Lowest Common Denominator

Manage for your winners- don’t resort to designing your management systems for your bottom tier!

If you were awake in sixth grade math you probably remember the concept of the lowest common denominator in order to work with fractions. The concept was to evaluate and manipulate the numbers to obtain the lowest common number in order to make the denominator the same in order to solve the problem.

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This general concept is also used in management by instituting a series of rules to control issues that are occurring with employees. This set of rules are typically directed to only a few violator employees who are not performing or typically ride the edge of acceptability.

The root of the problem is that these employees are either disengaged, not managed properly, or are lacking feedback on a regular basis. Management by the lowest common denominator is a passive-aggressive style of management. Rather than attack the real problem, the manager will attempt to “hem in” the problem employee by developing a set of often silly rules in order to address issues in an attempt to keep employees productive.

The issue here is that this management theory requires that these rules apply to all employees. Your best performer and your worst performers.  Your best performers will resent being held to stupid rules. So you are actually catering to the lowest common denominator instead of attacking the real problem.

Don’t default to this style of management. Concentrate on the relatively few violators and address the issues at the root. Using a rules based system to lead your team is never the best way to lead. If your team members are not engaged and need constant attention then replace them. Resorting to the lowest common denominator style of management will cause unneccessary damage.

Lead your team. Provide continuous feedback. Let them know where they stand at all times.  Give them specific tasks and deadlines. Be a leader. Don’t punish your best performers by forcing them to comply with stupid rules.

Rules are for math problems, not leadership.

So what do you think? Have you experienced this management style before?  Click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me about your experience.

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The Office Whisperer

We’ve seen the horse whisperer and the pet whisperer. What about the office whisperer?

The horse whisperer has a way to talk to a horse and connect with them. Reassure them. Calm them down.

The pet whisperer has the skills to find out how a pet is stressed. Find out the things that are causing problems. Trying to make things better. Provide a better quality of life.

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Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

The office whisperer has other intentions. They often want to discuss people. They want to gossip! Not to improve. Not to help you. Not to make things better. To put themselves forward.

Scheming. Controlling. Divide and conquer.

There is nothing that is good that comes out of a whisperer. Nothing.

There is a reason they are whispering. They don’t want others to hear what they have to say or more importantly- what they are doing. The message is generally caustic. You don’t make a positive comment in a whisper. Think about this. Really. It’s like acid. It burns!

The purpose for whispering is about power. Period. You can comment below if you disagree. I wish you would!

Closed door meetings are fine and needed. There is a time in management when you need to close the door and discuss issues with staff. But how often do you find yourself whispering? I think that when you whisper you are really showing your cards. You are posturing. You are manipulating. You are trying to gather folks for your position. You are whispering to make your point. Why do you it? Why do you whisper? Please- really thing about this!

When I close my door it’s primarily to avoid the noise. Yes, I have to discuss things in private with folks occasionally. And that’s OK. But when I close the door, I don’t feel like I need to whisper. When you whisper you are delivering a secret. A special, often strategic message. Don’t bite on this. When the level goes low- think! Why do I feel like I need to whisper? Why can’t I talk in a normal tone? Who does this benefit? There is usually a reason for the whisper. Adults generally get rid of this when they leave the playground. Right?

Remember what your Mom told you- if you can’t say something good about someone then don’t say it at all! There is a time to discuss performance and management issues in a closed door setting but this should not need to be a daily event.

It’s really good advice from your Mom. Don’t whisper. Listen to your Mom!

So what do you think?  Do you know someone who regularly lowers their voice.  Do you agree with the me that whispering is a sign of a problem?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Community Doesn’t Just Happen

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Photo Credit- Josh Jackson- CC Public Domain

One-on-one communication is on life support…

We have reached to age where we will e-mail or text someone who is just a few feet away.  We avoid the phone call because it takes longer than a quick text.  Skip the pleasantries.  Get to the point.  Get your answer.  Move on the next issue.  Right?

This is certainly great for efficiency.  You can get more done if you can quickly get the information that you need and move on.

