#158: The Biggest Mistake Christians Make When Planning

Most of the business leaders I know are planners. Depending on their role in the organization their plans may be largely short-term and tactical while others are long-term strategic planners.

Mistake Planning

The same is true for many of the leaders I know in ministry. Some are short-term tactical planners, and some are visionary strategic planners.

I also know some leaders, mostly in ministry, who say they are reluctant to plan because they do not want to run afoul of God’s leading in their life. Their feeling is that making plans is presumptuous and might cause them to ignore God’s leading.

I think the weight of Biblical evidence falls on the side of planners.

Take, for example, the story of Joseph as a young man in Pharaoh’s court found in Genesis 41. The Lord sent a dream to Pharaoh which Joseph interpreted warning of seven years of famine that were to come. Pharaoh asked what should be done and Joseph laid out a fourteen-year plan to collect food during the seven years of plenty in order to survive the following seven years of famine.

The story of Gideon in Judges 6 is another of the many examples in which the Lord gave very specific plans to an individual leader. In this case, the Lord called on Gideon to attack the Midianites. Gideon was given a very specific plan of attack by the Lord and Gideon followed the Lord’s leading exactly.

The Bible is full of stories of men and women who were planners. The difference between those who were successful and those who failed is the successful planners followed God’s leading in their lives.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, made quite an issue of the importance of planning in chapter 4 of his letter.

James relates the story of businessmen who boast about going from city to city doing business and making a profit. Yet, says James, these businessmen do not even know what tomorrow will bring.

The issue is these businessmen have not sought the will of God, they are not relying on God, and they are not conducting their business for the glory of God. They are completely self-centered, focused on their own abilities and desires.

James says this type of planning is presumptuous because we do not even know what tomorrow will bring. God knows the future. We do not.

We are completely ignorant of God’s plans for us, and that is a good thing!

If, for example, we knew that God was going to make us wealthy and successful might we not become prideful and boast of our lot in life before we had even achieved anything meaningful?

On the other hand, it is a good thing we do not know about the difficulties and trials that lie in our path. We might be reluctant to move ahead, frozen in fear at the prospect of facing the trials of life.

We like to think we control much of our lives. We often act like we are our own God. This kind of attitude is prideful and arrogant. To presume we control the future when we cannot even control the events of the day is foolishness!

Instead, says James, we should plan with a humble heart saying, “If it is the Lord’s will we will do this or that.”

We do not have a right to tomorrow. Every day we wake up to live another day is a gift from God.

We should be planners. It is good stewardship to plan the time in our life. BUT, we should plan humbly, “If it is the Lord’s will.”

Whether you are in business or ministry, the plans you make should come as a result of seeking the will of God, they should rely on God, and they should be for the glory of God. Successful plans start with, “If it is the Lord’s will…”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you usually make plans that start with “If it is the Lord’s will”? Or, do you tend to rush ahead of God making plans without His leading?

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 | Dependence on God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#157: The Give and Take of Extraordinary Leaders

It’s not what you think

Extraordinary leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common; they all understand the importance of give and take.

Give and Take Leaders

And by give and take, I am not talking about their ability to negotiate, or their ability to compromise!

No! I am talking about the ability to give credit and take responsibility!

Sadly, when I was a young leader in my early twenties, I was not very good at giving credit or taking responsibility.

If my team of salespeople did especially well in making a breakthrough sale, I made sure the boss knew their accomplishment was because of the superior training and leadership I had provided.

My team had an exceptional year and led the division in our most important sales metrics. When my boss and his boss asked what contributed to the success I talked at length about the training I had provided the team throughout the course of the year. Honestly, it never occurred to me to highlight the individual successes of my salespeople that contributed to our outstanding results.

If, on the other hand, one of my salespeople made a mistake that cost the company money I did my best to make sure the light of incompetency shined only on my employee.

We once had a particularly complicated promotion allowance. After carefully explaining how it worked, one of my sales representatives proceeded to misrepresent the offer to a number of customers. It cost the company several hundred dollars to make good on the sales rep’s mistake. I threw my sales rep squarely under the bus as I explained to my boss how the mistake was the sales rep’s alone. After all, the rest of the team got it right.

I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point after becoming a Christian, I recognized this propensity to take credit for other people’s work and avoid responsibility for failures wasn’t right. In fact, as a young Christian, I decided I would give other people credit whenever possible, and always take responsibility for issues within my team.

I started out small by encouraging my team members individually and privately. Then, as I saw how this built them up, I started publicizing their successes publically to other members of the team.  We were suddenly gaining significant traction as a group.

Next, I started telling my bosses how great my sales people were; how they had made great sales against all odds. And I left myself out of the story.

