8 Characteristics of People Who Don’t Fit Well on a Team

Army Boots Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “odd person out”?

It means you don’t fit. You don’t measure up for some reason. You are excluded. Being odd person out can hurt if for some unfair reason one is descriminated against.  

While I certainly can’t claim discrimination the way many people understand the term, I’ve been odd man out numerous times. I’ve been there because I’m pastor at times. People assume I can’t also be fun – or I would judge their activities – so there are many social events I don’t get invited to attend. I remember feeling this way as the only person from a single-parent home among my friends in high school. 

We’ve all been excluded at some point in life for some reason. 

It’s a bad thing to be “odd person out” by no choice of your own, but some people actually place themselves in the position by the decisions they make and the way they respond to others. It happens all the time in team dynamics.

Some people seem to choose to be ” odd person out”. The choices they make cause them not to fit well on a particular team.

I’ve led or worked with many teams and whether there are a few people or many on who make up the team, there can often be one who chooses to be “odd person out”. And, in fairness, it may or may not be a conscious decision they’ve made – they simply don’t fit well with the rest of the team, but they got there by some of their own decisions.

If unaddressed it can be dangerous for organizational health. Trying to build consensus or form team spirit becomes more difficult. Morale is infected by the intentional “odd person out”. Spotting this as the problem early can avoid further issues down the road.

In this post, I’ll address some ways this occurs or symptoms of the issue. I’m writing from the perspective of the one who doesn’t fit well on the team. 

Here are 8 ways to be the “odd person out” on a team:

Be resistant to every change – Whenever a new idea is presented, always be the first to say it won’t work. You don’t have to have a reason. Just oppose it.

Always be negative – about everything – See the glass half-empty. Always. There’s nothing good about this place – leader – idea – day – life.

Always have an excuse – It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Always.

Never have the solution – It’s your job to point out problems, not to help solve them. In fact, you don’t care to build – you’re here to tear down. And, you intend to do your job well.

Hold opinions until after something isn’t working well – Make sure everyone knows you were opposed to the idea from the start. You can clearly see how things should have been done. And, you make sure everyone knows. 

Talk behind people’s back – Rather than going to the source – it stirs more drama if you talk about someone rather than to someone. Of course,  you talk behind the leader’s back too, though your usually extremely pleasant in their presence. 

Refuse to participate in any team social activities – Who needs them, right? Why would you want to hang out with people you work with? You might get to know them – and they might get to know you. 

Don’t buy into the vision – And, actually, this translates into working against the vision. You may even have a vision of your own. 

Of course, these are written with a hint of sarcasm, but these people distance themselves from others on the team by the way they respond on the team. Have you ever worked with anyone like this?

As you read the list, do you spot the “odd person out” on your team?

It should be noted, this doesn’t mean these are bad people. Many times, I’ve learned, these people were injured in some way previously. It could have been on the job or in their personal life. They may have been passed over for a promotion or they began to feel taken advantage of in some way. They may have social disorders which need to be addressed. They may just really be negative about their own life and bring this attitude into their professional life. Often, understanding why they feel as they do can help address their performance on the team. 

I should also note, I’m not advocating always agreeing with a team. It’s okay to have different opinions, challenge the system – and even the leader. Differing viewpoints help make us all better. The key is to do so in a spirit of cooperation, not a spirit of disruption. You don’t have to be the odd person out – even if you’re different from everyone else. In fact, don’t be.

What characteristics would you add of a person who purposefully doesn’t fit on a team?

A Reminder About Future-Tense Versus Present-Tense Thinking as a Leader

Future Present

The larger role of responsibility or the higher position you hold in an organization, the more you must discipline and free yourself for future-tense thinking.

I remember explaining this concept to a senior pastor. His church had stalled. As I learned more about the church, it wasn’t surprising to me. They were doing things the same way they’ve done them for many years. Nothing had changed. The pastor was busy – some would say too busy – but, in my observation, while he was working hard, he was not working smart.

The real problem? From my perspective this leader was so caught up in putting out current fires, he didn’t have time – or hadn’t taken time – to plan for new and better fire extinguishers. He was not thinking “What’s next?” for the church. He was drowning in present-tense issues. And, because no one else with think future-tense if the leader doesn’t, nothing is being planned to be done differently in the future. More of the same will never produce change.

I took a minute to draw the diagram above on a dry erase board. The four quadrants represent the amount of time given to either future-tense or present-tense thinking. The ratios aren’t important, but what is important is understanding the concept. Notice the amount given to future-tense gets larger as the level of responsibility increases. The more the organization looks to you for leadership, the more you must be thinking future-tense.

