“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
“The secret to the big is the small.”
The first quote is an old African proverb; the second is from our training resource Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results. Understanding them can help create a significant shift in perspective for anyone who feels limited in their ability to have a real impact or to demonstrate true leadership.
Combine that shift in perspective with these three questions, and you have a powerful (yet simple) approach to creating change, one small step at a time.
1. Ask why.
Asking open-ended “why” questions can lead to new understanding, revealing opportunities for small tweaks that can make big differences.
For instance, instead of chastising someone about a missed deadline, ask why. “Why did you not get the report done on time?” can expose procedural issues that, when addressed, will enhance productivity and lower stress.
What why question can you ask about an issue that’s been bugging you for a while?
2. Is it really true?
So-called “established wisdom” is often just entrenched thinking.
There’s a classic fable about the woman who always cut off the end of the pork roast before putting it in the roasting pan and then into the oven. When her friend asked, “What’s up with that?” the woman replied, “Oh, it’s the way my mother taught me.”
But a little more research revealed that her mother’s oven was very small, so the roast had to be trimmed to fit.
What “established wisdom” could you question in your organization?
3. How can things be more simple?
Over-complication is a direct route to overwhelm.
Processes are often put in place to address a specific issue that may or may not be relevant any more. By asking “how can things be more simple,” you sidestep overwhelm, as well as the assumption that you can’t have an impact without making big changes.
Making things more simple is what big consulting companies often charge big bucks to do. But it’s a very simple (!) question that anyone can ask in any situation.
What processes are you responsible for? How can they be simplified?
These two quotes and three questions are what leadership is all about: the ability to see from different perspectives and ask the questions that reveal simple ways to improve.
Recommended Training Resource: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results shows how people in challenging situations – people just like you and me – can take one step at a time to create exceptional results. The video and training guide will help you help your employees feel less overwhelmed and more empowered in their ability to become leaders who create real change.
Additional reading: This very short blog post on Seth Godin’s blog eloquently describes the need for all of us to step up to the challenge of being first – whether in leadership or in creating. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/01/most-people-dont-believe-they-are-capable-of-initiative.html