Your mother taught you to say please and thank you. Yet too many leaders ask the wrong people to do the wrong things in the wrong way and then reward the wrong behaviors and outcomes. Not you. Not any more. Instead, start paving the way for others to succeed by putting foundational systems in place, assembling the right resources, saying please to the right people with clear charters, getting out of their way and then thanking them with the right balance of consequences.

Rex Conner has distilled parts of training and development guru Robert Mager’s thinking into a his book What if Common Sense was Common Practice in Business? In it he proposes approaches to training, developing and managing, five foundational systems and three core ideas:

1. The need for clear and objective language and approach (that all interpret the same) instead of fuzzy and subjective language and approach (open to different interpretations)

2. A “Skill, Will, Hill” approach to leadership. Skill – Ability and confidence. Will – Right balance of consequences. Hill – Remove obstacles.

3. Consistent people methodology across attracting, training, engaging, retaining, evaluating and promoting.

Those ideas can be further distilled into please and thank you leadership: paving the way, saying please, getting out of the way and saying thank you.

(Pave The Way)

Set others up for success by getting your foundational systems and resources in place and preparing a charter.

Foundational systems as described by Conner include 1) your “income” system, following the money: purchasing – contracting – billing – payment, 2) information systems, 3) decision-making, 4) work processes and 5) people performance. These provide the foundation for success on your request.

Get the human, financial and operational resources in place others will need to succeed.

Have a charter ready that lays out objectives and goals, context, resources, guidelines, accountability and consequences. (Make those objectives and goals SMARTER: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound, Encouraging/Exciting, Rewarded.)


Having paved the way, you’re ready to ask the right people in the right way.

The right people have the strengths required to get the work done, the motivation to do it well and fit with the rest of the organization. As Gallup explains, strengths are a combination of innate talent, learned knowledge and practiced skills. Motivation is about happiness and a combination of doing good for others, things they are good at and doing good for themselves. Fit is about how they work with those they need to work with on the task.

Asking these people the right way is about chartering them. At a bare minimum, heed Conner’s advice and use clear and objective language that all will interpret the same way, avoiding fuzzy and subjective language open to different interpretations. Ideally, give them the full project charter you’ve prepared.

(Between Please And Thank You)

Having chartered others, stay out of their way. Of course you’re going to provide support – when they ask. Of course you’re going to remove obstacles. But let them do the job you asked them to do and resist the urge to distract them in your desire to “help”.

Thank You

Say thank you by providing positive consequences to desired behaviors and outcomes (and no negative consequences) and say no thank you by providing negative consequences to undesired behaviors and outcomes (and no positive consequences).

• Best case: Reward good and punish bad.

• Common slippages. Lack of reward for good or lack of punishment for bad.

• Counter productive: Punish good or reward bad.

We’ve all seen the unappreciated success or the people that “get away” with poor results, being late, treating others badly. We’ve seen people ostracized for speaking their minds or even given bonuses or raises after missing objectives.

These hurt all involved by discouraging the good and encouraging the bad and destroy leaders’ credibility for the next time around.

It’s too bad common sense isn’t common. Please start using it. Thank you.