“Nine Lies About Work”

Nine Lies About Work” is an excellent book by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall that address nine common misconceptions that are a bit faddish in the organizational world right now and they quickly get to the heart of the matter in this book.

This is a book I would recommend adding to your library.

do you have a strong organizational culture?

Sinek on culture

“Pixar: How to Create a Creative Culture”


clarity – a key component of organizational health

ClarityGood morning!

Recently, I had the opportunity to do some teaching on Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage (an excellent book by the way). The book is focused on organizational health and a major theme running through the book is the need for clarity. It seems obvious, but so few organizations/leaders actually achieve clarity.

Leaders owe clear and consistent direction to those they lead – without clarity people flounder and so will the organization. Read some of the following quotes:

“Unfortunately, most of the leaders I’ve worked with who complain about a lack of alignment mistakenly see it primarily as a behavioral or attitudinal problem. In their minds, it’s a function of the fact that employees below them do not want to work together. What those executives don’t realize is that there cannot be alignment deeper in the organization, even when employees want to cooperate, if the leaders at the top aren’t in lockstep with one another around a few very specific things.

No matter how many times executives preach about the “e” word in their speeches, there is no way that their employees can be empowered to fully execute their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leaders across the organization.” –  Lencioni, Patrick M. (2012-08-21). The Advantage, Enhanced Edition: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business (pp. 74-75). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition.

“What would happen if we could figure out the one thing you could do that would make the highest contribution?” I asked him. He responded sincerely: ‘That is the question.’ ” – Mckeown, Greg (2014-04-15). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Kindle Locations 171-172). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

We owe it to others to provide them clarity about where we are going and how we plan to get there – confusion and ambiguity do not produce organizational health and effectiveness.

So – today -, how are you going to provide your team even greater clarity about where you are headed?

Have a great week!


changing the culture – what’s first?

Good morning,

Last week I wrote a post about the book Mission Drift and shortly afterwards received an email from a friend thanking me for the post, but then asking what do you do if you sense that is happening in your organization.

My first thought was about how to start changing others then realized that it starts with me. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how a Level 5 leader first “looks in the mirror” whenever faced with an organizational issue. So, if you want to change the culture, maybe the best place to start is with yourself.

Do you have the mindsets of humility, trust, dependency, and growth? Could you be an obstacle to the growth of others? What tone are you setting in your sphere of influence? Are you really growing and continuously developing or are you still dealing with default habits that keep you rooted in old practices?

Are you an encourager and developer of others or are you so consumed with your “thing” that you fail to invest in others?

So, maybe if we want to change the culture, we might want to begin with ourselves.

Take a look in the mirror.


mission true or mission drift?

Good morning! Still hoping it will one day actually be Spring here in the Midwest, but we have snow in the forecast for Tuesday!!

Last week, I did a brief post on the book Mission Drift and was asked by a friend of mine if there is mission drift, how do you get back on track? What I am going to do is take some key points from the book to talk about how you might be able to get prevent and even correct mission drift

First, this statement: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen.”

Read the following mission statement and then tell me who you think it applies to. “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of our life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.” Who did you guess? Would you believe that it is the founding mission of Harvard University? It’s original motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Now it is simply Veritas. Eighty years later Yale was founded to counter the drift seen at Harvard – we have seen how that has worked out over the years!

The Pew Charitable Trusts were founded by a devout Christian, Howard Pew, and he helped Billy Graham launch Christianity TodayHoward Pew created the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Today, the Pew Charitable Trusts fund Planned Parenthood and some Ivy League schools, but no longer do they support the seminary founded by Howard Pew. An astonishing example of Mission Drift.

However, there are ways to counter our natural tendency towards mission drift (as the authors note, since organizations are made up of by individuals, then this has to be addressed at the individual level). The authors talk about what it means to be a Mission True organization.

Mission True – the authors of Mission Drift give us several examples of what characterizes Mission True organizations.

1. They recognize that Christ is the difference

2. They affirm that faith sustains them.

3. They Understand that functional atheism is the path of least resistance.

“Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.”

Steps Mission True organizations take:

1. Seek clarity first.

2. Acknowledge that the pressure to drift is constant.

3. Realize there’s a point of no return.

4. Make hard directions to correct drift.

Please do realize that change does not equal drift. In fact, being Mission True necessitates that you change to continue to meet your mission.

Mission True Boards do the following:

1. Recruit carefully and prayerfully.

2. Hold the CEO responsible for the mission.

3. Follow standard board practices (Note: check out Boards That Lead).

4. Create policies and safeguards.

5. Remember the mission.

In regards to hiring, Mission True organizations:

1. Hire slow and fire fast.

2. Clearly define your approach to hiring based on faith.

3. Be consistent with your hiring policy.

4. Inculcate staff in your values and history.

Mission True organizations understand the importance of culture. They know that:

1. Small things matter.

2. Consistency counts.

3. Exemplars should be celebrated.

4. Embed spiritual disciplines.

Mission Drift is real and a threat to all organizations founded with a purpose. And there are ways to prevent and correct that drift.

As a leader you must be always aware of the danger and vigilant in quickly detecting and correcting mission drift when it begins to occur. Also, do not confuse changes of methodology with change in mission. Very often, change in methodology is exactly what is needed to prevent mission drift.

This is a key leadership task – what are you doing to prevent mission drift in your organization?


the gap = frustration

Lauren March sunshineGood Monday morning to you!

Question – have you ever been frustrated when something does not meet your expectations? Does it frustrate you?

Well, the conclusion I have come to is that the gap between expectations and reality is frustration.

Are your team members frustrated? Is there a gap between your stated values and your actual values? Many organizations have beautiful and inspirational value statements, but their actual or functional values are quite different causing frustration among their team.

