Posts Tagged leaders
Two areas drive my passion and practice. They “need” one another. And in my work with churches, businesses, educational institutions and start-up operations, these 2 THINGS really matter. At the end of this post you can see how I help leaders of quality organizations in these 2 areas. See if you can spot them on this list below.
- Clear Mission
- Competent Leadership
- A Great Team
- Essential Funding
- Creative Workplace
- A Visionary Person
- Strong Community
- Recognition for Work
- Ownership by All
- Enjoy My Work
I chose Competent Leadership and Strong Community – and here is why.
Is your church ” Group Friendly ?”
I work with dozens of churches each year as I work with their leadership teams about small groups, spiritual growth and transformational leadership. Often I am contacted and asked some variation of this question: “Bill, can you help us build/grow our small group ministry?”
Before I answer yes, no or maybe, I engage in a conversation, asking lots of questions and getting to know the current state of the church. As it relates to group life, I discover that churches fall into four categories:
You might be wondering why a “group-hostile” church would even ask me to help them build groups. Reality is, they do not see themselves as group hostile, but I do. So allow me to unpack each of these and see where your church is these days.
My friends Henry Cloud and I have worked together speaking, writing and training group leaders. To coach small groups – especially newer groups – we created Making Your Small Groups Work, a DVD groups watch a few minutes at each meeting to learn to be an effective community.
Here’s a short sample if you want to take a peek.
Setting ground rules is one of the things we encouraged groups to do, so that everyone is clear about how to create an environment for growth in a group context.
Here are 5 to think incorporate into your group process or team setting.
Care: Being for each other and coming alongside one another on any group or team is essential. We need more encouragement and less criticism; more urging onward than looking backward. To say “I care” means we not on have empathy with others, but we show that in a tangible way with words, ideas, support and compassion.
This may sound a little “soft” for some settings, like working groups or corporate teams. I get that. But it can still be communicated in appropriate ways. When a group really cares about one another they can begin to care for one another.
Safety: Creating a “Come as You are Culture” as friend John Burke likes to say, you make it safe for full participation and risk-taking. It means we can show up angry, tired, strong, weak, excited or cautious – and that is all ok. Sure, you need to monitor how you express those realities depending on the setting and the culture of the group or organization.
But the basic premise remains. You avoid having a “you’d –better-act-and-talk-and-look-like-this-before-we-accept-you” culture that ignores reality and demeans people.
Authenticity: Yes, authenticity is an overworked word… but it remains an underutilized practice. I believe this is because it is often misunderstood. Sometimes it is interpreted as putting all your cards on the table all the time, totally revealing everything about yourself.
Not healthy. We have reality TV to thank for that perspective. Unbridled and unwise communication and action is not authenticity – it is simply overexposure. And, like too much sun without sunblock, it does more damage than most relationships can tolerate.
Or, people fake authenticity with trite phases and clichés. “I totally understand what you mean!” “Wow thanks for putting yourself out there, Susan. It felt so real.” Or what a women said in a group I was in “I hate my husband, he’s a creep!” That was certainly real…but was it wise to share in the second meeting of a small group just learning to become a community and trying to take basic risks?
Growth: We are told to “urge one another toward love and toward good deeds” and groups are a great place for that. We get so selfish, so cynical, so absorbed in personal realities that pushing one another toward growth is neglected. But if I am listening, I am eager to call the best out of you and watch you thrive.
Once a member asked me, “And how do you act with integrity and honor your boss even though now you realize he might never change his abrupt way of communicating?” He wanted me to understand I have a choice – my actions and reactions are under my control, regardless of what he says or does. I can be different. I can love. I can serve.
Help: Groups and teams flourish when members help one another in tangible ways. “Mike, I can get that report for you online and save you a few minutes of research time.” “Christine, let me take care of the kids for an hour while you get some quiet time – or just go shop!” Little helps make a big difference.
Let me know if I can ever help you or your teams get better at creating greater community and a vibrant group culture.
In the meantime, ask yourself:
Which of these 5 “habits” or Ground Rules can we make a reality in our group or team?
What will it take for us to make this a normal part of the culture?
I am always intrigued by what is said in commencement speeches. Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford is one of the most Googled. His “stay hungry, stay foolish” theme really resonated with listeners. If you never heard it, it is a real gem. You can watch it here.
This June, at my alma mater’s graduation ceremonies, Princeton’s departing President, Shirley Tilghman, referred to Jeff Bezos’ commencement address to graduates in 2010. Though not as memorable or as well-known as Jobs’ talk, Bezos offered a series of questions for leaders or at least what every leader should be asking.
