Friday, December 2, 2016

creating your own rain delay

It was one month ago today that "divine intervention" sent a rain storm to Cleveland, Ohio right around midnight to give the Chicago Cubs 18 minutes to regroup, refocus, and regain their mojo as a team of destiny.  The 30 minutes prior to the rain delay saw yet another Cubs' Collapse, and those of us who had watched this all before had that sinking feeling.  The momentum had shifted to the Indians and we were doomed to say yet again, "Wait 'til next year."  But alas, the Gods intervened, sent rain which created an 18-minute delay and,thanks to the wisdom and leadership of Jason Heyward, the Cubs came back on the field ready to play and (drum roll please) won the game to become World Series Champions.

Most leaders do not get to experience such a divine intervention and need to create their own "rain delays" so that their teams, their organizations, their families, or even they are able to regroup, refocus and regain their mojo in the midst of a crisis.  So how might leaders do that?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • take time out to remember the positive things that have been happening in the midst of tough time...they are there, but are often not in the current focus of the group
  • send people home for the day - or at least out to a long lunch...trying to solve the problem in the midst of the daily swirl might not be the right answer at the time
  • call in a consultant who can look at things differently than everyone else is...having an outside set of eyes may make the problem or crisis seem not as bad as first thought
  • laugh...there is almost always some humor to be found.  And if it can be found, take the time to talk about it and laugh until you cry.
  • have a pep talk with the team...following the move of Jason Heyward, do not let people go off by themselves and sulk...call them together, remember the good things you have accomplished, reiterate the issue at hand, and then get back to work
  • time your decisions well...when everything else is falling down around you, the timing of the next decision or change is critical.  Just as in trying to hit a baseball, the paradox exists of timing is everything and swinging away. 
  • sleep on that idea...most tough situations do not need to be solved immediately.  Make sure you and others in the organization can have some flexibility built into the decision making process

Creating one's own rain delay can seem counter intuitive...leaders are taught and expected to act quickly (and are often rewarded for that type of action).  Consider what your internal voice is telling you about creating a rain delay and whether or not you will be able to make the decision when called upon.  If not, who else can you ask on your team to be the umpire who, despite what any one manager or player wants, makes the call on the next rain delay for your team or organization.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

leadership through a theological lens

As I was talking with a group of people from the Emerging Leadership Academy at HHSC this past week, the discussion came up of how one's view of God shapes one's leadership.  As I have thought more about that over the week, it has struck me how true this might be.  Here are a few examples of how one's view of God might impact leadership understanding and behavior:

  • there is no god...this view puts humans at the very center of the universe, a place that leaders might find themselves more vulnerable than they should be
  • there might be a god, but it is of no importance to me...similar to above, hubris is the downfall of many who find themselves in a leadership position
  • there is a god, but he/she has very little to do with my life...leaders are in positions of power and authority (often a god-like position); a theological view of a god who is not important could put a leader at a disadvantage if they see their role in that same way
  • god is a judgmental figure who punishes those who are bad and rewards those who are good...leaders can sometimes see their role in this same light and begin to base their actions toward others in a similar way
  • god is a nice person who looks over people and protects them from troubles and hardships...leaders can end up in a similar role, always rescuing others from making mistakes or not holding them accountable
  • god is someone I can call upon when I am in trouble...followers might see leaders like this and, if leaders accept that role, will find themselves fixing problems rather than moving the organization toward the future
  • god is both king and shepherd, one who rules the world with might and cares for people through love and mercy...this paradoxical view of god might provide leaders with a balance in their lives - or could lead toward dualistic behavior and actions
This list is not exhaustive by any means...nor is it meant to pigeonhole one's belief system with their style of leadership.  It is a reminder for all those in leadership roles that the better they understand themselves and their relationship with a greater being or entity, the more conscious they will become of how their style of leadership impacts others. I am a firm believer that everyone has a theological view of the world, and when leaders take the time to think through their view they begin to better understand themselves and be better leaders of others.

