Easy Button Leadership (EBL)

In my book Ignite Your Leadership Expertise, I wrote that leaders make life easier, less complicated and more fun for those around them. When I first drafted those words several years ago, I’ll admit they felt a little cheesy. But over the years, I’ve come to realize their merit all too well.

“Leaders make life easier, less complicated and more fun for those around them.”

When you take just a minute to notice the state of the American corporate workforce, it won’t take long to realize pretty much everyone in charge leads an incredibly hectic life. They fight fires, address new problems and rush to prepare for the next emergency meeting – all before their coffee is finished!

If you want to support the leaders in your organization, be careful! When your help looks or feels like more extra work, be prepared for a negative reaction. Instead, look for ways your ideas and requests can feel like an “Easy Button” (from the famous Staples television campaign) for their challenges.

Here are some of the ways you can employ Easy Button Leadership (or, EBL for short) for the leaders you serve.

Understand Their Priorities

If you don’t take the time to listen and understand the problems, concerns and priorities of the people you serve, you’re doomed from the start. Every suggestion you make should be filtered through the lens of what’s most important to the leaders you serve. Demonstrate how following your advice will make them more successful, not just take up more time.

“Every suggestion you make should be filtered through the lens of what’s most important to the leaders you serve.”

Communicate Early and Often

Aside from kids on their birthday, not many people appreciate surprises, especially in a work context. This is particularly true when it comes to change. The best way to avoid unwelcome surprises is to communicate early and often about upcoming changes. Short and sweet bursts to warm people up are usually better received and reinforced than unexpected massive presentations and emails.

Set Clear Expectations From the Start

The cost of unclear expectations are sky high. Always go the extra mile to provide accurate and realistic expectations right from the start. If you can’t provide a certain level of service, it is better to be upfront about what you can and can’t commit to than to under-deliver down the road.

“If you can’t provide a certain level of service, it is better to be upfront about what you can and can’t commit to than to under-deliver down the road.”

Half-Solve Problems Upfront

If the support you provide requires follow-up action, do everything in your power to partially complete the tasks before you send the request. If there is something you can do, do it. And don’t feel shy about sharing your contribution – it helps leaders to know they have a partner willing to get his hands dirty instead of just passing along requests.

Present (Just a Few) Options

In their bestselling book Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath note that most people can make quicker decisions when presented only a few options. The more options, the more paralysis by analysis. Easy Button Leadership means doing the thought labor upfront to condense the comprehensive possibilities into a few good options to consider. Simple beats complex nearly every single time.

“Simple beats complex nearly every single time.”

Clearly Identify Action Steps

If the leaders you support need to take action, it should always be clearly identified. Don’t leave meetings without recapping agreed upon action steps. When you send email requests, clearly outline who must do what by when. Outlaw ambiguity. Make it impossible to miss what needs to happen next to mark progress.

“Outlaw ambiguity.”

Easy Button Leadership isn’t easy, but the rewards are enormous. If you want to gain credibility, influence and a permanent seat at the leadership table, EBL is the way to go.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, facilitator and author of the book Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to download Nathan's free white paper: Nine Ways to Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For.