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They were trying to figure out a complicated problem. A problem that had been years in the making. A problem that had many moving parts. A problem that didn’t have an easy solution.

“How do we improve our culture?” was written on the whiteboard, and the CEO of the company asked me to sit in on the meeting. Not to participate and advise (which I was so itching to do!) but rather to observe him and his senior leadership team in action so that I could give him some honest feedback.

I had pages of notes. Little things here and there that I thought he should pay attention to in the future. But as soon as I heard the phrase – that one phrase that always signals that not much will get done and the issue will continue to stay stuck – I started underlining, drawing stars and generally yelling inside my notes.

The phase was: “There are so many things we can do.”
There are so many things we can do

To improve our company culture.

To improve our health.

To improve our relationships.

To improve our productivity.

To improve our impact.

Yes, there are.

But what happens when we don’t follow up that thought, or that list on the whiteboard, with a commitment?

What happens when we don’t say, “Yes, there are so many things we can do, and what I’m committing to doing this week is __________.”

You know what happens. I know what happens. And my client knew what happens.

When we had our debrief meeting and I asked him how many times they had talked about the need to improve their culture, his eyes shifted down to the floor.

He knew that even though there were many conversations about “there are so many things we can do,” none of them had actually gotten done (or done well). Everyone felt stuck and frustrated.

Good news, I told him. It’s not too late! You had a productive meeting to generate a great list of ideas. You just missed the last step of asking each person in the room to commit. To just one thing. And you can do that today by placing six 5 minute phone calls.

“Will you commit to that one thing, Mike? Today – six 5 minute phone calls,” I asked.

He laughed and accused me of leading by example. Fine. Guilty, as charged.

The next time I spoke with him, he was overjoyed at the progress his company had made, and how much influence every single member of his team had on the results.

And more importantly, how well the question, “What one thing will you do this week?” had rippled throughout the organization. It was being asked at every meeting, every 1-to-1, and even in email exchanges.

It was becoming a part of the new culture they were creating – a culture of commitment, accountability and steady small wins.
What one thing will you do this week? 

This question. It’s such a simple thing really, and yet it has the power to move us from from analysis to decision. From inaction to action. From frustration to progress.

When we take ownership of just one action (vs. endless ideas), commit to doing it well and quickly, and circle back with results, we can move mountains. We can move mountains that seemed immovable in the past. We can solve problems that seemed too complicated to solve.

Because that one little step is leadership. And it starts a ripple effect… within you and within others.
Your turn

What one thing will you do this week?

To improve your culture.

To improve your health.

To improve your relationships.

To improve your productivity.

To improve your impact.

Just one thing.

Pick it. Commit to it. Share that commitment with someone. And circle back at the end of the week.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

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