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The Vital Two

Modern legend holds that President Ronald Reagan said something to this effect to his executive staff, Smart people can focus on one thing. Brilliant people can focus on two. I believe each one of you is brilliant. So here are the two things: bring down communism and lower taxes. If you are not working on one of these two strategies everyday you are not working on my team.History shows that his clear focus steered a busy world his way.

Phil Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to win 6 NBA titles in 10 years. As head coach, he recruited and retained the best basketball talent in the world including a guy named Michael Jordan. In his book Sacred Hoops, Jackson says his chief goal was to instill two things in his team of ego-driven, overconfident superstars. The two things: humility and generosity.

Why would a United State’s president, a champion sports coach or any leader feel the need to so strongly direct their super talented team? Shouldn’t smart people just get it and know what to do? Don’t the best leaders trust their people to do the right thing?

Reality reveals that the brightest people don’t often just get it. The truth is, the positive strengths of high achievers’ will always, every time, without exception, become crippling weaknesses when goals and roles are not clearly articulated and strongly held. When brilliant people are given a vague mission and a lax structure, it doesn’t stop them from taking action. Their innate drive to create, to feel productive and to see results kicks in. They get busy. Busy inventing new ideas and working on what they believe is important. All too often these unintentional actions result in brilliant yet unproductive activities. And the few vitally important things fade away, lost to time, like the missing memories of a beloved child afar.

The best leaders trust their people, but they also verify. They verify that people are focused on the vital two things at two levels. At the macro level effective leaders set and communicate two vital strategies for the team or organization consistently. At the micro level they expect every manager and themselves, to achieve just two mission critical results every day. In a world jam packed with endless emails, infinite meetings and advancing administrivia, people who accomplish two truly important results each day, over time, can revitalize a business, rebuild a team, re-energize a career and possibly steer a busy world their way.

Working Journal Entry:
Are people on your team wasting time inventing projects and activities that miss the point? Are you setting up your group to be productive or just busy? What are the vital two things that you want to communicate to the people who matter most in your leadership and life?

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