A Walk in the Dark

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-pedestrian-walking-dark-tunnel-silhouette-person-underpass-symbolizing-light-end-image38781068Do you remember what it feels like to walk in the dark?  Do you recall how slowly you moved, how you tested every step before placing your full weight on the floor?  Well that is exactly what it feels like to your team when you are not honest, open and transparent about your vision and your expectations as their leader.

Honest, open and transparent communications is NOT defensive.  Defensiveness is reciprocal.  When a person is threatened and begins to use these defense behaviors, others will tend to respond with defense behaviors of their own.

The following behaviors will bring on defensive reactions whenever the receiver perceives them as threatening—whether you intended them to be or not.

Evaluation:  Evaluation is easy to spot.  Thomas Gordon calls it “you” language because it is often prefaced with that word.  Most of us dislike any situation where we will be evaluated—even positively—because there is always a chance that the outcome will be unfavorable.

Control:  Communication that we sense is aimed at controlling our thoughts or behavior is always suspect.  We are wary of anyone who “knows what is best for us.”

Strategy:  When someone tries to manipulate you into doing something for them, whee they have a “strategy” to get their way regardless of its impact on you.  It is trying to trick you instead of just asking you.

Indifference:  This is acting with a neutral attitude.  It is implying that the others person or their problem is not important.

Superiority:  This is using money, power, intellect, physical appearance, athletic ability, etc. to express superiority over others.

Certainty:  These are people who already have all of the facts and need no additional information.  These are people more interested in winning the argument than in solving the problem.

Honest, open and transparent communications IS supportive and gracious.  Supportive behavior is easy to spot.  It is often called “I” language.  Saying what you think, feel, expect, did, or will do.  It is being responsible for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Descriptive:  This is putting the emphasis on describing the behavior or the problem.  For example:  “When you (their behavior), I felt (your feelings), and next time I (it) will (consequences).”

Problem Orientated:  This is when you seek to find a solution together that works for both of you.  Remember, not all problems have a single solution.

Spontaneous:  Instead of always trying to develop a strategy to respond, try being spontaneous and honest.  Be careful, even spontaneity can be a strategy.

Empathic:  This is when someone shows that he or she cares for the feelings of another, there is little chance that a self-concept will be threatened.

Equality:  People are not created equal, but people can treat each other as equals.  Do you see others as having just as much worth as you?

Openness:  Openness is defined as the ability to receiving new information and ideas.  Once we judge we stop looking at data.  Don’t be too quick to judge.

How To Know If “It” Is A “Good Fit”

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The Nine Box Grid provides a map for navigating an organization’s strategic intent.  It is normally presented in terms of manpower or leadership potential against measurable performance.  As a leadership selection and development tool it helps decision makers (1) think ahead in terms of talent development and management succession, and (2) prepare for change by having the required resources at the ready.


The potential axis, is typically divided into low, medium, and high, and is best used with specific criteria.  For example, as a personnel tool, potential can be used to assess potential for leadership, or potential for sales, or potential for any variety of workforce groupings.  “Potential” labels can even be changed to “Well Placed” for “Low,” Expandable” for “Medium,” and “High Potential” for “High,” giving managers the ability to graciously put employees in what would normally be a low potential column for one role, when they were, in fact very good employees or high potentials in another.


The performance axis is typically divided into poor, good, and outstanding, but can also be used to measure such things as culture fit or skills fit.  The uses are almost limitless and can be used to bring the focus of management decisions regarding everything from hiring or selection, to development and resource allocation onto whatever are the two most important factors needed for effective decision making.

I have used matrix decision making tools, like the Nine Box Grid, for strategic planning, hiring, leader and emerging leader selection, project selection, program management, to mention a few.  And while not all of the tools have had three options on each axis—as in the Nine Box Grid—each one has provided the decision making team with a simple way to facilitated dialogue, calibrate expectations, provide multiple perspectives, facilitate a shared sense of ownership, and focus limited resources.

The Nine Box Grid helps answers the question, “Is this (whatever “this” is) a good fit in terms of performance (how well it has done in the past) and potential (how well we think it will live up to the desired future)?

Having Love

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-valentine-candy-sweets-image12708968The best description of church I have seen in years.  And a perfect way to celebrate the importance of love at church, at home, and at work this Valentine Season.  From Courtney Joseph, author of Women Living Well and host of a web site by the same name.  Enjoy!

