Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail: Here’s Why?

Teamwork crossword

I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team. 

I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application. 

In fact, I have a different theory.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail…

In fact…

It can be best for everyone.

It often provides the best discoveries.

It promotes buy in.

It fuels creativity.

It fosters teamwork.

As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made — about the team and the individuals on the team. 

If the leader always has everything clearly defined — is always ready with an answer — then why does he or she need a team?

The 4th “C” of Adding Healthy Team Members

Handshake and teamwork

There is a fourth “C” to finding good team members.

I have discovered it the hard way.

You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them. I agree with all three.

Character
Competence
Chemistry

Bill Hybels is a genius leader. I agree with all of them.

But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.

It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in chemistry. But, I think it’s unique.

The fourth “C for me is Culture.”

That’s right.

Culture

I’ve hired people I like personally — we had good chemistry — they were even friends — but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.

One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture.

I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different. It creates a different culture.

Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.

That’s not even to mention the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead that have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.

Culture matters.

And, so what’s the purpose of this post?

Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.

When you hire — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

In a future post, I’ll try to consider some ways to discern the culture and help others do the same.

5 Ways a Leader Responds at the Outset of a Crisis

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How do you respond when crisis comes to the team you lead?

I love the leadership displayed during a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George Bailey is about to leave for his honeymoon and panic struck the Building and Loan. As the president, he was forced to avert his plan, go back and save the company. He kept the Building and Loan open with a couple of dollars to spare. It was a tense moment. Everything they had worked for was at risk, but the crisis was solved — at least until the next crisis came.

That’s the kind of time I’m referring to as a leader.

How do you respond?

There have been several times where it appeared everything was a loss on the team I was leading. I’ve experienced it in planning a single project, as well as with the entire company felt in jeopardy when I was a small business owner.

Crisis.

At the outset of a crisis, how should the leader respond?

I must admit, I haven’t always handled these times as well as George Bailey, but experience has taught me a few things.

Here are 5 ways to respond at the outset of a crisis:

Slow down – The general tendency is to speed up, but “haste makes waste”. You need to move quickly, and sometimes you have to put out some initial flames, but as much as you can, slow down long enough to think before you react.

Don’t panic – You may indeed be in a panic on the inside, but your outer composure as a leader will set the thermostat of your team. The team’s emotions will almost always be an exaggerated version of the leader’s emotions. If you appear hopeless, the teams emotions will appear even more hopeless.

Get a plan – After you’ve addressed the most pressing needs — brought more of a sense of calm to the team — back away long enough to create a plan of recovery. It could be the best exit plan you can develop, but either way you need a plan. In crisis mode, this sometimes seems like a waste of time. The thought is that if the ship is sinking, you just need to bail water. In my experience, however, getting a plan in place makes the difference in the quality of your leadership through the crisis.

Navigate carefully – Once a plan is in place, you need to become an implementer of the plan. You’re the coach, cheerleader, captain of the ship at this point. You keep the team on task towards the end goal.

Help the team recover – After the dust settles from the crisis, the leader’s job isn’t complete until you help the team recover. That involves learning from what happened, making readjustments as needed, and helping the team begin again. In the best scenarios, this thought process begins to happen even during the crisis mode, giving the team some hope of better days to come.

We all hope to avoid those days of crisis on the team, but it helps to have a paradigm of how we should respond if or when they ever come.

Any thoughts you would add from your experience?

One Simple, But HUGE Way to Better Empower a Team

Elegant leader

Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.

And, in full disclosure, I’m the worst at this, but it’s something I’m striving to do better.

You want to fully empower your team?

Here’s what you do:

Release them from responsibility.

Whenever you can…

Often as leaders we handle a lot of information. Sometimes we do that with our team. Sometimes we dispense a lot of new ideas. If we are growing and learning personally, the team is often where we process our thoughts.

If it’s not their responsibility — let them know it’s not.

It sounds simple — but it’s huge.

You see, the team is always wondering.

What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?

What do you want me to do with that new idea?

How do you want me to help?

What’s my role going to be in this?

Are you going to hold me accountable for this?

Do you expect something from me here?

As leaders, we often process and present a lot of ideas, but sometimes we are just “thinking.” Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are just exploring.

The more we can release the people trying to follow us the more they can focus on things for which they are being held accountable. And, the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.

Just tell them what you expect — or don’t expect. Say the words, “You are not responsible for this.” “I don’t expect anything from you on this.” “This is just for information.” And, mean it.

