Better…Not Wrong. A Leadership Principle

hiding mistakes

Part of my job as a leader is helping people I lead get better at what they do. That often involves letting them know about areas I see where they can improve. 

That can be difficult for some people to receive. Granted, much of that has to do with my delivery of the encouragement to improve, but I’ve found some people especially struggle to receive anything with an appearance of correction. They don’t want me to believe they made a mistake or even that there is any room for improvement. Some, especially with perfectionist or prideful personalities, seem to feel that if something needs changing about their performance, then whatever they did wasn’t completely right. And, the opposite of right is — wrong.

For those people, I sometimes have to remind them: 

Just because you can do something better, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

Unless the person was blatantly or intentionality making mistakes or not giving it a good effort…

They did what they’ve been taught to do.

They did the best they knew how to do.

They gave it everything they had — so far.

But, we all have areas where we can improve — get better.

Just because something can be done better, doesn’t mean it was being done wrong.

Leadership is helping people know learn the difference. 

Want to be a better leader? Try Rather Than Leadership

Leadership Ahead

I consistently have leaders contact me who want help improving as a leader. What’s funny is, I have this leadership blog, and lots of leadership experience, but I’m still trying to improve also. I often encourage them to do something I do. One way to grow as a leader is to continually work to replace negative leadership patterns with positive leadership patterns.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Recently I posted about this subject in a post titled “Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much“. This is a continuation of that thought process. Basically, if we want to improve as leaders, we don’t try to change everything about ourselves in one transformation. We work on areas that need improving one at a time. For example, I know I’m weak in the area of coordinating details, even the ones I’m responsible for doing, so I work on that area. Continually. It’s become a discipline. I delegate what I can, but I find ways to improve at handling the details only I can do.

I am fairly intentional, so I even coined a phrase that I often use as a subtle reminder to me of areas in which I need to improve.

Here are a few examples of rather than leadership:

Rather than needing to control everything…try utilizing delegation.

Rather than using intimidation to get what you want…try applying better inspiration.

Rather than having a culture of fear…try creating a culture of encouragement.

Rather than hiding information from people…try being more transparent.

Rather than trying to please everyone…try doing the right thing, regardless of the pushback.

Rather than having all the ideas…try embracing the creativity of others.

Rather than saying “I”, “my”, or “me”…try saying “we”, “our”, and “us” more often.

It’s Rather Than Leadership. 

The examples I gave are fairly broad, and thankfully, all of them aren’t my issues anymore. I’ve improved in areas. But, you can make them as specific as you need them to be for you. As an example, knowing I get distracted easily, am very big picture, and have a thousand ideas a day, I can have very unproductive days. And, it’s miserable for me, my team and my leadership. One rather than leadership principle for me then might be:

Rather than ending the day feeling that I’ve had little or no progress…try making a reasonable, but stretching checklist and completing it by day’s end.

The key is to find those areas of good leadership principles in which you are weakest and seek to improve up one them — replace them with better patterns of leadership.

If you’re a control freak — if you stifle ideas — if your language is “me-centric” — then you know what you have to do. Write out your rather than leadership principle. Replace them. Improve as a leader.

That will first require identifying your weaknesses, then learning the positive ways to improve in those areas, and continually disciplining yourself to grow and develop, but it helps to at least know where to start. I find mental simple stimulants or reminders such as this help me improve.

Try it. Rather Than Leadership. Or use your own term. Let’s just continue to improve as leaders.

9 Great Ways to Be Extremely Strange

ALIEN LIFE

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents…

(1 Peter 2:11)

9 great ways to be extremely strange:

Love – Loving others even when others may seem unlovable.

Joy – Being joyful, in spite of the circumstances around you.

Peace – Providing a calming peace to those around you.

Patience – Demonstrating patience even in chaos.

Kindness – Being kind to one another, even when others aren’t so kind.

Goodness – Not advocating perfection, but genuinely striving to be a better person and serving as a witness to that endeavor for others.

Faithfulness – Standing firm with loyalty and commitment to Christ, even when others are rejecting what’s true.

Gentleness – Not wimpy, but carefully balancing strength and truth with grace and love.

