Help Me Address Organizational Fear


 

We have a healthy team. It’s full of grace, which works well, since that word is in our name. We consistently laugh together. We encourage each other to accomplish our goals. As a leader, I solicit feedback consistently. (I even allow the staff to anonymously evaluate me each year. Read about that process HERE.) We are generally flexible and laid back as an organization, yet we accomplish much towards our mission. I’ve worked in lots of environments and this is a good one…a healthy place to work. I’ve written articles about healthy teams, many of them based on the team on which I serve. (Read some of them HERE, HERE, or HERE.) I think our team would agree we are a healthy environment.

With that being said, I’m not sure we have eliminated what I call organizational fear. I’m not sure there is 100% freedom to share what’s on a person’s heart. I consistently address this concern. I’ve even said that sometimes we are too “nice” as an organization. We need to challenge more, even enter into healthy conflict, but sometimes it seems we are timid towards sharing our true feelings; especially some on the team. Problems exist…people see them…they continue for months…everyone recognizes something is wrong….yet no ones brings them to the surface. This is not a huge problem, or we wouldn’t be as healthy or successful as we are, but for whatever reason, some I may not understand, team members at times shy away from sharing what’s really on their mind. I know this is not something unique to our organization.

Why is that? Have you ever been afraid to share what you were thinking in an organizational setting? What caused that fear in your mind? Help me figure out why organizational fear exists, especially why it exists in a church or ministry setting.

Is it because of:

  • A team member’s fear of making a mistake?
  • Controlling leadership?
  • Fear of taking a risk?
  • Apathy?
  • A false notion that conflict shouldn’t exist in a Christian organization?
  • Other?

Also, help me understand how to address this issue.

What does it take to remove this fear from an team or organization?

Let’s discuss organizational fear today.

7 Attributes of Success as an Organization

Great organizations don’t just appear. There is a method to the madness.  I wonder sometimes, however, if we make it seem more difficult than it is to create success in an organization.  While nothing worth doing well is ever easy, certain attributes seem to exist that successful organizations share with one another.

From my observation, here are 7 attributes of success as an organization:

  • Have a clear vision
  • Set clear goals
  • Recruit a great team
  • Divide tasks equitably
  • Hold people accountable
  • Stay the course
  • Have fun!

I’m not trying to be overly simplistic if your organization is struggling, because it’s much more complicated than this in practice, but look over the list again. Upon which of these attributes does your organization most need to improve? Perhaps spending time on that area will bring you some progress.

What would you add to my list?

7 Pillars of Great Leaders

Have you ever considered what the common traits are of great leaders? I call the traits the pillars of leadership.  I think about the question a lot, because I love observing leaders and I strive to be a better leader. I like simple, easy-to-understand answers, so I have asked this type question frequently through Twitter, to see what common agreement exists about what makes a leader great.

Here are 7 pillars of leadership I’ve landed on in my search. You’ll find these among all great leaders.

Vision – In something bigger than the leader…

Commitment - To a cause and/or people…

Decisiveness – To make the hard call others will follow…

Courage – To weather the storms of leadership…

People – Realizing that others matter and there is no leadership without some…

Passion - It’s what gets a leader up in the morning ready to face another day…

Character – It’s what sustains a leader and why others continue to follow…

How did I do?  What would you add to my list?

Make this post better by adding your own thoughts.

7 Traits of Courageous Leadership

Recently I posted 7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership. In that post, I discussed the characteristics of leaders who fail to have the courage needed to lead well. I thought it only fair to share the reverse post. There are many courageous leaders in our world today, as evidenced by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.

Here are 7 traits of a courageous leader:

  • Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult…
  • Not afraid to make big requests of others…but willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them…
  • Willing to take the first move into unchartered territory…pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks…
  • Moves forward by faith…even when the outcome is unclear…
  • Makes hard decisions regarding people…trusting responsibilities to others early and acknowledging when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team…
  • Protects the God-given vision in the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks…
  • Implements needed changes even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular…

Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!

Make this post better:

When you think of courageous leader, who comes to your mind?

