Structure Can Impede Progress

Recently I received a question about a post entitled “7 Enemies of Organizational Health“. One of those “enemies” I listed as “structure”. The person’s question was, “Are you referring to micromanagement?” He went on to say that we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

I answered.

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, but really I simply meant structure. Let me attempt to explain.

I do agree we need some structure, but not for structure sake, but for progress sake. And there is a difference.

I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don’t need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But, we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, think about it, if we all did the right thing we wouldn’t need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem…when it gets in the way…and the kind of structure I was referring to in my post…is when a well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule that says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. So, because I want to respect authority, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8 AM to 5 PM. The fact is, however, that I work best at 6 in the morning out of the office. Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. At the same time, because I’m following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

The bottom line is that structure should enhance not impede progress.

Structure should never get in the way of accomplishing what God plants in your heart to accomplish.

Do you follow my reasoning? What would you add to the discussion?

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

I love organizational leadership. I especially love leading 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. Along the way, I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future organizational growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When the organization gets too comfortable, boredom, complacency and indifference becomes more common.

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

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every post mus be spiritual. (Just kidding.) Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect, but whether it’s gossip or adultery that ravages through the integrity of the organization, when moral corruption enters the mix, the health of the organization will soon suffer.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a world that’s changing rapidly, organizations must act quickly to adapt to change 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 – Okay, I’ll probably get in trouble for this one, even in the organization I lead, but it’s true. As much as we need structure, and even though I’m working to add structure to our organization, structure can get in the way of an organization being healthy. When people feel they are being controlled, progress is minimized and the growth and health of the organization stalls.

What would you add to my list?

 

An Elementary Approach to Facing Conflict

I’ve seen a lot of conflict in my life. From parents and couples in my office for counseling to employment situations where two people can’t get along. I’ve even seen a fight in the grocery store because someone thought someone else cut line.

As an observer, I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed that the way one person responds often determines the way the other person responds. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

When you are backed into a corner and facing potential conflict you can come out fighting, or you can be smart about it, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.

In fact, the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.

Here are 3 steps when backed into a corner:

Stop

Stop and think. What is the best approach? What do you really want to accomplish? Based on that, how should you respond? The opening moments are always critical in any conflict. You can quickly back someone or yourself into a corner. Cornered people move into a self-protection mode, fail to react rationally, and the sense of what’s best is lost. It requires practice, but take adequate time to plan the best way to approach the other party. It may require you being silent when your prone to speak, but this one step often avoids much of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict. (As an example, Jesus took time to make a whip before driving the money changers out of the temple. John 2)

Drop

Drop the right to win. When you come into a potential fiery situation with a have-to-win attitude you cloud your ability to work for the best results. Self-centeredness always gets in the way of healthy conflict. Be humble and agree that you are going to do what is best, even if that means you don’t get your way. This doesn’t mean you give in to the other party, but the goal in conflict should not be to win personally, but to reach the best solution for everyone.

Roll

Roll out the best approach. I realize it takes two or more people to make this happen, but when one party is willing to do the first two it makes accomplishing the best so much more likely. Go into every potential conflict with a humble desire for the best solution to be accomplished.

Avoid an unnecessary fire. Don’t come out swinging.

Stop, drop and roll.

Be honest, how are you at holding your tongue when needed?

Share the why as you share the what…

When you are leading people…

When you are introducing change…

When you want people to follow…

When you want buy-in to the plans…

When you want to build or maintain momentum…

When you are experiencing growth…

When you are experiencing decline…

Don’t bother with the what…

Unless you share the why…

People won’t hear the what as well unless they know the why…

You’ll face resistance…

They’ll be separate agendas…

The vision is clouded…

The motivation is absent…

Paint the why…as you share the what…

Be honest, are you less likely to want to do the what if you don’t know the why?

7 Marks of a Great Leader

There are some characteristics which set a great leader apart from mediocre leaders. Great leaders are multidimensional. While continuing to improve, great leaders have achieved certain markers in leadership.

Here are 7 marks of a great leader:

With humility, surrendering your way when it’s not the best way

With intentionality, continuing to learn and grow as a leader

With compassion, considering the needs of others ahead of your own

With integrity, never separating character from your definition of quality or success

With passion, the ability to rally a team and articulate the path to victory

With vision, seeing things other can’t see or are afraid to pursue

With strength, having the discipline to follow through on commitments

I’m not claiming all great leaders excel in each of these areas, certainly not that I have, but there should be a certain level of accomplishment, a progression towards each of them or at least a desire to do so…to be a great leader.

What markers did I miss?

A Leader’s View…

(Art work courtesy of me.)

One qualification to be an effective leader, especially at a senior level, is the ability to see beyond the organization’s current path.

Effective leaders appear to have a unique perception ability…

  • A leader’s view goes beyond what’s expected to sense and prepare for the unexpected…
  • A leader looks outside the norm to attain untapped potential and seize opportunities…
  • A leader observes what needs changing to stir enthusiasm and fuel momentum…

I’m not sure whether it is by discipline or by personal wiring, but a leader has an ability to see beyond the scope of things as they currently exist. He or she appears to see things others simply can’t see or aren’t looking for. It’s a keen sense of awareness, which in my opinion, seems to exist with all effective senior leaders. It’s obviously not an ability limited to the senior leader, but it is critical with this position of leadership.

Without the ability to work from this perspective, in my opinion, the leader’s potential is limited.

Give me your thoughts. Would you agree?

5 Reasons Delegation Fails

I encounter many leaders who claim to be good at delegation, but are frustrated with the results they receive on delegated projects. Of course, they often claim innocence, feeling they have done their job by delegation. The blame then naturally shifts to the delegate.

