Archives For Team Dynamics

We’re All Wrong

April 28, 2014 — Leave A Comment

“We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.” ~ The Talmud

When coaching leadership teams, one of the foundational agreements we make going into the work is “Everybody gets to be right…partially.” For any team to become fully empowered and effective, this agreement is essential, because it allows for the basic fact that nobody sees the complete picture of any situation or challenge facing the team, and that every person’s perspective includes some truth that the team needs to hear and integrate into its decision-making.

Beneath the clever verbiage, it’s really just a way of agreeing to be humble with each other…to not assume that you (and you alone) have all the answers and see everything perfectly, or that “they” (that is, whoever sees things differently) are utterly misguided and wrong (and possibly evil) and have nothing of value to teach you at all.

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“What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” ~ Daniel Goleman

Back when my generation (GenX) was just coming of age, many of the societal prophets of the day predicted that one of the key cultural changes we would champion (and even demand) would be the shift away from top-down, hierarchical models of leadership in favor of flatter, more egalitarian approaches to work and life, and even religion.

Boy, were they right. 🙂 Our generational battle cry could well be, “The king is dead! Long live the autonomous collective!”

(Get the reference?)

By the way, this is a surprisingly insightful conversation between two generations: Boomers and GenX…


We’ve made this shift over the past 50 years, and as we have, leaders (and leadership as a skill) has had to redefine itself. What made for a great leader in 1970 is not the same as it is today. One thing that’s become increasingly clear in this transformation is that emotional intelligence matters more than ever in leadership. In today’s leadership landscape, the best leaders have strong emotional intelligence skills. Those that don’t suffer, struggling to manage an ever-shifting emotional landscape they have trouble perceiving, much less engaging in any meaningful way.

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dis-agreeI recently had this conversation with a faith leader of a large organization. I thought I’d share it with you, because this is an issue lots of faith leaders struggle with: How do you deal with voices of resistance within your own staff?

“I think it’s time I laid down the law!” he said. “All these complainers spouting their objections are just slowing us down. I can’t lead by consensus. We’ll never get anywhere that way.”

“What do you mean by ‘laying down the law’? I asked. “What would that look like?”

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coachingOne of the essential skills leaders often struggle with is how to give effective feedback to team members ~ and by “effective,” I mean feedback that…

  • accurately reflects the good and bad of a team member’s performance,
  • identifies specific ways they can improve,
  • inspires them to do better, and
  • doesn’t shut them down or leave them so deflated they just give up.

I believe there are 10 essential steps to giving great feedback. (I know, 10 sounds like a lot! But if giving great feedback were easy, everybody would already be doing it, right?). Here goes:

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“Being well-taught is not the same thing as being transformed.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

All people everywhere possess a natural, inherent bias in favor of status quo. We resist change, and prefer keeping things just as they are because change involves risk and stress (even good change, or change from worse to better), and we are naturally wired to reduce risk and stress wherever and whenever we can.

The problem with this natural bias, of course, is that all true learning and discovery, all personal development and growth, and every experience of authentic transformation, happens ~ and can only happen ~ outside that protective “status quo” bubble.

Simply put, you cannot be changed and be comfortable at the same time.

Authentic transformation happens outside your comfort zone. Risk and stress are intrinsic aspects of all true personal growth and transformation. There is no way around this fact: To be changed, you must first be uncomfortable, and you must remain in that uncomfortableness for as long as it takes for the change to become, in essence, the “new normal.”

It’s one thing to study Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). It’s quite another to actually surrender all our money to God, or (for many of us) to surrender even a tithe.

Yet it’s through just such transformational experiences that all meaningful change and growth happens.

In fact, recent studies in neuroscience have revealed that in order for any learning experience to be truly transformational (i.e. life-changing), it must include these four elements:

1. It must be interruptive & immersive ~ The experience must take people out of their established routines and immerse them in something novel and different. For example, relocating a group from its regular gathering place to someplace different or unexpected, such as a riverbank or downtown coffee shop.

2. It must be emotionally compelling ~ The experience must matter to people on an emotional level. This can be accomplished in several ways ~ for example, by engaging their compassion (as in feeding or clothing the homeless in your community), by challenging their fear (as in spending the night in prayer alone in the wilderness), or by appealing to their sense of adventure (as in inviting them to join a mission team to an exotic location)…to name a few.

3. It must be kinesthetic ~ Counter to the practice followed by public school for many decades, we learn best when our bodies are actively involved. This could be as simple as taking a class on a walk as you teach a lesson. The best experiences, though, engage the body in ways that mirror or amplify the primary lesson of the experience, such as taking a trust walk or a wilderness hike as a study on what it means to walk with God.

4. It must include an “anchor memory” ~ When people experience significant change, they almost always point to a specific moment or memory when “everything changed.” In the same way, transformational experiences must include a ritual, shared experience, or other kind “crossing the threshold” moment people can later use as their “anchor memory” ~ the defining moment they identify as the turning point when everything changed.

Now, consider all the educational programming pieces currently in play in your church or faith-based organization. This includes any Sunday morning program (if you’re a church), or any leadership development or training programs you have in place.

Based on the elements listed above, which of your programs are the most authentically transformational? Which are the least transformational? I encourage you to make a list, from most to least, then for each explore this question:

How could we redesign this to make it more authentically transformational?

Interruptive, emotionally compelling, kinesthetic, and memorable ~ 4 key ingredients for designing learning experiences that are not only “accurate,” but life changing.

If you’d like help redesigning your education, training and events to be more transformational, drop me a line. I’d love to help you explore the possibilities.


“To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” ~ George MacDonald

In my previous post, I listed four primary ways trust gets broken in any relationship. Turns out, this is an alarmingly easy thing to do. So what do you do once trust is damaged?

How do you rebuild trust? Here are four practical suggestions:

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“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~ Steven Covey

What does someone have to do to lose your trust?

You might think the answer that just popped into your head is the same one everyone would have, but that’s not necessarily true. Turns out people define trustworthiness in different ways, and watch for different behaviors to determine whether someone is worthy of trust.

As Ken Blanchard says in his book, TrustWorks:

“Trust is in the eye of the beholder.

What does that mean? It means that you can be completely unaware that your behavior is eroding the trust of those around you. What looks like fine behavior to you could make your friend, spouse, boss, employee, or constituent downright wary.” ~ Ken Blanchard, TrustWorks

In Trustworks, Blanchard identifies four primary categories of “trustworthiness” people use as a filter for determining who is or isn’t worthy of trust. He calls it the ABCD Model of Trust:

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