Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Confrontation is Necessary

I hate confrontation! I just thought that I'd get that out there right at the outset. I've never enjoyed difficult conversations; I'd much prefer to avoid them altogether. The truth is, however, that sometimes confrontation is necessary.

That being said, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you want to look at the wrong way, take a peek at how the Parliament of Canada operates - or the U.S. Congress for that matter. In both cases the issue rarely matters, what seems to matter is who can yell the loudest or score the most points with their sound bite. It's not the place to take your child to learn about civil discourse.

The wrong way is also modelled often on Facebook and other social media. The airing of public laundry seems to have become the equivalent of a pre-emptive strike for some people. It's certainly not the place to get into a confrontation - you do know you can send a private message, right? As Ravi Zacharias says, "When we start throwing dirt, we both get dirty and everybody loses ground."

So, why and how should we confront? Let's look at the why first. (Full disclosure: I'm looking at this from a Biblical perspective.)

We should confront when we firmly believe that we are doing so for the good of others. Confrontation should not be about evening the score, or putting someone in their place. That is revenge. In Romans 12:19 God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” No, confrontation ought to be done, first of all, for the good of the person being confronted. I try to assume that everyone wants to do the right thing until proven otherwise.

We should confront when coming to the aid of someone who cannot defend themselves.
There are times when we see things that need to be dealt with. Bullying is one example. When we stand by and watch someone being bullied without doing something about it, we are giving our tacit approval. One of the most powerful quotes I have read on this subject was written by Martin Niemoller, A Lutheran Pastor in Germany during World War II. He said, "When they came for the Jews, I did nothing, for I am not a Jew. When they came for the Socialists, I did nothing, for I am not a Socialist. When they came for the labor leaders, the homosexuals, the gypsies, I did nothing, for I am none of these, and when they came for me, I was alone, there was no one to stand up for me."

We should confront when it's for the common good.
There are times in leadership when we must confront because not to do so would allow the organization to be damaged. The same goes for society as a whole. There are times when we do need to speak up firmly, but respectively, and confront - when we see injustice, abuse or neglect for example.

We should confront when we are in a position of accountability to someone.
When in a position of trust we are to act accordingly. I am often asked to provide accountability for people, I take that very seriously. If I see something wrong and don't say something about it, that becomes my responsibility. Too many people are guilty of benign neglect - allowing things to slide because they don't want to step on toes.

Those are some of the whys of confrontation. Here are a few reasons why people don't confront.
  • Fear of being disliked.
  • Fear of making things worse.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Don't know how.
  • Who are we to confront? We're not perfect either.
Now let's look at some suggestions on how to confront.

Deal with issues as they arise.
Don't store up issues until you're so frustrated that you can't take it anymore. Nothing is worse, as an employee for example, than thinking that everything's fine only to be blindsided with a list of things you've been doing wrong for months. If it bothers you, talk about it politely when it's fresh, then move on.

Check your attitude first.
Remember, when we confront, our goal is to fix the problem or to restore a relationship - not to destroy a person. What are your motives? If they aren't right, perhaps you need to take some time to pray about it before you have the meeting. Don't contribute to the problem; be a part of the solution.

Start on a positive note.
People are much more willing to hear you out if they know that you care about them. As someone said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Outline the problem.
What is the issue that is causing the problem?
How is this affecting you or others?
Why is this a problem?

Encourage a response.
Prepare yourself for an emotional response. Often people may feel shock, bitterness or resentment and may want to "vent."

Put yourself in their place.
Try to understand how they may be feeling. Restate back to them what they've told you to demonstrate that they've been heard.

Communicate the expected result.
Focus on moving forward. People of good will want to move towards a solution. Let them know that you have high expectations for them.

Put it in the past.
Don't keep bringing it up again and again unless the problem is recurring. We have all made mistakes and would appreciate it if we could just move on after correcting them.

Here are some parting thoughts on confrontation that I've learned from experience.
  • The longer you wait to confront, the harder it is.
  • It's rarely as bad as you think it is.
  • Aim for a better understanding; a positive change and a growing relationship.
  • If you truly care about people, it shows - so work on you first.
  • It's not about you, so don't make it about you.
  • You really can be nice and honest at the same time. Try it, you might like it.

