Monday Quick Tip ~ Make Peace

Glynn Archer 2Blessed are the peacemakers – Jesus, Matthew 5:9

We don’t have to look far to see the need for peace in our world.  Conflicts are ongoing in several parts of the world at this very moment. As leaders, we feel the conflicts closer to home, among our team members.

I was reminded recently that sometimes our role as a leader means being a peacemaker. I visited the Key West Cemetery where one of the best leaders I’ve ever known is buried.  His name is Glynn Archer, Jr.  He came along at a time in my life when I was still trying to get my head around the responsibilities of leadership.  He was a mentor to me.  He was involved in the local community and was especially helpful in the bringing together of three distinct churches as they merged into one. I watched as he masterfully heard each side’s point of view and distilled each group’s concerns down to the common elements.  Then he built relational bridges between the groups so that they could meet in the middle and work together.  He realized that working together was the only way forward.

It’s tough to be a peacemaker because each side in the conflict thinks they are right. I’ve enjoyed reading Ed Catmull’s fantastic book, Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Mr. Catmull is the President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation.  He describes one of his early meetings with the late Steve Jobs as they are trying to figure out if they could work together.  Catmull gently asks Jobs how he handles it when people disagreed with him. Jobs replies, “When I don’t see eye to eye with somebody, I just take the time to explain it better, so they understand the way it should be” ( Amazon Kindle, Location 743).

We all share Jobs approach at times.  Everybody else is wrong and we are right…right?

That’s why we need peacemakers. Leaders have to wade in where angels fear to tread and get messy with the conflict.  We risk being yelled at and misunderstood.  We have our motives questioned and are accused of playing favorites.

But when the conflict is resolved, there is nothing like the sweet sound of harmony as team members work together again.  The mission moves forward.

Buck up your courage; be a peacemaking leader.

The world needs you.

And so does your team.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Get Mad, but Don’t Get Even

Image courtesy of coward_lion/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of coward_lion/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. ~ 12th Century saying

Has another leader ever ticked you off?

I’ll go first.

YES!

It happened recently when I called the leader of another organization to ask for a little favor.  It was small in my mind, at least.

His negative reaction caught me by surprise.  He was unyielding, uncooperative and downright rude in his response. He was unwilling to work with me. I wanted to hang up on him.

I stewed about it and told others on my team what a jerk this leader was and that he was the cause of their inconvenience.  (Not my finest hour.)  I was frustrated for me and my team.  Fortunately, I calmed down and realized why I didn’t tell this leader where to stick it.

I didn’t because, for purely selfish reasons, I may need a bigger favor down the road.  In addition, this leader may need a favor from me down the road and I’ll have the upper hand at that point. (Both terrible reasons.)

But then I had a flash of insight that made sense.  As leaders, there are times when we have to take the high road for the good of our organization.  It is not fun, it’s not our first choice, but nevertheless, it is the road we walk as leaders.  The organization we lead comes first. Life has a way of turning the tables.  Circumstances change.  There may come a day when our two organizations will need to work together.  That time may come after I’m already gone.  I don’t want to be known as the leader who blew up the bridge between the two.

We’d all rather be known as leaders who built rather than destroyed.  So we restrain ourselves and take the high road.  Our nose will thank us… and so will our team.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Stand for Something

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A new week brings new opportunities to put our leadership values into practice.  Assuming, of course, that we are crystal clear about what we value.

A quote from The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy that resonates with us is, “A clearly defined sense of purpose ties our values to concrete intentions and gives us external direction – a reason to get up in the morning and a fuel to stay the course in the face of the inevitable setbacks that arise along the way” (Page 238).

Or if you prefer, “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

I’ve discovered that leadership has a way of forcing us to clarify what we believe and then requires us to take a stand on those beliefs.

Sometimes our purpose gets fuzzy because we’re under the stress of a looming deadline, busy with the day to day grind or emotionally distracted by things happening in our relationships. That’s when it is important to step back to think about why we are doing what we are doing.

Our bias for action as leaders calls us to push ahead in spite of the lack of clarity, but the wise move is to stop, step back and reflect.

Once we are clear about the PERSON we want to be and the PURPOSE we want to serve, nothing can defeat us unless we let it. We won’t fall for anything.

What really matters to you today? This week? What are you really trying to accomplish?

When we get those things straight, we have the spiritual fuel we need to make it happen!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Set the Pace

Richard Petty Rookie Exp

He who hesitates is lost. 

Adapted from Joseph Addison’s play Cato (1712):”The woman that deliberates is lost.” 

One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life was driving a race car around the Atlanta Motor Speedway in excess of 150 mph.  I was fortunate to take part in a morning session of the Richard Petty Driving Experience.  After a short instruction period, we were led to the track to take our place behind the wheel of a 600 horsepower speed machine.