Yes, I am guilty.  My phone message suggests you e-mail me as I am often on the road or in meetings and can’t take calls.  The phone conversation takes a commitment to set aside some time to chat.  Some time to catch up.  Some time to see how someone is doing.

We are so programmed for efficiency and our workloads have increased to a point that the conversation comes at a cost.  You will loose some time connecting with others.  You may not get as much accomplished if you take the personal route.  You may have to work harder to accomplish things if you choose to be personal instead of impersonal.  Communicating personally is a choice.  You can choose to pick up the phone or walk to their office and get your answers along with an update of how they are doing or what’s going on in their lives.

Building Community Takes Work

In order to build community you have to communicate one-on-one.  You have to engage others.  You have to share and be vulnerable.  You have to be real.  This doesn’t just happen.  It takes work.  You have to be intentional.  Here are some ways to help develop stronger community:

Be Available.  In order to connect with someone you must be available.  Leave your door open.  Make it easy to find you.  Answer your phone.  Be available for meetings or questions.  This seems simple yet our fast paced work can make this simple thing quite difficult.

Ask Questions.  Show interest in others.  Find out interests, hobbies, passions, and gifts.  At the appropriate time, ask deep questions.  Find out their story and the issues that they are struggling with.  Share things that you have in common or your struggles.  Forget what you need.  Get to what they need.

Be authentic.  Let them see who you really are.  Don’t try to impress or be cool or be the know it all.  Don’t spend your life as an actor.  You can’t connect with a phony.  You’ll be connecting with air.

Take the time.  You won’t connect with the folks around you until you commit to putting down the work and make the effort to make the connection.  Don’t make excuses.  If you are introverted, it will take effort to do this.  Yet, you must make the effort and spend your valuable time connecting with others.  You have no excuse.

Building community takes effort and a commitment.  If you are in a leadership role, you must model this for others to see.  You must schedule opportunities to connect.  You must make it mandatory to do things in a personal way.  It won’t happen unless you make it happen.  We are social beings.  We need community.  Make the effort.  You will be glad you did!

So what do you think?  Have we reached a tipping point in communication?  Do you see the connection in personal communication and community?  Click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Photo Friday: A Mere Speck

Last weekend my son invited me to go off shore fishing with him and two of his friends.  We left early in an effort to try to beat the heat.  It’s been brutally hot this year in North Florida so getting out early really helps.  While riding out as the sun was coming up and riding out past the point where you can no longer see the shore, I was struck with the size of the ocean and the relative small size of the boat.  Really just a mere speck in the vastness of the ocean.

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I think we sometimes give ourselves more credit that we deserve.  We are all just a speck on the earth.  You might think you are a bid deal, but the truth is the world’s a big place and your really not all that extraordinary.  So how can we make an impact when we are just this speck on the ocean?  I spent some time catching up with my son and his friends.  I found out what’s going on in their lives.  We laughed a lot.  But sometimes it was just quiet and we enjoyed each others company without even saying a word.

The way you make the little speck big is by making your world smaller.  Reach out to the ones that are closest to you.  Connect on a deeper level.  Offer yourself to them.  You will make a bigger impact when you discover how to put others needs above yours.  This is how you will actually become the big deal.  In a small way and backwards to our thinking and reasoning.  One connection at a time in a great big world.  Just a speck in the middle of the ocean!

The Power Of Your Story

 

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Yesterday, we visited a women drug and alcohol rehab center in Alajualita to minister to the women at the center. Kathy had been there many times, but this was my first visit. During our time at the center, our group shared some of our own personal stories of addiction, rejection and shame. As we shared through an interpreter, you could visibly see the connections being made between their situation and our struggles and our stories. This instantly broke down the walls between our cultures, our distances, our languages.

I’ve seen this before. Being transparent has a way of connecting people together. Having the courage to share a painful story or your personal struggle confirms that you are not alone in your struggles. There are others that are just like you. You are not weird. You are not broken. You are not alone.

If you don’t tell your story, how will they know?

