Just Two Words

Simplicity drives clarity. Clarity generates focus. Focus enhances results. Many years ago, someone challenged my team to assess the scope of our product and service offerings. We were doing a lot of things, and we were doing them well. The bigger question was, were they the right things?

This is an ever-present questions for leaders. If you’ve been fortunate enough to assemble a team of talented men and women, you have little worry about the quality of their work. However, you should always be concerned about whether it’s the right work or not.
That was the question we were facing. Were we doing the right work? The consultant gave us an assignment I’ll never forget: “Tell me what you do… in two words.”
“Two words?? You’ve got to be kidding! We do so many things,” we said. The consultant’s response, “Pull up. What do you do – in two words?”
The question and the challenge to state it so succinctly continues to help me when I encounter an individual, a team or an organization where there is not clarity.
I’ve thought about this question myself. Although I sell chicken for a living, those are not my two words; they are: Serve Leaders. That’s why I write books, blog, speak, mentor, and it’s why I place such a priority on learning and growing myself. I realize I’ve got to put my oxygen mask on first if I’m going to be of any value to others.
Knowing specifically what you do has real advantages. Your two words can not only provide direction, they can be a filter for what you choose to do and what you choose not to do as well. Here’s an example.
I get quite a few invitations to speak. Since I’m clear on my two words, it’s the rare exception when I speak to a group that doesn’t contain a high percentage of leaders. I have limited time to invest and so do you. I want to invest my time in alignment with my two words whenever I can.
I’ve also discovered another benefit of this level of hyper clarity. While driving down a highway in Texas not long ago, I ran across a Bell Helicopter factory. There was a huge billboard outside with a picture of a menacing looking chopper hovering above a dusty landscape at sunset. It was a great photograph, but the message was even more powerful. The caption was simple:

Bell Helicopter… Ensuring Freedom.

This reminded me that beyond clarity, if your two words are chosen carefully, they can also be inspiring.[GLS_Shield]
What are your two words?

Leave a comment



Timothy Lynn Burchfield

7 years ago

apply more

Dan Forbes

7 years ago

Hmmmm….two words. What a challenge. Mine: Grow Giants.

Carrie Koens

7 years ago

Be Authentic. It doesn’t matter what job I have, or where God puts me, I strive to be authentic to who He made me to be.

mark

7 years ago

Thank you, Carrie! Mark

Kimunya

7 years ago

What a challenge Mark! This is day three into my new business after being in employment for 16 years. This is a great way to start off with clarity. My two words are: Authentic Leadership

Melissa

7 years ago

Teach Christ. (Im a Children’s Ministry Director).

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for sharing, Melissa. I hope you’ll continue to find content on this site to help you on your journey. Mark

Brandon R.

7 years ago

Great article, being able to understand your role with intense clarity is essential for any leader. My two words – pursue excellence.

mark

7 years ago

I love your two words! Thanks for sharing them. Mark

NonprofitDiversity.us

7 years ago

My two words “encourage diversity” via NonprofitDiversity.us.

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Mark

Randy Gravitt

7 years ago

Encourage Leaders … Great post Mark!

mark

7 years ago

Thanks, Randy! Thanks for always encourage me! Mark

Simphiwe

7 years ago

Leadership Mentor

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Mark

Robert Hartzell

7 years ago

Fathering Leadership — we have many teachers, Paul said, but not many fathers. Good post Mark.
Robert

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your two words. What a different world it would be if EVERY leader decided to mentor an emerging leader. Thanks for modeling a high calling for all of us as leaders. Mark

Steve Byers

7 years ago

Convene Conversations.

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your two words. I’ve been inspired by the response to the “two word challenge.” I hope you found the activity helpful. Mark

Trish Haertel

7 years ago

Great post! Such a great reminder! Simplifying. Thanks, Mark!
Serve Others

mark

7 years ago

Thank you, Trich! I love your two words – I try to live them too. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Chris Hahn

7 years ago

I thought this was awesome. I asked my boss and my 2 direct reports to read the post and then share with me the 2 words they think they would use for me. It was a very helpful exercise.
Here are the 2 words I received from each:
Our Lead Pastor said: Lead Courageously
Executive Pastor of Ministries: Driving Discomfort
Executive Director of Operations and Advancement: Lead Vision
Thanks again for this post. It has been very helpful.

mark

6 years ago

Chris, thanks for taking time to share how your team has used the “two words” exercise. I’ve found it to be a great tool for years. Now that everyone has clarity, the more challenging part begins- Execute Diligently! Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

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