10 Things Which Drive Me Crazy in Leadership

aaargh!

There are some things in leadership I could honestly say I despise. Ways people behave. Things they do. I should note – not the people involved in them, but the actions.

And, I have probably been guilty of some of these also in my career. But, I hate when I did them as well.

Perhaps you have your own list, but this is mine.

Here are 10 things which drive me crazy in leadership:

Responsibility without authority – If you ask someone to lead something – let them lead. Don’t make them jump through humps, constantly come back to you for approval, or second-guess everything they do.

Small-mindedness – I like big dreams and those who dream them. I’ve never once out-dreamed God. Neither have you.

Naysayers – There is always someone who says it can’t be done, it hasn’t been done this way before, or no one will support your idea. Listen to wisdom, even constructive criticism, but don’t fall for the person who has never met a good idea in their life.

Laziness – Not only is it a sin, if it is allowed to fester it can be contagious or disruptive to an organization. I believe in protecting my Sabbath. I have learned and teach on the need to protect our soul – to rest – but, work is work. And, we there is much work to be done.

Settling – Even if it involves conflict, I want to push for best over mediocre. Settling eventually means no one wins and everything stalls.

Popularity seeking – Leaders who say what they think people want to hear in order to be liked – it drives me nuts. (I’m not even sure these types are technically leaders.)

Power hunger – Leaders who are easily threatened by others or who always try to control others limit people and organizations.

Caution out of fear – Some leaders refuse to take risk. They take the safe route every time – especially when pressure rises against them. Personally, I prefer a bold faith every time.

Bully management – Some leaders get their way from force. They beat people into submission, are never satisfied, or badger people to perform. This has always seemed like cowardly leadership to me.

Passion squelchers – I’ve known leaders who never liked a new idea – unless it was theirs. They prefer to say no to people more than yes. Drives me crazy. Leaders should energize others to realize their dreams, not stifle them.

What are some things you despise in leadership?

7 Things I Learned about Leadership from a Poor Management Experience

teacher-ruler

Years ago I was working in retail. I was in college, but serving in a junior management for a large department store. I was responsible for ordering the basic items in my department, making sure we were always in stock with regular sellers. One of those items was a collar extender.

(I don’t know if those are even used anymore, and I never used one personally, but basically it was a metal button extender which hooked the button and extended a new button further – allowing a man to wear a shirt longer as the man grew larger by making the neck bigger. You know you wanted to know this.)

Anyway, we normally kept a couple boxes with 12 extenders in each in stock. When we had sold one box I was to order another box. They weren’t fast sellers, so it didn’t happen often. I noticed one day we were down to our last box, so I placed an order, but instead of ordering one box of 12, I incorrectly order 12 boxes of 12 – which was pretty much enough for a decade of extender sells.

I had made a mistake.

How did “management” handle the issue?

Well, I must admit, it wasn’t by using good leadership principles.

The morning after the arrival of our new case of extenders, a memo was sent to all area managers, in every department, throughout the store. It read something like this:

“From now on, all orders will need to be signed by a supervisor prior to completion.”

I was instantly frustrated, since I knew the memo was a direct response to my mistake. No one had said anything to me. I had not been reprimanded. It was never mentioned otherwise, but now we had a new policy, which affected everyone, because of my one error. (BTW, extenders retailed for $1.25 each back then.)

The new mandate slowed down the progress of everyone, because they now had to wait for approval before they could order basic needs. It was not accepted by other managers, proved to be more of an inconvenience than it was worth and soon no one practiced it at all.

What did this experience teach me?

Weak management never produces the desired result – and is never good leadership.  

How should it have been handled?

In my opinion, I should have been called aside, made aware of my mistake (to let me know they knew), and I be allowed to learn from the experience. If I continued to make the same error, which I never did again, then further action could have been taken.

The incident helped shape some of my leadership.

I should also point out these same managers who taught me this lesson from a negative impact it had on me also taught me many, many positive lessons in leadership and management. I’m drawing from this one, because it was such a valuable learning for me, but I don’t at all mean to devalue their other investment in me as a young leader. 

Here are 7 things I learned about leadership from a poor management experience:

Never send an email (today’s memo) to correct an action.

Address the person. Be relational. Do the hard work of confronting the real problem – even if it involves people. It’s the right thing to do.

