Friday, February 28, 2014

the power of hospitality

This past week our campus welcomed a team from our accreditation body, formally known as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  The team, comprised of faculty and staff from peer institutions, came to see how we were doing with our remote locations...and I am pleased to announce that they were more than complimentary on what they observed.  Several times throughout the visit, they complimented us on our hospitality and thanked us for treating them well.  When all was said and done, I believe it they left with a good impression of Concordia University Texas - both in how we run and operate the institution - and in how we treat our guests.

There is great power in hospitality because it creates a picture of who you are and how you make things happen.  When one feels welcome, they believe that all is well in paradise...when one is welcome, they are willing to forgive the little mistakes that can arise...when one is welcome, they feel a part of the family and will give you the benefit of the doubt...when one is welcome, they will work with you to achieve greatness...when one is welcome, there exists a camaraderie that builds bonds that last a lifetime.  So how might one exhibit this type of hospitality?  Three ideas:

  1. Create an hospitable environment: is the room/house/office/building clean?  have you taken the time to tidy up the room feel at ease? are the candles lit, the music playing, and the food ready? are you ready to receive the people and not running around at the last minute? is your desk cleaned off? are there enough chairs in the room? is the table set (feel free to apply that metaphor in multiple ways)? in other words, is everything in place so that your guests feel as if they are the most important people in the room?
  2. Do for one what you wish you could do for all: I used to be the type of person who felt I need to spend equal time with everyone at a gathering I hosted so that no one would feel left out.  I soon discovered that no one got my best and I receive nothing from the group.  Once I started focusing my attention on the person in front of me and spent as much time as was needed there, things changed.  Going deep with one or two people shows the crowd that you care - and that you believe each person is important enough to spend quality time with them (even if they do not get you that time around).
  3. Be authentically hospitable: if your are practicing hospitality only to get a result, your guests will see right through that.  However, if you are truly hospitable from the inside out, everyone will know that as well.  Having an hospitable spirit is one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Christian Bible - Romans 12:13 encourages others to "practice hospitality."  For me, this does not mean having to gregarious and outgoing; rather, it is the ability to really care for the other in a way that makes them comfortable, especially when they enter a strange place.
So do a quick inventory:
  • how hospitable is your organization to guests and strangers?
  • how hospitable is your home to friends and neighbors?
  • hos hospitable is your office to colleagues and guests?
  • how hospitable is your classroom to students?
  • how hospitable is your waiting room to vendors and patients?
  • how hospitable is your entrance and foyer to first time visitors?
  • how hospitable are you when encountering the stranger for the first time?
"Love must be sincere,  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need.  PRACTICE HOSPITALITY (Romans 12:9-13).

Friday, February 21, 2014

three little/powerful words

As I drove into the office this morning, I reflected on several conversations I had yesterday that were focused on three words - accountability, transparency and vulnerability.  Specifically, I had two conversations with groups of people that helped me better understand these three little - yet powerful - words.  People often use words quickly - and maybe even without thinking about what they mean.  I have colleagues and friends who are willing to challenge me on words I use - and in turn sharpen my personal thinking, which increases my ability to lead.

In the afternoon, the team on which I serve had a dialogue on our accountability to each other.  I have been feeling guilty lately about not getting tasks accomplished in a timely manner.  I can blame it on too much to do...I can blame it on tasks that do not play to my strengths...I can blame it on moving targets...I can blame it on the weather...I can even blame it on my own mother.  At then end of the day, I have let items slip - and so have some of my teammates.  So we had a great dialogue on how to be more accountable to each other and hold each other more accountable.  Of course the dialogue focused on all of the items we DON'T have done and the tasks we have NOT yet finished.  And then one of my colleagues reminded us of the other side of the ledger sheet - that the other side of accountability to taking "account" of the tasks we HAVE accomplished, the goals we HAVE made and the promises we HAVE kept to each other.  Having the ability to take account (read: account-ability) means balancing the books and not always focusing on one side over the other.  I realized then that if I am to hold others accountable (and hold myself accountable) then I need to do it in a manner that takes in the whole of the organization and the person...that which has not been done and that which has been done.  In other words, I need to balance the books - I need to keep track of my accounts - I need to improve my account-ability.

