People are most productive…

When they enjoy their work!

I’ve lived under both styles of management.

One uses coercion, control and intimidation to motivate. 

One uses encouragement, incentives and cheers to motivate.

I prefer the latter.

In fact, I would go as far as to say the long-term success of the orginization is directly proportional to the contentment of the people in the organization. That doesn’t mean work is always fun. Work is work. But, when people feel they are making a difference and believe in the work they are doing, when they work in an environment conducive to enjoyment, the overall potential for success of the organization increases.

Agree or disagree? 

The Reason Many Policies are Written

Many policies are written because someone didn’t want to solve a problem.

In her book “Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands”, Nancy Ortberg talks about the need to differentiate between “a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved“. One example for me is the constant tension between the administration/money side of ministry and the discipleship/hands on side of ministry. As pastor, I’m always going to have to balance tension between our business administrator working to conserve cash and our youth pastor finding legitimate ministry needs in which to spend it, for example. That’s a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved. On the other hand, an employee who is taking advantage of a more casual organizational structure, which I typically prefer…that’s a problem to be solved. Quickly. A system, which is not working, causing more harm than good to the organization…problem to be solved. Now.

Most of the time, however, in my experience, churches are notorious for creating a new policy to attempt to manage the problem rather than doing the difficult work of solving it. Solving the problem often involves getting personal with people. It involves challenging people. It involves change. It involves holding people accountable to a higher standard. That’s messy. It’s never fun. Most churches like neat, clean and seemingly easy. (Just being honest.)

Using my illustration above, if the youth pastor has a perceived spending problem, rather than addressing the problem with him directly, many times a policy is created to “solve” the problem and curtail spending. Every other staff member may be performing satisfactorily, but the policy controls everyone. Plus, without wise counsel, the youth pastor never learns principles of healthy budgeting or how to manage cash flow, for example, and it continues to impact his ministry for years to come. Problem not solved.

Policies are easy. They are a piece of paper. They may involve some discussion, perhaps a committee meeting (maybe even a tense committee meeting), maybe even a church vote, but they seldom specifically address the people who are causing the problem in the first place. They make people feel better about the problem, but they almost never solve real problems. In fact, they usually only create more problems…which later need to be solved!

For more of my thoughts on policies, see THIS POST. I realize this problem is not limited to churches. Even the best organizations and corporations struggle to address problems as needed.

My advice:

Manage the tensions, but solve the problems.

Do the hard work. It’s what leaders are supposed to do. Not always easiest. Always best.

Have you seen churches (or organizations) try to manage a problem that needed to be solved?

Bonus points if you give me an example.

If you have to live by the rules

Write better rules…

That principle came to me recently in a personal illustration.

Cheryl and I love to travel, and we have done a lot of it together. Several years ago we realized that we were getting close to visiting all 50 states. Friends of ours had that as a goal of theirs, so we adopted it. Again, our goal was simple: visit all 50 states together. Since then we’ve planned many of our vacations around trying to get to all 50 states. At present count we are missing 9 states.

(I’m praying some churches in Alaska and Hawaii need me to fill in some Sunday or lead a retreat for them soon. 🙂 )

Cheryl needs a plan, so we needed some criteria in her mind for the visits. So we developed the “rules” for a state to be considered “visited”. There were only two rules:

  • We had to be in the state together.
  • We had to spend the night there.

Pretty simple, right?

Recently we were on vacation attempting to cover a few more states. Our plan would allow us to mark four states off our list. As we started planning, however, we realized we could mark five states off our list, if only we didn’t have to “spend the night there”. Our own rule got in the way. As anxious as we are to mark off all 50 states, especially since we are so close, we still had a rule to follow.

Then the thought occurred to me. They were our rules. We could change them if we want to. We could say we had to eat a meal there. Or we could say we had to spend 6 hours there. But, the point I’m making:

We could change the rules and still not alter our original goal…to visit together all 50 states.

It was a huge relief. Cheryl agreed. We added the fifth state to our list. As it turned out, we were able to spend the night there, but not out of the pressure to obey a rule, but because we wanted to.

Now that’s a silly example, but it illustrates a much bigger problem we face in many churches and organizations.

Sometimes we confuse our rules for our goals.

Rules aren’t goals. Goals aren’t rules.

Rules are meant to help us attain goals, not keep us from them. We need rules. They guide our way to progress.

As much as rules are a part of the process…

Why live by rules that keep us from accomplishing our goals?