Related Articles:
Growing a Thick Skin
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
Are You a People Person?
The Power of the Mind

Monday, February 27, 2012

Growing a Thick Skin

One thing that is guaranteed, regardless of your field of leadership, you will be subject to criticism. Often it's the way that we respond to our critics that can determine whether we succeed or fail over the long term.

A lot of leaders are like the young man who's father gave him advice as he joined the military. He told him to "always get in the middle of the line and don't draw attention to yourself." That might work in the military, but it certainly won't work in leadership. The nature of the beast is that we are up front, making decisions, casting vision and being accountable. All of these things attract attention and criticism.

What are the keys to handling criticism and being healthy in leadership?

Recognize it as a normal part of the job.
You will be criticized. Don't be surprised when it happens. Not every decision you make is going to be popular with everyone. That's life. The greatest leaders were all the recipients of healthy doses of criticism. It didn't mean that they weren't good leaders, it meant they were doing something.

Look after your emotional health.
From my own experience, I have found that when I am emotionally healthy, it is much easier to take criticism in stride. Conversely, when I have allowed myself to be run down and have neglected myself emotionally, negative feedback has a much greater impact.

As leaders, we need to know ourselves. Recognize the signs that you are pushing your limits. Before you reach that point, take action.
  • Return to your strengths, those things that build your confidence.
  • Take a break if you can. Look toward the finish line, whether it be the weekend, the end of the assignment, or that much needed vacation. 
  • Turn to your support network. Who are those trusted people that you can rely on to pick you up when times get tough? 
  • Share the load. Delegate. We should do this all the time, but especially when we are overwhelmed, just remember to delegate, not dump.
Accept the pressure of the moment.
You are the leader. Don't run, hide or obfuscate. Face the challenge and deal with it accordingly. This is a particular challenge for those who don't like confrontation or difficult conversations but, as stated above, it comes with the territory. Face it and fix it.

Hear your critics.
Surprisingly, sometimes critics are our best friends. Winston Churchill said that “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Even our worst critics can provide us with useful information. When faced with someone who is irate or concerned, here are a few hints.
  • Act - don't react. Don't allow someone's childish behaviour to push you into acting childish yourself. Welcome their input and give them a fair hearing. I have found Proverbs 15:1 speaks very well to this situation: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Show grace. 
  • Consider the source. Is this person someone whose opinion you value? If so, be sure to listen intently. Often, however, when someone approaches a leader about an issue, it's not about the issue, it's about them. People are people, and all people have problems. Sometimes leaders make great targets for criticism because they are out front. And sometimes they are having problems with everyone and you're the only one they can come to. When criticism is completely unfounded, ignore it. 
  • Look for the nugget of truth. We can learn from almost everyone. See and hear through the bluster and try to find something of value to take away from your meeting. Invite your critic to help you with suggestions.
  • Thank your critic. This is difficult to do, but helpful. A wise leader I spoke to about an issue surprised me with this statement, he said, "Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share your concerns with me." He gained a great deal of respect from me in a tough situation.
  • Win them over. Handling a confrontation well can often result in a much stronger relationship. As a Christian leader, I recognize that people are not my enemies, they're in need of God's grace, as am I.
Act on what you've learned.
When your employees or volunteers care enough to speak out about an issue, it means that it matters to them. Sometimes it means that changes do actually need to be made. When this is the case, actions speak louder than words. A leader is willing to respond when they see the need gains leadership points with their followers. Those who build a wall and ignore their critics will soon find themselves isolated.

Create the proper vehicle for input.
Here's a good question, when your people see something that needs to change, how can they go about providing that suggestion? Here's one suggested method. Communicate that you are open for suggestions. Tell your people that for every issue they recognize you would like them to provide two possible solutions or alternatives. This gives them permission to participate and may provide some great ideas. It will also likely help you to avoid some not-so-pleasant encounters.

Communication problems are one of the most common problems in organizations. People want their voices to be heard. For most people, I've found that their hearts are in the right place and they really want to help. Believe in your people, value them and listen to them. People will be either your greatest asset or your greatest liability, see them as the former.

Grow through the criticism.
Don't take it personally - all leaders are criticized. You will usually find that criticism can become a great tool for your personal growth. Early in my ministry I found that I was taking a lot of heat, and it bothered me. But when I really took the time to consider what was being said, I found much of it to be true. This resulted in some major changes in my life. If I had rejected the criticism outright, as many do, I would have put a cap on my own potential.

Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? What skill do I need that can help me to do better? If you're hearing the same criticism from different sources, you should seriously consider dealing with that issue. In all of these things, having mentors you can trust to share with is invaluable. Talk to them about what you're hearing, and ask them for honest feedback. Remember, "Iron sharpens iron." Sometimes the greatest opportunities come from uncomfortable circumstances.  

Related Articles:
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
The Power of Words
Turning the Corner - How to Regain Momentum
Are You a People Person?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Turning the Corner - How to Regain Momentum

Momentum is a powerful thing in any organization. When it's going your way everything is easier. It takes less effort to get more results, people are excited; there's a "buzz" in the air. When momentum is going the wrong way everything is more difficult; the lack of energy is palpable. So, how can you turn it around.

Identify the cause.
When did things begin to turn for the worse? Was it a leadership decision, a change in policy or product, or an outside occurrence? Until you know why you are in the shape you're in, changing it will be difficult.

Speak to it directly.
Leaders are often hesitant to admit when mistakes have been made or even that things aren't going well. What they don't realize is that the people in their organization already know. They're looking for honesty and integrity from their leaders. Speaking the truth can inspire confidence and trust.

Re-affirm your commitment.
Are you here for the long haul? Do you believe in what you are doing? Leaders must ask themselves these questions and then re-affirm this to those who are following them. No-one is going to put out effort and energy when they don't know whether or not the leader is going to be there for the long haul. Let them know that you still believe and that you're commited. If not - get out.

Identify your core.
Who are those people who "have your back?" This may be a much smaller group than it used to be, but once you identify them you at least know the facts. Who are they? What skills, talents and abilities do they have? How do their skill sets match up with your current programming?

Consider a re-organization.
When I found myself in this position I realized that we were trying to operate too many programs with too few people. We made painful decisions to cut some popular programs in order to focus on those things that would move us further down the road. We made a commitment that we would only start new programs as the leadership and volunteers emerged and only if they were sustainable. This gave a sense of relief to our volunteers, some of whom were dangerously close to burnout.

Focus on your strengths.
What is it that you do well as an organization? Focusing on those things can go a long way to improving morale and confidence. If you have been struggling for a while, it can make a big difference to allow people to operate in their comfort zone; their area of expertise. This alleviates a great deal of stress and makes the work enjoyable.

Feed the fire.
When something starts to work, throw resources at it and keep it going. Success breeds success. Celebrate those successes - everyone likes a party.

Don't let it happen again.
This is easier said than done, but the easiest way to regain momentum is not to lose it in the first place. The illustration below shows the normal lifecycle of an organization. The key to moving forward and not losing momentum is making changes before you fall into decline.

Thoughts to remember:
"Success requires first expending ten units of effort to product one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort."
~ Charles J. Givens

"When you're successful, things have a momentum, and at a certain point you can't really tell whether you have created the momentum or it's creating you."
~ Annie Lennox

Related Articles:
The Importance of Defining Success
Learn This Lesson First
The Pareto Principle
Key Leadership Qualities - Resourcefulness
Authentic Leadership

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Importance of Defining Success

Guest post by Dr. Jeremy Stratton

You don’t start something new, you don’t take excess amounts of risk, with the idea that someday it will fail.

The reason you do your work, the reason you take on resistance, is to succeed.

What is the point of doing so much, taking on potential ridicule, quitting a stable job, risking your reputation, without success?

Part of our work is defining what success means, and most of us define it poorly.

When we dream and begin our work, we picture a form of success that looks like acclaim and recognition.

• Reaching the pinnacle of our chosen field.
• Attaining best seller status.
• Becoming wealthy through an IPO.
• Winning a grammy.
• Having 10,000 members at our church.
• Running fast enough for a gold medal.

Perhaps this is one potential definition, but if you choose this one for yourself, you are doomed to fail.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl warns against the idea of pursuing success.

"Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it."

A better definition of success? Dedication to your work. Surrender to another person through love. Surrender to a cause that is greater than yourself.
Success is found when you do a work you love. When you show up every day to do that very work, overcoming the resistance inside of you.

It is found in creating, in making something new. Something interesting.

It is having a vision for something great and then taking daily small steps in that direction.