No one joins a Health Club and expects to walk in the first day and find perfectly fit people.  If we see someone terribly out of shape and not using the equipment that isn’t the gym’s fault.  The gym is filled with all types. They are there for different reasons and at different levels of fitness.  Some want to be healthy or lose weight. Others need a place to belong or attention, to be seen as beautiful or to find a date.  Some are young, some are old.  Some are leaders, some are followers.  Some seem to know everyone in the gym while others are newbies and clearly look uncomfortable in their skin.

In the same way, when we enter our church doors, we should expect to find people of all kinds.  They are there for different reasons.  Some are there to hear God’s word, grow spiritually and serve. Others think of it more as a club for get togethers or to find a guy.  Some are studying deep theology while others prefer to avoid anything deep.  Some are looking for relief and a safe place to fall while others are looking for attention. Some are young, some are old. Some are leaders, some are followers. Some have been there forever and know everyone and others are new and uncomfortable.

We all have different personality types, family backgrounds, church backgrounds, sensitivities from our past, talents, giftedness, dreams, goals, fears and trials.

So as we come together – if we do not have humility and love —we clash like cymbals.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” ~1 Corinthians 13:1

One Model, Two Responsibilities

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We use models to picture things we cannot otherwise see.  We model homes before we build them.  We model communities before we develop them.  We model processes before we invest in them.  We even look for model families, model schools, model everything.  So it is not unusual for us to look for models of leadership as well.  And we have many to choose from: servant leadership, situational leadership, tribal leadership, creative leadership, progressive leadership, self leadership, total leadership, participative leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, appreciative leadership, even Disney leadership.

There is a leadership model much older than any of the ones listed above.  Others have written about it, but most have done so in the context of church leadership.  However, Shepherd Leadership applies to leaders in all walks of life, not just ministry.  And it focuses on the two key responsibilities of a leader.  Like a shepherd, a leader must do two thinks very well: provide direction and protection for the organization and team.

Provide Direction

Providing direction involves the creation of clarity around 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.

Provide Protection

Providing protection involves the creation of 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.

 If you are looking for a model of great leadership, look to a shepherd who truly cares for the sheep and you’ll find everything you need to lead from your head and your heart.

So, What’s Wrong?

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21575969That is a terrible way to start a discussion about fixing problems.  We have been taught that we need to understand a problem before we can fix it.  But, as Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  What we need to understand is not what the problem looks like, but what the ideal or preferred future looks like.  Instead of looking for what isn’t working and trying to fix it, why not look at what does work and build on those things instead.

“Instead of looking for ‘what’s wrong’ or ‘needs fixed’ the firm focuses on ‘what’s right’ or ‘what’s working’ and seeks to do more of it. In short, appreciative inquiry suggests that you can create change by paying attention to what you want rather than paying attention to problems” (Gervase R. Bushe in Five Theories of Change Embedded in Appreciative Inquiry, 2000).

Four Things You Must Get Right

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Close up of men's rowing teamPat MacMillan in his book “The Performance Factor” lays out four skills needed to lead any team.  If you don’t get these right, nothing else really matters.

1. Picking Good People

You work with people the way they are, not the way you wish they were.  So you can bet, if they don’t fit now they won’t fit later.  Building a team takes time, so build in a lot of time into getting the best person fit you can.  Before you start the hiring process, know what you are looking for.  Look at past performance—it is the best predictor of future performance.

2. Setting Clear Expectations

It has been said that less than one-half of all workers claim to know what is expected of them.  ASK: “What do you think you get paid to do?”  And ask it often.

3. Recognizing Excellence and Praising It

Aubrey Daniels in “Bringing Out the Best in People” says every behavior has a consequence.  Some are good and some are bad.  We need to manage consequences.  The following maxim has been attributed to many famous people, “What gets rewarded is what gets done.”  Regardless of it’s origin, most of us know it as the Greatest Management Principle in the World and the number one reason why consequences must be managed.

4. Showing Care for Your People

Research shows that employees who feel cared about are less likely to have accidents, steal, miss work, quit, etc.  Don’t fake caring.  If you don’t care, go someplace where you can.