Bezos is Founder and CEO of Amazon.com and is a Princeton Class of 1986 graduate. His remarks challenged graduating seniors to consider 10 key questions. Here they are for your consumption.
1) Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
2) Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
3) Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
4) Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
5) Will you bluff it out when you are wrong, or will you apologize?
6) Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
7) Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
8) When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
9) Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
10) Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
I certainly was challenge by almost all of these. I did not feel a sense of guilt or failure so much as new resolve to grow and risk in these areas. Numbers 1, 6, and 9 have particular meaning for me at this moment in life and leadership.
How about you? I suggest you reflect honestly on the list, and choose your top 2-3 questions for further investigation and focus. Leaders – especially those who share leadership or have collaborative styles – will have to take some risks that will cause discomfort and leave you vulnerable to failure or criticism.
But what other options are there? A life filled with woulda-coulda-shoulda regrets and a leadership legacy what-if’s and what-might-have-beens?
Not for me. And I hope not for you.
Fallon has made a hilarious spoof of saying thanks on his show. If you have not seen the regular segment, here are a few off the net at (http://thankyoujimmyfallon.tumblr.com) – so have a good laugh.
Thank you, salad tongs, or as Shaq calls you, tweezers.
Thank you, dolls, for being one missing eye away from being the creepiest thing ever.
Thanks you, hors d’oeuvres, for being appetizers that moved to France and got all snooty.
I wonder what it would look like for followers to say “thank you” to their leaders. What would they say? Sarcastic ones like Fallon’s might sound like this:
Thank you, leaders, for taking all the credit for our success and still making me feel great about my job.
Thank you, leaders, for caring about my opinion, even though you already made your decision two weeks ago.
Thank you, leaders, for adding 10 hours to my week without adding even 10 dollars to my salary.
Thank you, leaders, for letting me have this little gray cubical in the corner with the flickering white light…I always wanted to know what prison felt like.
It would be much better to hear…
Thank you, leaders, for the sacrifices you make and opportunities you provide, even though it is not part of your job to do so.
Thank you, leaders, for cheering on my success, even when it gets me more attention and recognition than you received.
Thank you, leaders, for listening to my thoughts, ideas and opinions while you are in the decision-making process – especially when you actually use some of them!
Thank you, leaders, for providing an exciting and creative workspace so we can all leverage our creativity and look forward to our time in the office.
Also, I realize as a leader I need to be in the “thank you” business – genuinely. An attitude of gratitude is always inspiring to others. Motivational guru Zig Ziglar built a business around the whole practice of saying thanks. Keep an Attitude of Gratitude
Leaders who really care about followers must recognize they are in the gratitude business – both giving and receiving.
What if your team heard comments like these from you today?
Thanks, Mike, for your provocative and keen insights at yesterday’s team meeting. It challenged me to really think about this from a different perspective. Jenna, I appreciate your willingness to ask hard questions and dig deeper into the problems we have to tackle. Kevin, your reports are timely and accurate – that means a lot to us when we are making such crucial decisions.
What people thank you for is what they remember you for.
For what actions and attitudes might your “followers” say thanks today?
To whom (and for what) can you express thanks today?
We are smack in the middle of baseball season heading to the July All-Star break. Despite this we are in the middle of the ice hockey finals. Still! Normally my interest for this drops by May because the season is too long, baseball is up and running and it is just too warm outside to think about ice hockey.
But my interest this year goes well past May because the Chicago Blackhawks are in the finals. Last night they played the Bruins in one of the longest playoff games in NHL history. At the start of the 3rd overtime period it was still 3-3.
Whether it’s baseball, hockey, or just the local beer softball league, everyone expects to play a normal game. But sometimes it’s tie at the end of regulation and the teams play overtime. In the playoffs you compete until someone wins or everyone dies from exhaustion. (Of course, in the guys-over-40 softball league it’s just as intense– but if you run out of beer, the game is called and everyone heads to the bar.)
Playing extra innings is hard enough. Weariness sets in and sheer intensity of competition takes its toll on the body and the mind. Emotions run thin and a single mistake can cost you the game. Everyone has to take it up a notch at the time when they are least capable of doing so.
But leading in extra innings is even harder.
It is especially difficult for the player-coach, the guy or gal who has to perform at the top of their game while motivating and guiding the rest of the team. Overtime will test your leadership ability in ways that other challenges cannot for the sheer fact that so much more energy, stamina, and focus are required.
