#183: The Dirty Bird Theory of Superior Organizational Development

I can’t believe I had never heard of the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development until a couple weeks ago. It was explained to me by a retired policeman who also served in the military.

Dirty Bird

As soon as I heard the Dirty Bird Theory, I realized it applies to every organization I have ever been a part of.

The Dirty Bird

Here’s how it goes…

You are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

If the leader chooses not to do anything about the screw-up, the other two marginal performers decide there is more fun to be had in following the example of the screw-up so they too become complete screw-ups.

Now the leader has four outstanding soldiers, three solid performers, and three screw-ups.

After a little while, the three solid performers realize they are working hard but the screw-ups are doing nothing. Since nothing is happening to them the three solid performers decide it’s no longer worth expending the effort to be a great performer.

Now the leader has four outstanding performers and six soldiers who are screwing up on a regular basis.

When it comes time to re-enlist, the four outstanding soldiers are fed up and decide to leave the unit because they don’t want to be associated with a group of slackers.

Now the leader has to replace the four outstanding soldiers with new recruits. The four new recruits are surrounded by six screw-ups and quickly learn to perform at sub-standard levels.

The leader who had one screw-up now has a full unit of ten screw-ups all because he refused to take action with the one original screw up.

This is the Dirty Bird Theory of Organizational Development.  The result of not attending to the one “dirty bird” eventually yielded an entire unit of screw ups.

Change the Narrative

If we flip the narrative around, we see a completely different outcome.

Assume once again you are a leader with 10 soldiers in your unit. Four of the soldiers are outstanding, three are pretty solid day in, day out, and three are less than satisfactory. Of the three poor performers, one is a hot mess; always deficient and always causing trouble for the unit.

Instead of ignoring the screw-up, you reassign him to a position that is more aligned to his skill sets or you get rid of him completely.

Now you have nine soldiers; four are outstanding, three are pretty solid, and two that are less than satisfactory. But, the two poor performers see what happened to the screw-up and they work harder because they don’t want to be the next one shown the door. Now you have four outstanding soldiers and six who are pretty solid.

You bring in a tenth soldier and he hears what happened to the screw-up. He doesn’t want that to happen to him so he works hard emulating the four outstanding soldiers.

Now you have five outstanding soldiers and five pretty solid soldiers. The five pretty solid soldiers see even the new guy succeeding along with the other outstanding soldiers and they work harder to be better.

The odds of all five of the pretty solid soldiers all becoming outstanding soldiers is low but they are all working harder than ever and reaching goals they never thought possible before.

The leader who attended to the lone dirty bird right away now has a high performing unit of five outstanding soldiers and five who are trying harder than ever to be the best they can be.

It Happened to Me

At the mid-point of my career at Procter & Gamble, I was offered an opportunity to switch from sales management to marketing management. I attended my first quarterly meeting of marketing managers even before I was officially in the role.

At this meeting, our executive vice-president of marketing stood up in front of a room of 140 or so marketers and said, “If you don’t love this work, leave, and go find something else to do. In fact, leave now.”

I was shocked. Never before had I heard any manager, let alone a senior executive, tell people to get with the program or leave, literally right now.

But, he went on to explain that life is too short to short-change yourself by doing work you don’t love. So for your own sake and the sake of the organization, find work you love and go do it!

This executive was putting an important Biblical principle into practice. Paul, writing to the Colossians admonished them saying, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Whatever work you are doing, work with all you heart because you are working for the Lord. Your example to other workers is one way you can honor the Lord for the blessings and talents He has given you.

If you are a leader, it is your duty to the organization you lead to make that organization as highly skilled as possible. You can’t do that if you let one “dirty bird” bring down the performance of the rest of the group.

Paul said it well when he told the Galatians, A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9). One “dirty bird” can end up ruining an entire organization.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked in an organization where one “dirty bird” brought down the performance of the whole group? If so what happened?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Leadership Development

ILM #007: A Wise Leader is Discerning and Pleasant

Today in our Inspired Leadership Minute I want us to look at Proverbs 16:21, “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”

A wise person is discerning. They have the ability to understand people and situations clearly. They are perceptive and have good judgement. The word for “sweetness” here is also translated “pleasant.” So some translations read, “pleasant speech increases persuasiveness.” Speaking pleasantly increases the ability to instruct or to persuade while harsh words have the opposite effect.

What is the lesson for us as leaders today?

