Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

Four D’s to free up 20% of your time

December 2nd, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



Have you ever really sat down and looked at your schedule and it felt so overwhelming that you just wanted to ‘give up’, delete it all and start over?


As leaders, we often find it difficult to say ‘no’ to people for many reasons.  Mostly because we really don’t want to upset anyone, but a lot of times, it is because everything seems important.  Well, is it really?  Here is an exercise you can do to help you understand if you have the right things on your calendar.  I have often referred to it as the “4 D’s”

  1. Delegate
  2. Defer
  3. Deselect
  4. Do-it!

Make a list of all of the things you think you must do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  With that list in hand, ask your self the following four questions for each item:

  1. Can I DELEGATE this item to someone else to do?  Often we don’t delegate because “it will take me more time to train someone so I will do it myself”, or “I want it done a certain way so I must do it” – Both of these reasons are signs of poor leadership.  One of the best ways to develop others is to give them valuable tasks to grow, so Delegate more.
  2. Can I DEFER this item?  Is it REALLY the most important thing you need to be doing at this time?  Can it wait 30 days, 60 days, 90 days?  Often it can.  Put a reminder on your calendar for 90 days out.  Maybe it won’t be as important then
  3. Can I DESELECT this item? Have you been doing something for so long (a meeting, a report, a task) that you just do it because you always have?  Maybe you don’t need to do it anymore at all.  DESELECTING is the most difficult task of leadership.  A good friend has told me many times, “You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want”
  4. I guess I must DO it? – If your answer to the first 3 questions is NO, then you must do it!  Put it on the calendar and make it happen.  The challenge here is to do the task with the least non-value-added activity.  Can I automate it?  Can I be more efficient at it?  Improve the task.

Go through this process about every 90 days.  If you haven’t freed up 20% of your time, then you are not being critical enough of the tasks.  Go back through it again?

What about you?  How do you make sure your schedule doesn’t get overburdened?  Try this exercise and let me know how it goes.


April 1st, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



I had a friend ask me recently about a simple process they might be able to use with their team to review “How are things going?”  Often times, individuals or organizations don’t invest enough time in a formal review process that, done correctly, can make minor course corrections in tactics that get you back moving toward your objective.  Rather, they feel things aren’t working and make drastic changes and end up further off course then when they started.  Antique Compass

The 6-step process below will help get you back on track and can work with self-reflection or team reflection.

1) The simple “+/-” tool.  Draw a T-diagram with a plus on the left side and a minus on the right side of a piece of paper, a flip chart, or dry erase board and ask 2 questions:  1) what is going well (+) ? and 2) What isn’t going well (-)?  Try to list out all of the things that are going well first before moving to the what isn’t going well question.  (NOTE: If you are doing this with a team, it could be important to have each team member write each one of their thoughts down on a sticky note – 1 thought per sticky.  This ensures that you get input from ALL voices).

2) K,S,S (Keep, Start, Stop)– After reflecting on the list, list out one thing you should KEEP doing, one thing you should START doing, and one thing you should STOP doing based on the T-diagram.  The natural tendency is to START making drastic changes and do a lot more things.  Resist this urge.  You are probably already very busy.  Try hard to have no more than one Start for every Stop.  This ensures that you don’t overburden yourself or your team.   A wise friend once told me that “You can do ANYTHING you want… you just can’t do EVERYTHING you want”

3) What, Who, When – Assign accountability and due dates.  What needs to be done?  Who is responsible for doing it, and When will it be done?  Try not to extend the due dates out past 90 days.  If you have to go further than that, the task is probably too big.  Keep the list visual.  This also helps with accountability.  Post it on a flip chart in your office.

4) Ask for help –  Share your things you need to do with someone.  Share it with God in prayer…Ask for help.  Share it with your spouse…ask for help.  Share it with a mentor…ask for help.  Share it with a family member…ask for help.  Share it with a friend…ask for help.  Key thing.  Don’t try to do it alone.

5) Schedule regular reviews – Check in with yourself or others formally — weekly (maybe Friday mornings at 7:30) or monthly (3rd Monday of every month).  Keep the reviews brief.  Are you on track or not?  If you are, move on.  If you are not on track, develop a countermeasure and ask for help.

6) Continuously improve – When you get all of the items complete, did they work?  Make the new activity (or those activities) part of your new routine.  Then, repeat the process… go back to Step #1


Try it out.  Let me know how it goes. What steps would you add to this process?


December 31st, 2013 by John Gallagher No Comments



The end of the year is a great time to rest and reflect on the accomplishments and challenges from the past year.

