dreamstimefree_420127bWhenever I feel pressed for time, when there never seems to be enough time, or I am lost for time, I keep the following advice in mind...  (from "Time for all Things" by Charlie Shedd):

I have only one thing to do.

If there is time to do only one thing, then the “one needful thing” is the thing to do.  It is the opposite of spreading ourselves wide and thin. Think about how much time and energy you have wasted doing things that don’t help or don’t matter.

I have as much time as anyone.

Few things are more boring than the recitals of the overworked—those who insinuate that fate has given them so much more to accomplish and so much less time to get it done.

I will set aside moments to be alone.

The important thing is to be ready whenever these havens of quiet arrive.

I will not make assumptions about other people's motives and intentions.

We are not all-knowing or always right.  Begin looking at the world and yourself from the perspective of the other.

I will plan for the future but I will enjoy today.

Safe planning for the future and full enjoyment of every day depends on using today and not fearing tomorrow.

I will not attempt to do it all.

There are five kinds of broken things: (1) the kind no one can fix, (2) the kind that fix themselves, (3) the kind somebody else has got to fix, (4) the kind only God can fix, (5) the kind I've got to fix.  Charlie's advice, "'Yes!'' can be a word replete with blessing.  But so also can ‘No!’  Rightly used, it is an efficiency expert of the highest order."

I will make friends with divine interruptions.

One of the marks of true maturity is a certain “interruptibility.”  Learn to give thanks whenever you are called to serve another.  Recognize that on numerous occasions “the interrupter is more important than the interrupted.”

I will be courteous of other people’s time.

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”  To do the opposite is selfishness!  The rule behind the Golden Rule is LOVE!  It is a reaching out to others with respect.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image18123218Your organization, donors, and team all need to hear you say what it is you will do and what you will not do. They need to know where you stand and what you stand for.

While there are some things you cannot promise, no matter what your organization does or delivers, you can always promise to live your values. Make it clear what guides your head and your heart, and then make a promise to always follow the guidance they provide. If you don’t know where else to start, try the following values found in Micah 6:8:

Justice: I will be fair and reasonable in the way I treat people and make decisions.

Kindness: I will be sympathetic, compassionate and understanding.

Humility: I will be modest and respectful, always looking for the best in others.

If you want to go further, look between the lines of Micah 6:8 and you will find supporting virtues for each of the values.

Authenticity: If I truly value justice and kindness, I will be authentic, genuine, truthful and transparent.

Generosity: If I truly value kindness and humility, I will be generous, willing to help, or give freely.

Restraint: If I truly value humility and justice, I will be restrained and disciplined in personal and public activities.

Even though promises are important, there are some promises a leader cannot make.  Peter Block, in his book Stewardship, talks about dealing with the cynic and the danger of making promises you cannot keep, no matter how much they demand it.

"Cynics lack faith and what they seek is a promise.  In the context of an institution, cynicism expresses disbelief that management will do what it says it will do.  The cynic in each of us demands to be convinced that this time it will be different.  Cynics demand a promise as a cure to their lack of faith, and the promise they want is certainty.  They want us to reassure them that we can provide a safe and successful future.  We have to be very careful about the promise that we make, for if we do not deliver, the next round of cynicism will have been born.  As much as we wish, we cannot promise a safe future and we cannot promise that the reform we are proposing will satisfy any one person or unit.  The promise cynics look for cannot be given.  We cannot choose adventure, and then promise safety to get people to come with us."  (Peter Block)

The bad news is that cynics are everywhere.  The good news is that many people want to take that leap of faith.  They are just looking for someone who will take that leap with them.  The message here for the leader is don't let the cynic keep you from doing the right thing.

Peter Block suggest the following as a guide for dialogue with the cynic:

1. Acknowledge the other's position.

2. State the choice for faith and commitment in the face of our own reservations.

3. Invite the same choice from the other person.

We all understand the importance of making promises to our customers or donors, and how important it is for us to keep those promises.  But do we understand how important promises are to our teams?

Perhaps the best place to start is to ask ourselves: "What promises--either through my words or actions--have I made to my team, and am I keeping those promises?"

Every promise has two parts.

First, a promise is something you do or say.

Second, a promise is the understanding or expectation of another.

