The Team Evaluates the Leader, 2011 Edition

(Update: You can read the results of this post HERE.)

If you have read my blog for more than a year, then you know that one of the personal leadership development tools that I use is the process of allowing our team…that I lead…to anonymously evaluate my performance as a leader. You can read the post on last year’s evaluation HERE. In the related posts, you can see some of the previous year’s posts on this process. I share this process here to encourage this step of leadership development and for accountability and transparency purposes as a leader.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The team is currently evaluating me. I always get nervous about the responses, but perhaps this year more than ever. It’s been a crazy year personally and professionally, so I’m anxious about what they may say, but we have a great team and so I know they will be gentle.  (Hopefully they read this blog! HA!) My only encouragement to them is that they consider the differences of those on the team and how that alters my leadership and that they are helpful, not vindictive, in their answers. I do it anonymously through Survey Monkey to help them be more honest in their answers.

10 Ways a Team Performs as a Team

I think we use the word team too casually these days. A team…at least a healthy team…is not just a group of people who perform a common task. That may be a group, but it shouldn’t be called a team. I’ve written on healthy teams before:

10 Characteristics of a Healthy Team

Signs of an Emotionally Healthy Team

You can tell a healthy team by how it responds to each other and how it performs as a team.

A healthy team:

  • Encourages other team members regularly…
  • Cares for the team member personal life outside the team…
  • Assists other team members during crunch periods…
  • Cross trains one another for different roles on the team…
  • Challenges each other when needed, working towards the best solution for the team…
  • Ensures everyone on the team gets credit for a win…
  • Applauds other team member’s success…
  • Values input from everyone on the team…
  • Defends one another from outside attacks…
  • Protects the integrity and vision of the team, even over personal interests…

The word “team” comes with a certain expectation that is more than people simply performing a function together. If you want people to feel and play as a team, then they must perform as a team.

What would you add to my list?

Have you served on a healthy team?

Have you served with a group who thought they were a team, but were really just a group of people?

Do you recognize the difference?

Help Me Address Organizational Fear


We have a healthy team. It’s full of grace, which works well, since that word is in our name. We consistently laugh together. We encourage each other to accomplish our goals. As a leader, I solicit feedback consistently. (I even allow the staff to anonymously evaluate me each year. Read about that process HERE.) We are generally flexible and laid back as an organization, yet we accomplish much towards our mission. I’ve worked in lots of environments and this is a good one…a healthy place to work. I’ve written articles about healthy teams, many of them based on the team on which I serve. (Read some of them HERE, HERE, or HERE.) I think our team would agree we are a healthy environment.

With that being said, I’m not sure we have eliminated what I call organizational fear. I’m not sure there is 100% freedom to share what’s on a person’s heart. I consistently address this concern. I’ve even said that sometimes we are too “nice” as an organization. We need to challenge more, even enter into healthy conflict, but sometimes it seems we are timid towards sharing our true feelings; especially some on the team. Problems exist…people see them…they continue for months…everyone recognizes something is wrong….yet no ones brings them to the surface. This is not a huge problem, or we wouldn’t be as healthy or successful as we are, but for whatever reason, some I may not understand, team members at times shy away from sharing what’s really on their mind. I know this is not something unique to our organization.

Why is that? Have you ever been afraid to share what you were thinking in an organizational setting? What caused that fear in your mind? Help me figure out why organizational fear exists, especially why it exists in a church or ministry setting.

Is it because of:

  • A team member’s fear of making a mistake?
  • Controlling leadership?
  • Fear of taking a risk?
  • Apathy?
  • A false notion that conflict shouldn’t exist in a Christian organization?
  • Other?

Also, help me understand how to address this issue.

What does it take to remove this fear from an team or organization?

Let’s discuss organizational fear today.

Doodling Leadership Tip – Addressing the Real Problem

I love the White board application on my iPad. I find myself using it to teach, when sitting with someone, think in pictures, and recently, just to scribble out a quick thought. I decided to periodically share some of them with you here:

Let me ask you to consider this question:

Could you be addressing issues, symptoms, reactions…attempting to correct a problem…but the real problem continues to be unaddressed?

3 Values of Teamwork

Recently I was asked a question regarding how we handle set-up on Sunday mornings. Grace Community Church meets in a school and so every Sunday morning staff and volunteers start arriving about 5:30 AM to prepare for the day.  The specific question was whether we have one person who oversees all the set-up.  The answer is no. We actually have a team of people responsible; with different people in each area of ministry.

Answering the question reminded me of the value of teamwork.  I personally believe that the way we are doing this is best.   I’m not opposed to one central leader, and in some situations that may be better, but with this task, I think the team approach is more efficient than one individual being in charge.

Here are 3 reasons I personally prefer a team approach for this function of our church:

Decentralized control – With one person in charge, if that person gets sick, moves, or decides he or she gets tired and quits, the whole church would suffer.  As it stands now, it’s easier to cross train, we can be covered for absences better, and we aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket so-to-speak with such a vital function as an organization.

