Weak Leader?

 

Great companies have a common characteristic. They have strong leaders. But what is strong leadership? I think if you ask ten different persons you will get ten different answers! I think an obvious sign of a strong leader is they generally have a group of very dedicated followers who understand their role in the overall vision for the company. I don’t believe that strong leadership is characterized by the volume of their bark or purely the degree at which they drive their team forward.  Being strong doesn’t mean being feared or intimidating.  

But what happens when you have a weak leader? A leader that struggles at making decisions or providing vision or hitting deadlines? Is this a sign that they don’t have the tools to lead? Although these and other signs may be a function of overall weakness, it may not be their fault. You may be the problem. You may be the barrier to their leadership strength. Here are a few ways you may be weakening the leaders below you.

Changing Work Priorities

You have placed this person in a leadership role in order to use their judgement on managing the staff and prioritizing assignments.  If you are directing their staff to complete items that you think have a higher priority without consulting them first you are undermining their authority.  This is sending a message to the team that your leader is not capable of prioritizing correctly and that they are incapable and you need to get involved.  The real reason may be that you have a control problem. If you must change priorities for the team, follow the organizational chart and stay in the chain of command.  Don’t manage folks just because you can.

Gossip

If you are having issues with a report and you are running your mouth to other folks in the organization, the gossip will obviously be damaging to that person’s credibility.  And you may be just plain wrong.  Don’t assume you have it all figured out.  Keep your mouth shut and go to the person and discuss your issues.  Give them an opportunity to explain and rebut your assumptions. Gossip is never the answer. 

Different Management Styles

Don’t assume that another person‘s management style is weak just because it’s not the same as the way you manage or lead.  The measurement is the results.  Is this person doing their job as a leader?  Are the folks that they are leading engaged and performing properly?

Fuzzy Or Changing Goals

Have you been completely clear about what the goals are and what items are most important?  Do you change the priorities often?  If the person is unsure or in a constant state of flux, how can you hold them responsible for anything?  Provide clear objectives and be consistent.

Competition

Do you feel that this person is a threat to you?  This may sound strange since they are actually below you in the organizational chart.  Does this person intimidate you?  Are they sometimes more knowledgeable in some areas.  Do they just grind you?  Do they have a great following in the workplace?  This should be all positive, however some folks can be very insecure, have big egos or are narcissistic and will fight you or anyone else to “win”.  Just remember that you are both on the same team!  Showcase your talent and let your people grow in influence.  Don’t hold them down.  When they grow and prosper, you grow and prosper too!

Undermining Authority

Do you allow folks to come directly to you instead of their direct report?  This can be a situation where “If dad says no, go ask mom!”  Don’t provide direction or approve a decisions downstream.  Always push them back into the chain of command.  By directly managing people downstream you are undermining their authority.  You are directly weakening their leadership.

I am sure there are more examples of this kind of behavior that destroys the strength of their leadership.  If you want strong leaders, it is up to you to empower them!  Support them by respecting the chain of command and the organizational chart.  Give them all the tools they need to be successful.  Do not direct their people even if you are the owner of the company.  Support them in front of the rest of the company.  If you have issues with them, discuss the issues privately.  Respect them and their work and they will grow in strength and effectiveness.   Quite often the true “weak leader” is the person you see in the mirror!

Have you experienced this before?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!

Do it Afraid

Fear is a funny thing. It has a way of freezing us up. Our natural instincts kick in and the result is that we will stop our movement and progress.

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We will overthink the situation.
We will seek the comfortable route or outcome.
We will avoid the fear and go around it.

I am not saying that fear is a bad thing. We have been conditioned to avoid fear for safety purposes. I am sure you remember some of the advice from your Mom.

Don’t play in he road…
The burner is still hot…
Make sure that I know where you are at all times…
Don’t go with strangers…

All of these are good advice. We should not proceed recklessly.  But one of her primary purposes as a parent was to simply keep you safe. While safety is important, I’m not sure that our primary focus on safety and what is secure and predictable is always healthy in the long run.

I have learned through the years that significant growth comes from pushing through the fear by doing it afraid. This is from a guy who is more cautious by nature so this “pushing through” is not easy for me. My tendencies are to visualize and analyze the things that could go wrong.  I have learned that there is a point where you just need to go and conquer the “what ifs”.

Kathy and I have served all over the world and in the inner city and have become accustomed to serving in environments that are viewed by others as unsafe. We are cautious and careful when we are in these environments.  We remain aware of our surroundings and do not proceed in areas alone.  Yet we have learned to push down the feelings of fear that will strangle the ability to move forward and serve. Our faith certainly contributes to our boldness and we have reached a conclusion that we have to go past and conquer the fear.

Your fear area may be public speaking.  It may be leading others.  It may be preforming a task that you don’t think you can accomplish.

Next time you are fearful to move forward, take a deep breath and push through it. Once you have stepped out it will be easier the next time. Fear has a way of fencing us in. There is life beyond the barrier and your world will get bigger and more rewarding. Go ahead.  Move forward.  Do it afraid!

So have you experienced the thrill of overcoming a fear?  Please click on “leave a comment” and let me hear your story!

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!

Boring Freedom

I have always liked the 4th of July for what it is.  A day of celebration of family, good food and a reflection on how we have been blessed as a nation.  A day at the beach or the pool is usually in order.  Relax and watch the waves or spend some time on the boat enjoying family and friends.  Nothing really spectacular or unique or cool.  Some fireworks and good food.

