Iron Sharpens Iron – Learn From Your Team

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This verse has inspired me over the years, but recently I saw it in a different context for my life.  I’ve often seen this verse helpful to remind me to build accountability and mentoring into my life, which I have consistently done.  I am a wisdom seeker, so I am continually looking for nuggets of advice to help me be a better person, leader, father, husband and friend.  I think it may have even another application for me today.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is failing to learn from the people on their team.  We tend to think the best ideas are outside our organization, so we learn from many sources, but many times the best ideas for the organization are already with us.  I love to attend conferences, I read tons of books, I follow numerous blogs of great leaders, but the fact is God has surrounded me with great leaders with whom I work. I need to make sure I’m learning from them.

Here’s a gentle reminder.  If your organization hires sharp people, which I hope it does, learn from them. Allow their “iron” to sharpen your iron.

What have you learned from the people on your team?

Organizational Tip: Give Permission to Be Spontaneous

Recently I attended the Story Conference in Chicago. It was a two day conference for the creative-minded packed full of the best ideas available to communicate our story to the world.  It was a well-planned and scripted time and Ben Arment, the conference founder, is to be commended for the event.

The greatest moment for me, however, happened in a split moment.  To understand the moment you need to know that the conference venue, Park Church is strategically located in the heart of Chicago. They have a beautiful renovated building. The worship center can be made extremely dark, but there are windows in the room that face the city. At one point, we were singing a worship song about spreading the news of Jesus to the world and suddenly the curtains opened to the city of Chicago. In a split second, we had the vision that our mission was clear.  We were to take the love we have for Christ to the people outside the walls of the auditorium.

I was talking with one of the leader’s of the conference after this experience and he told me that it was a split second decision to open the curtains.  It wasn’t planned.  The greatest moment, for me at least, wasn’t scripted ahead of time.  It reminded of an important life and leadership principle.

We must always allow time and grant permission for the spontaneous moments to occur…the interruption…the unplanned bursts of genius. I’m a planner, but spontaneity can often be the spice of life.  All of us need to leave margin enough in our calendars for God-moments and times of spontaneity. 

Here’s my question:  Is that easy or difficult for you to allow margin for the unexpected to occur?

Daniel Pink – Author of Drive on What Motivates #Cat10

Daniel Pink, author of the recent best selling book Drive, shared a message on motivation; specifically what motivates people.  When people are motivated, they achieve more, do better work, and our more satisfied people.

Daniel then shared what research shows motivates people best:

Money is a motivator – People must be paid fairly.  Once you pay people enough, additional money doesn’t appear to increase motivation. The goal should be to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.

After you’ve solved the money issue, three things drive motivation.

Autonomy – People want to be engaged in their organization, not by being managed or controlled, but by having a sense of freedom to do their work. They need autonomy over their time, tasks, team and techniques.

Mastery – We all have a desire to get better at stuff.  Instead of annual performance reviews, teams should work together to continually set goals and self-evaluate their results.  People should own their destiny.

Purpose – People need a genuine and honorable purpose they are seeking to attain.  When it’s all said and done, ask yourself, “What’s it all about?”

Daniel encouraged us to Tweet: “Carrots and sticks are so last century. For 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.”

BTW, Andy Stanley’s leadership team just went through the Drive book.  That’s good enough encouragement for me.

This is a good reminder of what it takes to lead people well.

Upon which of these do you need to improve in your leadership?

Do you agree with Daniel’s assessment of encouraging motivation?

Positional Versus Relational Authority

I was sitting with a staff member recently who presented me an idea. I had reservations about the idea instantly. It was actually a “red flag” idea and I knew it. I love ideas, however, and I’m consistently encouraging our staff to dream, take risks, and improve upon what we are doing. So I listened intently and we discussed the pros and cons of the idea. The next day this staff member came back to tell me and he had thought about our discussion, had changed his mind and was going a different direction. I was thrilled with “his” decision.

This story illustrates an important leadership principle difference between positional versus relational authority.  The wise leader knows the difference is huge.