What would you add to this list?

7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership

You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz don’t you?  He was supposed to be the king of the jungle but he had no courage.

Sadly I see this missing in much leadership today. Let’s face it.  Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. (I wrote about it HERE.)  Leadership takes great courage.

Here are 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership:

  • Says “I’ll think about it” rather than “No”…even no is already the decided answer…
  • Avoids conflict…even when it is necessary for the good of relationships and the organization…
  • Never willing to make the hard decisions…
  • Pretends everything is okay…even when it’s not…
  • Bails on the team when things become difficult…
  • Refuses to back up team members…
  • Caves in to criticism…even if it is unfounded…

What would you add to my list?

Do you find it scary to be a leader sometimes?  What’s the scariest time you face as a leader?

Tomorrow I will share “7 traits of courageous leadership”.

Doodling Leadership Tip – Addressing the Real Problem

I love the White board application on my iPad. I find myself using it to teach, when sitting with someone, think in pictures, and recently, just to scribble out a quick thought. I decided to periodically share some of them with you here:

Let me ask you to consider this question:

Could you be addressing issues, symptoms, reactions…attempting to correct a problem…but the real problem continues to be unaddressed?

3 Values of Teamwork

Recently I was asked a question regarding how we handle set-up on Sunday mornings. Grace Community Church meets in a school and so every Sunday morning staff and volunteers start arriving about 5:30 AM to prepare for the day.  The specific question was whether we have one person who oversees all the set-up.  The answer is no. We actually have a team of people responsible; with different people in each area of ministry.

Answering the question reminded me of the value of teamwork.  I personally believe that the way we are doing this is best.   I’m not opposed to one central leader, and in some situations that may be better, but with this task, I think the team approach is more efficient than one individual being in charge.

Here are 3 reasons I personally prefer a team approach for this function of our church:

Decentralized control - With one person in charge, if that person gets sick, moves, or decides he or she gets tired and quits, the whole church would suffer.  As it stands now, it’s easier to cross train, we can be covered for absences better, and we aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket so-to-speak with such a vital function as an organization.

Makes each task easier - Think about it: It takes about 200 volunteers for us to make a Sunday work and about 50 of those are heavily involved in set-up. Would your prefer to recruit 10 volunteers for a specific area per Sunday or the entire 200 number?  (I thought so!) Especially when working with volunteers, the easier you can make the task to accomplish the greater success you will have for the long-term. People genuinely want to do a task well, but have limited time (and sometimes experience) to do them.

Brings more people to the table – We like to plug people into leadership roles quickly.  In my experience, when someone has responsibility they are more likely to mature as a person.  When a person has a heart to serve others, they need something of value to complete.  Using a team provides more opportunities to assign leadership tasks.

If you have an especially challenging or overwhelming task to complete you may benefit from a team approach.  Breaking the function into smaller, more manageable parts will help you accomplish more and get more people involved, which is always good for the organization.

Just curious, do you work better as a team or as an individual? Does it depend upon the task?

Have You Ever Been Placed in Leadership Time-Out?

Recently in Costa Rica I saw a tradition that’s common in my country too.  A child was placed in time-out…  For a certain amount of time, a child is not allowed to play with the other children, has to sit in a corner and is basically ignored. I’m certainly not critical of the form of discipline. It works well for some children. We had one for which it would work and one for which it wouldn’t.

I definitely, however, believe there is a time when a “child” outgrows the effectiveness of the practice.  I don’t know that “time out”, for example, works for adults, yet I see it frequently.

Have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

Leadership time-out occurs:

  • When a leader ignores you because of a mistake you’ve made…
  • When a leader avoids you after a difference of opinion…
  • When a leader is threatened by you so he or she keeps you at a distance…
  • When you have no relationship with the leader other than professional…
  • When a leader acknowledges you only when it’s beneficial to the leader…
  • When a leader has a set of “favorites” on the team…and you’re not included…

After my examples, let me ask again, have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

In my opinion and experience, leadership time-out is often due to poor leadership skills on the part of the leader.  The leader operates more out fear or control than out of respect and empowerment.  The leader plays games more than he or she leads strategically.  The leader doesn’t have the maturity to lead effectively.