Sounds simple. It’s huge.

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

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One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership. In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization — or church — there are principles for being effective.

Here are 7:

Be aware – Know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open – Let them know you — as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Be transparent enough that they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive – Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do — and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable – You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem — or a concern — you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems that allow you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent – Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow.

Be trustworthy – Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise — keep it. If you can’t support something — say it. If you’re not going to do it — say no. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative – Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate. Love others genuinely and display it well.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

The Downside of NOT Being a Controlling Leader

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I have a pet peeve about leadership. Actually lots.

But, this one is especially strong.

I have a pet peeve against controlling leadership.

I hate it. It’s so counter-productive to progress. It holds the team back from reaching it’s full potential. It stifles leaders. It never builds healthy teams.

And, the fact is if I allowed myself I could easily be a controlling leader. In fact, command is a “strength” of mine, according to Strengths Finders assessment. It can quickly become a weakness.

So, I discipline myself against controlling leadership.

I delegate.
I purposively bite my tongue.
I allow people to do things differently from the way I would do them.
I don’t micromanage.
I yield to others on my team.

And, when we remove controlling leadership it empowers people.

It means people take initiative.
They make decisions without me.
They proceed on their own.

But, that can create problems for the team.

It often causes miscommunication.
It can lead to fragmentation of the team.
It frequently brings frustration.

People lead. That’s no surprise. It’s what they’ve been empowered to do. But, many times they lead in different directions. Sometimes they lead too quickly. Often they lead into their own agendas — even outside the direction of the rest of the team.

And, the only way to keep that from happening is to be a controlling leader.

So, we have to learn to live in the tension.

We have to get better at keeping others informed. As leaders, we have to keep the vision in front of us and keep directing the team towards it, without controlling. We have to be better leaders.

It’s a constant challenge.

It’s even messy at times. But, it’s best.

5 Suggestions to Recover after You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake

Erasing Oops !

You know you made a mistake. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds out.

What do you do now?

I have often watched leaders struggle to recover from a mistake made that probably didn’t have to be as personally or professionally damaging to them as it was. They simply didn’t respond well enough and it cost them more than it should have.

Like the time a college pastor way over committed to a conference. He secured too many slots and not enough people signed up, so the church lost a lot of money. Or the time the worship pastor booked a concert in the auditorium, committed the church financially and with volunteers, and then found out the artist was hugely polarizing to the congregation. Or when a pastor signed a contract for services to the church, only to find out a key volunteer (and influencer) in the church offered the same services and was offended not being able to at least offer a bid on the services.

And, the list goes on…

I’m not addressing necessarily about moral issues or major failures. (I wrote about addressing them in THIS POST and THIS POST.) I’m primarily writing about mistakes that all leaders make. We make them frequently. It’s part of being human and being a leader. Although both lists are very similar.

(By the way, these are fabricated scenarios in that they aren’t specific situations I’m using as examples, but these type mistakes are frequent in leadership.)

Chances are you’ve made similar mistakes. We all have. You’ve seen others make them. They look different every time and there are different characters in each story, but the outcomes are similar. And, the damage is just as damaging if not addressed properly.

Because a leadership principle we can never escape is:

The way you respond after a mistake always determines the quality of recovery.

So, when you’ve made the mistake — and admitting it to yourself is the first step — what do you do now?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Communicate quickly – You don’t have to tell the world, but those who need to know should hear it from you and not from anyone else. Let the offended parties know and the people who will have to answer for the mistake. This can’t be done too soon. Surprises like this never turn out well, but with advance knowledge many times further damage can be averted

Own it – Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t blame others. Don’t say, “I’m sorry”, but then try to wrap the other person into your story. Ask forgiveness if necessary, but own it now. You made a mistake. Be a leader. Own the mistake and be willing to accept the consequences. You’ll be far more respected and stand a better chance of bridging support in the recovery process.

Stop the loss – Do whatever you can to stop further damaging from occurring. If there are financial issues involved, try to recover as much as you can. If there is collateral damage with relationships, apologize quickly and try to restore trust. I have always found a humble, yet not martyred, but confident response is usually best in these situations.

Figure out what’s next – Help the team recover. Find solutions. Don’t leave the clean up to anyone else. As you lead into the mistake — or even better — lead through the recovery. Help bring people together, seek wisdom, and help steer energy back to a more positive position.

