HOW do I increase productivity? How do I build morale? How do I achieve more with a downsized team? How do I manage change?

These are common questions that every manager has to ask himself.

The answer to these critical questions is a leadership system that managers can use in coaching their teams.

I developed it when my back was against the wall. The corporation that I worked for appointed me manager of their top office out of 36 offices.

Three months later, we plummeted to No. 36.

My boss told me he was looking for my replacement. I had to act fast, so I took two days off to do some very motivated creative thinking.

Whose side are they on?

The system began during that time with me drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper.

On the left side, I drew a symbol representing me, the manager.

On the right side I drew circles in the same number as there were people in the office. Inside each circle, I put a name of one of the people in the office.

This became a situation analysis.

I was on "one side of the fence" and the people I was supposed to be managing were on the other side. It's not a healthy situation when the "coach" isn't even on the team!

Everyone needed to be on the same side, but could that be accomplished by demands or threats?

No. Could I accomplish this by going over to their side and being a "buddy" to each of them?

No, because that's not what leadership is, either.

It was apparent that I had to bring them over to my side one at a time by priority.

This priority was not based on production, lest professional jealousy rear its ugly head.

I based it on who was most respected by the other team members - a person who is generally not the superstar.

I named the transition process the Million-Dollar Plan of Action.

Know each person

1. First, I began a column titled "Weaknesses", where I listed those of each individual person. These were not things that I wanted to change in each person but only things to be acutely aware of, in other words, a "map through the minefield".

2. The second column was labelled "Strengths". I found it a difficult column to construct because I was distracted by each person's weaknesses. But as the list grew, I became more enthusiastic about each person's potential. The Strengths column was as long, if not longer, than that of Weaknesses.

3. The third and final column was called "Strategy". This became my personal plan for working with people to help develop more of their potential.

I built the plan around each team member's weaknesses but communicated with his individual strengths.

It was important to know how a particular strength could be used in some facet of the job.

Up until that time, I had been unaware of their strengths but I had been communicating with their weaknesses.

It is a common problem for both managers and parents.

If you often hear yourself say, "If I were you, I", then you are guilty.

No one has ever heard the end of that sentence because they silently shout back in their minds: "You're not me!"

They feel that you are comparing your strengths to their weaknesses.

To try and transplant the manager's strengths into the other person has never been a successful operation.