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Instead Of Doing Admin, Frontline Managers Should Coach Their Employees And Constantly Improve Quality

By Aaron De Smet, Monica McGurk, and Marc Vinson, principals of consulting company McKinsey in the USA, writing in McKinsey Quarterly.

COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS ARTICLE: For frontline managers to perform their care and growth role requires in the first instance a mindshift from seeing their jobs as getting results out of people to enabling excellence in them. This will only happen however if those people are given the means and ability to perform the role and then held accountable for doing so. The Legitimate Leadership process, run over 12-18 months, has consistently delivered the kind of frontline managers described in this article – in branch banking, in motor retail, in manufacturing, in call centres, and in fashion retail. For these Legitimate Leadership case studies, see (Fuelling Peformance in Fashion RetailOpening A New Store A New WayCare & Growth Impacts Motor Retail ResultsReflections On Implementing Care & Growth).

OUR EXCERPTS FROM THIS ARTICLE: A retail manager responsible for more than $80 million in annual revenue, an airline manager who oversees a yearly passenger volume worth more than $160 million, a banking manager who deals with upward of seven million questions from customers a year. These aren’t executives at a corporate headquarters; they are the hidden—yet crucial— managers of frontline employees.

Found in almost any company, such managers are particularly important in industries with distributed networks of sites and employees. These industries—for instance, infrastructure, travel and logistics, manufacturing, health care, and retailing (including food service and retail banking)—make up more than half of the global economy. Their district or area managers, store managers, site or plant managers, and line supervisors direct as much as two-thirds of the workforce and are responsible for the part of the company that typically defines the customer experience. Yet most of the time, these managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity. In a majority of the companies we’ve encountered, the frontline managers’ role is merely to oversee a limited number of direct reports, often in a “span breaking” capacity, relaying information from executives to workers.

Such managers keep an eye on things, enforce plans and policies, report operational results, and quickly escalate issues or problems. In other words, a frontline manager is meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance with policies, not to use judgment or discretion (and certainly not to develop policies); and to oversee the implementation of improvements, not to contribute ideas or even implement improvements (workers do that). This system makes companies less productive, less agile, and less profitable, our experience shows.

Change is possible, however. At companies that have successfully empowered their frontline managers, the resulting flexibility and productivity generate strong financial returns.

One convenience store retailer, for example, reduced hours worked by 19 to 25 percent while increasing sales by almost 10 percent. It achieved this result by halving the time store managers spent on administration; restructuring their work (and that of their employees) to focus on the areas most relevant to customers, such as the cleanliness of stores and upselling efforts at the cash register; and creating easy-to-understand performance metrics that managers now had enough time to coach employees on daily.

The key is a shift to frontline managers who have the time—and the ability—to address the unique circumstances of their specific stores, plants, or mines; to foresee trouble and stem it before it begins; and to encourage workers to seek out opportunities for self improvement. In difficult economic times, making employees more productive is even more crucial than it is ordinarily.


To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities: helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members and coaching for performance. Little of either occurs on the front line today.

Across industries, frontline managers in the USA spend 30 to 60 percent of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 percent on nonmanagerial tasks (traveling, participating in training, taking breaks, conducting special projects, or undertaking direct customer service or sales themselves). They spend only 10 to 40 percent actually managing frontline employees by, for example, coaching them directly. Even then, managers often aren’t truly coaching the front line. Our survey of retail district managers, for example, showed that much of the time they spend on frontline employees actually involved auditing for compliance with standards or solving immediate problems. At some companies we surveyed, district managers devote just 4 to 10 percent of their time—as little as 10 minutes a day—to coaching teams. To put the point another way, a district manager in retailing may spend as little as one hour a month developing people in the more junior but critical role of store manager.

