I’m going to keep patting myself on the back for continuing the string of writing a weekly blog. The third one in the books! It seems like the concept of simplification (and consistency) I wrote about in our first blog post really helps.

Last night, I asked my girlfriend to help me simplify something. I was working on the overarching principles and order of operations and iterations for a book I am writing about process. I even did the unusual task of pulling out a pen (with ink) and actual paper to try and flow it all out.  I ended up with a complex mess that no one could read, much less understand, so I did the hard thing. I asked for help.

Polar Opposites

Now before we continue, you should understand my partner, or more importantly, our differences. We are complete opposites. Tall versus short. Tanned versus freckles. Left brain versus right brain. Methodical versus artistic. Straight-lined black and white versus squiggly rainbow. She does amazing art for a living, while I organize things and write processes. I live at my computer while she avoids hers at all costs. I call her “squirrel” (with behaviors including erratic patterns when crossing the street in front of cars). I knew because of these differences, I had just asked for a session of heated argument.

I steeled myself as she went through my scribbles asking for clarifications of terms and their meanings in my context. She would ask what is connected, and I’d answer. Then she started saying some nonsenses about circles, connections, and plants. I argued that Step A had to happen before Step B. Somehow she brought up colors and I yell out, “IT’S A PROCESS, WHAT DO COLORS HAVE TO DO WITH IT!” Thank goodness, I’m only temporarily defensive and frustrated. I back off, and try answering another way.

We go back and forth on analogies. Beating them up until we are suddenly talking in the same analogy, and just seeing where all the pieces fit. Next thing you know, I’m looking at a beautifully-drawn (I told her rough draft was fine, but she can’t help the drawing beautifully part) that had illustrated what was in my head logically and easily.  It took the complex ideas I had and made them easy to understand and see how they all connected and flowed. We had successfully argued and simplified.

Simplification, Not So Simple

Simplification is one of my six mandates of leadership. The trick with simplification is it’s far from easy. I just sat down and started scribbling all the thoughts in my head, and what came out was very accurate and maybe even usable (if I had written legibly). It was easy to create but complex. As soon as I tried to simplify it, I got frustrated and felt stupid. What I love about the simplification mandate in the IT Services field, is so many of us are beyond-average smart and we understand complex topics easily. Therefore we tend to struggle more with simplification than other leaders, so I find myself frequently helping them simplify their thoughts and processes. Simplification is necessary to help more people understand what they are trying to convey, whether it be clients, employees, or anyone else. Simplification is paramount, and it’s why we call them “mandates” of leadership.

Build Trust, Then Disagree

Perhaps I am breaking my own mandate here, but I’d like to highlight a second lesson from last night’s argument. Disagreement is good! Simplification is not natural for me, but it is mandated if I’m going to lead others down this path. Constructive disagreement is one of those skills I have to practice. During our argument last night, I wanted to quit. I wanted it to be over with. But she and I had both had developed the trust required to have healthy disputes.

This concept comes from “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. We have it in our Reading List if you want to check it out. I always want to push our clients’ Leadership Teams to have healthy conflict, but we typically can’t start there. We have to build that layer of trust, first. Then, once we have trust, we can have healthy conflict.  As the book discusses, this conflict leads to real commitment, accountability, and results. Argue your way to good results!

In this case, we argued our way to mandated simplification and simplification is worth arguing for. If your team is having challenges following your process, perhaps the issue is complexity or a lack of argument. I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments. If you need some help with simplification, I’m glad to make myself available to argue with you about it. Book a call here and let’s fight!