[NOTE: Focus Tips cover topics to assist readers and organizations, and are taken from Applied Focus™ workshops, The Wrong Bottom Line and How to Change It, and other sources. Copying and use is permitted as long as the full credit noted at the end of the article is copied with the article. Focus Tips will change periodically.]

Ownership: The Greatest Ten Percent

As in most tragedies and trials, the fires in California found people and organizations stepping up to help; strength emerged. This happened not by decree, but by the populace taking ownership. There were people–fellow humans that needed help.

There are many lessons to be learned . One of those ought to be pondered by every leader in every organization, business, and relationship. It is that the very greatest accomplishments, the strongest dedication, the most awesome resolve and ultimate strength come when we rise above our usual seventy-five to eighty percent functioning—our “okay” support—and kick in our top ten or twenty percent.

The second is that gimmicks, bonuses, and process devices will not move people to that level. As quaint as it may sound, honesty, integrity, real concern, and people first and product second, will move us into that greater effort and dedication. Really empowering people and facilitating their ownership ensures greater happiness and success.

You as a leader can make a lasting difference.

Make the following part of your thinking and your actions:
▸ mingle with those in ranks below you and with the everyday customer
▸ set aside time to listen, really listen—the 110% way—to subordinates
▸ check schedules and ensure that the supervisors who are supposed to work 40 hours a week are not expected to work 50 or 60 hours; send them home to their families
▸ give employees, not just customers, the benefit of the doubt
▸ acknowledge your own part in mistakes or foul ups; don’t blame
▸ take a few minutes to stand beside the sacker, the stocker, the line employee, and help; better yet, tell them to take ten minutes off on you while you do their jobs
▸ don’t spout a platitude or inspiring saying—be one

—Roy L. Rummler, Director, Applied Focus [5] (—


Stance–the Cake

Last week in independent discussions, I heard a theme I often hear. At first view, it would appear that the concerns were completely different. Listening behind the talk, as it were however, a prominent theme emerged–what I call leadership stance. Some leaders illustrate their stance by demanding and directing, others by encouraging and facilitating, some by a mixture. Strength or weakness? It really depends on the process and application.

Most of us are impressed by the leader who stands ready to move forward against all odds. We tend to like the decisive individual the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” kind of person. Here is a women who knows where she is going! Here is a man who isn’t afraid of the perils ahead. We usually nod in approval . . . until we realize he or she made a decision that put us on a “boat” steaming into dangerous oceans. All at once, we have less liking for our decisive leader.

One of the individuals talking with me, noted that the head person did not like the fact that my friend made a remark about a better use of time than being involved in a workshop that had little to do with her job. Her concern did not go well with her supervisor who made some very threatening comments.

The other side of that coin was expressed in a conversation with a person in a different organization. In his case and view, leadership had little focus, gave little direction, and required little accountability. He longed for a more aggressive style.

For you as a leader, there are two significant challenges that can clear the air and increase productivity: (1) accept the fact that you do not see things the way many of your workers do; and (2) be willing to listen, learn and use the ideas of others.

Like most things, leadership is on a spectrum. Every leader has a style that fits somewhere along the dictator/no-control line. And it is a given, that regardless of where you stand there will always be those who think you should be in a different spot. Nonetheless, deciding that we can only operate in one way because: “that is the way I am,” or deciding that the folks out there don’t understand, thus their ideas are not really germane, and they will criticize anyway, is a perilous pinnacle on which to sit. Let me make some suggestions.

First, obviously, you do need to know where you are going. But focus on your objectives and not on yourself and your way only. Second, develop a picture of what that objective looks like and determine what you believe are the most productive approaches. Third, ask for honest input from everyone–not just the supporters and those in the main office. Fourth, don’t shoot the messengers–the people who are willing to express their true opinions. My friend in the example above, will either have to quit expressing her feelings or find another job. (Gaining worker trust will be another Tips topic.) Fifth, sincerely examine the input you receive–good and bad. Lastly, respond–don’t react. Implement, as appropriate, the ideas of others. Be honest with yourself; have a valid reason why you are, or are not following certain recommendations.

Every recommendation may not work. Some ideas may conflict with others. In my experience, the greatest leadership strength is felt by your people when they know that input is welcome, that you listen, consider, and implement where appropriate, and that you and the organization are moving ahead. They need to see you demonstrate honest interest and a willingness to modify approaches to better meet the needs of the organization and the workers. This is not icing on the cake; it is the cake–a factor that maximizes success.

Never forget that leaders always make a difference; make yours a positive difference.

—Roy L. Rummler, Ed.D. Director, Applied Focus [Vol II, No.23] (


People in Your Organization--The Added Percentage

We read and hear about layoffs and getting tough in our businesses—demanding dedication from each and every employee, and “cleaning house” even eliminating those who seem to have other interests, such as noted in Be a Cold, Calculating SOB, E Company Now, July, 2001, Penelope Trunk. “Take the accountant with photos on his desk and a plant in the corner. Real accountants become accountants because they’re so focused on numbers that they can’t be bothered to glance at a snapshot or water a plant. These people love numbers enough to check them 40 times. Mr. Green thumb isn’t one of them. Fire him. . ..” We disagree.

In tough times, there is nothing that will pull a company through better than a dedicated group of people who believe that they make a difference as workers and as human beings. The other side of that coin is that nothing will sink an organization faster than bullying and dehumanizing thinking. As many companies have learned, it’s not just the rats that know when to leave the ship!

Ask yourself a couple of questions: (1) I work hardest and do a better job when I believe in what I am doing, and when people think of me as a human being, and that I make a difference, or (2) I work hardest and do a better job when I am threatened with the loss of my job, when I am treated like a piece of machinery that can be replaced, and when the company considers my outside life as unimportant.

An experienced and very effective assistant manager recently left his position with a well known retail chain that continually treats employees as property. A prestigious web design company lost several of their top talented people, and will lose more, because they operate as if only new employees are good, and because staff opinions are not important. A restaurant owner who believed she was always right, no longer is in business. In these and many similar situations, organizations are losing some of their better talent, not experiencing the production they could, and maybe staring extinction in the face.

People must be competent, willing to work hard, be focused, and expect some inconveniences and tough spots. There is more. As any good coach knows, training is indispensable, practice is necessary, competence is critical, but many games are won by an intangible force that comes only because the team believes. They take ownership. It is their game. The power is in their hands. No coach can kick it out of them. It cannot be forced. It cannot be bought. It has to come from them. That mode of thinking can be developed and cultivated. We at Applied Focus are dedicated to assisting organizations train their management to get the most—the added percentage—not to just be in the game, but to win it.

—Roy L. Rummler, Ed.D. Director, Applied Focus [Vol I, No.1] (