#220: It Turns Out You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

It turns out old dogs like me can learn a lot from the young crop of Gen Z students emerging from our college campuses.

Old Dog New Tricks

This was my fourth year teaching a class in Sales and Sales Management at Azusa Pacific University. This year’s class of 40 dwarfed last year’s class of 20 students and was equally divided between juniors and seniors.

Feedback from the students last year made it clear they wanted a diverse mix of teaching methods. Given their short attention span, hour-long lectures in a three-hour class just didn’t cut it. Variety is not only the spice of life; it is absolutely necessary for a classroom of Gen Z’s!

My goal this year was to really mix it up by making the class far more experiential and less dependent on lecture:

  • To create a simulated workplace team environment, I divided the class into eight teams of five students each based on their Strengthfinders results. Students were assigned to groups so that each of the four Strengthfinder Leadership Domains (Executing, Influencing, Relationship, and Strategic Thinking) were represented in each group.
  • The teams worked together on two major assignments: creating a sales training manual for a company of their choosing and teaching their fellow students by presenting the contents of one chapter of our text.
  • Role play exercises in six of our 13 sessions were designed to give the students an opportunity to practice selling skills in the classroom.
  • In one class session, students were required to present key learnings to the class gleaned from a published article on sales.
  • Three sales training videos demonstrating elements of the sales process were used to show how selling skills discussed in class came to life in a selling situation.
  • Short quizzes were given covering the material in each chapter every week. Scheduling quizzes as we covered material ensured that students stayed up to date and eliminated the need to “cram” for a midterm or a final exam.
  • Students were each required to write six short case study papers over the course of the semester.

Overall, the objective of this mix of group and independent work assignments was to give students an opportunity to learn while also developing their presentation skills with the support of their peers.

What I Learned from Their Feedback

I give my students a feedback form during our last class session asking three questions 1) What was helpful that we should keep doing, 2) What was unhelpful that we should stop doing, and 3) What would you do differently?

1) What should we keep doing? The interactive exercises, especially the role plays, were a hit with the majority of the students. Students also liked having the weekly quizzes following the lecture because it helped reinforce what they learned that week.

2) What should we stop doing? Long (45-60 minute) lectures were mentioned several times as pushing the limits of their attention span. Allowing student groups to teach a chapter was not as effective as I’d hoped because other students felt they didn’t learn as much. Finally, the training videos were somewhat dated and failed to impress this YouTube generation.

3) What would you do differently? The class had a number of excellent suggestions for improving the learning environment in the class. Several students thought a guest speaker who was currently in a sales role would be a great addition to the learning experience. Doing even more role plays and doing them in small groups rather than as a whole class was suggested to allow more people to get more practice. Finally, several students suggested in-class discussions of the case studies as a way of reinforcing what was taught in the text.

What I’ll Do as a Result

As always, the student’s feedback is a valuable tool for me to improve as a teacher and to develop a learning framework that will be beneficial for the majority of the students. My plans for next semester include:

  • Reducing the lecture time even more to allow more time for interactive role plays and class discussion.
  • Maintain the weekly quiz schedule and the requirement to write case studies.
  • Devote time during the class to discussion of the weekly case study.
  • Bring in a sales representative one week to teach the class and talk about their personal experiences.
  • Abandon the dated videos. I’ll look for something that is relevant to the material in the class with a higher production value.
  • Rethink the way the team projects are completed. Although it was intended to get them to work together, this group did most of their “teamwork” independently and then just assembled the results.

Lesson for Leaders

Peter exhorted believers to “…use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

Leaders, to be effective, we need to learn and adapt to the changing environment. We need to stay on top of our game by using the gifts God has given us to serve others.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this year’s class is that every class is different. What worked well last year may not work well at all this year. Building relationships and engaging with the people in our organizations is the very best way to ensure that we are serving them well.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What lessons about developing and leading people have you learned from others?

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 | Human Resource Development

#219: Can Feedback Really Help Drive Growth in My Business?

If you want to see the effect of feedback, look at a child. Imagine the excited four-year-old who runs to her father to show off her most recent artistic achievement.

Feedback in Business

If you speak harshly, discussing the need to color within the lines and use the correct colors, you will see a child’s smile fade, enthusiasm will wane, and she will not be as likely to come running to show off her work in the future.

