David Marquet - Intent Based Leadership: Create Leaders at Every Level

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Leadership Nudge™ – Got Frustration?

Today we’re going to talk about Principle One of Intent Based Leadership

Leaders tune the level of control they grant the team to the team’s competence and clarity. We’re going to illustrate that with fig. 1a.


On the vertical axis we have Control

Control is the ability to make decisions. You can think about it also as empowerment. Higher up, the team has more authority. Down low, the boss retains all the decision making authority.

On the horizontal axis we have competence and clarity.

Competence is the technical part of my job. And clarity is the purpose or why or what we’re trying to achieve.

So in any particular situation, the job of the leader is to tune how much control he or she is giving the team to the team’s competence and clarity.

If you give too much control, or you’ve given more decision making ability to the team than is warranted by their competence and clarity, then they’re going to make bad decisions. We call this “chaos.” It’s the fear of every leader trying to execute an empowerment program.

On the other hand, if we play it too safe, and the team doesn’t have the ability to make decisions that are warranted by the training and the understanding that they have, then that’s “frustration.”

When we poll organizations, 63% of people say they’re down here in the frustration zone. You probably have the ability to just give a little bit more control without even doing anything in competence and clarity.

Your job as a leader is to tune the level of control to the team’s competence and clarity.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – Be Happier With This One Practice

One of the things that is scientifically proven to help people be happier is to focus on gratitude.

Focus on things that you’re grateful for. An easy way to do this is to keep a “gratitude journal.”

At the end of the day write down at least one thing that you’re grateful for. Really commit to doing it.

Here’s why: If you know that at the end of the day you’re going to have to write down one thing, you’re going to be looking for positive things all day long.

That’s going to help you maintain a positive mindset and help you be happier.

I cut and paste my gratitude journal for a year into a word cloud and that was interesting too.

Maintain a gratitude journal and you’ll be happier.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge

Leadership Nudge™ – Smash Silos with Words

Today we’re going to talk about building a team using the word “we”.

The word “we” is how we refer to “our team”.

In this example, we have two groups of people. In each group, they refer to themselves internally as “we”, but refer to the other group as “they” or “them”.

So, we say “Well, we’re doing this.”, “We made this decision.”, or we say “We’re waiting on them.”, “They made this decision.”

That We/They boundary defines where the team is.

If you want to have one big team, then you need to act your way to new thinking. In other words, don’t say “Think like a team” or “Feel like a team”, say “Act like a team”. Teams use the word “We”.

We’re going to practice referring to “them” as “we”, and “they” should practice referring to us as “we”. Pretty soon, it’s just one big “we”.

Then, it will feel like a team, but the action comes first. We act our way to new thinking.

The language defines the team boundary. The language is the team boundary.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – How to Inspire Change When You Speak

When I started giving keynotes, I didn’t see a lot of adoption from the keynote’s inspiration. So, I worked on deconstructing the formula for doing that. Basically, it looks like this:

Diagram Illustrating how to tell a story that inspires people to change

Here’s an example:

Simon Sinek’s blockbuster “Start with Why” speech kind of follows this pattern.

  • Specific Other – (Example)

“Let’s talk about Apple. Let’s talk about the Wright brothers. Why are they successful when others aren’t?”

  • General Other – (Lesson)

“It turns out they do something the opposite. Instead of starting with the outside, (What, How, Why), they start in the middle. They start with why.”

  • Science

“That’s how our brains are wired.”

  • General You – (Imagine Statement)

“Imagine if you could do this.”

  • Specific You – (Action)

“What could you do tomorrow to start changing and start with why?”

Imagine that every time you interacted with a group, you were able to get behavior adoption and behavior modification.

Think about this formula the next time you give a talk.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge!

Leadership Nudge™ – How to Use Mechanisms to Change Behavior

Today I’m going to talk about mechanisms.

Mechanisms are a great way to influence human behavior in organizations. Mechanisms work through a system that is designed so that you can’t help but comply with the desired behavior.

In this case, it is – put the toilet seat down.

We have here an example of a great mechanism. It works like this:

The toilet seat, when you raise it, covers the button to flush the toilet. So, you can’t flush the toilet without putting the seat down.

