We have had a busy season at Grace Community Church. Fall is the time of year when most churches ramp up their ministries, which tracks with back-to-school schedules and the change to cooler weather. Our church has been in a fast growth mode since day one, but we seem to be in a unique place of extraordinary growth right now. In addition to this growth we are launching new small groups, a college ministry, gearing up for our annual community outreach ministry, and adding a third service, along with numerous other changes occurring this fall, some that we are not ready to talk about yet. Some days it seems we have just enough energy to get through another week and all our time is focused on the next Sunday.
At our most recent staff meeting, in the midst of making plans for our new third service, I reminded the staff of an important principle. (I hope they were listening.) During times of significant growth, planning or workload, it is always important to…
…DISIPLINE YOURSELF TO DREAM….
During the busiest times in an organization, when all the team’s energies are focused on getting through a specific project or season, if the team is not disciplined otherwise, because habits form quickly, there is a tendency to continue operating in the day-to-day mode even after the busy season passes. I expanded on that idea in a previous post. Read that post HERE.
Teams that want to experience long-term growth have to discipline themselves to build dreaming into the system. Leaders should model innovative thinking during stressful periods within the organization. Individual team members need to consciously pick their head up from the routines and strategically think further down the road for the organization.
Dreaming keeps momentum flowing forward. The next great decisions made by the Grace Community Church staff will likely come from our time set aside to dream.
Do you need to set aside time this week just to dream?
I heard today that Wal Mart is getting rid of paper paychecks. Instead employees will receive a debit card as payment, if they refuse direct deposit. You can read more about it HERE.
I see several implications for this change:
- It puts the burden of the processing expense on those processing the payment, saving Wal Mart thousands of dollars processing checks. (We shouldn’t be surprised Wal Mart would find a way to increase profits.)
- Apparently there will be one free withdrawal per month and additional withdrawals are $2 each. This will force Wal Mart employees to learn a new system, which could be difficult for some employees who are not accustomed to handling plastic.
- It is more environmentally friendly. Surely there will be fewer trees cut to provide the paper for checks. (Of course plastic sticks around longer than paper…j/k)
- This will be trend setting for other industries with mass numbers of employees. Wal Mart is big enough to force change. With 2.1 million employees, Wal Mart proves this can be a done with any size workforce. Look for more companies to follow Wal Mart’s lead.
When we were in Lithuania this summer we saw a similar system. Having recently converted to a more capitalistic system, they by-passed paper altogether in their economy. Everything is done electronically. This looks like one more step to removing paper checks from our system altogether.
What do you think? Is that where our economy is headed? Will we be paperless in a few years? Do you still even write paper checks?
One trend in organizations today that I am not sure existed even ten years ago is the freedom employees have to promote their personal identity on company time. Companies today seem to allow and actually encourage employees to brand themselves separate from the organization. Whether it is with a personal blog or through authoring a book, employees can have a larger personal following and name recognition than the top leadership of the organization and at times even greater than the organization. This is true in the corporate world and the church world.
There are obvious fears or concerns for organizations with this trend. The more a team member becomes known the more likely it is that he or she will be recruited by another organization. Also, a concern would be that the increased popularity of the individual could distract from his or her responsibilities to the organization. Furthermore, though probably not admitted by most senior leaders, there could be a jealousy factor if a subordinate becomes better known and gets more recognition than the leader.
Personally I welcome this change in organizations. When we started Grace Community Church our worship leader Daniel Doss already had some national recognition and we encouraged his continued growth and success independent of the church. This sometimes meant we had to adjust schedules to accommodate his outside interests, but I always felt it was for the overall good of the church. Today I am excited about the potential several of our staff members have in creating their own personal brand through their blog and influence and I want to encourage their efforts to market their ministry on a broader scale, even independent of the church.
While I recognize the concerns and know I ultimately have the responsibility to see that the ministry of Grace Community Church is realized, I see several advantages for organizations in allowing personal branding:
It allows great leaders to stay with the organization longer. If a leader has potential, he or she will naturally look for more opportunities to express his or her leadership skills. Personal branding allows an avenue for personal growth, while the employee remains with the organization.
It creates a win/win for the organization. As a team member grows personally and he or she receives recognition independent of the organization, the team member’s personal growth means he or she has more to offer the organization and brings more attention, insight, and expertise to the organization.
