#241: How to Prepare Your Organization to Recognize A Shifting Paradigm

Plus A Bonus Whitepaper

Horses as the primary mode of transportation, candles used for lighting, wood used for cooking and heating, windmills for pumping water, wind-up mechanical watches, and mimeograph machines, are all extinct. These were not bad products, but none the less they are gone.

Shifting Paradigm

What happened? Paradigm shifts occurred. Technology made new products possible, new products replaced old products, and in many cases, created whole new markets.

The ability of leaders to recognize these types of paradigm shifts in the future will make the difference between companies who are successful in the 21st century and those that are just hanging on.

What is a Paradigm Shift?

The greatest paradigm shift of all time came when Jesus preached the gospel. The impact of that simple message has been felt throughout the world. People changed, societies changed, and governments changed, all because of one man and His message.

The word paradigm comes from the Greek paradeigma which means “model, pattern, example.” In his book Future Edge, author Joel Barker provides his definition of a paradigm: “A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written or unwritten) that does two things: (1) it establishes clear boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.”

Think about some “minor” industry changes. What would you have done if you had known about the following technology paradigm shifts in advance?

  • FAX machines,
  • Personal computers,
  • VCR’s, Laser Disks, and DVDs,
  • Cable television,
  • Cellular phones, or
  • Streaming audio & video?

The list of industries created in the last ten years numbers in the hundreds! The list of industries that are gone also numbers in the hundreds. Companies that want to survive well into the 21st century had better be adept at managing change, and able to forecast paradigm shifts.

Don’t Trust the Experts!

Often, experts who develop technology don’t even understand the import of their actions. Simon Newcomb, a noted astronomer, said in 1902, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” In 1913 the American Road Congress reported that “It is an idle dream to imagine that…automobiles will take the place of railways in the long-distance movement of…passengers.” Thomas Edison said in 1880 that, “The phonograph…is not of any commercial value.” If you want to recognize paradigm shifts you might want to look to someone other than the “experts” for answers.

Getting Started

If you are a manager and you want to develop an organization capable of forecasting, recognizing, and taking advantage of paradigm shifts then the following points will be helpful:

Forecasting

Get a group of individuals together and have them write “future” scenarios. What will this industry look like in 20 years, 50 years? These “future” scenarios will help you see major paradigm shifts. If you’re in the home building business, you may see the concern for the environment as a precursor to a major shift in home building technology; new heating systems, new building materials, new super insulation materials, etc.

Get another group to write about what problems exist in the industry today, and to forecast future problems and needs. For example, if you’re in the plastics business you might consider oil supplies as a future problem. You might see pollution control legislation as a problem. You might see a need for a new type of plastic that will meet certain consumer needs, etc.

Flexibility

As managers, we tend to focus on problem-solving. In the crush of our workloads, we tend to be very comfortable with current solutions to problems. What we don’t realize is that there are new ways of doing old things and that we must be willing to accept these new solutions, even while the old solution is still working.

Search and Reapply

Search and reapply is a big opportunity area for most businesses today. One department gets a good idea and uses it to solve a problem, but nobody else in the organization ever hears about it. We need to create systems for publicizing ideas throughout our organizations. Next, we need to teach people to constantly look at the way other people do things as fertile ground for ideas that will help them do their jobs better.

Listen

As a manager, you need to understand that the people who have the ability to spot paradigm shifts are probably working for you right now:

  • They are the young people who have not been so socialized by years of experience that they are capable of seeing things a different way.
  • They are the experienced people who just took on a new job.
  • They are the odd ducks who are always challenging the status quo, never content with the way things are; they are forever trying to change things.
  • They are the inventors who get ideas and build prototypes. They often don’t even realize how valuable their ideas are in terms of solving other problems.

Now that you know who is most likely to spot paradigm shifts, make it a point to listen to them, and record their ideas. You never know when what seemed like a silly idea for one project will turn out to be a brilliant solution to another project.

One Final Thought

Any organization that wants to be successful in the 21st century will need to be:

  • future oriented; capable of anticipating changes in technology and consumer needs,
  • innovative; not only in the way they apply technology, but in the way they approach it, and
  • focused on quality; total quality will be the bare minimum in the next century.

To be successful, you will need all three of these components; not one or two, but all three. Getting to the point where your organization has these attributes may represent a major paradigm shift, so you might as well start right now.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Shifting Paradigms – Building an Organization that Leads Change.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of shifting paradigms, including:

  • Understanding what a paradigm shift is,
  • The Swiss Blew their Opportunity,
  • The Fall of Books and Magazines, and
  • Forecasting Paradigm Shifts

You can download the whitepaper here: Shifting Paradigms – Building an Organization that Leads Change.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What are you doing to recognize and leverage a paradigm shift in your business?

