This year’s opening keynote speaker at the LCI Congress in Fort Worth was Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism. He displayed the image on the left to illustrate the distinction between being pulled in multiple directions and being able to focus on one essential concern. Several people I spoke with later those two days mentioned they felt like the circle on the left and wished they could be like the circle on the right.

Greg’s message was that we need to strip away the non-essential and focus only was is essential to our purpose. Well enough in concept was the sentiment I heard expressed. The common concern was with the expectations, spoken and unspoken, they felt placed on them. They can literally feel these expectations pulling them in all directions and feel powerless to change their situations.

The powerlessness comes from feeling we need to solve this concern on our own. This only is possible for tasks we perform in isolation. Most of us work in teams, therefore need to address the concern as a team. It starts with a team conversation. Recommended topics for the conversation follow.

  • Does the team have an explicit shared meaningful purpose for its work? Understanding and regularly checking in with a shared purpose helps identify unnecessary tasks and rituals that can be dismissed. Much like rowers in a racing shell rowing in unison, aligning purpose promotes team focus and harmony.
  • Are project leaders holding on to too much authority and responsibility? Success can breed expectations that people expand their reach and take on more responsibility. Doing this successfully requires that people shed responsibility to people less experienced and quite possibly not quite ready. This reminds me of the time, long ago, I was asked to drive a truck with a manual transmission. As my foremen said, I’d figure it out – besides, it’s a company truck. Let people “not ready” figure it out. Be there if needed, without stepping in too early.
  • Is the team able to display the status of current commitments and do people feel welcome to step in and help others who fall behind? People new to an organization or profession are at times underutilized, and willing to step in to help where needed. Find a way to let others know where stretched people on the team need help.

What else? This list is far from all-inclusive. What topics should we add to this discussion?