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How to Build a Fearless Front Line
In his book The Fearless Front Line, entrepreneur Ray Attiyah shows how to liberate yourself from daily operations to focus on vision and growth.
How to Build a Fearless Front Line

by Matthew E. May

Creativity, Innovation, Lean Thinking, Design Thinking workshop facilitator, seminar leader, EDIT Innovation

This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, an online community providing small business owners with information and advice to help them do more business.”

What if you were able to grow your business confidently in the direction of your choosing? What if you could consistently provide the most innovative solutions to your customers’ problems? What if you could attract your industry’s best talent?

What if you could command premium pricing of products and services that are heavily in demand and are far superior to any alternatives?

According to Ray Attiyah, founder and chief innovation officer of Definity Partners, and author of The Fearless Front Line, there's only one way to achieve the entirety of this wish list: liberate the leaders by empowering the front line. 

Buried in Daily Details

In addition to founding Definity Partners, a training, process and leadership improvement firm, Attiyah owns 16 other businesses, including startups and manufacturing, training and e-commerce companies.

Attiyah argues that all too often the front-line activities of a business are so unpredictable, unreliable and complicated, that business owners and leaders can’t seem to pull themselves away. But if you're spending most of your time on the day-to-day operational aspects of the business, you've left a critical gap.

"Time and energy are consumed by urgent but unimportant tasks," he writes. "Who's creating the innovative and inspiring visions and strategies that are critical to growth?"

The key is to liberate the top. But the precondition necessary to do that is "having a front line that can operate reliably, excellently, and independently day in and day out every day of every week of every year."

Attiyah maintains that business owners often have difficulty forgetting bad situations, and that inability to let go shakes their confidence in their front-line team and its activities. To compensate for their lack of confidence in the front line, leaders become conditioned to over-manage and under-lead.

Attiyah describes how to embolden the front line to take true ownership of essential day-to-day operations, which will liberate owners from getting mired in the distracting details. They can then capitalize on the momentum created by the fearless front line to determine what the organization needs to do to make (then keep) bold promises, place (then win) bold bets, and scout (then hire) bold people.

The Key to Inspiring the Troops

So how does Attiyah suggest you develop this inspired, accountable and confident front line? Raise the bar of excellence by investing in top performers and removing obstacles that frustrate them, making meaningful changes quickly to bolster team confidence, enthusiasm and trust.

Implement daily huddles to foster a positive “what went well” environment, communicate your standards of performance and create a simple touch point for communicating the status of reactive improvements.

Attiyah’s approach is based on a simple truth: As businesses mature, they create clutter. Superfluous processes are added to create a safety net for unreliable systems, and the organization can’t see clearly what it needs to do to be efficient and effective. Leaders end up spending most of their time in the weeds, which distracts them from their most important priority: growing their business.

Attiyah introduces a Run-Improve-Grow model, a continuously moving system that stimulates a culture of consistent relevancy, new growth and constant innovation. You can use the principles of Run-Improve-Grow to build a solid and simplified foundation.

The Run focuses on excellence and empowers the front line to take true ownership of their critical role.

Improve capitalizes on the momentum created by the fearless front line to liberate the organization’s leaders.

With a fearless front line, simplified management system and new organizational attitude, a business is ready to launch boldly into the Grow, outlining what the business needs to pursue strategic innovations and new opportunities that will propel the company to great relevancy and profitable growth.

"Imagine a workplace that is free from the stress of managers and staff always finding problems but rarely acting on solutions," Attiyah writes. "A workplace where teams establish and agree on clear standards of excellence, and a workplace where people are encouraged to propose bold ideas and then make them realities? Run-Improve-Grow makes that workplace possible."

If you want your front-line workers to have an “I run this place!” mindset that frees you up to concentrate on the bigger picture, The Fearless Front Line will provide a practical road map, and deserves a read.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of its individual writer, and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of American Express Canada or Amex Bank of Canada. Third party web sites may have privacy and security policies different from Amex Bank of Canada. Links to other web sites does not imply the endorsement or approval of such web sites.

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