Makes each task easier – Think about it: It takes about 200 volunteers for us to make a Sunday work and about 50 of those are heavily involved in set-up. Would your prefer to recruit 10 volunteers for a specific area per Sunday or the entire 200 number?  (I thought so!) Especially when working with volunteers, the easier you can make the task to accomplish the greater success you will have for the long-term. People genuinely want to do a task well, but have limited time (and sometimes experience) to do them.

Brings more people to the table – We like to plug people into leadership roles quickly.  In my experience, when someone has responsibility they are more likely to mature as a person.  When a person has a heart to serve others, they need something of value to complete.  Using a team provides more opportunities to assign leadership tasks.

If you have an especially challenging or overwhelming task to complete you may benefit from a team approach.  Breaking the function into smaller, more manageable parts will help you accomplish more and get more people involved, which is always good for the organization.

Just curious, do you work better as a team or as an individual? Does it depend upon the task?

Have You Ever Been Placed in Leadership Time-Out?

Recently in Costa Rica I saw a tradition that’s common in my country too.  A child was placed in time-out…  For a certain amount of time, a child is not allowed to play with the other children, has to sit in a corner and is basically ignored. I’m certainly not critical of the form of discipline. It works well for some children. We had one for which it would work and one for which it wouldn’t.

I definitely, however, believe there is a time when a “child” outgrows the effectiveness of the practice.  I don’t know that “time out”, for example, works for adults, yet I see it frequently.

Have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

Leadership time-out occurs:

  • When a leader ignores you because of a mistake you’ve made…
  • When a leader avoids you after a difference of opinion…
  • When a leader is threatened by you so he or she keeps you at a distance…
  • When you have no relationship with the leader other than professional…
  • When a leader acknowledges you only when it’s beneficial to the leader…
  • When a leader has a set of “favorites” on the team…and you’re not included…

After my examples, let me ask again, have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

In my opinion and experience, leadership time-out is often due to poor leadership skills on the part of the leader.  The leader operates more out fear or control than out of respect and empowerment.  The leader plays games more than he or she leads strategically.  The leader doesn’t have the maturity to lead effectively.

Great leaders learn to push through the emotional aspects of leadership so they can treat people as adults in every situation.

What other examples would you add to my list?

7 Reactions to Controlling Leadership

Recently I was speaking with someone about their experience with a controlling leader. My friend said, “He’s just one of those humor him and move on kind of guys.” I thought to myself, “What a sad commentary to be said about one’s leadership!”

It reminds me of a similar experience I had with a controlling leader…

You see, I once had an idea…

It was a dream…a big vision…

I knew it would require risk, extra energies, and the assistance of others, but I was confident this was something worth pursuing…

I even felt it was a call of God for my life…

I was a volunteer for the organization, not an employee, but I had been given a certain amount responsibility and authority…

The only problem…

The leader of the organization was a controlling leader…

That fact alone changed the way I approached (or didn’t approach) the opportunity…

Many controlling leaders receive that kind of attention…

I’ve noticed from my own experience and watching others, that there are certain ways we tend to respond to controlling leaders…

Here are 7 examples:

  • Ignoring them instead of confronting…
  • Asking forgiveness instead of permission…
  • Keeping our best ideas until we are certain they’ll work…
  • Being afraid to share new ideas because we know they’ll be shot down…
  • Feeling the need to build a coalition of support before approaching…
  • Hiding our true thoughts and opinions rather than sharing them…
  • Keeping our relationship to “strictly professional”…

Leaders, do any of those describe how people respond to your leadership?

Don’t be that guy!

In my specific situation described above, the result was one of the 3 ways listed HERE in a previous post. Which do you think was the result?

What would you add to my list of reactions to controlling leadership?

3 Critical Aspects of Planning for Future Growth

The main battle for your organization’s long-term success doesn’t exist where you are…it exists where you are going…

Regardless of how great or bad something may be now, this moment will pass. The successes created today will soon fade and current struggles don’t necessarily indicate future victories.

Take writing for example. Unless you are Rick Warren or a handful of others, the best selling authors have to continue to create new material to stay on the best sellers list. In the business world, the hottest products are only as hot as the next great update or until another “greater” product is introduced. Momentum dies…people lose interest…motivation for what you are promoting fades and something new is needed to keep growing.

On the other hand, if an organization is struggling today that doesn’t always mean they’ll struggle tomorrow. Sometimes one big break turns things from stagnant to growing to thriving. Obviously attention has to be current to survive, but struggling organizations often need to focus even more intently on the future.

At some point, to remain viable and to succeed, organizations have to concentrate on days ahead, because a new day is coming. These principles are truer now than ever before. If an organization wants to be successful over time, then it must be winning the battle for the future.

Here are three aspects or planning for future growth every organization must have:

Strategic thinking – There must be a concerted effort placed on thinking about next steps for the organization. If strategic thinking isn’t a leader’s strength (although I think it’s difficult to lead well without this skill), someone in the organization must be delegated the task of strategically thinking forward. The future is coming…things are changing…and the organization must be able to strategically respond.

Flexibility and adaptability – Today’s leader must remain flexible enough to adapt to change quickly. Most likely the plans you set today will be altered in some way tomorrow. As a leader, you must be open to change personally and learn how to lead others to embrace change within the organization.

