7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

image

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.

3 Problems with Being Too Nice as a Leader

Mister nice guy

I was talking with a leader recently. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard-working, and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. She is currently experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help.

In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious that she has one weakness and it is currently effecting her entire team. It’s a common weakness among leaders. At times, most of us will struggle in this area.

Her weakness?

She is being too nice!

Granted, that doesn’t sound like it could ever be a weakness. And, it has made her well-liked in the organization. She’s incredibly popular. And, she likes that. But, it also has made her team less successful than it could be. And, she knows it.

Currently, a few team members are taking advantage of her niceness by under-performing in their role. She hasn’t challenged the problems, even though she knows she should. She’s losing sleep over it, but doesn’t know what to do. The relational leadership in her, which is a positive about her leadership style, is not working with these team members.

Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch and they took a mile.” 

I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. That would be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be Biblical leadership. I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction that’s best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization. In the situation above, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat”, at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems that are impacting the entire team. As hard as it will seem at first, in the end it will be a blessing for the entire team…and my leader friend.

I have learned people accept the what better if they first understand the why…so then I shared with her why I feel her default niceness is causing current problems for the team.

Here are 3 problems with being too nice as a leader:

It’s bad for the leader – The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of worrying about the big picture, the leader is focused on a few problems with usually only a few people. The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times, as the team achieves less than desired results.

It’s bad for the organization – The team suffers because a few people mess up the system and progress for everyone else. Those on the team who wish to do the right thing lose respect for the leader. Others will follow the example of those taking advantage of the leader and lower their own performance standards. The organization loses.

It’s bad for the person taking advantage of the leader’s niceness – Enabling bad behavior is never good for the under-performing team member. It keeps him or her from identifying their full potential and from realizing personal success. They may be a superstar if they were given structure and held accountable to complete their work. And, they may never improve…and sometimes the best thing you can do for that person…certainly the team…is help them move on to something new.

Leader, have you become too nice as a leader?

Are you allowing problems to continue out of a fear of not being liked? There is nothing wrong with being a relational leader. That can be a great style of leadership, but part of developing any healthy relationship involves conflict, tough conversations and difficult decisions.

If you are not careful you can become everyone’s friend, but nobody’s leader.

Leading is hard…some days harder than others. The sooner you handle the problem (and the problem people), the sooner things will begin to improve on your team for everyone…and the sooner you can get a good night’s rest.

Without a System Nothing was done Wrong

image

Several incidents lately have helped shape or remind me of an important team principle.

Team friction developed on our team recently. Nothing major, but noticeable. That isn’t unusual on teams. Teams involve imperfect people with differing views and opinions. The best teams will have friction at times. The only way to avoid some it would be to institute a more controlled environment, where opinions don’t matter. But, then friction really isn’t eliminated. It’s just silenced. For a time.

Our friction resulted from:

  • Miscommunication
  • Unclear expectations
  • Unknown objectives

Ever seen that on a team?

We all have. Those are common reasons for friction.

Here’s the principle that emerged:

Apart from a system nothing was done “wrong”.

Here’s what I mean.

Sure, the friction was wrong. Sure the miscommunication, unclear expectations, unknown objectives…all wrong. All of those, however, are natural occurrences when there is no system in place to address those concerns. Or when the system isn’t good enough. People were performing under the current systems…or lack thereof…the best they knew how.

And, systems are important:

  • If you want something repeated and done well you systematize it.
  • If you want something done better…you create better systems.

And, every system should continually be: 

  • Evaluated
  • Reconstructed
  • Refined

Systems drive progress and if you want better progress keep getting better at your systems.

So, back to our friction. As a leader, it’s important for me to realize and remind people: No one did anything wrong. We were making decisions the best we knew how under the current systems. And in the process, unnecessary friction developed. Totally natural.

What is important now is to learn and write a system. Or a better system. To keep that type of friction to a minimum.

Sometimes, as a leader, you can calm the friction on your team by:

  • Releasing people of a sense of guilt…which only causes them to be defensive…resulting in even more friction.
  • Identifying the need for improved systems.
  • Leading the process to create or develop better systems.

Here’s to writing better systems.

