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Be clear and positive when enforcing rules

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Definite guidelines help clarify expec­tations and prevent wasted effort. Managers who can put appropriate rules in place and see that they are followed create an important edge for themselves and their teams. Here are some ideas and techniques for providing firm, fair leadership that your team will respect:

Stay on the positive side. Put aside the "punishment" mentality and you will quickly see that discipline can be handled entirely from the positive side. Discipline can be under­stood as the "rules of the game"—and the way you as manager can tell who deserves which sort of reward. Your team member's failure to post a good attendance record, for instance, can mean you won't be offering that per­son an exciting opportunity.

Start slow, finish strong. Because the impact of discipline should gener­ally escalate rather than decline, it's important not to make your strongest statement too early.

The best approach is to establish a clear pattern of increasing sanc­tions—such as limiting opportunities, then limiting rewards, then limiting privileges and then limiting flexibil­ity—and to follow it consistently.

Don't get personal. Discipline should have nothing to do with liking or disliking individuals. It works best when administered equally to every­one. Try to separate the question of why people have violated your guide­lines (and how you feel about that) from the process of enforcing the rules and administering consequences.

Never "let it slide." During hec­tic or high-pressure periods, you may want to overlook a small infraction or temporarily bend one of your rules. Be very cautious about this. The real power of your discipline develops slowly, as people recognize exactly where—and how firmly—you draw the lines. Bending your own rules can quickly unravel the disciplinary fabric you've taken months to weave.

Remember the issue at hand. In your effort to administer sanc­tions, don't get carried away. When disciplining someone for excessive absences, for example, be careful not to add something extra because of his sloppy work. Discipline works best as a clear, clean response to a single, simple infraction.

Bottom-Line Idea

When you're thinking about the need for discipline, find out how others perceive the affected employee's behavior. If your team is upset or dissatisfied, you may have good reason to say or do something about the problem. If others haven't noticed the pattern or think the person is making valu­able contributions, reevaluate your personal feelings to see if they're overshadowing your judgment.

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