Great leaders learn to push through the emotional aspects of leadership so they can treat people as adults in every situation.

What other examples would you add to my list?

The Way a Leader is Expected to Respond…

Have you learned a valuable principle about your leadership?

The way others expect you to respond often determines the way they respond to you.

  • If they expect you to respond in anger…they’ll dance around an issue, afraid to confront…
  • If they expect you to respond defensively…they’ll only bring you the proven answers…refusing to take risks…
  • If they expect you to respond with condemnation…they’ll be tempted to only share part of the story…maybe none at all…
  • If they expect you to respond negatively…they’ll hold back some of their best ideas…afraid you’ll crush them…

However…

  • If they expect you to respond with understanding…they’ll be more likely to offer their opinions…
  • If they expect you to respond with in a supportive way…they’ll be more likely to share their dreams…
  • If they expect you to respond with an open mind…they’ll be more likely to brainstorm with you rather than without you…
  • If they expect you to respond with grace…they’ll be more likely to share the good, the bad and the ugly…

Leaders, how do others expect you to respond?

Fair or not…as a leader, the response others expect from you may help determine the way others respond to you. More importantly, however, is that ultimately that response helps determine the health of the team or organization.

Help this post out…share your experiences.  Do you tend to alter your response based on how you expect others to respond? Is this true in family and friend relationships also?

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

I have written a good deal recently about controlling leadership.  As most of my posts do, this stems from current or past experience in leadership.  Within the past 6 months, I have talked with close to a dozen individuals in ministry or business who are experiencing this type of leader. It is effecting their personal leadership, as well as the health of their organization.

My theory is that one reason this tension is increasing is due to young leaders who want a voice at the table early in their leadership intersecting with seasoned leaders trying to hold on to power. Perhaps I’ll write more about that in another post.

If you missed any of these posts you can read:

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

7 Reactions to Controlling Leadership

The obvious most frequent question I receive as a result of these posts involves what to do about a controlling leader? I previously wrote a post about “leading up” called 5 Ways to Influence those Who Lead You, but it addresses a leader who may not be giving you a seat at the table, but not one who is necessarily a controlling leader. Controlling leadership appears to be a more difficult issue. A leader who attempts to control everything within his or her realm is much harder to influence.

So, here’s my best answer.  Here are three ways to respond to a controlling leader:

Challenge – Like it or not, most complex issues such as this do not disappear on their own. Ask yourself, “Will I be content if this environment continues for the next year or longer?”  If the answer is no, then you may have to challenge the controlling leadership. It should be noted that you can’t challenge anyone daily.  A challenge should be planned, considerate, and infrequent, but there are times where this is the best option.

Compromise – Most controlling leaders have areas in which they are willing to compromise.  Much of his or her willingness to do so will be based on the degree of trust placed in others or how important an issue is to them personally.  Building a relationship of trust and seeking common ground on issues allows some people to excel under a controlling leader.

Quit – If one is not willing to challenge the issue or can find no areas for compromise, the only solution, other than remaining miserable under controlling leadership, is to seek opportunities elsewhere. I had someone challenge me on Twitter recently that winners never quit, but I disagree. If you were placed in a position by a call of God, this may not be an option until God releases you and I personally would attempt the first two options before considering this option, but sometimes the best thing for the individual and the organization is to make a fresh start.  (You might read my post 8 Ways to Know it’s Time to Quit.)

Let me offer this closing reminder: Every situation is unique and so no post can answer your specific situation.  One thing that all situations share, however, is that regardless of how one responds, each of us have an obligation to be humble, kind, gracious people.  In either of these three steps we should behave likewise.  Also, remember that your response to a controlling leader often determines his or her response.  Momma always said “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  The Bible says it another way…”A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  (Proverbs 15:1)

Have you ever worked with or for a controlling leader?  How did you respond? What steps am I missing? Help us learn from your experience.