The first time something did go wrong, I stood quaking in front of my boss, and simply said, “I messed up, I’ll fix it.” I refused to throw anyone under the bus. To my great surprise (and relief) the boss just said, “Good. Take care of it.” I found taking responsibility was actually easier than trying to make up excuses to cover myself.

That year was a transformative year for me as a leader. I went from taking credit and avoiding responsibility, to giving credit and taking responsibility.

Giving credit became a bit of a game to me. I would spot someone doing something extraordinary and brag about them. Then I started sending emails to my bosses, as high up as I could reach in the corporate hierarchy, letting them know what great results someone had achieved.

I stepped up my game a little further by starting to brag about the results of people who didn’t even work for me. Anyone who I heard about doing something of note was fair game. I would fire off a memo to their bosses and bosses’ boss to let them know how much they contributed to the organization.

Now here’s the funny thing. I found two very important outcomes that derived from my new “giving credit” leadership philosophy:

  • The more bragging I did about others, the fewer things ever went wrong. I rarely had to stand in front of the boss and take responsibility for a project that went sideways because it almost never happened.
  • The more I gave credit to others, the more recognition I received from my bosses for being a good leader.

So in the end, the very thing I sought as a young leader; recognition and respect for my skills, was achieved not when I focused on myself, but when I focused on everyone else.

Paul had it right when he wrote to the Ephesians in 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for leaders who gave credit and took responsibility? What was that like compared to those who took credit and avoided taking responsibility?

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: Relationships | Encouragement

 

 

#156: Presidents, Leadership, and God

Here in the United States, we celebrate President’s Day the third Monday of February. The origins of the holiday trace back to 1879 when congress enacted a federal holiday in honor of our first president, George Washington.

Presidents, Leadership, and God

The holiday honoring Washington remained for nearly 100 years until 1968 when the idea of President’s Day was established in an attempt to honor all our presidents.

I thought it would be informative to take a look back in history to see what some of our early presidents had to say about leadership and God.

George Washington—1st President

Washington said the virtue he most desired was to be known as an honest man,

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

Regarding the importance of religious principle, Washington said,

“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Washington said the standard of a leader should be that he is as wise and honest as possible and the rest is in God’s hands,

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

John Adams—2nd President

Adams believed independence of the nation derived from the principles of Christianity. He said,

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Adams was especially concerned that moral men of character assume positions of importance in society. He said,

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

Adams believed our form of government would only be sufficient to govern a moral and religious people. He said,

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Thomas Jefferson—3rd President

Jefferson recognized God’s justice falls on all nations when he said,

“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Jefferson recognized the difference between success and failure was often a matter of the leader’s attitude. He said,

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

Jefferson believed a leader is someone who is ready to take action and that those actions define the leader. He said,

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

John Quincy Adams—6th President

Adams understood the power of a leader to inspire the people to be all they can be. He said,

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Standing on principle, even if you stand alone, is important. Adams said,

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

According to Adams, principles of Christianity cannot be separated from the principles of civil government. He said,

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

Andrew Jackson—7th President

Jackson believed a man who shirks is duty has little value to his country. He said,

“The brave man inattentive to his duty, is worth little more to his country than the coward who deserts in the hour of danger.”

Jackson was a man who would think about an issue, and then act. He said,

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

Jackson’s faith grew later in his life. He believed the Bible was an important foundation of the new republic. He said,

“The Bible is the rock on which this Republic rests.”

Close to his death, Jackson made clear his faith in our Lord and savior. He said,

“Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy…. The Bible is true… Upon that sacred volume, I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Abraham Lincoln—22nd President

Lincoln was a man used to confronting trials and taking responsibility as the leader. He said,

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Lincoln quoted scripture often in his speeches. In this speech, he expressed his trust in God and asked the people to continue to pray for him. He said,

“Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me.”

Lincoln believed God had favored this land and that continued reliance on God would deliver the country from the civil war.

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

 

Reviewing these few quotes I am struck by the depth of their thought. These presidents, as many that followed them, established themselves as leaders through the adversity and trials of war.

While their theology differed, it is plain to see that belief in God shaped their lives and their leadership of this country.

They did not separate their Christian values from their lives as leaders. In fact, they often proudly and publically proclaimed their faith as they led.

It is, to me, a shame that many of today’s leaders, perhaps even a majority, do not speak proudly and consistently of their faith and reliance on God.

As Christians who wear the mantle of leadership, it is incumbent upon us to let our light shine before men so that others will see it and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you think Christian men and women should aspire to leadership in society?

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

#155: The Reluctant Leader, A Mighty Man of Valor

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

God sometimes calls on the most unlikely people to lead His people. Never was that more true than with Gideon, the youngest son of a farmer whose family was the weakest of his tribe.

