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

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Leadership Nudge™ – Focus on Success

Take a look at this graphic:

I bet it took you just a few seconds to spot the mistake.

Our brains are wired to notice errors.

An elementary school teacher posted this on social media and his 3rd graders laughed at him for making the mistake. Then, he asked, “What about the nine answers that are correct?”

In our busy world, we tend to focus a lot of our energy on the mistakes that we made. This creates an “avoid errors” mindset. What we want to do is move towards achieving excellence rather than avoiding errors.

So, the next time you or someone around you makes a mistake, yes,of course acknowledge and learn from it, and focus on the great things, the successes, that you and the people around you are accomplishing.

I’m Jenni Jepsen with your Leadership Nudge

Let us know how it goes!

Leadership Nudge™ – Stop Telling People What to Do

Stop telling people what to do.

We tell people what to do so often, that we don’t even recognize when we’re doing it.

So, here’s a good activity:

Here in the men’s room we have a sign that says: “Please do not flush paper towels”.


Someone probably flushed paper towels down the toilet and it clogged the toilet, disabling it and it resulted in maintenance costs. So, we tell them “Don’t flush paper towels.”

A better approach:

Let’s be explicit about the impact of flushing paper towels: “Flushing paper towels results in putting the toilet out of commission and higher maintenance costs.”

Stop telling people what to do.

An activity for you is to go around your workplace and look for all kinds of signs like this, (where we’re telling people what to do). Take them down and replace them with signs that describe the impact of the activity and trust them as adults to do the right thing.

Leadership Nudge™ – Sit in Their Seat

A while back, I sent a nudge where I talked about putting one of your people in your seat, but, it also works the other way around, and it’s very powerful.

So, do this:

Schedule time, at least an hour, to take the place of one of your people and really do their job. (Code, schedule, plan, operate… whatever it is they do.)

A recent studya showed that one of the most powerful determinants in worker happiness was whether the boss understood the worker’s job well enough to do it themselves.

This works for a number of reasons:

  1. You understand their problem.
  2. You demonstrate that their job is important, and certainly not beneath you.
  3. You train your brain to have empathy for them.

Artz B, Goodall AH, Oswald AJ (2014) Boss competence and worker well-being, working paper

Leadership Nudge™ – Fix the Environment, Not the People

I’m on a coffee plantation in Medellin, Colombia at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.

The coffee plants have bean and they’re red, which means they’re ready for picking!
The farmer did a great job of putting the plant on the right slope with the right sun and shade combinations and the right amount of water. So the plant grew!

If the plant didn’t grow, the farmer couldn’t stand on the side of the field and just yell at the plant. It wouldn’t grow, and yet, that’s what I sometimes see bosses do. They haven’t created the right environment for their people, but they’re just going to compensate by maybe just yelling at them.

It makes no sense. It has the same impact, which is zero. (Actually, it’s a negative impact).

So, as leaders, what we want to do is the same thing that the farmer does:

Create the right environment for our people to grow and they’ll grow naturally.

Leaders fix the environment, not the people.

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

Leadership Nudge™ – Make the Invisible Visible

I’m here at Children’s Hospital of Colorado where we’re building a new hospital.

Humans like to be able to see, touch, and get a sense of where things are oriented.

So, here we have these mock-ups. We’re using just pegboard to mock up what the new patient rooms will look like.

There used to be a bed here and some carts, but you can still see what’s on the wall. There’s an oxygen connection, power outlets; even a clock, monitors and that kind of thing.

The nurses and the doctors come and move these things around. It’s very easy. It’s just on peg-board.

Now, another way to make the invisible visible is with the schedule.

So, here we have the scheduled graph, and this is called a ‘pull chart’.

People are putting a sticky note on the schedule – making it very visible to everyone:

“Here is what I need to be able to deliver this by this date.”

It’s part of the same principle. Make the invsibile visible.

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

Leadership Nudge™ – Push Authority to Information

I’m here at St. Cloud Fire and Rescue where we’re pushing authority to information.

I’m here with Nate, the lieutenant. Nate was part of a team that redesigned this truck just for the team. It’s a brand-new truck.

Now, a couple of things – This is the control panel for the truck. This is where the engineer stands controlling pressures and hoses and that kind of thing.

But what happens if the fire is on the other side of the truck? They couldn’t see the fire so they always had to leave their station and go around the front of the truck to look at the fire. What they did is designed a camera right here so that they can see on the other side.

Next, they sometimes signal to the firefighters inside the building using the horn, but again, the engineer would have to go to the front end of the truck and pull the string to blast the horn. What did they do here? They just put a button right here. It’s not a standard feature. It was thought of by the team.

That’s what pushing authority to information looks like.

Thanks to Nate and the rest of the St. Cloud Fire & Rescue for everything that they do!

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

Leadership Nudge™ – The Power of Yet

Hi, I’m Jenni Jepsen with your Leadership Nudge.

Our brains have evolved over thousands of years to see the danger around us. Hard-wiring these negative connections has allowed us to survive as a species, and it has also made it easy for us to say “I can’t” or “We can’t”.

The next time you hear someone say “I can’t” or “We can’t”, add the word “yet” – “I can’t yet” or “We can’t yet”.

Adding the word “yet” sends a powerful signal that we’re on a continuous improvement journey, and we’re working to get to a place where all things are possible.

For more on the power of yet, check out the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and let us know how it goes!

Leadership Nudge™ – Lean To Wean

One of our Intent-Based Principles is that you ‘Lean to Wean’.

You’re trying to create a team that is independent, can think on their own and act as leaders. But when we’re leaning into our team and telling them what to do, we are creating dependence.

So, we need to lean back as a leader and let the team lean forward into us. ‘Lean to Wean’.

The problem is, if you lean back too far and the team used to be told what to do, you can’t just say “Well, you decide.” That’s too much.

That’s why we use the Ladder of Leadership:

  • “Tell me about it…”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “What do you think we should do?”
  • “What do you intend to do?”
  • “Just do it.”

You should lean back incrementally and wean them off dependence on you; creating independent thinkers and leaders.

Remember: Lean to Wean.

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

Leadership Nudge™ – I Think I Can?

I’m getting ready for the not-so-world-famous Englewood Sprint Triathlon. You can see the competitors lining up behind me and where the swim happens.

It’s very calm this morning, but still, the swim starts can be kinda tumultuous; there are a lot of people. You can get kicked or your goggles might get knocked off, so I have to rev myself up.

I could say “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”, but It’s actually a better strategy to say “David, you can do it. You can do it. You can do it”.

When you talk about yourself in the third person, it’s more dispassionate, you’re more objective and you stay in a cooler head. That cooler head is going to serve me better if something happens: like if someone kicks me and my goggles fill up with water. I’ll stay cool, calm and collected.

Studies show that task performance is better when we stay in a cooler head.

So, the next time you need to rev yourself up, don’t say “I can do it. I can do it. I can do it.”, say “David can do it. David can do it. David can do it.”, or use your name… That might be better.

Leadership Nudge™ – Don’t Be Good, Get Better

One of our Intent-Based Leadership principles is “Don’t be good. Get better.” Why is that?

Don’t Be Good

When you want to be good, you’re often trying to prove task accomplishment or, sometimes, avoid appearing incompetent. You end up anxious, closed and defensive. You feel this ‘need’ to prove yourself.

Get Better

Getting better is an open, growth and learning orientation. We’re curious. We’re readily taking feedback and ultimately we get better.

If you get better at something by just 1% every month, in 6 years you’ll be twice as good at it.

The mindset is: “Don’t be good. Get better.”

Trying to “be good” crowds out the behaviors for getting better.

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

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