5 Ways a Leader Responds Under Stress

Every organization and team has times where everyone is stretched, stress abounds, and even times where it seems things are going backwards for a while. During those times good leadership is more critical than ever.

In times of stress, here a 5 things a leader must respond with:

A level head – A leader must display a calmness in the midst of crisis. Trying times test a team and the leader doesn’t need to be the one causing panic.

Steadfastness – There will always be temptations to give up under stress. A leader walks by faith and keeps the team moving forward. (You can read the hard lesson I learned about this issue HERE.)

Integrity – Character is tested during stressful times. A leader must remain unquestioned in his or her integrity for the health of the team and organization.

Strategic-Thinking – Decisions are harder to make but more important during stressful times. The leader must think strategically for the organization. (Read a post about thinking strategically in the moment HERE)

Personal balance – Leaders must remain healthy personally in order to continue to lead the organization. During times of stress, the leader must continue to exercise, eat well, and be disciplined.

Leader, have you ever had to lead during especially stressful times?

Are you there now?

What would you add to my list?

7 Characteristics in Arbitrary and Calculated Decision-Making

As a leader, or even as a team member, we constantly have to make decisions. Great leaders understand the power of decision-making and learn to use this power wisely.

In simple terms, leaders should consider two methods of decision-making. Some decisions can be arbitrary decisions and others need to be calculated decisions. Knowing which type of decision making to use at a given time will help you be a better leader.

I know leaders who make very quick, instant decisions only to grow to regret them. (This leader being one.)

Here are 7 characteristics of each type decision-making process: (Behind each word is a definition of that word compliments of dictionary.com)

Arbitrary – based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system

  • Few people affected
  • Limited life to the decision
  • Low cost or impact expected
  • When the decision-maker is the implementer
  • Requires less thought
  • Has been made many times
  • Only one person needed to make decision

Calculated – done with full awareness of the likely consequences; carefully planned or intended

  • More people affected
  • Long-term implications
  • Higher cost and impact potential
  • When other people are the implementers
  • Requires more thought
  • Has been made few times, if ever
  • May require the wisdom and counsel of others

Next time you have to make a decision, consider which method you should use for the occasion.

Do you see the difference?

Have you been guilty of making a arbitrary decision when you should have made a calculated decision? Please share an example.

The Changing Role of a Leader

As the organization grows, a leader’s role begins to change.

I have a friend who leads a growing organization. The speed of the growth could easily rouse my friend’s controlling nature, but he’s a good enough leader to recognize his weakness in this area.  He knows that in order for the organization to continue to grow, he must resist the tendency to direct every decision.

How does a potential controlling leader handle a situation like this?

In my friends case, he is adding a disciplined approach to change. Last year he estimated that he made 90% of all final decisions. Through staffing changes and shifting of responsibilities, my friend set a goal to lower that percent to 40% this year and 10% next year.  While that sounds aggressive even to a lover of change like me, my friend is confident this change is needed.

I was impressed with the discipline of this leader, wondering could I be as disciplined.

What do you think?

Could you discipline yourself to make such a drastic organizational change?

Do you struggle with a control issue in your leadership?

Some of the Best Leaders…

Some of the best leaders on your team…

  • Have yet to be recruited…
  •  

  • Will have to be asked…
  •  

  • Are anxious to serve…
  •  

  • Need this in their life as much as you need them…
  •  

  • And they may not even know it…

It’s your move…

Go get ’em…

(Not sure where to look? Read THIS POST.)

Different People…Different Expectations

Recently I gave our staff this exercise. This is a preference assessment. Basically, if you could only choose one option, which would you choose from the four figures shown?

So you can understand the diagram…

There are four different options…indicated by the number 1 through 4. The solid lines represent “structured” and the dashed lines represent “unstructured.” The outer square represents the organization and the inner circle represents the individual team member. A solid line indicates a desire for more structure and less flexibility in an organizational environment or in the way a member personally responds in his or her role.  A dashed line would indicate the opposite preferences. For example, a solid-lined square and a solid-lined circle, that would be an individual who prefers to be structured personally and prefers to be in a structured environment. A dash-lined square with a solid-lined circle would represent an individual preferring to be personally structured, but work within a less structured, organization.

Make sense?

The Team Evaluates the Leader, 2011 Edition

(Update: You can read the results of this post HERE.)

If you have read my blog for more than a year, then you know that one of the personal leadership development tools that I use is the process of allowing our team…that I lead…to anonymously evaluate my performance as a leader. You can read the post on last year’s evaluation HERE. In the related posts, you can see some of the previous year’s posts on this process. I share this process here to encourage this step of leadership development and for accountability and transparency purposes as a leader.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The team is currently evaluating me. I always get nervous about the responses, but perhaps this year more than ever. It’s been a crazy year personally and professionally, so I’m anxious about what they may say, but we have a great team and so I know they will be gentle.  (Hopefully they read this blog! HA!) My only encouragement to them is that they consider the differences of those on the team and how that alters my leadership and that they are helpful, not vindictive, in their answers. I do it anonymously through Survey Monkey to help them be more honest in their answers.

