Lately, I’ve been working with an organization undergoing a massive culture shift.  The most important and impressive aspect is the shift to greater discipline.

My exposure to that company and its leaders has made me view other organizations differently. It has made it abundantly clear to me how few organizations, teams, and ultimately how few individuals are actually focused and intentional about their activities.

In a very short time, I have seen how a clear process, high standards, and courageous conversations can radically transform an organization. That is in stark contrast to organizations I see where everyone is lost in a sea of busy work, overwhelmed by numerous and often competing priorities, and skimming along the surface of several activities without ever really getting any one of them to the point of traction.

It is time for more discipline. Try moving the needle on a few of these issues for yourself and your team.


A disciplined approach requires that you set priorities and ruthlessly slough off activities that don’t make the cut. What would be the top 3 priorities for you and your team this quarter?  [A quarter is probably about the right length of time for this level of priority.]

Action: If you aren’t clear on your top 3, ask your boss. If you don’t get a good answer, choose your top 3 and let your boss know you’re proceeding on that assumption unless you hear differently.


A disciplined person starts something and makes considerable progress without being sidetracked by distractions. Disciplined people aren’t ruled by their Inbox and the whims of the latest email. They pick a task and work it to completion before picking up another.

Action: What will you do today to move the needle on your three priorities? What will detract from your focus on the top 3 and how can you delete it, delay it, delegate it, or somehow diminish the impact it has on your ability to make meaningful progress on what matters?


Discipline requires that work be done to a specific standard. In some cases, you need to stretch to an exacting standard that requires significant brainpower and investment. You might have to think, draft, rehearse, and prepare in ways you have never done before. In other cases, discipline requires that you stop when the solution is fit for purpose, rather than wasting resources and energy getting something to a level of perfection that isn’t warranted.

Action: How to you determine what level of quality is needed for the things you’re working on right now? How will you ensure you are delivering the quality that is required?  How will you make the important work even stronger? What will you do to satisfy yourself with work that is good enough?


When you are disciplined, you hold yourself accountable for whether things get done or not. You don’t leave the office if there is still something that must be finished.  You log back on at night to meet your commitments. There is a fierceness to discipline and when you have it, you don’t stop until you have done what you said you would do.

Action: Determine when you let yourself off the hook—what excuses do you use on yourself and others? How much more could you accomplish if you pushed yourself just a little harder each day?  How will you hold yourself accountable?

This craze we call busy-ness is robbing us of the satisfaction of making measurable progress on meaningful work. I for one am not willing to let it go on. My next quarter is about discipline.  Are you with me?

Further Reading

Are you Failing as a Leader?

You Get the Team you Deserve

Focus your Time on your Real Value

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