Gideon Reluctant Leader

If you want to read his story, you’ll find it in Judges 6-8.

In Gideon’s time, the people of Israel had become evil and God allowed the Midianites to oppress them. The Midianites would invade the land every harvest and steal all the crops and animals, leaving almost nothing for the Israelites to live on.

Gideon struggled to believe that God was calling on him to lead the Israelites, but eventually he came to trust God, he delivered the Israelites from the Midianites and went on to judge the Israelite nation for 40 years.

God Called Gideon

God called Gideon out of obscurity. Gideon was threshing wheat for his father when God reached out and tapped Gideon for a leadership assignment that changed his life. God told him He wanted him to lead the Israelite army.

God Commissioned Gideon

At first, Gideon didn’t believe God could possibly have meant to select him to lead an army since he was young, inexperienced, and from a family of farmers.

In answer to Gideon’s reluctance the Lord reassured him saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon may not have thought of himself as a mighty warrior, but the Lord did!

God Developed Gideon

God didn’t send Gideon out to take on an army right away. First, the Lord told Gideon to go tear down the Asherah poles and the altar to Baal in his father’s house. So Gideon took ten of his servants out at night and did exactly what the Lord commanded. The townspeople were furious and wanted to kill Gideon, but his father defended him and changed his name to Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal contend” (or let Baal fight for himself).

By obeying God’s command, Gideon proved himself worthy. When Gideon was allowed to test God with the fleece, he finally came to trust God completely, knowing that God would do exactly as He promised.

God Equipped Gideon

When it was time to go to battle God wanted to make sure everyone would know that the battle was His to win. Gideon had assembled an army of 32,000 to go up against a Midianite army that numbered over 130,000 men. God told Gideon to tell everyone who didn’t want to fight to go home. That left 10,000 men. God said that was still too many and he reduced Gideon’s army to 300 men. That’s over 400 Midianites to every one of Gideon’s men.

The right 300 men plus God were all that Gideon needed to ensure victory for the Israelites.

God Led Gideon

God made sure Gideon knew victory was his, by having Gideon sneak into the camp of the Midianites at night. There Gideon overheard a Midianite tell of a dream he had and the man with him interpreted the dream saying, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite. God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him” (Judges 7:14)

Imagine how Gideon felt when he heard his enemies talking about him and how God was on his side against them!

Full of confidence Gideon returned to camp divided his men into three companies and attacked. The Midianites were so confused by the attack some killed each other while a remnant fled pursued by the Israelites. God led Gideon and the Israelite army of 300 and gave them victory over an army over 400 times their size!

God called Gideon from obscurity, not because of who he was, but because of who God knew he could be. God commissioned Gideon to do a specific work. He developed Gideon and equipped him with exactly the right men to go into battle. Finally, God, just as He promised, led Gideon into battle and brought them the victory.

Through His experience with God, Gideon’s faith grew and he came to fully trust the Word of God.

In the end, Gideon became the fifth judge over the nation of Israel where he guided the Israelites for 40 years. He even appears in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11:32 described as a man of faith who conquered nations and administered justice.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you been a reluctant leader like Gideon at some time in your life? If so, did you feel God’s call and His commissioning you to a specific work? Looking back, do you see God’s hand equipping you for the work, and leading you to complete the work He commissioned 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 | Dependence on God

#154: Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?

Are the best executives, leaders or managers? The quick answer is “no.” The best executives are neither managers nor leaders, but possess a unique blend of skills of both the leader and the manager.

Leaders, Executives

Mr. Webster defined management as “the act or art of managing”, and he defined managing, “to handle or direct with a degree of skill.” Peter Drucker took eight pages to provide an overview of the terms, manager and management, in his book Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. Simply stated, Drucker defined the work of a manager as “planning, organizing, integrating, and measuring.”

Turning to Mr. Webster again, he defined leadership as, “the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead.” He defined lead as, “to guide on a way, especially in advance.”

None of these definitions create a very clear sense of the difference between managing and leading. They do not even give a good sense for why a distinction is important.

A look at the “activities” of a manager versus a leader provides a clearer distinction between the two:

A manager is concerned with planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. A manager is responsible for getting things done on time and on budget.

A leader sets direction, creates vision, communicates to and aligns constituents, and motivates and inspires the group. A leader produces dramatic, significant change.

Being a good manager certainly doesn’t make someone a good leader, just as being a good leader doesn’t make someone a good manager. The reason is the skill sets are completely different!

Think for a moment about the training you have received in your career. Was it focused on management activities or leadership activities? Only a very fortunate few have had any leadership training at all. Our educational systems and our corporate training focuses on building management skills not on developing leaders.

