Mark Miller offers a framework for life and work that can help you make smarter, more productive choices.
Make Correct Decisions
Fast-food executive Mark Miller, vice president of high-performance leadership at Chick-fil-A, explains that you have a remarkable ability to deal with problems because you can make the right decisions. This is a skill you use constantly without even thinking about it.
To create the future you desire, Miller urges you to make four pivotal choices: confront reality, increase your capacity, encourage curiosity and promote change.
The Right Cup
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones believes he has found the sacred chalice, the Holy Grail. Myth suggests that whoever drinks from it will never die. But Jones sees many cups spread out around him.
Why is it so difficult to make wise choices? The problem is multifaceted – the pace of change, uncertainty in our world, competing priorities, shrinking resources, increasing demands, staggering levels of complexity, and more.Mark Miller
Jones lets the villain choose first. Picking up an ornate cup embedded with jewels, he drinks from it and dies. Jones chooses an austere cup. The Knight, a figure who has guarded the grail for 700 years, says only, “You have chosen wisely.”
Most leaders confront obstacles that leave them stymied and stuck. These problems act like quicksand. When you’re bogged down in the muck, you may feel you have no way to get out. If you struggle without a plan, you’ll make your position worse.
Do you ever feel like you are running in place? Does your work, which you actually enjoy, feel like it’s sucking the life out of you? Do you yearn for more progress, more success, but perhaps it always feels just out of reach?Mark Miller
Many complex factors can entangle you, including the complications of constant communication. Leaders face the physical and emotional ramifications of high-pressure work. To attain new goals, you must surpass your current achievements. Even once success is achieved, often you must muster greater willpower to keep striving.
You may experience exhaustion, and must avoid being overwhelmed. Achieving productive, effective change is like pushing a rock up a hill: one mistake, and the rock rolls back down. Anxiety can cripple leaders who fear criticism or failure. Fear is a poisonous brew, but leaders who make deliberate choices can overcome their trepidation.
The ability to choose can help you change how you act and how your organization performs. Do not dwell on their mistakes. Instead, think about how to make better choices going forward.
Choices give us agency and opportunity. Our choices don’t always generate the results we desire, but they are still our choices. Mark Miller
The ability to choose is a powerful, important tool for leaders who must overcome external factors, such as poverty or racism, that impede their progress.
People often make choices under the influence of emotion, bias or instincts. Your principles and beliefs, and your desire for recognition and commendation also influence your decision-making. Your brain craves dopamine – the hormone your body secretes when you gain approval. Dopamine lifts your spirits, which is why people spend so much time online trying to get dopamine fueling “likes.”
Character, context, the ability to cope with stress, risk tolerance and susceptibility to fear also affect decision-making.
Some leaders refuse to acknowledge reality.They become proud and convinced of their superiority.They may be able to perceive only a limited future time frame.Other leaders immerse themselves in frenetic activity and set themselves up for a fall. Some leaders switch off and detach.In a cultural atmosphere that pushes for optimism, leaders can become so upbeat that they make themselves and their organization vulnerable.
If we are not grounded in truth and committed to the never-ending pursuit of it, our optimism can actually be our Achilles’ heel. Mark Miller
Leaders who engage with reality are able to evaluate the quality of their management, their organization and their teams with objectivity.
Increase Organizational Capacity
The attempt to increase capacity began before human beings recorded their advances. For example, people started using wheels to make pottery, but several centuries passed before they used wheels for transportation.
Many of the activities on our calendars don’t help us do our jobs any better; they don’t enhance performance, and they do not align with our stated priorities. Mark Miller
The computer galvanized the creation of capacity. Like other inventions that increased human beings’ ability to innovate,computers led to discoveries – such as genome sequencing – that never before seemed possible.
Most people do not prioritize curiosity, yet most outstanding leaders know how to maximize its power. Curiosity helps leaders tackle today’s challenges, and encourages creative thinking. Seeking new knowledge helps leaders combat the conceit that they don’t need to grow or change.
We have so much going on in our world today. We are bombarded on every side by more information than is humanly possible to process. Mark Miller
People drown in a deluge of information. This onslaught makes it easy to forget information you want to remember, so write down things you consider significant – a book title, a quotation or an idea.
You might see writing in a physical notebook as archaic, since you could do the same thing digitally. However, writing by hand has many advantages over typing on a keyboard. You think more deeply when you write than when you type. When you write by hand, you reconfigure compelling ideas into your own words. Handwriting takes much longer than typing and thus grants you more time to think. This increased focus provides greater clarity about your experiences and helps you absorb the ideas you want to learn or remember.
Leaders know they must create an improved future and apply their organizational resources and the emotions of their people to this end. That is why making the smart choice to create change is the core of true leadership. However, leaders cannot move toward a brighter future if yesterday’s practices are quicksand holding them back.
Yoda’s response is my word for you: ‘Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.’ For some of you, this is the key that will unlock your futures as leaders.Mark Miller
How you think shapes how you behave, and that shapes the trajectory of your life. Leaders who don’t think they can shape the future don’t try. They never learn whether they can manifest the change they imagine.
Mark Miller is an experienced, successful author who has shown that he is very capable of sound analysis and original thought. Although this discussion about making good choices offers mostly conventional – though solid – ideas, his selection of case histories to cite is more original. For example, his use of stories featuring Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Jedi creates reader connections as well as teaching leadership lessons. Miller helpfully underscores the need for leaders to make wise choices, sustain their curiosity, exercise caution about their own vanity and look to the future.
Vice president of high-performance leadership at Chick-fil-A, Mark Miller also wrote The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow and Chess, Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game.