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 | Change, Innovation

#237: If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up with A Donkey!

The Danger of Yoked Relationships

The issue of yoked relationships in business is one of those Biblical principles that are easy to comprehend, but difficult to administer in real life.

Yoked Relationships Ox

This is especially true when a sure-fire opportunity to make an enormous amount of money comes via a partnership with a nonbeliever, and you must make a decision in the cold, hard dawn of reality: do you, or don’t you?

The verse that causes all this controversy is 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”

So, what exactly does the phrase, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” mean? Let’s start back in Deuteronomy 22:10 where Moses instructed Israel, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”

The yoke was a heavy beam that was strapped across the upper shoulders and around the neck of the animals to tie them together. The yoke was then harnessed to a plow or wagon. As the animals walked, the weight of the wagon or plow pulled on the harness through the center of the yoke between the two animals.

The selection of animals to be yoked together was given a great deal of thought. For example, animals of the same type were paired together; oxen with oxen, donkeys with donkeys.

The animals also needed to be about the same size and strength. If one animal were taller than the other, the smaller animal would bear the greater load and soon become tired. If one animal were stronger than the other, it would pull ahead of the weaker animal.

And finally, the animals needed to have a similar temperament. You were asking for trouble if you tied two strong willed animals together. One needed to be a leader, the other needed to be willing to follow.

If all these conditions were not met, the animals would be “unequally” yoked, and would not be able to get as much work done as a better-matched pair of animals.

So, what do Moses’s instructions to farmers and Paul’s to the Corinthians have to do with us in today’s business? Plenty!

What Constitutes a Yoke?

Of the sixty-six times that the Bible refers to a yoke, it is only used eight times in conjunction with animals. The other 58 times the word “yoke” is used it is regarding a burden or relationship with people and God

A yoke then is any relationship that formally ties two people together where the actions of one can directly affect another.

We have three basic legal forms in today’s business; proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. In a proprietorship with employees, there is a relationship between employees and the employer. In the corporation, there are employee/employer relationships, as well as relationships with stockholders. In the partnership, there is a relationship between the partners and the employees.

Is Partnership a Yoke?

There are at least eight legal forms of partnership. Generally speaking, they can be divided into two classifications; general and limited.

In a general partnership, partners are active or have the right to be active in the partnership. In the limited form, a partner only has an investment interest, without any right or say in the operation of the business.

General partnerships, regardless of the legal form, constitute yoked relationships because there is a formal agreement between two or more parties regarding the operation of a business. Clearly then, general partnerships constitute a yoke. Believers should avoid general partnerships with nonbelievers.

Limited partnerships do not usually constitute a yoke because the limited partner has no say in the operation of the partnership.

Is Stock Ownership a Yoke?

For most of us the answer to the question, “Is stock ownership a yoke?” is “No.” A few shares of a company held as an investment do not constitute a yoke. You could, after all, dissolve the relationship with a simple call to your broker.

But what if you hold a majority stock interest in a company and are an employee? What about a closely held corporation where there are few owners who have equal shares?

The guiding principle is this; does the relationship bind you legally to the company or other shareholders? If you have a majority stock interest and are an employee, you probably have a legal fiduciary relationship.

If in a closely held corporation, the intent is to create a relationship between shareholders for the purpose of sharing responsibilities and profits, then you have a partnership whether the word partnership was used or not.

Is the Employee/Employer Relationship a Yoke?

The employee/employer relationship does not constitute a yoke. The employer has authority over the subordinate employee.

As an employee, you need to maintain your integrity in all business relationships. As Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Your work should be your witness to the world.

The possible exception to the employer/employee relationship as being a yoke might exist when an employee is under a contract to the employer. For example, an actor, model, consultant, etc. If an employment contract is involved, you might find yourself in a yoked relationship. Be very careful with employment contracts, and remember the guiding principle; is the purpose of the relationship a partnership?

What About Existing Relationships?

The advice to not enter into a relationship in the future is easy to take, but what about relationships you’re in already? Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us some insight as he discusses what to do in a marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:12-13), “…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”

The principle is if you are in a relationship with a nonbeliever you should stay in it unless the relationship threatens your spiritual values. Paul goes on to say, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances…” (1 Cor. 7:15). If a nonbelieving partner wants to leave the partnership, you should let him.