Here are a few tips on how to lead when there is more game left on the clock than there is in the players.
1) Acknowledge the reality of the challenge. This is no time for fake, rah-rah cheerleading that basically communicates, “C’mon guys, this isn’t any big deal.” It IS a big deal. Getting the project done, preparing the presentation, or solving the crisis really matters. Let your team know that YOU know this is not just really important – it is also going to be hard.
2) Discern what is “doable hard” versus “destructive hard.” Working harder in overtime does not mean everyone becomes a crazy workaholic and winds up quitting when the project is over. People have to juggle the extra work in a way that considers family commitments and personal health. If every week at work is another overtime crisis it will ultimately crush morale, deplete leadership resources and produce an inferior product or service.
Some organizations use abusive work practices to force “extra innings” for employees. Famously, it is Wall Street financial companies, urban hospitals and top-end law firms who create insane work hours to weed out the “weak” and get more bang for their buck. It is illegal in some cases and demeaning in at best. Organizations that pay “part-time” people for 32 hours (to avoid paying for health benefits) but “allow” them to work well past that are ethically bankrupt.
3) Focus the energy. In sports you have to coach tired players and create a winning game plan. You cannot use all the resources in the first few minutes hoping for the quick kill. If you fail, you are in big trouble because you might have another 30, 60 or even 90 minutes of game time ahead. So get your team members focused on what they do best, and help them draft a long-term approach. Doing what they do best will leverage the energy they have. Don’t ask everyone to help with everything. It gets chaotic, and wastes time you do not have.
4) Deal directly with complainers. When the going gets tough the complainers get grumpy. You and the team cannot tolerate this – it saps energy, wastes time, and damages morale. Pull the offenders aside, look ‘em in the eye and let them know that attitude is everything, especially in overtime.
5) Outwork your team. In OT great captains and managers rise to a new level of commitment, energy, and focus. You cannot push others to stretch while you operate at the normal pace and level. Let the team see that you are willing to do the extra work to get the job done. It is demoralizing to serve on teams and staffs where you outwork the leaders, and get none of the perks, notoriety, vacation time, or income their leaders receive. It is sad.
6) Finally, play to win, not just survive. Yes, look at the potential for a long overtime. You might need 6 pitchers in extra innings, so be strategic in their deployment. But don’t settle for survival. Get the team together and determine what the goal is, what “victory” looks like and then get after it. If it just drags on, then energy wanes, the team gets distracted, and the victory goes to others.
The captains and coaches of the Blackhawks led well in OT. They rotated players on lines, using shorter shifts, called time outs, worked a clear strategy, and led by example. It was a winning combination. A 4-3 victory well into the 3rd overtime.
Imagine how good that must feel today!
Photo Credit: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=673963
Avoid These 5 Big Leadership Mistakes
Not long ago CEO Ron Johnson was fired from JC Penney. Brad Tuttle, who covers business and personal finance for TIME believes there were 5 main reasons.
1) He misread the customer
2) He failed to test ideas in advance before going to market
3) He alienated core customers
4) He did not understand or honor the JC Penney brand
5) He did not respect the JC Penney leadership or culture
If you want to read the online article, click here.
Let’s learn from these leadership mistakes for our teams, groups and organizations.
1) Know your client. Whether you lead a church, auto repair shop, university or grocery store, you had better know who your customer is. A friend of mine is launching a consulting venture. He’s an experienced and successful businessman. But he has worked hard at understanding who his customer is – not hopes to be or can be. But who it is!
What kind of person are you speaking to? What are their struggles and needs? How do they make decisions? How can you serve them (not how do they serve your agenda)?
2) Test big ideas. Untested “big splash” ideas often fail. In the 1968 P&G put “potato chips” in a can – a great idea. Millions tried them, but never bought more. They tasted awful. It was not a potato chip, as expected. It was a snack chip. A simple taste test in key markets would have changed everything. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pringles
A large church asks the congregation to eat only rice, beans and water for a week to understand life in poverty. But many could not participate and felt guilty. These included diabetics, people with illnesses, smaller children, students in rigorous sports, the elderly, and many who labored hours outdoors.
But what if leaders allowed the congregation to come up with ideas, tested them for a few days, and then shared choices – like getting to know a poor person, serving the needy at a shelter, wearing the same clothes all week, eating a limited diet, not brushing your teeth, etc. Pick a way, do it and then tell stories about the experience. They misunderstood the client, and failed to test their idea.