In our experience, neither companies nor their frontline managers typically expect more. One area manager at a specialty retailer with thousands of outlets said, “Coaching? A good store manager should just know what to do—that’s what we hire them for.” A store manager in a global convenience retailer told us, “There are just good stores and bad stores—there’s very little we can do to change that.” Another store manager, in a North American electronics retailer, said, “They told me, ‘We don’t pay you to think; we pay you to execute.’”

These shortcomings are rooted in the early days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturing work was broken down into highly specialized, repetitive, and easily observed tasks. No one worker created a whole shoe, for example; each hammered his nail in the same spot and the same way every time, maximizing effectiveness and efficiency.

Employees didn’t necessarily know anything about the overall job in which they participated, so supervisors (usually people good at the work itself) were employed to enforce detailed standards and policies—essentially, serving as span breakers between workers and policy makers. Many manufacturing companies still use this approach, because it can deliver high-quality results on the front line, at least in the short term. In many service industries, the same approach has taken hold in order to provide all customers in all locations with a consistent experience.

Although attention to execution is important, an exclusive focus on it can have insidious long-term effects. Such a preoccupation leaves no time for efforts to deal with new demands (say, higher production or quality), let alone for looking at the big picture. The result is a working environment with little flexibility, little encouragement to make improvements, and an increased risk of low morale among both workers and their managers—all at high cost to companies.

The effects of poor frontline management may be particularly damaging at service companies, where researchers have consistently detected a causal relationship between the attitudes and behavior of customer-facing employees, on the one hand, and the customers’ perceptions of service quality, on the other.

In service industries, research has found that three factors drive performance: the work climate; the ways teams act together and things are done; and the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees. Leadership— in particular, the quality of supervision and the nature of the relationships between supervisors and their teams—is crucial to performance in each of these areas.

Clearly, the typical work patterns and attitudes of frontline managers are not conducive to good results. At a North American medical-products distributor, for example, one supervisor reflected that the company “is like California—forest fires breaking out everywhere and no plan to stop them. A lot of crisis-to-crisis situations with no plan. We’ve been in this mode for so long, we don’t know how to stop and plan, although that’s what we desperately need to do. I wish I knew how to intervene.”

Because frontline managers were so busy jumping in to solve problems, they had no time to step back and look at longer-term performance trends or to identify—and try to head off—emerging performance issues. It’s therefore no wonder that the company’s performance had begun to decline: inventories were increasing and errors in shipments became more frequent. Companies can also get into frontline trouble if they fail to maintain well-managed operations


At best-practice companies, frontline managers allocate 60 to 70 percent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching. Such companies also empower their managers to make decisions and act on opportunities. The bottom-line benefit is significant, but to obtain it companies must fundamentally redefine what they expect from frontline managers and redesign the work that those managers and their subordinates do. The examples below explain how two companies in different circumstances and industries made such changes.


Sometimes a corporate crisis drives frontline changes. A global equipment manufacturer, for example, was facing backlogs, capacity constraints, and quality and profitability issues in its core vehicle assembly business. The company’s senior leaders concluded that they would have to change operations at five plants by running two shifts rather than three while also raising production levels and quality. “Substantial” results would be needed in no more than seven weeks. Frontline managers were to have a critical role in the changeover—indeed, it couldn’t succeed unless they adopted a new way of working. To communicate the importance of the changes being introduced, senior leaders, among other things, ordered vice presidents to spend full days in vehicle assembly stations and sent the company’s director of operations to participate in daily shift start-up meetings at each plant.3 Meanwhile, the jobs of frontline managers changed. They were to spend more time in active roles: critical processes and workflows were redesigned according to lean principles, and the managers played the principal part in implementing these changes. Administrative activities, such as writing reports to plant managers and gathering data to prepare for site visits from regional managers, were eliminated. Innovations spouted— boards posted on factory floors, for example, were continuously updated with performance information, such as hour-by-hour tracking of lost time, as well as long-term problems and the solutions found for them. End-of-shift reports let each shift know exactly what the previous one had accomplished. Weekly reports informed workers about the five most important defects to correct and the five most important actions needed to improve performance. A typical manager’s span of control fell to 12 to 15, from 20 to 30. Such changes freed managers to spend more time providing on-the-floor coaching and helping teams solve immediate problems. Managers received on-the-job training in lean technical skills as well as in coaching, team building, and problem solving. They also moved their desks from offices to the shop floor and spent at least five hours a day there, literally putting themselves in the middle of the transformation. As a result, managers and workers identified and implemented other improvements—for example, making parts more available, with fewer defects, and routing materials more efficiently—so that lost production and the need for rework fell. Overall, though the transformation took ten weeks rather than seven, the initial targets were exceeded. Across the five plants, the number of completed vehicles rose by 40 percent a month—despite the elimination of a shift—and quality by 80 percent. Worker hours fell by 40 percent.