If, however, you tell her what a beautiful picture she has made and show her how if she colors slowly she can stay in the lines you will see a smile broaden as she runs off to create an even more beautiful masterpiece for her father.

Feedback with employees has the same effect; it will either build an employee up or decimate their spirit.

Constructive Feedback

All feedback should be constructive. It should be done in such a way that the employee is motivated to improve performance or continue to do excellent work.

Paul emphasized this point in Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Getting Started

Here are eight guidelines to help you develop and use your feedback skills more effectively:

1) Use Common Definitions and Simple Language

Make sure that you are using common definitions. Even the simplest words in our vocabulary have multiple meanings.

The more complicated your vocabulary, the more likely misunderstandings will occur. Be specific, be concise, and use simple terms to increase the effectiveness of your communication.

2) Avoid the Use of Garbage Words and Slang

Use of garbage words can add confusion to a conversation. Words like “hmm,” “uh-huh,” and grunts and groans convey different meanings depending on your tone of voice, your facial expressions, and your body language.

3) Be Observant

People usually use a fairly consistent set of verbal and non-verbal cues. I had one boss who was so tuned in to me that he could see the wheels turning in my head, and knew when I didn’t agree or when I had an idea. He said he could tell when I was thinking something over by my facial expressions, and when I had something to say because my posture changed. He was rarely wrong.

4) Behavior Versus the Person

The purpose of feedback is to improve employee productivity. Feedback for behavior that needs correction should be focused on the behavior, not the individual.

Jesus gives us an excellent example of providing feedback for the behavior rather than the individual in Matthew 26. The Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus when Peter boldly stepped forward and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).”

5) Feedback Timing

Feedback to reinforce or correct employee behavior is best when given as soon as possible.

Luke 19 provides an example of prompt feedback. The day after Jesus re-entered Jerusalem he went to the temple and found men selling. He did not put the matter on the agenda for the next disciples meeting. He immediately overturned the money changers tables and drove them out of the temple. As they departed, he said, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’ (Luke 19:46).”

6) Spoken Versus Written

If the feedback you are giving is corrective, it should be verbal and in private. To make sure that future expectations of performance are very clear you should follow-up in writing.

Verbal praise for a job well done is nice, but the feeling usually fades after a few days. Written praise is more concrete, and it gives you the opportunity to publicize the employees’ success. Copy the written praise to the peer group and upper management. There’s nothing quite like getting a personal note from a senior manager who expresses appreciation for good work as a motivational tool.

7) Don’t Assume Understanding

Do you remember the phrase, “I know you think you understand what I said, but I’m not so sure that what you heard I what I meant?” People often nod agreement or say “I know exactly how you feel,” without really knowing how the other person feels, what frame of reference they’re coming from, etc.

Use your communications skills to ensure that what you think you heard is what the other person meant to say! At any point in a conversation asking questions is the best way to make sure that you heard correctly.

8) Sincerity

Contrary to popular belief flattery will not get you everywhere. People quickly see through insincere remarks. Always provide feedback that is sincere. Praise earned for hard work will always motivate more than the hollow flattery of praise for work that the employee knows is not up to standard.

One Final Thought

Feedback is like a powerful sports car, it is a pleasure to drive, but in the hands of a drunk, it is a lethal weapon.

Before you fire off that next missile chastising an employee, before you bring him or her into your office for a thorough tongue lashing, remember the purpose of feedback is to motivate the employee to improve performance. Employees will want to learn how to do a better job and will be motivated to do better if the feedback they receive from you is always timely, balanced, and constructive.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of using feedback to motivate and build up your employees:

  • A definition of feedback appropriate for the business environment,
  • Types of feedback, and
  • Feedback as a motivational tool.

You can download the whitepaper here: Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What kinds of feedback have you received? Have there been times when you received feedback that was motivating or disheartening?

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| Management of Human Resources

 

 

 

 

#215: So You Want to Fight!

Handling Arguments in the Workplace

A four-year old fighting with a sibling over the use of a particular toy is expected. When an argument breaks out in the office over the use of equipment, who gets which sales territories, what business strategies are right, or any of the many other things that occur every day in the workplace the enlightened leader needs to know how to handle conflict.

