7 Ways to Respond to a Lazy Co-Worker

I’ve always valued hard work and usually resented lazy workers.

I started working when I was 12 years old in a grocery store. I worked hard, gained the recognition of my managers, and was rewarded with all the hours I wanted to work. The store was a revolving door of workers it seemed. I worked with some guys who didn’t last long, because they really didn’t want to work. They wanted to sneak into the break room and have a coke or take an extraordinary amount of time taking the trash out each night.

Please understand, I’m not talking about people who protect their family time (I do that) or people who work smart so they can enjoy life. (I do that too.) I’m talking about people who are lazy. People who don’t want to work. They want a paycheck, but they don’t really want to earn their pay. They want it given to them. (I told you I’ve usually resented people like this. Can you tell? :) )

If you are in a equal position to a lazy person, and not their leader, it is frustrating. You feel taken advantage of because of your hard work.

Recently I was stopped at a conference and asked if I saw this on church staffs. He is in a large church where most of the staff work extremely hard, but a few barely get their work done. They are, in his opinion, lazy. He wanted to know if this was unusual. Of course, I assured this frustrated person. Wherever you find people you’ll encounter problems with people. Churches are places where people work, so some of the same problems that exist outside the church exist inside the church.

His real question, however, was “What should he do?”

Here are 7 ways to treat lazy people:

Make sure it’s not a perception problem – Make sure you aren’t confusing a different work style with laziness. Make sure you aren’t lumping your overachiever mindset on them. People approach work differently. That’s not always laziness. It could be they’ve found a way to work smarter and more efficiently. Look at the person’s performance based on results, not based on style.

Model hard work for them – This is your best offense. Some lazy people are encouraged by watching what they should be doing. Some will adapt to the environment if the environment is working hard. Certainly though, over time the lazy worker will be exposed. Then it is up to leadership to address the issue. (I know the question here…what happens if they don’t? But, that would be the subject of another post. This was is about co-workers.)

Pray for them to step up or leave – That sounds harsh, but if they are impacting your morale they are most likely impacting it for others. They are damaging the credibility and momentum of the organization for the rest of the team. Laziness is a sin. They need a heart change more than anything.

Don’t let them take advantage of you – You only enable them if you cover for them or do the work they were assigned to do. Lazy people seem to seek those out who will pick up their slack.

Challenge when necessary – If it’s clear a person is lazy and taking advantage of the situation, there comes a time when it’s right to challenge them. You should do so in love, but use the Matthew 18 approach; going to them first, then bringing along another if it continues; working through the chain of command. It’s better to challenge lovingly than to let the resentment in your heart destroy your witness as you develop bitterness towards the other person.

Make sure it’s not personal to you or the organization – Could laziness be the result of something else? Could they be reacting to issues within their own life, or with a vision disagreement? That doesn’t mean they should stay or go, but it should impact the way you respond.

Help them with specific tasks – Sometimes you can help a lazy person, even if they don’t report to you, by helping them find things to do. Lazy people typically aren’t looking. If there is work to do they can do, ask them to help you or to assume responsibility for it.

Have you ever worked with a lazy person? What did you do?

A Reminder About Future Thinking

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

The real problem? This leader is so caught up in putting out current fires, that he doesn’t have time…or hasn’t taken time…to plan for new and better fire extinguishers.  He’s not thinking “What’s next?” for the church and because he’s not, neither is anyone else. I took a minute to draw it out like this diagram. The ratios aren’t important, but what is important is that you understand the concept. The more the organization looks to you for leadership, the more you must be thinking future-tense.

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

Any questions?

Have you seen an organization stall because the leader stalls?

If this is your situations, let me suggest you read 8 Ways to Keep a Leader Looking Forward or 3 Critical Aspects of Planning for the Future.

3 Essentials for Long-Term Success

Do you want your organization to succeed? Do you want to personally succeed in your career? Do you want your marriage to thrive?

For long-term success in any area of life you must be:

Driven by vision

Vision sets the direction you will move. It’s the aim…the mission…the goal of what needs to be done to determine success as you’ve defined it. It’s your overall purpose. Vision is necessary with anything in which you care to succeed. I’ve written much about vision, mostly from an organizational sense, but it’s important to have a vision for every area of your life. You can read:

Bad Culture Eats Good Vision
Communicating My Personal Vision
Don’t Quit Your God-Given Vision

How secure is your vision today?