Changing the mind-sets and capabilities of individual frontline managers can be the hardest part. In our experience, many of them see limits to how much they can accomplish; some also recognize the need to restructure their roles but nonetheless fear change. At times, before the job of coaching can begin, companies must address more insidious mindsets— such as a belief that employees can’t learn, their negative attitudes toward customers, or a lack of confidence that frontline managers can influence performance. The first step is to help frontline managers understand the need for change and how it could make things better. At the convenience store retailer mentioned earlier, for example, an analysis revealed that store managers spent, on average, 61 percent of their time on administration and that they struggled with poorly defined processes for interacting with customers. In addition, these managers felt that they had no control over key performance drivers (such as sales in important product categories), lacked simple tools to monitor daily performance, and had inadequate leadership and coaching skills. They were also tired of “flavor of the month” corporate-improvement initiatives that dictated more work without addressing the fundamental causes of problems. To give store managers a sense of what could be, this company showed some groups of managers a radically different model store. There, work processes such as stocking took much less time than it did in the company’s ordinary stores, because similar products were grouped together, and high-volume stock was stored in a common and much more accessible location. Cleaning was easier because the layout had been improved, employees had the equipment and supplies to clean more frequently and quickly, and an if-it’s simple- clean-it-now policy had been introduced. Such steps created a more attractive store environment, simplified the work of employees, freed them to interact with customers, and reduced the amount of time managers had to spend dealing with problems in these areas. Managers also gained time in other ways: for example, they no longer had to complete long weekly sales reports, respond to corporate directives that arrived at unexpected times, and accommodate too-frequent visits by district or regional sales managers.


Even when companies get frontline management right, it can be easy for them to lose sight of their gains. Consider, for example, the experience of a chemical manufacturer where shift supervisors didn’t need to spend time on simple, immediate problems, because workers could solve those themselves. Instead, these managers focused on more complex, longer term improvements: eliminating defects, understanding the fundamental causes of operational problems, and coaching and mentoring operators and mechanics. From the outside, the shift supervisors didn’t seem to be contributing much, so during a cost reduction effort, the company implemented self-managed teams. Although the reduced costs initially seemed beneficial, over time discipline slipped, new hires were chosen and trained less rigorously, long-term issues were no longer addressed systematically, and the self-managed teams became less reliable. In other words, they could manage the work day by day but not in the long term. As a result, about five years after the role of shift supervisor was eliminated, the company’s capabilities began a steep slide: the structural integrity and safety of plants fell, costs went up dramatically, and reliability plummeted. It took the company another five years to dig itself out of the hole. Some of its businesses shut down completely, in part as a result of global economic conditions, but also because the high cost of restoring its efficiency and reliability made it less competitive.