Fight

Sources of Organizational Conflict

When emotions take control over reason hostility increases and hostility is the breeding ground for arguments.

James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that do battle within you? You want something but cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (James 4:12).

The word “desires” comes from the root word for hedonism; the idea that pleasure is the chief goal of life. Our natural inner desires are focused mostly on ourselves; my ideas, my feelings, etc. According to James this inward focus on pleasing ourselves is what causes fights and quarrels.

Conflict Resolution

Here are four Biblical principles for dealing with workplace arguments:

  • Diffuse the bomb. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” You cannot begin to resolve an argument until tempers are cooled. To begin with, never tell an angry person not to be angry. Don’t lecture or talk down to the person. Ask questions, and listen. Empathize by repeating what has been said. Emotions run very high and are likely to rise at any point in the resolution process.
  • Get the facts. Don’t ever try to resolve an argument based on hearsay, opinion, or gossip. Deuteronomy reminds us, “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 15:19). Take the time to gather the facts of the situation directly from the individuals involved before making any judgments in the matter.
  • Confront in private. Praise in public, criticize in private. Whenever you are attempting to resolve a conflict the matter should be dealt with in private. Never, ever begin what looks like an “interrogation” on the factory floor in front of other workers. “Discuss the matter with him privately. Don’t tell anyone else, lest he accuse you of slander” (Proverbs 25:9-10). Jesus also offered instruction in this matter, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” (Matthew 18:15).
  • Negotiate a resolution. There will be times when someone is clearly right and another wrong. But more often there will be shades of gray where there is some “rightness” on both sides. When this is the case, it is important to come to a negotiated resolution. Both sides need to agree on the outcome. In cases where someone has been emotionally hurt there needs to be confession and for­giveness.

When Negotiations Fail

Despite your best efforts, there will be situations and people with whom no settlement agreement can be reached. The Bible gives us clear direction for dealing with these situations:

Jesus said, “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’” (Matthew 18:­16). The use of neutral outside parties to deal with conflict resolution can be a very important part of your ability to reach resolution.

If the use of neutral parties fails to bring about a resolution to the conflict, then the relationship may need to be broken off. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

In the workplace, this does not necessarily mean firing someone. It may mean that the person is taken off a work team, or receive some other sanction as is appropriate. While this may seem harsh, it can be the best thing for all concerned. If the individual finally recants, there may be an opportunity for true confession and forgiveness. This can lead to full restoration.

One Final thought

James continued his discussion on fights and quarrels saying, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

Consider James’ admonition the next time you feel your temperature rising. Ask yourself, “Where is my focus right now? Is it on God and what He wants for my life? Or is my focus on me and what I want?” If you don’t have what you want perhaps it is because your focus is not on God.

Conflict in organizations may be inevitable. But decide today that no conflict will begin with you because you pushed God out of your life so you could focus on your selfish desires.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, So You Want to Fight–Handling Arguments in the Workplace.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to deal with arguments in the workplace plus:

  • 14 common reasons constructive discussions turn into destructive arguments, and
  • An example of conflict resolution from the life of Paul.

You can download the whitepaper here: So You Want to Fight–Handling Arguments in the Workplace.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you had to deal with arguments in your workplace? What did you find was the most effective way to deal with them and bring resolution to the situation?

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 | Management of Human Resources

 

#213: 7 Things Bad Bosses Taught Me About Being a Good Leader

Thank goodness for bad bosses! I know that seems like an odd thing to proclaim, but it’s true. I am thankful for bad bosses.

Good leaders

Why?

Because bad bosses can teach us a lot about being a good leader. If we learn something from the example of a bad boss then they are a fulfillment of Paul’s proclamation in Romans 8:28, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

A bad boss may be miserable to work for today, but if you learn something from them that makes you a good leader, then it makes enduring them worthwhile.

Last week I wrote about two bad bosses in my life (you can read about them here). This week let’s dig in and look at a few of the things I learned about being a good leader from these two bad bosses.

1. Lead by Example

All leaders lead by example. The issue is, are you setting a good example or a bad one? Peter, writing to the elders (1 Peter 5:1-4), admonished them to be willing, servant leaders not taking advantage of those they lead.

Paul writing to his young protégé, Timothy, said: “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (Timothy 4:12). That’s the kind of example good leaders set.

