strategic thinking
ATD Blog

Too Much on Your Plate? Try Multi-Impacting.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In our last Being a Can-Do Leader blog post, “Too Much on Your Plate? Try Multi-Impacting,” we made the case for using the strategy, “purposeful multi-impacting,” as a way to get more done in less time. The essence of this strategy is for leaders to make decisions and pursue a course of action in ways that will simultaneously achieve more than one desired objective.

But, of course, when you are in a leadership position, your goal isn’t just to get more done in less time. More importantly, you want to make sure that you do the right things as a leader. This means that  you need to purposefully focus on fulfilling your leadership responsibilities whenever possible.

Thinking TPL                                 

So, how might you keep a purposeful focus on your leadership agenda? Chances are you’ve already had a quick look at The Answer. The answer, that is, in the form of the Can-Do Leadership Zone below. Now, let’s take a closer look at this ball-in-the-box graphic.


  • Can-Do Leadership Zone  

    This three-dimensional graph is an easy-to-remember representation of the fundamental people management responsibilities that all leaders inherit when they take on a management position.


    The three axes are tagged “Task,” “People,” and “Learning.” They are meant to remind us that, if you are going to be the sort of leader who excels at building teams that can get the right things done with a high level of know-how and commitment, these areas will require your continual attention as a leader. For shorthand, we call giving appropriate attention to the relevant Task, People, and Learning issues as “Thinking TPL.”

    Getting on the ball as a leader

    Now, as for that ball in the box that we call the Can-Do Leader Zone, it is there to remind us that in order to get the right things done with enthusiasm and skill, leaders must continually give appropriate consideration to addressing the relevant task, people, and learning issues whenever they can. Give some consideration, that is, not just to one of these leadership dimensions, but to all three. 

    Reminding yourself to Think TPL can help you remember to do what needs to be done to lead your team into the Can-Do Zone.

    Thinking TPL in real time 

    Nice theory you might say, but how might this actually work in practice?  Here’s how Kim, a recently promoted manager in a Big Four accounting firm, put the Think TPL mantra to good use as she led her first big audit project.


    Her boss told her right up front that, although he wanted her to continue to use her considerable auditing expertise to do some pieces of this project herself, now that she was in a leadership position she would ultimately be evaluated not only on how well her team performed, but also on her ability to develop the skills and capabiities of her team.

    Mindful of the importance of getting her team into the Can-Do Zone, Kim realized right from the get go that continuing to remind herself to Think TPL would help her recognize opportunities to fulfill her leadership responsibilities.   

    Thinking T reminded Kim that whatever else happened, her job (first and foremost) was to get the audit done correctly and on time. At a minimum, Kim had the continuing responsibility to make sure that her team members were clear about tasks they needed to perform to achieve the desired results. Also, she would need to see to it that at critical junctures along the way the proper things were getting done. 

  • Thinking P reminded Kim that several of her former peers who now reported to her have been  frustrated and unhappy with their past project experiences at this firm. She would  need to continue to find ways to help these particular team members get fully motivated to drive for high levels of performance. She did so by discussing with them what their main concerns had been, and seeking their advice on what would help them be more engaged and productive, given the realities of this project.
  • Thinking L reminded Kim to continue to make a conscious effort to find multiple opportunities to develop the current and future capabilities of her team. When she was doing work alongside her team members as a player/manager, she tried to teach as well as do (achieving T & L). More important, when Kim was considering who should do what (T & P), whenever possible she gave skill-building stretch assignments (L)—rather than always delegating assignments to her most skilled team members (achieving T, P & L).  

By making Thinking TPL a habit—before swinging into action—you will keep focused on fulfilling your leadership responsibilities in a purposeful, systematic way in a wide range of situations.  Do this, and you’ll always be on the ball as a leader!

Coming up next: Want an easy-to-remember acronym that will keep you properly focused when thinking about the people axis of our leadership model?  Our next Can-Do Leader Blog, will show you how checking your team members’ VITALS will enable you to unleash an engaging Can-Do spirit.

About the Author

Dr. Frank Satterthwaite is a professor of organizational leadership and a past director of the MBA program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Frank, who has contributed numerous blogs to ATD’s Community of Practice, is co-author of Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager (ATD Press). He is also the senior author of The Career Portfolio Workbook: Using the Newest Tool in Your Job-Hunting Arsenal to Impress Employers and Land a Great Job (McGraw-Hill), a bestselling career book that was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” at the Wall Street Journal. In addition to his cover story for TD Magazine, “The Delegation Conundrum,” his articles have appeared in national magazines, including Esquire. He has appeared on nationally broadcast radio and TV programs in the United States and Canada, and is currently doing webcasts for ATD. Frank also has a management consulting practice in which he helps managers become Can-Do Leaders. He studied psychology at Princeton and received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Yale. Earlier in his career Frank was a member of the U.S. national men’s squash team. Frank and his architect wife, Martha Werenfels, live in Rhode Island and are proud parents of their two sons, Peter and Toby.

About the Author

Jamie Millard, co-author of Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager (ATD Press), is the executive partner and co-founder of Lexington Leadership Partners, an executive coaching and customized leadership development and training firm focused on developing can-do leaders who demonstrate commitment, competence, and courage. He formerly led the national organization change management practice at CSC Consulting. Prior to that, Millard was a partner at Harbridge House, where he led the continuous improvement and project management customized training and consulting practices. He holds a bachelor of science degree from the US Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the University of Rhode Island. He is a proud veteran and member of the Global Educator Network with Duke Corporate Education.

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