Have You Made the Choice to Simplify?

This week I have been writing about the power that is unleashed when a leader makes the choice to stay simple.

In case you missed my previous posts, check out, “Can You Explain it to a Six Year Old, & “Where Has all the Simplicity Gone?”

Today I want to take a different direction on the idea of simple. My friend Mark Miller has agreed to write a guest post entitled, “Simplify.” Mark is Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, a best selling author, and a great friend.


by Mark Miller
As I’ve written about before, leaders are called upon to do many things for their organizations – we’re called on to articulate a vision for a better tomorrow, mobilize people, constantly drive improved outcomes, and on and on. However, there’s one thing I constantly see the best leaders do that I’ve never seen anything written about – they are masterful at simplifying things.


Here are some examples of how this happens in real life…

Leaders simplify the mission. Exactly what are we trying to accomplish? If your answer takes more than a sentence or two, you may not have simplified the mission enough. Drucker is quoted as saying, “If you can’t put it (the mission) on a t-shirt, you don’t have it yet.

Leaders simplify the values. What are the beliefs that you want to drive the behavior in your organization? The longer the list of values, the less the impact they’ll have on your organization. So, how many should you have? I don’t believe there’s a RIGHT answer, but I do think it’s closer to 5 than 10 – Which values are CORE?

Leaders simplify the scorecard. What are the key metrics you use to drive your team and organization? Again, the watchword is simplify. I’ve seen organizations with 20+ KEY metrics. You guessed it, it didn’t work. Everyone picked the 3 – 4 they wanted to pursue. The result: no organizational focus, no traction, no improvement.

Leaders simplify problems. Admittedly, many of the problems we face as leaders are very complex. Don’t let that stop you from breaking the problem down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Leaders simplify processes. The best leaders I know don’t like bureaucracy. These men and women are always interested in streamlining the process. The questions they ask include: how can we make it easier, make it faster, reduce the number of steps? How can we simplify the process?

Leaders simplify the strategy. Can you write your core business strategy or strategies on the back of a napkin? Better yet, can you do it in a picture a 10-year-old could draw? If you want everyone implementing the strategy, they need to get it.

Leaders simplify communications. The next time you’re tempted to present a 40-slide PowerPoint deck, try to reduce it to FOUR slides. Here’s a sobering test: After you speak to a group, would the audience agree on your core message? They should.

Leaders simplify next steps. Leaders ensure clarity on who will do what by when. If next steps are not clear, next steps may not happen. I had a business leader tell me, this single practice revolutionized his organization. Clear and simple next steps help.

Just recently, I was confronted with a statement that actually prompted this post. Someone said to me, “Smart people make things complicated.” My response, “The smartest ones can make things simple.”

If you’re looking for a way to add instant value in your organization, look for something to simplify. (TWEET)


You can connect with Mark on Twitter @leadersserve or read his blogs at greatleadersserve.com.

Leadership Begins at Home,


As you read Mark’s list, is there an area of leadership where you need to simplify?

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Where Has All the Simplicity Gone?

Attempting to embrace simplicity is like trying to dodge rain drops … hard to do.

Sadly, we make life harder than it has to be because we fail to value the power of focusing on a few things … the power of simplicity.

Yesterday, I shared the Einstein quote, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” 6 Year Olds

Where has all the simplicity gone?

Over the past decade, complexity has grown at an exponential rate. Choices abound. Options are in vogue. Alternatives are expected.

The result? A world of complexity littered with arrogant leaders. Leaders who are smarter than ever, yet lacking wisdom.

Perhaps we all need a six year old to explain to us that simplicity isn’t such a bad thing. When I was six only a few things mattered. Really, only values and people.

The values were uncomplicated. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do your chores if you expect to go out and play. Respect authority. Love God. Honor women. Be grateful, and give generously. I was told if I would do those things, things would be a lot easier for me.

The people fell into three groups. My family, those who sat around the dinner table every night. My friends, those who showed up in the backyard every afternoon for our version of the World Series or the Super Bowl, depending on the time of year. And our neighbors, everyone else in our community (or around the world) who we were to love and serve no differently than we would our family and friends.

Somehow we have lost our way. The focus has shifted away from values and people. We are now told to decide for ourselves what the values should be, and people are merely seen as opportunities to help us get what we want. Shame on us!

Reexamine what, and more importantly who, really matters. Values and people. If you will turn your attention to those two you will position yourself to be more effective and to have more fun.

You shouldn’t need a six year old to tell you that.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Do you agree that a leader needs to focus on values and people more than products and profits?

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Can You Explain it to a Six Year Old?

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” (tweet)

As you look at what you are attempting to lead, does it feel simple or complex? Do you have margin to love and laugh, or do you find yourself drained and disillusioned? Can you explain it to a six year old?

6 Year OldsNow that football season is in full force, pay attention to the teams who do the simple things with excellence. It is not the highest payroll or the most complex scheme that guarantees victory. No, success shows up on the doorstep of those who block and tackle, whose penalties and turnovers are few, and who play hard and work together. The formula for winning is really very simple.

