As I’ve written about before, leaders are called upon to do many things for their organizations – we’re called on to articulate a vision for a better tomorrow, mobilize people, constantly drive improved outcomes, and on and on. However, there’s one thing I constantly see the best leaders do that I’ve never seen anything written about – they are masterful at simplifying things.
Here are some examples of how this happens in real life…
Leaders simplify the mission. Exactly what are we trying to accomplish? If your answer takes more than a sentence or two, you may not have simplified the mission enough. Drucker is quoted as saying, “If you can’t put it (the mission) on a t-shirt, you don’t have it yet.
Leaders simplify the values. What are the beliefs that you want to drive the behavior in your organization? The longer the list of values, the less the impact they’ll have on your organization. So, how many should you have? I don’t believe there’s a RIGHT answer, but I do think it’s closer to 5 than 10 – Which values are CORE?
Leaders simplify the scorecard. What are the key metrics you use to drive your team and organization? Again, the watchword is simplify. I’ve seen organizations with 20+ KEY metrics. You guessed it, it didn’t work. Everyone picked the 3 – 4 they wanted to pursue. The result: no organizational focus, no traction, no improvement.
Leaders simplify problems. Admittedly, many of the problems we face as leaders are very complex. Don’t let that stop you from breaking the problem down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Leaders simplify processes. The best leaders I know don’t like bureaucracy. These men and women are always interested in streamlining the process. The questions they ask include: how can we make it easier, make it faster, reduce the number of steps? How can we simplify the process?
Leaders simplify the strategy. Can you write your core business strategy or strategies on the back of a napkin? Better yet, can you do it in a picture a 10-year-old could draw? If you want everyone implementing the strategy, they need to get it.
Leaders simplify communications. The next time you’re tempted to present a 40-slide PowerPoint deck, try to reduce it to FOUR slides. Here’s a sobering test: After you speak to a group, would the audience agree on your core message? They should.
Leaders simplify next steps. Leaders ensure clarity on who will do what by when. If next steps are not clear, next steps may not happen. I had a business leader tell me, this single practice revolutionized his organization. Clear and simple next steps help.
Just recently, I was confronted with a statement that actually prompted this post. Someone said to me, “Smart people make things complicated.” My response, “The smartest ones can make things simple.”
If you’re looking for a way to add instant value in your organization, look for something to simplify.
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