The Big Little Leadership Idea

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The Big Little Leadership Idea

While John Bell attained the position of CEO, I was drawn to his message because he exemplifies the every day leader.  Following is a guest post from John where he shares some wisdom from his newly released book, Do Less Better, as it applies to every one of us regardless of position or title.

We’ve all heard or talked about “the big idea.”

Creative people and entrepreneurs hunt for big ideas every day. But what constitutes a big idea?

My definition is this: a big idea must first make sense of things; and secondly, a big idea must create impact.

When I was a boy, I was helping my father build a wooden deck. I asked if I could saw some of the boards. To my surprise, he said, “All right, but be careful.” He then explained how I should hold his old-fashioned hand saw, and how to begin the cut, but all I could think about was sawing a board. Before he allowed that, he tossed me a measuring tape, and said, “Measure twice and cut once.”

My father didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to, because inherent in his counsel was the notion that in carpentry, careful planning is very important. “Measure twice and cut once” is a big idea because it makes sense of things, it reduces frustration, and it saves precious time and expensive wood.

Fast forward to today’s world of business. Everyone is expected to do more and more to meet the escalating challenges of customers and shareholders. There is a better way; I call it do less, better. Yes, I’m referring to the power of “focus,” but there is more to it than that.

Do Less Better is the trick to becoming a specialist.

Specialists beat generalists – always have, always will. This is how small to medium-sized companies thrive against global giants. Specialists are known for doing one or two things very, very well. And customers are prepared to pay for that.

This “big little idea” starts with one of the shortest, yet most potent, verbs in the English language – DO

DO represents resolve. Do expresses action. Regardless of the role you play in business, sports, the arts, or this enigma we call life, the expectation bestowed you is that you must act. You must DO something, and hopefully . . . whatever that “something” is, you will DO it well.

Hence the adjective BETTER, the qualifier, begging the question, “better than what?” Well, certainly better than your competitors, but also better than you thought, or better than the last time you tackled that particular task.

This brings me to LESS. 

“Doing less” is at odds with everything you hear and see in this busy world. C-suites, corporate boards, and Wall Street want more from you . . . and yet, in the same breath, these folks preach focus, but don’t practice it, themselves. This mode of leadership opens the door to business diffusion and complexity. Complexity complicates lives. It also stifles and stagnates, and left unchecked, it will bring a company to its knees.

Business complexity has never been greater – but it is not the phenomenon itself, but rather the inability to cut through the clutter, that comes in the way of resurrecting clarity and coherence.

Doing less, better is by no means doing less work. More often than not, those who embrace the notion of focus work harder, because they are more passionate and emotionally connected to the vision.

Whether you lead a Fortune 100 company or a small team, are you focused enough to lead yourself and your team to do less better?



John BellJohn R. Bell, the author of Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World, is a retired consumer packaged goods CEO and a global strategy consultant to some of the world’s most respected blue-chip organizations. He can be reached at www.dolessbetter.ca or www.ceoafterlife.com.



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