I’m learning that effective leaders cultivate simplicity.
Simplicity begets . . . Clarity begets . . . Focus begets . . . ACTION!
When I first begin working with Leaders, here’s a sampling of questions we discuss:
- How clear are you on what your organization most needs from you as Leader today?
- How succinctly could your direct reports tell me their key contributions to the organization?
- What is the “elevator talk” for your company’s goals in the next quarter?
We live in a complex — some would say — chaotic world. The Leader’s role is to steer through the chaos and complexity towards simplicity of mission. When the mission . . . the goals . . . the roles are NOT clear . . . .
- Decision-making is paralyzed.
- Good intentions travel in wrong directions.
- Initiative is stifled.
- Studies and planning overwhelm action.
- Good compromises great.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was quoted: “Think simple . . . reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”
Albert Einstein had his ‘Three Rules of Work,’ the first of which was “Out of clutter find simplicity.”
Simplicity is the Leader’s responsibility – both for themselves and for their organization.
The Heath brothers have a great two-page article on simplicity of strategy in this month’s Fast Company. They quote The Paradox of Choice author Barry Schwartz: “How many options have your people got? As we face more and more options, “we become overloaded . . . . Choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.”
I feel a bit debilitated when I stand in the grocery store trying to figure out which Orange Juice I’m supposed to buy – UNLESS my wife has made it crystal clear – “Buy low pulp, with calcium.” I grab it and go.
As the Leader, how are you simplifying decision-making by others?
If I’m leading a workshop and my PowerPoint slides are out of focus and fuzzy, what creeps up within those trying to follow me? Distraction? Irritation? Tuning out? Are they even listening? My role as the Leader is to keep the projector focused – minimize the distractions that get in the way of the learning objective.
Once again, simplicity . . . clarity . . . focus . . . must begin within the Leader, personally, before he or she can cultivate it in others. What is cluttering and complicating your day, detracting from your clear thinking and simple action?
Phrases I’ve come back to over the years to “re-set” in this area:
- Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing . . .
- Less is more . . .
- Do a few things (really) well . . .
Look at your schedule today. Identify key meetings and conversations with key people you’re counting on to execute. How can you help simplify their tasks by bringing clarity to the essential actions?
How could I have simplified this post? I welcome your feedback.