It is believing the impossible.

It is learning from mistakes and becoming better at your craft for having “failed.”

If acclaim follows, then so be it, but don’t ever let it interfere with your true success.

  • This post is written by Dr. Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. His blog focuses on encouraging others to live a better story with their lives. You can connect with him on Twitter.
Related Articles:
The Power of Words
Men Without Chests
"I Have A Dream"

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Power of Words

"I have a dream..." Martin Luther King, Jr. uttered those famous words in 1963. (Watch full speech here). I was one year old, and am now 49. Yet they resonate, and will continue to do so, because of the powerful thoughts that they represent. Words are powerful things, and they have the potential to turn men's hearts and to alter the course of nations. With this kind of power we ought to be careful how we use them.

Words aren't always used for good, sometimes they are used for manipulation. Witness the powerful imagery that Hitler conjured with his speeches about a "thousand year reich." The world shook for years as the nation of Germany united around a madman who was good with words.

As leaders, then, this is a subject that must be thoughtfully considered. The more influential the leader, and the more challenging the times, the greater import of the choice of words. Look again to World War II as an example. Most of mainland Europe lay completely under the boot of Hitler's Nazis, and he turned his murderous attention on England. The island nation was facing the full might of the powerful German airforce - the Luftwaffe. On numerous occasions over the next few years, his voice and words rose to inspire a nation.

On June 4, 1940 he declared:
"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender..."  
(Read the whole speech here.)

On October 29, 1941 he famously uttered these words:
"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." (See more here.)

It is the power of words that can turn leaders into legends. Witness John F. Kennedy's stirring call to Americans at the time of his inauguration: "...ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."
As a leader, I've witnessed that the power of words is critical, not just for the world-shaking occasions described above, but for the challenges that face your organization and mine. When difficult times come, what you choose to say (or not say) can result in a renewed vision and determination or a continued loss of momentum. How do you know what to say? Here are some keys that I think need to be remembered:

Have a sense of the times.
Those who follow you need to know that you have a sense of perspective. You don't have to mouth platitudes that "everything is going to be all right," but you do need to explain the situation. The last thing that people want is their leader "fudging figures" or trying to tiptoe around reality. People already have a sense when things aren't going well. The best way to deal with that is to acknowledge that and set a course of action to change it.

Be a "dealer in hope."
Napoleon famously stated that “A leader is a dealer in hope.” This is a true statement, even if we can question Napoleon's motives. The truth is that people need to be inspired, and without hope, people will quickly abandon the fight or the cause. They need to know why they ought to continue to pay the price, and it's a question which deserves an answer.  

Believe it before you say it.
No-one wants to follow a hypocrite, and nothing serves to destroy the heart of an organization more quickly than to find out that their commitment was being taken advantage of. If you do not believe in what you are doing  - get off the bus, call u-haul and leave town. Let another leader emerge who has the courage of their convictions. Sharp people are very quick to sniff out a fraud or a coward. On the other hand, people long to follow a leader who they can believe in. Witness my favorite scene from Braveheart:

Think before you speak.
This speaks of preparation and intentionality. When you understand that what you say could turn the fortunes of your organization or the future of your people you'd best take your time. Focus your mind on the key thought that you want to convey. Remarkably, Martin Luther King, Jr. rarely used a manuscript, but preached from an outline, having the key thoughts committed to memory. Listening to him you have a sense that he had spent a great deal of time pondering how to express the burden that was in his heart. This, I believe is a  real hallmark of great leaders: they embody their cause.

I sincerely believe that people are looking and longing for a cause that is bigger than themselves; something that is worth living for. They are looking for leaders that are able to articulate the vision in a way that they can understand. They want to know why they ought to sacrifice; why they ought to commit wholeheartedly to a cause. It is a large part of a leader's role to cast that vision with clarity - so choose your words wisely.

Related Articles:
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders - Part II
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders
The Four Corners Of Great Leadership 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Learn This Lesson First

There are many versions of this lesson, but I'll share it the way that I heard it the first time.

There was once a wise teacher who was asked to speak with a group of professionals and business students. He decided that the best way to communicate with them was through an object lesson. Here is what he shared.

He took a large one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and sat it on the table in front of him. Then he took some large rocks and began to put them in the jar, one at a time, until he could fit no more in the jar. He then looked up at his accomplished students and asked them, "What do you think? Is the jar full?" All of them said, "Yes!"

