Simple, Not Easy

“Simple, not easy.”

Hearing this line from Leif Babin, co-author of Extreme Ownership, during FranklinCovey’s On Leadership interview came about 20 years late in my career.

In fact, most insights seem to come to me one or two decades too late. Or perhaps I just wasn’t listening. Fact is—I was likely talking.

I’ve been told countless times by colleagues that I’m one of the most creative people they know. Thanks for the compliment and before those reading this think I’m into self-puffery—I hear has its share of vitriol about me (or so I’m told, I don’t read it as it might kill my creativity).

The downside to us “creative types” is we often have too much creativity and can’t turn it off, or don’t even try. In our minds, all ideas are created equal (read: they’re our own so they must be GENIUS) and therefore, as leaders, we push everything out as equally important and urgent. Everything we think up must get done, right now.

No differentiation. No contemplation. No reflection.

Just do it all and do it as fast as possible. And in the process, we often overcomplicate everything, or under-explain it. Because it’s clear in our own mind, it must be obvious to everyone else as well.                                                              

Whether you’re pushing it out to a team or executing it yourself, it can be overwhelming and often results in burnout or, worse, low-quality work. I’ve learned a few vital lessons on this topic from the past 80 On Leadership interviews:

  • More is not better. Better is better. Most of us have nearly endless options in life, and it’s only getting more complicated every day. What are you deliberately saying no to? Are there some opportunities, offers, ideas, projects, or relationships that you should say no to because they will come at the expense of delivering your best work/contribution/outcomes on something else?
  • I think it was Brendon Burchard who said, “Most things in life are better done slower.” This haunts me, as I do everything fast. Likely too fast. Especially with people, slow down. One of Dr. Covey’s most famous quotes was “With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.” Profound!

Vacuuming the kitchen floor? Fast is fine. Taking my three boys for ice cream? Slow as possible.

  • Look around inside your company. Examine your processes, structures, systems, and procedures. Check your ego and simplify them all. Why do smart people so often need to complicate everything? I think to look smart. Wise people simplify.

Why are all compensation plans so damn complicated? Truth be told, I have zero idea how I’m paid. I am an executive in a public company, and I can’t explain to my wife (or myself) how my annual bonus is calculated. Even when our CFO, who is a superb leader, tries to explain it, I just nod my head as if I understand—which I don’t. Shame on me. But why is it so complicated?

Simplify. Slow down. Focus. Do less, better.

Leading a team requires a different skillset than working as an individual contributor. To succeed in the face of new challenges, first-level leaders need to shift how they think and act. Download our latest guide and develop your people into a high-performing team. 

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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