The Five Ps of Leadership
There are whole libraries full of things that tell you
what to do about leadership and how to remember whats important. Heres another
short edition to that library the 5 Ps of leadership. They are:
Pay Attention To Whats Important
Time management courses, strategy books, and management gurus all will tell you that
theres not a lot thats really important. Your job as a leader is to
concentrate on whats most important so that it gets taken care of. Then let the rest
of the stuff take care of itself.
Now if youre a perfectionist, thats going to be hard for you to do. But
theres not P for perfectionism in this scheme of things. No, we recognize that there
are limited resources of time, energy, people, and money. Because those resources are
limited, you want to go for the big stuff first.
What youre after is the 20% of stuff that gives you the biggest bang for the
buck. What underlies all of this is something called Paretos Law. Vilfredo Pareto
was an Italian Economist and Sociologist in the late 19th century. He
formulated something he called "The Law of the Unequal Distribution of Results."
You probably know it as the 80/20 rule.
All the 80/20 rules says is that theres 20% of the stuff you do that gets you 80%
of the results. The trick is finding that 20%. Once youve found it you then have to
pay attention to it.
Pay attention to it in your written and oral communications. Restate the key themes
over and over. Dont undervalue repetition, repetition makes for memory and memory
makes for action.
Pay attention to it in your casual contacts. John Kotter, in his book to general
managers, pointed out that effective general managers make great use of the random
contacts they have with people. Those contacts could be in the hallway, at the water
cooler, in the elevator, or walking down the street. The seize on those moments to talk
about the things and ask the questions that are important to their leadership agenda. You
should do that too.
Organize you day, your communications, your organizational structures, your reward
systems and everything else to pay attention to whats important and then do that
with unremitting diligence.
Praise What You Want to Continue
Praise is your best training tool. In technical terms, praise is a positive consequence
that follows a positive action. Its a reward for something done right. Use praise to
get people to continue to do things or to take positive action. Thats where
its best used.
Remember, too, that praise is a tool that is most effective when its used
inconsistently. Used consistently, praise tends to loose its force. So, dont worry
so much about praising everything that people do right, but do worry about praising.
Thats important, because most of us came up in a world where we didnt
praise enough. Seek out opportunities to praise but dont get anal retentive about
Punish What You Want to Stop
Punishment is the mirror image of praise. Its a negative consequence that follows
negative behavior. It follows a principle stated almost in biblical terms by one of my
past trainees. She said: "the good shall be rewarded and the unjust shall be punished
in proportion to their deeds."
Punishment negative consequences are the tool you use to get people to
stop stuff. If you figure out whats most important for people to quit doing in your
organization, rig up some kind of negative consequence for them if they do it. Be careful
though, because you may fall prey to the hot stove guideline. It was Mark Twain (or if it
wasnt it should have been) who said, "A cat who sits on a hot stove will never
sit on a hot stove again. But he wont sit on a cold stove either.
The management lesson here is that if you zap people too much with negative
consequences, they dont just quit doing the stuff that you dont want them to
do. They quit doing pretty much everything. Thats why "rule by fear" and
"controlled ferocity" cultures have a devil of a time getting people to take
initiative. Theyve been zapped so often theyre just not willing to risk it.
Pay For the Results You Want
Years ago when I was managing distribution and customer service centers I happened to
compliment one of the customer service reps. She immediately turned around to me and said,
"Dont just tell me, show me, payday is Friday."
Pay is one of the tangible ways you can reward people for doing good stuff. Its
another form of praise in visible, tangible form. Dont limit your thinking about pay
to just money, though. Pay people with time off, recognition, choice assignments, small
gifts, and special bonuses to encourage the behavior you want.
One of my clients used to carry around a pocket-full of restaurant gift certificates as
he wandered around his trucking company. When he found somebody doing something that he
wanted to encourage he was likely to whip out a gift certificate and hand it to them on
the spot. It created the kind of event and drama that makes for good communication, and it
encouraged positive behavior.
Another client of mine, a police chief this time, did something similar. She was a
police chief in Texas, and, as you might expect, she talked like a Texan. She had little
slips made up with one of her favorite phrases on them. It was, "preciate
When she heard something about one of her officers that was positive, she sent them one
of her preciate ya slips. When she caught somebody done something she wanted to
encourage she handed one out. Officers collected the slips and when they got enough, they
got recognition in the department newsletter and some extra time off.
Look for ways to pay for the results you want. Pay and praise are the things that get
the engine of progress going.
Promote People Who Deliver The Results You Want
This one just makes sense. The problem is that lots of organizations forget about it.
They maintain reward and promotion systems that reward the old behavior, even while
theyre trumpeting the new behavior in memos, meetings, and executive retreats.
When I was just starting out in consulting, a much more experienced and wiser
consultant said to me, "When you first go into an organization, pay attention to who
it is they promote. Listen to the stories that folks tell you about who gets promoted and
rewarded and why. That will tell you just about everything you need to know about what the
real organizational priorities are."
What are the stories that your people tell in your organization? What are the stories
they tell about their bosses? You want those stories to be positive about great things
their bosses have done. If all the stories are negatives, buddy youve got a problem.
What do your folks say about the folks who are promoted? Do they feel they got promoted
on merit because of their performance or because they just happened to "know
somebody" or worse.
The five Ps of leadership will help you stay on track to positive organizational
change. Remember to pay attention to whats important, praise what you want to
continue, punish what you want to stop, pay for the results you want, and promote the
people who deliver those results and youll help your organization be the very best
that it can become.
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