He then pulled a jar of gravel from under the table and poured it into the mason jar, shaking it as he did so that the gravel filled the cracks between the rocks. He then asked the question again, "Is the jar full?" This time some of the students said "Yes," and some said, "No."

He proceeded to pull out another jar, this one of sand, from beneath the table, and began to pour it into the mason jar, filling each crevice that was left between the gravel stones. One more time he asked, "Is it full?" This time, the response was timid, again with some saying "Yes," and some "No."

He then took a ptcher of water on the table and began to pour it into the jar, continuing until the water reached the top of the jar. As he finished pouring he said, "Now, it is full." Then he asked, "Now, what is the lesson?"

An eager student raised his hand and said, "The lesson is that no matter how busy you are, you can always find time to do something else."

The teacher shook his head and said, "No, the lesson is this, if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

Here is a profound lesson on priorities - putting first things first. It's a lesson that has been stated in different ways by different people at different times. The greatest teacher in history, Jesus Christ, basically said it like this: "Love God first, then love people; everything else follows after these." (Matthew 22:37-39 - my paraphrase).

What is it that you are choosing to put in your jar first? What are the priorities that govern your life? Some choose success, position, money, fame or pleasure. All of us find, at some point in our lives, that none of these can provide long-term satisfaction, and certainly not anything of eternal significance.

The greatest lesson that any leader can learn is to, first, humble themself before the God of the universe. As Billy Graham said, "Wise men know when to bow." The writer of Proverbs wrote in Proverbs 9:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We were created for eternity, by God, for His purposes. Understanding this first can keep us from the fate of many who have climbed the ladder of success, reached the top, and found that it was leaning against the wrong building. Don't let that be said of you.

Related Articles:
The Pareto Principle
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia
Book Review: "What Good Is God?"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cool Link of the Day #6

I've long been a fan of Andy Stanley's ministry at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. I've found many of their resources very helpful in my own ministry and in my leadership development. They've just created a page to put all of their on-line content on one web-page for easy access! So this easily qualifies for my Cool Link of the Day. I hope you find this as helpful as I have. Here is the link.

Related Articles:
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders - Part II
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders
Leadership Sites You Should Bookmark
Cool Link of the Day #4
Cool Link of the Day #3

Monday, February 6, 2012

Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders - Part II

Last week I posted a blog showing the results of a survey of Canadian Christian leaders. This is a follow-up to that. The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada was intending to discover what resources Canadian leaders were using to develop their leadership skills and resource their ministries. The previous post looked at favorite books, authors and podcasts. Today's post gives the results for the most popular blogs.

Interestingly, other questions regarding social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn didn't receive enough feedback to produce a result. The measurable scale of impact has not been there for those services as of yet. I'm going to add my own top ten for Twitter just because I've found some helpful ones. (The survey only found three that rated a mention). But before we get to that, here's the first question.

Which 3 BLOGS, Christian or secular, are currently having the most impact or relevance to your ministry?
  1. Seth Godin
  2. Rick Warren
  3. Steven Furtick
  4. Andy Stanley
  5. Catalyst
  6. Ed Stetzer
  7. Mark Driscoll
  8. Rachel Held Evans
  9. Relevant Magazine
  10. Scot McKnight
The next question only had three results. I'll list those first and then fill out the list with my own suggestions. If you have suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

If applicable, what 3 TWITTER accounts do you find most relevant to your ministry?
  1. @RickWarren
  2. @CSLewisDaily
  3. @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll)
  4. @erwinmcmanus
  5. @DailyKeller (Tim Keller)
  6. @MichaelHyatt
  7. @ChristianPost
  8. @garyhaugen
  9. @RaviZacharias
  10. @craiggroeschel
  11. @tdbok (Tony denBok) - Hey, it is my blog!
Let me encourage you to plug into these online resources, but to keep a balance. That can be difficult to do as we can find ourselves overwhelmed by content. It may help to set time limits daily in order to keep from getting out of synch. I hope that you find these resources helpful.

