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.

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 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 which 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 His 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 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 who 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.

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to build upon what exists.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but, if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – be respectful. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. People respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

7 Actions Which Limit Leadership Success

20130205-203217.jpg

My heart is for leaders. I have been in leadership roles for over three decades now. I’ve led large and small teams. Through my ministry I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders. A mentor of mine always reminds me the success of whatever is being led always reflects back to leadership.

I guess this is why I continue to share what I believer are simple principles – but often a simple idea is powerful in practice. And, it’s easier for me to think logically in lists.

Do you want to be successful as a leader? Of course, anyone who leads has this as a goal. There are some actions which can limit you.

Here are 7 issues which limit your success as a leader:

Trying to plan every detail – Ecclesiastes says you won’t plant if you watch the wind. Risk is always necessary for meaningful success. Is there something you feel certain you need to do – or there is a passion on your heart – but, for whatever reason you’ve not taken the risk? Leadership by definition involves guiding people into an unknown.

Lack of flexibility – Things change. People change. Times change. Have a great worthy, God-honoring vision – make sure it’s grounded in truth and don’t steer from it – but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way. And, changing the method – admitting the way you always led things – to be more successful is not a bad reflection on leadership. In fact, it’s a characteristic of good leadership. What changes do you currently need to encourage?

Shunning or controlling other people – You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the corner on ideas. You need help. One of the default actions of leaders is to isolate themselves and/or to control the actions of others. Many times this is out of fear, lack of trust, or sometimes even pride. But, leadership involves knowing people. It involves utilizing the knowledge, skills and talents of others – actually people better equipped to do some things than you are. Who on your team is just waiting for you to get to know them, believe in them and let them go?

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even – There’s no time for it. The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement. When people feel you are placing them in the proverbial corner because of something they did or didn’t do they become defensive, bitter, or checkout from trying again. Does this sound like a healthy plan for a team? I’ve learned over the years – leaders should be willing to go first in extending grace if they want to have a healthy team atmosphere.

Worrying more than trusting by faith – The unknown brings doubt. And, leadership is full of it. There will rarely be a major decision where you a hundred percent certain it’s the right decision. When God appears silent as to the next course of action you have to go with your experience, your gut, and the wisdom of others. Faith goes without seeing. Take your pick between worry or faith – but you can’t pick both. In my journey it seems many times God has given me freedom to move and it’s my own fear which keeps me from going forward. Peace often comes through obedience.

Being stingy with your time, money or influence – The more you try to control what you hold in your hand – the stingier your heart becomes. Stingy hearts are burdened by unnecessary distractions. (The one who loved money is never satisfied with his wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10) Why is this in a leadership post? Because leadership at it’s heart should be improving the lives of others – not just the leader’s life. The real success in leadership will ultimately be measured by how you blessed others with how you led.

Having to do things “your way” – You got into the leadership position – most likely – because you knew how to do some things. But, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to depend on the input of others. When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising. Success flourishes in collaboration.

Are one of these keeping you from accomplishing all you could?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership Which Can Derail a Leader

PylonAndBigHole_image

We all know the stories of the once successful pastor or leader who flamed out too soon. It could be a moral failure or burnout, but they somewhere they got off track and had a hard time regaining traction. So sad.

In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps which get in the way of a leader’s long-term success. I call them pitfalls.

Often, also in my experience, if we know the potential dangers we have a better chance of addressing them – and, hopefully even avoiding them.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride

When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers – watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness

I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days – okay, most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails – and eventually it will bite them. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation

A leader who removes his or herself too much from people doing the actual work, who aren’t visible to their team, or who don’t bond well with them never gains significant influence. Even worse, they are more vulnerable to failing personally, as well. The enemy loves busyness, but also isolation – sin festers in absence of accountability. Plus, at every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness

Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom

I have often said boredom is one of the leading causes of marital failure. It’s true in leadership also. Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored – and boredom can be dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success

Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! These leaders are soon fighting for the success “fix” again – and often make tremendous errors in the process. Great leaders are always cognizant the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow – so they keep working on developing themselves, their team, and the organization.