Self-Control – Disciplining self to live out a strange kind of life, often sacrificing what’s temporary for what is eternal.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:22-23)

Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much

golden leader

Leading is hard, but the principles and practice of leading don’t have to be as difficult as we make them at times.

I talk to leaders every week who are stressed out by the things they know they should be doing but aren’t getting done. They’ve read a blog — maybe even this one — they read a book, they attended a seminar or conference and they feel defeated.

Sometimes I think we complicate leadership too much.

I often tell leaders who want to improve to think of one or two areas in their organization or church, or in their personal leadership style, that they’d like to improve upon and take some small steps to make something positive happen in that area. Don’t start big. Start small. One bite of the elephant at a time. Take one thing you learned and implement it in a small way. Get better at it. Over time, do it more. Simple. (At least simpler in concept.)

If a leader is continually doing that over time they will start to see major improvement. 

For example, a leader who knows he or she isn’t building new leaders, and recognizes the need, could set a goal to help develop one or two leaders this year. Currently no leadership development is being done. Replace that with discovering how and implementing the development of just a couple new leaders.

  • Meet with them regularly.
  • Find out their strengths.
  • Find out their weaknesses.
  • Seek ways to develop their strengths.
  • Help them learn to minimize their weaknesses.
  • Talk with them through your own leadership experience — good and bad.
  • Introduce them to new resources, new opportunities, new challenges, other leaders.

That’s not simple, and it’s not profound, but it is doable and it starts moving things in a more positive direction. With intentionality, discipline and practice, that simple effort can lead to systematizing leadership development in a larger scale in the future.

Sticking with this example, the problem for many of us is that we start at the overwhelming sense that we have nothing. So we try to begin with some complex system of leadership development. It is too big and too fast and so nothing ever gets off the ground.

You may have heard some big, lofty ideas. That’s great. They stretch you, but simplify it in your mind. Place it within your current context.

Start small. Make incremental improvements. Learn from the process. Improve. Increase. Add to. Grow. Systematize. Booyah.

How Leadership Principles Apply to Coach Cal and the UK Basketball Program

Businessman with basketball ball, teamwork, leadership

My friend Bradley Stevenson wrote a post about Kentucky basketball. Isn’t everyone these days? Well, not everyone, but lots of people are around here. UK basketball is a topic of conversation wherever you go in Lexington this time of year.

And, all the chatter hasn’t been positive this year. You are obviously not a basketball fan if you couldn’t figure that one out for yourself.

But, Bradley’s post was different. It was challenging, but encouraging at the same time. It resonated with people. Lots of people. Read “An Open Letter to Coach Cal (Coaches, Players and Fans)”.

Then Bradley did something only a friend would do. He asked me if I had any leadership advice to offer the UK basketball program. What? Me? I’m a student of leadership, but I’m only a casual basketball fan. I love the game. I go to the games. I wear the team colors. I cheer. But, my greatest passions are consumed in other directions. (Like Jesus. I’m passionate about Him. And, leadership. And the church.).

Anyway, Bradley’s a friend, or at least he claims to be (we’ll see how good a friend after this post goes live), so I decided to comply with his request. We did it in an interview fashion. And, knowing how much I like (and use) the number 7, Bradley asked me 7 questions about my leadership advice for Coach Cal and the UK basketball program.

Here were the questions:

  • What’s your best leadership advice when dealing with negativity?
  • How do you motivate your team during difficult times?
  • How do you stay focused during difficult times?
  • What do you say to naysayers?
  • If you had 5 minutes with Coach Cal what advice would you give him?
  • Same question, but about the team! If you had 5 minutes with the team (without Coach Cal) what advice would you give them?
  • Finally, if you had 5 minutes with the UK fans…what would you say?

You can read my answers on Bradley’s blog post, “A Leadership Perspective for Coach Cal, Players and Fans“.

Be warned. I’m a leadership guy. And, this is basketball. Big Blue Nation basketball. That’s serious stuff around here. And, I live here. Please be nice.

Let’s talk sports. Or leadership. How do you see the two subjects related?

And, for bonus points…

Who, in your opinion, is the best leader as a coach in sports today?