What do you do if the nonbelieving partner is a family member, perhaps a parent, or a child? The same principles apply. If you are in a relationship that does not compromise your spiritual values, you should try to make the relationship work, “…each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:18). Perhaps the relationship you’re in is just where the Lord wants you to be to accomplish His work!

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of yoked relationships and five tips for creating a successful partnership.

You can download the whitepaper here: Yoked Relationships—If You’re an Ox, Don’t Team Up With A Donkey.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you been unequally yoked in a business relationship? If so, what made the relationship successful or what made it difficult for you?

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

#232: Who Should Climb the Ladder?

How to Determine Who Is a Good Promotion Candidate

It is a rare manager, who, in the span of a career does not wonder how a boss or a peer got their current position.

Woman Ladder

Perhaps that is what led management guru Peter Drucker to say, “The attempt to find “potential” is altogether futile.” In his book, Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker goes on to say that trying to pick out good future managers in a field of candidates is less likely to succeed than just taking every fifth person in the organization.

These situations give us pause to think of Peter’s principle; “Everyone rises to their level of incompetence. The only reason our system does not collapse is that not everyone reaches their level of incompetence at the same time!”

Most managers want supervisors who will get the work done, who will find creative solutions to problems, who will save the company money, and who will develop employees to their fullest potential.

So how do you decide? How do you figure out amongst those fresh, eager faces who will ultimately be the best new supervisor, manager, executive?

While there are no guarantees with anyone, there are ways you can assess individuals to help make your decision of whom to promote the most intelligent one possible.

The assessment process is comprised of three basic steps;

  • Review the candidate’s work record.
  • Interview the candidate.
  • Interview the candidate’s internal and external customers.

This assessment process is complex and will require considerable effort to complete, but will yield supervisors more likely to succeed in their new careers.

Review the Candidate’s Work Record

The place to start evaluating the potential of a candidate is their current work record. The best reflection of what a person will do in the future is what they have done in the past.

Examining the following four areas will help make the first cuts:

1) Attendance record. Review the candidate’s attendance record. Look for consistency.

2) Prior performance reviews. Review the candidate’s prior performance reviews. A strong candidate will show continual improvement.

Look for consistency in their performance over time.

3) Steady growth in job skills. A strong candidate is one who continues to improve in their current job. They ask questions seeking to expand their knowledge of the business. They look for ways to improve that are beyond the scope of their current jobs.

4) Ability to get along with peers. A big part of the new supervisor’s job will be getting work done through others. A good indication of this ability is how they get along with their peers.

Interview the Candidate

If you have the responsibility of promoting someone to the supervisory level you need to make sure that they have the interest and the skills to do the job. The best way to do that, in addition to reviewing their work record, is to interview them for the job. (You wouldn’t offer a job to someone just from reading a resume, would you?)

The promotion interview can take place all at once or over a period of days. If you cover the following six elements, you will increase your chance of selecting the right person the first time.

1) Make sure the person is interested in supervision. It is not true that every individual who does good work in their jobs wants to be promoted. Do not make this assumption!

2) Explain reasons for the promotion. A promotion candidate needs to know why they are being considered for additional responsibility. Don’t assume that they know why. They may, but tell them anyway. In other words, discuss all the success criteria you have established for a supervisor and how this candidate meets those criteria.

3) Outline new responsibilities. To supervise effectively, one must be able to plan, organize, direct, and control work processes. This is significantly different than the worker who is responsible solely for the completion of a task. The candidate needs to understand and accept the responsibility for managing the people involved in the production of the work, as well as the work itself.

4) Determine their views on supervision. Spend some time with the candidate discussing their views about supervision. After all, a worker’s ideas about supervision have been molded mostly by the people that have supervised them. Ask how they view the role of supervisor as different from that of the worker. Ask what they consider as being good and bad characteristics of a supervisor and why.

5) Discuss to whom the new supervisor will report. In these days of matrix management, the question of who you report to is not as simple as it might once have been. The candidate needs to understand who they are accountable to and for what.

6) Discuss the people who will be the new supervisor’s responsibility. Remember, the supervisor is responsible for managing the people doing the work, so they need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of those who report to them.

Interview the Candidate’s Internal and External Customers

The best way to find out how the supervisor candidate works with people is to talk to their internal and external customers. The most obvious group is their peer group.

But many others can provide valuable insight into the potential of an individual. Talk to other people who have contact with the candidate like supervisors or workers in other departments. If your candidate has contact with customers or suppliers, ask for their feedback.