Think of it this way. The now when you started reading this post is now the then. If you aren’t thinking forward, you’re always thinking behind.

Some will ask in this diagram about “past thinking”. It is important to consider where the organization has been, but thinking about the past should be part of reviewing for improvement and growth in the future. I review our history continually, but only so we can celebrate and build from it towards a brighter future.

Have you seen an organization stall because the leader stalls?

If this is your situations, let me suggest you read 7 Ways I Keep Looking Forward as a Leader.

7 Thoughts on Managing Conflict as a Leader

Businessmen in a fight

As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering our team towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision. This sometimes causes conflict.

Conflict is many times seen as a sign of unhealthiness on the team. I’ve learned, however, not to be afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions were hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled.

What I’ve also learned – some through painful experience – is the way I handle conflict when it develops will go a long way towards allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good of the team.

Part of the leader’s job is to learn to better manage conflict rather than attempting to kill them.

Here are 7 thoughts for leaders managing conflict on a team:

Interfere sparingly – I try not to take sides in conflict anymore than I have to, even when I have my own opinion. If the conflict isn’t a vision issue, and it seems to be resolving on it’s own, I’ve found it is best if I allow the process to take it’s course. When the leader gets involved in conflict it takes on a new life – often unnecessarily.

Listen carefully – When I do get involved, it is vital all sides of the conflict feel heard. I have to listen to all opinions and attempt to understand their real concerns. Normally there are valid points with every opinion. It’s also important I hear not only what is said, but also what is unspoken. This requires asking questions, getting to know the members of my team (most of this happens before conflict originates), and not assuming I know what people are thinking simply by what they say. Understanding the basis of conflict and the opposing viewpoints is critical to understanding the conflict.

Communicate openly – During times of conflict, it’s even more important communication be clear and consistent. Many times, conflict is simply due to a lack of clarity or miscommunication. Information often makes conflict easier to resolve. As leader, part of my responsibility is making sure the team communicates effectively, openly and honestly.

Discern the deeper issues – Conflict develops for a number of reasons – not all of them good. Beyond miscommunication, conflict also develops over power struggles, weak leadership, or simply personality differences. Discerning the nature of the conflict and if there is a root issue (often unspoken or undefined) helps me avoid trying to solve the perceived conflict, when the real issue is something completely different.

Monitor the impact – As I said, conflict in and of itself is not bad, but part of my job is making sure conflict on a team doesn’t begin to harm rather than promote health of the team and it’s members. When individuals begin to attack each other personally, act in anger, form sides within the team, or distract from progress, it’s time for the leader to interfere.

Protect the Vision – Ultimately, my job as a leader is to maintain the integrity of the vision. Conflict can enhance or interfere with attaining the vision. My job is to continually direct the team’s attention back to our purpose. I have found, also through experience, the more aligned we are around a shared, common vision, the less we conflict and the more healthy the team operates together. We can even overlook minor disagreements, because we are energized towards the overall objective.

Don’t be afraid of conflict on a team. Good leaders learn to manage it for the eventual good of the team.

A Leadership Pet Peeve About The People Doing the Work

controlling leader

I must admit I have a good number of pet peeves in leadership. Leadership is hard. But, there are some principals in leadership, which simply need to be adhered to for good leadership.

Let me share a story as an illustration of one of my pet peeves.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me who to place on my team. He told me how to conduct sales meetings with my department. He told me what each person’s assignments would be. And, he told me how to conduct the meeting – going as far as to write out my agenda.

He wasn’t going to be at the meeting. He didn’t actually know the people on my team. He was holding me accountable for results in sales, but yet he continually gave me the script for how to do my job. I had to turn in reports, which indicated I had followed his agenda.

I hated it. I felt so controlled. My team, with whom I was very open and honest, were frustrated. And, when I could, I secretly altered things and scripted my own way. Maybe it was rebellion – okay, it was rebellion, but, I never thought he was practicing good leadership. And, I experienced direct results in employee morale.

Here’s the pet peeve, which developed from this experience.

If you aren’t going to be doing the actual work, don’t script how it’s done.

As a leader, you can share what you want accomplished. That’s vision-casting.

You can set reasonable boundaries. This actually helps fuel creativity.

You can share your thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful. You probably have good ones.

You can monitor progress. This is your responsibility.

You can even hold people accountable for progress. It ensures completion.

But the people who are actually doing the work

The ones carrying out the plans – Getting their hands dirty –

Should determine how the actual work gets completed.