Reporting captured fewer but more essential indicators, such as the volume of sales in key product categories. All visits from district or regional managers were scheduled in advance and followed a predetermined and performance-focused agenda. As a result, the time store managers spent on administration fell by nearly half, so they could devote 60 to 70 percent of their days to activities such as coaching workers and interacting with customers. These managers spent more time on the sales floor with individual employees and regularly discussed store strategies and performance metrics with them. The discussions took advantage of a new performance scorecard with just a few key metrics, such as the number of customers greeted during peak hours, success rates on “suggestive selling” at checkout, and immediate follow-up with customers to gauge their satisfaction. Because the stores stayed open 24 hours a day, managers weren’t always present. They therefore engaged all employees in regular problem-solving sessions to create a better selling and service environment in the stores—for example, by ensuring that more employees would be available at critical times of the week. Furthermore, managers could now adapt the company’s general operating model by deciding how many (and which) employees would be present in stores at any given time. This vision of a well-run store, contrasting starkly with the stores of the managers who visited it, overcame their fears. Once frontline managers have accepted the need for change, however, they must learn the new ways of working required by the demands of their redefined roles. At the convenience store retailer, training sessions and trial-and error fieldwork helped the managers develop the needed capabilities quickly. Some of these skills were technical, focused on managing more effective processes and revised daily routines, as well as keeping track of the simplified store performance scorecards. Other forms of training enhanced the managers’ interpersonal skills, such as how to engage and empower subordinates; to have regular, constructive conversations about performance; and how to provide feedback and coaching. Managers were also made aware of the negative mind-sets (such as, “I am just another associate when I go on the store floor,” and “My job is to make sure that tasks get done”) that made it harder to develop the right skills and capabilities. They learned how to counter these mind-sets and to adopt more positive ones (for instance, “I regularly provide my employees with constructive feedback and tips,” and “My job is to ensure that tasks are complete and that customers are served as well”), which promote more appropriate behavior and better performance. When the company rolled out the program broadly, the results were impressive: productivity rose by 51 percent in one region and by 65 percent in another.5 Companies that succeed in redefining the job of the frontline manager can improve their performance remarkably. Successful approaches can be applied across many industries. A mining company that implemented such a program enjoyed a 10 percent increase in tonnage per frontline employee. A bank branch found that cross-selling went up by 24 percent within a year. Total sales at a department store rose 2 percent in one six-month period. The key is to help frontline managers become true leaders, with the time, the skills, and the desire to help workers understand the company’s direction and its implications for themselves, as well as to coach them individually. Such mangers should have enough time to think ahead, to uncover and solve long-term problems, and to plan for potential new demands. A nursing supervisor at a European hospital that empowered its nurses offered perhaps the clearest description of the way frontline leaders ought to think—a description that couldn’t be more different from the role of traditional frontline managers: “I am a valued member of this team, who has responsibility to make sure my ward nurses have the right coaching to improve patient service while contributing to the overall functioning of our ward—for the first time, I feel as important as a doctor or an administrator in the success of this institution.” That kind of frontline leader can consistently help employees to enhance their impact on an organization’s work

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Legitimate Leadership Should Be Nurtured, Not Managed Or Controlled

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Organisations do not transform overnight. This is because people are still people irrespective of technology. Humans, because they are human, require time to adapt and respond to change.

Legitimate Leadership, or being here to care for and grow others, actually begins in an organisation when one or more individuals who have been exposed to the Legitimate Leadership Model go away and do something with it. The positive results they accrue from doing so not only personally encourage them to continue, but provide an example(s) for others to follow.

The germination of the 16 Legitimate Leadership or care and growth practices, in other words, happen slowly and often takes time to be noticed. At some point however the principles and practices take root and gather momentum. Eventually a point is reached when some sort of critical mass has been achieved. “Care and growth” is then no longer the exception but the norm.

Cultivating an organisation which embodies the principles and spirit of Legitimate Leadership therefore requires patience and perseverance by all involved.

It is in recognition of this that the Legitimate Leadership process for a group of 15-20 leaders is typically 12-18 months in duration.

The process begins with a two-day workshop which seeks to gain leaders’ understanding of and commitment to the Legitimate Leadership principles and beliefs. Thereafter leaders gain insight, from feedback on their leadership profiles, as to how aligned they are currently perceived to be to the Legitimate Leadership criteria. The feedback they receive acts as a stimulus to action and gives focus to the changes they need to make in their leadership behaviour and practice.