Many times we limit ourselves to doing things strictly according to rules we’ve set for ourselves, or others have set for us, but they actually hinder progress. Instead, we don’t need to change our end goal. We don’t need to lower our standards. Many times we really just need to write better rules.

Help this post. What’s a rule that’s currently getting in the way of progress?

Five Decision-Making Lessons for Leaders

This is a guest post by Tor Constantino. He is a former journalist, has an MBA, and works in public relations where he has directly reporter to several CEOs in his career. He lives near Washington, D.C. with his wife and two daughters. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Not all decisions are created equally – some are much tougher for a leader to make than others. Consider the recent decisions surrounding National Football League quarterback, Peyton Manning.

A Gordian Knot of Decisions

The future NFL hall-of-famer recently left the Indianapolis Colts to become the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Prior to that decision, Manning had only played professionally for Indianapolis. The team drafted him out of college more than 13 years ago. During that tenure, Manning won a Super Bowl, was selected for multiple Pro Bowls, was named league MVP and never missed a game.

However, he missed the entire 2011 NFL season due to a series of spinal surgeries and physical rehabilitation to alleviate neck pain and weakness in his throwing arm that had developed over time. When Manning and the Colts ownership decided to part ways, there were no less than 12 different NFL teams that were lined up waiting to woo the QB to their respective franchises.

How Did He Decide?

While each team had its pros and cons, each was unequivocally willing to open their respective checkbook to corral the superstar player. According to media reports, within a week the final three teams Manning was considering were: the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and the Broncos.

Less than 14 days after his release from the Colts, Manning signed a life-altering deal with Denver for $96 million over five years. While some questioned the move, many applauded the decision.

While nobody knows all drivers of Manning’s decision…

There are some general lessons to be learned when big decisions must be made.

1. Relationships Trump Talent

Initially,sports experts believed that Manning would select the resurgent 49ers organization since the team is loaded with a slue of talented players, a top-rated defense and an aggressive, young coach. However, insiders reported that Manning developed a strong relationship with Broncos General Manager, John Elway who led the Broncos to multiple Super Bowls as a QB in the twilight of his career – very similar to Manning’s situation. It seems that the trust and common bond that was fostered between these two men, trumped a decision based purely on a team’s raw talent.

2. Trusted Advisors are Essential

Anyone who’s followed his career knows that Manning has a tight circle of counselors. Those have included his agent Tom Condon, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and General Manager Bill Polian as well as Manning’s dad, QB legend Archie Manning and others. Once he was released by the Colts that circle tightened to only include his most experienced and trusted advisors who helped him consider and evaluate all the decision variables to ensure nothing was fumbled.

3. Not Every Decision is a Long-Term Decision

Most management books stress the need to make decisions with the long view in mind. However, in the Manning example, he took a decidedly short-term perspective. A few weeks after signing with the Broncos, Peyton turned 36 years old – for an NFL quarterback that’s nearly retirement age. Manning clearly wants to add to his legacy and win as many championships while he physically can. The Titans had even offered him an ownership stake in the team once he left the game, but Manning believed he had a better chance of winning in the short-term with Denver – which seems to matter to him more.

4. Removing Barriers Helps Solidify Decisions

One of the most interesting, yet under-reported, aspects of Manning’s contract negotiations was that he was willing to release the team that signed him from financial obligations if he was unable to perform as a result of any complication related to the neck surgeries or previous nerve damage he suffered. Shrewdly, once Manning knew the team he wanted he removed the most serious objection – his health – before it became an issue, which saved time and helped solidify his decision.

5. Decide Based on Your Strengths

Manning is unique amongst NFL quarterbacks in that he is often compared to an on-field offensively-minded coach or veteran offensive coordinator as well as player. As such, he has complete command of the offense both on and off the field. Interestingly, the two head coaches for the Titans and 49ers were both offensive players in the NFL, while Broncos head coach Jon Fox has a decidedly defensive-focused approach to the game. Manning knew his personal strengths and understood that Denver afforded him the greatest opportunity to lead and play the game his way, while helping the entire organization.

While few of us will have to decide between NFL teams to play for or the value of intangibles beyond a multi-million dollar payday, we can clearly see the benefits of a thoughtful decision process that, if applied, can help anyone make the right call in the game of life.

Question: What tactics help you make decisions?

4 Tips to Make Your Meeting Memorable

This is a guest post from Ami Dean. Ami is the CEO and Mailroom Clerk at The Rally Point, a creative meeting space and conference center in Peoria, IL. For 20+ years she has trained & developed corporate teams in high performance. Visit her blog at www.amidean.wordpress.com

Here are 4 tips to make your meetings memorable:

Make Your Meetings Memorable

According to surveys by Wharton Center for Applied Research, managers report that only 56% of their meetings are productive – and that 25% would have been more effective as conference call, memo, or voicemail. Conclusion: the cost of misguided meetings is high.

