7 Lazy Leadership Practices

Whoever is lazy regarding his work is also a brother to the master of destruction. Proverbs 18:9

Laziness is a sin.

It’s also annoying. And, ineffective in leadership.

The fact is, however, many of us have some lazy tendencies when it comes to leadership. I do at times. This is as much an inward reflecting post as an outward teaching.

Please understand, I’m not calling a leader lazy who defaults to any of these leadership practices listed. The leader may be extremely hard working, but the practice itself – I’m contending – is lazy leadership.

Here are a 7 examples of lazy leadership practices.

Assuming the answer without asking hard questions.

Or, not asking enough questions. It’s easier just to move forward sometimes – and sometimes it’s even necessary to move quickly, but many times we just didn’t put enough energy into making the best decision. Often its because we don’t want to know or are afraid to know the real answer. It is the lazy way of making decisions.

Not delegating. 

Again, I’m not saying the leader is lazy. But this part of their leadership is lazy. It’s easier many times just to “do it myself” than to go through the process of delegating. Good delegating takes hard work. You can’t just “dump and run”. You have to help people know the vision, understand a win, and stay close enough in case they need you again. New leaders are developed, loyalty is gained, and teams are made more effective through delegation.

Giving up after the first try.

No one likes to fail. Sometimes it’s easier to scrap a dream and start over rather than fight through the messiness and even embarrassment of picking up the pieces of a broken dream. But if the dream was valid the first time, it probably still has some validity today.

Not investing in younger leaders.

There’s the whole generational gap – differences in values, communication styles, expectations, etc. It would be easier to surround ourselves with all like-minded people, but who wins with that approach – especially long-term?

Settling for mediocre performance.

It’s more difficult to push for excellence. Average results come with average efforts. It’s the hard work and the final efforts, which produce the best results. But, the experience of celebrating when you’ve done your best work is always worth the extra energy.

Not explaining why.

“Just do what I say” leadership saves a lot of the leader’s time. If I don’t have to explain what’s in my head – just tell people what to do – I get to do more of what I want to do. But, I’d have a bunch of pawns on my team and one disrespected, ineffective and unprotected boss (leader). (And, being “boss” is not a good leadership style by the way.) Continual vision casting is often the harder work, but necessary for the best results in leadership.

Avoiding conflict.

No one likes conflict. Not even those of us who don’t run from it. But, you can’t lead effectively without experiencing conflict. Every decision a leader makes is subject to agreement and disagreement. It’s why we need leadership. If there was only one direction who needs a leader? To achieve best – the very best – we have to lead people beyond a simple compromise, which makes everyone happy.

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Proverbs 6:6

If you’ve been practicing lazy leadership, the best response – as to any sin – is to repent, turn away, and do the hard work of leadership. You and your team will benefit greatly.

 

12 Ways to Make Yourself A Valuable Team Member

A young man came to me once seeking advice for starting a new position. He wanted to know how he could set himself apart and make himself a valuable team member.

I loved the question. It showed intentionality and purpose on his part. I think that has to be step one – asking good questions and seeking wise answers – and he was already doing it.

I was impressed enough I decided not to give him just a few suggestions, but to give him a dozen.

12 ways to make yourself valuable as a team member:

Be an encourager of others on the team. We all have bad days occasionally, so it’s nice to know someone on the team who always has a smile and finds joy in making others joyful.

Embrace change willingly. Change is coming – whether we like it or not. The one who remains positive when others are negative – even in the midst of change – is golden for creating a healthy team environment.

Speak words of affirmation to others. Recognize things other people do right. Consider the interests of other people ahead of your own personal recognition.

Laugh deep and smile often. It’s hard to frown back, even on the worst days, when someone flashes a genuine smile at you.

Value other people’s opinions. People want to be heard. They appreciate when they believe someone genuinely cares to hear what they have to say.

Remain steadfast to vision and values. Loyalty is a rare and attractive quality. Believe in the place where you work. If you can’t it might be time to consider somewhere else to invest your time and energy.