The final step in the process is a period of deliberate practice and reflection through attendance at a series of Application Modules and Review Sessions interspersed by application in the workplace.

Over several months leaders gain increasing competence and confidence in the use of the tools they have been given and practices they have been taught. The Legitimate Leadership way of leading gains traction and becomes, eventually, simply the way leaders are and behave in the organisation.

Those participating in the process need to bear in mind the four following points:

  1. Every step of the process, from the initial two-day workshop through to the Repeat Profiles, is necessary and adds value. At the same time, in enabling the shift from being here to get results out of people to caring for and growing exceptional people, more change happens in the one-on-one feedback on profiles and the application review sessions than in the “training” components of the process, be it the two-day Intro or Application Module workshops. People really grow and change from feedback and deliberate practice – not input, no matter how interesting and convincing that input is.
  2. The purpose of the Application Module workshops is to provide leaders with a deeper understanding of the specific aspect of the framework that the module addresses as well as the means (tools) and ability (know-how and know-why) to act on that understanding. The “end” of the module is that leaders are enabled to DO this aspect of Legitimate Leadership better than they would have without the module. Each person will, and should, take something different from the workshop. Each person will, and should, elect to use the tools that “work” for them or adapt the tools so that they do so.
  3. The care and growth process is organic. It happens incrementally and it happens one leader at a time. Rather than having a Legitimate Leadership strategy and plan with measures and milestones to manage against, leaders need to trust the process and stop trying to manage the outcome. Only once they do so will they not only enjoy the journey but find that they have transformed as leaders in the process.
  4. Some leaders learn quicker than others and some apply the principles better than others. That is fine. The goal is not to reach perfection, it is to continue to learn and get just a little better than before.
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Event: Reinventing Performance Management Workshop

By Teigue Payne, Legitimate Leadership.

Conventional performance management systems received negative reviews at a recent Legitimate Leadership client-consultant workshop in Johannesburg entitled Reinventing Performance Management. Comment on traditional systems was that they were often seen as a form of control and punishment – and occasionally reward.

One delegate described them as “the single most disengaging factor that employers use”.

Also, often conventional systems were “played” to get the required good scores.

Yet in the choice between software systems and more labour-intensive performance management approaches, software systems are generally preferred. This is probably because of two factors. Firstly, software is frequently sold as a silver bullet (but experience shows that this is unrealistic – that any success can only come from putting new behaviours in place). Secondly, legitimate leadership of any kind generally involves hard work and the courage to hold people accountable – and the turkey seldom votes for Christmas.

To remedy the negatives of conventional performance management systems, there was agreement among many delegates that the focus needed to shift to “forward-looking contribution”. Most of all, any system which would result in all employees trusting and contributing to it, should be sought.

The Legitimate Leadership Model is not about systems, said Wendy Lambourne, director of Legitimate Leadership. It is rather about cultivating relationships of trust. So no particular system should stop the application of the Legitimate Leadership Model in an organisation. Nonetheless, a performance management system which is aligned to Legitimate Leadership principles obviously is likely to work better.

A case study of one company, Singular Systems, which used the Legitimate Leadership Model in reinventing its performance management system, was described at the workshop – see Singular Systems: Reinventing Its Performance Management System. Following the reinvention, Singular Systems Cape Town achieved increased revenue growth year-on-year due, among other things, to focus on growing staff and driving individual contribution, said Dave Elliott, and executive of Singular Systems.

Said Lambourne: “Every organization is different and you absolutely cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. Legitimate Leadership has no silver bullet for all performance management systems. It accepts that they will differ from company to company, in different geographies and different environments.”

Almost every company has a performance management system of some kind – often very informal.

Whatever pre-existing system there is, it can be tweaked and changed to align with the Legitimate Leadership Model. Or the system can be scrapped and one can start again.

