Monday, December 15, 2008

fit leadership

Over the past 8 months, I have gone through the process of losing almost 50 lbs. Turning 49 this past May made me look at myself and say,"What do I want to do and be by the time I turn 50?" As I looked around me, I saw several people whom I admired who were both successful and fit. I began to put 2 and 2 together, and there began to be a realization that there might be a correlation between being fit and being successful. While I have yet to find detailed research on this topic, I did come across the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (thanks to my friend Ron Kessler for the recommendation) to provide enough evidence to convince me to GET IN SHAPE! And so I did.

May & June - portion control (10 lbs lost)
July & August - South Beach Diet phases 1 & 2 (20 lbs lost)
September, October & November - exercise, portion control and South Beach phase 3 (15 lbs lost)

As I near the end of December I am trying to lose the final 5, and putting together an exercise routine that will keep me at my ideal weight. Why am I doing all of this? Three reasons:

1. If there is a connection between being fit and being successful, then I want to be fit
2. When acting as a representative of my institution to the public, I should look the image of being fit and successful
3. As a steward of the gifts God has given me, one of those gifts is my health and well-being

Leaders should be fit - not just to be more successful, but to set an example for others to follow. In addition, leaders need an extreme amount of energy to do what is required on a regular basis. Getting and staying fit is not a goal - it is a lifestyle. It has taken me 49 years to figure this out - I hope that others will not wait so long and get going to be fit - and stay fit - and LEAD!

Friday, December 5, 2008

the problem with caring for people

Everyone has always told me to care for people - "if you take care of your people, they will take care of you"..."people are your most important asset." You have probably all heard the phrases and, like me, would find it hard to argue against these adages of leadership. But let's consider the dark side of caring for people.

As a leader, who/what am I most reponsible to/for? Is it the employees? Is it the customer? Is it the stakeholder? OR - is it the institution itself? Consider the fact the one is hired to lead an institution - not people. People come and go - people disapoint - people are people. And yet, the institution remains. It is the institution that people connect is the institution that is held up as the standard of is the institution that is maligned when people do stupid things...and it is the institution that will remain when the employees, the customers and the leaders are all long gone.

As leaders, it is easy to get wrapped up in our people, especially when their personal issues begin to overwhelm them . The employee who is going through a tough time at home...the employee who is suffering from illness or addiction...the customer who is having trouuble paying their bills...the stakeholder of influence who has become an embarrasment. All of these issues demand our time and energy - and when we focus on these people, the institution can suffer. Let's face it, how much time and energy do we spend on those people who do their jobs well, go above and beyond the call of duty, and are never in our offices complaining? Do we ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them? Do we sit in meetings considering our next moves for our BEST people? Imagine for a moment if we, as leaders, devoted as much time and energy to those people who positively contribute to the institution as we do on those who negatively affect the institution?

Are people important? ABSOLUTELY! But our role as leaders is to care for the institution - its growth and its future. We cannot allow people (and all of their issues) to get in the way of that calling. When they do, measures need to be taken to minimize those distractions and work to change their behavior. If those measures fail, then our role as leaders is to help those people move on so that the institution can once again focus on its mission - and not solely on its people.

Friday, November 28, 2008

thankful leadership

On this weekend of thanksgiving, let's remember that leaders need to be thankful people. Nothing says "follow me" more than saying thank you to someone for a job well done. Stopping by an office and saying thank you reminds the people you lead that you not only notice what they do, but that their contribution is appreciated. A simple thank you can last someone days, weeks, or even months...but don't let it go that long.

Saying thank you seems so easy to do - and yet is often unused by leaders. What gets in the way?
  • time - leaders get too busy to say thank you (meaning you are too busy to lead)
  • pride - saying thank you may mean that people might be doing a better job than the leader (which they should be doing if you are actually leading)
  • background - no one ever said thank you to the leader, so why should he or she say thank you to others? (get over yourself)
  • expectations - some leaders assume that people should do their job because it is their job - a thank you should be saved for anything that is over and above expectations (get real)

Writing thank you notes seems to have gone our of fashion, but even email thank yous are better than nothing. How hard is it to sit down at the desk, write a quick thank you to someone you just saw doing something well, and hit the send button? Your thank you will go a long way in helping that worker be more motivated the next time around.

So on this weekend of Thanksgiving, be sure to give thanks - not for all the wonderful things you have, or even for the people you lead, but to those whom you lead...and don't forget to keep saying thank you throughout the year.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I've heard the adage that "perspective changes everything" but I wasn't sure I believed it - until last week. I was talking with a mentor of mine and happened to mention that I was going to be involved in an event I was not looking forward to - in fact, I was loaded with negative feelings about this event. He asked me to name some of the perspectives in which I was viewing this event. I probed a bit on what he meant, and then just began to name a few of the the ways I was looking at the event.

I realized that after naming out loud a few of my perspectives, they were all negative - focused on other people, other influences, and other's behavior. Feeling I should name a "positive" perspective, I did so - AND THE LIGHT BULB WENT OFF! Suddenly it all made sense that one's perspective CAN change everything. I felt more in control of the event...I felt that there could be a positive outcome to the event...and I understood that I could make the event what I wanted/needed it to be based on MY perspective.

