When I was a kid, I used to play basketball all of the time. When you live in the Northwestern US, there were only two sports your could really play year round: basketball and soccer. For a good nine months, you could depend on rain interrupting your sport regularly and basketball was one where there were a lot of covered or indoor facilities available. I never could get into soccer as I had big clumsy feet that couldn’t direct a ball. Of course, my big clumsy feet hurt my basketball play as well but at least I could compensate with my hands.
When I was playing basketball, I used to say “stupid easy” all of the time. It refers to a task that should be so incredibly easy, you can do it in your sleep, after a few sips of an adult beverage … anything. A layup, a free throw and really any shot within 10 feet of the basket should be stupid easy if you’ve played basketball regularly. It is all about repetition and muscle memory.
That’s why when Nick McCormick sent me his book Lead Well and Prosper, I was so happy to see its size. It is a short 96 pages so I read through it twice. The first time I went through it, I did what I do for most of the books I read: focus on covering a lot of ground, skipping sections that are obvious or redundant. That took me about a half an hour. The next night, I read through it word for word and it took me about an hour.
The first thing you should know about this book is that it is a teaching book. The underlying message is that this book gives you advice on how to handle much of the tactical, day to day processes of being a manager. You may be tempted to note or highlight in the book. Please do! That’s what paper was made for after all.
The more implicit point is that good leadership is stupid easy. Anyone can learn the skills necessary to be a good leader in their organization. If a book that is 96 pages and holds your hand through the process doesn’t convince you that you too can be a good leader, I don’t know what will. This book could easily be used as a leadership training manual.
You’ll also notice that I am differentiating between good and great leadership. We have a shortage of good leaders in Corporate America. While our great leaders are often visionary, there is a dramatic drop off from that. I believe being a good leader is stupid easy and that people only need a few pieces, repetition and memory. It is a path that nearly anyone can take.
If I had to pull my favorite pieces of advice out of Nick’s book, I would take the following:
Listen — A skill that must be practiced, repeated and constantly checked. It isn’t difficult, it just takes time to form the habit.
Do What You Say You’ll Do — If you say you’re going to do something, execute. Don’t overbook yourself as it is better to say no at the front than when it is needed.
Embrace the Uncomfortable — Problem employee? Boss who throws everything out of whack? You have to be willing to take care of these things head on.
For the other 12, you can check out the book. We’ll also be doing a contest over at HRM Today to give away a few of these books too so stay tuned.