Be flexible with methods. “Let’s get it done” – whatever it takes – is a great way to set yourself apart from the norm of a team.

Genuinely love people. Love even those who are more difficult to love. (This quality alone will set you apart from most others.)

Give more than required. It’s been said to “under-promise and over-deliver”. Yea, something like that. Certainly do what’s expected with excellence – and, without complaining.

Think critically for improvement. Being cooperative doesn’t mean you are void of opinions. In a respectful way, offer helpful suggestions. Be humble and purposeful in adding value to the team.

Never gossip or talk bad about another team member. Everything you say will come back around to you. If you have a problem with someone talk to them personally, before you talk to anyone else. Here’s a standard – make sure you’d be okay if whatever is repeated from your mouth was hung in the break room bulletin board.

Have a servant’s heart. Jesus said, “the greatest among us must be a servant.” Never let any job or task be beneath you. Value other people and their roles on the team. Regardless of your “rank”, see your job as an opportunity to serve others.

What would you add to my list?

When Only the Senior Leader Fully Understands

I was once talking with a young pastor having to make some hard decisions in his church. He was praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, and allowing input from the church. He felt confident he was making the right decisions for the life of the church at the time. None of the changes were clearly addressed in Scripture. He felt the majority of the people supported him, but still there was a certain group in the church who continually questioned and criticized him for any changes he initiated.

His comment which struck me was, “I feel like every time I take two steps forward we take another step backwards. Why can’t they understand we have to change or we will eventually die?”

His comment and the question which followed reminded me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership. And, I’ve been reminded of it by experience many times.

You can never fully understand all the decisions a leader makes unless you sit where the leader sits.

The leader can explain the why behind the decision – and, he or she should try. The leader can walk people slowly through the process of change – and, he or she should. The leader can listen to people’s objections and be patient with people who don’t understand – and, he or she should.

The leader should consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts people (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead. Leaders should never make decisions in a vacuum- they need to include other people in the decision-making process. The leader should be open to critique and be teachable.

But, there will be times when the leader simply has to make decisions based on the best and most current information available.

And, not everyone will understand.

This is true for pastors, business owners, parents, elected officials, and teachers. Anyone who leads people will experience times of being misunderstood. If you’re a leader, you’ll be second-guessed in some of the decisions you make.

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of leadership. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions – the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

7 Ways to Correct a Team Member in a Healthy Way

All of us make mistakes and occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. This should always be the end goal of correction.

Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.

It’s important, however, that we correct correctly. The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team – and a healthy team dynamic. 

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

A pre-established relationship – Corrective actions should ultimately start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.

Granted, there will be times when a leader has to correct someone he or she doesn’t know well. While this isn’t ideal, it should alter the way the conversation takes place and who is in the room at the time. I have, for example, invited someone else the person trusts on the team into the room with us.

Respect for the person – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect. If you can’t respect the person’s character you have a completely different issue – and probably need a different blog post.

Be clear about the offense – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong.  Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless there is a problem or what the actual problem is you think needs correcting.

Embrace a development opportunity – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected. Get them additional help or training if needed.

Restore them to a place of trust – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued. Trust may take some time and you will need to see improvement, but if you can never fully trust the person – again – you have harder decisions to make than correcting them. And, there’s another blog post needed.

Build health into the DNA – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader may need to consider how he or she (the leader) needs to improve to help the team member and the team improve.

Make hard decisions when needed – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team. Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship – was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)

Many leaders avoid correction of any kind. Either they don’t like conflict or they simply don’t want to lose favor with the team member. But, correction can be valuable for the team and its members if used correctly.

(And, it really is a Biblical principe. See Hebrews 12:11)

7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

Leadership should be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it should cost us something. Leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

Questions To Help Discern If You Are Ready to be a Leader

I had a young man ask me recently, “Do you think I’m ready to be a leader?”

I said:

Great question. Glad you’re asking. But, honestly, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer your question. Actually, it might help if I ask you some questions.

Here are a few questions – to discern if you’re ready to be a leader?

Are you ready to stand alone at times?

