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#5: Fix Processes, Not People

This has been the most effective leadership concept in my career. I have run across plenty of people I would like to force to change, including many of my bosses, managers, and leaders up the line. Try as I may, it is not possible. The only person I can change is myself.

So, what can we do? Change the process. On the board of a non-profit organization, we decided to hold a leadership summit to bring leaders together and talk about new leadership ideas. As the chair, I asked who would like to help me. To my delight, 12 board members volunteered and we began weekly conference calls. However, only five people would call in at a time. Without a quorum, we couldn’t make a decision! The same five people kept calling in. I wondered how I could get the other volunteers to participate and realized they were busy consultants and leaders in their own companies, and there was probably not much I could do to make the weekly calls a higher priority for them. I could not change their behaviors. So, I made the five people who called in all the time the committee and the other seven advisors. The advisors could participate if they wanted to, but the committee did not need them for a vote to make decisions. I changed the process, removed the obstacles, and we delivered a successful, on-time leadership summit.


I am always surprised when leaders say that a culture change would cost too much, or that they cannot afford the consultants to help them decide what to do next, or they can’t afford the training for developing effective leaders. None of these five points I have discussed cost anything to implement. They are simple to do and, when implemented well, make dramatic results on the top and bottom lines.

We make our way up the organization chart by solving great problems successfully. Now, as a leader, we must figure out how to help our teams solve the problems through questions. Make the shift from giving the answers to trusting your team to find their own way to deliver. Then, stand back and let them deliver.

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