One of the persons in our group shared a miraculous story of deliverance from a very serious drug addiction. They came to the end of the rope. They were tired of the cycle of failure. They gave up the struggle, asked the Lord for help, and finally surrendered. Completely. None of this “one foot in and one foot out”. Quit trying to do it one their own.  They realized that it was impossible without His help. And like the gracious father that He is, in an instant, it was gone. No more hunger for drugs. No more depression. No more shame.

They were glued to every word. I sensed that the ladies were most afraid of failing again. You could see the fear in their eyes. They had all tried to stop before. One woman shared that she was a “rehab expert”. She had been in rehab twenty times. They all wanted it to end.  They desperately wanted this instant transformation and change.

Radical transformation is what they are seeking. A new beginning. Freedom from the slavery of drug and alcohol abuse. Freedom can be instantaneous or it can be a process. We want it quick, in an instant, but the Lord may have other plans. The key is to surrender. Completely. Give up the fight and give it to Him. You cannot do it on your own, with your own will. It’s the Jesus story. We couldn’t live the perfect life so he sent His son to the rescue. To give us a way out. He is the good, good Father!

The good news is that in the end He always wins. He wants the very best for you. And, if its not in an instant, you will get stronger each day. You can do this. Wash away the old and fill yourself up with the New. The Lord is gentleman. He won’t do anything without your permission. Move towards Him. Surrender. He’s waiting for you!

So what do you think?  Have you experienced the power of your story?  Have you seen the walls come down?  Why do we try to hide?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Searching for Home

Kathy and I had the privilege to serve in a refugee camp on the Panamanian border. The camp has several hundred Africans and some Pakistanis who are stuck in the camp due to issues with the Nicaraguan government letting them pass through their country. We spent time hearing the stories of their journey through the Amazon rainforest and being robbed by the mafia in Columbia. These were men looking for a safe place for their families. They risked it all to find a place that is safe and secure. Some told us stories of walking through the jungle with a compass simply pointing them north. They spent days walking through swamps with water up to their chests.

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An incredibly dangerous journey.

They shared the struggles back home and the reasons why they left on this journey. Stories of killings and brutality. Corruption and political struggles.

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As I sat and listened I realized that the conditions back home were so bad and dangerous that it was actually better for them to risk traveling through the jungle with the hope of finding home. This is not a story about money. This is about safety for their families. Searching for a place where they can live without fear. They were searching for home.

They are risking their lives to help provide a safe place for their families.
There is no guarantee that they will make it.
Yet, they will put it all on the line for a chance to make it to the U.S.

How about you?

The U.S. certainly has its problems, but we have justice and peace. The Pakistanis knew it. They knew that the U.S. was a good place. A place with good and caring people. A safe place with opportunity.

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So as we as a country discuss “walling off” our country in I can’t forget about the faces of these people. They are risking their lives to find something better for their families. They will continue to point their compass north. They will continue to struggle to find safety. Something we take for granted. A place where they can sleep at night without worry. A place of peace and security.

The march will continue.  Heading north. Searching for home.

You Can’t Look Back!

Kathy and I were having breakfast with a man after Street Corner Saturday morning who was recovering from a brutal beating which almost cost him his life.  He was in a coma for several weeks and the doctors were not optimistic about his recovery.  While he was in the coma, the Lord spoke to him and reassured him that He still had work on the earth for him to complete.  He told us that he remembers being separated from his body and looking down on the doctors and his family similar the common near-death experience.  He eventually recovered and has had a dramatic life change as he is convinced he has been given a second chance at life.

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This man had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was associated with some bad people.  As he continued with his story he began to express self-doubt and a feeling of not fitting in with the other men around him.  He continued to share about his past failures and insecurities and I stopped him mid-sentence and told him-

Stop!  You can’t look back! 

We all have junk in our past.  We have all made mistakes.  You simply cannot dwell on the past.

I told him that he was a new person that has been transformed and forever changed.  The old self is gone.  The voice telling you that you about your past, your previous failures, that your not good enough …is NOT the voice of the Father.  This is the voice of the enemy.  You cannot listen to this.