Are you ready to push through fear?

Are you ready to do the right thing even when it’s the unpopular thing?

Are you ready to be misunderstood sometimes – actually, many times?

Are you ready to sacrifice for your team?

Are you ready to see things others may not yet be able to see?

Are you ready to enter the unknown – and are you ready to enter first?

Are you ready to keep confidences?

Are you ready to be looked at for a decision even when you have no idea what to do?

Are you ready to delegate?

Are you ready to lead change – even when it’s uncomfortable?

Are you ready to be overwhelmed at times?

Are you ready to be talked about when you leave the room – in good and bad ways?

Are you ready – and willing – to allow others to receive recognition?

Are you ready for people to befriend you simply for your position?

Are you ready to see all sides of an issue?

Are you ready to sometimes feel like the weight of a vision is on your shoulders?

Are you ready to face conflict?

Are you ready to always have your integrity closely observed by others?

Are you ready to receive criticism?

Are you ready to defend your team?

Are you ready to be a leader?

7 Phrases to Ban When Trying to Discover New Ideas

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come by getting a group together and searching for new ideas or ways of doing things. My mindset is you can usually come up with better solutions if you put the right people in a room and let them throw lots of ideas on the table – even seemingly bad ideas (at least at first).

The reality is change spurs momentum, so if you want to create some excitement around you, get a variety of people in a room and let the ideas flow freely. If you are in a stuck or stale position – and want to see new growth – one recommendation I’d give is to organize a session of ideation.

But, you’ve got to be intentional to be successful. You need enough people. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people. And, inviting outside people is often a good idea even with large staffs.) You need the right people – people who will voice their own opinions, but will also be positive-minded, cooperative and supportive of other people’s thoughts.

It’s usually good to begin with some open ended questions or problems to solve in order to spur discussion. You need plenty of time, because ideas often come slowly. You need a relaxed environment – people need the freedom to get up and walk around the room, for example.

And, then you need to establish some rules up front. This is the part we sometimes fail to do and where the process gets off track.

Specifically, there are certain phrases, which cannot be heard in an effective meeting intended solely to generate ideas. They should be off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

There are probably others, but let me share some which come to my mind.

7 phrases to eliminate when generating ideas:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • Let’s get serious – so only throw out ideas that make sense.
  • We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.
  • The problem with that is…(before the idea has a chance to even breathe)
  • That’s ridiculous – always translated you’re ridiculous.

Additionally, long sighs, shrugged shoulders, or any animation which displays a sense of disgust or lack of initial support should also be discouraged.

There should be plenty of time to critique ideas before they are implemented, but when looking for new ideas you want EVERY idea on the table. There are no bad ideas at this point – capture all of them. In fact, the one, which may seem the worst idea of all, may be the trigger for someone else’s spark of genius.

This is a great time to encourage randomness. I’ve even led us to play games prior to starting such a meeting.

New ideas are usually out there – they just need to be brought to the table. That’s the main benefit of this type process.

What ideas can you add for productive idea generation?

7 Common Tensions During Fast Growth or Overwhelming Change

I have been part of several organizations experiencing either exponential growth or tremendous change. In business and with a few churches, we had times of explosive growth, but also times where the speed of change was overwhelming – some of that planned, but much of it unexpected.

Most of us love growth.

I have learned either times of fast growth or change both have common tensions associated with them.

Here are 7 common tensions you might experience:

Miscommunication. Growth or change brings so much activity it is often difficult to keep everyone informed about everything. This bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during the immediate season you can expect mishaps in communication. Systems will need to improve, but for today people must ask questions when they don’t know, avoid assumptions and often give others the benefit of the doubt when they don’t understand.

Changing roles. Job requirements will change. People will be asked do things they never expected to do – and may not feel comfortable or qualified to do them. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. Silos will get in the way of progress. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth or overwhelming change. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. Positions and lines of authority may need to change.