Never over-react to a minor issue.

This was not a major expense to the company. Seriously, had they addressed it to me directly – I would have probably volunteered to buy the excess collar extenders rather than see a needless policy implemented. It ended up costing more in opportunity costs as needless work was placed on others, since they added another layer to the ordering process. 

Never make a policy to correct a single error.

Policies should be few and effective. When you use a policy to address broad issues when it’s really a singular issue you burden people with needless bureaucracy, which only stalls efficiency and frustrates people. This is never good leadership.

Never single someone out publicly who hasn’t been talked to privately.

Do I need to explain this one? Seriously. This pretty much goes back to the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.

Never punish everyone for the mistake of one.

This is so unfair. It builds resentment among people who should consider themselves a team. It pits people against each other.

Never act like it’s not a big deal if you think it’s a big deal.

When my managers talked to me during this incident they acted like everything was wonderful. I recall one even joked with me when I came to work the day the “memo” was released. I felt very betrayed.

Never be so weak as a leader you fail to address the real issue, or the real problem, even if the real problem is a person.

This could be a major determinant of whether someone is really a leader or not. Leaders don’t shy away from the hard conversations. They realize these are necessary for the health of the organization and the individuals involved.

I am certain I have repeated each of these myself at times, but the experience truly did shape my leadership and management practices. The best thing this experience did for me was give me a principle I have used and often shared with other leaders:

If you need to slap a hand, bring a ruler and show up in person.

To use another word – LEAD.  

By the way, if you ever need a collar extender I know where you might can find one.

(In complete transparency, it’s been over 30 years and I don’t remember all the specific details of this incident. But, I know the basics of this story are true and it shaped me greatly. Most leadership principles are born this way.)

7 Dangers of Prideful Leadership

Proud

I have frequently preached on the danger of pride.

If you follow this blog, you know I tend to think a great deal about leadership. I have a heart for developing good leadership in the church and in ministry. As I wrestle through this particular Biblical subject, I always think about places I see pride creep into leadership – even my own leadership. If we are not careful, our attempt at good leadership will be derailed by the pride of our hearts.

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”. (Proverbs 16:18)

Have you ever known (or been) a proud leader?

Here are 7 dangers of prideful leadership:

Refusing to listen to advice from others – Proud leaders “know it all”. Of course, not really, but it’s often their perception of reality. Pride causes people to want you to believe they know more than they actually do. Sadly, their attempt to perpetuate the perception of superiority causes them to ignore the wisdom of others.

Making excuses for mistakes – Proud leaders refuse to admit their errors. They scoff at any insinuation a mistake was theirs and refuse ownership of the team’s failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when goals aren’t reached, mistakes are made or momentum stalls. They don’t learn from times of failure – they try to hide them.

Protecting position at any cost – Proud leaders try to keep others from gaining power or influence. They limit people’s exposure and stifle leadership development. They tend to curtail information and keep power within an arms length of their control.

Taking complete credit for a team’s success – There is only one clear winner on a proud leader’s team…the proud leader. Proud leaders take the microphone first. They have their name on every award. They keep the prime, attention-gaining assignments for themselves. They make sure they are in the “right place at the right time”, so no one steals their potential for applause.

Failing to see personal shortcomings – The proud leader becomes immune to his or her own deficiencies. Pride keeps him or her from getting honest about their weaknesses with anyone, including themselves. Proud leaders are careful to present themselves as flawless, whether in personal appearance or job performance. They may go to extreme measures to cover up any hint of an insufficiency.

Solicit grandstanding on their behalf – You’ll know about a proud leader’s accomplishment. They’ll be the first to start the cheers on their behalf. Proud leaders say things which promote the receiving of positive encouragement or feedback. They’ve been known to stage things so it doesn’t look like they initiated the recognition.

Removing God from the supreme position – of course, God is supreme- regardless of the leader, but the ultimate danger of a leader struggling with pride is their attempt to remove God from His seat of control. Proud leaders refuse to submit to the will of God, preferring to chart their own path.

What other dangers have you seen in proud leaders?

Be honest – with yourself and God – do you see yourself struggling in any of these areas? Is pride an issue for you?

Remember, “Pride goes before destruction”.

