The worst bosses get these small behaviors wrong and the best bosses
excel at them. That’s the biz.
There is no theory behind the biz, any more than there can be a
theory behind marriage. So this book is not full of theory, let alone
grand stratagems. Instead, it is full of the little things that we can choose
to think and do that will make a big difference in the way we motivate
One key premise
However, there is one premise that is important: motivated people
perform more effectively in delivering results than demotivated people.
This is almost a truism, but even so it is worth stating because it begs
the corollary that to achieve results a boss must concentrate on
motivation. It is amazing how many companies and managers ignore this
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
My first management job was as a Production Manager with the American chocolate manufacturer
Mars Ltd. It was then and still is an excellent company. I learnt many valuable management lessons at
Mars and one of them was that to excel in business you have to invest an inordinate amount of time,
energy, and effort in getting the people thing right. That principle has stayed with me throughout my
career, which included a post on the board of an airline. With the hindsight of wisdom and all my
experiences with a multitude of companies around the world, some good and some not so good, I still
believe in this principle. If you don’t focus your management energies on people, then they won’t focus
their energies on the company.
Despite the proliferation of personnel and HR departments (which
might be part of the problem), the Mars approach is rare. It is all too
common to visit companies and find demoralized people who moan
and groan about their big bad bosses. These employees don’t feel
valued and complain that their bosses walk all over them, demand too
much from them, and give too little in return. That is one reason an
increasing number of professional people have given up their careers
in large companies to go and live in the countryside, on lower
incomes, and take up new interests there. While most people accept
the premise that to be successful in management you must put people
first, it is all too clear from a growing number of reports and
newspaper cases that this rarely happens. In their pursuit of short-
term profit, too many managers neglect the essential people factor in
the business equation.
Choosing positive behaviors
This means choosing positive behaviors and attitudes that will maximize
the chance of stimulating other people’s positive motivational choices.
Thus if your team leader shouts loudly at you and rebukes you when
something has gone wrong, you have a choice. You can choose to be
demotivated (by getting defensive and becoming negative) or you can
choose to be motivated (by learning the lessons and applying them).
Equally, the team leader has a choice too. He or she can choose not to
rebuke you and instead choose to counsel you. In doing so, he or she
chooses an attitude, whether it is to hurt you with a rebuke—hoping
that this will motivate you to learn—or to demonstrate some positive
support with the offer of counseling—thus also motivating you to learn.
All bosses make these minute-by-minute behavioral choices every day
and they can have a big impact on morale. When bosses make effective
choices they are doing the biz—they achieve the desired results because
the people in their teams are motivated to do so.
About this book
This book focuses on these choices, on the people factor and the biz
mindset. It highlights many of the little things a successful boss has to do.
It is aimed at any boss who needs to motivate other people on a daily
basis. This could be a team leader in a bank, a department manager in a
retail store, a middle manager in a government agency or a charity. It
could be a foreman on a building site or a supervisor in a call center. It
could be a manager working in IT or a graduate trainee aspiring to
Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first
step.” This book is about all the little steps necessary to do the biz.
I suggest you read this book a section a day, focusing each day on
one simple step (specified at the end of that section) that you can take
with respect to your behavior or attitude in doing the biz. Each of these
little behaviors and attitudes is easy to apply. By concentrating on one
such behavior or thought each day, you will begin to build up a
reputation as a great boss who motivates people and who actually does
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The book can also be used for those invaluable half-hour team
sessions that many companies and their managers hold on a daily or
weekly basis. One idea is to put onto the agenda of each team session:
“Feedback—what can I do better as boss? For example, should I be
doing (more of) this type of thing…” (then referring to one section from
Another application that will prove helpful to in-house trainers is to
develop a series of training modules using selected sections from the
Finally, as it is impossible to separate employee motivation from
customer motivation (the two go together), I suggest readers also dip
into the companion volume entitled The Buzz: 50 little things that make
a big difference to delivering world-class customer service.
I guarantee that if you practice the various steps specified in this
book on a daily basis, over a period of 10 weeks (50 working days),
then you will have such a motivated team of people that you will do the
biz and achieve the results you want for your organization.
Forward to the basics…!
THE PREMIER DIVISION
A great boss will tell you, “It’s all about people.” A bad boss will say,
“It’s all about money.”
As Confucius said, “The gold in your heart is more precious than the
gold in your purse.” The best team leaders devote their working lives to
helping people discover the gold in their hearts and allowing it to shine
on others. We all become richer that way.
There are 12 little things that the best team leaders do in getting
started on doing the biz. These make up the premier division of
essential behaviors for team leadership and motivation. If you practice
these, you will be well on the road to having a high-performing team.