A wise leader is a discerning leader. A leader without the ability to understand people from all ages and walks of life will struggle in today’s hyper-connected world and a leader who is not perceptive will be taken advantage of by the devious.

A leader needs to be discerning to be successful. Discernment comes from wisdom and wisdom comes from the Lord. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

A leader also needs to be persuasive and persuasiveness comes from being able to speak pleasantly, to tell the truth in love.

Pray that the Lord would give you the wisdom to be discerning and guide your tongue to speak pleasantly, to be able to tell the truth in love.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this week’s Inspired Leadership Minute inspired you!

#182: Pride and Arrogance Lead to Demotion and Obscurity

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

Leaders must remain faithful to God or suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness. That was certainly true of Shebna. God gives us the story of Shebna as an example of someone who held great power but because of his pride and arrogance was demoted and ultimately resigned to obscurity in the history of Judah.

Pride Arrogance

Chronologically, we first meet Shebna in the book of Isaiah. Around 725 B.C., Isaiah issued a stern prophetic warning to Shebna who was second in command and in charge of King Hezekiah’s palace.

In Isaiah 25:15-19 Isaiah proclaims the prophetic word from God saying Shebna will be removed from his position and replaced by Eliakim, his wealth will be destroyed, and he will die in a distant land. The reason for this prophecy against Shebna is that at some point in his career he began to use his authority to advance himself rather than serve the people.

Isaiah called out two specific things Shebna had done to bring about this judgment from God. He was making a display of his wealth and power by driving around in “glorious horse-driven chariots” in violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:16). He had also gone so far as to have an enormous tomb cut out of the rock on a high hill, elevating himself above even the kings of Judah.

Isaiah warns Shebna that the Lord is about to bring this judgment (Isaiah 22:17), suggesting there was time for Shebna to repent and avoid God’s wrath. But Shebna doesn’t repent.

The next time we encounter Shebna some 24-years later (701 B.C., 2 Kings 18:18) he had been demoted to court secretary. Court secretary was still an important job but a big step down from being second in command to the king. Shebna’s replacement, Eliakim son of Hilkiah, was exactly who Isaiah had prophesied.

Lessons for Leaders

The mantle of leadership in God’s kingdom is not to be taken lightly. Shebna had the great responsibility of serving the people of God under King Hezekiah in Judah. Rather than serving the people faithfully, he used his position and power to enrich himself and elevate his status in society.

When confronted with the prospect of God’s judgment, Shebna’s stubborn pride kept him from repenting. Even after he was demoted exactly as prophesied he still didn’t repent.

The Bible warns leaders over and over about the dangers of being a prideful leader.

  • Solomon wrote, A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor” (Proverbs 29:23).
  • Jesus warned his followers not to be like the Scribes and Pharisees who make a show of their power and position, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

If you find yourself taking pride in your position as a leader, if you use your position for your own benefit rather than the people you are supposed to serve, stop! Reject pride. Reject arrogance. Humble yourself before the Lord and return to serving the people. If, in your stubborn pride, you refuse to humble yourself, rest assured there will come a time when your pride will cause you to be brought low.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you known and worked with someone like Shebna whose stubborn pride and arrogance cost them their jobs? How did their behavior impact the organization or you personally?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Personal Development | Values

ILM #006: Godly Leaders are not Prideful or Haughty

Today in our Inspired Leadership Minute I want us to look at Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Pride was Satan’ sin. He attempted to elevate himself above God and the result was he was cast out of heaven. Satan made a prideful appeal to Eve saying she would be like God knowing good and evil. Satan made a prideful appeal to Jesus when he suggested Jesus test God to see if God would send angels to protect Him. Satan still tempts man through appeals to their pride.

What is the lesson for us as leaders today?

Proverbs 16:5 says a prideful heart is detestable to the Lord and will not go unpunished. We are being prideful when we elevate ourselves and our accomplishments over others. We are being haughty when we look with disdain on others. This is the exact opposite of how the Lord has commanded us to behave when He said we should love others as ourselves.

Godly leaders are not prideful or haughty. A Godly leader fulfills Jesus’ commandment to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as ourselves.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this week’s Inspired Leadership Minute inspired you!


#181: Pressure, Pleasure, Power, Pride, and Priorities Lead to Failure

Did you know that companies who succeed in hiring ethical employees and are themselves ethical are more successful than those who do not?


