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Simplifiers Possess These 6 Traits. How Many Do You Have?

Dernière mise à jour : 21 avr. 2021

The global health crisis has forced leaders to rethink their organizations, and according to research from BCG, simplifying operations will remain key in the “new now.” While less complexity can boost job satisfaction for employees who are currently working from home, a simplified workplace also yields long-term benefits like stronger consumer loyalty and better employee retention.

Through the process of researching and writing Why Simple Wins, I interviewed more than 100 senior leaders across the world. I discovered that the most effective simplifiers in leadership share a set of common traits that increase their odds of successfully reducing complexity in their orgs. Of the six attributes below, which do you already possess?

1. Courage. You’re comfortable with change and the unknown, and you regularly challenge the status quo. When a person, place or process is needlessly complex, you aren’t afraid to speak up. The bravery shown by Tesco grocery stores’ former CEO Dave Lewis — who reduced inventory by 30% to compete with Aldi — offers a real-world example of this characteristic. 2. Minimalist sensibility. “Less is more” could be your mantra. You’re constantly seeking to eliminate tasks or barriers that hold you back from doing more valuable work. You approach each workday by asking yourself: Is this is the simplest way to accomplish our goals? The no-email-rule embraced by the founders of Life is Good clothing company — they’re available only through meetings and calls — provides a radical approach to corporate minimalism. 3. Results-oriented. You strive for clear outcomes and accountability. Simplicity isn’t just about cost-cutting for you — it’s about getting things done. When managers at Merck Canada collectively decided to stop making decisions that their direct reports were already empowered to make, employees began taking responsibility for their choices and reported feeling more ownership over the outcomes. (Bonus: Managers found themselves with several hours of newly freed-up time every month.) MORE FOR YOU This App Is Empowering Relationships Just In Time For Valentine’s Day How Your Business Best Stands To Benefit From Embracing Automation 21 Podcasts To Listen To In 2021 4. Focus. Persistence has enabled you to achieve your goals and overcome distractions and other obstacles. When you encounter resistance, you view it as a means of getting information and making your case stronger. The straightforward value proposition of Dollar Shave Club — a $10 monthly subscription of razor-blade refills delivered to members’ doorsteps — exemplifies this trait in action. 5. Personal engagement. You’re the embodiment of a simplifier who practices what she preaches. You actively seek out simplification while empowering others to do the same. By limiting preparation for quarterly financial meeting to two slides, leadership at pharmaceutical company Novartis shortened both the length of its quarterly meetings and the prep time needed for every level of staff. It’s the kind of simplicity that tangibly impacts employees…and turns them into champions of the cause. 6. Decisiveness. You like to move things forward quickly. You don’t let a consensus‐driven culture interfere with progress. The late, great Steve Jobs was known for asking members of his C-suite “How many times did you say no today?” Jobs understood the importance of moving through the workday with purpose and this question re-enforced his stance against distractions and minutiae. Whether you recognize yourself in one of the above traits or all six, simplification is a constantly deepening process that can be applied to new areas of your business. Wise leaders know that successful simplification isn’t just about making do with less or expecting employees to do more with less. It’s ultimately about enabling teams to work on projects and initiatives that are meaningful to them and valuable to the business.

Lisa Bodell Contributor


I focus on simplifying the path to meaningful work and innovation. I’m obsessed with simplification as a work and life hack. As founder and CEO of FutureThink in NYC, I’ve helped people at Google, Novartis and Accenture kill complexity and create space for innovation. When I’m not delivering a keynote or TedX talk somewhere in the world, I’m writing books (Kill the Company and Why Simple Wins) or reading them. I’m a board adviser for the Association of Professional Futurists, council member of the World Economic Forum and a carpooling mom of two. I’ve taught innovation and creativity at both American and Fordham Universities, and the North Pole is on my bucket list because it’s where every time zone converges.

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