One thing business schools do get right is about writing down and reducing things down to priorities. Have your to-do list and your do-not list and on your to-do list really keep it down to five simple things and no more. And don’t add another one until you knock one off.
When you think about how you can create a culture of accountability, of understanding what it is you're trying to achieve, what CEO’s and founders and managers need to do out there is each year, write down very clearly in plain English the five things you’re trying to accomplish. And make that a public document to your board and to your employees, and come back to it with the intellectual honesty, with the non-revisionist historian lens of saying, “Oh, I didn’t really mean that.”
Put down those five things and come back and check on them. When you tell people these are the five things that matter and that’s all that matters, it’s amazing how people can rowdy around. People are smart; they’ll figure out how to achieve those goals. The problem is that people tend to veer off, they tend to not be honest about why something didn’t work. You build great cultures by both commanding the respect with those priorities set out but also earning the respect when things don’t go right and rewarding people when things really do go well, and it was because of them.
But where you can work really at the next level of leadership is through clear, clear, clear communication of what your top five things are and it’s as simple as that. It’s common sense, just not commonly done enough.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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