One Final Thought

The job of finding and developing talented supervisors will forever be a difficult task for management. Even the diligent manager who follows each of these guidelines is not guaranteed success. People are not always what they seem. People change. Businesses change. The person who is just right for the job this year may be inadequate in the next decade.

Nonetheless, it is up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in doing so, find the supervisor that may one day become the president of the company.

If you are still having trouble deciding on a candidate, consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the selection of overseers (1 Timothy 3:2-4). In describing the characteristics of a good overseer, Paul used words like temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, and free from the love of money.

If you think about it, these are traits that should apply to all of us, all the time. Make it a point to review this list every morning. It will help keep you focused in the right direction.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to determine who is a good promotion candidate.

You can download the whitepaper here: Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to make decisions about who to promote? What criteria did you find helpful?

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

#224: Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out Of The Way!

As the Bob Dylan song goes, “the times they are a changin.” Managing a business in today’s world is an exercise in managing change. What worked phenomenally well in 2010 won’t work in 2020.

Effective Leadership

To meet the challenges that lay before us, leaders must learn new, more effective ways of managing rapidly changing, diverse groups of employees.

Way back in 1966 Peter F. Drucker wrote The Effective Executive, in which he makes the point that to be effective executives must learn how to harness worker resources like intelligence, imagination, and knowledge, and convert them into results.

The Effective Leader

So, what can you do to develop the future-oriented effective leadership style? You need to learn how to employ the right people, put them in the right jobs, give them the right training, empower them to get the work done, and most important of all, get out of their way so they can work!

1. Employ

The first step of the effective leader is to learn how to hire the right kind of people. In companies where employees are empowered, the employees are often responsible for the first one or two interviews. Team interviews that include employees and managers are becoming more common. After all, who knows the work better than the people doing it every day? Employees can be a valuable resource in hiring people who will fit the corporate culture and strategy.

Companies that are still relying on just the Human Resources manager for all hiring decisions are not utilizing the employee assets within the company. A real disaster is set-up when upper management takes control of hiring decisions at entry levels, to the exclusion of input from employees and first level managers. Hard as it may be to believe, this is still being practiced by some Fortune 500 companies today!

2. Equip

The second in becoming an effective leader is to get the right people in the right jobs. Paul wrote to the Romans, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).

Clearly, we need to be sensitive to people’s gifts and skills and do our best to match them to jobs that use their skills.

Once you have your people in the right jobs and you are focusing their talents on their jobs, you need to train them to do the best job possible.

In a recent survey of training costs, it was found that companies had budgets for training that ranged from $50 per employee per year to $4,000 per employee. Whose employees do you think are the best prepared to meet the challenges of the future?

Training your employees is a two-step process. First, there is the industrial training that keeps the employee up to date on your industry. Second, there is skill improvement training. Neither one of these is a one-time investment. Rather, it is a continual process that must be kept up over the life of the employee.

Ecclesiastes gives us an excellent view of the importance of training, “If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (Eccl. 10:10). If you have ever chopped wood with a dull axe, you know how much work it is. You work harder, it takes longer, and it requires much more determination to get the job done. Training will keep your employees like sharpened axes; capable of doing more, in less time than your competition.

3. Empower

Companies are getting the word; teams can be more productive than individuals. The rebirth of America’s large corporations has upper managers talking about making their employees intrapreneurs; people empowered to make decisions without approval from five levels of higher managers.

In America’s small companies we are hearing about “virtual corporations” where a handful of employees run big businesses by outsourcing talent, subcontracting, and making decisions without the safety net of expensive layers of higher managers.

The crucial steps in empowering your employees include;

  • hiring the right people, to begin with,
  • making sure that they are in jobs that best utilize their talents,
  • training them until they are the best they can be (and keeping them well trained), and finally,
  • making them accountable for decisions that affect their work.

Employees who are responsible for the productivity of their work group are more likely to take an interest in the output of other employees. If they understand that all sink or swim together, as a team, they will fight to survive.

4. Get Out of The Way

The biggest single reason that efforts to empower employees fail are that managers do not get out of the employee’s way and let them get the work done!

The manager “mother-hens” the employees, second guesses them, and sets-up their decision making so it comes out the way he wanted all along.

According to Mr. Webster, empowerment means to give someone authority. The definition does not suggest that a manager is to abdicate responsibility. And it is between giving authority and maintaining responsibility that most managers fail.

You must start by giving employees the right information, giving them the time and the resources to analyze potential decisions, and the support of management to carry out plans.

