So You Want To Change The World?

I believe most of us are wired with a goal of doing something really big with our lives. Write a book. Get our name on a building. Develop something new. Make a mark on the world.  Do something really big.

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Big goals are great. They stretch us. They make us see over the horizon. As I have grown older and gained more wisdom, I have learned that big is relative. Kathy and I have traveled the world on mission trips trying to help organizations make the big impact. And what we have found is that change is really about the one person that you encounter. One moment. A single soul. A single life at a time.

 

This has been our recent revelation. We don’t tend to look big anymore. The truth is you cannot place a price on a soul. A life. A legacy. It’s priceless. The value is infinite. A single soul can shake eternity.

The photo above is a group of life changers. No miracle drugs, new innovations or amazing technology solutions. No senators or mayors or CEOs. This is a group of teachers who had a profound impact on my life. I won’t pick them out or use names, but there are three of my elementary/middle school teachers in this picture.

First, my science teacher. He was well liked by me and my friends and he laid the groundwork for my leadership style. You do not need to be a tyrant to lead people. You can lead with your heart. Its ok to let your feelings show. You can truly care and its a good thing! While learning from this teacher, we were able to develop a friendship that was a positive influence on my life. This teacher even took me and two of my friends on a weekend ski trip. This was on his time. Not a school thing. Just a weekend of fun. Impact? Yes- a life changer!

Second, my geography teacher. She would give us maps to color and require that we memorize the capitals of obscure countries. At the time I thought it was a giant waste of time. But later I learned that this memorization exercise was a precurser to what was required in college and beyond. She also showed me a picture of a great big world beyond my corner of the world. She introduced me to different cultures and political structures. I have become a lifelong student of geography and this was only possible from the effort of this lady. She changed my vision of the world. Opened up my eyes and expanded my horizon.  Big impact!

Third, my english teacher. She would spend countless hours diagramming sentences, correcting poor grammar and building my writing foundation, that has been a strength for me throughout my life. (ahem- please don’t grade this!) She taught me about rules and precision. She taught me that being perfect was really hard. A small mistake counts. And if you can communicate effectively, your life will be better. I am a direct product of her work. I have often been tasked by my employers to write because it comes easy to me and I understand the power of one word. I learned this from my english teacher. She put me on a road toward excellence in communication. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

These three teachers changed my life. They had a direct impact on my skills, abilities and my attitude about learning. They were instrumental in my personal value and pursuit of life-long learning.

So you want to change the world? I say do it one person at a time. No giant programs. Just one-on-one. Soul to soul.

Change the world?  Be a teacher and be a life changer!

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Give it Away!

One of the principles that I have learned as I have gained experience and wisdom is that the answer is often hidden or the opposite of logic. This realization has led me to second guess my observations and solutions and this has been very enlightening as I examine the issue from several angles and often get conflicting solutions.

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Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

As I have coached and built-up leaders through the years, I have used this second guessing as a test on how I look at leadership and management styles and their effectiveness. For the most part I have concluded that, barring abusive behavior, as long as they are effective then their style is usually acceptable. People are somewhere between very tough to impossible to change. You work with what you got.

The outlier to this theory is how we give power to our leaders. I believe there are some pretty rigid rules in how you build a powerful leader. Much of this is common sense, yet few really follow the rules here.

The source of the power that exists in the leaders of your team comes from you! If you see a person as a weak leader, its is often a result of not being given the power and authority to do their job. You have to give it away. This narrative of weak leadership may actually be the voice in your head giving you the authority to meddle in their affairs and undermine their authority.

There are many damaging actions that thwart authority and lead to a weakened leader. Here a a few of the biggies:

Chain of Command: When you do not respect the chain of command you are undermining the authority of your leaders. If you continually direct people downstream of others you are sending a message that their leaders instructions are not important. Although you are the “big boss” and you can do whatever you want, this disregard for the authority of those you have placed in charge is damaging. Very damaging. Don’t do it.

Micromanagement: Getting in the weeds on issues and overanalyzing is damaging to authority. Accept that mistakes will happen. This is the only path to growth. Stay out of the weeds.

New Ideas: Don’t shoot down new ideas because they are not yours or they involve risk. Be receptive to new ways of doing things. This is empowering your leaders to think. To be relevant. To make a difference.

Hiding your Leaders: Celebrate and promote your leaders in the business world. Some folks will be fearful that by promoting there leaders they may loose them to another company. I say that hiding them will lead to the same result. Promote your leaders. It will strengthen your organization.

Limiting Decisions: By limiting the authority of making decisions you are also limiting their power. Give them the authority but make sure they know they own it. They will have to clean up the mess if it goes bad. This is also a path to growth.