According to the Executive Leadership Foundation, $30,000 invested in the Dow Jones Industrial Average 30 years ago would be worth $134,000. Not bad, but if you invested the same $30,000 in the top 15 ethically responsible companies in their study, that $30,000 investment would be worth over $1,000,000. That’s a pretty big advantage for the socially responsible company over the long haul!

Based on the growth potential alone it is not surprising most companies say they want to hire employees who exhibit strong ethical behavior.

Sadly, when push comes to shove, many employees fall off the ethical wagon.

In his book, There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics, author John Maxwell relates five factors that most often cause someone to cross ethical boundaries:

1) Pressure

How many companies have imploded like Enron because of pressure to meet Wall Street expectations? Sales managers pressure sales reps to meet a quota so the rep cuts corners or makes unsubstantiated claims to make a sale. Contractors pressure suppliers for lower prices to win bids and end up with inferior materials. Pressure to make a number or do a deal exists in all kinds of companies from the largest of the Fortune 500 to the neighborhood entrepreneur.

James admonished believers to stand firmly against pressure and not give in, Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

2) Pleasure

The desire to attain a certain lifestyle; a bigger house, nicer cars, and more toys is a common cause of ethical breaches. I’ve personally had to deal with sales reps that mishandled company funds hoping to increase sales, earn a promotion and the bigger salary, for the sole purpose of having “more.”

Paul warned that those who love pleasure do not love God, “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).

3) Power

Lord Acton was right when he said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Power is addictive. A good person achieves a position of responsibility and the power that goes with the position. Pretty soon they exercise their power to maintain their position rather than to serve others. Eventually, they will use their power to abuse and even crush those who stand against them. Power is a seductive mistress that ends in destruction.

Solomon noted, “The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength” (Proverbs 24:5).

4) Pride

There is nothing wrong with working hard to achieve a goal and being proud when the goal is accomplished. But when pride leads to an exaggerated sense of self-worth it becomes destructive. Pride causes you to put someone else down to build yourself up. Pride causes people to refuse to admit their mistakes and instead, blame others for their shortfalls.

Solomon, writing in Proverbs said, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).

5) Priorities

Do you have a moral compass that guides your path? Those that do not have a predetermined set of moral guidelines or established principles are especially susceptible to ethical lapses. Establishing priorities for your life informed by moral principles provides a protective hedge from ethical lapses.

Paul, writing to the Romans, admonished them to keep their focus on God, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Pressure, pleasure, power, and pride are not bad in and of themselves. It is when there is too much pressure, too great a focus on pleasure, a reliance on power, or a prideful attitude that ethical lapses occur in otherwise ethical people. That’s precisely why having solid priorities based on Godly values are so important.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked with someone who crossed ethical lines? If so, was it because of too much pressure, pleasure, power, pride, or bad priorities?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?



Category: Personal Development | Character


ILM #005: A Prudent Leader Does what God’s Word Says

Today in our Inspired Leadership Minute I want us to look at Proverbs 16:20, “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.”

The phrase “whoever gives heed to” could also be translated “whoever is prudent” or “whoever takes note of” the instruction in God’s word will discover the truth of God. The person who trusts in God’s word is blessed.

What is the lesson for us as leaders today?

Reading God’s word or listening to a sermon is not enough. We must apply God’s word to our lives. We must be prudent and do what God’s word tells us. If we do what God tells us in His word and trust in Him, we will be blessed.

We know that God has our best interests at heart. We trust God and know God is pleased by our obedience. We need to obey God. We need to trust God. Then we will be blessed by God.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this week’s Inspired Leadership Minute inspired you!

#180: Time Pirates

Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life

Suppose that someone was to offer you a deal: every morning when you get up, $86,400 will be credited to your checking account. You may spend the money any way you like, but there is one catch: every evening when you go to bed any unspent money will be taken away.

Time Pirates

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? You would probably think of many ways to spend the money, but one thing is sure, you would try not to let any slip away unspent.

Someone has made you just such a deal. Every day you get up God has put 86,400 seconds at your disposal. You may use them however you wish but there is no savings account; at the end of the day, those seconds are gone forever. You cannot “bank” your time and draw interest on it. The two minutes it took for you to read this far were in the future just a moment ago, and now they are in the past, never to be reclaimed.

Sadly, many people use their time as though there was a never-ending supply. James admonished the Christian Jews not to put off the good work they could do today: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city…’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14 NAS).