10 Hard Things to Say…5 Ways to Say Them as a Leader

In any relationship, there comes a time where it’s necessary to say things which are difficult to keep the relationship strong and make it better. This is also true in a healthy team environment.

For me personally, that often involves having a hard and challenging conversation with a team member…someone I love being on the team, but know they need correction in an area that is affecting the team. These are always discussions I’d rather not have, but I know are necessary for the continued health of the relationship, the team, and the individual.

Over the years, I have had many of these issues which required “tough love” to address them, but dealing with problems like this have included me having to say things such as:

  • You’re too controlling as a leader…
  • You can be perceived as a jerk to people…
  • Your personal life is dragging down the team…
  • You have body odor…
  • You’re making unwise decisions…
  • You are non-responsive…
  • You don’t know how to take constructive criticism…
  • You are moving too fast…
  • You are moving too slow…
  • You are uncooperative…

I should note that not all of these have been said with my current team…for example, to my knowledge no one on my team has body odor…thankfully, but through my years in leadership, I have had to say each one of these statements to someone I was supposed to be leading. Those conversations, as awkward and uncomfortable as they were, always proved to be good for the team and the team member. There have been times when someone needed to have similar “tough love” conversations with me and those discussions always made me better, as difficult as they were to receive at the time.

I have learned 5 principles for dealing with those times as a leader:

The Life of an Idea on a Healthy Team

Healthy teams allow every idea a chance to live…

The healthiest teams don’t contain an idea killer…

Healthy teams:

  • Brainstorm
  • Analyze
  • Test drive
  • Push back
  • Critique
  • Debate
  • Challenge

Every idea…

But healthy teams remain open-minded about an idea until it’s proven to be a bad idea…

It could be a short process or a long process…

But healthy teams give every idea a chance to live…

Knowing that…

There is value in the collection of ideas on a healthy team…

And…

Some of the best ideas are killed before they have a chance to shine…

Have you ever worked with an idea killer?

Are you one?

(This post contains a main idea…feel free to Brainstorm, Analyze, Test drive, Push back, Critique, Debate, or Challenge.)

10 Ways a Team Performs as a Team

I think we use the word team too casually these days. A team…at least a healthy team…is not just a group of people who perform a common task. That may be a group, but it shouldn’t be called a team. I’ve written on healthy teams before:

10 Characteristics of a Healthy Team

Signs of an Emotionally Healthy Team

You can tell a healthy team by how it responds to each other and how it performs as a team.

A healthy team:

  • Encourages other team members regularly…
  • Cares for the team member personal life outside the team…
  • Assists other team members during crunch periods…
  • Cross trains one another for different roles on the team…
  • Challenges each other when needed, working towards the best solution for the team…
  • Ensures everyone on the team gets credit for a win…
  • Applauds other team member’s success…
  • Values input from everyone on the team…
  • Defends one another from outside attacks…
  • Protects the integrity and vision of the team, even over personal interests…

The word “team” comes with a certain expectation that is more than people simply performing a function together. If you want people to feel and play as a team, then they must perform as a team.

What would you add to my list?

Have you served on a healthy team?

Have you served with a group who thought they were a team, but were really just a group of people?

Do you recognize the difference?

To Change or Not to Change…That is A Good Question

Determining when to make change and when to leave things the same is one of the most delicate decisions of leadership, but I know one thing for sure:

“It’s working” should never be the primary reason to avoid change.

It could be a reason. Not everything needs changing. Some things are timeless. Change for change sake sounds good but isn’t always the best idea. (I wrote about it HERE.)

But organizations and teams need change…

Change keeps momentum going. It builds a culture of change. It keeps leaders on the team motivated. And, sometimes, you discover something wonderful you would have never discovered without change. (I wrote more about that concept HERE.)

So while change isn’t always necessary, “it’s working” shouldn’t keep you from considering change either.

Which makes the decision of when to change that much more difficult…doesn’t it?

One rule of thumb for me…

If there hasn’t been any change recently…

Chances are it’s time…

I am always reminded that leaders want to be in environments of change. Leaders are most comfortable when they can explore, take risks, and keep things stirring. There’s a reason marketers are always changing things…it’s not just leaders who want change…people tend to like change too.

Sometimes leaders need to create change before change is needed…even though things are working.

Are you a fan of change, or do you resist it?

What change do you need to make just because you can?