3) Engage your core customer or audience. This is a classic error. The new team of leaders or mid-level managers does not understand the culture, existing staff, key volunteers (in non profits), and the core customer base. Instead of first seeking to understand, they ignore both the customer and key insiders, and basically impose a new vision and strategy on the organization. And it’s a mess. If you have been on the receiving end of this kind of “change” initiative, you know why it failed and why it hurt.
It takes years to recover sometimes. The Penney turnaround will take some time. But if you invest in customers, it will pay off for you and them. Here’s a good HBR article for more info on that.
4) Honor the brand. Customers are more important than your brand. But the brand is important. There is a reason the organization has come this far. Don’t be eager to toss out the past. Even if you have been hired engineer a turnaround, be cautious before dumping a deeply-established brand. Here is how Customer Growth Partners analyst Craig Johnson described what the CEO had done:
“Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.”
Poor management was replaced with mismanagement. The core values behind the brand must be carefully considered before re-branding or initiating great change. “We make children smile” is a brand promise you want to keep if you are a toy manufacturer. But HOW you keep that promise can change. Be wise.
5) Respect the organization. If you have been on the receiving end of a leadership transition, you understand how valuable this is when driving change. The brand, core culture, committed employees and loyal customers must be honored. It does not mean that you pretend it was all good. But you can respect the past as you lead into the future.
Never let your vision sound like, “Ok, I am finally doing something worthwhile here and will fix everything you’ve messed up for 20 years.” You will place yourself in a bigger hole. Celebrate faithful people, recognize previous successes, and tell the stories that highlight core values you want to preserve. It will help you build the relational and strategic capital you’ll need later to introduce real change.
Leadership mistakes are inevitable – but some of them are avoidable. Learn from the mistakes of others. Doing so will limit your own errors and gain you the respect you need to lead well.
What else would you add to the list?
Like all athletes I did weight training while playing football in High School and College. We pushed ourselves to the limit, trying to get bigger faster.Though I never used steroids or drugs I drank protein shakes and ingested protein supplements. Between 11th and 12th grade I gained almost 20 pounds on my 6-2 frame, most of it muscle, reaching a weight of 190. By sophomore year in college I was 215, though my college lifestyle helped add as much fat as protein to the mix.
One day I remember looking in the mirror at my growing body, and there were lines under my arms where the chest muscle met the shoulder. Stretch marks, as I later discovered, were common among people whose muscle growth outpaces the rate of skin growth. So the skin stretches too fast, leaving these marks. Body builders and pregnant women totally understand this.
Stretch marks are STRESS marks. It’s clear evidence that you’ve gone faster and farther than your capacity.
Stress is good. But there is always a price to pay when stress is great. It’s a common symptom in high performance athletes, high profile personalities and high-flying leaders.
If you want tips for reducing stress you can go to any credible website and get some ideas. Here’s 10 from Web MD to help get you started.
But what about life in the middle of the stress? What do you do to engage it and enter the stress battle; I don’t mean prevention or recovery. Total prevention is not possible – life brings unwelcome stress. We can do our part to reduce the frequency and intensity of self-inflicted stress (like not waiting until the last minute to write a 15-page paper, as my students often do). We cannot live stress-free. Recovery strategies include sleep, exercise, saying “NO” for a few days, and if serious enough, getting some professional help. Managing rhythms and building space into the calendar is, of course, essential.
But what about the middle of the battle? What do we do after the phone call saying our son was in a car accident, or when the boss explains sales are down 20% and there will be staffing reductions? What do we do when there is no more money at the end of the month, or your aging parent needs to move to an institution next week – and they live 1500 miles from you?
Stress marks are no respecters of persons. I know over a dozen people who just got a few more stretch marks on their souls because of unforeseen and undesirable circumstances. Stress happens to us, around us and through us. Here is how to fight the stress battle when the bullets are flying, when it’s too late or impossible to prevent or still too soon for recovery.
1) Gain perspective: Stretch marks are like battle scars. Bating suit models despise them and mothers wish they’d go away. But deep down inside life-warriors find a bit of comfort or pride or resolve in battle scars. Every scar has a story – some good, some bad, some awful. But they shout to us, “You are alive and you are fully engaged in the battle!”
2) Hang around the wounded: We avoid pain at every opportunity. The best thing is having pain partners. Watch a group of veterans at the local coffee shop. They don’t talk about war experiences much, but they have all been there and know the issues they must face today as a result of their experiences. Huddle with some other battle-weary souls.