Today may come to a sudden end, tomorrow may never come. It behooves every one of us to use the 86,400 seconds that God has given us today to the very best of our ability.

What follows is a list of ideas for reclaiming the time in your life. Some will reclaim only a moment; others may reclaim an hour or more per day.

DO what works for you. Any time you reclaim is yours to use doing something else! Begin reclaiming your life by understanding where you are today and where you want to go. Get focused on what is really important to you. Then develop short and long-range plans to accomplish your goals. Lastly, do the work to accomplish your goals.

Practical Hints

Having a framework for your life’s vision/mission with well-defined strategies and tactics is important, but what about the day-to-day time management difficulties?

Here are a few tips guaranteed to put you back in control of your time.

“To Do” List

Develop and use a “To Do” list every day. Make sure your list includes headings for the activity, the time required, and priority.

Write a “Not to Do” List

Ask yourself the question, “What would happen if this job didn’t get done, or if it was done by someone else?” If the answer is nothing, then put the job on your “Not to Do” list. Free yourself from as many of these jobs as possible by delegating them to others or not doing them at all.

Learn to say “NO”

Perhaps the most effective yet underutilized time management tool is the word “No.” Many of us want to be helpful, we want to be team players, so we say “yes” whenever someone comes along and says, “Can you help with…?”

You can also redirect the decision to someone else. If you’re not the right person to make the decision redirect the question to the right decision maker.

If the request really is something you should do, then plan accordingly by scheduling the project on your calendar.

Simplify Your Life

We are sometimes so busy we don’t have time to get anything done. There are so many wonderful things to do and we want to try them all, don’t we? When we’re not shuttling kids back and forth to soccer games and ballet lessons, then we’re going out for a business dinner, or joining another club, group, or association.

No doubt about it, we can fill our schedules to overflowing. But are we filling them with the right things? Go back to your vision/mission statement, review your strategies and ask yourself, “Are these activities helping me achieve one of my goals or are they keeping me from them?”

Avoid Procrastination

I used to hate fried parsnips. My father used to tell me to eat them first, then I could enjoy the rest of my meal. Jobs are just like those fried parsnips; get the one you dislike the most out of the way first. The rest of your day will seem easy. Are you dreading a call to an angry customer, or having a performance review with a marginal employee? Do them first. If you don’t, you will spend precious time worrying about the uncompleted job. Those parsnips don’t look any better at the end of the meal than the beginning, so get them off your plate first.

One Final Thought

Time pirates are insidious little creatures. They sneak up on you in the most innocent forms and suddenly you find your life is out of control; the time pirates have won.

Think about where your time goes. Here’s a fairly common routine: work 8-10 hours per day, commuting 0-2 hours per day, eating 90 minutes per day, sleeping 8 hours per day, and family time 2 hours per day. This is just the routine stuff and that only leaves 90 minutes per day for everything else! No wonder reading the Bible and spending time in prayer about your schedule gets a few minutes as an afterthought.

Get your priorities straight. Start with God’s direction in your life, and make sure you stay on track through regular Bible study and prayer time. It’s amazing how clear the priorities of the day will become when you start by placing your day in His hands.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled Time Pirates—Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life.”

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of how you can reclaim the time in your life from the time pirates:

  • Get Focused. Develop a personal “business” plan for your life.
  • Develop strategies to accomplish your goals.
  • Develop prioritized task lists—what to do and what not to do.
  • More Practical Tips to win the war against the time pirates.

You can download the free 5-page whitepaper here: Time Pirates—Tips to Reclaim the Time in Your Life.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How do you fend off the time pirates in your life?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Skills | Time Management


ILM #004: Whatever You Do, Don’t Make the King Mad!

Today in our Inspired Leadership Minute I want us to look at Proverbs 16:14, “A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it.”

A king in ancient days had the power of life and death over their subjects. A wise man, through prayer and planning, knew how to approach the king to appease their wrath. Esther and Nehemiah both risked their lives approaching the king on behalf of their people. They both prayed for God’s wisdom and planned their approach to the king carefully.

What is the lesson for us as leaders today?

You probably don’t live or work for a king like Esther and Nehemiah but you probably have a boss or someone that you report to. Be especially carefully when approaching someone in authority who is known to have a short temper.

It is a wise man or woman who considers how they approach someone in authority so as to not arouse their anger. Before you approach them, pray for God’s wisdom and plan carefully.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this week’s Inspired Leadership Minute inspired you!