I love it!

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge!

Leadership Nudge™ – Meetings that Work: How to Engage People

Have you ever been in a meeting, workshop, or seminar where you said “Hey, are there any questions?” and there was this dull silence that goes on for a while? It can be a little awkward. I’m going to tell you how to fix that problem once and for all.

The tool is called: “One, Some, All”.

If you want to get the group engaged, and you want to get them to start participating, do it in a way that’s safe and progressive.


First, you say, “On your own, think about this. Write down any ideas that you might have. Take 90 seconds.”


Then, to a small group, (or just lean to your neighbor sitting next to you). “Talk about what you all have.” As a group gets bigger, you need to give more time, from 90 seconds, give them 3 minutes.


Finally, “Ok, now. Who wants to start us on the conversation?” Boom! Immediately 4 hands go up.

So it’s: One (On your own), Some (At your table), All

I’m David Marquet, that’s your leadership nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – Give Control, Save Lives

Today, I want to tell you about a study which shows how important control is to people’s lives and their health.

Now, the basis for this study is something called the JDC (Job Demand-Control Model).

The idea is: If I can look at a job and plot it on two different dimensions the two different dimensions would be

  1. How demanding is it?
    • Are there time limits?
    • Does it require focus, etc.
    • Is it cognitively taxing?

    Basically, you’re all in demanding jobs.

  2. How much control do I have?
    • Over the work that I do.
    • How I do it
    • Where and when that I do it

Now it turns out, that for low demand jobs, giving people more control does not have a positive impact on their life. But in high demand jobs, a long-term study showed that people with higher control had a 43% less chance of dying during the period of this study than people in high demand/low control jobs.

So, as leaders, when you start giving your people control over how and where and when they work, not only are you getting a better outcome for yourself, and are they feeling good, but you’re actually saving their lives.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your leadership nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – How to Build Trust

Today I’m going to talk about building trust in your team and having your team trust you.

Trust is a function of transparency over time.

You can’t be super vulnerable and transparent one time and have them trust you, and you can’t only be a little transparent over a long time.

There have to be multiple occurrences of being transparent and open with your team.

Here’s an example of how not to do it:

A manufacturing company with multiple sites made a decision at the executive level: They’re going to shut down a site. But they don’t tell the people at the site until the very last minute.

Now, when it happens and the axe falls, everyone else, at all the rest of the sites, are continuously wondering: “Might the axe fall on us? We know that we can’t trust them and it could fall at the very last minute.”

So, here’s my nudge to you:

See if you can be more transparent, more repeatedly, with your team and you’ll see the mutual trust grow.

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – Improve Information Flow

Today I’m going to talk about the relationship between Power Gradient and Information Flow.

Along the bottom axis, we have Power Gradient. Power Gradient is a social and personal phenomenon that can be thought of as “How more important does my boss feel than me? How much more authority do they have?”, and likewise, “How much more important do I seem than the people below me?”

Signs of a steep Power Gradient are things like physical separation, private offices, executive dining rooms, executive washrooms, parking spots, that kind of thing.

So, the rule is: Information Flow is inversely proportional to Power Gradient.

At a steep Power Gradient, those executives who wall themselves off are not getting a lot of information from the organization. At a shallow Power Gradient, the executive who sits out in the open space is getting a lot more.

So, when someone comes into your office and you’re sitting behind your desk, and you get up and walk around and sit next to them, so you’re both equal, you’re leveling the Power Gradient. It’s going to make it easier for them to share their information.

I’m David Marquet, and that’s your Leadership Nudge.

Leadership Nudge™ – Listen Like a Leader

A Leader’s Guide to Listening

Effective Listening is Not About You: It’s About Them

Effective Listening is not hearing every word said.

Effective Listening is about ensuring that the person talking to you feels heard.

Effective Listening Takes Effort

Effective Listening requires giving our full attention.

Giving our full attention is not always easy and takes practice.

If you get this right you may avoid pain for yourself and others. You may be able to save a relationship.

Follow these three essential steps to making others feel heard:


  1. Stop what you’re doing
  2. Open your ears
  3. Show you understand

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