Perhaps now would be a good time for you to go back to your playbook and redefine what it will take for you to be, not impressive, but effective. BTW – effective is always more impressive than trying to be impressive.

Once you determine what constitutes simplicity in your leadership world, I challenge you to find yourself some six year olds and explain it to them. If you can’t do it, you probably don’t understand it yourself.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one area of your life where you need to “simplify” over the upcoming week?

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There is Nothing Good about Goodbye, Version 3

Last night I attended a soccer match to watch my daughter, Rebekah, play one of the first games of her college career. Talk about mixed emotions …

RGI came away reminded of something I have been saying for the past couple of years … There is nothing good about goodbye. And no, the third time is not the charm.

In case you missed my previous rants, I encourage you to read There is Nothing Good About Goodbye, Version One, about Rebekah’s oldest sister, and There is Nothing Good about Goodbye, 2.0, the account of the last time my heart was broken.

There is no other way to say it; watching these women leave home is brutal! 

Like her sisters, Rebekah has indelibly marked my life. Dropping her off for college a few weeks ago was like losing my left arm … And I’m left handed.

I remember the day when she was a toddler and I was supposed to be watching her on a Florida boardwalk, only to turn my head allowing her to vanish. A desperate minute later I found her kicked back in a deck chair taking in the stunning view of the Gulf. 


I remember hundreds of bedtime stories, countless soccer practices, all the amazing hat tricks, and fascinating adventures around the world.

I remember thousands of family dinners, vacations, conversations, graduations, and so many awesome hugs. Now, it feels like it is all gone, and I don’t like it.

But I have no regrets. I’m glad I spent the last 18 years showing up and being her Daddy.

Truthfully, I raised her to release her. This is the way it is supposed to be. I’ve survived it twice, and I will survive it again.

As for you, if you have kids, may I remind you goodbye is coming like a freight train. One day the apple of your eye will need training wheels. The next thing you know a bill for the cap and gown will show up in the mail and it will be time for goodbye. (TWEET)

While you shouldn’t expect the goodbye to be good, it can be more tolerable if you will make the most of the moments you have left. Squeeze every drop out of every day and create as many memories as you possibly can. Those memories will ultimately cushion the blow when it is time to let go.

Remember … leadership truly does begin at home.

May God Bless Your Family,


What is your #1 family priority for the coming week?

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5 Constants Every Team Needs

James Earl Jones summed it up in Field of Dreams with his famous soliloquy …

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

That scene has lingered with me for the past 25 years. Truly, baseball is timeless. 

One of my favorite things, in this sport of unpredictability, is that there are still constants. Teams come and go, crazy things happen during games, field dimensions differ, but one thing is certain – You can always count on there being a foul pole along the base lines. Without the poles the games would be chaos.

With the MLB playoffs around the corner, I found myself in a ballpark a couple of weeks ago working on an upcoming teams project. I stood alone in the upper deck. The stadium was empty. Quiet, with the exception of the faint sound of a small tractor dragging the infield, ridden by a member of the grounds crew.

 Field of DreamsMesmerized, I couldn’t take my eyes off the left field foul pole. It was as if the yellow tower was whispering, “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

As a leader, one of the best things you can do for your team is to make sure there are things they can count on when they show up at your ballpark. Whether you are in business or baseball, if you expect to win, you better spend a chunk of your time defining boundaries that are constant.

  • Consider the following:
  • A trustworthy leader. When people can’t trust the leader, things break down. Growing organizations are not places of suspicion. There is transparency and authenticity that starts at the top. If you want to create a winning culture, start by being trustworthy. TWEET
  • A place where people are trusted. Leaders not only need to be trustworthy, they also need to trust others. Assuming you hire the right people, move out of the way and let them do their jobs. Ask for input on important decisions, and refuse to micromanage. Great teams are places where trust is present. They are never led by dictators. 
  • A growing leader. I have a friend who reminds me, “Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.” If the organization is stalled, it is usually because the boss has plateaued. A team takes its cue from its leader. If the leader is growing, the environment will flourish and the team will thrive. TWEET
  • Clear expectations. One of the most important things you can do for your team is to communicate what is expected of them. People want to know how to make an “A” on the test. Rarely do employees have a bad heart toward the organization. Usually when they struggle it is because the leader withholds clarity on what is “foul” and what is a “fair ball” on the field of play. When leaders fail to communicate the expectations, at some point apathy sets in and team members become disengaged. TWEET
  • Encouragement. It is a proven fact that encouragement leads to greater performance in any arena of life. I see leaders all the time who neglect to praise their people only to wonder why the team lacks motivation. Critical leaders are constantly looking for mistakes and pointing out flaws. Unfortunately, most critical leaders are too self absorbed or emotionally unaware to think about the culture they are creating with their negativity. If you want to see your team thrive, make sure they can count on a culture of encouragement over one of criticism.

As a leader you get to choose the boundaries you set for your team. I’m convinced if you will build trust, continue to set the pace by modeling growth, communicate clear expectations, and create a positive environment, your organization will be on its way toward a playoff performance.

Count on it!

Leadership Begins at Home,


What other things does a team need to be able to count on from their leader?

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