Too many times we deduce that weak leadership is the result of a character flaw or the limited abilities of the leader we manage. The truth is that their power comes from you!

You can either build them up or tear them down. It’s your choice. If you want a strong organization you need to give your power away. Let it flow downward. Will there be problems if you let go? Yes- always. However, you will have a group of strong leaders below you and this will be a huge advantage in cleaning up the mess.

Wind them up and let them go. You’ll be happy with the results!

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.

Your Fooling Yourself!

Do we deceive ourselves into thinking that we ARE what we are NOT?

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The mind has a way of legitimizing and reinforcing our behavior. We think that our motivations are pure. We are acting in a righteous way.  For others.  Not ourselves.  We are selfless.  But is this really true?

We also have a way of running an interior narrative that reinforces this reality.  We can truly convince ourselves that we value something when the facts actually completely contradict this belief.  The complete opposite of what we think.

The difference is reality and reality is found in action. We will DO what is important to us.  You can’t fool action.  You can tell people that you value or care about something, but what are you doing about it?  If you are not acting it’s just talk.

Folks run their mouths about helping the poor and donate absolutely nothing. The environmentalist drives a Suburban. The wife says she loves her husband but spends more time talking to her girlfriends and keeping up her super mom image. The husband who says he is a devoted dad but spends his weekends playing golf.

Examine your action VERY carefully.  What do you do?  What are your actions?  Day in day out, what is your true motivation?  You may disguise it as altruist, charitable, for others- but is it really?  Often, its really all about you and what you truly care about.

The way that you look to others.
Your image.
Your reputation with others.

There is a passage in the Bible that talks about praying loudly on the corner and praying silently in a private place.  The public display is all about you.  You have received your reward.  The private display is the only pure motivation.

Is your action about the return?  Even what looks charitable or caring?  What I GET for my GIVE.  Will I get something in return for my actions?  Will people think i’m just so amazing for what I did?

You can fool yourself into thinking all of your actions are for others.  Pump yourself up. But you are lying to yourself.  Examine yourself closely.  Are you doing it for your image? Or for your pride!

Do it in private.  Do it for someone who doesn’t think you are amazing.  Do it for someone who doesn’t even show ANY appreciation for it.

If not- you might be simply fooling yourself!

So what do you think?  Do we tell ourselves a story that may be completely false?  Can we truly fool ourself?  Click on “Leave a Comment and tell me what you think!

Five Tips For Parents (Without Time Machines)

Gosh- if only we had a time machine.

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A place where you could go back in time and fix things that went wrong. I love some of the movies that do this. Back to the Future. Hot Tub Time Machine. Somewhere in Time. The Terminator. Go back and fix the wrong and change history.

But for now with raising kids you get one chance. ONE CHANCE. So don’t screw it up!

I certainly could have done better. More books- less sports. More one on one. Put more emphasis on the “soft side” of life. Better faith leader. More time less work.  I had MANY unflattering moments where I lost my cool, lacked self-control or did something incredibly stupid that I wish I could have taken back.

The problem is that you can’t start over. They can’t unforget things.  We can’t change time like the time travelers.

But we did do some things right. And these things had an impact on our kids lives. They really made a difference.  And it helped form the way that my children see the world. We were not perfect, but have some things that went well.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Hard Work: The only place a child will learn (at least in the U.S.) to work hard is at home. My father taught me that lesson and we did our best to teach it to our children. You need to work to get what you want. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. This requires sweat and effort. Get your kids off the couch and make them work. If they understand what hard work looks like, they will be a contributor. They will be a good citizen.  They will be able to make a difference in the world. It’s your responsibility- not theirs.

Value of Money: The best thing we did for our kids is to have little money.  This was really a circumstance- but it had great power.  They did not get everything they wanted. They understood that wants are not needs. We raised them in a very modest lifestyle that allowed them to see that money is earned and not picked off a tree in the backyard. Kathy would gather the pennies and roll them and take them to the bank. They knew about the value of money. They learned how to save.  I don’t know how you can raise children in an affluent houshold and get this message across.

Good Grades: We instilled a culture of excellence in school work. I did not give my kids the choice to go to college. Why in the world would you do that? Ask a child if he wants to continue the seeming misery of school work? Seems like most would take the easy route. That’s not parenting. We had our own grading system and we rewarded good grades and good reports from school. Just like the workplace- right? Why would you NOT do this for your kids?

