appreciate the weirdness!

Picture by Lauren Allen

People are incredibly, and frustratingly unique and complex. As a good leader, we are not to to to stamp out that weirdness – that uniqueness – but to maximize it to make strong teams.

“Well-roundedness is a misguided and futile objective when it comes to individual people; but when it comes to teams it’s an absolute necessity. The more diverse the team members, the more weird, spiky, and idiosyncratic they are, the more well-rounded the team.”

Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall in “Nine Lies About Work”.

Embrace the weirdness of your team members to build a well-rounded team.

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Trust” – Patrick Lencioni

“Help Your Employees Develop Humility”

how do you judge others?

Christmas ornament 2013Good morning! Icy and slick roads up here in northeastern Indiana today. I may be a tad late for work today as I have tried to drive on slick roads before and it was not an enjoyable experience.

How do you judge others? How about yourself? And what does that have to do with teamwork?

One saying that I have heard and have found to be generally true is that “We judge others by their behaviors and ourselves by our intent”.

Another thing that happens is that when we lack self-awareness and others-awareness we will often attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of our teammates to their intentions or as a character issue while explaining away our behavior to the circumstances or our environment. This attitude or approach is toxic to teams.

We are all different – wondrously made by our Creator and in His image. Be careful to not attribute intent or character issues to things that are simply personality characteristics and they simply irritate you as you have a different personality. This is called the fundamental attribution error by the way.

Start assuming good intent with your teammates. Become a student of them, learn about their personalities and histories so that you understand how and why they react as they do. Do the same for yourself.

You will have a much stronger team if you do.

Blessings on your week!

praise or criticism – which is more effective?

pink flower - Lauren JUL 2013Good Monday morning to you! It was a spectacular day here in NE Indiana yesterday!! I hope you have a great week ahead. I am excited as I get to travel to Nacogdoches, TX this Friday and spend some time with the leadership of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church.

In a recent LinkedIn article entitled “Praise or Criticism: Which is better?” the author, Charles Duhigg, contends that criticism is a much more powerful motivator that praise. Actually, it is not really criticism that is more powerful, it is the fear of failure or embarrassment that he says is powerful – “And yet, we also know that fear of failure is one of the greatest motivators – and that failure is only real when it is accompanied by consequences like getting dressed down in front of 433,999 of your peers.

Is that really true? Is criticism really that much more powerful than praise? Actually, it seems the question is, is fear the best motivator? Probably for the short-term – probably not for the long-term and especially not for retention of high quality talent. Who really wants to spend most of their time at work being “motivated” on a regular basis by the fear of criticism and/or failure?

Maybe the real issue lies in another statement he makes,”. . . we love to receive praise, but usually we’re not certain what message, precisely, we should take from it. On the other hand, when someone points out our flaws, we realize immediately that something needs to change.” Note the difference – praise tends to be general and nonspecific while criticism is specific and therefore actionable.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck points out how we often tend to praise someone’s attributes instead of their behaviors which can result in unhealthy behaviors later. For example, your daughter comes home from school with an excellent grade on her test. We will often say things like “Great job, you are so smart!“. Sounds nice right? The problem is the child will then be concerned with “being smart” and then often later will actually avoid difficult situations where she could fail and thus prove she’s not smart. However, if you were to say something along the lines of “Well done! You were so diligent in studying and preparing for this test and you didn’t give up even when you first could not understand the concepts!” Now you are reinforcing a behavior – one that focuses on them being diligent and not giving up versus simply being smart. You are reinforcing behaviors that will serve them well in all areas of life.

The same holds true in the workplace. We will say things like “great job on that report!”. Well, what does that really mean to the person hearing that remark? For a short bit, they feel good, but how does it reinforce the behaviors you want in your organization? Maybe you say something more like, “Great job on that report, I especially appreciate your attention to detail and your thorough research as evidenced by the number of references you included. Those things give so much more credibility and reflect our core value of excellence.” Here you are reinforcing a specific set of behaviors that are important to your organization instead of just a vague pat on the back.

We need to be both Affirmed and Challenged. Both are important as we lead others and both are important for us as leaders. Incorrect behaviors need to be challenged and good behaviors need to be reinforced. The key is that the affirmation or challenge be specific so that people know what to do with it.

What do you think? What is more powerful? What is the place of praise and criticism in the workplace?

Blessings on your week!

Being Nosey Makes You A Better Team Member

Well good morning and welcome to the middle of the week!Barn - Keely's photos

Recently I received some strange advice – if you want to be a better team member, then be nosey! I don’t know about you, but I was taught that being nosey was impolite. However, after it was explained to me it makes perfect sense.

I love our country and our people, but there are some things about our culture that just get in the way sometimes, especially when we take a good trait too far. We value the individual greatly and we are individualistic. There are some benefits to this as shown by our history, however, there are also downsides when it is taken too far. We have developed a mentality that everything is private  and we should not “meddle” in other people’s lives (does that seem odd to you that while we are so private one-on-one,we share too openly online? Weird). In doing so, we have lost touch with one another – we don’t really know each other. To be an effective team, you have to trust one another. To trust someone, you need to know them and them know you.

So, get nosey – find out the birth dates of your teammates, find out about their families, their dreams, their frustrations, and so on. Get nosey and get to know those you work with and get transparent. Lead the way with sharing about who you are and see what happens. You just might see trust starting to build on your team.

What other ideas do you have for building trust on your team?

Have a great Wednesday!

How You Impact the Mood and Behavior of Those You Lead

Good morning to you on this fine Friday morning. I hope you have something fun planned with you family for the weekend!blue sky by Keely

As the leader of your team, most often you are the one directly responsible for the good or bad mood of your team members. Surprising? According to this Harvard Business Review article, “The leader’s mood and behaviors drive the moods and behaviors of everyone else. A cranky and ruthless boss creates a toxic organization filled with negative underachievers who ignore opportunities; an inspirational, inclusive leader spawns acolytes for whom any challenge is surmountable. The final link in the chain is performance: profit or loss.