Elitism

When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow – they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable. There are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader – and, the reason they feel this way is because it’s probably true in some situations where they have more expertise. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead. In fact, the best leaders I know purposefully surround themselves with smarter people.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

7 Ways to Be Respected as and Remain an Authentic Leader

Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting

It has been well documented 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.

Last year we met with a group of Millennials in our church – asking them to help us think how we can attract and retain their age group. The most repeated word was “authentic”. Funny thing, they couldn’t necessarily define the term when asked, but they apparently know when they see it – or don’t see it.

I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is he isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. He yells as staff members. He doesn’t protect his family. He never encourages others. I get it. I think all of us struggle with this one – both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.

How can we be respected as authentic leaders? And, more, how do we remain authentic as leaders?

Here are 7 thoughts to be an authentic leader:

Make sure yes is yes and no is no

This means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It means you can always be depended upon as a person of your word – and when you have to take back a commitment, recognize the tension it causes, and apologize if you need to. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.

Don’t call it awesome if it was mediocre at best

Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is – or we are better than we really are – rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate our success and the success of the organization we lead. 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.

Don’t claim to know everything – or act like you do

No one knows everything. And, people know when we don’t. It’s better to admit it on our own. Plus, we devalue the contribution of others when we pretend to have all the answers.

Don’t receive credit when it’s 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. They share ownership of mistakes the team makes and share ownership of recognition for things done right.

Ask for help

Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it. If you want to be respected by your team – ask for their input – and take their suggestions.

Remain 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 to every person, but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession for mistakes made. We need raw transparency of repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And, people need to have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge us where necessary.

Admit failures and confess 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. They shoulder their burdens with their team.

What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?

8 Characteristics of People Who Don’t Fit Well on a Team

Army Boots Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “odd person out”?

It means you don’t fit. You don’t measure up for some reason. You are excluded. Being odd person out can hurt if for some unfair reason one is descriminated against.  

While I certainly can’t claim discrimination the way many people understand the term, I’ve been odd man out numerous times. I’ve been there because I’m pastor at times. People assume I can’t also be fun – or I would judge their activities – so there are many social events I don’t get invited to attend. I remember feeling this way as the only person from a single-parent home among my friends in high school. 

We’ve all been excluded at some point in life for some reason. 

It’s a bad thing to be “odd person out” by no choice of your own, but some people actually place themselves in the position by the decisions they make and the way they respond to others. It happens all the time in team dynamics.

Some people seem to choose to be ” odd person out”. The choices they make cause them not to fit well on a particular team.

I’ve led or worked with many teams and whether there are a few people or many on who make up the team, there can often be one who chooses to be “odd person out”. And, in fairness, it may or may not be a conscious decision they’ve made – they simply don’t fit well with the rest of the team, but they got there by some of their own decisions.

If unaddressed it can be dangerous for organizational health. Trying to build consensus or form team spirit becomes more difficult. Morale is infected by the intentional “odd person out”. Spotting this as the problem early can avoid further issues down the road.

In this post, I’ll address some ways this occurs or symptoms of the issue. I’m writing from the perspective of the one who doesn’t fit well on the team. 

Here are 8 ways to be the “odd person out” on a team:

Be resistant to every change – Whenever a new idea is presented, always be the first to say it won’t work. You don’t have to have a reason. Just oppose it.

Always be negative – about everything – See the glass half-empty. Always. There’s nothing good about this place – leader – idea – day – life.

Always have an excuse – It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Always.

Never have the solution – It’s your job to point out problems, not to help solve them. In fact, you don’t care to build – you’re here to tear down. And, you intend to do your job well.

Hold opinions until after something isn’t working well – Make sure everyone knows you were opposed to the idea from the start. You can clearly see how things should have been done. And, you make sure everyone knows. 