The enemy uses self-doubt, shame, and guilt to take away our power.  When we turn inside of ourselves we have destroyed our ability to influence others in a positive way.  We cease in our ability to make a difference in the world.

He shook his head yes and thanked me for the reminder.  He viewed many of the other men around him as hypocrites for just “talking and not walking” in their faith.  I reminded him that he can influence them by doing the right thing and walking in the light.  The rest is up to God.  He needn’t carry that burden.

Looking back can bring you down but it can also be an encouragement.  Look how far you have come!  You are not where you used to be.  And you are moving forward.  You are making a difference.  Push that negative voice out of your head.  It is not doing you any good!

Realize that you are here for a purpose much bigger than yourself.  To change lives.  To build up.  To restore and create.  This is the voice from heaven.  Listen for it!

So what do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!  If you like this post press the share button and post it on your Twitter feed or Facebook page!  Yep…I can use some encouragement too! 

Serving Others…Without the Exchange

One of the keys to being a servant leader is serving others by putting their needs ahead of yours.  A great example of this is being a parent.  When you raise a family, you learn that the needs of your children naturally come before yours.  Children do not have the ability to take care of themselves.  They do not have the experience to make good decisions.  They are yours- so you love and nurture them and make sure they have the things needed to stay healthy and to grow and prosper.

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This is an easy one.  What about another tougher example.  What if the person that needs help is not your child?  What if they are not your relative?  What if they are an adult?  What if this person lives in another country?  What if they don’t speak your language?

Shouldn’t matter.  You were made to serve others.  Unconditionally.  Without strings.  Everyone.  Period.

This is tough stuff for someone who is used to the exchange.  I give something and then get something back.  This exchange can be very subtle.  Often when we lead others- we still get something back, right?  Is this really giving?  Serving your children benefits you by benefiting your children and your family.  Serving your workmates helps you while helping them.  You get something back for your hard work.

Can we give without getting back?  Giving in it’s purest form should be one sided- right?  Give and don’t get back.  If you skip the exchange, what is the great equalizer?

Kathy and I are leading a missions team to Costa Rica  May 21-June 1 to minister to the poor and support the local church. We will be staying Alajuelita which is in the central valley of Costa Rica near the capital city of San Jose.  This is a poor area of Costa Rica and we will be ministering in the poorest barrios (neighborhoods)- tin shacks with dirt floors.  These areas are full of families and children are everywhere.  We will be helping to feed the children and will spend time with the moms and the elderly.  We will also be ministering at a woman’s rehab center.  Drug abuse and prostitution (legal in Costa Rica), is a big problem in Costa Rica.  Many women are often forced to sell themselves just to feed their families.

Missions is very important to me.  I know that we are blessed beyond measure in this country and I have a burning desire to give back and serve the poor and needy.  The greatest gift that we can provide those in need is the reassurance that there is a God in heaven that loves them unconditionally.  Love makes all the difference.  This is often all we can hold onto when we are in the toughest situation.  This truth has helped me during tough times in my life.  And I have seen with my own eyes what this truth can bring to a Costs Rican who feels hopeless.  This is the power of the Gospel.  This is what we will share on our trip to Costs Rica.

Will you please partner with me on my trip?  We are trying to raise all of the funds through donations so that your money, prayers and love will actually travel with us and make a tangible impact in Costa Rica.  Without leaving your house, you can be part of the work that we are doing in Central America!  Any amount would be greatly appreciated.  This donation is also tax deductible- the church will send you a receipt for tax purposes.  You can send a check to me or you can donate on line by credit card (secure connection through Pay Pal). Below is a link to the online donation to our church- River City Church:

http://www.rccjax.com/give

Please click on “one time donation” and fill out the information.  This only takes a few minutes.  Do it now or you will forget! (I only say this because this is what I do!).  If you donate on- line please contact me  (Click on “Contact” tab on this website) and tell me that you donated.  I have to alert the church about your donation or your donation will NOT be appropriated to our mission trip.