2013 year in review

I have a very simple process that I use for my year-end review.  It consists of 4 steps (last year it was 3…):

1) Goal review –  I review how I did relative to the goals and disciplines I targeted for the year.  The tool I use to track this is the Life Plan.  You may have a different method of tracking, but the important thing is to track.  If you don’t track, then maybe that should be one of your goals for 2014…to track your goals!  What you measure, you control.  What you don’t measure, you accept.

2) The simple “+/-” tool.  I make a T-diagram on a piece of paper and list the things that went well (+) on the left and things that could have gone better (-) on the right.  Try not to over-think it.  Just blurt.

3) K,S,S – After listing out the pluses and minuses, I review them and reflect.   I then list out the things I need to KEEP doing (things that went well), START doing (to take the things that went well to the next level, or to remedy the things that didn’t go well), and most importantly, what I need to STOP doing.  Too often, we take on new goals and don’t stop doing things that are getting in the way.  Be aware of the habits you have developed that could get in the way.  There are many distractions.

4) Ask for help –  Share your things you need to do with someone.  Share it with God in prayer…Ask for help.  Share it with your spouse…ask for help.  Share it with a mentor…ask for help.  Share it with a family member…ask for help.  Share it with a friend…ask for help.  Key thing.  Don’t try to do it alone.

That’s it.  It will take me a couple hours and I will feel refreshed going in to 2014.  Bring on 2014!

So, do you use a process to review your year? What steps would you add to this process?

5 Key Actions of Successful Lean Leaders

December 12th, 2013 by John Gallagher No Comments

Recently, I had a chance to attend a large conference and speak to a small group and discuss challenges that leaders face in attempting to transform the culture in their organizations.  The leaders were part of a larger group of over 5,000 Healthcare leaders at a two-day conference learning tools & techniques to improve quality, reduce cost, and improve the experience that patients receive in Healthcare.  There were lots of resources… over 100 books for sale, 100+ vendors, 400 story boards and 200+ workshops.  Lots of learning opportunities.

leadership key

When I had my chance to talk to a small group, I described actions necessary for leaders to be successful in transformation.  When leaders turn these actions in to regular behaviors, the chance of success increases exponentially

1) Lead by example – To transform an organization, you will need to ask your team to change behaviors…some they have learned over years of work and education.  Are you willing to lead by example and change as well?  Your team must SEE your willingness to learn

2) ‘Round’ for improvement – This was a Healthcare conference, so ’rounding’ was a familiar term.  To transform an organization, you won’t be able to do it from behind the desk in your office.

3) Follow Leadership Standard Work – What are those disciplines you need to repeat on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to achieve success.  Write them down… check them off. This is not natural or easy, but is rewarding.

4) Ask coaching questions – As the leader, you don’t have to have all the answers.  Challenge your team to solve the problems.  You must ask them coaching questions to get them to think and act differently

5) Relentlessly reflect – When was the last time you sat down and spent time ‘alone’ reflecting on how things are going?  You must plan reflection time in your week.  Put it in your calendar.  Protect it and treat it like other important meetings you have.  Ask yourself, “What is going well?”, or “What needs to improve?”  Write these things down and then develop a plan to keep doing the good and changing what needs improved!

Do I think this is an all-inclusive list?  No.  But, if you can develop the discipline to complete these 5 actions, the other things will come easier.

Are you completing these actions in your leadership?  What do you need to improve?  What is going well?  What is a critical action you would ADD to this list?  Let me know in the comments.  I will choose one commenter at random on December 25 to receive a ‘Christmas present’ from me.  A copy of Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation by George Koenigsaecker, who has been an influence on my leadership development.


August 13th, 2013 by John Gallagher No Comments

I just got back from a morning run.  I didn’t want to do it.  But, I feel better now having done it.  I had so many GOOD reasons not to get up and get out there:


1.  I have email to check

2. My neck hurts

3. It’s only 9 more minutes of sleep

4.  I can do it later tonight

5.  The treadmills in the workout room are probably all being used

6.  I forgot to pack my ear buds

7.  My podcasts need to download the the wifi is too slow

8.  I forgot to pack my heart rate monitor

9.  The treadmill is really boring

10.  It might rain outside

11.  It’s only 9 more minutes of sleep!

12.  My arm hurts

13.  My team played last night and I need to watch Sportscenter to see if they won.

14.  My team won last night, but I need to watch Sportscenter to see HOW they won!

15.  There aren’t any safe places to run outside

And, those are all before I even get out of bed!!  What, ultimately, forced me out of bed?  The Life Plan… I want to achieve those things I wrote in my life plan and I must do things I DON’T want to do so that I can do things (LIVE LONGER!) I do want to do(watch my kids grow up, grow older productively with my life, influence others, etc.)

So, what’s your 15 excuses and what helps YOU to overcome them?