2. Trust Those You Lead

David wrote that it is better to trust in the Lord rather than in men (Psalm 118:8-9).

Yes, our ultimate trust must be in the Lord, but I have found that if people see that you trust them, they will return your trust. On the other hand, if people feel that you don’t trust them they will become untrustworthy themselves.

3. Get Out of Their Way

One sign that you trust your people is that when you give them an assignment, you get out of their way and let them work. Being a micro-manager who hovers over your people makes you a poor supervisor, certainly not a leader.

General George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

It’s been my experience the more you tell people what to do the more you restrict their creativity. The more you restrict someone’s creativity, the less they have invested in your success.

4. Take Responsibility

Leaders take responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

If you are a good leader, you don’t throw your people under the bus when results don’t come in as expected. It was your job to lead. It was your job to anticipate and deal with problems. So, if things go haywire, it was your fault. Take responsibility.

5. Give Credit

When things go well good leaders know the results accrue to the hard work of the team and they give the team credit.

I learned early in my management career the quickest way to build morale in the organization is to build up the people who did great work. Shout their achievements from the rooftops. Let everyone know how great your team is.

Andrew Carnegie said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”

6. Don’t Play Favorites

Good leaders do not play favorites. I know it’s hard not to have favorites sometimes. There are some people you like more than others. Some are kindred spirits that you click with the minute you meet. Others make you tense up the minute they come into the room.

But good leaders avoid the temptation to play favorites. Solomon warned against playing favorites when he said, “To show partiality is not good” (Proverbs 28:21a).

James also warned against playing favorites when he said, “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:9).

7. Listen for Understanding

One of the most valuable skills any leader can have is the ability to listen. Learn to listen, not just to hear, but to understand. Often understanding comes from comprehending that which is beyond what is said.

James exhorted fellow believers saying they “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). You cannot listen for understanding if you are readying your response while the other person is still talking.

These are just seven of the leadership traits of good bosses I learned from my bad bosses. If you are already a leader, make sure you exhibit each of these traits. If you are on the road to leadership, make sure you make each of these traits is part of your leadership character.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. If you’ve worked for a bad boss what did you learn from them about being a good leader? Are there any of these leadership traits you need to work on?

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

 

 

 


#212: Have You Worked for Either of These Kinds of Bad Bosses?

There are two kinds of bad bosses, and I have worked for both kinds. There is the boss who doesn’t know they are bad, and then there is the boss that is bad, he knows it, and he doesn’t care!

Bad Bosses

Looking back over the 36-years of my business career I can only think of a couple of bad bosses (maybe my memory is shot, but that’s all I can remember).

The Unwitting Bad Boss

This boss came along later in my career. He was someone I had known for years and even worked with on several occasions. He was a pleasant enough fellow when I worked with him on projects, but when he became my boss, I saw a whole other side of him.

He took credit for the good work my team did even when he didn’t have anything to do with it. But, when something went wrong, he was the first one to throw my team and me under the bus.

I tried hard to work with him and even talked to him about how his behavior was impacting the morale of the organization. He didn’t seem to realize that his behavior was causing his people to pull away from him.

Even after being confronted with what was going on he never changed. Before long complaints about his behavior reached the ears of upper management, then human resources got involved. Eventually, he was demoted and transferred where he had the chance to start over with another division of the company.

The Bad, Bad Boss

I was a sales manager responsible for three states, and our team had just gone through a particularly tough quarter. Right after the close of the quarter, the mailman brought a large package and inside was what we lovingly referred to as the “Boot Trophy.”

Our boss had taken one of his old hiking books and had it mounted on an oak plaque. This became the Boot Trophy. It was to be held in the office of the worst performing manager for the entire quarter. It would then be sent on to the next manager who had the worst quarter’s performance.

I am sure the boss thought me having to stare at the Boot Trophy all quarter would remind me of the unit’s shameful performance and motivate my team to work harder and do better.

It didn’t.

I threw the stupid thing into the back of a closet. I didn’t look at it or tell my people about it. And then when it was time to forward to another manager, I “lost it.”

The Boot Trophy was just one of the examples of this manager’s abysmal leadership. He would rig sales contests to favor people he liked. He manufactured reasons to transfer or fire employees he didn’t like.