Talk behind people’s back – Rather than going to the source – it stirs more drama if you talk about someone rather than to someone. Of course,  you talk behind the leader’s back too, though your usually extremely pleasant in their presence. 

Refuse to participate in any team social activities – Who needs them, right? Why would you want to hang out with people you work with? You might get to know them – and they might get to know you. 

Don’t buy into the vision – And, actually, this translates into working against the vision. You may even have a vision of your own. 

Of course, these are written with a hint of sarcasm, but these people distance themselves from others on the team by the way they respond on the team. Have you ever worked with anyone like this?

As you read the list, do you spot the “odd person out” on your team?

It should be noted, this doesn’t mean these are bad people. Many times, I’ve learned, these people were injured in some way previously. It could have been on the job or in their personal life. They may have been passed over for a promotion or they began to feel taken advantage of in some way. They may have social disorders which need to be addressed. They may just really be negative about their own life and bring this attitude into their professional life. Often, understanding why they feel as they do can help address their performance on the team. 

I should also note, I’m not advocating always agreeing with a team. It’s okay to have different opinions, challenge the system – and even the leader. Differing viewpoints help make us all better. The key is to do so in a spirit of cooperation, not a spirit of disruption. You don’t have to be the odd person out – even if you’re different from everyone else. In fact, don’t be.

What characteristics would you add of a person who purposefully doesn’t fit on a team?

A Reminder About Future-Tense Versus Present-Tense Thinking as a Leader

Future Present

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.

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

The real problem? From my perspective this leader was so caught up in putting out current fires, he didn’t have time – or hadn’t taken time – to plan for new and better fire extinguishers. He was not thinking “What’s next?” for the church. He was drowning in present-tense issues. And, because no one else with think future-tense if the leader doesn’t, nothing is being planned to be done differently in the future. More of the same will never produce change.

I took a minute to draw the diagram above on a dry erase board. The four quadrants represent the amount of time given to either future-tense or present-tense thinking. The ratios aren’t important, but what is important is understanding the concept. Notice the amount given to future-tense gets larger as the level of responsibility increases. The more the organization looks to you for leadership, the more you must be thinking future-tense.

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

Some will ask in this diagram 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. I review our history continually, but only so we can celebrate and build from it towards a brighter future.

Have you seen an organization stall because the leader stalls?

If this is your situations, let me suggest you read 7 Ways I Keep Looking Forward as a Leader.

7 Thoughts on Managing Conflict as a Leader

Businessmen in a fight

As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering our team towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision. This sometimes causes conflict.

Conflict is many times seen as a sign of unhealthiness on the team. I’ve learned, however, not to be afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions were hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled.

What I’ve also learned – some through painful experience – is the way I handle conflict when it develops will go a long way towards allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good of the team.

Part of the leader’s job is to learn to better manage conflict rather than attempting to kill them.

Here are 7 thoughts for leaders managing conflict on a team:

Interfere sparingly – I try not to take sides in conflict anymore than I have to, even when I have my own opinion. If the conflict isn’t a vision issue, and it seems to be resolving on it’s own, I’ve found it is best if I allow the process to take it’s course. When the leader gets involved in conflict it takes on a new life – often unnecessarily.

Listen carefully – When I do get involved, it is vital all sides of the conflict feel heard. I have to listen to all opinions and attempt to understand their real concerns. Normally there are valid points with every opinion. It’s also important I hear not only what is said, but also what is unspoken. This requires asking questions, getting to know the members of my team (most of this happens before conflict originates), and not assuming I know what people are thinking simply by what they say. Understanding the basis of conflict and the opposing viewpoints is critical to understanding the conflict.

Communicate openly – During times of conflict, it’s even more important communication be clear and consistent. Many times, conflict is simply due to a lack of clarity or miscommunication. Information often makes conflict easier to resolve. As leader, part of my responsibility is making sure the team communicates effectively, openly and honestly.