#179: Are You in the Right Ministry Role?

I recently had the pleasure of reading Sustainable Church – Growing Ministry Around the Sheep, Not just the Shepherds, by Dr. Walt Russell.

Ministry, Spiritual Gifts

Full disclosure, Dr. Russell was one of my professors at Talbot Seminary. When I learned about the release of his new book I ordered it immediately and waited anxiously for the two days it took Amazon to deliver it to me.

In his new book, Dr. Russell describes the shallowness that permeates many of the western churches. Our traditional way of doing church is flawed in two ways:

1) We rely on professional ministers to meet all our needs, and in so doing, saddle them with unrealistic expectations which they cannot possibly meet.

2) The professional “clergy” are the primary gatekeepers of the church’s ministry activities. Often, the ministries of the church follow the vision and passions of the pastor without regard to the spiritual gifting of the members of the church.

These churches, says Russell, are non-organic and unsustainable. They are unsustainable because they rely on professional clergy who cannot possibly meet the needs of everyone inside the church. Neither can they meet the needs of people outside the church. Overall, the American church with its bureaucracy, policies, and traditions has drifted far from the original intent of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd.

By contrast, Russell describes the sustainable church as one in which every member is engaged in ministry. The individual’s ministry is shaped by their spiritual gifts, or as Russell prefers, “grace-gifts.” A church is sustainable when every member is engaged in ministry that leverages the spiritual gifts of the member.

For every member to be engaged in ministry that leverages their spiritual gifts they first must know what their gifts are. Right?! Sadly, only 10-20% of God’s people know what their gifts are, let alone leverage them in their ministry.

The first step in creating a sustainable church is to help people learn about spiritual gifts in general and to know what their gifts are. This, says Russell, is best determined through:

1) Prayer.

2) Studying the gifts themselves.

3) Determining what gifts fulfill you the most.

4) What abilities are confirmed by other believers? And,

5) What ministry work is God blessing in your life?

After reading Sustainable Church I took advantage of the spiritual gifts assessment that Dr. Russell created and makes available (free) at Sustainablechurch.org. Each of the 19 spiritual gifts is scored with the highest scores indicating areas that may be your spiritual gifts.

It turns out I may be an “LPTA.” My top scoring gifts were:

1) Leadership (Romans 12:8).

2) Pastor-Teacher (Ephesians 4:11).

3) Teacher (Romans 12:7) Note: Pastor-Teacher and Teacher were tied.

4) Administration (2 Corinthians 12:28).

After that, my scores fell off dramatically.

Having the scores is a good first step. But to really understand my specific spiritual gifts I must continue the discovery process by praying for guidance and wisdom, seeking confirmation from other believers, and seeing what ministry work God blesses in my life.

It is not enough to know what our spiritual gifts are; we must do them! Imagine what would happen in the church today if every believer knew what their spiritual gifts were, and were actively pursuing ministry opportunities that leveraged those gifts.

James exhorted fellow believers saying evidence of their faith in Jesus is demonstrated by their willingness to do ministry work (James 3:14).

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? If not, or if you are unsure, get a copy of Sustainable Church, read it, and then complete the spiritual gifts assessment.

Next, confirm your gifts through prayer, confirmation from other believers, and God blessing your ministry work.

Above all, DO the work the Lord has equipped you to do. Leverage your spiritual gifts. When you do, you will be blessed beyond measure.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Are you doing the work the Lord has equipped you to do?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?



Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God

ILM #003: The Importance of Staying on the Road

Today in our Inspired Leadership Minute I want us to look at Proverbs 16:17 “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.”

This highway is a common road that we frequently travel. But there are temptations on either side of the road that will lure us into sin. The upright man stays on the highway and guards himself against being lured into the sin that lies at the side of the road.

What is the lesson for us as leaders today?

The journey of life is full of temptations. They are on both sides of the road. The Christian leader needs to guard themselves against those temptations.

There is a lot at stake if you give in to the temptation to lie at work, to cook the books, or to have an affair. Your career, your marriage, and relationships with life-long friends, could all be flushed down the drain.

And it’s not just our direct actions that are important. Our example as leaders is also critical to helping our employees, our friends, and our family members to also remain on the highway and avoid the temptation to wonder off the road.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this week’s Inspired Leadership Minute inspired you!