There, I feel better.

Any questions?

The Tension Between Being Available and Being Accessible as a Leader

open closed doors

The larger the church gets, or the more leadership responsibility God calls me to, the greater the tension I feel between being available and being accessible.

Leader, have you ever felt this tension?

And, I’ve learned to be effective, to protect my family and to avoid burnout I can’t always do both.

Truth be, there are too many demands on my time to always be available. Sometimes there are more requests for my time than hours in the day. Sunday is always coming. I receive dozens – some days hundreds – of emails, texts and phone calls, every single day.

I can’t always be available.

  • I must make the most effective use of my limited time.
  • I may not be the best person to meet with everyone.
  • I must spend time investing in the staff with whom I work.
  • I need to reserve ample time for Bible study, prayer, and sermon preparation.
  • I may sometimes need to refer people to someone who is more available at the time.

Some weeks, just being honest, sadly, I end up saying “No” more than I get to say “Yes”.

If time were limitless – I’d rather always be available. As with most leaders, it’s easier for me to say yes than it is to say no. I’m always more popular when I do.

But, popular isn’t a good goal. It’s seldom an effective goal.

I can’t always be available, but this shouldn’t mean I’m unreachable.

I try to always be accessible.

  • I genuinely want people to be served and to serve people.
  • I can easily be found online. (I don’t hide my contact information.)
  • I respond to all emails and return phone calls in a reasonable time – hopefully by the end of each day.
  • I hold responsiveness as a huge personal value and lead our team to do likewise.
  • I always try to help people get the help or answer they need.

I realize even this doesn’t make everyone happy. Some want me always available – to them. But, the goal of leadership is not to make everyone happy – it’s to lead people to a better reality than today. To do this, I must make effective use of my time.

I share this because there are so many pastors facing real burnout. They are struggling with effectiveness. Their family life is suffering. All because they tried to always be available, when all they needed to be was accessible.

(By the way, the church leaders in Acts 6 understood this tension. Read it again to see how they responded.)

Pastor – leader – the tension is real. But, realize you can be accessible even if you’re not always available.

Pastors, do you ever feel the tension between being accessible and being available?

7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement

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There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. So many times I simply don’t know what to do. I try to lead by consensus building, but even with the strongest teams there will always be decisions about which we just aren’t certain what is the best decision.

This is why I like to have some default zones in leadership. When I can’t make a decision – I know where to default.

Having a default zone when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” to in common situations which occur frequently in leadership may prove to be helpful.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way over time has proven to be best. This becomes your default zone.

Here are 7 of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring – default to no over yes.

If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I default to no. It’s not worth taking a chance when adding to the team. When I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it – don’t.

I don’t follow my own advice here often enough, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader – or the less respect I lose.

If it’s between empower or control – choose empower.

Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way. The area I control always limit us in this area.

My preference or the team’s preference – go with the team.

There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong. And, if you believe in your team – prove it.

In person or by email – choose in person

By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But, when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times. And, we need personal connections to build strong teams.

Assume or ask – ask for clarification.

If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking – if it doesn’t appear they understand you – rather than assume – ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams. The best leaders I know ask the best questions.

Commit or don’t commit – Choose don’t commit.

Leaders usually have more opportunities than time can allow. I’ve learned – the hard way – no one will protect my calendar as well as me. I’ve also learned when I over commit – I become less effective, I burnout easily, and, over time, eventually I’m useless. I disappoint less people when I don’t commit on the front end.

These may not be the ones you need – you may have your own, but learning your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?

Solving a Problem is Often a Matter of Perspective – and how this principle impacts leadership

glass milk

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

Some days leaders feel as though all we do is address problems other people have. It could be a personal problem, a problem with a program, someone on our team, or it could be a problem no one can even identify – we just know it’s a problem. Leaders often serve the role of problem solvers.

It’s frustrating, as a leader, when you feel you’ve done your best to address a problem, but people still have a problem. The problem – from their perspective – still exists.

Ever been there?

That’s because fixing a problem – addressing the problem – doesn’t always solve the problem – at least in the mind of others.

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

I have a humorous story to illustrate this principle.

One time my family ate at a very popular chain restaurant in Chicago. I won’t tell you the name, but if I did you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a wonderful restaurant, somewhat fancy, and people often stand in line for hours to eat there. We continue to patronize the restaurant today.

Anyway, my son, who was probably 10 years old or so at the time, ordered milk. I don’t know why – who orders milk at a fancy restaurant? But, he’s always had a mind of his own. When they set the milk down on the table, my son noticed a huge fly floating in his glass of milk. He wouldn’t drink it! He can be somewhat picky about certain things – and a germaphobe – but, I didn’t blame him this time.

