We have a tendency to make things complicated. If a list of 5 optimal behaviors is good, then a list of 10 must be better, right? Wrong. As is often quoted from Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Being a leader is no different. We tend to make the job complicated. We burden ourselves with lots of rules and lots of ideal behaviors. We read books by the latest consultant guru’s. We watch videos of inspiring people telling us how to change. It’s exhausting! Hard work is a virtue, but shouldn’t we be putting hard work into getting results in our business instead?
Just like we need to de-clutter our closets and garages on occassion, to clear out the flower beds in our yards, and to purge our email inboxes, we need to make time to de-clutter our leadership jobs.
Our leadership focus is quite simple:
- Dispel confusion by simplifying what needs to be done
- Provide energy into the system
- Remove blockers
It’s really that simple! Yet how much of our energy goes into “other stuff” that might be easy, but not important? Let’s cover the list quickly, starting in reverse order.
Remove blockers. If your team is encountering obstacles of any kind, be it behavioral, resource, or otherwise, your job is to either personally knock the obstacle down or to teach the team how to do it themselves. Your judgement, of course, will be key is deciding when to teach vs. do. This one isn’t typically difficult, but a lot of “leaders” think that they sit back and direct orders, which entirely misses 1/3 of their job! Roll up your sleeves, understand what is slowing your team down, and help them either plow down those barriers or find a way over or around them.
Provide energy into the system. Your teams will get discouraged. They will get distracted. They will feel like their contributions don’t matter or aren’t cared about. Your job is to constantly combat this. Remind them of their progress. Remind them of how their contributions tie to top-line objectives. Remind them of the stakeholders that are counting on them being successful. Get them emotional, inspired, and putting in the extra effort. If you are a “manager” but not a leader, this may be your biggest barrier to becoming a leader. Find that emotional side that will compliment the analytical side.
Dispel confusion by simplifying what needs to be done. For many, this may the most difficult part of the job. Your mission will constantly be barraged with complexity. What seemed simple and straightforward at the beginning encounters unforeseen problems, complications from stakeholders, and shrinking or underperforming resources. You will be presented with lots of data and issues that seem like doomsday scenarios. Your job is to strip away the complexity, to remove the resulting confusion, and to point and focus at the very few items that will make a difference on succeeding or failing. This takes experience, intelligence, and judgement. You can’t learn this by taking a class in your MBA program, but you can constantly challenge yourself to de-clutter your leadership and to de-clutter your team’s focus.