The problem, however, in many cases, rests not with the delegate, but with a leader’s failure to delegate properly. There are certainly times when the delegate drops the ball and doesn’t follow through with the task (which I believe is often one of the reasons listed below), but in my experience, the failure of delegation most often rests with the leader:

Here are 5 reasons delegation often fails:

There was no accountability provided in the delegation process. When someone receives a project, they need to be given a timeline for completion. They need a system of follow up, measures of accomplishment or benchmarks towards completion. A predetermined win is clear and understood in healthy delegation.

The leader dumped instead of delegated. I have written about this previously, but if the leader had the responsibility to delegate the task, then he or she retains a level of responsibility to check in periodically with the delegate’s progress. There’s an element of partnership in a healthy delegation process, where the leader remains close enough to assure completion.

The delegate was not properly trained. Assuming someone knows how to do a task and can figure out their way on their own isn’t only naive it’s unfair. Questions need to be asked and information given on the front end to make sure the person has the ability to complete the task or the ability to learn along the way. This may involve the leader spending more time in the beginning phases of a task to ensure completion is attainable by the delegate.

Adequate resources were not in place. It’s difficult to expect someone to complete a task when the leader hasn’t given the proper tools for the job. Sometimes anxious leaders delegate a project too soon, before the team is ready, either in structure or in resources.

The wrong person was chosen for the task. Let’s face it. Not everyone is up to every task. Many times when delegation fails because the leader picked the wrong person for the job. Selecting the best person on the front end or reassigning when an improper fit is discovered is critical to assure completion of a task.

Do you have delegated projects that didn’t get completed this past year?

Could one of these be the reason? If so, who needs to take responsibility for the failure?

“Everything rises and falls on leadership” – Dr. John Maxwell

What other reasons do you see for the failure of delegation?

7 Ways to Hear “I have a problem with you leader”

It was a hard years as a leader in some ways. So much for having an “open door policy”. This year several members of our staff told me where I was letting them down. Next year I’ll close the door. :)

Not really, but this was a year, like many before, where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear; I’m an idiot at times. There is room for improvement with any leader, and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

I realize some would question me for allowing such correction from people I’m supposed to lead, but most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserve it, but anytime an associate is brave enough to rebuke an employer, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care
  • Feels welcome to do so

In my opinion, good leaders work to live within the third option. I’m hoping that’s the reason in my situation. :)

Here are 7 ways I welcome correction by the people I lead:

An open door – This is more than keeping the door to my office open. I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. In addition, my team knows I consider responsiveness to be of the highest value.

Include others in decision making – If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made.

Ask for it – Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. (I’ll help your team do it too. Details HERE.)

Admit mistakes – It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault.

Take personal responsibility – In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner.

Model it – It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it.

Trade it – The best way to get your team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with your team where there is mutual correction. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

Receiving correction is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, that when leader is open to correction, his or her team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction?

Is your leader open to correction?

5 Ways to Make the Best of Human Capital

Do you want to harness the greatest power in your organization? The best assets of your church, business or non-profit never appear on your balance sheet.

The truth is that any organization is only as good as the people within it. Take the greatest idea and put the wrong people behind it and little progress will be realized.  With the right people, even average ideas can achieve tremendous results.

Are you taking the advantages of human capital?

Are you relying on the knowledge, insight and experience of everyone on your team to make the organization better?

Here are 5 ways to capitalize on the people value of your team:

Brainstorm – Have assigned times periodically where everyone on the team gets to give input into the organization’s future. I like to provide ways for even the most introverted on our team to share thoughts with me.

Allow mistakes – Create an environment where team members are willing to take risks without fear of repercussion if things go wrong. This atmosphere will often be created with the leader’s instant reactions to mistakes made, but will be reinforced by how the organization learns from failure.

Ask questions – Genuinely seek help from those around you.  Recognize the fact that others may know more than you know about a particular subject. I like to follow others on the team when they are the expert in a subject.

Don’t pre-define – If you want help solving a problem or planning for the future, start with a clean slate, without having a pre-determined outcome when addressing an issue.  If the leader always has the answer, team members are less likely to share their input.

Be open to change/new ideas – The leader must genuinely desire the involvement of others.  Everyone on the team knows if the leader is really considering other people’s opinions. If team member’s suggestions are never implemented, they eventually will stop sharing them.

How are you currently taking advantage of human capital?

For more ideas on creating an environment of innovation click HERE.

(This is an expanded version of a previous post.)

7 Attributes of a Maturing Leader

I frequently say to our church that I’m less interested in where a person has been and more interested in where they are going. I would make that statement about leadership also. The best leaders I know don’t have all the answers. They haven’t got everything figured out yet. Most wouldn’t even consider themselves “experts” in the field of leadership. (I certainly don’t consider myself to be one.)

What they have done and are doing is to continue maturing as a leader. The best leaders I know are consistently getting better.

Here are 7 attributes of a maturing leader:

  • Able to think strategically in the moment (I wrote a post about that HERE.)
  • Is an encourager and guards the tongue from reckless and hurtful words and expressions
  • Recognizes the contributions of others and willingly cheers other’s success
  • Doesn’t act in anger, but carefully plans a response
  • Thinks beyond today personally and for the organization
  • Is concerned about, but doesn’t stress over the small stuff
  • Forgives easily and receives correction without becoming defensive

You may not have all of these as attributes yet, but my encouragement is to keep improving.

Brag on yourself: Which of these are you doing well?

Be honest: Upon which of these attributes do you most need to improve?