In session one, I ran 8 laps before being brought in for some coaching by an instructor.  He told me, “You are getting too close to the pace car. Make sure you follow his lead and don’t get so close.”  I kept my distance and did better the second session.  My lap speeds by 10 miles per hour.

It’s been said many times, “Speed of the leader; speed of the team.” We, as leaders, set the pace for our team members.  This is where leadership becomes an art.

If we move too fast for our team, we run the risk of losing touch with those who are following.  Team members become tired from trying to keep up.  Eventually they become discouraged and quit.

If we move too slowly, top team members become bored.  Other members get distracted and have a hard time staying on track.  Petty squabbles and divisions soon cloud pursuit of the mission.

When we find the right balance of pace, the organization’s mission is accomplished in a way that energizes those who follow us.

Balance is the result of knowing ourselves as leaders.  Do we demand perfection or have expectations of our team members that are too high? Do we know the strengths and limitations of our team members?

As leaders, we set the proper pace so that our team members feel great about being a part of our team and accomplishing the organization’s mission.

What tips do you have for setting the right pace? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday Quick Tip – Count the Cost of Your Life

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every man is his own greatest enemy, and as it were his own executioner. — Sir Thomas Browne

It all came together this week during my daily commute along a fast and busy highway.  One of those rare moments when the “university on wheels” curriculum matched what was going on outside of the car.  I was listening to Tony Schwartz and Jean Gomes’ book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.  They posed a question that grabbed me and caused me to turn off the sound so I could reflect on it.  The question was, “Is the life you’re leading worth the price you’re paying to live it?” (The question is on page 26 in the printed version.)

As I traveled in the “slow lane” I noticed cars moving past on my left at high rates of speed. Then I saw a highway patrol officer in front of me, lights flashing.  The fast moving cars were about to pay a price for their excessive speed.  I silently wondered, “Is the price of a ticket and the hassle of getting it taken care of it worth a few minutes gained?”

As leaders, we want our team members and the people we lead to be healthy so that they can give their best energy for the good of the team.  Our followers require the same of us. They want leaders who are healthy and practice good self-care.  Rare is the person who will follow an unfit and unhealthy leader.

At the beginning of a new week, it is good to count the cost of the choices we are making.  Are we taking care of ourselves so that we can offer our best to the people we lead? Do we have time built into our day to simply enjoy ourselves?

Excessive speed will cost us.  Eventually we will slow down.

Can we do it before someone makes us and we have to pay a high price for it?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Take the Blame

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“A poor workman always blames his tools.”

As leaders we are in the business of making others successful.  I had a boss at General Electric who used to say, “Your success is my success.” His words were backed up by a commitment to meet with me regularly, coach me, guide me and make sure I had what I needed to get the job done. He understood that as leaders we are there to serve those we lead.

We provide the tools and resources for our team members to get their jobs done well.

What do our team members need to succeed? Here is a very partial list:

  •        Tools – Computer, phone, supplies, etc.
  •        A listening ear
  •        An open door
  •        Our presence – Encouragement by walking around
  •        Checking in with them
  •        Following up with them
  •        Offer to help – “How can I help you today?” works wonders
  •        Time off maintain balance between work and family

The art of leadership is figuring out what individual team members need in order to succeed. Each person is different.  For some, all it takes is a listening ear. Others need to see us involved and working alongside them.

The above proverb reminds us that poor workers naturally look for others to blame.  Sometimes, that blame is directed at us because we “didn’t train them well enough” (or whatever excuse they want to use).

However, leaders with integrity do what it takes to set their team members up for success.

If a team member doesn’t measure up, it won’t be because the leader didn’t try their best to set them up for success.

In that case the blame will lie squarely with the team member.  We give them what they need to succeed and the rest is up to them.

What are some things you offer your team members to set them up for success?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Admit When You Don’t Know it All

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools learn in no other. – Benjamin Franklin

In almost every leadership position we hold there is a honeymoon period that allows us to get settled in and learn the lay of the land.  Very soon reality sets in and we realize there are challenges that are rising to the surface.  Our temptation is to turn on our mental autopilot and try to solve it the way we’ve solved it in the past. But then it doesn’t work.

I’ve discovered that no matter how many years of experience I get under my leadership belt, I run into issues I’ve never faced before.  Every leadership context is different.   An experienced pilot when facing turbulence can’t allow autopilot to take over. Instead, the pilot flies through it.

In the same way,  we can’t afford to go on autopilot thinking that “we’ve seen this before know what to do.”  When I find that attitude creeping in, I know it’s time to check myself.  Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture or don’t know all the facts.

The best leaders admit when they don’t know it all.  They grow with the trials, deepen their experience and sharpen their skill.