What constitutes the right information? For every company and every situation, the answer is different. Think about what information you would need to analyze a problem and decide. If you are managing a factory, giving workers production and profitability numbers for their department would be a good start.

One caveat from companies who have tried this. Break into employee empowerment gradually if you can. This is a new skill area for most employees, and they will need some practice to get good at it. Let them work on a few focused issues to build their confidence.

One Last Thought

Effective leaders of the future have difficult shoes to fill. The world is a complex place, and the rules of the game are changing all the time.

As difficult as this work is, remember Paul’s instruction to the Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out of the Way!

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to develop as an effective leader of the future:

  • 9 points of contrast between the past and the current/future work environment.
  • Two steps managers need to take to meet the challenge of the changing environment.
  • A broader description of the four elements of being an effective leader in the future.

You can download the whitepaper here: Effective Leadership: Employ, Equip, Empower, and Get Out of the Way!.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. How has the work environment changed in your industry over the past few years? How has your own leadership changed to meet the needs of the changing work environment?

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

 

#221: Surprise! Someone Is Preparing to Lead A Rebellion In Your Organization!

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

Being a leader is like playing “King of the Hill.” King of the Hill was a game we played as kids.

Rebellion

There was a mound of dirt on the playground. Whoever is at the top of the hill is king. Everyone else playing the game tries to knock the king off the top of the hill, and then they become king. That is until the next person comes along and knocks them off the hill so they can be king.

Being a leader in real life is a bit like playing king of the hill, but the stakes are much higher. Those in positions of leadership are regularly targeted by rebels who oppose your leadership. It can happen to anyone, even those appointed by God to lead His people. For example, rebels challenged Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership on several occasions.

God called on Moses & Aaron to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. They were not gone long before a rebellion led by a man named Korah threatened the entire nation. If it happened to Moses and Aaron, it could happen to us!

Here’s the backstory of Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16).

Korah’s Rebellion

A prominent man named Korah assembled a coalition of 250 other leading men to challenge Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership of the Israelites.

Korah accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above everyone else. Korah wanted the people to have more input because God dwelled with them all and God had described the people as a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:3-6).

What Korah said publicly in accusing Moses and Aaron was designed to rally his supporters, but it hid the real reason for his rebellion. When someone rebels against a leader there is usually a stated reason and a hidden reason for the rebellion.

The Stated Reason

In Korah’s case, his stated reason was he wanted more democracy inside the camp. He wanted the people to have a say in running things because God lived among all of them and described them as a kingdom of priests.

His logic was, “If God lives among the entire nation of Israel who does Moses and Aaron think they are elevating themselves above the rest of us, telling us what to do?”

The Hidden Reason

Korah’s real reason for starting the rebellion against Moses and Aaron was hidden. He didn’t want to be someone who just helped the priests in the service of the Lord. He wanted to be a priest!

His logic was, “If we are all priests as God says, why should Aaron and his people be the only ones to get to offer sacrifices to God? I want to be a priest and offer sacrifices too!”

What Drove Korah’s Rebellion?

Understanding what drove Korah’s rebellion gives us an important clue to what causes rebellion today.

Korah was envious of Moses and Aaron. God had appointed them to lead the nation, and Korah wasn’t satisfied with the role God had assigned him. His envy drove his selfish ambition to be something God had not called him to do.

James warned us of this very thing when he wrote, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).

How Did Moses Respond to the Rebellion?

Moses responded to the rebellion in a way that demonstrated he understood Korah’s public accusation as well as Korah’s selfish ambition:

  • He humbled himself before the Lord. When Moses heard the accusations against he fell on his face before the Lord (Numbers 16:4, 22).
  • He interceded for the people in prayer. When the Lord was ready to judge the people, Moses prayed asking the Lord not to punish all the people for the sins of the few (Numbers 16:22).
  • He faced his accusers directly. Moses reasoned directly with the rebels explaining what they were doing was in direct opposition to God (Numbers 16:5-11).
  • He left the final judgment to God. When the rebels refused to back down, Moses left final judgment of who should lead the Israelites up to God (Numbers 16:16-55).

Leaders beware! There will be those who, out of envy and selfish ambition will rebel against you. They will speak falsely. They will lie about you. They will say and do whatever it takes to become king of the hill.

The first step in thwarting a rebellion is to understand its cause; envy and selfish ambition. The second step is to respond like Moses; humble yourself, spend time in prayer, face your accusers directly, and know the final judgment will come from God.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Has anyone rebelled against your leadership? What steps did you take to manage 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: Skill | Conflict Management

 

#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