5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Leadership Ahead

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is:

Forgetting that everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

People are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully, they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

If you want to lead people who are different from you…and you should…you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would that environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership, that people are different, you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like that term much, because I’m a leader in training too, but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities. One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person, even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me that everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions. Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assuming agreement by silence. I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this, I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, that some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found that approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input. This probably should have come first, but this is a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team. Even the kind of information that hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep candy in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought. Here I am referring to the DNA…the culture…for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders that encourages people to think for themselves. That kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

Warning: Don’t Be the Senior Leader Unless…

Warning

Here’s a warning:

Don’t Agree to Be the Senior Leader Unless…

You are ready to lead alone at times…or at least feel like you are.

You aren’t striving for popularity, knowing that every decision you make is unpopular to someone.

You can make the hard decisions, even the ones involving people or conflict.

You will try to see all sides of an issue.

You are comfortable with change and thinking outside the box.

You are okay when others receiving credit; even for something you initiated.

You can delegate leadership…and truly empower others, believing things are better when other people help make decisions.

You don’t let criticism derail you for long, but stay committed to the task before you.

You can think beyond today and help others join you by casting an engaging vision.

You highly value people and their contributions.

And _________?

Senior leaders…share yours.

7 Ways to Help an Introvert Engage in Meetings

power meeting from above

I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how to engage someone completely different from me, but who also happens to be an introvert. We aren’t all alike…you know. :) Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. My best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would be to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins.

But, I understand. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Keep in mind, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics. And, just to be clear, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond – This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to be some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions…ahead of time – Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing – When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot – If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted – If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. You may be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control – Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas – Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

You might read THIS POST and THIS POST for more posts on introversion.

Do You Lead or Control People?

controlling leader

In my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.

In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites:

Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:

  • Creativity is encouraged and mistakes are seen as part of the process
  • People are developed more than programs
  • Healthy relationships and teams are part of the DNA
  • Delegation thrives and people are empowered
  • Everyone has value on a team
  • People follow willingly, because they feel respected and valued
  • Leadership development is part of the DNA

Here are some characteristics of controlling people:

  • Personal growth is stifled
  • Creativity and independent thought is discouraged
  • Followers are kept as a distance from leaders
  • Leaders insist on their way and are never wrong
  • People are taken for granted
  • Positions and policies rule more than relationships
  • People are employees more than team members

Apparently, to some leaders, it appears easier to simply make people do what the leader wants them to do. By force. I’ve had bosses like that. Making people carry out your agenda simplifies things…it seems. But, that’s not really leadership.

Leadership is more of an art than that. Leading people effectively means helping people with different skills, talents and interests, even ideas and temperaments in a way that makes them feel valued and yet accomplishes the established vision and goals.

That’s not easy. That’s not even always fun. But, it certainly is truer of leadership. The fact is you can’t truly lead people and control people. The two don’t work well together.

Have you ever worked for a controller?

Be honest with yourself, are you leading people, or do you claim to be a leader, but you are really a controlling people?

Something I’ve Learned as a Senior Leader

Money Worries

I was talking with a young pastor recently who is having to make some hard decisions in his church. He’s praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, allowing input from the church. He feels confident he is making the right decisions for the life of the church at this time. None of the changes are clearly addressed in Scripture. He feels. Majority of the people support him, but still, he’s got some who continually question the decisions he makes.

It reminds me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership.

Not everyone will understand all the decisions a leader makes unless they sat where the leader sits.

The leader can explain. And, he or she should try. The leader can walk with them through the decision. And, he or she should. The leader can listen to the objections. And, he or she should.

But, there will be times when the leader has to make decisions based on the information available. the leader must consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts every person (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead.

And, not everyone will understand.

That principle is equally true for…

Pastors

Business owners

Parents

Elected officials

Teachers

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of the team. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions…the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance that not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

So lead!

Have you ever had to make decisions others couldn’t immediately understand?

As a Leader of Leaders…

female leader

I often get asked, what’s the difference is between leading leaders and leading followers. Great question. It really is a paradigm of leading. It’s really in how you lead.