In that instance I used relational authority. I had the ability because of my position to squelch the idea instantly. I could have stopped his plan. I could have killed a dream. In doing so, however, I would have also risked injuring a relationship and stalling someone’s personal growth. He may never have brought me another idea. He may have quit trying. He may have even decided I no longer supported him. Coming to the decision on his own gave him confidence in the direction he was going and allowed him to see me as a mentor not a detractor of his leadership.

Many times I could demand something because of my position, but most times the issue is better resolved if I encourage something because of my relationship. In my experience, there are times for both types of authority to be used, but the majority of the time relational authority works better in creating healthy organizations, healthy teams, and healthy team members. The wise leader learns which is best at the time.

Do you see the difference? Which are you providing most to your organization: Positional or Relational Authority? Which are you receiving?

Developing a Leadership Vocabulary

Great leaders are always learning. Part of that processing is developing the appropriate leadership vocabulary to help the organization and it’s team members achieve the greatest success.  Great leaders learn to say…

“Yes” more than “No”…

“Why not” more than “How come”….

“Our” more than “My”…

“We” more than “I”…

“Thank you” more than “I wish you hadn’t”….

“Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it”…

“Go for it” more than “Stop that”….

“I encourage you to” more than “I command you to”…

“What do you think” more than “Here’s what I think”…

“How can we” more than “This is the way”…

“Works with me” more than “works for me”…

Great leaders understand the power of their language. It develops the culture of the organization, team member’s perceptions of their individual roles, and the overall health and direction of the organization. Great leaders, therefore, choose their words carefully.

How is your leadership vocabulary? What would you add to my list?

Freedom Passes Develop Systems and Increase Creativity

When I was in school I had a love-hate relationship with math. I loved doing math, working to find an answer to a problem, but I hated having to solve it with the teacher’s methods. On tests I would do poorly if the teacher made us “show our work”. I could get the right answers, but using my own systems. I realize the teacher’s need to make sure I wasn’t cheating and that I knew how to think through a process but I wanted to invent my own process. The years I was on the math team and did best were when I had teachers who allowed me the freedom to do it my way.

Successful leaders understand this principle as it relates to organizational success. If you want creative team members to be energized towards progress the leader must allow team members to develop their own systems and strategies for attaining them. When you allow people to script the “how” they are more motivated to complete a task. Creative people especially need space to create.  They need to have input into the process of completing the vision of the team or organization.

Is your team stalled? Perhaps the system is too defined; too restrictive to allow changes and creativity. Try handing out some freedom passes. Hold team members accountable for progress, but allow them freedom to choose the process.

What about you…do you desire more structure or less structure to do your best work?

7 Ways to Prepare for More Effective Meetings

Successful projects and teams require meetings to accomplish goals and objectives of the organization. Busy leaders, however, are usually somewhat anti-meetings oriented because of the interruption they appear to be in getting actual work done.  I have found, however, that much of the frustration is in the lack of proper preparation prior to the meeting.  When done well, the time spent in meetings can actually make projects better and strengthen the work of the organization.  A large part of that is found in the preparation prior to the meeting.

Here are 7 ways to prepare for more effective meetings:

Ask the big question – The big question to ask before any meeting is scheduled is, “Do we need to meet?” For me personally, most meetings feel as if they are an interruption, even though I realize the importance of them. If the issue can be handled, without meeting, most will not argue.  Unnecessary meetings cause frustration and slow progress.  If people agree a meeting is necessary, they are more likely to come prepared to accomplish something.

Determine a win – The meeting will be more successful if before the meeting begins the purpose is clear. Ask the question, “What do we need to accomplish in the meeting for it to be successful?”  Working towards a defined win will help keep the meeting headed in the right direction.

Invite the right people – Not every meeting needs to involve every person on the team.  Decide who needs to be at the table and invite the appropriate people.  Those without a defined purpose will tend to drag the meeting away from its purpose and leaves them frustrated.  As a leader, I usually ask people on my team, “Do I need to be there?” when I learned of a meeting, before I place it on my calendar.