Related Articles:
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders
Cool Link of the Day #5
Cool Link of the Day #4
Cool Link of the Day #3
Cool Link of the Day #2!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Pareto Principle

A long, long time ago, near the beginning of my ministry, I attended a leadership conference taught by John Maxwell. I ate up the material because it related to what I was facing in my church and life at the time. I was just reminded of one of the principles that he taught as I was sitting at my desk looking at literally scores of books that I want to read.

The truth is that you can't do everything. You can't read everything. You can't listen to every podcast and you certainly can't keep everybody happy. That's where the reminder about the Pareto Principle came to my puny little mind.

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) was developed by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto way back in 1906. What it basically teaches is this: for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. He observed, for example that, in 1906, 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. In his garden, 80% of the peas came from only 20% of the pea pods.

Frankly, I don't care about the peas and the pods or who owns what in Italy - the question for me is how can I apply this principle. Maxwell shared some great applications for my church and my life. Take a look at some of these examples and see if you have found these true in your environment:

  • 20% of the people do 80% of the work.
  • 20% of the people give 80% of the money.
  • 20% of the people take 80% of the time.
  • 20% of the people invite 80% of the visitors.
  • 20% of the people make 80% of the decisions.
  • 20% of the people teach 80% of the people.
  • 20% of the time produces 80% of the results.
  • 20% of the programs give 80% of the growth.
  • 20% of the message gives 80% of the content.
  • 20% of the job gives 80% of the satisfaction.

The bottom line application for all of us is this: if we devote our energy, time, and resources to the top 20% of our priorities, we’ll achieve 80% of the results we desire. This is one application of this principle that I have definitely found to be true. All of us are busy (some at things that don't matter, but that's another story). Many of us find ourselves with not enough hours in a day to accomplish all that we need to accomplish. So, obviously, choices need to be made. Here are some lessons from Pareto.
It's not how hard you work, but how smart, that counts.
I've known some very unsuccessful hard workers. They're certainly not lazy, but lazy is not the only way to be unproductive. We need to recognize those areas of responsibility that are going to move us the greatest distance toward our destination, and do them first.
Someone spoke of the "tyranny of the urgent." Without planning and evaluating, we end up constantly having to deal with things that are now "urgent," simply because we weren't paying attention. With my personality I learned a long time ago that I wasn't going to get a lot done without the use of a planner. Working hard was never an issue, working smart was.
Organize or agonize.
I say this as I'm surrounded by stacks of papers and files on my desk. I'm an "abstract random." I tend to move quickly from project to project and like to have a lot of things of the go. I can be like the talking dog in the movie "Up" who was constantly being distracted because he thought he saw a squirrel. I like squirrels, they're cute little furry animals, rodents actually that like nuts.... Sorry. The point is. I've had to learn (still learning) to organize my major projects or regret the missed deadlines.
For those with personalities like mine, this is an ongoing process. But I do find the principle holds true. I need to keep asking myself which of these projects will bring the greatest reward and refocus my energies on those.
Choose or lose.
The truth is that we are always making choices whether we want to be or not. If we do not choose to place first things first then we are choosing to place them somewhere else. When those important things are moved down on the totem pole our effectiveness drops as well. Sometimes we simply cannot do everything that is asked of us so we must choose - or lose.
Evaluate or stalemate.
Someone called it "the paralysis of analysis," the inability to make a decision. It's also been called the "ready, aim, aim, aim... syndrome." We have to set and maintain priorities if we're going to be effective in our chosen field of endeavour. How can we do that? Here are some questions to ask:
  • How do we determine our priorities?
  1. Requirement: What is required of me?
  2. Return: What gives the greatest return?
  3. Reward: What gives me the greatest joy?
  • How do we maintain our priorities?
  1. Evaluate: Where am I?
  2. Eliminate: What am I doing that can be done by someone else?
  3. Estimate: What is needed to accomplish my objective?

I know that I have a set amount of hours to work with in any given day and week. The question is, what am I going to do with that time? If I apply the Pareto Principle and focus on the top 20%, rather than the squirrels, chances are I'll get a lot more done. So, as far as my books are concerned, I think I'm going to figure out which 20% are going to give me 80% of what I need to know. The others look good on my shelf for the time being. By the way, if you're reading this, you're in my top 20%. : )

Related Articles:
"Do It Now" - The Principle of Inertia
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
Developing Great Habits
Key Leadership Qualities - Discernment
Are You Teachable?
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders


Guest post by Dr. Jeremy Statton

We have all had a boss that we did not respect. No matter how intelligent or charismatic, you knew that placing blind faith in him or her would be a mistake. You were always watching your back waiting for the sucker punch to come.