The 4th is the celebration of freedom, right?  We all enjoy the gift of living in the United States and probably take freedom for granted.  Freedom is an amazing gift but like any other good thing it can be abused.

I feel like we are losing our grip on the simple and boring.  We do not celebrate this kind of thinking as a country anymore.  If you have simple and wholesome values, you can actually be ridiculed now for being boring and normal.  The fringe is what we celebrate.  The unique and sometimes even outrageous.  If you are a quiet and average American you are not cool.  So what is so wrong with normal?

We have become a nation that is obsessed with freedom for the edges and the fringe.  And what we have lost along the way is innocence and a respect for the simple and good.  This obsession over cool and edgy has been the breeding ground for a generation to grow up too quickly. The self-indulged “right” to express yourself however you want. The change of a complete generation’s life goals from “raise a nice family” to power and money.

We have transformed as a nation into one giant, never ending, self-centered argument. We have lost the ability to communicate.  We only yell at each other.  We’ve completely lost any vision to see the other side.  In this noise, there is no celebration for the boring people who go to work each day and try hard to raise a family and maintain some semblance of normalcy and reality for life.  Trying to shield our children from the nonsense.  This celebration of the outrageous.  The “big show” going on around us.

I think we need to get back to our roots.  Review our values.  Be frank about what we have created.  Review our commitment to the next generation.   Can we do it?  Or is the genie out of the bottle?

This 4th of July, I celebrate freedom for everyone including the boring people.  They want the opportunity to live without being cool or edgy.  Just have a great day with family and friends and be thankful for the blessings.  Nothing spectacular.  Nothing epic.  Just another boring 4th of July!

What are you living for?

Kathy was browsing in a gift shop near our home last week and struck up a conversation with the lady clerk. This is not an uncommon thing for Kathy. She has a gift of being able to connect quickly with people. This lady was originally from Columbia (South America not South Carolina) and she has been in the United States long enough to really “get” our culture.

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We are so arrogant here. We are convinced that this is where everyone in the world wants to live. We have such great opportunities to make money and it is a safe place to raise a family. These things are important and special, but they are not everything. I believe we have sacrificed some really critical things along the way. We have made choices that have warped our culture. Unconsciously, in our pursuit to be the best, we have changed the way we live, our goals, and our priorities. And I am also guilty.

The lady began to share about her family and her life back in Columbia. She aligned with Kathy’s experiences from Costa Rica. Emphasis on family, friends, relaxation, community.

She shared, “In the U.S., you live to work and back home we work to live.”

Whether intentional or not, we have placed WAY too much emphasis on work and making money. Our lives are wrapped around our work and our careers. Not the other way around. This may not be your choice. You may feel like you want to work less and live more, but can you really do it?  Can you really shift your focus away from making money?

Will you be able to pay your current bills?
Buy the things you want?
Can you really live with less?
Can you really do it?

Our culture has raised the bar on expectations so high that we run crazy hard just to try to keep up. Building bigger barns. In the meantime we have lost community. Lost our connection. Our ability to really LIVE together and enjoy life. We’ve lost our focus on taking care of each other.

Where are you?
Are you living to work or working to live?
Can we go back?  Do you know how we can get back to where we came from?
What needs to change?  What is messing us up?

Click on “Leave a Comment” and lets share ideas!

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!

Punched in the Face!

You won’t really get away with it- they are watching you!

Kathy and I have been spending Saturday mornings serving at an inner city ministry giving out surplus bread and produce to the homeless and needy.  This has been our Saturday morning routine for the past seven years or so.  We completely enjoy serving and have helped to build a vibrant community that has taken the ministry far past the goal of just providing food.  This is a rough area.  An area of high crime and drug activity.  Shooting and violence are common in this neighborhood.

When we get set up, there is often a group of ladies who take cuts at the front of the line.  The men will often plead with us to do something about it.  These ladies are a tough bunch and have been fighting for their families for a very long time.  I get it.  Yet it is frustrating that they can get away with taking cuts. It causes unrest. Even when we speak up, they continue to do what they want and often ignore our requests.

After observing this activity and the reactions, I have figured out how they can get away it. If they were men, the other guys would take care of things. Right or wrong.

They would likely get punched in the face!

Respect and special treatment for women or other groups are not uncommon.  And there is nothing wrong with special privileges.

Unless you take advantage of the situation. 

Leadership often comes with some special privileges.  You may have the opportunity to be in the front.  First in line.  You may be able to avoid some unpleasant tasks or duties as a result of your position.  You are likely to be treated differently than the average person.

The key is how you decide to handle these privileges.  If you are a servant leader, you can’t differentiate yourself from your team.  The truth, in terms of servant leadership, is this:  You are part of the team and you just happen to be the leader.  You must stay in the trenches with your team.  You have to be willing to get dirty and do the work along side your people.  If you exalt yourself above your team and take advantage of your position, you have violated one of the key components of being a servant leader.

Special privileges with leadership must be used with caution.  You cannot hide.  They see everything you do.  Your heart is exposed by your actions.  Be careful.  Always.  They are watching you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen examples of folks taking advantage of special privileges in leadership positions?  Click on “leave a comment” 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!