“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
At the 2013 Chick-fil-A Leadercast John Maxwell talked about the need for simplicity in leadership and the steps to get to the place where we can simply lead (simply). In the framework he presented, it’s important to understand that simple does not mean shallow or meaningless any more than complex means more correct or actionable.
In fact, simplicity is found by starting with the simplistic and traveling through the complex to find the simple.
- Simplistic = shallow and fast
- Complex = deep and slow
- Simple = deep and fast
Simplistic –> Complex –> Simple
Simple behaviors make us effective in life but education likes to make things complex.
This kind of journey is far from simple – it’s often difficult and mentally taxing as we as questions, examine assumptions, and go through the creative process of uncovering the simple truths found buried in complexity or glossed over by the simplistic – but it’s necessary to arrive at a place of what is both deep and simple.
That leads to the questions, “Where are our views simplistic?” and, “Where are we making things too complex?”
Of course, I can’t answer those questions for you. Honestly, I can barely answer them for myself sometimes. But I keep asking because I want to find that place of centered simplicity as a person and as a leader. That place where clarity is astounding, purpose is deeply moving, and action flows naturally from the Center.
How about you?
Opportunities become threats when we don’t have boundaries.
Dr. Henry Cloud
As I’m writing this, it is Memorial Day. All over the US people are taking time from work to enjoy time with their families or to honor those lost in war and the pursuit of peace, perhaps with prayer vigils or moments of silence or listening to the stories of those who have fought wars.
All weekend our neighborhood has been a-buzz with the sound of lawnmowers and weed eaters (except our yard, but that’s a different story). I suspect that very soon driveways will be filling up with cars and grills will begin proclaiming their owner’s manhood and grill skills. Soon enough the parks will be full of laughing children and parents.
When we have friends or family going though difficult times, it can be easy to slip into passive platitude mode. To respond to horrifying news with comments like “God works all things together for good…” or “It will all work out…” or “Good things come to those who wait.” And, while those comments may be true, maybe the timing is off.
When somebody is going through the grief process, it’s easy to become uncomfortable and want to rush things. It’s easy to try to push the process forward. But that’s not what I see Jesus doing in Scripture – at least not when Lazarus died.
In this culture of hyper-connectivity and people-pleasing, it’s easy to find ourselves with more commitments than we are able to fulfill. It’s easy to discover that our task lists are growing more quickly than our abilities to complete or even delegate tasks. That is an Action Deficit.
How to handle an Action Deficit
An action deficit, like a cash flow deficit, can be handled multiple ways. We can:
- Ignore the problem and hope it goes away (not smart)
- Allow the loudest priorities to control our actions
- Develop and carry out a plan that will lead to success
Obviously, the first plan – ignoring things – is simply unwise. But so often we actually do allow the priorities of others and their ability to be the loudest control what gets our attention. I know what both of these are like because I constantly fight the temptation to approach my own overwhelm in those ways.
There is a better way
Begin with the end in mind
The better way, though, is to be crystal clear on what is most important. In every context. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your family. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your business or to the company you work for. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your department. And your church. And in your relationships. And in your health.
OK, I get it.
Then, develop a plan to reorganize your activities put your best time towards the things that are the most important. I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like because I don’t know your specific situation. But I can tell you that knowing what is most important will help.
Finally, put the plan into action. Reorganize your schedule (I get up at 5AM most days to pray, read the Bible, and write in a journal – and I’m not a morning person). Have some frank discussions if necessary. And schedule a weekly check-in with yourself or an accountability partner to keep yourself on track.
That sounds easy
Well, yes, it does sound easy. But it’s not easy, it’s simple and straightforward but not easy. Or at least it wasn’t easy for me, and it’s still a struggle from time to time. I come back to these principles weekly, sometimes daily and wrestle them back into place. I still struggle.
Take the first step first
So, since it’s not easy, just take the first step. Then take the second.
Do you know where you are in this? Take a deep assessment of where you are and how you’re spending your time (track your time if you need to) and then compare that with what’s most important to you, your boss and customers, your family, and so on. If you like what you see, keep going. If not, take the next steps.
- Get clear on your priorities
- Create a plan to spend your best time on those priorities
- Arrange your schedule and commitments
- Check in often
Can you share the story of a time when you successfully changed how you were spending your time to do what was the most important? If so, what did you do and how did you do it?
Photo credit: Walt Stoneburner