Allowing personal branding creates a healthier and more rewarding environment within the organization that allows it to occur, which can help the organization attract and retain better leaders to the organization.
Do you see this trend? Can you think of examples of organization where this is happening? Do you agree or disagree with an organization encouraging personal branding?
For the past several posts I have written on the idea of creating organizational cultures that encourage innovative leaders. I firmly believe it is a mistake of leaders to feel they can force innovation or even create innovative people. Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person. Great innovation comes from the gut. You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.
Even if that is true, however, there are things leaders can do even in a culture of innovation to encourage team members to be more innovative. Here are a 10 random ideas to help. Feel free to add some that have worked in your organization.
- Get away from the office routinely as a team. There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought.
- Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions. (For an example our staff did recently read THIS POST.)
- Reward new ideas/Recognize new thoughts/Celebrate success – People will want to be a part of it.
- Encourage thinking time. (Read a couple posts about that HERE and HERE.)
- Have times together as a team that are simply fun.
- Remove obstacles to innovative thought, such as communication barriers between team members and management.
- Talk about current culture and how changes can impact your organization’s culture.
- Be accessible. It encourages team members to share new ideas with you more often.
- Welcome diversity of thoughts and opinions, even if they are different than yours.
- Set innovation goals, such as “make changes to the website next year this time.”
I encourage you to innovate and come up with better ideas than these and share them with us here.
(For more thoughts on innovation, read that category HERE.)
My recent post asking the question, “Does Your Organization Produce Innovative Leaders or Managed Followers?” had automatic, built-in questions I anticipated receiving after the post, so I prepared an answer in advance. Indeed the most common question is basically:
If you have an environment conducive to produce innovative leaders, but still people do not take initiative on their own, what do you do?
This is a great question. I would encourage you to survey your employees to make sure you have the environment you think you have. If this is not realistic, perhaps you could bring in an outside perspective, such as a consultant or a friend who knows your organization well and understands these principles and get his or her perspective. Make sure you are open to honest feedback. Once you have done that, ask these questions about the employees who refuse to take initiative:
- Do they have the skill required for the task you are asking them to do?
- Do they have the resources required for the task?
- Do they trust that they are in the environment you claim to have?
- Do they trust the leadership of the organization?
- Are your expectations realistic?
If all those answers are yes, then you are forced to ask:
- Are they are good fit for the organization or their position?
- Can they do what you want or expect them to do?
It is at this point leaders often have to make difficult decisions regarding a person’s future with the organization, but usually these type decisions end up being best for the organization and the individual. Many times an employee already senses their inability to live up to the potential you have placed on the position and is miserable in their current role in the organization.
What do you think? I welcome your feedback.
(For more on the subject of innovation in leadership, I have set up a special category of previous posts in this area of thought. Click HERE to read some of those posts.)
If you want employees to ultimately accomplish the vision of the organization and actually take initiative and ownership in that vision, then leaders need to strive to…
…Stress results and not details…
That is a hard concept for many leaders. They own their vision. They have in their mind what they want to achieve. They have pre-determined exactly what a win looks like. They can almost detail it out in their heads. Therefore, if a leader is not careful he or she begins to stress the details of that vision as opposed to stressing and rewarding people for results achieved.
Previously I posted on the need for leaders to be willing to “give their vision away”. If ultimately what you want is the end goal accomplished, allow others to add their personal touch to their work, let them strive for excellence, dream their own dreams, and own their work. Then watch as they soar to accomplish your vision. It may not look exactly as you thought it would, but chances are it will actually look better than you imagined.
Leaders, do you stress more results or more details? If you are in a work environment, would you rather your boss stress details or results?
A friend of mine called recently to discuss his business. He wants his employees to assume more ownership for their work and take more initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something. He wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders, not a bunch of managed followers. Knowing a little about his workplace, I asked him an important question. “Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of employees you say you want?”
The way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of employee it attracts and retains. An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with the culture of the organization than it does specific programs or activities the organization does. Leaders determine, therefore, whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers. Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:
One that produces innovative leaders
- More rewarding
- More entrepreneurial
- More freedom
- More encouragement
- More open-minded
- More creative
- More informal
- More changeable
- More risk-taking
- More trusting
One that produces managed followers
- More oversight
- More corporate
- More rules
- More controlling
- More closed-minded
- More defined
- More formal
- More static
- More penalties for failure
- More critical
I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments. Obviously “more” is a subjective word, but if you apply these broad characteristics to most major corporations you can probably tell which ones attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment. If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead. (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously. You may be surprised at their response.)