3) Wave the white flag: When you cannot win the battle you must surrender to it. No – don’t yield to the enemy. Instead, surrender to the battle. Surrender to your pride, ego, self-sufficiency and desire for control. Maybe you are fighting a larger battle than you have to. I was trying to fight my way into a certain kind of client. I assumed I needed to grunt it out. But I was taking fire the whole way. Soon I realized I was battling my ego, not my enemy. I surrendered and redirected my attention to other fronts. And it made a big difference.
4) Yield command to others: You don’t have to be the general. And you don’t have to give in. You just need to pass the leadership baton. It could be that your perspective or you operating paradigm or you narrow experience is actually a roadblock to your leadership. There’s a short article in INC. Magazine on this Success Means Learning to Let Go by Geoffrey James.
5) By letting someone else (or a small team) lead the charge, you’ll discover fresh approaches and new “weapons” in the arsenal. You’ll watch people use core skills, insights, operating procedures, training methods and problem-solving techniques that are not in your armory.
You can avoid some stretch marks. And you cover some of them up. But in the end, you will get your fair share…because you’re alive. Learn to live with stretch marks.
Personal convictions are the seedbed for forging a compelling vision and shaping core values. These convictions must never be generated out of thin air or influenced simply by the latest leadership fad or trend. Somewhere deep down in the gut you will discover some things you believe in – some things that are non-negotiable about life, work, love, faith, relationships, leadership and the world. That is where you will find your Vision & Values.
So here are a series of questions first for Vision discovery and clarification.
1) What does the future look like when things are working extremely well? Not perfectly…that’s idealism. You need a vision that can be rooted in reality. So describe the future when the vision is now a fact. What has changed? What problem have you solved?
2) What does it feel like to be there? You probably have some sense of what it feels like as you imagine your dream coming true. Yes, what are your emotions? What wells up inside you as you see the vision becoming reality – joy, satisfaction, relief, hope, exhilaration, power, or freedom?
3) Who benefits most from the vision becoming reality? Imagine the people your team is serving or helping or providing a quality service to. Will it be children in poverty, adults without meaningful work, people with disabilities, a company without quality management, a non-profit that lacks solid leadership? What is happening in these people and among them? What new world opens up for them because of the vision becoming reality?
4) What change is taking place inside you? How are YOU different because the vision is a reality? What character changes are happening? How are you approaching your work? Have your priorities changed?
KEY VISION RESOURCE: Chapters 5 & 6 of The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner are worth the price of the book – and more – on the process of creating a shared vision.
Now for questions to help shape your core Values
1) What is true for you? This means, deep down inside you, there are things that do not waver – core beliefs that define how you see the world. These may be the result of experiences, values handed down by parents or mentors, religious convictions, or simply things you just know to be true (treating others with respect is the right thing to do.)
2) What makes you sad? This is a way of discovering values by looking through a different lens. When you view the world or work or you organization, what makes you sad? What do you wish would change? This is probably related to a value or belief you hold dear. For example, in a team meeting you see a weaker person get belittled by another member of the team. The strong personality of the culprit crushes the weak spirit of the team member, who does not respond in the moment but feels shame or intimidation. The anger you feel is tied to something you believe about justice, fairness, or perhaps kindness.
3) What brings you joy? Now we flip the coin and look at those events or activities that make you smile. You see a need met, a new product developed, a person helped, an obstacle overcome, a friendship grow or a goal achieved. You smile because something feels good at your core.
4) What gives you energy? Though similar to “what brings you joy?” above, this is a bit different. Yes, energy can be derived from people or events that bring me joy. But energy comes from other sources – adverse circumstances, a challenge, a loss, a unique opportunity, a new friendship, a family event, a kind of work, a new mission. What gives you a “rush” and makes you productive, excited about your work in the world, and givers purpose to your life?
KEY VALUES RESOURCE: Here is a short Forbes article on values-focused leadership by Jansen Kraemer that highlights four core principles leaders can use to lead from a values standpoint.
Answer these questions and record them in your journal. It will help you identify what’s in your gut, what makes you tick. Your personal Vision & Values will get clearer which will also allow you to sharpen the focus of your work and leadership.
So tell me – what are some of the answers to these questions for you? I’d love to hear what makes you tick and what you are giving yourself to!
Carving out space for refreshment and renewal is essential for lasting leadership. Here is a great way to monitor your life and create space in your schedule.