This feels uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles – as you know them – can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some people simply may not like the new size or shape of the organization — and may decide they are no longer a fit for the team long-term. This is one of the harder realities.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth or change. It may be fun for a while – or tremendously scary- but, it begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed. Old leaders must be continually encouraged and rejuvenated. It’s important to mix it celebrations along the way.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear the phrase a lot during times of fast growth and change. And, many times the person saying it will be a leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. This is also a matter to continually work to improve upon over time, but you can’t eliminate completely- and, I’m not sure we should try. If everything has clarity we probably aren’t walking by faith and things will soon become stale again.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — or are uncertain the right path to take – they often default into doing nothing. This is where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth and change there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers. It might not even be that people don’t care, even though they almost appear as if they don’t. It may simply be because they don’t know what to do.

During especially stressful seasons, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. Don’t ignore all existing structures — especially in times of fast growth or change. I’ve seen people, for example, stop using calendar programs or scheduling systems, simply because they don’t feel they have the time to keep up with them anymore. You may need better structures going forward, but some structure is needed to keep people moving forward.

Stretched structures. As stated previously, current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth or change. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development, as much as it does the growth and maintenance, of the organization. This may be some of the learning curves after this current season. This is why it is important to take notes along the way and continually be learning.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth – and often you cannot avoid overwhelming change, but awareness is the first step to addressing most problems.

7 Indicators That You’re Not Leading Anymore

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.

I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods – even if ever so briefly – even if intentional – when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything, yet I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter – next year? How/what did I lead last quarter – last year?

If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership – if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame – if we are in maintenance mode for too long – I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.

For example…

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched. Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But, when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

7 Ways Great Team Members Perform On A Team

I love team dynamics and organizational structures. I have written many times about what makes a healthy team, my expectations of team members, and elements to build health into your team.

But, how does a great team member perform on a team? How do great team members act on the team – what makes them valuable?

Here are 7 ways great team members perform on a team:

They need little supervision 

He or she catches on quickly, learning the expectations of the team, has confidence in his or her ability, and knows the vision of the organization well enough to make routine decisions. They attempt to figure out problems and ask specific questions when something is unclear. This saves everyone’s time and speeds progress. A great team member follows through on what he or she committed to do with limited oversight. They don’t need a “boss”, because they are truly part of a team. “Let’s get it done together!”

They add to the overall team spirit 

A great team member knows there is work to do as a team and limits the drama that comes from working with people. They aren’t known for gossip, back-stabbing, or pouting when things aren’t going as they would have them. Everyone has bad seasons and a good team is their to assist during those times, but a great team member doesn’t allow their personal life doesn’t impact their professional life on a daily basis. They are known to improve team spirit rather than detract from it.

They remain flexible

The work of a team requires synergy from all members. Sometimes one team member carries unequal weight for a season. Great team members are flexible to pick up slack from others. They do what needs doing. They don’t participate or foster “turf wars”.

Not to take anything away from fair compensation, but the great team player does the work to see the results of a project done well. Their key motivation is achieving the agreed upon goal of the team. They love their work – even more the work of the team – and they are motivated to celebrate when the team succeeds.

They consider the interests of the entire team

Great team members are good listeners. They value others on the team. They are humble enough to look out for good of the entire team. They aren’t self-serving. He or she wants what is best for everyone, even if that means having to personally sacrifice for the win of the team.

They add intrinsic value to the team

Great team members add something to the team no one else brings. They know themselves and allow their strengths to shine through hard work and dedication to the vision, providing a unique value to the entire team.

They demonstrate loyalty in action

No one questions the loyalty of a great team member. They are “on board” with the vision, supportive of the leadership and direction of the organization, and committed unless something unforeseen takes them away from the team.

Of course, I forgot the one about bringing homemade snacks occasionally for the break room, but I’ll save that for another post.

It also bears mentioning it is difficult to be a great team member without a great team environment and a great team leader. I get that. I have, however, known some great team members who served on a dysfunctional team. And, I’ve seen one great team member help transform an unhealthy team.

I’m confident there are plenty more ways a great team member performs on a team. Feel free to add to my list. I’d love to hear from you.

In your experience, what does a great team member do on a team?