We called the waiter over and showed him the fly. The waiter simply grabbed a spoon off the table, scooped the fly out of the glass of milk, and tossed the fly onto an empty plate on the table and walked away, leaving us to stare at a fly half-drowning in milk on the plate in front of us.

Problem solved, right?

Seriously, this story remains funny to us today. In no way did we feel this problem was solved. It may have been fixed – there was no longer a fly in the milk, which was our only concern at the time, but the problem wasn’t solved. My son wanted a new glass of milk. I know – he’s picky. 🙂 We decided we weren’t up for an argument and instead made a funny memory together. We simply ignored it, my son drank his water, and we left feeling as though we had an unresolved problem at our table.

Our server, on the other hand, felt he had fixed our problem, so everything was good – no fly in the milk – no problem. He never apologized or addressed it again, but continued serving us.

That story – as silly as it is reminds me as a leader – just because you fix a problem from your perspective, doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem in the eyes of those you lead.

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

Understanding this principle means a few things for me:

First, as a leader, whether or not you’ve solved a problem – or even addressed it in some people’s eyes – may be based more on a person’s perspective, their personal interests or desires, and even their emotional investment at times, than it is on some measurable reality.

Second, I should keep trying to fix the problems I agree need fixing. It doesn’t mean I ignore them – I just need to be conscious of the fact I may not solve everyone’s concern with the problem. I may never make everyone happy – as hard as I may try to solve their problems. In fact, the day I make everyone happy I think my job as a leader will be complete. We won’t need leaders if everything was already fully solved. I don’t see this happening any time soon. (We call this job security.)

Finally, and more importantly, I should always attempt to understand the real problem from other person’s perspective. As much as possible, I should discover what solving the problem would even look like in their eyes. At this point, I can determine whether I can truly solve the problem to their satisfaction. This involves a leader asking good questions, repeating back what you think you’ve heard, and following up to see how you’ve progressed towards addressing their real concerns. Sometimes I’ll be able to and sometimes not, but everyone should at least know what’s considered resolution to the problem. This keeps me from spending time and resources attempting to fix a problem I can never solve.

In the case of the milk, if the waiter had asked, “Do you want a new glass or should I just scoop the fly out?”” – he would have learned how to move from fixing the problem to solving the problem from our perspective. And, though we did still tip him (because we are people of grace), his tip would have been considerably larger.

Have you ever tried to fix a problem but still experienced upset people?

7 Times Leadership is at Its Best – A Delicate Tension

balanced

In my opinion, there are times when my leadership is better than others. I call them seasons. Seasons come a seasons go. Obviously, I would love for all of our seasons to be wonderful, but I have learned this isn’t realistic.

What I have observed is when leadership is at it’s best there is a delicate tension in place.

Let me share a few examples to describe what I mean.

Here are 7 times leadership is at its best when:

People follow willingly, not under coercion or force.

You aren’t leading unless people are following. We can find examples of people who did exactly what someone told them – yet, it wasn’t done willingly. The best leadership has willing participants – personally energized towards the vision.

People can keep up, but are still being stretched.

There is nothing worse than a leader who is too far ahead of the people he or she is trying to lead. Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car? Some people are good at leading you – some aren’t. But, the best leadership is always taking you somewhere you haven’t been before – stretching you towards something new. It’s a delicate tension between two extremes.

People feel valued, while being challenged to continually improve.

This is a tough one for me. I’m wired for improvement. I’m a development guy. I’m seldom completely satisfied – especially with my own efforts. So, I want to continually challenge people to get better – for their good no the good of the team. But, you can only push so much. Ephesians 6 gives this warning to fathers of children. Sometimes as leaders we can push too hard – and frustrate the people we are trying to lead.

People are assigned to their specific passion, but readily do what needs to be done.

I learned this in church planting. We needed people just to do what needed to be done. We didn’t have enough people to “specialize”. And, yet we also learned people are less likely to burnout and more likely to be passionate for their work if the work fits within who they are and how they are uniquely wired.

People have a clearly defined vision, but have freedom to invent and dream along the way.

This one is especially true for creative people. They need clear boundaries – clear instructions – they need to know what a win looks like. But, they also need freedom within those boundaries to create – to explore – to dream – and to fail.

People have real responsibility and authority, but don’t feel abandoned.

Delegation is a key to good leadership, but healthy delegation does not dump and run. There are adequate resources, feedback and accountability. People feel free to do their work without someone looking over their shoulder, but they know help is always nearby if needed.

