A Useful Leadership Tool

three arrows

A few years ago Bill Hybels introduced a simple but effective leadership tool he’d been using with leaders in a variety of contexts. Our boss used it with us yesterday, and I was reminded how helpful it is, so I thought I’d share it here.

In essence it’s just a simple diagram containing three arrows. One arrow goes up, one down, and one stays on the level. Hybels suggests that every organisation needs to define their current reality in terms of one of those arrows. Are things on the up, plateaued, or in a downturn.

In one sense the exercise is frighteningly simple. In another its incredibly difficult because it requires a significant degree of courage to be absolutely honest about how things are really going.

Hybels suggests that if you lead long enough you will find yourselves in all three situations. Failure isn’t being in a downturn; the real failure is the refusal to call it.

Once you’ve identified current reality you can do something about it. The hard part is identifying. Interestingly Hybels also suggests that while the leader might be reluctant to do the exercise, those around the leader know exactly what the current reality is – they’re just waiting for the leader to own it and do something about it.

Now, far be it from me to offer anything in addition, but it seems to me that often a single organisation may be experiencing all three realities simultaneously, albeit in different areas.  So some things may be going well, while others have plateaued or are struggling. Working out which is which, and then putting in place the appropriate plan for each area is where the challenge and skill of leadership lies. So why not give it a go. Sit down with your fellow leaders, draw the three arrows, and see where your conversation ends up. I think you’ll find it a surprisingly fruitful exercise.

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One thought on “A Useful Leadership Tool

  1. Hi Martin, That’s correct re getting all 3 which may mean overall effect is plateau. However if overall is thriving you may allow other areas to decline. You may also appreciate having some areas plateauing. Alternatively it may be a clue to cut back in an area that is affecting the overall picture. I would look at this alongside best possible worst analysis. Also leaders need to understand seasonal cycles and longer term trends

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