Essentialism: Making Decisions That Create Momentum

In Do It Well by Chris MarlowLeave a Comment

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I’m doing a five-part series for nonprofit/social good leaders (but the principles apply to anyone), based on the book Essentialism. Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2

Leaders make decisions.

It is hard, weighty work. Decisions can stop momentum dead in its tracks, or they can create momentum and push the vision forward.

Decision making is a daily grind. It can wear on your soul if you are forced to make too many decisions and yet, they are powerful forces that help build a positive culture and create the impact you dream about. 

So, how do we make decisions that create momentum for our organizations? Follow these three steps and I promise you will see great results. 

1) Focus On Less 

Decisions seems to come in three forms: good, bad, and ugly. If you want to succeed, you have to make good decisions over and over. (tweet that) Occasionally you will make a few bad decisions; that’s okay. It’s the nature of the beast. If you make an ugly decision, it can literally destroy the vision and cause tragic results or longterm pain. Often, ugly decisions are made when we burn out or have too much on our plate. 

A few years ago, I realized I had made a decision that was costing my organization dearly. I needed to make a swift decision to fix the issue. It was painful. But, if I waited longer, my bad decision might have become an ugly decision. 

This is why Essentialism is so vital. You cannot be too busy, too distracted, too stretched–especially with the most important decisions. If you don’t have the proper time, energy, and capacity, you can really cause damage to your organization. This is why great leaders understand that less = more. (tweet that) You have to trust the process, believe in your vision, have a clear line of sight, and work it over and over. And when the most crucial moments come around, you will have the ability to make good decisions that create powerful momentum. 

2) Less Equals More (Efficiency) 

You might know of (or be) “that”person. You know … running around in chaos mode, always trying to put out fires, or close deals, or raise money, or manage the madness, or reply to texts and emails. Every day you feel like you’re in the Hunger Games–just trying to survive until tomorrow. I used to be that person; now, I’m not. I’ve come to realize that I’m a much better leader when I’m making more important–but fewer–decisions. Often, we don’t have a framework or a philosophy to make decisions. 

We ask:
Should I meet with this person?
Should I speak at that event?
Should I take that trip?
Should I hire that person?
Should I invest in that technology?

Now that I have clarity, it’s much easier to think through each question and make the proper decision. This also means Help One Now can be a much more efficient organization. We’re focused on executing our strategic plan, not wasting unnecessary time and resources on activities that don’t matter. (tweet that)

3) Less Decisions Create More Energy To Do Better Work

If you can do work that matters everyday, your life will be a gift to the world. Imagine if each day, every team member in your organization was only doing the most important work. The possibilities are endless. The way to do good work is to be able to focus on fewer activities so you can produce the best possible results.

Less decisions will give you more mental and physical energy, which is vital if you want to produce good work over and over. Producing good work, over and over, is what drives an essentialist to dismantle the yes bomb, to focus on fewer details that drive greater results. When you clear your mind, you gain greater clarity–you think deeper and more strategically.

This is why my heart is so broken for nonprofit leaders. We have tremendous passion, we will sacrifice, but often, we lead our organizations into the ground, because we can’t figure out what to focus on. Scarcity drives our activities, not vision and strategy. Little by little, we run out of gas and we exhaust the people around us. 

If we focus more, we can create powerful outcomes, be able to lead efficient organizations, and have more energy to do better work each day. Of course, the goal is growth and margin; imagine having more cash to run the organization to do good and more margin to do work that matters. That is every leader’s dream, and if your organization creates discipline, you can achieve those goals as well!

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