Ian Munro, director of Legitimate Leadership, said the willingness to give or contribute unconditionally is enabled by the three Ps: purpose, passion and person.

One of the deepest differences between Legitimate Leadership and more conventional leadership approaches is that it calls for the focus on the financial scoreboard (results) to be lessened in favour of focus on the contributions of the people in the organisation. Put differently, Legitimate Leadership is asking for a shift from the results themselves to the people in the organisation who actually cause the results in the first place.

Said Munro: “The scoreboard doesn’t tell you what the contribution is – you can only know what it is by watching the game.”

“Sticks and carrots are not the solution because in essence both are about what can be got from people. In contrast, Legitimate Leadership is about empowering people – what we can give to people and how enabling people makes them stronger.

“The defects of traditional performance management systems are usually addressed through one or more of the following: 1) increasing transparency, 2) decreasing subjectivity, 3) moving from discrete reviews to continuous performance management, and 4) performance standardisation (bell curves). Most performance management systems that we have come across aim to deliver on at least a couple, or occasionally all, of these.

“The problem with all four is that none of them deals with the two core problems plaguing performance management in most organisations: mistrust and backwards-focus. None deals explicitly with mistrust (getting someone to believe you because you made everything transparent is not the same as getting them to trust you). Only continuous performance management (potentially) deals with the backwards-focus problem.

“In designing a performance management system, it is much more effective to focus on developing trusting relationships, than developing the perfect system. None of the trends – improving transparency, decreasing subjectivity, holding a continuous focus, and standardising across the business – are bad ideas in themselves. In fact, we think they are good ideas. We’re simply saying that without a commensurate improvement in trust, and a willingness to look forwards rather than backwards, they simply won’t deliver the improvement that organisations desire. The response to calling on trust will depend on the level of social capital in the relationship.

“Unless you have a trust-based relationship it doesn’t matter what your system is, it will always disempower people. Essentially the Legitimate Leadership Model, and the essence of trustworthiness, is ‘I trust you to the extent that I believe that you have my best interests at heart’.”

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November 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: What is the difference between management and leadership?

Answer: Legitimate Leadership has a very clear view of the distinction between management and leadership: management is what you apply to things; leadership pertains to people.

For organisational success and sustained results – organisational excellence – both management and leadership are required. So the distinction, for us, would be distilled by asking people, “what sounds right to you of the following two statements: you manage the inventory in the warehouse, or, you lead the inventory in the warehouse?” Obviously, you manage the inventory in the warehouse.

We are total advocates of the view that you should manage things like finances, systems, structures, facilities, etc. And we know that organisations which don’t manage tend not to succeed.

But our plea is: please don’t manage people, lead them. Because when you manage people, you reduced them to the status of things.

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November 2019


Question of the Month: What are factors to bear in mind with a new-technology transformation in an industrial, unionised worksite?
From Legitimate Leadership’s experience in industrial transformation projects, the following are indicators…
Vignette Case Study: Getting Employees To Understand Your Values And Standards
Ince, a South African company in the information and investment sectors, has been engaged in applying Legitimate Leadership’s module, Enabling Human Excellence by Raising the Bar…
Article: Watching The Game To Enable Employee Contribution And Growth
There are different ways of “watching the game” or determining the means, ability and accountability issues, which if addressed, would enhance employee contribution and growth…
Video: Combating Fear In Management And Learning From Sports Teams
At Legitimate Leadership we frequently use sports metaphors to highlight good (or bad) leadership practices. While leading in a business is obviously not exactly the same as leading a football team…

E-mail for more information

Question of the Month 
By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership
Question: What are factors to bear in mind with a new-technology transformation in an industrial, unionised worksite?
Answer: From Legitimate Leadership’s experience in industrial transformation projects, the following are indicators:
  • Good leadership is at least as important, and often more important, than good technology.
  • If you empower the people who actually run the plant rather than throwing technologists (engineering and R&D specialists) and extra people at the problem, you do much better.
  • When outsiders treat those who operate the plant as fools, they become fools.
  • In any transformation, you need to talk to employees at the start and throughout the process. You need to engage with organised labour through labour (union) structures, no matter how hard this is; and with the people directly (by means of mass meetings, shift meetings and one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports).
  • You can’t plan a transformation in detail up front. Nevertheless no transformation is successful without a clear vision, an overall strategy and a roadmap … read the full answer by clicking here
 To submit your question, e-mail

