Those you wish to influence begins with two major questions:  Who are you? and Why are you here?  (Annette Simmons)

Prior to coming together as a team ask each team member the following three questions:

Why Me? Why am I the one for this work or this team?  How have I prepared myself?  What skills have I developed, and do I use them on a regular basic?  What strengths do I bring to the table?

Why Here? Why do I want to join this team in carrying out the work for which I have prepared myself?  Where does the mission of this organization and my passion meet?  Is this a place where I can be all that God made me to be?

Why Now? Why is this the right time for me to pursue this work in this place?  Is there something more important that I should be doing to better prepare myself for this work?  Do I have the experience, knowledge or training I need to do my very best? on track as a leader is simple.  It involves just two things.  These two things must be your priority every single day, and almost everything you do that matters will fit within one or the other.

1. Provide Direction:  Your first duty as a leader is to create clarity around where you are going.  It includes knowing who you are, what you do, where you do it, when you do it, how you do it, why you do it, and for whom you do it.  As a leader, It is your job to keep your organization headed in the right direction.

2. Provide Protection:  The other duty you have as a leader is to keep your organization safe and secure.  You do this by creating constraints around what might go wrong, where it might go wrong, when it might go wrong, how it might go wrong, why it might go wrong, and who might make it go wrong.

You protect your organization by knowing if what you are doing helps or hurts--or if it is against the rules.  If what you are doing doesn't help, then you need to know what to do instead.  Once you know the right thing to do, you need to know when you can start doing it.  Be careful, you may not be ready to start doing all of those right things right now, because most change involves steps not leaps.  Providing protection also means knowing if things are getting better or worse.  It means you are doing the right things and measuring the right things.

Leadership is simple.  It is all about providing direction and protection for your organization and team.  It isn't easy, but  it is simple.

Why bother trying to be a great leader?  After all, few will notice and those who do won't care.  Here are a few reasons why being the best leader you can be matters.

Your team deserves it.

People have joined your team because they believe in you and/or they believe in your mission.  Hopefully it is both.  They could be doing something else with another team, but they chose to work with you and that makes all the difference.  Be the best you can be for them.

Your donors need it.

The people who pay you to do what you do expect a return on their investment.  They have but their money where your mouth is (to twist a phrase).  If you do not deliver in helping them meet their needs, they to will go somewhere else.

The times demand it.

The needs are great and the world is looking for great leaders to do great things for the greater good.  Why not be one of them?

It is worth it.

There is no greater reward than doing something that matters, and doing it well.  It is also great when someone notices, but even if they don't notice, you will.  So be a great leader for yourself.  This is one place where a good self image is critical.  When your self image is poor and you work really hard on something, it is critical that someone recognizes your hard work and tells you.  But when your self image is positive and you work really hard you can pat yourself on the back.

If you do not lead well your team or your supporters could just leave.  There is something that is far worse.  They could stay and make your life miserable.  Stay or go, you need to be the best you can be.

What do you want to do with the rest of your life?  You cannot change anything that happened a second ago, but you can do something about the next second, the next minutes, the next hour, the next day, the next year.  You decide, and then do it!

dreamstime_s_44366106 (2)Mercy.  That isn't a word you hear very often, but it just might be the secret to building a great team.  It's first known use was in the 13th century from the Latin for "price paid," a merchant term for the payment of a debt by someone else.  It shows itself in acts of kindness, sympathy, compassion and understanding.

So, how can I use mercy to build my team?  First, you can use it to get past a mistake--yours our someone else's.  We all make mistakes.  Seldom do we do them on purpose.  So stop treating yourself or others as if they were done on purpose.

Second, you can use mercy when someone does the wrong thing "on purpose."   We do what we do because it made sense at the time.  Later we may learn that it was the wrong thing.  It may be we didn't have the right information.  It may be we didn't know of any other option because we lacked the knowledge or experience.  It may be because what we thought was true wasn't true at all.

I'm not suggesting the use of mercy for things done to harm, embarrass, or demean.  What I am suggesting is that when the doer of wrong repents--to express sorrow or fault, and seek to make amends--then mercy may be the right path and perhaps the only path back onto the team and slowly back to a position of trust.

Without mercy, mistakes become mountains no one can cross.  And bad behavior becomes a capital offense.  I know the behavior may so egregious that the person needs to go.  But many times, the person and the talent needed by the team can be save.  And it can be saved with a little bit of mercy.  If it is just a mistake, show mercy.  If it was intentional, but repentance is shown, show mercy.

There is an added bonus.  When mixed with justice you become authentic, genuine, truthful and transparent.  When mixed with humility you become generous, willing to help or give freely.

The next time you are faced with a mistake or even a wrong, try mercy.  You will be glad you did.

dreamstime_xs_1801567 (2)It’s easy to smile when “the livin' is easy,” but surviving in the worst of times is another story. It may not be the worst of times for you right now, but it is for someone. And it may be for you very soon. The challenge we face is we don’t always know when the worst of times will come.

What can you do to get ready?

Let me suggest two ways you can prepare for the worst. First, get off your pedestal and admit to yourself that you may be a part of the problem. A big dose of humility will go a long way in preparing yourself for the worst of times. So, start now being modest and respectful, looking out for the best in other. Help someone in need. Be generous, willing to help or give freely, and practice restraint and discipline in your personal and public life.

Second, be courageous. Stand up for what is right.  Courage shows itself best when you are fair and reasonable in the way you treat people and make decisions. And is most effective when you are authentic, genuine, truthful and transparent.

Humility and courage. Humility and courage. Two ways to prepare for and survive in the worst of time. an article written for People Management International Inc. titled A Game Plan for the Interview, Arthur F. Miller provides some great insights into the interviewing process.  “After name, rank, and serial number,” writes Miller, “where do you go in an interview?  What questions should be asked?  What areas explored?  Within the time available, what data should you seek that will reveal how this person will perform once on the job?” ...continue reading Getting the Interview Right

dreamstime_xs_15706029 (2)One of the biggest obstacles to Lean is the “organization chart,” that antiquated system of departmental walls that enforces a total separation of functions, placing a barrier—real or imagined—between groups of people at work.  Lean begins when we remove those walls of separation and create a cooperative environment where employees are not only willing to help but also to learn from each other all of the time. ...continue reading Our Org Charts Are Keeping Us Fat

What can a nonprofit do to encourage innovation?  Peter Drucker in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, identified four rules that "constitute the specific policies and practices the public-service institution requires if it is to make itself entrepreneurial and capable of innovation." ...continue reading Encourage Innovation in Your Nonprofit

Negativity is a killer.  That is not just a metaphor, but a reality.  In the 1950’s the North Koreans used four primary tactics on their prisoners of war; (a) informing, (b) self-criticism, (c) breaking loyalty to leadership and country, and (d) with-holding all positive emotional support.  These tactics resulted in a 38 percent POW death rate—the highest in military history.  So, the next time you hear someone say “sticks and stone may break my bone, but words will never hurt me.”  Don’t believe it.  Negativity kills. ...continue reading Negativity is a Killer

iStock_000014691385XSmallYou have three choices when it comes to hiring people, (1) hire anyone who applies, (2) hire potential winners, or (3) hire proven winners.  Hiring anyone who applies takes very little time, not a lot of work, and it will likely destroy your organization.  Hiring potential winners takes work and usually takes a lot of time and who knows, you may just find a winner.  Hiring proven winners requires a lot of work and a lot of time.  You must decide.  Is what you are doing within your organization and on your teams important enough to take the time and effort needed to hire the best? ...continue reading Is Your Work Important Enough to Hire the Best?