Thursday, March 24, 2016

being the CEO

This past week I spent four days in Phoenix, Arizona with 9 other people watching three different spring training baseball games.  The attached picture was taken Monday afternoon as we were nearing the place where we had parked the car.  Yes, we had attended a Chicago Cubs game…yes, I am a life-long fan of the Chicago Cubs…and yes, I was obnoxious throughout the entire day…(and no, the Cubs did not win, but they looked good while the starters were in the game). 

The person who took the picture said to me that based on this picture, he would probably buy a used car from me…which got me to thinking about the title of this blog.  I am not going to write about being the Chief Executive Officer…this blog is about being the Chief Evangelism Officer.  With apologies to Guy Kawasaki who first made this term popular, the head of any organization must be more than the executive in charge…he or she must be their biggest cheerleader as well, sharing the story and enrolling others in the mission and vision of the institution.

I have often said that when I meet new people, they will know within the first 10-15 minutes that I am a Chicago Cubs fan telling them all the reasons I think they should consider becoming.  I hope that I am the same way for my institution, letting people know that not only am I the President and Chief Executive Officer at Concordia University Texas, but that I am the institution’s biggest fan as well…and then invite them to join me as a fan of CTX!

What can leaders do to become the CEO (Chief Evangelism Officer) of their institution?  Here are a few ideas:
  •   When meeting new people, don’t always lead with your role and title…let people know more about you so that they are the ones who begin to ask about what you do and why you do it
  • Have your stories ready…just as I relate stories of growing up as a Cubs fan, so my stories about my institution should be about the great things that happen and why that gets me excited
  • Understand that people are fans of other institutions…while I find it hard to comprehend why someone would NOT be a Cubs fan, I have come to appreciate people’s love for other teams (with the exception of the Cardinals, White Sox, and Mets).  Letting others talk about why they love a particular institution allows you to talk about what is important to you
  • Wait for the right moment before asking people to join you....they first need to see and understand your passion, before they can even consider joining you.  It may take several conversations before you are able to ask them to be a part of what you love so dearly
  • You cannot be a lukewarm fan.  Just as I have always believed that there were no such things as ex-Cubs fans (however I did meet one this week), leaders need to be “all in” regarding their institution.  Someone once asked me if I would send my child (if I had one) to Concordia…the unequivocal response was a strong YES!  How could I work for a place that I did not fully believe in?
  • Finally, understand that a proud humbleness will serve you best as a Chief Evangelism Officer.  I am the proudest of Cubs fans…and the fact is that my team has not appeared in a World Series since 1945 or won a championship since 1908. Staying humble while being proud provides a certain winsomeness towards which others will be attracted.
Are you a CEO for your organization?  If not, what is keeping you from becoming one?  All organizations need multiple CEOs, despite one’s title.  Good luck with your attempts at evangelism for your organization.

Friday, March 11, 2016

competing ideas

When you assemble a team of really smart people, you will have competing ideas...there is no way around it.  This past July, as I launched my new team, I knew I had a group of really smart people in the room - people who were much smarter than me.  What I didn't realize was that when trying to solve an issue, they would all have different ideas, then look at me to make the decision.  The hard part was that all of their ideas were viable options and my job was to navigate the process of making that final choice.  Sometimes I would let them vote...sometimes I would let them wrestle it out...sometimes I would delegate the decision...and sometimes I made the decision myself.  So what is a leader to do when she is surrounded by competing ideas and is the one everyone is looking at?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Ask a lot of questions - be sure that you fully understand the concept in front of you and have enough information to actually make an informed decision
  • Give yourself 24-48 hours to make the decision (if you can) - this gives you time to cogitate on the idea and perhaps bounce it off of other trusted advisers
  • Play the "what if?" game with the team - what are the possible outcomes of each idea, and what are the risks associated with each one
  • Do your research -discover what other organizations have made similar types of decisions and the impact it had on them
  • Have a decision making matrix that can be used - for my team, we ask the question of impact on both mission and margin.  There are multiple ways to think about this for different organizations - having a tool helps the process move forward
  • Embrace the status quo - I know that seems paradoxical to leaders, yet at times it is best to not make a decision and move on.
  • Make the decision - sometimes it is best to just make a decision and move forward, knowing that the consequences (known and unknown) will occur.  
One final thought - once the decision has been made amidst these competing ideas, it is important to achieve consensus among the group and have their buy in.  My team has a practice of using what we call the "fist of five" where once a decision has been made, we all hold up our hands and show our buy-in or not...five fingers means "I am all in"...four fingers means "I have some reservations and am able to support us moving forward"...three fingers means "I am not sure about this decision and would like to talk about it some more"...two fingers means "I really cannot support this decision" and if any one holds up two fingers or less, we as a team go back to the process

I love being surrounded by really smart people and I love having competing ideas at the table.  It sometimes takes a little more time, but I believe that this process makes for better problem solving and stronger organizations.

Friday, March 4, 2016

life is short

Yesterday was hard...I spoke at the funeral of a 21-year old, the daughter of a good friend and colleague.  The funeral home was packed with friends of the young lady as well as numerous friends and neighbors of the family.  Many, many tears were shed as people remembered the too short life of this beauthful young woman and the relationship they had with her.  I found myself weeping for the parents as they wake up every day knowing their daughter is no longer with them.  While there is hope in the resurrection and the promise of eternal life though faith in Christ, there is also the loss and mourning that accompany those of us left here on earth.

Life is  short...sometimes too short and once that life is gone, we have no recourse to gain it back.  As I consider what that means for those in leadership roles, it strikes me that leaders should do all they can to help make life meaningful for those who work with them...and for themselves.  Life is too short to not care about those we spend much of our day with.  Life is too short to not have a bigger purpose on which to focus our energies day after day.  Life is too short to always worry about the few people who make life miserable for the organization.  Life is too short to not take time to laugh and play during one's work day.  Life is too short to not make decisions and let an organization and its people flounder around.  Life is too short to ignore the personal lives of others and expect them to leave that part of their lives at home.  Life is too short to not celebrate the good things that happen at work with a party and celebration.  Life is too short to work 24/7 and not take time for one's self and family.  Life is too short to not have work that energizes and excites.  Life is too short to not put together a team of people with whom you like work.  Life is too short to not take the time to reflect on one's work, pausing every now and then to enjoy the moment and consider the gift one's work might be.  Life is too short to not be thankful for the work one has been given...and to look for that thankfulness and joy in the faces of others.

If life is so short, then let's ask ourselves the quesions: What can I do today to more fully engage with and enjoy my work?   What can I do today to help others more fully engage with and enjoy their work?  And finally, what can I do today to ensure that my friends and family get the best of me so that together we may more fully engage with and enjoy life together?