Learn from it – The best thing you can do is to grow from mistakes — all of them. They can shape us as people and leaders — either positively or negatively. The good news is that we get to decide which one. In the process of recovery, sometimes keeping a journal is helpful. Start with the question, “What can I learn from this that will help me make better decisions in the future?”

Of course, the intensity of need for this depends on the size of the mistake and the size of injury caused to the team, church or organization, but the principles still apply in context.

Do you have any examples to add to this post from your own experience?

What else would you add as suggestions for recovery?

7 “R’s” of Healthy Team Member Correction

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The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team. All of us occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. That should be the end goal of correction. All of us make mistakes.

Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.

It’s important that we correct correctly.

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

Relationship – Corrective actions should start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.

Respect – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. (Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect.)

Reprimand – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong.  Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless that there is a problem.

Refocus – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected.

Restore – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and that you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued.

Reinforce – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader should consider how he or she can improve to help the team member improve.

Replace – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team.  Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship — was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)

Leaders, do you avoid correction? Are you using it for the good of the organization and the people on your team?

What would you add to my list?

7 Suggestions to Get the Introverts Sharing in Your Meetings, So You Don’t Miss Their Input

power meeting from above

In a previous post, I shared 7 Reasons the Introvert Is Not Talking in Your Meetings. I committed then to share some suggestions. Read that post first, or this one will be harder to follow.

The fact is we miss out on a lot of valuable input if we don’t hear from the introverts on the team, but hearing from them is more challenging. They are introverted. That basically means they typically internalize their thoughts more than the externalize them. But, in order for them to be helpful you have to hear them. They have to externalize their thoughts.

These aren’t fool proof. Not all introverts are alike, just as not all extroverts are alike. All of us are unique.

But, these might help. If you’re not hearing from some of the introverts on your team, give some of these a try.

Keep in mind, these are coming from an introvert and a leader.

First, from the previous post…

Here were 7 reasons they may not be talking:

  • Everyone else keeps talking
  • You are rushing the answers
  • There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room
  • You have them in an uncomfortable seat
  • They’ve got nothing to say
  • The conversation isn’t going anywhere
  • You put them on the spot without warning

Now,

Here are 7 suggestions to get them talking:

First – Give them proper warning before the meeting to get them thinking ahead of time and let them know you’ll be expecting their input. With time to collect their thoughts in advance they’ll be more likely to share.

Second – Give them time after the meeting to reflect and specifically ask for their thoughts. In brainstorming, give them the questions before the meeting that you’ll be discussing. In some circumstances, I’ve even given introverts the freedom to email or text me or someone else during the meeting. (I’ve led a couple meetings where we put a live Google Docs on the screen to add our thoughts. Introverts could type in their response and Google Docs would update. They seemed to share more.)

Third – Divide into smaller groups. Especially during brainstorming meetings or strategy sessions, divide out and then come back together to share. Depending on the size of the group, you could have an introvert serve on their own “team of one” during the breakout time with the assignment to come back and share.

Fourth – Let them choose their seat. Never force introverts to move to the front of the room. You can offer them the seat, but if they want to stand in the back of a crowded room, let them.

Fifth – Don’t make people talk. Don’t call out an introvert or put them on the spot for an immediate answer. Provide opportunities, but don’t force. As mentioned previously, to see if they have thoughts to share, write a question on the board and give some time to process — maybe even let the answers be written.

Sixth – Start meetings on time and with an agenda. If small talk is part of the culture — that’s okay — but give them something to read or focus on until the main meeting starts. And, don’t be upset if they are still working on their phone until the actual meeting starts.

Seventh – Give them a preassigned part in the meeting. Most introverts are not afraid of leading, even speaking in large groups (I do it every week), they just want time to prepare. Then watch them shine.

As I said in the previous post, leaders this means you must know the people you are trying to lead. If you aren’t sure — ask, do assessments, observe, get to know them.

Also, to my fellow introverts, I hear from you. Some of you cringe at the word “brainstorming”. You want a pass from anything that makes you particularly uncomfortable. I’m sorry, I can’t give that as a leader. We all have to do things uncomfortable at times — that includes my extroverted friends. Sometimes they’ll be forced to sit in silent activities on the teams I lead. Brainstorming can be an important part of team-building and idea creation. And, the team needs you. We just need to help leaders — especially extremely extroverted leaders — learn how to get us more involved.

What suggestions do you have?

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

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The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

Now, as I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things that happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out that standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than that of its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader that stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.