Obviously, when you address the principle of letting go, which could also be called delegation, it opens a huge question for those wired as completers. The question is: HOW? How do you let go of responsibility when you are wired so heavily towards not doing so?
Here’s a way to discipline yourself to increase creativity on your team or in your organization…especially during times when money is tight.
When you are ready to make a purchase, ask yourself this question:
Do you ever struggle to complete a project?
You have a goal, you may even know what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality, but you never seem to accomplish the necessary tasks that will bring you success. Your dreams remain simply dreams and you remain frustrated with yourself.
Let me share a quick tip to help you avoid this scenario.
Many of us, perhaps even most of us, work better under a little pressure.
Earlier this year I wrote about writing a life plan. (You can read that series of posts HERE.) I’ve found that setting a deadline for the specific action steps in a plan like this helps me be more productive…
If I have a major project I need or want to complete I will:
I recently posted on the need for leaders to delegate and some steps to doing so. (Read those posts HERE and HERE) Following this post, I asked a supposed leader in an organization for a decision from his organization. It appeared to be a minor decision. It certainly would be in our organization. I have held leadership positions in larger organizations, and it would have been a minor decision in either of those places. This leader, however, had to pass the decision up a chain of command. We eventually received a yes answer, but it took a great deal of time through several layers of people to get there. By the time we got the answer, I didn’t need it anymore. (True story.)
Years ago I was working in retail. I was in college, but serving in a junior management for a large department store. I was responsible for ordering the basic items in my department, making sure we were always in stock with regular sellers. One of those items was a collar extender.
(I don’t know if those are even used anymore, and I never used one personally, but basically it was a metal button extender which hooked the button and extended a new button further – allowing a man to wear a shirt longer as the man grew larger by making the neck bigger. You know you wanted to know this.)
Anyway, we normally kept a couple boxes with 12 extenders in each in stock. When we had sold one box I was to order another box. They weren’t fast sellers, so it didn’t happen often. I noticed one day we were down to our last box, so I placed an order, but instead of ordering one box of 12, I incorrectly order 12 boxes of 12 – which was pretty much enough for a decade of extender sells.
I had made a mistake.
How did “management” handle the issue?
Well, I must admit, it wasn’t by using good leadership principles.
The morning after the arrival of our new case of extenders, a memo was sent to all area managers, in every department, throughout the store. It read something like this:
“From now on, all orders will need to be signed by a supervisor prior to completion.”
I was instantly frustrated, since I knew the memo was a direct response to my mistake. No one had said anything to me. I had not been reprimanded. It was never mentioned otherwise, but now we had a new policy, which affected everyone, because of my one error. (BTW, extenders retailed for $1.25 each back then.)
The new mandate slowed down the progress of everyone, because they now had to wait for approval before they could order basic needs. It was not accepted by other managers, proved to be more of an inconvenience than it was worth and soon no one practiced it at all.
What did this experience teach me?
Weak management never produces the desired result and is never good leadership.
How should it have been handled?
In my opinion, I should have been called aside, made aware of my mistake (to let me know they knew), and be allowed to learn from the experience. If I continued to make the same error, which I never did again, then further action could have been taken.
The incident helped shape some of my leadership.
I should also point out these same managers who taught me this lesson from a negative impact it had on me also taught me many, many positive lessons in leadership and management. I’m drawing from this one, because it was such a valuable learning for me, but I don’t at all mean to devalue their other investment in me as a young leader.
Here are 7 things I learned about leadership from a poor management experience:
Never send an email (today’s memo) to correct an action.
Address the person. Be relational. Do the hard work of confronting the real problem – even if it involves people. It’s the right thing to do.
Never over-react to a minor issue.
This was not a major expense to the company. Seriously, had they addressed it to me directly – I would have probably volunteered to buy the excess collar extenders rather than see a needless policy implemented. It ended up costing more in opportunity costs as needless work was placed on others, since they added another layer to the ordering process.
Never make a policy to correct a single error.
Policies should be few and effective. When you use a policy to address broad issues when it’s really a singular issue you burden people with needless bureaucracy, which only stalls efficiency and frustrates people. This is never good leadership.
Never single someone out publicly who hasn’t been talked to privately.
Do I need to explain this one? Seriously. This pretty much goes back to the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.
Never punish everyone for the mistake of one.