Eventually, he butted heads with his boss. My bad boss was given what I like to call, “alternate employment options” (an office and 30 days to find a new job and resign or get fired).

Dealing with Your Bad Boss

The Bible has a a lot to say about dealing with difficult people. My favorite passage comes from Jesus who gives instructions to the disciples regarding discipline among church members.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

If we apply these instructions to our organizations, there are four steps we should take in dealing with bad bosses:

  • Address the issues privately with him/her, one-on-one. If this does not resolve the situation then,
  • Take one or two others with you and discuss the issues in private once again. If this does not resolve the issue then,
  • Take the issue either to higher ups or the human resources department depending on your organization. If the situation is resolved, great. If not then,
  • Break off relationship with the bad boss. This can be tricky in an organization. You may need to ask for a transfer, or you may need to start looking for a new job.

Regardless of how the situation is resolved, we need to practice forgiveness. As Jesus continued teaching the disciples in Matthew 18:21-22 he told them they were to forgive the person who had sinned against them seventy-seven times.

We must forgive also. As hard as it may be, we must forgive those who have sinned against us for our sakes, for the sakes of our employees, and for the sake of the organization.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked with an unwittingly bad boss or the boss who was bad and knew it? How did their leadership affect the organization? How did you handle the bad boss?

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 | Conflict Management

 

 

#211: 13 Traits of Remarkable Biblical Leaders You Should Have

Plus a Bonus Whitepaper

What does it take to be a remarkable leader? The Bible provides many examples of both strong and weak leaders.

Biblical Leaders

Characteristics of remarkable Biblical leaders capable of meeting the needs of the people include loyalty, courage, desire, emotional stability, empathy, decisiveness, risk-takers, a sense of timing, competitiveness, confidence, accountability, trustworthiness, and a servant’s heart.

Loyalty

Loyalty between master and servant, and between servant and master is a reciprocal relationship common among strong leaders.

Elisha was loyal to Elijah to the extent that even though Elijah encouraged Elisha not to follow him, Elisha refused (2 Kings 2:1-12). On three separate occasions, Elisha restated his desire to stay with his master until the very end. His reward for this loyalty was to inherit Elijah’s powers and responsibilities.

Courage

Leaders must have courage. The job of leadership is often a lonely one, confronted with obstacles and adversity. A good leader must have the courage to bear up under these difficulties.

One of the most powerful pictures of courage in the Bible is the young boy David who steps onto the battlefield to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David was a shepherd whose only weapon was a sling. He faced Goliath, a giant over nine feet tall, who was a professional soldier.

Desire

Strong leaders have a desire to lead that is inescapable. They would rather lead others, affect the outcomes of events, and change processes than anything else.

Consider the example of Paul, who by his own account was shipwrecked, flogged, and thrown into prison for years. Paul endured this because of his intense desire to see the job he was commissioned to do completed.

Emotional Stability

Ever increasing levels of responsibility bring more and more stress. Good leaders have the ability to maintain composure in the face of adversity. They can recover quickly from the disappointment of failure with their perspectives clearly in focus. This kind of emotional stability and resilience are marks of a strong leader.

Job provides a wonderful example of a man, who in the face of adversity, maintained his emotional stability through his faith in God.

Empathy

Leaders must be able to appreciate the differences between people’s values and other cultures. Empathy brings about a unique understanding that is required to be able to meet people’s needs.

Jesus is the greatest example of a man who understood and valued the differences between people. In the selection of the apostles he chose a wide variety of people; a Pharisee, a tax collector, Jews, Greeks, young, old, well-educated, and those with no education. He chose them all with a complete understanding of how they would work to complete the missions assigned to them.

Decisiveness

Leaders must be able to make decisions. Wishy-washy procrastinators confuse and discourage subordinates.

Jesus never had any trouble making decisions. When He encountered the moneychangers at the temple, He immediately overthrew their tables saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Mat 21:13).

Risk-Takers

Leaders are willing to step out and take risks when others retreat to the comfort of stable security.

Paul’s life during his three missionary journeys, conducted over a twelve-year period, are a testimony to a man willing to take risks. He willingly placed himself in circumstances of great risk to fulfill his commission to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13-28).