Friday, November 11, 2016

how to lead when more than half of your followers don't like you

Awkward blog title...awkward presidential campaign.  No matter who would have won this year's presidential election, they would have faced less than a majority of the voters choosing them as their next leader.  What a strange feeling - whether voted on or put in place by a board of directors (or an electoral college) - to take charge when so many of those who work with and for you are against you from the start.  What's a leader to do?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • don't be deluded...knowing that you are starting your role in this position is important toward understanding the job ahead
  • know who your supporters are...they will be your cheerleaders when others are actively working against you
  • know who your enemies are...most of those who don't want you are not your enemies - they just liked someone else better.  But know who your true enemies are so you can navigate the territory ahead
  • start by listening...and not just to your supporters.  Listen broadly and deeply to understand what people want and need
  • build coalitions...bringing people of differing opinions together will show everyone that you are a leader of and for the entire group
  • act quickly...do something to show that despite having less than a majority mandate you are a person of action.  People appreciate a leader who gets things done
  • accept your vocation...no matter how you might have been chosen for a leadership position, you are now the person to whom people look to be their leader.  LEAD...because that is your new responsibility
I will pray for the new president of the United States...I will pray for those he chooses to work with and for him...I will pray for the future of the people whom he leads...and I will pray for justice and mercy to be hallmarks of the presidency and the country, just as I have always done.


Friday, November 4, 2016

backs up against the wall leadership

Pinch me!  The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions for the first time since 1908.  For over 57 years I have been waiting for this moment, and when it arrived it felt so surreal...and perhaps is just now sinking in.  Even as I watched game 7 for a second time last night, I was still stressed watching the multiple times the team had their backs up against the wall, ready to once more become the lovable losers.  Only this year WAS different...this was not the same Cubs team with whom I grew up.  All three series had that moment when I wondered if it was over...and then they came back to win and move on.  Down 3 games to 1 in the World Series, the chances were slim - only five other teams had done that in all of baseball history.  They had their backs up against the wall...and prevailed.  All hail The Cubs...all hail Theo Epstein...all hail Ernie Banks...all hail Chicago!

Leaders often find their backs up against the wall, having to lead through a crisis that must be faced for the good of the organization.  In those times decisions have to be made that can make or break the leader and her team.  Based on what I watched over the past month, here is a list of items for leaders to consider when their back is up against the wall:

  • never give up...it sounds cliche, but I watched a Cubs team that never gave up.  Multiple times they came back from a seeming loss to win the game.  Down 3 games to 1, with all the odds against them, they never gave up,  Even at the very end, after blowing a lead in what seemed to be game that was theirs to win, they kept playing as they had all season...and eventually won the championship.
  • support those who got you there...many of the players who were all-stars during the season seemed to have lost their touch early in the playoffs.  Just as the experts were calling for them to be benched, Joe Maddon stuck with his best players and they delivered.  Showing confidence in your best people, even when their work is less than stellar for awhile, can pay big dividends in the end.
  • look for unlikely heroes...names like Contreras, Almora Jr, and Montero may never make it into the Hall fo Fame, yet they were key to the Cubs success over the course of the playoffs.  Given the right oportunity at the right time, people can rise to the occasion and do spectacular things...all they might need is a chance.
  • let others lead...when a rain delay was called after nine innings in game 7, Jason Heyward called the team together for "the talk" that changed momentum.  Manager Joe Maddon never saw this as as threat to his leadership; instead, he had created the culture where all could particpate in making the team better.
  • take a wild-hair chance...after being out for the entire season due to injury, Kyle Schwarber announced he was ready to play for the World Series.  Rather than laughing him off, the Cubs took a close look, invested in his return, and he became one foof the many heroes of the Series.  No way should he have played...and yet there he was, contributing to the end.  Risky decisions can be one's best decisions.
  • celebrate the end...when one's back is up against the wall, it does not stay there forever.  There is an end in sight, and no matter the outcome, it is time to celebrate the hard work that went into the process of making hard decisions.  As I watched the Cubs' players hug one another and rejoice, I too hugged those around me, popped open the bottle of champagne, and shed a few tears.  This was the moment I had been waiting for for 57 years, and it felt all that much better because the team's backs had been up against the wall.

