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Do Less! Get More Done? (#70)

The Confident Leader

Professional soccer players run seven to ten miles in a single game. They are prone to activity. Curiously, so are the players who move the least, the goalies. 

In a penalty kick situation, if a goalie were to stay solely in the center of the goal, they would stop 33% of all penalty kick attempts. But a recent study revealed that goalies only stay in the center 6% of the time. Lunging left or right feels like the right thing to do despite the stats.  Leaders fall into the same trap. 

More businesses die from indigestion than starvation.
— David Packard (founder of Hewlett-Packard)

This Week’s Edition

If we did less, would we get more done? 

Clarify Your Thinking

Recently, I was preparing for a strategic planning session I was hired to conduct for a national organization. The pre-work completed by the team included a long list of current initiatives. At first glance, the scope of the initiatives seemed too big for the size of the team, and they were not producing all the results desired. 

Another portion of the pre-work, revealed each leader’s opinion about their current state:

On the first day of the strategy session, the CEO made her announcement to the group, “I want us to really focus this coming year and execute with precision to post a win. I want us to double down and finally make it happen this year.”

Her team reflexively agreed. I quietly disagreed. I heard, “Too bad about last year. This coming year, let’s do more things and hope we get a different result.”  

Like soccer goalies, we leaders have a bias toward action, busying ourselves by lunging left and lunging right to satisfy the voice in our head that we are not doing enough to achieve success.

Leaders proactively choose to do a lot. Some projects multiply. Others never end because leaders fail to stop outdated efforts. Other times, leaders told to do a lot by others: analysts, the board of directors or demanding clients. When leaders we rush to activity they are complicit. Sometimes they need to say “no.” 

So, we just do more only to end each year feeling frustrated, having tried everything, and exhausted, having driven too hard. Many leaders quietly confess to me that they have begun to question their strategy, their vision and oftentimes their own leadership.  

Thoughts Lead to Actions

In 2016, I listened to a podcast by Tim Ferris. He offered 17 questions to prepare for the coming year. At first, some of the questions felt absurd. Upon reflection, their brilliance was in their ridiculousness. Those questions led to insights that fuel my business to this day.

In the spirit of Tim Ferris

What if you could only do one thing next year?

What if, for some reason, you were constrained by time, money or resources, and you could only focus on one strategic initiative? What would it be? 

What is the one thing you would pursue to achieve your vision? (Note: Read Newsletter #39 for instruction on how to create your vision).  Organizations that select fewer priorities are 16% more likely to be in the top tier of their industry.

Saying it another way, what is your backbone initiative – THE strategy that, when you pursue it (and achieve it), will give you the right to play at the next level? 

In the strategic planning session, I asked the leaders that question. Initially, I got some blank stares. I changed tack slightly and asked, “what game are you really playing?” 

Finally, one leader said, “to empower our employees to serve our clients.” While this may not seem particularly revelatory as a stand-alone statement, it was powerful for the group. It reminded them of their purpose and drove a conversation that revealed the one strategic initiative that they had to pursue next year. 

The clarity had them feeling energized (less exhausted) hopeful (less frustrated) and eager to focus on the initiative that would be the backbone for all their work.


Boost Your Performance

Steve Jobs is routinely credited as being a brilliant innovator. In his autobiography, he questions this description of himself. I believe he was a master at staying disciplined to one thing which led to the next and led to next.  He knew what his backbone initiative was at any given time.  Find out in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

Share your Backbone Initiative with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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