Why I’d Prefer A Leader Say No Rather Than Say I Don’t Know

A young employee disagreeing and arguing with boss, feeling ashamed concept. A large hand pointing at businessman saying no

I’d almost always rather hear “No” than to hear “I don’t know”.

Don’t misunderstand. I love when a leader admits they don’t know something. I believe every leader has something to learn and should learn first from their team.

But, I have strong contentment against hearing “I don’t know” when the real answer has already been decided – and the answer is NO!

A coward says “I don’t know” when they already know their answer is no.

When you know the answer is no. Tell me no.

In my experience, weak leaders use phrases like:

“Let me think about it” – which really means I’m too scared right not to let you know how I really feel.

“We might consider this” – which really means we will never, ever consider this, but I feel better telling you we will rather than look you in the face with the real answer.

“Let me pray about that” – which really means I have no intention of praying at all, but I sound so much more spiritual when I act like I will.

“We’ll see” – which really means I’ve already “seen” and the future does not look promising for your idea.

“It could be an option down the road” – which really means it will be so far down the road neither of us will ever be here.

Afraid of potential conflict, weak leaders make you believe there’s a chance – even when they’ve already decided there is not a chance.

What’s the damage of saying “maybe” when the real answer is “no”?

  • Unanswered questions bring confusion to the team.
  • Energy is wasted dreaming about something that will never happen.
  • Disappointment is bigger when the person learns the real answer (Or never receives one).
  • The team loses confidence in the leader.

Is this you want, leader?

Strong leaders, even though they know “no” is not what you want to hear, tell you the truth up front. They eliminate the guesswork.

Hopefully if you follow this blog you know without me saying it the answer shouldn’t always be no. I’ve written numerous posts about how good leaders empower rather than control. In fact, I’d be in favor of letting people mistakes before I would be in favor of telling them no – even when I sense no is the right answer. We learn best from mistakes. If, however, you know you’ve made up your mind, stop me from guessing, stop building false hope, and tell me what you’re really thinking.

Leader, what door have you kept open even though you know you’ve already closed it?

Make the call. Do it now!

7 of the Quickest Ways to Frustrate People on a Team

Office life: business team during a meeting

With every team or organization I have led there have been people who get frustrated with someone else on the team. In full disclosure, sometimes others have been frustrated with me.

Frustration is common among relationships. It happens within the healthiest of families – and the healthiest of teams. We certainly shouldn’t strive to frustrate others, but we shouldn’t be surprised when we do.

I have learned there are some actions, which can frustrate people faster than others. This might be a good time to do some self-reflection. As you read these, don’t be quick to think of others – although certainly there will be some of this too – but consider your own actions when you (or I) may frustrate people on your team.

Here are 7 of the quickest ways to frustrate another team member:

Promising to do something and not following through.

One of the quickest ways to frustrate people is to make a commitment and then not do what was promised. People are depending on each other on a team. When one person “drops the ball” – especially consistently – it impacts everyone. The Scripture says it something like this: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” It’s better to commit to less and complete them than to take on assignments and never see them to the end.

Saying one thing to one person and something different to another.

Healthy teams are built on trust. Trust is developed with time and consistency. No one likes a people-pleaser. This person is often popular for a time, but they lose favor as soon as they’re found out to be two-sided in their opinions.

Never being serious.

This is the person who embarrasses you by making awkward comments and includes you in them like you are part of it. Teams should be fun, but this person makes everything a joke – and other people are often the brunt of them. They delay meetings with their constant antics. It can be funny for a while, but it wears thin quickly, as it begins to delay progress towards a goal.

Having an excuse for everything.

This is the person who can’t complete the task, but doesn’t want to admit fault, so they blame it on something else – or someone else. They refuse to ever admit fault. There is always a reason. They actually may become frustrated with you if you dare challenge one of their excuses. They expect you to just keep believing them.

Always having a trump story.

You know the type. You went on an exciting adventure – it was a great vacation – and the person who, often before you finish, has to share with you their vacation which was far better than yours. Or, what they accomplished at work is always far superior to what you accomplished. They can’t let anyone receive recognition grander than they receive.

Complaining consistently.

