Early in his tenure, our CEO shared his ten business principles. I don’t remember nine of them, but one stood out for of its simplicity, matter-of-factness, and wide applicability: “Don’t do anything stupid.”

I've used this admonition numerous times when attempting to slow (and ideally thwart) ill-founded ideas others felt really strongly about pursuing. When you can invoke the CEO's own words, it provides a lot more credibility in challenging dumb stuff and trying to do the right things for the business.

The approach's success oriented me toward the tremendous leadership benefits of sharing what really matters in easy-to-understand words. If you can get your message distilled in a simple, clear way, it frees up team members to use their own perspectives and innovative spirits in beneficial ways a leader could never anticipate. I've written several times about my own struggle for simplicity and have tried to take this learning to heart.

As an example, I was leading a motor sports program in what was then called the Busch Series. It's considered to be a second-tier series in NASCAR behind the "Cup" series, where everything costs 3 to 5 times more to sponsor. Our challenge was creating a program with a top tier Cup sponsorship's impact with a relatively small investment. This potential dilemma was at the heart of our internal program strategy: "We're doing a Cup level program with a Busch Series budget." With that direction, the team understood our constraints and was freed to be more creative and challenging in how we attacked our goals.

Think about what simple strategic guidelines you can share with your team to help them be more effective in carrying out the most important activities. 

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. - Mike Brown