Your emotional style sets the tone for those you lead – you have a direct and powerful impact on the mood and behaviors of the ones you lead. I can still remember when I was about to become the commander of an Army unit, the admonishment of my battalion commander. First he said, “Your duties are simple, you are responsible for everything your unit does or does not do.” Then he went on to say that an Army unit eventually takes on the personality of its commander and if I did not like how it was operating, to go look in the mirror for the cause of the problem. The bottom line is that your emotional style will become the emotional style of your team. The researchers call it mood contagion.

What that means is that your emotional intelligence is critical to your success as a leader. It means you have to come to a deep understanding of yourself; your strengths, weaknesses, conflict management style, preferences, tendencies, how you project yourself, and all the other aspects of who you are – good and bad. By the way, you can’t do this alone. You need to take the various excellent personality assessments that are out there and then have a knowledgeable person walk you through what the assessments mean. You need to have a personal 360 SWOT done by those in your life. It won’t be fun, but it will be oh so valuable!

As a leader (actually everyone), you need to learn to manage your inner life. To lead effectively you need to be an authentic person that sets the proper emotional tone for your team. Your emotional leadership sets the tone for your team and is one of the most important factors for the success of your team.

So in what ways do you set the emotional tone for your team? How are you managing your inner life?

Have a great weekend!

A Fundamental Error You Often Make

Good morning! It is cold and getting colder up here in northeastern Indiana! Below zero temperatures are on the way according to the weather reports.MI Sunset by Lauren

You know, being a leader and a good team member is hard work – even when everything is going right! But because we are flawed human beings, there are things that get in the way and make effective teamwork even more difficult. The frustrating thing for me is that most often, the problem is with me – and you.

One of the common issues we have to overcome is what called the fundamental attribution error. Basically we have a tendency to attribute the negative, irritating, and frustrating behaviors of others to their intentions, their personalities or their character while attributing our own negative behaviors simply to environmental factors. Another sort of way I have heard this said is that we judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions.

Do you see the problem there? We assume the worst about others, but give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When you are part of a leadership team what do you think that does to trust? It breaks down trust or prevents it from being built in the first place.

We have to learn how to assume the best about others and their intentions. We need to learn the habit of first seeking to understand others rather than seeking to be understood. At the root of this really is are we self-centered or God and others centered?

Today, before judging and assuming the worst about someone, try seeking to understand them and their situation.

Hope you have a great day today!

What You Need To Stop Doing

I hope you had a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior – Jesus the Christ. We have minimized the use of technology over the last few days but I thought time to get up another post.

Christmas Wreath
Christmas Wreath

I read something interesting this morning on the Harvard Business Review website (this is a great resource by the way if you are in leadership, whether it be business, non-profit or a church). The article is on things people wished their boss (leader) would stop doing and some sound very familiar. When I have asked people directly how I could be a better boss, some of these very things came up in the discussion. So here is the list from the HBR article:

1. Don’t obfuscate; tell it like it is. – People, especially the Gen Y crowd, want to know where they stand. They want to know what they need to do to get better.

2. Stop telling me what I know. – They want to be coached and taught and then given freedom to do the job. One quote was “Coach me, enable me, support me”.

3. Don’t stray; walk the talk. – Pretty straight forward. Be a person of integrity. Ensure your actions are consistent with your words. People are looking for role models and they are proving difficult to find. When I was at Life Action Ministries, we called this having a Life Message.*

4. Stop playing favorites. – Again, self-evident, but so many of us are guilty of rewarding people for the wrong reasons.

5. Don’t be a boss, be a leader. – There was an unmistakable call for appreciative, empathetic, respect-worthy leaders. One person said “A boss inspires fear, a leader inspires enthusiasm.”

Some good points. Take some time and ask your team members what it is that you need to stop doing in order to become a better leader of your team. Not very easy to do. Also, when you ask and they tell you – resist the incredibly strong desire you will have to defend yourself. Defending yourself is of no value. Just listen and learn and become a better leader.

Hope you have a great Wednesday!

* Life Message
1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:10
Someone has said, “A message prepared in a mind reaches minds; a message prepared in a heart reaches hearts; but a message prepared in a life reaches and changes lives.” The power of God to change lives is released through the truth of God’s Word illustrated in lives. Therefore our lives must be living demonstrations of the reality and the truths of His Word.

The Messiness of Working with Others

A cool rainy day here in southwest Michigan, but it has been a beautiful early spring.

We talk a lots about collaboration and especially across organizations.  Especially in ministry we often bemoan the fact of so many ministries doing the same thing with similar mission and why don’t we just work together?  Well, because it is messy!

We just do things differently and naturally our way is better!  Right? Sometimes it reminds me of some of the little irritants of marriage like does it unroll over or under?  Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or roll up the bottom and other critical issues like that. Organizations are the same.

Also, we are here to get things done!  Taking time to explain and coordinate with others in other time zones sometimes, quite frankly, is a pain.  It slows things down.

BUT, when you fail to work with others (organizations), when you value speed and efficiency over the power of relationships and coordinated action, you lose so much potential for greater Kingdom impact.  It takes a wise and strong leader to help his “hard-chargers” to be willing to work a little more slowly and with less efficiency by working with others for the result of greater impact.

A wise leader will continue to help them to lift up their eyes from the present task or urgent situation to see the greater goal and to continue to explain the whys of working together – even if it is messy and less efficient.

Efficiency is important, but never let it trump effectiveness.  Don’t let the task trump the mission.  Keep a missional and Kingdom focus.

Have a great weekend!