It is the second part that makes keeping a promise so difficult.  It is not just what you say that matters, but how your words or actions are being interpreted in the minds of the people you serve or lead.

What a promise is not.

A promise is not a guarantee.

We cannot control the future.  The most we can do in making a promise is to ask others to take the same leap of faith that we are taking, and then do all we can do to follow through on that leap.  People understand that not all promises can be kept.  Sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, we just cannot come through with the promise we made.  The good news is that, for the most part, people know when the fault is ours and when it is not.

The issue when making a promise is to make it clear that it is not a guarantee, but a commitment.  For most people, that is enough.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image23082102There are many problems that come with solving problems.  Here are three of the most damaging.

Problem 1: We think there is only one right answer.

The first problem with problems is we think problems have only one answer.  In spite of what we learned in school, nothing can be further from the truth.

Yes, some problems can be convergent, having only one "best" solution.  The more intelligently you study them, the more the answers converge.

However, problems can also be, and most often are, divergent.  The more they are studied, the more contradictory the solutions become.  There are problems for which there is no single solution.  Convergent problems require intelligent inquiry.  Divergent problems require intelligent inquiry and genuine openness.

Problem 2:  We spend too much time finding solutions and not enough time defining the problem.

This happens because we think we already know the problem, and because we think we already know the one and only (remember "convergent") solution to the problem.  A lot of people have great solutions to the wrong problems.  The following story from Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels illustrates this problem with problems:

There was once an Indian chicken farmer who lived on the outskirts of Mumbai. For years, he scratched out a reasonable living from raising his chickens and selling both chickens and eggs.

One morning when he went to feed his flock, he noticed several dead chickens. Not knowing what to do, he packed his bags and made a long trek to the Himalayas, climbed a mountain, and found a GURU.

“Oh, guru,” he moaned,” I am a poor chicken farmer. The other morning, I discovered several dead chickens. What should I do?”

“What do you feed them?” asked the guru.

“Wheat. I feed them wheat.”

“That is your problem, my son. Corn! Feed them corn.”

The man paid his tribute to the guru, climbed down the mountain, and journeyed home. When he arrived, he immediately changed the chicken’s feed from wheat to corn. For three weeks, everything went fine. Then one morning, as he went to feed his flock, he found more dead chickens.

He packed his bags, made the trek to the Himalayas, and climbed the mountain once again. “Oh, guru!” he cried. “More of my chickens are dead!”

“How do you give them water?”

“I carved wooden bowls in which I gave them water,”

“Troughs! You need troughs!”

The farmer made the long journey home and built troughs. For six months, everything went along fine. Then one morning, as he went to feed his flock, he found more dead chickens. So, again, he made the trek to guru. “Oh, guru!” he cried. “More of my chickens are dead!”

“How do you house them?”

“I built a wooden shack in which they live.”

“Ventilation! They need more ventilation!”

Back home, the farmer spent a small fortune putting a new ventilation system in his coop. for a year, everything went well. Then one morning, he went out to discover that all of his chickens were dead.

Beside himself with grief, he packed his bags and again made his way to the mountain. “Oh, guru!” he wailed. “All of my chickens are dead!”

“That’s a shame,” replied the guru. “I had a lot more solutions.”

Problem 3: Not all problems need to be solved.

It is also important to understand that not all problems need a solution.  Some things just don't matter and can become a distraction from focusing on and solving real problems.

So, make sure your definition is of a problem that (1) is an important problem, (2) is an enabling problem (Example of a disabling problem:  “I want to fly by flapping my arms like wings.”  Example of an enabling problem: “I want to get my feet off the ground.”), and finally (3) is the “real” problem.

Once you understand that most problems are divergent and have many solutions, you can then begin looking for a definition of your problem.  You can do this by asking two simple questions.  First, "Is there a gap?"  Where are you now and where do you want to be?  The gap could be the problem.  Second, "Is there an obstacle?"  What obstacle prevents easy movement to close the gap?  The obstacle could be the problem.

Make sure your description of the problem is as accurate as possible.  Don’t include a suggestion of the solution in your problem definition.  Be nonjudgmental.  Avoid blaming anyone or any particular policy.  So, instead of looking for “who”—who did or didn’t or who is to blame—ask “why”—why did that happen or not happen, why did the person do or not do what they did.  Look for the system problem.

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?

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8490658Keeping 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.