Mr. Drucker noted in Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “There are, in developed society, thousands, if not millions, of managers––and leadership is always the rare exception and confined to a very few individuals.”

But so what? Does it really matter if we don’t have many leaders as long as we have lots of strong managers? A recent survey of top executives showed that there were far too few executives who were strong leaders and managers, far too many who were strong managers but weak leaders, too few who were strong leaders but weak managers, and too many who were weak leaders and managers.

A company trying to succeed in the future will have difficulty if the organization is comprised of anything but employees who have strong leadership and management skills. The effect of these skill imbalances in business is easy to spot:

Strong Management, Weak Leadership. The company with an excess of this type of executive is known for their high levels of bureaucracy, and a work atmosphere that stifles initiative and creativity. Some of our older companies fit this model; our steel and automobile industries, some computer companies, and several household goods companies.

Many companies with strong management and weak leadership are the ones you’re reading about that are restructuring and reengineering in a frenzied effort to survive. Many have already gone by the wayside.

The employee who is a strong manager but a weak leader is best described as the “Seagull”. The “Seagull” manager flies into town, flaps their wings, squawks a lot, eats everything in sight, marks their territory, and then flies back from whence they came. In a word, the “Seagull” manager is an expert at “over-control.”

Strong Leadership, Weak Management. This company has a strong vision, but lacks a grip on reality. Entrepreneurial startups most often fit this model. The vision is supplied by the person who started the company; a dynamic inventor who created a product, developed it, and succeeded in bringing it to market, but who lacks an understanding of how to monitor and control work processes.

An employee who is a strong leader but a weak manager can be described as “highly motivated chaos”. They are the “ready, fire, aim” people. They expend lots of energy, but often achieve little in terms of results. Simply put, they are “out of control.”

Somewhere between these two extremes of “out of control” and “over-control” is a highly effective executive who is a strong leader and a strong manager.

Getting Started

Building an executive that is a strong leader and strong manager is not easy but it can be done. The natural leader must learn how to manage, and the natural manager must learn how to lead. Each must combine the other into a balanced style. Here are six traits of an executive who manages by leading:

Sets Direction. Before setting direction, the executive starts by getting input from customers and key corporate functions. Direction is then set that focus’ on the end state, challenges the status quo, is flexible, and considers the systems that will be needed to complete the work.

Enrolls Others. Customers and employees need to be enrolled. This is done by communicating the end state, securing commitment, developing role models, removing systemic barriers, developing the capabilities of the organization, and maintaining open communications.

Planning. A good plan will create order even in the midst of chaos. Plans need to consider the allocation of resources, who will do what work, the establishment of objectives, and setting budgets.

Organizes. The workplace must be organized in such a way that it contributes to the accomplishment of our goals. Systems to monitor results are needed, the organization must be staffed, and policies and procedures to control the processes need to be in place. Systems, policies, and procedures must all be clearly communicated to workers, and line up with customer objectives.

Enables Others. This is power the step. Organizations who succeed in enabling their workers have a competitive advantage. Barriers of all kinds need to be eliminated; people must be empowered to work in the best interests the organization. We need to encourage risk-taking, leverage diversity, motivate and inspire our workers, and recognize and reward success.

Measure Systems. Monitoring results will help identify systems that are out of control and provides an opportunity to solve problems. Measuring the effectiveness of our systems allows us to direct our energy and resources at critical parts of the system and provides an opportunity to predict results.

The six steps listed above provide a balanced approach to managing and leading. Most executives have a tendency to do what they are comfortable with and pay little attention to the rest. That kind of short-sighted approach will not work in the future. We must become strong leaders and strong managers to be successful.

One Final Thought

The world is a global market. We no longer think about products that can be made and sold only in our home country. Rather, most successful, growing, vibrant companies consider how to build manufacturing and distribution systems on a global basis. This globalization of business has increased competition tremendously, and competition is the engine that drives change.

Managers, with their sense of control, are not well suited to manage change, but leaders are. Leaders are the people who will create new visions; who will create alignment within the organization; and who will motivate and inspire employees. Once this has been done, management skills will keep the organization in a state of control running efficiently.

Which boss would you rather work for? Which would you rather be; the manager or the leader? Hopefully, you said neither. Neither one is capable of running and organization effectively. Hopefully, you want to work for and be a person who has well-balanced skills at both managing and leading. If you don’t have these skills now––get them.

The most valuable employees in the future will be the ones who can lead people to aspire to new heights while creating and managing the systems needed to help them get there.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 5-page whitepaper, Are the Best Executives, Leaders or Managers?It includes seven steps you can take to encourage leadership in your organization.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for executives who were unbalanced in their strength as either a strong leader or as a strong manager? What was the effect on the organization?

I’d love your helpThis 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