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot…

I often “didn’t know about that” until a decision is made, but you won’t hear me say that…because I support my team’s ability to make decisions…

I encourage learning from someone besides me…

I let people make mistakes…

I try to steer discussion more than have answers…

I believe in more dreams than my own…

I say “we” more than I say “me”…(except in this post)

I strive to empower more than I control…

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on my team…

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision…

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

4 Ways a Leader Becomes Controlling

Manager and  joypad

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. I have worked closely with a controlling leader, so I guess I may me sensitive to the issue. I’ve written about this issue previously, including:

7 Suggestions for Confronting a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

And others.

Under a controlling leader’s watch, leadership development is virtually non-existent. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. It never works well.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this issue recently. His boss is a controlling leader. It has led to burnout for my friend and caused him to start putting his resume out. He’s done. Can’t take it anymore. Knowing this young leader, I realize the business is going to suffer because the leader can’t let go of the reigns. As an outsider, it appears they will be losing a quality person if they lose my friend. At this point in the life of the business, it will be a devastating blow.

In the conversation, my friend asked an important question. “How does one become a controlling leader?”

Good question. I don’t know that I can answer for every controlling leader, (My aim has never been to speak for that group), but I have some theories.

Here are 4 suggestions:

Faith – Actually, the lack thereof. Typically, this leader doesn’t trust anyone except him or herself to do the job. They are afraid to release the vision to others. In terms of the church, our vision is shaped by Christ, and the ministry leader who struggles with their faith will always default to trying to make things happen on his or her own.

Failure – This leader has witnessed failure; either personally or in the lives of others. They are now leery of things going wrong and so they refuse to let anyone else take charge. Controlling appears to be the “safer” option.

Fanfare – These leaders thrive on attention they receive from the limelight. They want the power, prestige and privileges that come with leadership, so they shut down anyone else who may appear to be easing into a position of influence.

Fear – These controlling leaders always believe the sky is falling. They see the glass as “half empty” and don’t want to take too many risks or chances. When everything is under their control they feel a sense of security.

I don’t know that any of us can answer this question as it applies to every leader, but these are some theories I’d suggest.

Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Anything you’d add to my list?

I believe in challenging leaders, so here goes. Leader, do you have controlling tendencies? (We all do to some extent.) Do any of these apply to you?

Decision Remorse

Funny scared man

I was talking with a young leader. Recently he had made a pretty major decision. He prayed about it. Consulted wise counsel. Acted methodically. I walked with him through the process and was impressed with the way he handled things.

The decision was made. He communicated it to key leaders and the steps were in place to move forward.

Then reality sank in.

It was a big decision. It will alter things. People will be impacted by this decision.

His mind started to play tricks with him. He questioned himself.

What if I made the wrong decision?
What if there was a better decision.
What if I was wrong?

He began to panic.

I was glad we were still talking at this point in the process. I was able to tell him a principle I learned years ago in leadership.

Sometimes we suffer from decision remorse.

Just like buyers remorse…what happens when you buy something and then temporarily wish you hadn’t…leaders often suffer from decision remorse. With every major decision in life or leadership, decision remorse is a possibility.

It’s a temporary setback. A momentary lapse. A gut check reality that makes you question your decision. It’s natural to question yourself at this point. You’ve invested a lot of energy on a major decision and now you are faced with making it happen.

Trust the process. Trust your instinct. Trust the system of decision-making you used.

Don’t allow decision remorse to keep you from celebrating the joy of what’s to come.

That doesn’t mean you don’t evaluate. It doesn’t mean you won’t make bad decisions. But, if you strategically and methodically made the decision, now is the time to implement.

Have you ever struggled with decision remorse?

10 Ways to Have a Reproducing Culture

growing team

Yesterday I shared traits I look for when recruiting new leaders.

Perhaps I need to back up a bit. You can’t recruit leaders…or you won’t effectively…if you never develop a culture that reproduces leaders.