Tradition: We always worked to create things that were uniquely ours. Family traditions. We created traditions that were only ours. Don’t overlook the power here. Children love this. They crave structure and predictability. They thrive in it. Create a rhythm to their lives. Give them something that is uniquely for your family. Even silly stuff. They will remember even the smallest details. Make it your family’s own. Big power here.

Competition: We encouraged our children to compete in sports, arts, activities and other areas. The world will make them compete. By sheltering them or ignoring this fact you may be setting them up for failure. Competition can be ugly and daunting for a parent. But YOU need to get them ready. This is your job.  No one else will do this.

There are more to this list but this is a few majors. The point is- you have to be an active parent. It’s not an easy job. But you can’t jump in the time machine. You can’t change it once it’s done. Don’t have regrets. Do the very best you can. Push your children. They are not your buddies. They want instruction. They want structure. Give them what they need to thrive. You can’t go back. No “do over” here!

So what do your think?  I know many would love the time machine but we can’t go back. One time.  One chance.  Do you agree?  Click on “Leave a Message” and tell me what you think!

Talker or Doer?

Are you a silver-tongued leader?

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I’ve met a bunch of people in leadership through the years.  Some were gifted motivators.  They knew how to communicate a goal and guide to the finish.  They had the ability to paint the picture.  A great gift to be able to help folks see the finish line.  Yet sometimes this was all you got.  A picture and a story.

Then I have met some great leaders who are really in it.  These are the folks that might say less but are next to you in the battle.  They realize that talk won’t always get you there.  They are willing to really help out.  Get dirty.  Get into the fight.

The rub lies in that the talker is often seen as the better leader.

I really hate this.  The talker uses his mouth.  The doer uses his hands.  But classic leadership will tell you that you don’t have the time to be a doer.  You shouldn’t get bogged down in actually doing the work.  If you’re a leader -you are worth more.  Your ability to motivate and direct is more important.

Messed up thinking!

While I agree that you should not get bogged down doing tasks that should be delegated, many leaders feel that it is below them to jump in and help out.  They are the boss.  It would make them look bad if they were seen actually doing the work.

I can’t be a used car salesman leader.  I personally have a hard time trusting and believing someone who talks too much and doesn’t really want to pitch in and help out.  I realize that there is value in motivating and directing yet by only using these two tools you are forgetting the most powerful tool.

Serving your team by actually working along side of them. 

Here is a question to ponder- What do YOU create?  Do you actually produce things as a leader or is your day filled with walking and talking?  Do you produce or do you talk?

My opinion- we need more doers and less talkers!  What do your think?  Let me know by clicking on “Leave a Comment” and let me hear your opinion.  Talker or Doer?

 

 

 

Stick to the Big Stuff!

Can you REALLY get all that you want?  Is that reasonable?

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I have always been amazed at leaders that have been able to be effective by getting the big things and accepting that not getting the small things is OK.  A great leader is able to distinguish what really counts. Unfortunately, the world has embraced a “winner takes all” mentality.

 

A great leader is able to transport themselves into the shoes of the other person.  They have the ability to be able to view the world from the other side.  The gift to truly understand and appreciate the good of the other viewpoint.

 

We have reached a point where we truly believe that our own way of looking at the world is the only correct way.  Everyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid?  Really? Why have we become so intolerant?  Why is it all or nothing?  Is this the only way to get things done?

 

There are examples of leadership that leads to REAL victories.  Billy Graham was able to navigate the extremely divided Christian denominations by focusing on the big things.  He was able to avoid the things that divide the faithful.  Think of what he was able to accomplish.  He met with leaders of faith and leaders of countries.  How did he do it?  He concentrated on the big things.

 

Jesus.  Love for others.  Serving others.

 

The rest of the stuff- he was able to avoid.  He accepted that the BIG STUFF was what really matters.

 

We have wasted so much time and energy fighting against each other.  Compromise is the way to get things done.  This doesn’t mean that you give up the big things, but let go of the winner takes all mentality.  See it from the other side.

 

A great leader recognizes what is a big thing.  What can get things done.  The rest is minor stuff.  And that is all that really matters.

 

So what do your think?  Why have we become so intolerant?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Don’t Be A Pac-Man!

Are you getting swallowed up?

Do you remember the game Pac-Man? This is going back a bunch of years, but it was one of the first video/arcade games where the Pac-Man travelled the course swallowing up all the cookies as he goes along. Never stopping. Devouring the cookies.  The cookies just go away.

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I used to work for a developer who required weekly updates to the project schedule. They developed a spreadsheet where everything was connected so when we were actually ahead of schedule, the final completion date would just move up to coincide with our hard work in trying to get ahead. So much for being ahead of schedule!  All of our hard work disappeared. The Pac-Man just swallowed it up!