3 Critical Elements of Time for Every Leader

clock

Time is one of the greatest assets of any leader. Learning to balance a leader’s time effectively is often a key in determining the level of success the leader attains. In my experience, every leader has three critical segments where they must invest their time on a regular basis.

Most leaders tend to do one of these especially well, so by default they spend most of their time on it, often to the neglect of the other two. All three are needed. Learning to balance a leader’s time in each of these three areas will greatly enhance the leader’s productivity, so the leader must discipline for the other two.

Here are the 3 segments of time every leader must consider:

Time reflecting on past experience – If a leader doesn’t evaluate where he or she has been and what has been done, he or she will soon be disappointed with where they are going. Leaders must spend ample time in personal, team member and organizational evaluations.

Time focusing on current expectations – A leader must be disciplined to take care of the immediate needs of the organization. The busier a leader becomes, unless a leader is naturally wired for this one, the more he or she tends to naturally neglect the routine tasks required of everyone. Things like returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner, for example, remain critical at every level of leadership.

Time dreaming about future expressions – Leaders must spend time dreaming of the future. This is critical to an organization’s success, but the larger a leader’s responsibilities or organization grows the more time must be spent on this aspect of time management.

The place in the organization and season of responsibility will determine which of these get the greatest attention at the time, but none of them can be neglected for very long periods of time. Again, a leader learning to balance these three components of time is a key aspect in determining the ultimate success of the leader?

In honor of three…here are questions for personal evaluation:

  • Which of this are you more geared towards as a leader? (Please don’t say all come naturally.)
  • Which of these needs your greatest attention at this time in your leadership? (Be honest.)
  • How do you balance your time between these three areas? (Be helpful.)

7 Phrases to Outlaw from Brainstorming

ideas spinning

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come through brainstorming. I love getting a group together and searching for new ideas or ways of doing things.

Change spurs momentum. If you want to create some excitement around you, get a bunch of people in a room and brainstorm about some change ideas. If you are in a stuck or stale position…and want to see new growth…one recommendation I’d give is to organize a brainstorming session.

But, you’ve got to be intentional to brainstorm successfully. You need enough people to establish a variety of thought. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people.) You need the right people…people who will voice opinions, but will be positive-minded.

You need to have some open ended questions…or issues to solve…to spur discussion.

And, then you need to establish some rules up front.

Specifically, there are certain phrases that cannot be heard in an effective brainstorming session. They are off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

Here are 7 phrases to eliminate in brainstorming:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • We can’t afford that.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • That won’t work.
  • I don’t like that.
  • The problem with that is…
  • That’s crazy…(Or you’re crazy).

Long sighs…shrugged shoulders…or any animation that displays a sense of disgust or lack of initial support should also be discouraged.

There should be plenty of time to critique ideas before they are implemented, but for a brainstorming session you want every idea on the table. There are no bad ideas at this point. In fact, the one that may seem the worst idea of all may be the trigger for someone else’s spark of genius.

This is a great time to encourage randomness. I’ve even led us to play games prior to a brainstorming session.

New ideas are usually out there..they just need to be brought to the table. That’s the point of brainstorming.

What ideas can you add for productive brainstorming?

(Note: I am familiar that some are now saying the term brainstorming is offensive and not politically correct. I mean no harm by this post, but I used it because the term is still most people’s understanding of the process.)

3 Ways to Develop as a Leader…Without a Budget

power meeting from above

I was meeting with a young pastor recently who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church…or at least not that he has discovered. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.) The church looks to him to lead.

His question. Who invests in him? He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church can’t afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

What should he do?

Here were 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group – There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 4-6 6 might be a better number. I would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. It will be mutual beneficial. I have such a group currently…and have had many times before. These groups are usually comprised of believers, but not professional ministers. I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices…not theology…in these groups.

Start a book club – Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective. The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person each session to guide discussion on what they learned from the book and open for discussion. With a large enough book…people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

Ask a community leader to mentor – There is one leader in every community (usually multiple leaders) who is further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be one leader in the community from whom I can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management. I have other spiritual mentors.

You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.

What you’re looking for is people skills…how to handle conflict…how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things from hearing other leaders’ experiences.

What suggestions do you have?

7 High Costs of Good Leadership

Cost increase concept.