I am so excited to be going to Costa Rica to spread God’s love to the poor and needy. Please give to help us fund this trip so you can be with us as we work to make a difference in the lives of those we reach.  Giving them our time and our love.  Taking your love to others far away.  Giving unconditionally.

God bless you and your family!

So what do you think?  Do you give without the exchange?  Is love the great equalizer?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 

 

Make Them Great!

I was having dinner with a site supervisor a while back and he shared his frustration with motivating one of his team members on site. He was convinced that this person was just lazy and could not visualize what was needed on the construction site. He voiced his frustration with this persons inability to think about the next step. This supervisor ia a self-motivated and driven individual. He works very hard and has always been that way. He would work weekends and well past regular work hours.

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I shared an experience that I had with a person that I managed years ago. This person actually shared with me that I need to hold him more accountable. He added that I need to actually call him out sometimes. He shared that I need to ride him a bit in order to get the best out of him. I was really shocked by this. My report was actually asking me to be harder on him!

This was so foreign to me. See, I am more like the site supervisor. I work really hard and I am self motivated. I don’t need anyone else to turn up the heat. I keep the heat on high always. When someone leans on me, I find it offensive not motivating.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Everyone is different. What works on you won’t always work on others.

You can’t manage others the same why you like to be managed!

You may struggle being hard or you may struggle leaving someone alone. But you MUST learn to pattern your management style to the individual. This WILL be uncomfortable. This WILL be tough to do. But trust me- you have no choice if you want to get the very best out of your people. This is not for you- it’s for them. They need your help to grow and prosper.

This is your real job and your true calling. Life is not just about you. Take the time and learn what motivates them. Step up and make them great!

So what do you think?  Have you been mismanaged in the past?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!

Twenty Questions

One of the most common management practices is to enter the office of your report and after a few little icebreakers, begin to fire off the questions:

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Is the project on schedule?

Have you handled the budget overrun?

Were you able to engage a vendor yet?

Did you fix the issue with the client?

And on and on it goes….

After the twenty questions and reassuring answers from your report you leave the office feeling good about the project as well as your special abilities as a great manager. You can now check the “I managed” box. I took care of my management duties!

But did your really manage here? Did your twenty questions change anything? Have you really made an impact?

Maybe or maybe not!

The fact is that the answers to your twenty questions are probably half truth. Most employees that know the twenty questions management style will tell you what you want to hear. They may not be actually lying to you, but they may spin the facts or tell you only part of the story. You may be only making yourself feel good regardless of your ability to craft great questions. So what can you do other than twenty questions? Do you need to be an interrogator or have the skills of prosecuting attorney in order to manage a person or a process? Here are a few ideas beyond the questioning:

Look at the numbers: The truth will likely be in the numbers. Always. Develop systems to track things statistically. It’s tough to spin facts and figures. Find ways to track performance with numbers.

Look downstream: Instead of quizzing your report, ask others downstream, your clients or other stakeholders for feedback. This will be results driven feedback- not a measure of action or effort by the report.

Be observant: Most problems will leave clues long before they blow up into a full fledged forest fire. Watch for hints that things are not progressing properly. Build some early warning systems to head off problems. Don’t simply rely on talk.

Build trust: The best way to manage is to have the report come to you for help or to get advice on a situation. If they don’t feel that your office is a safe place, they will never walk through the doorway. It is far better to learn about a situation or problem in this manner than trying to pry it out of them.

Face the music: Most of us tend to be inherently optimistic and believe that things will work out in the end. If things are going poorly, they are likely to continue going poorly and changing things from bad to good can be very difficult. Face your problems head on. Don’t fool yourself that things are going to get better because you received answers to your questions that make you feel good.

Twenty questions can be a dangerous way to manage people. Asking good questions is valuable in management, but you can’t rely solely on the answers that you get. Don’t be fooled. Put systems in place to measure progress. Keep your eyes open to what is really going on and make yourself open to be a resource instead of an adversary. If you really enjoy the questioning- then go ahead and change careers and go to law school!