By Stuart Foulds,  associate, Legitimate Leadership.
Ince, a South African company in the information and investment sectors, has been engaged in applying Legitimate Leadership’s module, Enabling Human Excellence by Raising the Bar. This module particularly addresses standards.
The company has been re-evaluating three sets of standards: relating to leadership, behaviour and performance.
Behavioural standards are based on values, and one of the company’s values is “collaboration”. Linked to this value is a behavioural standard paraphrased as, “We say never say ‘no’ to a customer; we say ‘yes’ and try to meet their needs”.
During the application module workshop, the executive team noted that the “say yes” behavioural standard was well established in relation to external customers, but much less so for internal customers. Internally, often the response to a request for assistance was, for instance, “that’s not my portfolio”, or “that’s not my business”.

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.
There are different ways of “watching the game” or determining the means, ability and accountability issues, which if addressed, would enhance employee contribution and growth. Below are examples of how the concept of “watching the game” has been applied in various contexts, to realise significant improvements in individual and organisational performance.
Regional sales managers accompanied their sales executives in the field not to assist them to increase sales (although sales increased dramatically), but to determine what they needed in order to achieve excellence in the sales process.
One of the key scores on a warehouse scoreboard was picking error rate per picker. The warehouse manager shadowed both the best and the worst pickers in the warehouse. In a few days he was able to find out what, in terms of means, ability and motivation accounted for the difference in performance.
In an explosives factory, 80% of misfires in the field were due to powder gaps in the fuse, which produced by the operator during the process of spinning the fuse.

By Dr Axel Zein, CEO of WSCAD, which delivers CAD software for electrical engineering. In three years he turned the company around, grew revenues 57% and achieved number two status in Central Europe. He had previously achieved similar growth in another German CAD software company.
COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO EXCERPT: COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO EXCERPT: At Legitimate Leadership we frequently use sports metaphors to highlight good (or bad) leadership practices. While leading in a business is obviously not exactly the same as leading a football team, the comparisons are often close enough to be really valuable – as is the case with Dr Zein’s insights.
While we agree with all five of his recommendations, I focus here on “obsession with training”. When we work with leaders one of the most important messages we at Legitimate Leadership try to convey is: “Go and do something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Without practice, nothing will change.” Competitive sports people understand this implicitly. The difference? Because performance on a sports field is usually so transparent and measurable, ‘return on investment’ (feedback) on training success is real-time and easy to see. The more I train myself to kick the ball straight, the more accurate I get.
Leadership is different. It takes time and belief and consistency to build trust – especially if there was little there before. People on the team may be sceptical at first when they see you shifting your focus to helping them. Feedback will likely be tentative while your people try to figure out whether the change is real and lasting or something that will disappear at the first sign of crisis. Keep at it. It might take 6 weeks, 6 months, a year. But when they do finally trust and support you, it will undoubtedly be worth it.
OUR EXCERPT FROM THIS VIDEO: What happens when you start a job and you’re not really prepared for it? There are two possible human reactions: One, “Wow, what a cool thing!” Another, fear.
Fear in a manager is a recipe for disaster. Because instead of seeing opportunities, you see threats. And you want to protect all that you have achieved.
So you start kissing up and kicking down, you don’t encourage others to grow, you remove every person from your way that could be a potential threat. It’s a nightmare for your business, because in the long term you’ll ruin it. And it’s an emotional nightmare for the people involved.
But fear in a manager comes mostly from the fact that that person is not prepared for the job.
So I advise you to look at sports, look at a soccer team.