Leadership is expensive. Costly. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of good leadership:

Personal agenda – Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control – What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity – Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular.

Comfort – If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear – Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness – I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns…this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcome – We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

I’ve identified 7 costs of leadership. Help me identify a few more.

What costs of leadership have you discovered?

12 Random Tweetable Leadership Principles

Here are 12 random leadership axioms in less than 140 characters each.

Some have been previous tweets.

  • Some people will only support you after it’s proven to be a success. They are the same people who will say I told you so if it doesn’t work.
  • Sometimes the strongest thing to do is to turn the other cheek. Sometimes it’s to stand your ground.
  • The applause we solicit are seldom genuine.
  • The best opportunities seldom come wrapped neatly in a package with a bow on top. They usually come with work. Get your hands dirty work.
  • The best leaders are often the ones smart enough to get out of the way of smarter people.
  • Part of leadership is the willingness to make hard decisions no one else on the team wants to make,
  • Sometimes a leader’s worst day is the organization’s best day.
  • The leader has a responsibility to do the right thing for the organization, regardless of whether it brings instant popularity.
  • Don’t stop doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is receiving more celebration. That party won’t last.
  • Some of a leader’s best work is not what the leader does but what he or she inspires others to do.
  • Without the right systems in place, the best visions will eventually suffer. Systematize what you want and need repeated.
  • The resistance to change comes more out of desire for personal comfort.

Feel free to tweet a few.

Do you have any to add to the list? Which of these should I expand into a future blog post?

7 Reasons I’m Dumping Delegation

large dumper in action

I’ve always strived to be a delegator. I know I’ve written posts on it before…how to do it successfully…that kind of garbage. But, that’s before I knew the skinny on delegation. So, that’s it. I’m done. No more delegation for me.

I’m dumping delegation for good.

Here’s what I discovered…

7 problems with delegation:

I might appear to be doing less – Everyone knows I’m the leader. What will they think if I’m not the one doing everything?

I will lose authority – Delegation…done right at least…means I give up the right to control. Does that even need an explanation? Seriously?

I will still have to be available – Supposedly you aren’t supposed to dump and run with delegation. So, if I’m going to be involved anyway…I might as well do it. Duh.

Someone might not do things the way I would – And you know my way is best.

It might get done faster and better – Faster is one thing…but better? Who’s got time for that? And, then what am I going to do with the extra time on my hands?

It might expose or grow a new leader – How threatening!

Someone else might get credit – My credit!

Do you see why I’m dropping delegation from my leadership toolbox? Brilliant I say.

What say you? What problems have you discovered with delegation? Ahh…never mind. I’ll answer myself.

(For those who struggle with a weird sense of humor like mine…or for the extremely literal among us…here’s the disclaimer you’re looking for…Is this enough? Hope so, because I’ve technically delegated clarifications of my posts to someone on our team. And, I think they’re off today.)

7 Ways to Remain an Authentic Leader

Handshake - extraversio

It has been well documented that today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest way for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.

I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is the pastor isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. I get that. I think all of us struggle with that one…both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.

How do we remain authentic as leaders?

Here are 7 thoughts on remaining an authentic leader:

Yes is yes and no is no – That means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.

Not calling it awesome if it was mediocre at best – Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is, rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate success. We pretend our church is bigger than it really is. We pretend we are more awesome than we really are and our life is more perfect than it really is. People usually can spot a pretender.

Not claiming to know everything – We don’t. And, people know when we don’t. Better to admit it on our own.

Refusing credit when not deserved – Taking credit for other people’s work is not only wrong, it causes people to mistrust leadership. Authentic leaders seek recognition for others equal or more than their own.

Asking for help - Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it.

Remaining accessible and accountable – The fastest way for a leader to get in trouble is to isolate him or herself from others. Authentic leaders live transparent lives in front of all people and completely open to a few. You don’t have to confess every sin (that’d be all my time), but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession and raw transparency or repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge where necessary.

Admitting failures and confessing fears – You make them. We all do. Everyone trying to follow a leader knows this about the leader. Authentic leaders readily own up to them. Leadership is scary. Authentic leaders push through fear but don’t pretend the fear is not real.

What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?