Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? Part 1

Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader and leadership

How often do we make mistakes that are not much smarter than 5th graders?

The Fox Network has a T.V. game show titled “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”  The game is hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy and the game works like this.  Adult contestants have to answer a series of questions that are found in the text books of elementary age students ranging from 1st- 5th grade.  The more questions they can answer the more money they can win.  There is also a small panel of actual 5th graders that the adult contestant can call upon (only 3 times during the game) for help.  The humor of the show is that the 5th graders have the correct answer more often than the adults.  A matter of fact, the 5th graders rarely miss a question.  When the contestant doesn’t reach the million dollar prize, he or she must look into the camera and say “I am not smarter than a 5th grader.”

While watching the show recently I began to think about the title in the context of leadership.  How often do we make mistakes that are not much smarter than 5th graders?  As I talk to leaders everywhere, I am amazed by some of their stories of foolish decisions and actions made in the corporate world.  These foolish mistakes have been made by all of us, including me.  I have listed some things you can do to help you avoid the most common leadership blunders.

1)  Focus on more than yourself

Often leaders make the mistake (consciously or sub-consciously) of focusing on their personal gain and what is best for them.  A true leader is not only concerned about their well being but also shows great concern about the individuals and organization they lead.  William Rando, who runs the Office of Teaching Fellow Preparation and Development,” at Yale University said that you must always ask, “What are my students going to do today?”  He was simply expressing his intelligent opinion that if you are going to lead you must be concerned about the life of those you are responsible to lead.

2)  Praise publicly and reprimand privately

Sometimes a weak leader will attempt to flex his or her authority muscle by reprimanding publicly rather then privately.  Don’t make this mistake.  You don’t want to degrade the people on your team.  Make it a practice to praise them publicly.  Be generous about your praise.  It doesn’t cost you anything and the pay back is great.  Also, when reprimanding, do it privately.  There is no need to make a spectacle of the person in whom you are dealing with.

3)  Be clear about the process and purpose of your organization

On a recent trip to Disneyland with my family, I was once again, impressed with this incredible company.  The cleanliness is outstanding, the atmosphere is wonderful but above all I am impressed with the clarity of purpose and of process.  The purpose of Disney is for families to come and enjoy a clean, safe environment, but the processes are obviously clear as well.  The entire organization from parking, to trams, to the entering and exiting of the lines is all a process designed to support the purpose.  What a lesson for all of us who hold the position of a leader.  Make your purpose and process clear so that the entire organization can follow.  You want everyone to repeat that purpose and process in a matter of seconds and to keep the leaders and the organization focused on them.  Failing to do this is a mistake that many leaders make.  They make the assumption that because it may be clear in their head that it is clear and simple to everyone else.  Try this out right now.  Take a small napkin and pretend that you are explaining your purpose and process of the organization to someone who has never seen it.  Can it fit on a napkin?  Can you articulate it in a matter of seconds?  If your answer is, “No” to any of these questions then you probably need to re-think your purpose and process through.  It must be clear and simple.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

“You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing.”
S.I. Hayakawa


About Chris Sonksen

Chris Sonksen is the founder and Lead Pastor of South Hills Church and has an exceptional ability to inspire both secular and non-secular audiences. Under his leadership, South Hills has experienced phenomenal growth and in just a few short years has grown from a handful of people to nearly 3000 in attendance today. Today South Hills has become a thriving, multi-service and multi-site church. Chris has a magnetic, captivating and humorous style for motivating and inspiring all audiences. As a motivational speaker, he has spoken both nationally and internationally in companies such as Verizon, Securitas and Home Depot, and there is no doubt that by applying his teachings, his audience will improve the quality of their lives! Chris is the author of two books In Search of Higher Ground and Handshake. Chris is the founder of Celera Church Strategy Group an organization with an unwavering commitment to excellence in all things, with the goal to “raise the national average of church attendance,” by equipping church leaders with resources and coaching. Chris brings high-energy focus and a passion for vision and leadership to encourage and equip the local Church. Chris is a native Californian, born in Long Beach and currently resides in Corona with his wife, Laura and their two children, Grace and Aidan.

Posted on January 22, 2010, in Communication, Leadership, Relationships, Team, vision and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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