A lack of trust allows fear to become a primary motivation with your team members. They will fear your opinions. They will fear your decisions and evaluations. They will fear failure. They will fear you.

Once fear creeps in, your team members will become paralyzed.

Trust is something that has to be earned. It is something we are all told to give away slowly and to take back quickly.

Here are six ways that a leader can instill respect and trust in his team:

1. Expose yourself.
Open yourself to others. Not in a dangerous way where people can take advantage of you, but rather in a way that demonstrates honesty and humility. Your team needs to know that you are just like them. Be willing to admit your own failures. If you put up a wall around yourself, your team will too.

2. Take the hit.
When undesirable outcomes happen, we are all quick to point the finger. If your team members see that you are willing to take the blame for the good of the team, even if its not directly your fault, then they will start to let go and trust you. As leader of a team you need to accept the responsibility for both the good and the bad.

3. Build your team members up.
This is the opposite of taking the hit. Whenever it is appropriate make sure you praise your team members in front of their peers and superiors. Be sure to applaud their efforts and results. Never try to take sole credit for something good that the team did.

4. Get rid of the leash.
Allow for freedom to explore new ideas and to be creative. If people feel that you are micro-managing them, they will stop trusting you. Make room for failure and more importantly the opportunity to learn from failure.

5. Accept confrontation.
Fighting is not good, but neither is false agreement. When there is a difference of opinion, promote discussion. Explore solutions with the intent to solve problems. If disagreement never occurs, then your team is afraid of telling you the truth.

6. Find the value in each person.
We all have weaknesses, but we also have strengths. Everyone brings something different to the table. Find what is unique in each individual and use that unique strength for the good of the team.

  • This post is written by Dr. Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. His blog focuses on encouraging others to live a better story with their lives. You can connect with him on Twitter.
Related Articles:
The Four Corners Of Great Leadership
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
Are You Teachable?
Authentic Leadership

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders

Recently The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada conducted surveys of Canadian church leaders to find out what was impacting their ministries. I know that I'm always on the prowl for resources that can help me with my leadership so I thought I'd share in one place for you what I found in a series of Scott Cochrane's blogs.

I was pleased to find that I already use many of these resources (so I'm not completely out of touch). I also was pleased to find that there were a few that I haven't checked out yet. Links to the applicable sites are also included  for your convenience. If you have some others that you've stumbled on and would like to share, please leave a comment. So here goes...

In answer to the question:
Which 3 AUTHORS, Christian or secular, are currently having the most impact or relevance to your ministry?
  1. Tim Keller
  2. Bill Hybels
  3. Andy Stanley
  4. N.T. Wright
  5. Francis Chan
  6. Dallas Willard
  7. Eugene Peterson
  8. Henri Nouwen
  9. Brian McLaren
  10. Patrick Lencioni
  11. Ravi Zacharias - Wasn't on the list but I added him because it's my blog. : )
In answer to the question:
In 2011, what were the 3 most ministry-impacting BOOKS you read?

  1. Sun Stand Still, Steven Furtick
  2. Radical, David Platt
  3. The Power of a Whisper, Bill Hybels Find book review here.
  4. Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright
  5. Humilitas, John Dickson
  6. Prodigal God, Timothy Keller
  7. Sticky Church, Larry Osborne
  8. Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey
  9. Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro
  10. Simple Church, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
  11. What Good is God? Philip Yancey - Again... it's my blog. See review here.
Final question:
Which 3 PODCASTS, Christian or secular, are currently having the most impact or relevance to your ministry?
  1. Andy Stanley
  2. Timothy Keller
  3. Mark Driscoll
  4. Bill Hybels
  5. Craig Groeschel
  6. Focus on the Family
  7. Ravi Zacharias
  8. Mark Buchanan
  9. TEDTalks
  10. The Meeting House
  11. Erwin McManus - It's still my blog.
These are great resources for leaders. I hope that you take some tome and check them out. Remember to do something - every day - to help yourself grow as a leader.

Related Articles:
Seven Keys For A Better Life
The Rebekah Principle
Cool Link of the Day #3
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"