This is so unfair. It builds resentment among people who should consider themselves a team. It pits people against each other.
Never act like it’s not a big deal if you think it’s a big deal.
When my managers talked to me during this incident they acted like everything was wonderful. I recall one even joked with me when I came to work the day the “memo” was released. I felt very betrayed.
Never be so weak as a leader you fail to address the real issue, or the real problem, even if the real problem is a person.
This could be a major determinant of whether someone is really a leader or not. Leaders don’t shy away from the hard conversations. They realize these are necessary for the health of the organization and the individuals involved.
I am certain I have repeated each of these myself at times, but the experience truly did shape my leadership and management practices. The best thing this experience did for me was give me a principle I have used and often shared with other leaders:
If you need to slap a hand, bring a ruler and show up in person.
To use another word – LEAD.
By the way, if you ever need a collar extender I know where you might can find one.
(In complete transparency, it’s been over 30 years and I don’t remember all the specific details of this incident. But I know the basics of this story are true and it shaped me greatly. I wrote more about this is my book The Mythical Leader.)
In my leadership experience there are two kinds of leaders.
There are those who are willing to lead leaders.
And there are those who will only lead followers.
Some leaders refuse to be leaders of leaders. Sadly I have witnessed many pastors who fall into “follower only” category. They refuse to allow leaders to develop in the church. Perhaps their fear of losing control or power, being upstaged, or simply never learning the value of empowering others, causes them to keep laypeople from becoming leaders within the church.
This is not to say we don’t need to lead followers, because of course we do. Every leader has followers or they would be no one to lead. Some of the best workers in an organization and, certainly in the church, are those who care nothing about leadership.
And I would say we don’t simply need leaders in the church – we need servant leaders. People who serve others expecting nothing in return are the best kinds of leaders and follow the example of Jesus.
Also true, it is hard to be a good leader until one learns to follow. At some point, however, those with the propensity towards leadership in any organization will want an opportunity to lead. This is especially true of younger generations of people.
And when those who were once in a position of being a follower begin to lead the real leadership skills of the people in senior leadership are tested.
Here’s the deal. Leaders of leaders allow other people to develop in the organization. They give people freedom to dream and give people a sense of ownership. They let them determine the “how” in their area of responsibility.
More so, they recognize and even hold as a value that as leaders develop the entire organization advances and everyone wins.
Leader of followers, on the other hand, try to keep followers from ever becoming leaders.
I’ll be honest, it is much easier to lead only followers. People will do what is requested of them. They are loyal and not usually as critical. They don’t challenge systems and traditions, processes and the way things have always been done.
As much as every organization (and church) needs loyal followers – if new leaders are not developed – if everyone remains a follower – not much will be done to take the organization to the next level. People will wait for existing leaders before they do anything new. And the organization (or the church) will be limited to the abilities of current leadership.
And for those who question my often business-like tendencies (even though I have a long business background, which I believe God uses in Kingdom growth), we need only look to the example of Jesus; how He developed the disciples, sent them out, and appointed them as leaders. Call them what you want – use another term other than leader, but they appear every bit a leader by any definition of leadership I use.
The other side to leading only followers – when people with the propensity and desire to lead are stifled from realizing their full potential as a leader – they will eventually either leave the organization or cause problems within the organization. I have especially seen this take place in the church. The organization as a whole suffers, because they are limited to the level of success which can be realized by the intimidated top leader who refuses to let other leaders develop.
If an organization (or church) allows people a chance to lead the organization’s potential for growth increases immensely.
At some point every leader has to make a decision.
Do you want to lead leaders or only lead followers?
Personally, I prefer to lead leaders.
Inactivity rarely produces anything…
Waiting on God doesn’t always mean doing nothing…
Jesus said, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4)… He was in a time of waiting…yet He continued to act on what He could do…
Do what you know to do today…
Take initiative towards change you know you should make…
In Joshua 3 they had to get in the water before it started to part…You may have to get in the water first, before you start to see results…
Create action…it is often then God begins to reveal the destination He is taking you towards…
What action do you need to take today?
Frankly, finding that balance has always been difficult for me, and at times in the life of the organization, one area does require greater attention than other areas. The key for me is to always keep the big picture in my mind of what we are trying to accomplish, while recognizing the individual contribution, each area needs to bring to that success. I can never allow one area to cloud out my perspective of the other areas.