Meetings are the window to the soul of your business or team. If developed and managed correctly, meetings can give you insights, ideas and direction that can propel your goals and objectives into another realm. So how do you keep our meeting from becoming a universal joke about useless and ineffective meetings? Here are 4 tips that will help and, create results you’ll love!

Let Them Contribute – This is the one thing that will make or break a meeting. It’s so hard to do and absolutely must be a rule you follow to keep ideas flowing and to allow people to contribute in their way without a filter being applied or any kind of judgment on their ideas. You shouldn’t moderate anything in an effective meeting and really anything goes. All ideas. Weird, difficult, unrealistic and any other ideas must be allowed. These, in fact, allow people to be comfortable with the creative process and you want to promote and encourage ideas, not instill fear of blurting out a dumb idea. There is no reason to have any criticism in a meeting (or anywhere else for that matter) and if you see that happening at any time, put an end to it and reinforce that you welcome weird, and what even seems like bad ideas.

Let Them Talk To Thy Neighbor – Encouraging participants to idea build during your meeting can substantially increase outcomes. NO IDEA IS OFF LIMITS (see #1 above) and all thoughts should be received well and listened to. You never know when that magical moment of playing off each other’s idea is going to spark the next big swing in direction your team moves in – so squelch the Shhhhhhhh’s and watch the creativity fly!!

Let Them Think Ahead – How many meetings have you attended that started out with the meeting facilitator passing out a ream of handouts or projecting a PowerPoint slide for discussion. The mere thought makes me cringe – it’s uber frustrating! A group read along is hardly productive for goal accomplishment. For MAX productivity and assurance of results – send all participants the PowerPoint deck 48 hours before the meeting time and let them prepare AHEAD for your discussion. Allowing your participants to do pre-work on charts, graphs and reading material is a sure fire way to gain maximum engagement in your meeting and will hands down give you the “Best Presenter of the Day” award.

Let Them Focus – When at all possible, get them out of their natural office surroundings. THINK DISTRACTION FREE! You may think that being “close to home” is the way to go and will cut the cost of your meeting, but email, phone calls and co-worker interruptions COST YOU AND YOUR MEETING PRODUCTIVITY more than a day at an offsite. Find venues that know how to cater to your meeting objectives and agenda. Those venues are worth their weight in gold.

Meetings aren’t going away (we don’t think they should). They are a necessary part of our every day work life. Creating effective meetings however, take time and a little creativity to improve morale, increase productivity and substantially increase engagement. When those three benefits happen – you’ll never go back to that boring old PowerPoint deck again (Thank goodness!!)

How does your team make meetings more memorable?

If You Want to Attract Leaders…

One of the most frequent criticisms I receive from young leaders about their organizations is that they aren’t given adequate responsibly or authority. They are handed a set of tasks to complete, but they don’t feel they have a part in creating the big picture for the organization. Since most of the young leaders I talk to are in ministry, this means it’s happening in the church too. 🙂

Do you want to lead a successful organization (church) that attracts leaders? Here’s my best advice:

Hand out visions more than you assign tasks.

In order for the organization to be successful, you’ll need to attract leaders. You know that, right? You need to know something about leaders and potential leaders.

Leaders want to work towards a vision, more than they want complete a set of tasks.

Leaders don’t get excited about checklists and assignments.

Leaders want to join a great vision, then help develop the tasks to accomplish it.

Leaders get excited about faith-stretching, bigger-than-life, jaw-dropping acts of courage. That’s the kind of vision they want to believe in and follow. “To do” list often gets in the way of that kind of fun. Visions excite them, details to complete them don’t.

So, if you want to create a successful organization, recruit leaders, hand them a big vision, with lots of room on the implementation side, then allow them to choose how they will accomplish that vision.

Hand them the vision, then get out of their way and let them do their work.

That doesn’t mean your work is over. They’ll need your help along the way. They’ll still need your help to develop structure, discipline and follow through. But that’s way different than handing them a set of tasks. That’s practicing good leadership and delegation skills. (You can read 4 Critical Aspects of Healthy Delegation HERE.)