You may be just as frustrated with things at work as everyone else, but the one person who always complains sucks even the slightest joy from the room. They sew negativity into the team and try to bring everyone down to the pit of despair with them. They don’t like the vision, the plan of action, or those charged with leading them. They are naysayers. They overreact to everything and blow it out of proportion. These people weigh heavily on the morale of the team.

Only looking out for themselves.

This person really isn’t on the team, because the very definition of team involves shared progress towards a goal. They may be on the team by position, but in actions they are very much independent of others. They look out for themselves first. If they can take advantage of an opportunity – they will – even to the detriment of others.

Let’s build better teams!

Those are just some of the more frequent ones I’ve observed. Have you ever been frustrated by anyone on your team with one of these? Have you been the cause of any of these frustrations?

What are other frustrations you’ve seen people bring to a team?

7 Pillars of Long-term, Successful Leaders

19th century engraving of classical Greek pillars

I love observing leaders. I consistently strive to be a better leader and the best way I know to improve is to watch and learn from other leaders. Whether they have more experience, have learned things I haven’t learned or they reinforce principles of leadership I know – I improve observing other leaders. 

In my observations, there are some common traits among the most successful, long-term leaders. It can be easy to lead for a season, or a special project, or even for a decade or more. But, leaders who last and are successful for multiple seasons, multiple decades – often in different environments or organizations, with different people – these leaders are rare. And, they have shared characteristics. 

I call these traits the pillars of leadership. 

Pillar:
1. a firm upright support for a superstructure
2. a supporting, integral, or upstanding member or part

In my opinion, I believe you’ll find these pillars among all truly great leaders.

Here are 7 pillars of long-term, successful leaders I’ve observed:

Vision

Great leaders believe in something bigger than today. They are going somewhere. And, they believe it’s a worthy enough vision they are willing to help others get there. They have a vocabulary around their vision. They know how to engage and rally people around the vision. 

Commitment

Great leaders remain rock-solid in their dedication to their cause and their people. They stick to what they feel in their heart God has called them to do. They are unwavered by public opinion or the “mood of the day”.  They aren’t only present in the good seasons, but weather the storms of time. Their faith keeps them grounded. 

Decisiveness

Great leaders make decisions – even the difficult ones – even the unpopular ones. People are willing to follow them, because they know they won’t sit on the sidelines while the world passes. They aren’t exclusive in making decisions – great leaders encourage collaboration – but they won’t compromise principles either. They are firm in their convictions and willing to stand for them when others won’t. 

Courage

Long-term, successful leaders don’t jump ship when times get difficult. In fact, some would say you don’t realize you need a leader until times are hard. These leaders confront reality head-on; leading through needed change to a better reality. They don’t cower to pressure to conform or fail to say what needs saying. Equally, they aren’t hogs of attention. They don’t need to receive all the credit in order to lead the people to victory. 

People

Great leaders realize others matter. They know there is no leadership without people to follow. They believe in the value of those on their team and are willing to invest in them. They aren’t users of people, they are people-builders. They love people and love to see them succeed. They recognize and reward other people’s contributions. 

Passion

It’s what gets a leader up in the morning ready to face another day. They believe in their call to lead. They are zealous to see it come to reality. They have a contagious enthusiasm. They are positive-minded and believe and hope in the days ahead. 

Character

Great leaders are strong in what matters most – their character. They have integrity, high morals, and qualities others can and want to follow. And, they are consistent over time in protecting their character to be above reproach. 

Obviously, in my specific role as a pastor, these are pillars worthy of my quest to achieve. I certainly see them in my Savior – the best leader I know – Jesus. I’m striving to get there. I want to possess the pillars of leadership. Who’s with me?

What would you add to my list?

5 Ways to Benefit from Your Organization’s Best Asset

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Do you want to harness the greatest power in your organization?

The best assets of your church, business or non-profit never appear on your balance sheet.

The truth is any organization is only as good as the people within it. Take the greatest idea and put the wrong people behind it and little progress will be realized. With the right people – even average ideas can achieve tremendous results.

The key to success is to learn how to get the best ideas out of the people within the organization. It’s often been called Human Capital. Learning to glean from this valuable resource takes experience and intentionality.

Are you relying on the knowledge, insight and experience of everyone on your team to make the organization better? Do you understand and appreciate the human capital your team brings to the table?

