When Simple isn’t Easy

Last week I traveled to do a presentation for a Vistage CEO Peer Group. It was a lovely group of CEOs who were keen to learn how to create more value in their businesses and prepare themselves for an exit. I enjoy these sessions as the Vistage members are always engaged and enthusiastic about learning new things to improve their businesses.

As I was setting up, one of the members approached me and told me he had read my book Tandem Leadership: How Your #2 Can Make You #1. “I’m trying to implement Tandem Leadership right now.”

(Side Note: If you haven’t read my book, Tandem Leadership is a methodology on how a CEO and his/her #2 person work together to more successfully lead and manage a business. You can read the first chapter here.

When I asked him how it was going, he said, “It seems so simple but it’s not easy.”

While we didn’t get a chance to speak much more, his words have stayed with me. 

Simple vs Easy.

The definition of simple is “easily understood or done” while easy is “achieved without great effort.”

Therein lies the paradox. Most of my clients are visionary leaders and creators. Once they “figure something out” the execution is a foregone conclusion – even if they have not determined how their vision will become reality. 

The hard (not easy) part of the equation is often the follow-through and execution. Because most likely achieving a new vision requires “great effort” in the way we show up in all ways big and small.

I suspect that’s why both BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits and James Clear’s Atomic Habits are so popular with business leaders. Both authors subscribe to the ways that the idea of compounding small (or even micro) habits (simple) and following them (not always easy) are the key to achieving our goals. 

For me, the key to leaders successfully implementing Tandem Leadership is two-fold:

  • Vision – In addition to having a company vision, the entrepreneur must fully understand what their personal vision looks like when they have this key person in place  – what are they doing with their time, what is different and what is the same.
  • Commitment – The willingness to make the vision happen, even when everything falls apart – team members leave, customers call, etc. It is in the simplest terms, their most compelling reason for making the vision happen.

In my own clients, I have seen CEO/Entrepreneurs literally flounder for what seems like years and then suddenly, a crisis or an amazing opportunity presents itself (interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter which) and everything changes (seemingly) overnight. Both of those occurrences create a clarity for the CEO that they were missing previously.

When I work with my clients, we always work to nail down what’s different and the same for them in this new vision and this becomes a part of their “why”. It doesn’t need to be complicated or grandiose – just compelling enough to invest in both simple and challenging changes that need to be made to create the success they desire. When the effort seems challenging or complicated, we come back to that vision to remember why the investment in this change is worth the effort. The next time I meet someone who tells me that Tandem Leadership concepts are “simple but not easy”, I’ll ask them to paint me a picture of how their life will be better and what they will be doing differently. It might be challenging but almost all of the time, it’s worth it.