A Sense of Timing

A leader must develop a sense of timing. The ability to know how and when to make a decision, when to make announcements, when to make changes, etcetera.

Jesus provides many examples of a perfect sense of timing. He always knew the right word or the right lesson, and the perfect time to deliver them.

Competitiveness

Leaders have an intense desire to win. Second place is not good enough. Although no one wins all the time, strong leaders know which races are the most important to win.

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor 9:24). Paul encourages the Corinthians to understand which races are important and not settle for second best.

Confidence

Strong leaders exude confidence. Despite personal doubts, they appear confident of their ability to succeed at all times, and this confidence carries over to subordinates.

Moses provides an example of outward confidence and inner doubt as he said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).

Accountability

Leaders understand the need to praise others for their work and take responsibility for failure. Strong leaders not only give credit where credit is due but take responsibility for the failures of their subordinates.

Remember the parable of the talents that Jesus taught the disciples (Matthew 25)? The master gave three servants five, two, and one talent of money to invest on his behalf while he was away. When the master returned, he rewarded the men who invested well. The master held the man who did not invest well accountable for his actions.

Trust

A leader has the trust of friend and foe alike. His word is his bond. His yes means yes and his no means no.

Jesus provides an important lesson about trust saying, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).

Servant

Above all else, a leader knows that it is his or her job to serve. There is no need for a shepherd if there is no flock.

Certainly, no one can be seen as more of a master and a servant in the Bible than Jesus himself. Among the dozens of examples of how He cared for His flock is a simple but dramatic example of when He abruptly stopped eating dinner to wash the disciples’ feet. He did this to provide an example of how He wanted them to serve and care for others (John 13).

One Final Thought

In his book, Leadership Is an Art, author Max Dupree notes, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

If we are not the quintessential leader that we might hope to be, we can study great leaders, understand their strengths, and try to emulate them. Eventually, with experience and dedication, you can develop the leadership skills you desire!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, 13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”

This whitepaper includes an expanded discussion of each of the 13 Biblical leadership traits and three lessons about leaders from the life and experiences of Ezekiel.

You can download the whitepaper here: 13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of the 13 traits of Biblical Leaders are your strengths and which are areas where you want to improve?

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

 

#198: Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively

Plus a Bonus Whitepaper

There are dozens of books about leadership and developing your leadership style. Authors have compared leadership styles to animals (lions, tigers, bear, beavers), and military generals (Napoleon, Attila, Sun Tzu, Alexander) all to help managers sort through the tough task of understanding what a good leader is.

Leadership

Business View

Most of us have been trained that the function of a manager is “Getting work done through others.” The more work, the better, preferably at the lowest possible cost. Inherent in this school of thought is the idea to use power to “control” others.

An example of this “controlling” style of leadership is portrayed in Matthew, “You know the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them” (Matthew 20:25).

Jesus is not condemning a leadership style that seeks to control. Rather, He is showing that it is inappropriate for the relationship between the disciples and Israelites.

Biblical View

Over 40-years ago in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices Peter Drucker noted,

“to make the worker ‘achieve’ demands that managers look upon labor as a resource rather than as a problem, a cost, or an enemy to be cowed. It demands that managers accept responsibility for making human strengths effective.”

Drucker’s point is that as managers we must change our focus from managing personnel to leading people.

One can summarize this philosophy as “Getting work done with others.” The idea is to use power to serve others; to enable them to do their work more effectively.

Jesus explains this requirement for leadership; “Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mat 20:26-28).

To the disciples, the “Gentiles” that Jesus referred to, were quite likely Roman leaders or soldiers. Imagine how revolutionary this concept must have seemed to the disciples; give leadership responsibilities to servants and slaves! From this single passage, we see the definition of a participative leadership style that emphasized the importance of relationships.

Styles Defined

There are four styles of leadership prominent in business today; Dictator, Authoritarian, Consultant, and Participative. Here are profiles of “pure” examples of each style:

Dictator. The dictator answers all the questions of who, what, when, where, and how work should be done himself. Opinions contrary to that of the dictator are not allowed.  The dictator’s biggest weakness is that he could care less about the people around him or the consequences of his actions on others. The dictator’s biggest strength is his ability to quickly summarize a situation, determine a strategy, and to act.

