Leadership Made Simple in Five Practical Steps

This blog post was inspired after reading How to Raise Entrepreneurial Kids by @ Entrepreneur.com. This is also the first blog post linked to a new category I’m naming KISS (Keeping It Simple Secrets).. for the simple reason that the more things change, fundamentally the more they stay the same. Over the past 28 years of my professional career, I’ve seen too many simple practices (at their core) turned into complicated theories for two basic reasons:

1. the source wasn’t a good communicator & therefore turned a simple topic into a complicated theory

2. the source was trying to differentiate themselves in order to charge higher fees & again turned a simple topic into a complicated theory

The same 5 tips of parenting advice listed to help raise entrepreneurial kids are the basic fundamentals of good parenting, regardless of entrepreneurial aspirations for our offspring. Funny enough, they’re also the fundamental steps required to be a good & effective leader in any organization, thus get the most out of your teams while ensuring that they too get the most out of the experience.

1. Model effective problem solving

More important than resolving the situation, is working toward that situation never happening again. The key word being “effective”, don’t reward a super hero firefighting culture. It’s not scalable. By all means acknowledge the effort to fix the problem situation,  then go to work and focus on identifying the root-cause. Once you’ve identified the root-cause, make the design change in your process required to ensure the problem no longer raises it’s ugly head again.

2. Help kids learn from failure

We learn more from our failures than our successes. First because failures are painful, and thus make us want to address them so they don’t happen again. Second because turning around a bad situation is always more rewarding than simply making something good a little bit better. The old adage “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger” is the secret to this success tip. What can one learn from what didn’t work? What can one do differently next time? What skill or vantage point was missing that can be incorporated to make the process result in success next time out?

3. Let kids make decisions

There is a common mistake that many consultants, and or leaders, make when trying to resolve a situation. Too many well intentioned individuals go in with a preconceived notion of what needs to be done. Worst yet, how it should be done. Every proposed solution requires adjustment to the unique culture it’s being implemented into. Ernesto Sirolli’s TEDX Talk “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!” couldn’t be clearer in describing what happens day-in day-out in business & personal life. Too often we fail to simply shut up & listen. Instead of prescribing a preconceived solution, listen for what’s at the root of what’s being said. Then either provide proposals that can be adapted to local / unique circumstances, and or provide access to knowledge / network that will help the individuals design the right process for their unique (shades of gray) situation.

4. Foster a sense of mastery

Practice makes perfect! And the best way to foster a sense of mastery is to let someone practice something over & over again until it becomes an engrained habit that can be successfully completed with their eyes closed. Malcolm Gladwell said something to the extent that “you needed 10,000 hours to be an expert and or a phenom. To be so freakishly awesome, to be such a standout among your peers, that sometimes your first name is enough to tell people who you are: Peyton. Tiger. Venus. Kobe. Oprah. What better way to foster a sense of mastery than creating practices, processes and steps that at their core apply both to the professional as well as the personal lives of individuals? Imagine that.. 10,000 hours in half that time when “the core essence” of a habit can be practiced both at work & in your personal life!

5. Teach constructive ways to challenge the status quo

Very similar in thinking to “learning from failure”, yet this is about fostering an environment conducive to innovation. Fostering a spirit that experimentation (even when gone wrong) doesn’t get punished, but encouraged. Making it safe to push the boundaries, even question what’s working in an effort to make it work even better. Setting up people to succeed by giving them simple parameters so that their experiments are in-line with the strategies & results relevant to an organization at any given time.

In closing..

You’ll note that I used the term “process” often in this post. That’s because life itself is a process. A series of individual steps strung together to accomplish an outcome.

How can you apply these 5 tips in the coming new year? Don’t put it off any longer. Make a calendar appointment with yourself to start the new year with an affirmative positive step.

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