Yet, finding new leaders is critical to the successful growth of any church or organization.  Kingdom growth is greatly impacted by the numbers of leaders we can recruit.

With that in mind, we must strive to recruit more leaders and we do that by having a culture of reproduction. How do we develop that type of culture?

Here are 10 thoughts:

Catch the vision of multiplication – It’s hard to convince people to buy into something you don’t believe in personally. As a leader, you must believe reproducing leaders is a valuable enough process to make it a priority.

Be intentional – Every leader in the organization must be willing to consciously replace themselves.  Multiplication must be a part of the overall strategy. There must be a system of leadership recruitment.

Start early – Reproducing cultures replace leaders before they actually need them.

Invest in personal growth – You can’t take new leaders where the current haven’t been or aren’t going.

Humble leaders – Leaders must not be afraid that new leaders could lead better than them. When leaders allow people to shine under their leadership it advances their ability to lead. The good news is today’s generation likes honesty. They will follow a leader more if they trust their integrity.

Share responsibilities early - The easiest way to learn something is to do it and the more ownership given to people the more they will be motivated to participate.

Identify potential – This was in my previous post. It’s important in a recruitment culture to always be looking for people who may someday be leadership superstars. Look for the good in people. What do they have that attracts people to them?

Create an environment conducive to leaders – Leaders don’t develop well under a dictatorship. If people are afraid to have an answer under the current leadership for fear of being wrong, they are less likely to try to have an answer. The real leaders will disappear quickly in a controlling environment.

Recruit – The “sign up” method seldom works well. The best quality people are personally recruited. Jesus found people with a personal ask.  The best recruitment in most organizations will be likewise.

Lead for life change – Some people will experience their greatest life change only when they are leading others or have some sort of responsibility for leadership. Nurture potential leaders knowing that part of their spiritual maturity will be that step of leadership.

Are you in a leadership reproducing culture? What makes it so?

10 Traits to Identify Potential New Leaders

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to identify potential new leaders. If a church or organization is to grow, finding new leaders is critical. Equally vital is the quality of leaders being discovered. Good leaders learn to look for qualities in people that are conducive to good leadership. If you want to have a culture that reproduces leaders, read THIS POST first.

But, where do you find these people who can be future leaders? I find it helps to look for certain qualities, which all good leaders need or qualities that, consistently over time, seem to make good leaders.

Here are 10 attributes I consider valuable traits when looking for new leaders:

Concern/Love for others – You can’t lead people effectively if you don’t genuinely love people. I’ve seen people in positions who have great power, but they don’t appear to love others. These leaders often produce followers well, but they fall short of reproducing leaders.

Not a complainer – Candidly speaking, leadership encounters complainers regardless of what we do. I certainly don’t want to add complainers to my team of leaders. A positive attitude will get my attention every time.

Teachable and open to suggestions – A person who thinks they have all the answers will repel other leaders. People with no desire to keep learning rarely find their place on my team of leaders.

Excellence in following – This is a biggie for me. I try to follow people I lead, because there are times they know more than I do. Many times. Someone who isn’t willing to follow is seldom ready to lead.

Reliability – Leadership is about trust, and trust is developed over time and consistency by doing what you said you would do. I look for people with that quality.

Interest – The people with a burning passion for the church or organization often make great leaders. You can train someone to lead others, but you can’t easily train them to have interest.

Good character – Character counts. Not perfection. Not flawless. But, good character is necessary to be trusted on a team. Integrity. Honesty. A humble desire to always be improving as a person. That kind of character.

Potential – God always saw potential in others they themselves couldn’t see. I try to have eyes to see that in others.

Confidence – Leaders have to move forward when others are ready to retreat. That takes confidence. Not prideful, but a genuine willingness to lead through the hard times; to do what others aren’t willing to do.

People skills – This goes without saying, but you can’t lead people if you can’t communicate with people. You don’t have to be the life of the party (I’m a strong Introvert), but you do have to be able to engage people and make them feel a part of things.

Well, those are some traits I look for in potential leaders.

Do you have other traits you look for in recruiting leaders?

(This is an expanded version of an older post.)