Simplicity is one of the core elements of the FAST Leadership approach, and it’s probably the one I get asked about more than any other. People understand why simplicity is important, they’re just not sure how to achieve it.
In my experience I have noticed that a lot of people tend to overcomplicate matters, so often the best way to keep things simple is not to overcomplicate things in the first place. It’s amazing the lengths we will go to complicate matters.
I remember when I was 16, this was back in the mid 70’s long before the internet or cellphones, and my dad’s boss John wanted to book a holiday cottage in France. Now as there was no email or internet booking John was going to have to arrange this over the phone, but he was convinced that his French wasn’t good enough to be able to do that. He could speak quite a bit of French but not enough to do a complete booking.
John mentioned this to my father who said,’ no problem, my son Gordon can help as he’s learning French is school’.
So a couple of days later I came into the office to meet the boss and make the call. Before I did that John told me he wanted to make the booking for the first two weeks of August, and that he wanted to know if there were any special arrangement that he needed to be aware of. He asked me if I felt that my French was good enough and I said ‘yes, no problem”.
John dialled the number in France and passed me the phone. I took the phone and the first thing I said was “Parlez-Vous Anglais’, which is French for do you speak English. The person on the other end of the phone said ‘Yes of course’.
So I said ‘I’d like to book the cottage for the first two weeks in August’.
John was livid. He couldn’t believe that it hadn’t occurred to him to ask them if they could speak english, he had just assumed they would only speak French and that his French was not good enough. He’d over complicated the situation by overlooking a potentially simple solution.
Whenever I work with teams or companies I tell them this story, because it’s a great example and it reminds them to not overlook the obvious.
The more we focus on keeping things simple the better we become as it. It’s a habit that we can develop and improve and its one that pays big dividends.
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