Discern the deeper issues – Conflict develops for a number of reasons – not all of them good. Beyond miscommunication, conflict also develops over power struggles, weak leadership, or simply personality differences. Discerning the nature of the conflict and if there is a root issue (often unspoken or undefined) helps me avoid trying to solve the perceived conflict, when the real issue is something completely different.

Monitor the impact – As I said, conflict in and of itself is not bad, but part of my job is making sure conflict on a team doesn’t begin to harm rather than promote health of the team and it’s members. When individuals begin to attack each other personally, act in anger, form sides within the team, or distract from progress, it’s time for the leader to interfere.

Protect the Vision – Ultimately, my job as a leader is to maintain the integrity of the vision. Conflict can enhance or interfere with attaining the vision. My job is to continually direct the team’s attention back to our purpose. I have found, also through experience, the more aligned we are around a shared, common vision, the less we conflict and the more healthy the team operates together. We can even overlook minor disagreements, because we are energized towards the overall objective.

Don’t be afraid of conflict on a team. Good leaders learn to manage it for the eventual good of the team.

A Leadership Pet Peeve About The People Doing the Work

controlling leader

I must admit I have a good number of pet peeves in leadership. Leadership is hard. But, there are some principals in leadership, which simply need to be adhered to for good leadership.

Let me share a story as an illustration of one of my pet peeves.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me who to place on my team. He told me how to conduct sales meetings with my department. He told me what each person’s assignments would be. And, he told me how to conduct the meeting – going as far as to write out my agenda.

He wasn’t going to be at the meeting. He didn’t actually know the people on my team. He was holding me accountable for results in sales, but yet he continually gave me the script for how to do my job. I had to turn in reports, which indicated I had followed his agenda.

I hated it. I felt so controlled. My team, with whom I was very open and honest, were frustrated. And, when I could, I secretly altered things and scripted my own way. Maybe it was rebellion – okay, it was rebellion, but, I never thought he was practicing good leadership. And, I experienced direct results in employee morale.

Here’s the pet peeve, which developed from this experience.

If you aren’t going to be doing the actual work, don’t script how it’s done.

As a leader, you can share what you want accomplished. That’s vision-casting.

You can set reasonable boundaries. This actually helps fuel creativity.

You can share your thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful. You probably have good ones.

You can monitor progress. This is your responsibility.

You can even hold people accountable for progress. It ensures completion.

But the people who are actually doing the work

The ones carrying out the plans – Getting their hands dirty –

Should determine how the actual work gets completed.

There, I feel better.

Any questions?

7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement

20130115-204307.jpg

There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. So many times I simply don’t know what to do. I try to lead by consensus building, but even with the strongest teams there will always be decisions about which we just aren’t certain what is the best decision.

This is why I like to have some default zones in leadership. When I can’t make a decision – I know where to default.

Having a default zone when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” to in common situations which occur frequently in leadership may prove to be helpful.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way over time has proven to be best. This becomes your default zone.

Here are 7 of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring – default to no over yes.

If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I default to no. It’s not worth taking a chance when adding to the team. When I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it – don’t.

I don’t follow my own advice here often enough, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader – or the less respect I lose.

If it’s between empower or control – choose empower.

Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way. The area I control always limit us in this area.

My preference or the team’s preference – go with the team.

There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong. And, if you believe in your team – prove it.

In person or by email – choose in person

By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But, when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times. And, we need personal connections to build strong teams.

Assume or ask – ask for clarification.

If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking – if it doesn’t appear they understand you – rather than assume – ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams. The best leaders I know ask the best questions.

Commit or don’t commit – Choose don’t commit.

Leaders usually have more opportunities than time can allow. I’ve learned – the hard way – no one will protect my calendar as well as me. I’ve also learned when I over commit – I become less effective, I burnout easily, and, over time, eventually I’m useless. I disappoint less people when I don’t commit on the front end.

These may not be the ones you need – you may have your own, but learning your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?