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?

Posted on 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

Posted on Updated on 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©

Posted on Updated on 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

Posted on 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

Posted on Updated on 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.

Stop Sending Dusty Messages

Posted on all agree that up-to-date communication methods do contribute to our organizational effectiveness.  However, “it’s not the medium,” writes Pat MacMillan, “that needs dusting off, it’s the message!”

Telling your story is an art.  It can be done well.  It can be done poorly.  Sometimes the one telling the story gets “a little too close to the sun” thinking the story is about them, and they and the organization both get burned.

Two things we can learn from Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor; guilt and fear don’t work.  “Stories that use fear or shame to mobilize action may seem effective in the short term but can be counter productive in the long term,” she writes.  Fear and shame are emotions that move people “away from” not “towards.”

The key to attracting the very best is in communicating how others have brought their strengths to the work, every day, and how they can do the same.

Set Up Your Successor for Success

Posted on Updated on“The hallmark of a great leader is one who sets his or her successors up for success, rather than failure.”

The key to successful succession planning is to establish systems that make it possible for the organization to go on when a key individual leaves.  And that goes for all key staff — the CEO, and any other critical positions.

Steps to Building a Succession Plan

Step 1 Identify Critical Positions

Begin your plan by identifying all of the critical positions within your department or team.  These could be currently filled position, currently vacant positions, or positions you would like to add.

Step 2 Color Code Critical Positions

If the position will be vacant within 1 year or the wrong person is in the position, color code the position red.  If the position will be vacant within 2 years, color code it yellow.  If the position is safe for 2 years, color code it green.  Add explanatory notes to all red and yellow positions (e.g., promoting, retiring, resigning, etc.).  Identify any new or proposed positions in blue.

Step 3 Identify Potential Successor

Identify any potential successors whether they are inside or outside the organization, providing name, current title or position, and proposed title or position.  Potential successors will be ranked green if currently qualified for the position, yellow if they could be qualified in 1 year, and red if they could be qualified in 2 or more years.

Step 4 Create a Development Plan

Help each of the candidates create a development plan that would prepare them for the desired position, within the time required.  The key is to make every open position a leadership development opportunity.

Step 5 Review You Plan

The succession plan should be reviewed or updated at least once a year, or whenever there is a change in any critical position.

“We go through life together and if we can help each other, that’s a good thing.  I don’t like the word mentor.  I like to think of it as a friendship.  It’s a two-way street, and we learn from each other.”  Bill George

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

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dreamstime_xs_27050853 (2)“What’s love got to do with it?”

Tina Turner wasn’t the first to ask that question, and she won’t be the last.  For a leader, the answer is simple.  Everything!

If you are a leader, love is critical.  And I don’t mean the kind of “love” that is all about me.  You know the type.  “I want you to love me, because I like what I get.”  What I am taking about is the type of love that says, “I will show care, looking out for the interests of others because I simply decide to.”  It doesn’t mean I don’t love myself–if you don’t like you, you want like others.  It does mean I am interested in the lives and success of all the people who make our organization or business a success and in the lives of the people we serve.

Being a leader is not always easy.  Loving others is the same.  It may not be easy, but it is critical.  You need it.  Your team needs it.  The world needs it.  Lead with love and you will never lead with power or fear ever again.

The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace. —Gandhi