Thursday, December 28, 2017

The +1 Principle

Rick Sharp taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my leadership career. When I was principal of a comprehensive high school, I was very committed to making the campus excellent. I wanted the students to achieve like never before. I wanted the teachers to be empowered more than ever before, and I believed that all we needed was one more thing.

Now Rick was and still is one of the most direct and hilarious people that I have ever met. He is passionate about his work and his school. He is beyond committed to students, and he has absolutely no problem doing one more thing.   The reason I know that is because he told me this. He said, "John, I have no objection to what you're asking me to do, but I have a question for you.

What are you going to take off of my plate?"

Blown away by his question, I really didn't know how to respond. After all I didn't know what he could take off of his plate, much less what needed to be taken off his plate. My response was pretty much a typical principal come-back. "What do you think you need to take off of your plate?"

That was the wrong question, not because Rick didn't know what to take off of his plate.  It was because I hadn't considered what was on his plate to begin with.  As leaders how often do we ask more from our followers without taking into consideration how much we already ask them to do?  Too often our expectations are not lacking in specificity for our followers, they lack in consideration for all the work people are already doing.

The +1 Principle
To ensure that we take care of those in our charge, we should consider the +1 Principle.  Before you
add 1 more thing to their plate, identify 2 things to take off of their plate.  By doing this, we communicate understanding of the load they carry, and we show our support of the one more thing by removing mundane, redundant, or ineffective tasks or responsibilities from everyone's plate.

You might be thinking, "there's nothing we can stop doing".  If that's the case then remember if you want the one more thing to be done well, folks will need time and support.  That can't happen until you remove or help followers remove unnecessary things from their plate.

What can we help people remove from their plates so they can succeed in the +1 Principle?


  1. Way to hit the point my man! Great words for me to marinate on...Thanks!

  2. Absolutely true!! I'm not sure anything ever gets taken off. I think teacher plates are overflowing and that many may even have more than one plate.