“The most effective way to invest your time is to identify exactly how each [team member] is different and then, as in chess, figure out how you can best incorporate these differences into your overall plan of action.”  (Marcus Buckingham)

Open Your Gift for Goodness Sake

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image23398682Do you know your gifts?  Do you find opportunities to express them every day?  Your organization, your team, your family will only be at their best if you bring your best to the relationships each and every day.  You were created for good works.  Take time today to discover where and how you can open that gift and share it with your world.  The following comes from “Forming a Sense of Mission,” from The Path by Laurie Beth Jones.  It is a reminder of the importance of knowing what we bring to any relationship or team.

Great leaders know their gift is not…

…their job.  Your gifts are always larger than your work or your job.

…their role.  Your gifts are never defined by your role in life.

…their “to-do” list.  Your gifts are not the urgent, but the important.

Great leaders also know…

…they are already living it.  It is highly probable that you are already using your gifts.   Increase your awareness of them and use them to their fullest.

…they are important enough.  You can’t escape the responsibility—or the privilege of using your gifts.

…it doesn’t help a lot of people.  The most important gifts are often given one at a time, to one at a time.

…it isn’t full of suffering.  Your gifts should be a perfect “fit” for you—not a struggle.

…it isn’t like anyone else’s.  Your gifts are yours alone–stop all those comparisons.

…it is in a humble place.  Your gifts are not dependent upon where you were born or where you live.

…it is “out of the ordinary.”  Look out for imitations that look like, but are not, the real thing.

…it isn’t an accident.  Neither you, nor your gifts, were an accident.

The Degenerative Group Process©

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14023034You may have heard of the Nominal Group Process, an extremely efficient tool that allows everyone to participate equally in a problem solving discussion.  It is simply a controlled version of brainstorming, but without the up front group interaction during the idea-generation stage.  In nominal group process each person in the group writes down his or her ideas first, and then as a group the ideas are discusses and prioritizes.  It is a great way to keep any one person from monopolizing the problem solving process.  Also called Nominal Group Technique.

The Degenerative Group Process:

The Degenerative Group Process would be a fun, tongue-in-cheek play on words if it weren’t so prevalent.  Here are the five steps I use to describe the degenerative process I saw in a group forced to endure the agony of attending a training sessions lead by an incompetent  instructors.  May it never happen to you–or be you!

Step 1:  Polite Non-listening

Several years ago I was attending a conference which included presentations by some of my colleagues who were very smart but couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag.  I recall one particularly painful presentation where I checked out very early on in the session, and—in order to look as if I were engaged—I began taking notes on what I saw happening in the room.  It all began when I asked the person next to me, “What did he just say?’  To which he replied, “I don’t know.”  This from someone who was sitting up straight, looking the presenter right in the eyes, and to me seemed fully engaged in the presentation.  He was being polite, but was not listening at all.

Step 2:  Quiet Sarcasm

Not many minutes passed when I saw this “polite non-listening” turn into something quite different.  Audience members, still remained reserved, but would share their sarcastic comments under their breath speaking only to themselves, or speaking to someone nearby.  This “quiet sarcasm” remained unnoticed to others in the room, mostly a private joke shared among friends, without interrupting the speaker or the room.

Step 3:  Open Sarcasm

A third step in this “degenerative group process” was when the sarcasm got loud.  Remarks about the speaker by people at one table were now being heard by people at another table.  What was once hidden or quiet now became “open sarcasm,” painful to watch and even more painful when you later realize you had played a part.

Step 4:  Preoccupational Withdrawal

I next noticed that the presenter and the presentation was no longer just a joke, but was now a total waste of time.  Newspapers came out, laptops were opened, texting — or game playing — was rampant.  The audience just didn’t seem to care about the indifference and boredom.  This “preoccupational withdrawal” was now seen and shared by almost everyone in the room.

Step 5:  Hostile Independence

In it final stage, participants began moving about, leaving the room, or carrying on conversations with others in the room without regard to the presentation.  The group had not only become disengaged, they began to display a “hostile independence” towards the presenter and towards others in the room.

All of the presenters were very smart people.  They knew their stuff, but didn’t know how to engage their audience.  Being smart is never enough, and connecting with people is never too much.

Picture Performance in a Dashboard

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http://www.dreamstime.com/-image24033360When you are driving down the road, a quick glance at your car’s dashboard gives you a lot of information.  In an instant, you know how fast you’re going, how much fuel you have remaining and whether the engine is overheating.