Authoritarian. The authoritarian usually answers most of the who, what, when, where, and how questions himself because he holds his own opinions in high regard. An authoritarian’s biggest weakness is his lack of regard for the skills of the people around him; either in using these people effectively or in recognizing the work they have done. The biggest strength of an authoritarian is their ability to gather information, decide, and act quickly.

Consultant. The consultative leader usually seeks input from others to answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. But make no mistake, he usually makes the decision himself. The biggest weakness of the consultative leader is that their decision-making process is slowed by searching out and evaluating opinions from others. The biggest strength of the consultant is that their people are very loyal and perform at or near peak levels.

Participative. The participative leader seeks input from the balance of the “team” before answering who, what, when, where, why and how questions. The biggest weakness of a participative leader is that they are often incapable of deciding on their own. The greatest strength of a participative leader is that their workers are fiercely loyal, hardworking, and performing at peak capacity.

Which Style Is “Right”?

Some writers would have you believe that only the participative team style is biblically correct. But filtering this notion through the record of Scripture yields a different answer; there is no one style that is always correct, but there is probably one best style for any given situation. Consider how Moses demonstrated each of these leadership styles:

Dictator. Moses exhibited a dictator style in several situations. In Exodus 32 we have the account of the Israelites making the golden calf. Moses immediately has the calf burned, ground into powder and thrown into the water. He then made the Israelites drink the water. Moses showed no hesitation. He took immediate action to stop the blasphemous activity.

Authoritarian. Moses exhibited an authoritarian style in Exodus 18. Here Moses listens to his father in law, Jethro, who explains to Moses that Moses should set up a hierarchy of judges to settle disputes among the people. Moses listened to Jethro and immediately set up a hierarchy of judges within each family so that only the most difficult cases would be brought before him for a decision.

Consultant. Moses exhibited a consultative style in Exodus 35-39. In these chapters, Moses related to the Israelites the preparations needed for the building of the tabernacle. Moses gave specific instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and its implements. He allowed each skilled worker to complete their work. But ultimately Moses inspected their work to see that they had done it correctly (Ex 39:43).

Participative. Moses used the participative style in Numbers 13. Here Moses prepares a group of 12 leaders (one from each tribe) to explore the country of Canaan. He gave the men specific instructions about where they were to go, and a list of eight questions he wanted to be answered. When the men returned from their scouting expedition Moses debriefed them. Ultimately, Moses even let the decision of the scouting party override his own opinion.

One Last Thought

An effective leader is one who can adeptly change his management style to suit a given situation. A dictator when fast, decisive action is required, An authoritarian when fast action is necessary, but there is some latitude in how to accomplish the task at hand. A consultant when working with experienced people on complex problems. Or participative when working with highly trained people on issues that require creative problem-solving.

Regardless of the leadership style you find yourself using, remember, you are a servant to the people you are responsible for leading. It is your responsibility to find out what their workplace needs are and to help fill them. If you do, you will build the performance levels of bosses, subordinates, and peers!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively.”

This whitepaper includes a discussion of:

  • A broader description of each of the four styles.
  • When it is appropriate to use each style.
  • Leadership style versus group size.
  • The importance of the servant’s heart demonstrated in all four styles.

You can download the free 8-page whitepaper here: Build Performance by Learning How to Use Leadership Styles Effectively.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have worked for or with someone who demonstrated only one leadership style? Was it appropriate for the situation? What was the impact on the organization?

 

 

Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#185: What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

First of all, let’s understand that people are promoted from the ranks to the first level of management for one of several reasons; they demonstrate the ability to lead others, they do their current jobs very well, they demonstrate an ability to carry out the responsibilities of the supervisor’s job, they are the most senior person in the office, or they are the CEO’s nephew.

Supervision

Regardless of how they got there, the issue is, “What supervision skills do you need to be successful?” The answers to this question are as varied as people themselves. Yet develop them you must if you expect to succeed.

The role of a supervisor is generally broken down into five areas: planning, staffing, organizing, directing, and controlling. Developing skills in each of these areas will provide well-balanced supervisors who add value to your organization.

Nehemiah, the Supervisor with Super-Vision

Nehemiah provides a Biblical model of an excellent supervisor. He had risen from the ranks of the captives to the king’s cup-bearer. As such, Nehemiah was frequently in the king’s presence and was a very influential man in the Persian empire.