Staffing and team-building – An organization will only be as good as the people who make up the organization, so the future is dependent on attracting and retaining the best people. Great leaders are planning ahead for staffing needs, always on the lookout for good people and intentionally seeking to develop people in the organization. Great leaders allow people to explore, possess authority and become leaders. In today’s organizations, the strength of the team is the strength of the organization.

I have been on both sides of an organization…both striving and struggling…and I believe all three of these aspects are true in both scenarios. I see these three as critical to the future growth of any organization, but I’m still learning and organizations are changing every day, so help me here. What am I missing? What would you add to my list?

5 Suggestions for Tennessee Titans Leadership Now

Driving back from Nashville yesterday I listened to sports talk radio. The subject was the same I have been hearing for weeks. Everyone wants to talk about what’s wrong with the Titans. Everyone has his or her own theory. As I said in a previous post, (Read it HERE) I am a not an avid sports fan.  I love sports, I love watching sports, but I don’t memorize player’s names or keep up with many statistics, I just enjoy sports.

I do keep up with leadership however, and as I said in my previous post, I think the main issue for the Titans now is a leadership problem.  When leadership is uncertain or unsettled, it will impact the entire team.  That’s an organizational leadership principle, and it’s true because it deals with people, which mean you can see the principle at work in business, in churches, and on professional football teams.  (This post could have been titled “Suggestions for leadership when your team is in trouble”, which would have worked for many organizations…)

So, as one who does understand the subject of organizational leadership, here are 5 leadership suggestions I offer the Tennessee Titans leadership:

Get united at the top – Owner Bud and Coach Jeff need to get on the same page again.  Period.  The team will be unsettled as long as they are unsettled.  There have been times before when the talk was whether Jeff could keep his job, and some think that time is here again (read THIS), but Bud Adams and Jeff Fisher have mostly had a great relationship.  They need to close the door, talk (or yell) it out, then decide to be united (or not) going forward.

Decide who’s in charge – If Coach Fisher is continue as coach, he must have freedom to run the team as he thinks best.  The team needs to know he is the one making the calls. An owner can and will always have input, but on the playing field the leader on the sidelines needs control…and the team needs to know it.  That includes what to do with key players under huge contracts.

Remember the Titans – The team needs to remember who they are as a team. They’ve been known for comeback victories.  They’ve had a history of the unexpected come from behind wins. Remind the team. Energize the key player leaders on the team. Let it spread through the team and change team morale and motivation.

Get back to basics – The Titans know how to win games. They know how to run the ball strong and make the big defensive plays.  Just do what the team does best.

Play ball – At some point, the team and the coaches have to ignore all the critics and play ball. That may mean they need to quit doing interviews, quit reading the sports page, or quit talking internally about what’s wrong and focus on the winning games.  Win a few games and the talk shows will find a new subject.

That’s my suggestions.  Call me naive if you want since I’m mostly a quiet observer in the field of sports, but I think these steps would help in any organizational sense, including football.

What do you think?  What would you do now if you were in leadership with the Tennessee Titans…or an organization in trouble?

Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

Opinion: We have almost created a culture where the term management is seen as a negative. I believe this is dangerous.

With the rising interest in the field of leadership, the task of management is starting to get a bad name. Organizations don’t look for people with good management skills anymore, they look for leaders. It seems unpopular or not as appealing to say “I’m a manager” as it is to say “I’m a leader”.

In organizations today, leadership has overpowered management as the desired function. I have to be honest in saying I feel more qualified to talk about leadership than I do management. I’m frankly a better leader than I am a manager, but the reality is that good leadership includes a healthy element of good management and vice versa. Both disciplines are equally important for a healthy organization.   (Read my post on Three basic needs of every organization. Management fits in more of the maintenance category of those three and it’s my least favorite of them.)

The problem for the practice of management these days is that it naturally deals with an element of control, which is now seen as a negative. Read the current books and blogs on organizational health.  It is popular to talk negatively about any control issues. Leader types (like me) often rebel against any mention of control in favor of releasing people to dream and explore.

We want environments where team members are free to create, but every team also needs some guidelines and someone who can hold the team accountable to reasonable boundaries it sets for itself. Management’s role in implementing a vision is to ensure tasks and action steps are met. Good management helps the team stay on target. While leadership motivates the team to reach the vision, without management a team will have a lot of dreams but no measurable results. Managers help develop and maintain a structure that allows healthy growth to continue.

Don’t be afraid of good management. If you are a leader, part of your role is also to see that management is in place.  If you aren’t reaching the goals you have for the organization, it may not be a lack of good leadership, it may be a lack of good management.  For smaller teams, one person may have the responsibility for both functions, which is hard for many wired more towards being a leader or a manager type, but great organizations need good leadership and good management.

Have you seen this trend towards embracing leadership to the detriment of management?  How is your organization responding?  Do you see the difference in the two functions?

For further thoughts on this issue, you can read my post about leadership versus management HERE. You may also benefit by our experience learning of the need for structure and management in THIS POST.