By Elizabeth P. Cipolla, VP of Talent Development
Human beings share one common trait: we make things more difficult than they need to be. As a leader, you’re no exception. In truth, it’s easy to feel as if everything in your organization is doom and gloom. When your best laid plans run off course, or all the training you’ve invested in hasn’t helped your team to work cohesively, it can seem as though “the sky is falling”.
You may be wondering where I’m going with this. After all, how can preparedness be a bad thing? As a competent leader who takes your job seriously, you want to make sure every “what if” is covered, and you have a plan A followed by B through Z just in case the unthinkable happens. The unfortunate result of this mindset when it comes to leadership is a world full of managers who tackle their people-leadership in the same way they tackle their project-leadership. Let’s explore how you can simplify your leadership approach for better results by curbing your human tendency to overthink and overcomplicate.
“Keep it Sesame Street simple” is a business mantra originated by Proctor & Gamble (P&G) Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Alan George “A.G.” Lafley. This simple yet brilliant notion has led to P&G’s overwhelming success and it guides the decisions of every employee throughout their company. The brilliancy comes from what is at the core of this message: by keeping your focus “Sesame Street Simple”, you remain focused on what is important when preparing to act.
Stop overcomplicating your leadership and start seeing results. Here’s how:
Let’s suppose your employee made a costly mistake in executing a task they’ve been assigned. Perhaps it was costly in terms of time, or possibly money. Maybe it adversely impacted your relationship with a customer. Instead of reacting by calling meeting after meeting with your team of trusted advisors to discuss what you’ll now need to include in the additional page to your company’s overcomplicated policy manual, just ask. Take the time to sit down with the employee who made the mistake and talk through the thoughts they had and what they could do differently next time. Their answers may surprise you. You’ll likely find they hadn’t quite thought it through themselves, and were glad for the opportunity to talk it over and come up with a simpler solution. You’ll walk away with a significant time savings and their commitment to following through with a solution they helped devise.
As leaders, we often think our ideas should be a key focus in meetings with our staff. While it’s important for leaders to cover important talking points, it’s equally important to let others initiate discussion about their ideas. The hard part for many leaders is to remain quiet when ideas are presented which are different than what they had in mind. Instead of chiming in to impart your infinite wisdom on those who surely need your supreme guidance, celebrate their differing ideas and allow them to run with it. By continuously dominating meetings with your team, you are conditioning them to become blind followers whose original ideas are not a consideration. Shut up, listen, celebrate differing viewpoints, and don’t be afraid to act on them too. The results will be shockingly good.
React to fact.
So often, we react to what’s happening around us based upon the emotional backstory we’ve conjured up in our minds as opposed to the basic facts. When we do this, we almost always make the wrong decision which leads to more problems and more time.
Here is an example of what I mean. Imagine you’ve found out your recently hired employee hasn’t been following the two-step method your company has been using to service its customers for years. Your blood begins to boil. This young new-hire has been cutting corners. This lazy kid is being disrespectful and cocky. You decide to fire him and start a new search for his replacement.
Reality check: that was never your new-hire’s intention. That backstory was your imagination. You overcomplicated things more than necessary. All he wanted to do was simplify things to save money for the company he was so excited to have joined. Now you’ve lost an enthusiastic employee and are beginning a costly new search for his replacement.
The next time you are faced with a leadership catastrophe, ask yourself how you can keep it simple.