People take time to rest and celebrate, but aren’t allowed to sit still for long.

Sitting leads to complacency, boredom and eventually stagnation. And, speaking candidly, it drives me crazy. We can’t sit still for long when there is so much which needs to be done. But, the tension is we need to celebrate. And, we definitely need to rest. The celebration and rest – done well – should fuel the other. As leaders we must protect both extremes.

Do you see the tension? It’s real. And, if you’re a leader you live these tensions everyday. Praying with you!

What would you add?

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

chess play

I love organizational leadership. I especially love attempting to lead healthy organizations. I have been in both environments – healthy and non-healthy. I prefer healthy.

If truth be told, I’ve probably been the leader in both extremes. And, there are seasons when every organization is healthier than others.

Over the years of leading I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health. They keep health from happening and – if not dealt with – can eventually destroy an organization – even a local church.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. I’ve known leaders who think they can read a book, attend a conference, or say something persuasive enough so everything turns out wonderful. Organizational health is much more complicated. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity. Leaders must be committed to the process through good times and bad.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When an organization gets too comfortable – boredom, complacency and indifference are common results. The overall vision must be attainable in short wins, but stretching enough to always have something new to achieve. 

Selfishness – Organizational health requires a team environment. There’s no place for selfishness in this equation. When everyone is looking out for themselves instead of the interest of the entire organization – and this starts with the leader – the health is quickly in jeopardy.

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every one of my posts must be spiritual. (Just kidding.) Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect (and we all sin), but it doesn’t matter if it is gossip or adultery – sin ravages through the integrity of the organization. When moral corruption enters the mix, and is not addressed, the health of an organization will soon suffer. This is why it is so important a leader stays healthy spiritually, relationally and physically.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a rapidly changing world, organizations must act quickly to adapt when needed. Some things never change, such as vision and values, but the activities to reach them must be fluid enough to adjust with swiftness and efficiency.

Stubbornness – Let me be clear. There are some things to be stubborn about, again, such as vision and values. When the organization or it’s leaders are stubborn about having things “their way”, however, or resistant to adopt new ways of accomplishing the same vision, the health of the organization will suffer. Most people struggle to follow stubborn leadership, especially when it’s protecting self-interest rather than organizational interests.

Structure – As much as we need structure, and even though we should always be working to add better structure, bad structure can be damaging to organizational health. When people feel they are being controlled by rules, more than empowered by their individuality and passions, progress is minimized and growth stalls. People become frustrated under needless or burdensome structure. 

What enemies of organizational health would you add to my list?

 

10 Things Which Drive Me Crazy in Leadership

aaargh!

There are some things in leadership I could honestly say I despise. Ways people behave. Things they do. I should note – not the people involved in them, but the actions.

And, I have probably been guilty of some of these also in my career. But, I hate when I did them as well.

Perhaps you have your own list, but this is mine.

Here are 10 things which drive me crazy in leadership:

Responsibility without authority – If you ask someone to lead something – let them lead. Don’t make them jump through humps, constantly come back to you for approval, or second-guess everything they do.

Small-mindedness – I like big dreams and those who dream them. I’ve never once out-dreamed God. Neither have you.

Naysayers – There is always someone who says it can’t be done, it hasn’t been done this way before, or no one will support your idea. Listen to wisdom, even constructive criticism, but don’t fall for the person who has never met a good idea in their life.

Laziness – Not only is it a sin, if it is allowed to fester it can be contagious or disruptive to an organization. I believe in protecting my Sabbath. I have learned and teach on the need to protect our soul – to rest – but, work is work. And, we there is much work to be done.

Settling – Even if it involves conflict, I want to push for best over mediocre. Settling eventually means no one wins and everything stalls.

Popularity seeking – Leaders who say what they think people want to hear in order to be liked – it drives me nuts. (I’m not even sure these types are technically leaders.)

Power hunger – Leaders who are easily threatened by others or who always try to control others limit people and organizations.

Caution out of fear – Some leaders refuse to take risk. They take the safe route every time – especially when pressure rises against them. Personally, I prefer a bold faith every time.

Bully management – Some leaders get their way from force. They beat people into submission, are never satisfied, or badger people to perform. This has always seemed like cowardly leadership to me.

Passion squelchers – I’ve known leaders who never liked a new idea – unless it was theirs. They prefer to say no to people more than yes. Drives me crazy. Leaders should energize others to realize their dreams, not stifle them.

What are some things you despise in leadership?