Make people your top priority
Be an exemplar
Give cause (aspire)
Hire the best
Fight to pay the best
Liberate people with trust
Know what you want to be
Agree the contribution to be made
Measure what is important
MAKE PEOPLE YOUR TOP PRIORITY
Always put your people first in allocating your
time and deciding on your agenda.
The most important little thing you can do is give time to your people
and thus demonstrate that they have top priority. The odd minute, the
half-hour chat, and the occasional relaxed hour with them are critical if
you are going to motivate people to do the biz.
Giving top priority to team members requires you to drop
everything for them in times of need. Nothing is more important for the
biz. Furthermore, in order for you to motivate team members they
need to know the value you place on them and how critical you see
their contribution as being. They need to know that their team leader is
interested in their work and would rather devote time to supporting
them than doing other things.
78 high-priority minutes
✪ One minute looking at Fernando’s new car.
✪ Two minutes joking with Eddie about the football.
✪ Three minutes hearing about Jamil’s sister’s wedding.
✪ Four minutes reviewing with Ayshath her project report.
✪ Five minutes listening to Andrew’s account of his meeting.
✪ Six minutes advising Carlton on his budget figures and plans.
✪ Seven minutes congratulating Mercedes on her sales success.
✪ Eight minutes counseling Colette on her relationship problems.
✪ Nine minutes discussing Jackie’s proposed update for the website.
✪ Ten minutes with Ann helping her rehearse a presentation to the CEO.
✪ Eleven minutes’ follow-up with Beatrice concerning her transfer request.
✪ Twelve minutes on a team meeting to update people on last week’s results.
When team leaders fail to find time for people and assign them low
priority, those people begin to feel neglected and make assumptions that
their leaders don’t care and are not interested in their work or problems.
While no boss can be on site every day, it is essential that you set time
aside in your diary for wandering around and chatting to people. A boss’s
diary should never be so full that there is no time for other people.
The intention of giving high priority to spending time with team
members is not to communicate key messages but to learn what is
going on in people’s lives and at work. Excellent team leaders will be
keen to learn what has been happening in
employees’ day-to-day routines: the
exceptions, the problems, the
successes, and the stories. They will
want to increase their understanding
of people’s work situations and their
specific needs, whether it be addressing
a problem with a malfunctioning piece of
equipment or dealing with an issue relating to a particularly troublesome
customer. In this way leaders can assign top priority to helping team
members resolve their problems at work.
When an issue does arise they will stop at nothing to get it resolved.
Where appropriate they will chase head office for a resolution. They will
also ensure that people issues are at the top of the agenda for meetings
with their own senior executive and the head office team. The last thing
these bosses will do is allow issues to fester.
To prevent this happening, good team leaders will assign a high
priority to sitting down with each team member for a regular informal
chat about “the story so far.” They will update individuals and the team
on progress and demonstrate the importance they are giving to getting
specific problems resolved.
On the rare occasions when a big issue blows up or an incident
occurs, these bosses will drop everything to help their team. They will
walk out of meetings, cancel travel plans, and automatically place the
highest emphasis on joining the team to help them solve the problem.
THE BIZ STEP 1
Ask your team straight: Do I assign a sufficiently high priority to
providing the support you need?
A reflection of what you value in life is not how you spend
your money, but how you spend your time and the priorities
BE AN EXEMPLAR
Set the best example with every little thing
you do and say.
Every little thing you do has a positive, negative, or neutral impact on your
team’s motivation. There is no avoiding it. As a boss you are under
observation all the time—even when people can’t see you. In fact, those
bosses who are rarely seen are the worst examples of all, failing to support
the team in times of need. Not that you have to be there all the time
interfering with everything going on—that would be a bad example too.
You set the standard of behavior that the team will emulate. It is the
same with values. They don’t need to be written down or even debated
at length—your values are reflected in everything you do and as such are
an example of the values that your team will strive to adopt and exceed
to please you.
The best team leaders are exemplars of:
✔ Punctuality (they are always on time).
✔ Volunteering (they offer to help when the workload is high).
✔ Charm (they are hospitable and welcome all visitors warmly).
✔ Openness and honesty (they are completely trusted by everyone).
✔ Courtesy (they always treat others with respect and are well-mannered).
✔ Equality (they fetch the tea for everyone and treat everyone the same).
✔ Listening (they are not opinionated and will give full attention to what people say).
✔ Hard work (they never skive off or take it easy when the team is hard-pressed).
✔ Positive thinking (they are never negative, never complain or speak badly of others).
✔ Precision in paperwork (they make few mistakes, their facts and figures are perfect, and their
presentation is excellent).
✔ Decisiveness (they know how to make decisions and when to leave a decision to the team).