Here are 5 ways to capitalize on the people value of your team:

Brainstorm

Have assigned times periodically where everyone on the team gets to give input into the organization’s future. It’s important to provide ways for even the most introverted on the team to share thoughts. Information shouldn’t be defined to a “chain of command”. Everyone has something they know better than the leader knows.

Allow mistakes

Create an environment where team members are willing to take risks without fear of repercussion if things go wrong. This atmosphere will often be created with the leader’s instant reactions to mistakes made, but will be reinforced by how the organization learns from failure. When people feel free to explore they will enjoy doing so.

I recently read 12 things discovered by making a mistake.

  • The slinky
  • Penicillin
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Potato chips
  • The pacemaker
  • Silly Putty
  • Microwave ovens
  • Fireworks
  • Corn flakes
  • Ink jet printers
  • Post it notes
  • X-rays

Now where would the world be without Silly Putty – right? Seriously, God has given us creative minds. What is your team trying, which could prove to be a mistake – but it could be genius?

Ask questions

The best leaders ask the best questions. Genuinely seek help from those around you.  Recognize the fact others may know more than you know about a particular subject. I like to follow others on the team when they are the expert in a subject. And, sometimes, I ask questions – not as much for the answer – but to get their minds churning. It’s proven to be gold at times.

Don’t pre-define solutions

If you want help solving a problem or planning for the future, start with a clean slate, without having a pre-determined outcome when addressing an issue.  If the leader always has the answer, team members are less likely to share their input. They’ll simply wait – holding out the best solutions at times – knowing the leader will trump them anyway.

Be open to change

New ideas never come in an attitude of control or when the goal is always protecting tradition. The leader must genuinely desire new ways of doing things – and must lead others to the same mindset.  Everyone on the team knows if the leader is really considering other people’s opinions. If team member’s suggestions are never implemented, they eventually will stop sharing them.

How are you currently taking advantage of the human capital in your organization? Is your church, business or non-profit experiencing the blessing of different ideas? 

7 Ways a Leader Can Invite Constructive Feedback

Portrait of an attractive young man talking about himself during a job interview

I remember an especially hard year as a leader. It was so bad several members of our staff had told me where I was letting them down. So much for having an “open door policy”. The next year I closed the door. 🙂

Not really, but this was a year where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear – I can be an idiot at times. There were significant areas where I needed to improve. Thankfully I haven’t had many of those years, but I’m glad now I had the ones I have. 

There is room for improvement with any leader and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

I realize some would question me for allowing such correction, but most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserved it. Plus, anytime an associate is brave enough to rebuke an employer, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything.
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care.
  • Feels welcome to do so.

In my opinion, good leaders work to live within the third option. I hope this was the case in my situation.

I should say – because I know some are thinking – criticism comes easily to leaders. Do anything at all in leadership and someone will have a problem with it – and they won’t always be kind in how they voice their complaint. But, I’m not talking about this type criticism. I am referring to constructive feedback from people I care about and who respect me. We all need that at times.

Here are 7 ways I welcome correction from the people I lead:

An open door.

This is more than keeping the door to my office open. I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. The person who keeps my calendar always knows people on staff get in first if something needs to be scheduled. And, if I’m in the office, my door is “open” – they can walk in anytime. In addition, my team knows I consider responsiveness to be of the highest value.

Include others in decision making.

If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made. In fact, I seldom make decisions alone.

Ask for it.

Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. I ask lots of questions. I solicit opinions on almost every major decision I make. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. And, the more you ask, the more freedom people feel in sharing.

Admit mistakes.

It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault. People feel more comfortable approaching a leader who doesn’t feel they are always right.

Take personal responsibility.

In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner. When they are criticized I own the criticism with them. I have their back. (By the way – this is only learned by experience.)

Model it.

It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it. If I chooser retribution, I’ve shut further feedback off before it comes.

Trade it.

The best way to get your team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with your team where there is mutual constructive feedback. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

I should also say all these are still not enough. Constructive criticism from people who care about you and want your best – especially from people you lead – only develops over time as trust is developed. They have to trust you and you have to trust them. 

Receiving correction – or constructive feedback – is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, when a leader is open to correction from his or her team, the team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction? Is your leader open to correction?