Leadership expert Jim Collins, in his famous work on how good companies became great companies, says Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark is one of the greatest CEOs of the twentieth century.  Collins says, “Smith, a man who never entirely erased his own self-doubts, later summed up his tenure by saying simply, ‘I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.’” (http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/the-misguided-mixup.html)

Our experience informs the present to help us figure out what to do.  It begins with the attitude of humility.  Celebrity leaders rise only as high as the moment they think they know it all then they fall.

Leaders who last rise to the challenge and grow through the new experience.

Rick Pitino, championship basketball coach, writes, “The longer I live and the more I experience, the more I believe that humility is the quality essential to sustained success, and a lack of it is the major stumbling block for those who find success for a time, then lose it.” (The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life­)

Could it be time to turn off autopilot and fly the plane?

What challenges are you facing that require a humble attitude and the willingness to learn something new?

Monday Quick Tip ~ The One Who Laughs Lasts

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Laughter is the best medicine

Have you ever been a cranky leader? I have on too many occasions.  I’m currently going through a very busy season that only promises to get busier in the coming weeks.  I find myself with a bad attitude that is in need of some serious adjustment.  Here are some signs that it is time for a break.

  • No fun to be around (even when I’m by myself).
  • Frowning or grimacing most of the time.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Mind racing through the never ending To-Do list.
  • Tired, even after a night’s rest.
  • Paying more attention to the clock than people.
  • Allowing gratitude to be nudged out by expectation or worse, entitlement.

I believe in the biblical proverb that those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (11:25).  But I also believe that those who refresh others must first refresh themselves. Or, to use Stephen Covey’s admonition: “Sharpen the saw.” Or the airline’s instruction: Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.

We all need time away from the stresses of leadership.  We need time to re-set.  We need to give ourselves the gift of time away.

Time to push the pause button.

Time to do something totally unrelated to our organization.

Time to do something fun that brings the laughter back.

I know what I need to do to bring back the laughter.  How about you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As leaders we want to be liked.  We want people to follow us and have fun doing it.  But one of the perils of leadership is to be so emotionally needy of the adulation of our followers that we compromise our identity.

We have people on our teams who will praise us excessively to the point of flattery.  It makes us feel good to be liked.  But in the secret places of our heart, we know that we are not that good.

We suspect that the praiser wants something from us and just telling us those nice things because they are going to want a favor down the road. They are “greasing the skids.”

As a leader, I’ve found that the people who are quickest to praise me without really knowing me are the first ones to turn on me when times get tough.  They are the first ones to blame and criticize.

To stay centered as leaders we need people in our life who love us without strings attached to what they can get from us.  Those people are rare.  It gets even more confusing when we think we have those people in our life only to find out that they had a secret agenda all along.

This is the essence of the excellent and critically acclaimed Netflix series, House of Cards.  Things are not always what they seem and the Frank Underwoods of the world will stab us in the back while praising us to our face.

Flattery from those we lead may feel good, but if we treat it as more than it really is, it will get us nowhere.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Live the Golden Rule

greeting

Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do unto others, what you would have them do unto you – Jesus

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ― Maya Angelou

This quote from Maya Angelou has been running through my head a lot lately.  It applies in many arenas of life.

Much of leadership is how we make people feel.

We inspire, encourage and correct.

I will never forget a time when I was going through a rough patch while in graduate school.  Finances were limited, my course load was increasing, people I loved were having relational issues that were affecting the entire family and I was 1600 miles from home.  I felt as if I was facing these challenges all alone.

Jay KeslerJay Kesler, the then President of Taylor University, was visiting campus for some speaking engagements.  I was hurriedly going from one class to the next.  I saw Dr. Kesler coming towards me on the sidewalk.  He was by himself.  As he saw me, his face lit up with a magnificent smile and he said, “Hello, how are you today?” I returned the smile and said, “Fine, thank you.”  Of course, I wasn’t fine given the circumstances, but that day, the load seemed a little lighter.  I don’t remember any of his lectures on campus.  But to this day, I remember the sidewalk encounter and how it made me feel.  I felt that I was not alone.  An easy thing to do that had powerful impact.

Sometimes leadership is not about budgets and vision and grandiose schemes.

Sometimes, leadership is a smile on a sidewalk to a fellow human being.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Shake and Stir for Best Results

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A rolling stone gathers no moss. – Publilius Syrus, 1st century writer of Latin maxims

In the organization I lead, we’ve been going through a time of assessment and transition.  My days have been filled with charts and graphs of income and expenditures. In my research, I’ve discovered the health of the organization is not as robust as people in the organization believe. So it became my job to shake things up and (as Peter Drucker says) define reality.

We have all seen the snow globe that looks calm and serene when the snow is settled at the bottom. No disturbances and a clear view.  But that’s not what snow globes are designed for.  The beauty comes in the shaking. Flecks of snow descend, hit beams of light and beauty emerges.

That’s part of what it means to be a leader.  Leaders shake things up to see what beauty appears.