So do a gap analysis. Find out how big the gap is between your stated values and the ones you actually operate by – you may be surprised.

Have a great week!


building a sustainable culture

“A sustainable culture is built from the inside out. It starts with leadership that places the highest level of importance on human beings and a corresponding premium on recruiting, hiring, and training – both academic and experiential – to equip and empower them.”

Dan J. Sanders in Built To Serve 

why do we do this to our people?

black-eyed susansGood Monday morning to you! I hope you are looking forward to a week of making a difference in your community this week.

“Our people are our greatest resource!” “We believe in our team!” “Our people make the difference!” “Teamwork is the key!”

How many times have you heard these, and others of this sort, platitudes? And how often have you heard them from organizations that talk a good game, but that don’t really “walk the talk”?

I have had the privilege of serving in / working in various types of organizations: the military, the defense industry, manufacturing, state government, para-church ministry, on church staff, business investing, and in higher education as an adjunct professor of management. I have also served as a consultant to non-profits, Christian colleges, and ministries. So I have seen how people are treated in a wide variety of contexts.

Unfortunately, one of the most common threads, or themes, I have observed is that we really don’t know how to take care of our people well. One particularly galling thing to me is when “loyalty” is touted as a high value within an organization and the reality is that “loyalty” is only one way – to the organization. Organizations often “preach” loyalty to their employees or staff, but with the least little hiccup in the economy or other “speed bumps” the first remedy to be discussed is layoffs or some other way the people of the organization can absorb the cost and not the institution itself.

However, the biggest issue of mistreatment (yes, it is mistreatment!) of our people that I have observed over thirty-plus years is that of burning out people by our spoken and unspoken demands for more and more work. With the advent of the Internet, laptops, and smartphones, we expect our people to always be available for whatever thought or question we might have for them at anytime of the day or week.

In the business world, it is an unspoken standard of commitment to the company or the willingness to “pay the price” to advance. In the church, ministry, or non-profit world, it is the unspoken measure of your dedication to the mission, a measure of your spiritual dedication, or your willingness to “die to self”. It’s amazing how when those types of things are talked about, they always seem to be related to the needs of the organization. Of course, it is only for “a season” or this crisis, or this special deadline, but the problem is – there is always another “special season”, another crisis, or another important deadline. So, ‘redlining” our people becomes the norm instead of the exception (read an earlier post on this subject of redlining your organization).

The trend of overworking and burning out employees and staff has been exacerbated by the state of the economy. Business, churches, and non-profits alike are demanding more and more from their people in order to cut costs. What they are really doing is actually damaging their people. Let me say that again – you are actually, literally damaging people and their families by burning them out. For some, it can be a lifetime of damage. For those of us in the ministry or non-profit world, you are alienating people from your cause.

The irony is that this only harms your organization. Any benefit derived by the organization is short-lived at best and the long-term impacts are costly indeed.

In the Inc. blog post “Stop Burning Out Your Employees” they put it this way:

“To put in it simple terms, working your team flat-out until they fail is going to hit your bottom line. Hard.

It’s far preferable over long-haul to help your employees create balanced, sustainable lifestyles for themselves.” 

So my thought is this – quit talking about how your employees / staff / missionaries / volunteers are your most important resource. In fact, QUIT calling them a resource – people are NOT a resource. Money, buildings, equipment, and etc. are resources. People are unique creations of our Lord, made in His image, that are your organization. Organizations are groups of people working together for a common mission. The buildings, money, tools, equipment, and so on are just the tools for these groups of people to accomplish their missions.

So, quit burning out your people and asking for loyalty that is one-sided and only for the benefit of the institution. Start looking at your “human resources” as people that need to be cared for and developed. Quit looking at yourself as an “organizational leader” and begin viewing yourself as a shepherd of precious people, created in God’s image, for whom Jesus came and suffered and died for so that they, we, would have eternal hope.

“He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

So, become a shepherd of those precious people created in God’s image that have been entrusted to your care (leadership). As a shepherd leader begin to live out the command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Instead of burning out and using up your people, nourish, protect, and grow them for a lifetime of impact and effectiveness.

Peace and grace to you this week,

2 key principles for a healthy culture

leaf 2 Lauren AUG 2013Good morning – I hope your week has gone well so far!

You have heard me say often about how important it is to have a healthy culture within your organization. I am becoming more and more convinced of that idea and realizing that it is the key difference in organizations. It is also intensely personal as we spend so much time at work. A healthy workplace nurtures people, an unhealthy workplace wears people down. So here are two more principles for you to consider as you work to make your organization healthier.

1. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses them will obtain mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13. Transparency in any relationship is important – the key is, is it a safe place to be transparent? As a leader, you have to set the tone and demonstrate vulnerability. Demonstrate that you too make mistakes and are willing to share them so that others may learn from you. Mistakes and failures are great learning tools – for you and others. So set the tone and be willing to share your failures and what you have learned and make it safe for others to do so as well.

2. “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.” – Proverbs 28:23. We all have blind spots and we all have unhealthy behaviors and we need one another to speak into those areas of our lives. However, we often don’t do so. I call it being nice versus being kind. In this case being nice is an artificial way of keeping harmony. You are careful not to make anyone feel uncomfortable – especially yourself. The result is that while you are smiling at someone and praising them, they are moving forward in some type of destructive behavior. Often the kind thing to do is the most uncomfortable one – to confront someone about a bad behavior. Your motivation is the key here – are you rebuking them because they are irritating you or because you want them to grow and have even greater impact?

Transparency and the willingness to confront someone because you care about them. Two behaviors that will greatly strengthen your culture.

Enjoy the rest of your week!