Archives For October 2012

Empowering Your Team

October 29, 2012 — Leave A Comment

I was enjoying a meal with a well-known Christian leader a few weeks ago. He is a brilliant man who leads a large team of great people. We were discussing a particularly entrenched dynamic on his team that he didn’t understand and didn’t like. It seemed every time he wanted the team to wrestle with a difficult challenge their organization was facing, the team would always haltingly poke around for the “right answer”–the solution that the team believed their leader had already thought of. To them, it wasn’t a discussion so much as a test to see if they could or would come up with the same answer the leader had already decided on.

Only, this really wasn’t the leader’s intent. He really did want them to wrestle together to find solutions to creative challenges, and he really didn’t already have an answer in mind. But no matter how often he would say that, the team didn’t seem to believe him. They would keep trying to uncover the “right answer” as he saw it rather than offering their own unvarnished opinions and ideas. All of this was doubly frustrating because this happened to be a team full of creative powerhouses!

So what was really going on here?

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“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.” ~ John Buchan

Being the senior leader of an organization is a tough job. Of course, if you are a senior leader, you already know this. People at all levels of your organization regularly place a diverse array of expectations on you and your time. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on how you should do your job, and even what your job should be. And they don’t mind telling you (and/or everyone else) when they don’t think you’re doing it right.

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4 Team Killers

October 15, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”~ Mother Teresa

For his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, researcher John Gottman observed the behaviors of dozens of married couples over a period of years to see if he could discover the specific behaviors that would accurately predict whether a marriage relationship would ultimately succeed or fail. Turns out, he could.

Although his research specifically targeted marriages, his findings have been immensely helpful for all kinds of relational systems–friendships, family systems, and professional working teams. Although Gottman documented many behaviors that negatively impact a relationship, his research revealed four in particular that inevitably signal the downfall of the relationship long term. He named these The Four Horsemen (as in, Of the Apocalypse). In my own team coaching work, I have noticed that whenever any of these behaviors is present on a team, it quickly shuts down creativity, engenders suspicion and mistrust, and severely heightens the overall stress level of the team. If the behaviors stay for too long, the team will collapse.

So what are the Four Horsemen?

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October 8, 2012 — Leave A Comment

Life is full of rhythms. This is by Design. Years. Seasons. The ebb and flow of the tides. Day and night. The circadian rhythms that govern our bodies’ daily cycle of consciousness and sleep. The more frequent cycle of hunger and activity that we pass through several times a day. Even our breath is governed by a rhythm that marks the passing of each moment of our lives. But the one kind rhythm we often miss—or perhaps sometimes ignore—is what author and spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton refers to as Sacred Rhythms. These are repeating cycles of active engagement in the work you are called to, followed by periods of withdrawal—solitude, rest, and restorative community. As any athlete will tell you, our bodies are not designed to sprint at full speed indefinitely. Neither are our souls. Just as our body needs both rest and refueling after a season of exertion, so do our hearts.

In two previous posts, I used a car analogy to talk about Leadership Capacity and Pace. So Rhythm is the third and final element that a leader needs to be intentional about in order to maintain health and balance in his or her life. In terms of the car analogy, if capacity relates to how much of a load you can carry, and pace to the speed at which you’re typically driving, then rhythm speaks to the regular maintenance cycle of the car as a whole.

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A few years back the often-entertaining and ever-controversial Rob Bell toured the country with his one-man presentation/show/sermon titled “Everything Is Spiritual.” I saw it here in Austin and enjoyed it quite a lot ~ though I must confess I was really more fascinated by how Bell presented his message (I mean, what was this exactly? A sermon? A one-man show? Performance art? The answer, I decided, was yes) than I was with the message itself. For INFJs like me, saying that everything is spiritual is like saying all humans breathe air. Not exactly a shocker…

For leaders in faith-based environments, however, holding too tightly to an “everything is spiritual” perspective can limit your ability to see all of what’s actually going on–both in you and in the people you lead–and thereby limit your ability to respond effectively to challenges and opportunities that inevitably come up.

Consider it this way: If one of the people you serve broke his leg in a car accident right in front of your house, what would you do to help him? I mean, you’d pray for him, sure, but that isn’t all you would do, right? Of course not. You’d call 911. You’d administer first aid. You’d stay with him and give him emotional support. You’d call his wife and anyone else who needed to know. And so on. See, in that situation you’d intrinsically know that the problem isn’t purely spiritual. It’s also physical and emotional…and those latter two conditions require a different kind of response, in addition to praying for him.

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