Later in the evening, while teaching in The Concordia MBA, I had the privilege of having Dr. Andy Neillie speak with my class.  Toward the end of the conversation, we discussed the difference between TRANSPARENCY and VULNERABILITY.  He put it this way - being TRANSPARENT means I will let you know things about me and about the other words, I will pull away the curtain so you can better see what is there.  Being VULNERABLE means that once I have let you see all there is  of me and the organization, I will now let you tell me what you see and how it might be improved.  Andy is a speaker who travels the country helping people move their leadership ability to the next level.  Part of his talk is to tell his personal story - and he does it in a way that moves others to action.  He is being TRANSPARENT with them and it works...but then he leaves.  The leader who stops there miss out on a very powerful tool to change herself, to change others, and to change the organization.  When one becomes VULNERABLE, they are giving others the permission to think deeper, to speak their thoughts, and to engage ins a dialogue that can move the individuals and the organization forward.  I think in a day and time where social media is ever present and information is easy to find, leaders and organizations will have to be more and more transparent.  It may even become the way of doing business into the future.  Vulnerability is still reserved for the courageous few who are willing to listen and change...who are willing to look deep inside themselves...who are not going to become defensive...who live and breathe the mission and vision of the organization...who have mastered the art of emotional intelligence...and who are willing to say. "I might be wrong."

Thanks to my friends and colleagues for holding me accountable to my words - and for reminding me of how three little words can also be so powerful.

Friday, February 7, 2014

the ART of running meetings

I find it interesting that so many people hate going to meetings.  I have decided that the only way I get my work done is through having else do we keep ourselves as an organization on track, make decisions, and move forward?  My work is done through meetings - and the work I do alone at my desk is merely the follow through of what happens at the meetings.

I was in several meetings this past week, both one-on-one as well as group meetings.  Some were wonderful...and some were painful.  As I reflected on them, I realized that good meetings have little to do with the SKILL of running meetings (though that helps) and more to do with the ART of running meetings.  Let me explain...

The SKILL of running meetings can be found in many books, articles, websites, and blogs written by very smart people and very efficient people.  All of these skills are necessary, from having an agenda to starting on time, to having action items, etc.  What's often missing is the hard part of running meetings - the PEOPLE ASPECT...and this is where the ART occurs.

The ART of running a meeting includes reading the people around you and keeping them engaged.  When a meeting is artfully run, participants will leave the meeting excited and energized...they will leave the meeting ready to get back into the fray...they will believe they, and the organization, are better because of the meeting...and they will leave the meeting looking forward to the next one.  How does this happen?  Here are a few thoughts for those of us who runs meetings:

  • Be really good at the SKILL of running meetings
  • Know (and let others know) your strengths and weaknesses in running meetings
  • Allow participants to hold you accountable to your strengths and weaknesses in running meetings
  • Watch people's engagement levels
  • Watch people's body language
  • Watch people's eyes
  • Monitor the ratio of how much you speak to how much the other participants speak
  • Create an atmosphere where people can disagree with each other -and with you
  • Check in with people who are TOO QUIET- don't assume they are not engaged, and let them have a voice as needed
  • Quiet down people who are TOO ENGAGED - don't let any one person dominate the conversation
  • Invite - and take - criticism from the team
  • Keep the internal check going all the time, asking if what you wanted to have happen is actually happening
  • Live with the tension of keeping on track and getting off track
  • Live with the tension of wanting the participant's full attention and knowing that they also need to be giving their attention to other things and people
  • Live with the tension of getting things done and building stronger relationships
  • Live with the tension that this is serious work and that teams should also play together
Special kudos to a great team of people who allowed me the privilege of practicing the ART of meeting this past week - the Concordia University Texas Remote Sites Team.  This group has a hard job in ensuring that the mission of our University is delivered in formats and spaces away from the traditional program on our main campus.  Thanks to Alexandra, DeEadre, Mary, Rebecca, Renae, and Tammy for their work, their dedication, and their willingness to meet together to move forward our mission of developing Christian leaders.