After my report to the leaders about our organization, I expected some disagreement and push back. I got some minor comments.  But the leaders among the group responded by saying, “that was exactly what we needed to hear.  Keep shaking and stirring us.”

There are a couple different interpretations of the rolling stone proverb listed above.  The one I like best says that people are always moving and looking for freshness and creativity.

There is a restless streak in leaders. We are always on the move in our own growth and in our leadership of the people we lead.  To allow moss to grow is to become stagnant.

For best results this week, shake a few things, stir a few others and watch what happens.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Take Stock of What Matters

hands together

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…

 A time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2b

My current leadership responsibilities include helping the organization I lead to take stock of how it is doing in light of the current reality.  To do that, we are closely examining our programs and people.

I’ve been thinking about what is important and what isn’t important in the life of the organization I lead.  I’m challenging the organization with the questions found in Peter Drucker’s small yet powerful read, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization. Here are the 5 questions:

  • What is our mission?
  • Who is our customer?
  • What does the customer value?
  • What are our results?
  • What is our plan?

The questions get to the heart of what is most important.  Not a bad thing to examine, both in organizations and in our personal life.

Answering the questions lead us to make some decisions about what to uproot and what to plant.  They help us move forward in why we are here.

The beauty of the questions is that they also apply to our personal relationships.  Our mission in life is to be as loving as possible.

Our “customer” is our friends and family.

Our friends and family value time with us, laughing, having fun, and sharing great experiences.

The result is ever deepening and more meaningful relationships.

So what is your plan to build the relationship with those who love you most?

Loss of relationships can come swiftly and unexpectedly.  All the success in business can’t make up for the time we lost with those we love most.

Build relationships and the rest will take care of itself.

Monday Quick Tip ~ We Are What We Think

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature. ~ Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor & Philosopher

Our life is what our thoughts make it ~ Marcus Aurelius

It’s true that garbage in leads to garbage out.  We can get a serious case of “stinking thinking” when we continually think about what could go wrong instead of the potential of what could go right.

As leaders, our thinking is critical to the attitude and morale of the people we lead.

If we feast our minds on a diet of the worst case scenario our actions will reveal our thoughts.  Playing it safe instead of going for it or giving up on pursuing our dreams started when we tasted the fruit of negativity.

Examples of stinking thinking include:

  • Overgeneralization – using words like “always” and “never”
  • Habitually looking for and finding the negative in people and situations
  • Discounting the positive
  • Predicting negative outcomes before giving it fair trial

When we give our minds clean, wholesome positive information and images, positive words and actions will follow.

The bottom line is that we become what we think about.

Think good thoughts this week and the people we lead will thank us.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Become a Dull Person

Image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fans of writer Stephen King will remember one of his main characters in The Shining repeatedly typing the phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  It’s a phrase that serves as a good reminder to us in our “get to work” world.

We struggle with “work-life” balance as leaders.  The people we lead struggle with it too.

If we don’t take some regular time off for rest, renewal and recreation, we will become boring and bored.  Life is more than a one dimensional existence.

Do you have some outside interests that restore your depleted energy?  When we take time to recreate our creativity is “re-created.” Our energy is renewed.

I recently attended the funeral of a 90 year old man.  His was a life well lived.  On the altar at the front of the church his family placed some personal mementos that symbolized his life.  A Pittsburgh Steelers cap, an American flag and a worn tennis racquet stood as gentle reminders that there was more to his life than the 9 to 5.

For people in the United States, today is the celebration of Veteran’s Day.  It’s a great day on many levels, the greatest of which we celebrate and remember the millions who have preserved our freedom in America. One of those freedoms is the pursuit of happiness.

We won’t take today for granted. If you are fortunate enough to have the day off we’ll use it to do something fun and remember the price that was paid to allow us to do it.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Silence is Golden

Man with tape

Image courtesy of Stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Silence is golden and I want to be rich” was my teacher’s way of getting us 2nd graders to be quiet and listen.  The phrase, “silence is golden” has been around for centuries.

Wise leaders know when to speak up and when to give their tongues a rest.  It is no secret that our mouth gets us into trouble. That’s not only true about our work life, but all of life.

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert, writes about getting along with the significant people in our life.  I love the three questions that she says we need to ask ourselves before we speak our mind:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me right now

“If the answer is yes to each one then it’s time to sit down and have a reasonable discussion. If it’s no then let it go.” (Check out Jacqueline’s post here)

We encounter circumstances daily when it is best to say nothing.

Silence is golden when:

Speaking will not help the situation but may make it worse.

We need to think clearly about an issue or problem we are facing.

We need to pray.  Prayer is not always talking, but about listening for the “still small voice.”

We need to focus and get undistracted quality work done.

We need sleep.  Noisy neighbors and barking dogs can make sleep a challenge.

This week there are opportunities for us to “be rich.”

Take time to enjoy the benefits of silence.