What other characteristics would you add to the lists above?
(My next few posts will have further thoughts on this issue, including some specific activities to help foster innovation among your team, but remember, it begins with culture, not activities.)
One absolute necessity for effectively leading a growing environment is the art of delegation. The leader who fails to delegate will inhibit growth of the organization and stifle leadership development of the team.
Delegation is something to be learned and practiced. To get you started, here are 3 tips to delegating effectively:
Give Away – You have to start somewhere. Find a project or task you would normally do and give it away to someone. Of course you want to trust the person, but one of the main excuses for not delegating is an issue of control. If you want to be an effective delegator you eventually have to trust someone else to complete a task.
Be purposeful – There are lots of good reasons to delegate. Having a purpose will help you wrap your arms around the process of delegating. A few reasons I delegate:
- It clears my desk and allows me to focus on other tasks
- To give other opportunities and develop his or her leadership
- It enhances teamwork
- To improve efficiency – Some people can do parts of my job better than I can
Let go – Never give responsibility without authority. Check back with those you have delegated to, but don’t micro-manage their efforts.
I encourage you to repeat the process often. It will make you a better leader, your team a better team and your organization a better organization.
How are you at delegating? What do you need to delegate today?
I am becoming a student of Strengths Finder. This personality reviewer gives a person insight into his or her “signature themes” of strengths or behaviors that help drive a person. Over the next few days I will share my individual themes in an afternoon post. Hopefully this will give insight into some of what makes me the way I am and even a clue as to why I may blog about what I blog about.
Before I start to share, however, I need to share that I am also learning there are weaknesses that accompany each of the strengths. For example, one of my strengths is Command. You will read more about it soon, but basically it is a strength, which leads me to take charge. I want progress and I am wired to push for it if no one else does. At times this can cause problems for those around me.
Take for example, if I get to a four-way stop the same time as another car. If the other car hesitates even for a second I am gone. It is not that I mind waiting for the other car or that I mind the other car waiting for me, but I just don’t want the other car waiting for me as I wait for the other car as the other car waits for me… In other words, I want forward progress! Let’s go! Sometimes this trait causes Cheryl to think I am impatient or unkind if she is in the seat next to me.
When I am part of an organization that “strength” shows up as well. If those around me are not leading, get out of the way and I will. I am perfectly fine if another person wants to lead, in fact I strongly encourage people to do something, take a risk, dream a dream, plan big. I will even be okay if your way is different from mine (at times), but my main concern is that the ball is rolling in some direction.
Unfortunately, this trait can at times be overwhelming, annoying, and even seem uncaring. I am realizing that more each day. My thought process now is to figure out how to allow this strength to work for the good of the organization and not allow it to disrupt team spirit, harmony, or morale. I am trying to take COMMAND of my strengths!
I am not a big fan of job titles. We have had some staff additions and changes in the last couple of months and one of the most frequent questions has been “What’s their new title?” Frankly I do not care! I am fine with people picking their own title and would rather spend my time concentrating on the work we need to get done.
I suppose my dislike of titles has to do with one of my philosophies of work. I think when an organization has a vision, operates as a team, and strategically sets out to accomplish it, that everyone’s job on the team is to see that the vision is accomplished, regardless of a person’s title.
Titles to me are too specific. They seem to indicate a defined area of focus. I realize some people need that for clarity and I understand the need for specialization around an area of work or skill sets, but I prefer a job description to a title. I like for a person to understand the goals and objectives for the position, and even more than that, the overall vision of the organization and for them to realize how they are a key part of the organization’s success. That is hard to capture in a specific job title. Job titles tend to lead to the phrase and thought, “That’s not my job.”
I realize job titles are cultural, so we will keep using them, but I do not have to like something just because everyone else is doing it. I almost wish we could start calling everyone “Team Player” and if they need a big title to feel good or to dress up a business card, maybe we could title them “Director of What’s Required”.
Do you like job titles? Does your title truly capture the entire role you play in your organization?