Grounded in values

Values protect your pursuit of the vision from chasing paths that do not fit the heart, history, reputation and DNA of the organization or individuals involved. It’s what grounds you and keeps you from running blindly. An organization’s values or your personal values may be different from my personal values, perhaps, but for an example of what I mean by values, see THIS POST. Determining what you value as an organization or for you personally is critical to continuing to succeed.

Do you know your values?

Fueled with passion

Let me be honest here. You can have a great vision and be grounded in the best values, but never succeed. Your organization will stall. Your marriage will fail. You will never personally achieve all you desire to achieve. You also need passion. You need motivation. You need momentum. Passion encourages you to discipline for the hard work of accomplishment. It’s what prompts you to do the tedious tasks of developing systems and strategies. It’s what fuels you on days you are ready to quit. When you lose your passion you lose your guts to weather the storms of life and the vision remains a dream.

For more on this subject, read:

8 Killers of Momentum and Motivation
The Power of Caged Momentum
Andy Stanley on Momentum

How passionate are you today for your vision?

Great organizations, great people, and even great relationships are driven by vision, grounded by values and driven by passion.

Does this describe your organization? Is it representative of your marriage or your life? If not, which is missing?

7 Characteristics of the Bottleneck Leader

Leaders should aim not to be a bottleneck in the process of building a healthy and growing organization. In manufacturing, a bottleneck is defined as “A point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them.” (Investopedica.com) In an organization, the bottleneck can be the leader. When this happens, progress stalls and growth is limited.

Here are 7 characteristics of the bottleneck leader:

  • Every decision ultimately goes through the leader…
  • Dreaming is limited to the pre-determined boundaries of the leader…
  • Waiting for the leader to make a decision becomes awkward and wastes time…
  • There is no clear vision or direction for the organization…
  • The leader never delegates…
  • Potential leaders aren’t recruited…they are controlled…
  • Everyone waits on the leader to make the first move…

Leaders, ask yourself this question: Are you a bottleneck in your organization?

If you aren’t certain, perhaps you should ask your team.

(If you’re really serious about finding the answer to this question, consider my consulting offering HERE.)

What would you add to my list? What bottlenecks of leadership have you seen?

Solving a Problem: A Matter of Perspective

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…just a problem. Leaders often serve the role of problem solvers.

It’s frustrating, as a leader, when we do our best to address a problem, but people still have a problem.

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. You see…solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

I remember the 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 and people often stand in line for hours to eat there. We continue to patronize the restaurant today.

Anyway, my son ordered milk. I don’t know why…who orders milk at a restaurant? :) When they set the milk down on the table, my son, who is somewhat picky about certain things, noticed a huge fly floating in his glass of milk. He wouldn’t drink it! :)

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. With that he walked away…problem solved.

It was 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, 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 had made a funny memory together, so 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…no problem. He never apologized or addressed it again, but continued serving us.

That story…as silly as it is…is a good reminder 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:

  • 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.
  • I should keep trying to fix the problems I agree need fixing…just knowing I may not solve everyone’s concern with the problem. I can’t make everyone happy…as hard as I may try to solve their problems.
  • More importantly, I should attempt to understand the real problem from other’s perspective and what solving that problem would even look like. At that point, I can determine whether I can truly solve the problem to their satisfaction. Sometimes I’ll be able to and sometimes not, but everyone should at least know what’s considered resolution to the problem. That 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.

Have you ever tried to fix a problem but still experienced upset people? Please share your story to help others.

8 Killers of Motivation and Momentum

Recently I wrote 7 Ways to Motivate a Leader. Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team, but I believe leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

Perhaps even more important, a leader needs to recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation so he or she can work to keep momentum from declining beyond repair. When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss.

With that in mind…

Here are 8 killers of motivation and momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward. (You may want to read 7 ways to implement change successfully.)

