration:

Knowing what to do is criticalOperating Principle 1: Performance Management

I know what’s expected of me

I get timely feedback on my performance

I get coaching that helps me improve

My manager is a coach and not a judge

I know how rewards tie to performance

The system seems fair and unbiased

You can’t game the system

I don’t have to sell my accomplishments

Every team leader struggles with operating principle 1 the hardest. Ensuring organizations award top performance in a world of  ratings caps and inflexible merit budgets becomes the main challenge for the manager. The team that had the best success with this operating principle has highly engaged managers who understand clearly what projects every team member is developing. Crucial performance conversations happen as the behaviors occur, resulting in improved performance of the person and the team! If merit and ratings caps prevent monetary or performance appraisal ratings recognition, use alternative leadership approaches to highlight the strong accomplishments of team members.


Operating Principle 2: Everyone Deserves Special TreatmentColleagues shaking hands

Treat everyone with dignity and respect

Catch people doing thing right

Foster employee development

support work/life balance 

Most managers find leadership operating principle 2 easier to follow, as they have direct control over each element. Teams usually contain people with different personality types. Some people thrive on public attention. Others cringe at the thought of being recognized in front of their peers. Recognizing the difference of each team member sets team leaders apart.

The best leaders show their commitment to the principles through leadership by example. In a world of iPads and instant access, managers who show that they “unplug” when with family helps the team see that the leader is committed to the principle too.

Operating Principle 3: Business is a Social InstitutionSharing ideas

We aim to build stronger customer relationships

We foster team work across groups – Headquarters, Districts, Regions, Marketing teams, and Sales Forces

When we make plan, society benefits

This operating principle focuses on the word social. Business itself has an impact on society. People also meet socially while at the workplace to exchange ideas and information and create new projects. To do this, team leaders, members and customers need to be together and work towards a common purpose. Best Buy and Yahoo discovered this when they tried to focus on results-only work environments that didn’t take the human factor into consideration. Not everything is pushed out to an individual contributor. Teams work together and work with customers to create strong customer relationships.

Operating Principle 4: Empowerment with AccountabilityGetting things done

Provides flexibility to manage each person right

Requires high level of individual accountability

Gives sense of ownership – you always get the credit

Develops future leaders

Requires trust

Allows for mistakes

Successful leaders learn what to delegate and what to do themselves. In the era of player-coaches, managers have tasks as well as team members. Every delegated task has specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited objectives. For larger projects or processes, teams deliver specific milestones with requirements. Team members and leaders understand what is required, how they are held accountable and know what to do when mistakes happen.

As long as mistakes are permitted and the rules are understood, empowerment flourishes. Projects that fail fast and cheap are more healthy for an organization that projects that continue because managers fear appearing as failures. As Sir James Dyson points out, this is not about failure. This is about experimentation. Yes, if this works, you’re a hero. Yes, if it fails and you have no alternative to pursue, or you over-invested in a bad idea, you’re held at fault.  If the market is rapidly changing, companies need to have the ability to experiment and find what will work quickly. Not everything works. And not everything should be forced to work.

Operating Principle 5: Ethics and Integrityasking when we don't know

Ours is a highly regulated industry

Honesty and integrity is the best way to win with customers

If you’re unsure about what actions to take, ask someone!

The pharmaceutical industry experienced profound rule changes from the 1990’s to the 2010’s. Promotional practices allowed in the last century, in retrospect, were found to be highly biased and resulted in Corporate Integrity Agreements for most of the industry participants. Team leaders and members under these strict environments need to recognize their communications could misconstrued. One successful team used passing the front page test as a benchmark.  If the decision or discussion would not cause embarrassment if it was published on the front page of a newspaper, then it probably is ethical.

Operating Principle 6: Clear CommunicationColleagues having a discussion

Feel comfortable being honest

Frequent 360 communication

Stay engaged in the process

Propose a better way of doing things

Explain the “why” behind the “what”

Any company that starts it has a “Safe to Speak Up” campaign … isn’t. What works the best is when team leaders use truthful communication. Tell the team what they can. If they can’t talk about it, let the team know that they can’t talk about it. By doing frequent skip level meetings and inviting senior leadership to meetings, as well as asking for input on how the process is being managed by the team leader. The leader develops better leadership traits, and the team feels more engaged.

Operating Principle 7: Fun, Enjoyable WorkHappy colleagues

Nature of the job is customer interaction

Don’t take ourselves too seriously

High performers almost always enjoy what they’re doing!

Team members and leaders who do what they are enjoying doing usually do it well. There are exceptions, but not often. On the flip side, team members who do not enjoy the work they do may be in the wrong position or team. Effective leaders help move team members to projects they have a better fit. It helps the team member, and it helps the team

Operating Principle 8: Fast, Focused ExecutionFast focused execution

Accuracy and availability will lead to partnerships and consulting opportunities with our customers

Buy-in is critical! Understand the 50:50 rule clearly!

Simpler is better

Think twice, act once

Teams feeling a sense of urgency usually meet their deadlines. And, if everybody feels like they’re contributing to a project, they will want to see it succeed. If all members feel like they added 50% of the value to the project, they will own the success of the project, the team and the process.

Permanent link to this article: http://nortoncreative.com/leadership-operating-principles/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com