I realize this is especially hard for perfectionist leaders who want to control every outcome. (Leaders like me; just being honest.) You’ll have to take a risk on the people you’ve recruited to lead and discipline yourself to let them work in their own way. You’ll get burned a few times, but overall, you’ll find more success when you:

Paint big visions…not specific tasks…

When you do this you’ll attract and develop more leaders and a more successful organization will be built and sustained.

How are you at releasing your vision to others?

Would you rather be handed a vision or a set of tasks to be completed?

Try to Kill Your Ideas, It Will Make Them Better

Sometimes I try to kill my own ideas.

Especially with an idea that has major consequences for change and potential.

I brought it to the table.

I believe in it.

I want it to happen.

I got people excited about it.

I energized the team.

Now I’m attempting to kill it.

I’m trying to find holes in the idea.

I am questioning the validity of the idea.

I’m even causing some to ask if I still support the idea.

My idea.

What’s my point?

Am I that difficult as a leader?

Well, that may be a matter of opinion, but I have a good reason.

I want the idea to stand the test of time and scrutiny.

If it survives, it has a better chance of succeeding.

If it doesn’t, well, let’s move on to a new idea.

As a leader, I’ve learned I can often get excited about my own ideas. I can get other people excited about my ideas…I can pitch an impressive vision…I can motivate people to say yes to my suggestions.

Whether because of position or power of persuasion, I have the ability to excite people around a cause. I can even find ways to justify my idea, even, if necessary, make it appear it was a “God-given” idea.

The bottom line is I’m capable of being wrong. I’m capable of some really bad ideas. I’m even capable of justifying my personal idea as a “God-idea”. Just being honest.

When an idea hasn’t been tested thoroughly before it meets the vote of the public, and it fails, it puts a strain against my credibility as a leader. If it has been tested, questioned and kicked around thoroughly, especially among the team I lead, it has the full support of everyone from the beginning, actually starts to feel like their idea, and has a better chance of succeeding.

Have a great idea?

Be the first to try to kill it and see if it’s worth pushing forward.

If it passes the test, you’ve got the potential of a great idea.

Have you ever tried to kill one of your own ideas?

Structure Can Impede Progress

Recently I received a question about a post entitled “7 Enemies of Organizational Health“. One of those “enemies” I listed as “structure”. The person’s question was, “Are you referring to micromanagement?” He went on to say that we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

I answered.

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, but really I simply meant structure. Let me attempt to explain.

I do agree we need some structure, but not for structure sake, but for progress sake. And there is a difference.

I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don’t need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But, we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, think about it, if we all did the right thing we wouldn’t need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem…when it gets in the way…and the kind of structure I was referring to in my post…is when a well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule that says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. So, because I want to respect authority, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8 AM to 5 PM. The fact is, however, that I work best at 6 in the morning out of the office. Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. At the same time, because I’m following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

The bottom line is that structure should enhance not impede progress.

Structure should never get in the way of accomplishing what God plants in your heart to accomplish.

Do you follow my reasoning? What would you add to the discussion?

An Elementary Approach to Facing Conflict

I’ve seen a lot of conflict in my life. From parents and couples in my office for counseling to employment situations where two people can’t get along. I’ve even seen a fight in the grocery store because someone thought someone else cut line.

As an observer, I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed that the way one person responds often determines the way the other person responds. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

When you are backed into a corner and facing potential conflict you can come out fighting, or you can be smart about it, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.

In fact, the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.

Here are 3 steps when backed into a corner:

Stop

Stop and think. What is the best approach? What do you really want to accomplish? Based on that, how should you respond? The opening moments are always critical in any conflict. You can quickly back someone or yourself into a corner. Cornered people move into a self-protection mode, fail to react rationally, and the sense of what’s best is lost. It requires practice, but take adequate time to plan the best way to approach the other party. It may require you being silent when your prone to speak, but this one step often avoids much of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict. (As an example, Jesus took time to make a whip before driving the money changers out of the temple. John 2)

Drop

Drop the right to win. When you come into a potential fiery situation with a have-to-win attitude you cloud your ability to work for the best results. Self-centeredness always gets in the way of healthy conflict. Be humble and agree that you are going to do what is best, even if that means you don’t get your way. This doesn’t mean you give in to the other party, but the goal in conflict should not be to win personally, but to reach the best solution for everyone.

Roll

Roll out the best approach. I realize it takes two or more people to make this happen, but when one party is willing to do the first two it makes accomplishing the best so much more likely. Go into every potential conflict with a humble desire for the best solution to be accomplished.

Avoid an unnecessary fire. Don’t come out swinging.

Stop, drop and roll.

Be honest, how are you at holding your tongue when needed?