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like…especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do. You may want to read THIS POST for more help with this one.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation and momentum stalls. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling unvalued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouragers and champions of the people they lead.

If you see these at work in your organization, address them now!

Which is these is hardest for you to recognize or address?

Which have you experienced firsthand as a killer of motivation or momentum?

12 Ways to be a Leader of Value

Do you want to be a leader valued by the ones who follow?

There are plenty of leaders…or people who have leadership roles. Not all are valued as leaders. I hear from people every week who don’t feel they follow a valuable leader. If you are going to lead…lead in a way that creates value in the lives of others and the organizations you lead.

Here are 12 ways to be a leader of value:

Be open to challenge…

Be quick to share credit…

Be mindful of what’s missing…

Be consistent to offer praise…

Be accessible to followers…

Be willing to embrace change…

Be slow to condemn…

Be diligent in matters of character…

Be looking for what’s next…

Be a servant to all…

Be an example to many…

Be ready to take risks…

Try those dozen things and see how quickly you become a leader of value.

What would you add to my list?

Leadership Tip: Collaboration Leads to Cooperation

Leadership Tip: Collaboration leads to Cooperation

When you are leading a team, the more you collaborate with your team during the planning process and before the final decisions are made, the more cooperation you’ll receive from your team during the implementation process.

Of course, you can’t collaborate on every decision. One of the reasons you are leader is to make big picture, strategic decisions.

Whenever a decision, however, impacts other people, especially if it:

  • Impacts how they do their work…
  • Changes the basic nature of what they do…
  • Significantly impacts the future of the team or organization…

…Collaboration is advised, because it always bring better cooperation from the team.

In fact, the opposite can be equally true. A lack of collaboration naturally brings a lack of cooperation.

And cooperation rocks in organizational health!

Cooperation brings;

  • Collective buy-in
  • A sense of ownership and empowerment
  • Less petty arguments
  • Lower resistance to change
  • More passion towards the vision
  • Shared workload
  • Fewer cases of burnout

What leader doesn’t appreciate those things? :)

Leader, learn to collaborate better so your team can learn to cooperate better.

Have you seen this principle in practice? Is collaboration easy for you to do as a leader?

How have you seen this principle work or the opposite effect occur in a team’s health? Help us learn from your experience.

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

I’ve seen it many times…

You have an idea…it’s not a bad idea…it may be a great idea…

You just don’t know yet…

Here’s my advice…

Spend your energies at first on deciding whether it’s an idea worth pursuing…

The what…

Before you spend a lot of energy on the mechanics of the idea…

The how…

You may have to talk about some of the how to decide the what, but spend your first, best and most energy on the what…

For example: Let’s say you have an idea to add a third church service to allow for more growth…or maybe you are thinking of going multi-site…or the idea could be to plant another church. Don’t spend too much time on the how…until you decide the what.

Is this an idea worth pursuing?

Are you willing to give it a try?

Yes or no?  

Spending too much time on the how before you address the what:

  • Gets you bogged down in needless details…
  • Wastes energy that could be used elsewhere…
  • Solves problems you don’t yet and may never have…
  • Creates division about change prematurely…
  • Builds momentum before it’s time…

Once you decide the what, you’ll have more passion, clarity and energy to address the how.

Do you often find yourself addressing the how before you decide the what? 

How They Perceive You as a Leader…More Important…

How your team sees you may be more important than who you are as a leader…

Obviously character is most important…

You’ll often be misunderstood…

You can’t please everyone…

Somedays as a leader…it seems you can’t please anyone…  :)

The reality of the success of a leader, though, may depend more on how you are viewed by the people you lead than it does on what you do as a leader. I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that the two are not always the same.

  • Do they see you more as an agent of empowerment or an agent of control?
  • Do the see you more as a champion for their ideas or a killer of their dreams?
  • Do they see you more as a proponent of change or a protector of tradition?
  • Do they see you as a friend of progress or the enemy of success?

Much of your success as a leader will depend on the perception you create among the people you attempt to lead.

So, leader, how are you doing?

Have you ever known a leader who thought he or she was doing better than the team thought?

(BTW, as a shameless plug…I help leaders discover how their team really feels. Brave leaders learn more HERE.)