7 Words of Encouragement for Leaders Who Tend to Worry

Woman worrying

The title is confusing, isn’t it? It assumes some leaders worry and some don’t. The truth is, however, most leaders will have occasions of worry. Worry is an emotion – and, often far more powerful than principles of leadership are the emotions of leadership.

I’ve talked to some who say at least one day a week they are consumed with anxiety and fear. It’s the kind of frustration which, left unchecked, makes them almost want to quit. I talked to a pastor recently who is struggling with stomach problems (I won’t get more graphic than that), because of the worry he is dealing with as a leader.

The fact that you worry shows you are normal, human, and conscientious as a leader. You want to be successful and the natural reaction is to worry when you feel you may not be.

But, emotions play tricks on us. They’re fickle. They’re unreliable. Our desire to do well, causes our emotions to produce worry. And, constant worry can destroy a good leader, because it will control how the leader responds to others.

Obviously, Jesus said, “Do not worry!” We know this truth. We believe it. We want to live it. So, what’s the practical side of Jesus’ command in leadership and how do we actually live out the command?

And, here’s something you need to know – or may need reminding – Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions – worry – won’t play tricks on you at times.

All of us worry, but how you respond when you worry seems to control you as a leader?

Here are 7 words encouragements for leaders who worry in leadership:

Pray and study.

You knew I’d say this, didn’t you? Worry is, by definition, a misplaced trust. Ultimately your answer is in God’s ability and His control, not your own. If worry is consistently plaguing your leadership, improving your relationship with Christ through Bible study and prayer is step one.

Remember your purpose.

You have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. When worry hits you, you need grounding to something more permanent than your worries. You have a purpose. You believe in a vision. You have goals. You need to remember what fuels your fire and why you are willing to take the risk of leadership. If worry has gotten to the place where you’re not sure of your purpose anymore, stop everything and find it again. You can’t afford not to.

Contact an encouraging friend.

I always find other leaders can speak truth into my life just when I need it most. God uses relationships to strengthen us and make us better. I have to be bold enough to text a friend and say, “I could use some encouragement”, but I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve been that bold. If you don’t have someone like this in your life that’s your assignment. The goal is to find the person and build the relationship before you need them.

Review your track record.

Most likely you’ve had success which led to the position you have now. You can do it again. One reason I keep an encouragement file is so I can read through the positive things I’ve done on days when nothing seems positive.

Count your blessings.

And, name them one by one. There are always others who would love to have what you have. Someone is always worse off than you are. Most likely, even outside the position you have as a leader, God has blessed your life. Spend some time remembering the good God has allowed you to experience. The list is probably longer than you think and will help you avoid worry as you recall what God has already given you.

Get some rest – and hydrate.

Worry is more present when you are tired. And, I’ve learned we are often dehydrated and it makes an impact on us physically and emotionally. You may have to quit for the day so you can prepare for better days. The depth of the worry should determine the length of the period of rest. I’ve also learned part of being fully “rested” also includes making sure you are as healthy as you can be by eating the right foods and exercising, especially during the busiest seasons of life.

Rationalize.

People who most need to rationalize hate this one, but most of the things we worry about never come true. Is your worry based on reality or based on your emotional assumptions? Dismiss the things you can’t control, aren’t certain will go wrong, or the unknown. The more you limit irrational thoughts, the less for which you’ll have to worry.

How do you battle the moments of worry as a leader?

7 Ways to Help the Introverts on Your Team Better Engage in Meetings

power meeting from above

I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how. I try to remind them other people are different from me, even other introverts.

Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me authority, I’ll lead the meeting. No problem. That would never be comfortable for some introverts.

So, my best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would not be to consider the introverts, but to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins. If it’s “your” team this is done over time – getting to know the team. If the meeting involves people you don’t know or know well, it’s more difficult, but good leaders learn to study people – things such as the way they respond before the meeting, when they are introducing themselves, or their posture during the meeting.

But, I do understand the introvert question. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion – or it’s a meeting full of extreme extroverts.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Again, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics.

And, by the way, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond

This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to share some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions – ahead of time

Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing

When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot

If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted

If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. Then, prepare to be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control

Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert. Before you have the meeting, if they are willing, give introverts an assignment where they are responsible for sharing.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas

Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?