In November 446 B.C., Nehemiah’s brother came to him to describe the situation in Jerusalem; the city walls and gates were broken down, and marauding tribes were plundering the city and assaulting the people. During all this, the leaders of the city did nothing.

Ezra had led a remnant back to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. They had begun the work of rebuilding the city but were stopped by King Artaxerxes. Under Nehemiah’s supervision, the same people were able to accomplish the work that had not been accomplished in the prior 12-years and they did it in only 52 days.

Why was Nehemiah successful when others had failed? The answer, his skills as a supervisor.

Planning

More work can be accomplished by accident by a group with a plan, than a group without a plan can accomplish on purpose.

When Nehemiah approached the king he had a complete plan prepared for what he needed from the king and the length of time it would take to complete the work. He knew that he would need timber from the king’s forest, letters for safe conduct, and soldiers from the king’s army.

After Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he did not go immediately to the city leaders and call them on the carpet. Instead, he quietly spent three days surveying the city and laying out specific plans.

When he had completed his planning he got all the leaders together to explain the situation and the need for the work that he had planned, “You see the trouble we are in; Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Neh. 2:17).

Note, Nehemiah did not say, “You go build this wall.” He said, “Come let us.” The people’s response to him was, “Let us start rebuilding” (Neh. 2:18).

In today’s parlance, he had a vision for what he wanted to do and he got “buy-in” to the vision from the leaders of the city.

Staffing/Organizing

Once plans for the work have been outlined the supervisor must staff the organization. In many cases, the workers are already employed but they need to be assigned their responsibilities.

Nehemiah wisely involved all of the people of Jerusalem in the rebuilding project. He had goldsmiths, priests, perfume-makers, guards, and merchants among the people working on the walls and gates. Women worked next to men. Community leaders worked next to servants.

Perhaps the most interesting strategic decision he made was to have each individual repair the area in front of their own home. These people were not experts at wall-building or gate-hanging but when faced with the work to be done in front of their own homes and businesses they took extra care and pride in completing the work quickly and with precision.

Directing

The job of directing involves much more than simply giving directions to employees. But even if this is all there was to it the plain fact is most performance related problems stem from the poor direction of the supervisor to the employee.

When Sanballat and Tobiah saw that the work on the wall was proceeding quickly they developed a plan to disrupt the work by attacking the workers.

Nehemiah heard about the plan and immediately took action; he had half of the workers standing guard and the other half working, he had each man armed, he had the man who sounded the trumpet with him at all times, he had all the people of the city stay inside the city at night, and he had guards posted day and night.

Controlling

Part of a supervisor’s job is the need to administer discipline. Nehemiah had no tolerance for those who did not share the work of rebuilding the city. Nehemiah wasted no time in taking disciplinary action. He did not wait until the wall was half-done to kick Sanballat, Geshem, and Tobiah out of the city.

You do not read about Nehemiah assigning jobs and then retreating to the palace. On the contrary, Nehemiah had the man who sounded the trumpet with him at all times so he must have been outside on the wall, watching the workers. He was a very early example of MBWA, “Management by Walking Around.”

One Final Thought

Nehemiah was a man of God. From the moment he heard about the problem in Jerusalem he began praying and seeking God’s direction. When he was faced with difficult situations, he prayed. When faced with trouble from those who wanted to stop his work, he prayed. When the work was finished, he prayed. Importantly, he also led the city back to a commitment to God.

Could it be that the failure of previous leaders to rebuild the city was due to their lack of faith in God to enable them to do the work? Perhaps. But one thing is very clear. Nehemiah accomplished what he accomplished because he kept his focus on God. A man who trusted and relied on God all the time.

When we are in the crush of a deadline it is our natural inclination to exercise our might to accomplish our work, rather than taking a moment to seek God’s counsel. A really good supervisor understands that taking the time to seek God’s will is the most important supervisory skill of all.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of the skills you need to be a successful supervisor:

  • Planning.
  • Staffing
  • Organizing.
  • Directing.
  • Controlling.

You can download the free 6-page whitepaper here: What Supervision Skills do You Need to be Successful?

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Is there a supervision skill you think is most important? Why?

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 | Structure/Organization

 

#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

#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