Simple-Does your leadership trend toward simplicity?

I went to a non-fiction writing conference a couple of years ago.  I was surrounded with legit writers much more accomplished than this unpublished storyteller.  They took us through a series of writing prompts with the objective of getting us to declutter and simplify our thoughts.  We were shown a simple photo of a weathered house in the middle of an endless field of grass and asked to describe what we saw.

The process was to have us increasingly simplify our descriptions, each time working with less words to accomplish the task.  I was undaunted by the shrinking word count and just started using bigger and more elaborate words (one of the byproducts of reading a lot to escape my troubled reality as a kid).  At one point the leader of the conference got so exasperated with me, that he blurted out:

“Just say the damn thing!!”

That phrase comes to mind often.  The pervasive sentiment of our culture leaves most of us wanting to be heard more than understood.  Our state of overwhelm has us moving from simplicity to complexity.  Doing or saying a whole lot more to actually accomplish or communicate less.  Ironically, it seems to be almost the opposite route that Jesus took.  If simplicity is the way of our Father, it is likely that our enemy has a hand in all this complexity.

There are all these passages in the Bible where it clearly seems that Jesus was trying to confuse the religious intelligentsia with his simplicity.  He actually said He spoke in parables (simple stories) so that they wouldn’t understand.  As a recovering legalist, I think I understand that.  Intellectualizing what is meant to be so simple is all about the wrong things.  For me it was based on insecurity, control, and the desire to make more of me and not more of Him.  That mindset trends toward exclusion instead of inclusion.

Whether it is with an individual or an organization, the clear path to not accomplishing anything is to focus on too many things.  In our experience (and I read a study once that backed this up) of working with teams:

  • If you have one goal, you’ll get it done.
  • If you have two to three, you’ll get 1-2 done.
  • If you have more than three, you’ll likely accomplish none of them.

It is really simple, but it isn’t easy.  Almost everything in our culture, experience, and even our barometer for success tells us that…

Doing a whole lot of stuff leads to accomplishing much.

We’re swimming against that tide.  Our process of working with a team is to move toward simplicity.

  1. Craft a clear picture of the future anchored in Purpose and Values.
  2. Extract a simple set of goals with action steps to get you there.
  3. Train a leadership team to work together to execute the plan.

Simple?  Yes.  

Easy?  Not so much.

To help companies do this sometimes feel like wrestling a bear, but the rewards for them are worth every grapple and hold.  A client recently told us…

I never could have believed that we would be solving the issues we are. I can’t believe we have gotten so far so fast. We’ve accomplished more in 6 months than we have in the last 25 years.
  • Does your leadership trend toward simplicity or complexity?
  • Are you working too hard to accomplish so little?
  • Are you ready to start swimming against that tide?