Team leaders are living examples of the expectations to be exceeded, of
the excellence to be adopted, of the imperfections to be forgiven and
the lessons to be learnt. The way bosses talk to customers will set a
standard by which their team will judge them. If their standards are low,
the example will be bad and the team will judge them accordingly. If
their standards are high, the team will attempt to emulate their practice
of excellence. This applies equally to the concisely written word, the
prompt response to emails, the warm tone adopted in taking a call, and
the clarity of presentations.
The way team leaders speak to team members is an example of the
way they think and feel about their team. It is an example of their own
The example bosses set should never be static,
to be repeated day in and day out. Like any good
thing it can be improved on by pushing back the
boundaries. There is always a better way and
excellent team leaders set an example by striving
to find the best approach to be adopted and
followed. There might just be a better way of
engaging customers, of communicating with
suppliers, of behaving with the board, of
inspiring the team, and of spending time.
Leaders are always in pursuit of the best.
Encouragement, celebration, praise, punishment,
and the odd remark and scathing comment are all aspects that can
either enthuse or infect a team. Motivation is a product of the minutest
of examples set by bosses first thing on a Monday morning and last thing
on a Friday evening. It is a product of who team leaders speak to (and
who they don’t) and what they do throughout the week.
The emperor might wear no clothes, but the people will see him for
what he is—and that is the standard for good or bad by which
judgments about the boss are made. There is no escaping everyday
reality. The example cannot be written down. It has to be practiced—in
fact, it is everything practiced by team leaders.
THE BIZ STEP 2
Become conscious every day of the example you set and
then set out to become an exemplar of all that is best in your
business. That’s the biz.
As a boss you are an exemplar whether you like it or
not. The question is: Do you exemplify the best?
GIVE CAUSE (ASPIRE)
Give cause to everything you and the team do.
Aspiration is the source of all motivation.
One little thing effective team leaders need to do is to clarify where
they are taking the business in the medium to long term. The
fashionable word for this is “vision” (termed “biz vis” in this book).
Two other ways of expressing the “biz vis” are “cause” and
“aspiration.” An effective business has a leadership cause together with an
aspiration to achieve it. The two are linked, as it takes spirit to pursue a
cause. It thus becomes our aspiration (a word that relates to the direction
of the spirit). Nelson Mandela had both an aspiration and a cause: to end
apartheid and unify South Africa. It motivated a whole nation—now they
are doing the biz and the economy is
growing. Walt Disney had an aspiration and a
cause: to create happiness through fun
characters, films, cartoons, and theme parks.
Everyone can relate to these causes because
they relate to their own personal beliefs and
aspirations about the best way forward for
today, tomorrow, and next year. The belief
(in the cause) and the aspiration are vested
in a person’s soul and stimulate the spiritual energies that drive behavior.
All the little things team leaders say and do should reflect the
aspirational cause they hold for the business. When this is articulated in
a simple and meaningful way, people can identify with it. This will spark
their own spirit and motivational energies to support and contribute in
moving toward the biz vis.
The word “because” is useful here as it leads us to what will “be”
the “cause.” Thus a good test for finding the source of motivation is to
complete the sentence: “We do this because…” If the completed
statement is clear, succinct, and acceptable, the probability is that the
team leader has a good cause that will encourage the team’s spiritual
and emotional energies to move forward.
Cause is related to reason, motivation, and answering the question:
“Why do we do this?” For example, you might ask: “Why are our
absentee levels increasing?” The word “because” will lead you to the
A study of any well-known leader will reveal a cause. Churchill had a
cause (so did Hitler, for that matter). Jack Welch had a cause: to be
number one in each of General Electric’s business segments. Michael
Dell had a cause: to find a better way of making and distributing
computers and thus reduce their price for customers. In the 1980s Sir
Colin Marshall’s cause for British Airways was for it to become the
world’s favorite airline.
However, the cause cannot be created only by the icons at the top
of the organization. While a high-level strategic cause is essential, there
needs to be an operational cause for every team leader—and every
individual. In a perfect world all three causes (strategic, team, and
individual) should be intrinsically interwoven.
Examples of a team leader’s operational cause might be:
✪ As a team we will buzz because we want every customer to be satisfied with what we do for them.
✪ As a call center we will respond efficiently, effectively, and with empathy to our customers because
we want every customer to have a good memory of us.
✪ As a team of technicians we will develop our expertise because we want our customers’ problems
to be fixed quickly and finally.
✪ As a team of engineers we are going to work flat out this weekend because we want this technical
problem to be solved.
✪ As a sales team we are going to improve our approach to customers because we need to generate
THE BIZ STEP 3
Take one little step today and clarify your team’s cause.
Keep asking yourself and the team: “Why?” and “Why do we
Use the word “because” to help you provide an answer. If you
cannot believe in the answer and it does not align with your
aspiration, then reconsider your work and your approach to it.
Ideally, the soul of an individual, of a team, and of an
organization should be centered on a cause (the belief
and the aspiration). That’s the biz vis.
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