If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs (or of baseball in general), take the time to thank the gods for removing the curse of the goat...and for all of you who read this blog regularly (or not), take a moment to watch this video and celebrate with the author on this historic occasion.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

waiting/acting-a leadership paradox

Once the decision to act has been made, the next decision is when to act...and is it better to act quickly and in short order or wait until the right moment - whenever that might be?  Whether it deals with relationships, families, small, or large organizations, or even in one's personal life, the decision to wait or act has consequences.  Western culture tends to have a bias toward action while eastern culture seems to have more of a bias toward waiting...and again, both biases have consequences.  For those in leadership positions, especially in larger organizations, deciding to wait or deciding to act has rippling consequences across the institution.  So what is the right answer?  How does one know whether to wait or act quickly?  Here are a few thoughts on what leaders can think about in these situations:

  • attempting to determine what, if any, harm might be done in the interim before acting
  • determining what else is happening in the life of individuals or the institution
  • considering if the situation might change for the better if one waits
  • thinking through all of the steps needed to act properly and having the time to accomplish those steps
  • taking the time to think through the consequences (known and not known) that might result from the action
  • having time to seek enough counsel from trusted friends and advisors
  • considering the message that is sent to others from acting quickly or waiting to act
  • reflecting on what it is about the person making the decision that is leading them to act more or less quickly
Here is the paradox - for each of the above considerations, there are seldom right and wrong answers...they all merely have differing results and consequences.  The leader uses her experience, her knowledge, her wisdom, and her gut to make the decision to wait or act quickly, and then moves forward.  Personally, I never what to be the one who is known for making rash decisions AND I never want to be the one that is known for waiting forever to decide and act.  Embracing and living out that paradox is not only a sign of competent leadership, it is also good and well for the unit or organization that is being led.  Making the decision is only the first step...deciding when and how to act on that decision may be more important that the decision itself.

Friday, October 21, 2016

what's the secret?

Whether it is in relationships, families, or organizations, secrets tend to keep people from functioning well...and it is often  the leader (formally or not) who asks the hard question, "What's the secret here and why are we not talking about it?"  Secrets exist for all kinds of reasons, including not knowing how to talk about them, being ashamed or afraid to talk about them, or not even knowing what the secret is and being unable to name it.  Because secrets (intentional or not) bring about tension and dysfunction, being able to tease out the secret and create a safe space in  which people can talk about the issue at hand are roles leaders must play.  How can they do that?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • be brave enough to ask the question...while the answer may be surprising and/or hurtful, getting the issue on the table is the first step in the process
  • create trust among the team...no one will share secrets with people they do not trust (that's why they are called secrets).  Spending time with the team in open dialogue is the critical first step in this process
  • don't be afraid of the truth...truth can hurt, and leaders know that the hurt can then lead to healing.  Most secrets, once they are brought out into the open, will not destroy an organization; the ones kept hidden might.
  • create a culture of permission and forgiveness...if people are punished for sharing secrets, they will start keeping even more secrets to themselves.  A culture that rewards the unmasking of secrets can become very powerful
  • understand that people are complex subjects...leaders should never assume they know their people well enough that secrets would not be kept hidden.  As a wise sage once told me, "people disappoint...and that's because they are people."
  • practice the art of compassion...sharing the secret in the room is difficult and includes a certain amount of vulnerability.  Showing compassion to those who reveal secrets and to those whom the secret affects will go a long way in solving the issue at hand
Secrets are all around us, whether we believe they are or not.  Here's the good news...not every secret has to remain secret IF the culture is such that secrets can be shared as needed.  And here's even the better news...once secrets are talked about they are no longer secrets, and relationships, families and organizations can begin to function well once again.

Friday, October 14, 2016

quick thoughts on a Friday morning

No one particular idea is coming to me this morning, so here are a couple of thoughts that have crossed my mind this past week when it comes to leadership:

  • when working to build a collaborative culture, how does one handle the paradox of "staying in one's lane" and "engaging with and questioning all parts of the organization?"
  • what happens when an organization sets rules and guidelines and then has to live within the boundaries of those rules and guidelines, even though the unintended consequences of those rules and guidelines could not even have been imagined when those rules and guidelines were developed?
  • what is the balance of responsibility for communication between those who have the information and those who want to know the information?
  • given all of the decisions organizations make on a daily basis, which ones are most important and how do people know whether or not enough time has been given to that decision?
  • similar to the third thought above, what is the balance of responsibility for giving feedback between those who have feedback to give and those who should be receiving feedback?
  • do those of us in leadership positions really understand leadership...or are we just hoping to get it right as we live out our positions?
  • similar to above, do those of us who follow those in leadership positions really understand what leaders are to do, or do we just expect them to act in certain ways based on our own needs and wants?
  • similar to the fourth thought above, when determining what an organization most needs at any given time, who should have the most say...and how does one know that any one person's or group's say is the right one at that time?
Just a week's worth of thoughts on leadership...I hope they spark some thinking in you as well!