Decide on a time limit and frequency – I get very bored after an hour. Some of our meetings, such as our bi-weekly staff meetings take longer, but as a rule, I like shorter rather than longer and less frequent rather than more frequent.  If you are attracting leaders to your organization, they will want meetings to be kept to a minimum as much as possible.

Craft an agenda – The meeting should be purposeful, but not too tightly controlled by time.   Be sure to allow adequate time for brainstorming, questions and the necessary social interactions, which happen with healthy teams. For our team the social part starts the creative process and gets people to buy into the meeting.

Give adequate notice – This will not always be possible, but people who like to be prepared, have Introverted tendencies, or are highly organized will give better participation, if they are given enough time to prepare for the meeting.

Plan to start and end on time – People will be less hesitant about attending your meetings if they know their time will not be abused.

What tips do you have for preparing for more effective meetings?

The Best Person for the Job May Not Be the One Who Can Do It Best

Here is a principle you must understand for organizational efficiency:

Sometimes the best person for the job may not be the person who (you think) can do the job best.

Let me explain…

High capacity leaders struggle to let go of something they think they can do better. Most have a higher than normal sense of confidence in their abilities (this ego can be used for good or bad), so they believe they can best implement their ideas. Their drive for progress makes them doers by nature, so they often resist the process of delegation, even if they know it is the healthy thing to do for the organization, because they fear it won’t be done right unless they do it.

One key to solving this issue is for the leader to change visions from the specific project or function the leader desires to see completed to attention to the vision and overall success of the organization. Instead of seeing a project for the potential of pass/fail depending on who does it, begin to see the results of the total organization as the appropriate pass/fail scenario. In this approach, delegation becomes a key to moving projects forward, getting the entire team involved, developing new leaders, and completing all the tasks needed to successfully attain the organization’s goals and objectives.

Leader, if you tend to be a control freak, perhaps you don’t need to change your personality, as much as you need to change your vision. Delegating frees the leader to do those things he or she is most passionate about, most gifted to do, or things he or she never completes because there is never enough time to do them. Begin to see that the best person for the job may not be the person (in your most humble opinion…) who can do the job best.

Plus, chances are very good you will soon realize others can do the job equal to or better than you can.

Are you a control freak?  How do you deal with this?

Leading One Who Wants to be Led vs. One Who Wants to be a Leader

There is a big difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

It requires a different approach.

The person who wants to be led desires structure. They want to follow the rules. They need someone to tell them how to do what you want done. He or she needs specifics and details, not ambiguities. They stress more during times of uncertainty.

The person who wants to be a leader needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They continually need new challenges. They get bored easily.

There is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. Know your team.

Do you see the difference? Which are you? What would you add to my descriptions?

Read THIS POST and THIS POST for similar thought processes.

How is Your Organization Handling Conflict?

Conflict can be healthy for an organization if handled appropriately and effectively.  It may even be necessary to keep an organization healthy.

Recently the staff at Grace Community Church talked through conflict and its benefit for us. Sometimes an organization can become too polite with each other and conflict is avoided or ignored in an effort to protect the relationship or to avoid the tension conflict creates. Other times one person tends to control a situation without allowing other people’s input, either for selfish reasons or to keep conflict from developing.   The problem with these approaches is that some of the best ideas are never implemented because we don’t push through the messiness of conflict to get to the right answers.

If your organization needs to learn to use conflict for good, HERE is an assessment I would recommend to you.  There are times for each of these approaches to conflict. Some issues are not worth the fight and other times the relationship is more important than risking the tension conflict can create, but many times the goal you are attempting to achieve and the relationship of the people on the team are both too important not to push through the conflict to get to the best answer. (Just so you know, in my experience, most people will score as a Collaborator, but as you talk through it, that may or may not be their first response to conflict.)

Just as in family relationships, organizational relationships involve conflict.  Learning to handle them in a healthy way is one key to creating organizations that thrive.

How do you tend to handle/view conflict?

How does your organization/organization’s leader view conflict?

For some tips on handling conflict, see THIS POST.