I’ve seen the Pac-Man emerge in other places. There are times when we have an employee or team member that excels or works extremely hard in tough situations. They are just good at what they do. Dedicated and a hard worker.  These are your best employees.

They consistently STEP UP and take care of business.

They work HARDER and FASTER.

They carry MORE weight than the others.

And what happens next? The Pac-Man comes in and eats it all up.

All of the extra effort and skill actually becomes expected. It’s no longer seen as extra or exceptional. The bar just gets raised up under your feet. They move the goal posts!

Do you have a team member or employee that just knows how to get it done? Have you forgotten how much they really contribute to your business? These are your go-to people. Have you REALLY thought about what would happen if they left? Decided that enough was enough?

LEADERS: Don’t be a Pac-Man! Recognize what you have. If you continually move up the bar and deem this performance as normal you will WASTE your best workers.

Don’t get used to exceptional. If it’s exceptional then recognize it and reward it. Continually. Non-stop.

You will not explode if you say “good job” over and over again.  I promise!

Stars are stars. If they don’t shine with you, they will shine with someone else. Keep your eyes open! LOOK at what you have. Don’t be a Pac-Man or it may be GAME OVER for you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen the Pac-Man at your workplace?  Click “Like” to tell me you agree.  Or , click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me your story!  I ALWAYS appreciate your comments and insight!

Don’t Do This When People Make Mistakes

We all screw up sometime.  Maybe a careless moment or a poor evaluation of the circumstance.  There are consequences when mistakes are made.  I have been “blessed” many times with being clean-up crew when there is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.

The fact is mistakes are how we learn.  I have really come to realize this as I have gotten older and gained more experience. There are so many times I get that “deja vu” feeling because I am in a similar circumstance I’ve been before and I remember the proper way to navigate out of it.  Experience is huge and you can’t always make up for it.

I have watched mistakes happen and I have watched how various leaders handle the problem.  There is one thing that I have learned that never seems to work in fixing a mess.  This is using blame.

When you are in the midst of fixing a bad situation the worst thing you can do is to immediately go to blame.  There is a time and a place to analyze and discuss the failures that led to the problem, but going to blame will only magnify the issue.

You will likely isolate the person who messed up.

They will feel that it was all their fault.

They will feel attacked.

They will not be in an effective position to help you fight your way out of the mess.

When one of your reports messes up its for a reason, in the vast majority of cases, the person responsible for the screw up is the person you see in the mirror.  They were not trained properly.  They were overwhelmed and you should have provided help. They weren’t ready for the assignment.  They didn’t have the proper resources.  It’s not them- it’s you!

So why are we quick to blame?  It’s our own ego and pride response.  We blame to protect ourselves.  Protect our perfect standing.  It couldn’t be me?  I did everything right!

After the dust settles and emotions die down, then you can take a look at the mistakes that were made.  The only way for learning is to confront the mistakes that were made and make changes so they don’t happen again.  This is the learning experience.  This is life.  The best lessons are learned out of pain.  It’s not fun- but it’s true.  When you have a mess, concentrate on clean up.  Jump in and help make it right.  Then, after things are fixed, take a good look at what happened and fix the problem.  Time to heal allows for objectivity and reflection.

Stay away from blame.  When you feel like you need to play the blame card- STOP AND THINK- about your role in the problem and understand what you are really doing when you blame.  A great leader will accept responsibility.  They understand that they are not perfect.  They are emotionally mature enough to know that they can make mistakes sometimes and they accept the failures of their reports.

Jump in and fix the problem.  Keep your mouth shut.  Talk about what happened later.

So what do you think?  Have you worked with a “blamer” before?  Do you see the connection between blame and pride?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Photo Friday: The Little Things

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Photo Credit:  Snapwire Amarpreet Knur- CC Public Domain

I’m traveling again on business. At the TSA check today, I pulled out my toiletries out of my bag and spotted a little note card that my wife put in my bag about five years ago. I was leaving for a men’s retreat and she snuck the note in my bag along with some other stuff. The note is now yellowed and showing the wear of thousands of air miles

I looked at the note and smiled. The smile came at the right time. I was tired, just out of gas and getting on another airplane. Heading out again. But there was that note…again. Reminding me that I have someone who is supporting me. Someone who is on my side. Someone who I can count on no matter what happens.

These little things are big. They have weight- at least to me. I also have come to realize that some folks go through life kinda clueless. They don’t have any idea what is going on around them. They are rushing through everything. They are missing so much of what is going on around them.

But I see the little things. And they brighten up my day. And that makes all the difference!