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Turn thick manuals into clear principles

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

If your people rely too heavily on a company manual or rulebook, take a new tack.

Instead of procedures, provide a few short and catchy guiding principles they can carry around in their heads.

Example: A few years ago, a resort company executive worked up four principles for customer relations:
  1. Enjoyment. Customers need to enjoy their visit.

  2. Courtesy. Guests must be treated politely at all times.

  3. Safety and hygiene. Here’s where the rules need to be adhered to without exception.

  4. Promptness and efficiency. Serve customers as quickly as possible.
Here’s how the principles should work in practice: One day, a resort employee was cleaning up with power equipment near an outdoor pool. A guest approached and asked where he could buy a particular soda. Choosing safety first, the employee turned off his machine but didn’t leave it, pointing out a tiki bar next to the pool. As the customer walked toward the bar, the employee called the bartender on his walkie-talkie and told him the customer was coming. When the guest arrived, his soda was waiting.

Upshot: This employee hit every principle: He treated the customer courteously and efficiently, kept safety uppermost and made the traveler’s visit more enjoyable.

—Adapted from Lessons on Leadership, Jack Stahl, Kaplan Publishing.

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