Your dashboard tells you the total miles the car has been driven and often, the mileage of this particular trip. Your peek at the dashboard allows you to see the time of day, whether your lights are on (or bright) and if the turn indicators are flashing.  All this information is available by a fleeting look at the dashboard.

Benefits of using organizational dashboards include:

  • Visual presentation of performance measures
  • Ability to identify and correct negative trends
  • Measure efficiencies/inefficiencies
  • Ability to generate detailed reports showing new trends
  • Ability to make more informed decisions
  • Align strategies and organizational goals
  • Save time over running multiple reports
  • Gain total visibility of all systems instantly

Questions we need to ask to identify the key measures you need to track in order to determine the health and vitality of your organization?

  • How often do we need to update the dashboard?
  • What would be the best way to represent/display those measures?

One of the advantages of using a “dashboard” to track organizational performance is that it is designed by you and your team rather than some external control.  Because you build it, it contains the measures that make sense to you.  Some indicators, like a speedometer, provide real-time data that measures the results of performance at any given time.  Some, like an odometer, measure cumulative progress.  Others, like warning lights, indicate a big threat or brewing problem.

Dashboards are based on two assumptions. 

First, good management depends on good measures.  Without good feedback on performance you cannot monitor progress toward a goal and there is no way to learn.

Second, measurement has no meaning without good interpretation and judgment.  You can measure anything.  You either count it or you judge it.  “Dashboards” provide a visual way for the organization to count and judge those key indicators that let you know you are headed in the right direction.

The automobile dashboard metaphor makes sense as long as you keep it simple (e.g., speedometer, gas gauge, temperature, oil pressure).  It becomes a burden when it looks like the cockpit of a 747.  Some of the best indicators on your dashboard are simple excel spread sheets and graphs.

Here are some examples.

Radar Chart:  The Radar Chart allows you to monitor performance on several measures.  If several people are providing data or judgment on the measures, you can show the average score or the range of scores showing the variances in agreement.

Run Chart:  The Run Chart allows you to study performance for trends or patterns over time.

Pie Chart:  The Pie Chart shows how several measures are a part of a larger whole—share of a budget, breakdown on gender, or age, or education, etc.

Other indicators include Bar Charts, Scatter Grams, Histograms, Matrix Diagrams, the list goes on.  Just pick the one that you can use to best illustrate the data important to you.

Steps in Building a Dashboard:

First, develop a set of indicators.   This begins with a clear and shared understanding of your goals.  Then ask each team member to develop two or three gauges that he or she considers most effective for monitoring his or her function area.  Be open to hard and soft measures.  Hard measures you can see and count.  Soft measures are less obvious and require a judgment call.

Second, combine the measures into a dashboard and ask yourself if your “critical” objectives are included—if not add them.

Third, once you have all of the potential measures, ask yourself, “If we could track only five or six, what would they be?”  The point is to avoid having too many indicators and indicators that are not critical to the success or failure of the organization.  These five or six now become your leadership team’s dashboard.

Finally, check your measures often.

You have three opportunities to solve a problem.

1. When you think of it, usually during the planning phase when you ask yourself, “What could go wrong, how would we know, and what could we do about it.”  This is always best.

2. When you detect the problem, usually because you are measuring and looking at those measures—the dashboard.

3. When the problem hits you in the face.  If you wait till until it hits you in the face, the solution may be even worse than the problem.

The sooner you solve a problem the better.  One advantage of having a good performance dashboard in place is that it helps you detect and solve problems early, before they hit you in the face.

If you are looking for help in creating performance dashboard, try these:  Balanced Scorecards & Operational Dashboards with Microsoft Excel by Ron Peterson, and Excel 2007 Dashboards & Reports for Dummies by Michael Alexander.

The Importance of Projects

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http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-project-management-construction-planning-image39922093Processes pay the bills, save you time, and maintain quality products.  Projects, however, are what make new things happen.  A project is simply a problem scheduled to be solved.  And the steps needed to move an organization forward are primarily projects.  As a leader you must understand how to identify, develop and manage projects.  Leading your organization takes on two forms.  One is that of a process—doing the same thing over and over.  The second is that of a project—doing something for the first time.

Almost everything you do in a new organization begins as a project—that is unless you can borrow or buy it from someone else.  In older organization we tend to have too many process—we just keep on doing the same old things in the same old ways.  Your job as a leader is to make sure you know the difference and that you make sure your organization is doing the right ones at the right times.