So what happened? It turned out okay! I went into the event with hope and anticipation, knowing what my role would be and how I would act in that role. Not only was I more positive about the event, I was more at ease throughout the event. And because of that, I was able to take on and maintain a leadership role that was beneficial to all involved. And the end result of the event turned out good...all because of a changed perspective.

Where might you need to find a new perspective today? Is it in a relationship with a co-worker or significant other? Is it in terms of your organization - or your role within that organization? Is it in a specific job that needs to get done? Is it about a meeting you have to have with a co-worker today? Is it about your children - or your own parents?

Consider multiple perspectives - and be sure to find one that is positive. Choose the perspective which will best help you build a relationship and accomplish your goals - and the goals of your organization. That seems to me to be a way to lead - and to make a difference in the lives of others and in the mission of your organization.

Friday, October 31, 2008

playing nice

My mother used to tell me to play nice in the sandbox. I don't always know if that was the best advice (I remember coming home with a few bloody noses), but I do know that if we as leaders want to accompish the tasks before us, we MUST play nice with those who work with us.

Let me give an example - sitting in a recent meeting, I watched as one of my colleagues blamed and berated others for not doing what he wanted them to do. Never mind that he had failed to ask (nicely?) for the information in the past - he merely assumed he should have the information and if he did not have it, then it was someone else's fault. I thought to myself, "just be nice - and you wil get everything you're asking for." Yes, my mother's voice was still in my head.

What does it look like when we're nice to others?
  • we ask questions rather than make statements
  • we assume that people are trying to help us rather than frustrate us
  • we say "please" and "thank you"
  • we ask ourselves whether or not WE might be at fault
  • we consider the reasonableness of our requests
  • we show empathy and consider the needs of the other person
  • we realize our needs and requests may not be the most important thing to others
  • we take responsibility for what we want and need
  • we don't use words like MUST or SHOULD or NEVER
  • we practice patience

Maybe my mom was right (of course she was). I think I will practice being nice to others, so I can get what I want and need. And the really cool thing is that when I do this, others will get what they want and nbeed from me also. Not a bad way to make a living!

Monday, October 27, 2008

get it done

Last week's blog focused on "sanctioned incompetence" and the need for leaders to be willing to confront those who prove to be incompetent. So what determines competence - especially in leaders? I believe thast leadership competence lies in the ability to GET THINGS DONE. That sounds simpler than it really read on.
Leaders are to be about the task of setting and communciating a vision...leaders are to be about the task of aligning the organization and its people to accomplish the vision...leaders are to be about the process of setting the strategy and direction for the organization to accomplish the vision. So what might this have to do with GETTING THINGS DONE?
I think that mostly this is about finding the right people to help get things done - to holding them accountable to get things done - to following up that things get done - and to reporting when things are done. GETTING THINGS DONE is really about making sure that the vision is lived out by everyone on a daily basis...making sure that the right people are in the right seats on the bus...and about making sure that operational plans are put in place so that strategies are accomplished.
What makes this difficult? Getting involved in the day-to-day tasks that keep one from focusing on the big picture...spending time on day-dreaming (as opposed to real dreaming)...trying to do it all oneself...not inspecting what one is expecting...not measuring one's activiites against the get the idea.
People are watching and asking whether are weas leaders are GETTING THINGS DONE? Or are we merely frustrating those around us by floundering around with more talk than action?

Friday, October 17, 2008

sanctioned incompetence

Last weekend I had the privilege and opportunity to attend the Catalyst Conference in the Atlanta area with 8 of my students from Concordia University - they were all from our Thrivent Scholars Program and this was the culmination of that experience from the past year. One of the speakers we heard was Dave Ramsey, a financial guru who comes from the Christian perspective. Dave's talk was on the 5 things that destroy unity - and the final "thing" was what he entitled SANCTIONED INCOMPETENCE.
We all know what this is - and we all can name people in our organizations that should have been gone a LONG time ago, but have not been confronted with their lack of competence within the job into which they have been placed. For those people who are incredibly competent and work hard to make a difference for their organizations, this is not only demoralizing but does, as Mr. Ramsey pointed out, destroy any sense of unity - and lack of unity leads to lack of production.
Why is it that so many people are allowed to continue when their supervisor knows they are incompetent, everyone else knows they are incompetent, and they themselves know they are incompetent (okay, maybe they don't know, because if they did know they were incompetent, they would probably NOT be incompetent). I think it comes to a very simple answer - people are afriad to confront. It is not easy to say to someone "you are not doing a good job and you need to improve or you will be fired." And yet, as Mr. Ramsey pointed out, leaders who won't confront aren't really leaders. For the sake of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; for the sake of the best workers in the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent.; for the sake of the stakeholders of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; for the sake of the future customers of the organization, leaders need to confront those who are incompetent; and for the sake of those who are incompetent, leaders need to confront them so they can find a better niche for themselves and be a whole lot happier and more productive.
As leaders, let's step up to the plate and confront those in our organization who just aren't cutting it - they may need training; they may need encouragement; they may need a new position; they may need a vacation; or they may need to go. Whatever it takes, let's get rid of sactioned incompetence!