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!