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.
I once wanted to be known as the life of the party. I’m funny, quick-witted and actually kind of silly at times, but these days people seldom see the real me. My family does, and often the people I work with gets to see who I really am, but except for occasional bursts of randomness the rest of the world thinks I’m always serious, always thinking about something purposeful or profound. (Social media has helped with that some.) I had to come to the realization that I’m an introvert and, in crowded settings, I most often shut down the wild side.
Knowing who you are is the first step to becoming a person of influence.
The WHAT Test.
Over the years, I have found numerous uses for this simple strategy of thought. The WHAT Test is an acronym of steps to force you to think through how committed everyone involved actually is to a project, relationship or goal. It doesn’t ensure success, but it can help you avoid the disappointment of not having thoroughly thought about the agreed upon direction and level of commitment before you begin.
This is a framework I personally use, often verbally and sometimes just in my own mind of discovery working with a team. Through experience I have learned the hard way what happens if I don’t filter something through The WHAT Test.
Here’s The WHAT Test:
Where do you/we want to go?
It sounds simple, but it’s really not. Many times when one person is ready to celebrate success another thinks you’re just getting started.
Talk through the end goal. What do you/we want to accomplish? Let’s collectively define a win. Make sure it is very clear up front where you/we want to go and how you/we will know when we’ve “arrived” at our intended destination.
Sadly I have many times come to what I thought was completion on something I was asked to do, but I didn’t live up to the expectations of others on the team or in the relationship.
How will you get there?
What’s the plan? What are the action steps to get us to our goal? If we are going to be successful, what will it take to get us there?
Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge of what? Who is going to hold us accountable?
This is where you ensure there is adequate strategy in place to accomplish the goal.
Are all parties in complete agreement with the previous two questions?
This is critical. Unfortunately, I think we often neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without knowing everyone is on board.
What happens many times is we agree to an overall vision on the front end, but then as the process continues and everyone has their assignment there are reservations by someone and we didn’t take the time to understand them.
Once the actual strategy is in place it’s good to renew agreement before proceeding. Make sure everyone is fully on board before you press the “Go” button.
Will you everyone see it through?
This may be the most important one. I often ask: Are you willing to pay the price to see it through?
This is almost a covenant agreement type step – and may, at times, even involve an actual covenant or contract. Most great ideas fail – not because they weren’t great ideas, but because no one had the commitment to see them through. This frequently happens to teams. It can be especially true when relationships are involved.
Decide on the front end all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.
Obviously, each of these have multiple layers to them, but this exercise always seems to shake out some of the initial reservations, which may not have been spoken. It helps to expose and hopefully avoid on the front end some of the personal obstacles there may be.
Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve used this:
- Working with a couple trying to rebuild their relationship – could be after an affair or serious breach in trust has occurred.
- Prior to attempting a difficult project or assignment as a team.
- Before a business partnership is formed.
At the beginning of an important venture – Take the WHAT Test
WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can easily pass the The WHAT Test.
There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is strategically thinking through these steps will help protect, build or rebuild relationships – plus help all parties avoid disappointment.
As I said in the opening of this post, sometimes I do this openly with all parties involved and sometimes I simply force the questions in an informal way, but I have actually called off a project because The WHAT Test revealed I didn’t have the full support of the team. And, when counseling a couple in their marriage, to use that example, if one spouse is not willing to move forward, couple counseling is not going to be very effective. It helps to know where people are in their commitment level.
I’ve been having a problem with my youngest son lately. He isn’t reading all the emails he should be reading. In fact, we almost missed paying some fees he had due for college, which could have made him miss some deadlines for school. You see, Nate’s a busy college student. He’s consumed with school work, church activities, and a host of social activities. If you want to lose his attention quickly…send him a really long email.
I can’t complain, because he’s wired like me. He is always busy doing something, hates unproductive time, and some emails, if they tend to ramble, simply don’t capture his attention. I realize it’s ultimately our problem, not the sender, but it almost seems a waste of time to process an email that could have been written with the same information in a much shorter form. Just being honest…I don’t read all the long emails I need to read. Sometimes I miss details, because the email was too long to process.
That’s my honesty….I’m working on it…but lately it seems I’m getting a ton of chapter length emails and it prompted me to think through this issue. If you want me to read your email…and people wired like me, here are some suggestions. In fact, if you simply want to make sure your emails are read, regardless of who you email, consider these thoughts.
Here are 7 ways to ensure your email gets read:
I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with his church. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grown again, but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own. They won’t take his suggestions. They consistently undermine his attempts to lead. They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes that he feels need to be made. It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.
It wasn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:
In my experience, and some I learned the hard way, there are a few killers of good leadership.
I decided to compile a list of some of the most potent killers I’ve observed over the years. Any one of these can squelch good leadership. It’s like a wrecking ball of potential. If not addressed, they may even prove to be fatal.
It’s not that the person can’t continue to lead, but to grow as a leader – to be successful at a higher level or for the long-term – they must address these killers.
Here are 12 killers of good leadership:
Defensiveness – Good leaders don’t wear their feelings on their shoulders. They know other’s opinions matter and aren’t afraid to be challenged. They are confident enough to absorb the wounds intended to help them grow.
Jealousy – A good leader enjoys watching others on the team excel – even willing to help them.
Revenge – The leader that succeeds for the long-term must be forgiving; graceful – knowing that “getting even” only comes back to harm them and the organization.
Fearfulness – A good leader remains committed when no one else is and takes risks no one else will. Others will follow. It is what leaders do.
Favoritism – Good leaders don’t have favorites on the team. They reward for results not partiality.
Ungratefulness – Good leaders value people – genuinely – knowing they cannot attain success without others.
Small-mindedness – Good leaders think bigger than today. They are dreamers and idea people.
Pridefulness – Pride comes before the fall. Good leaders remain humbled by the position of authority entrusted to them.
Rigidity – There are some things to be rigid about, such as values and vision, but for most issues, the leader must be open to change. Good leaders are welcome new ideas, realizing that most everything can be improved.
Laziness – One can’t be a good leader and not be willing to work hard. In fact, the leader should be willing to be the hardest worker on the team.
Unresponsiveness – Good leaders don’t lead from behind closed doors. They are responsive to the needs and desires of those they attempt to lead. They respond to concerns and questions. They collaborate more than control. Leaders who close themselves off from those they lead will limit the places where others will follow.
Dishonesty – Since character counts highest, a good leader must be above reproach. When a leader fails, he or she must admit their mistake and work towards restoration.
A leader may struggle with one or more of these, but the goal should be to lead “killer-free”. Leader, be honest, which of these wrecking balls do you struggle with most?
What would you add to my list?
Recently I posted “Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut”. The title was startling perhaps, but the principle is important. I wrote the post to encourage leaders to think strategically, especially when making quick decisions. Many times a leader says something or does something in a quick response which can negatively impact other people or the organization. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until the best answer can be decided. This often requires the work of more than just the leader answering the questions. One reader asked me to expand on the phrase “thinking strategic in the moment”; specifically how I do that.
Again, it should be understood that this post addressed decisions which should require some thought. Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question where an answer has already been clearly defined then the leader can answer quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined answer, especially if the answer could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment. That may result in saying nothing at the time.
With that in mind, how does a leader think strategically in the moment? Here are 5 thoughts of how I do this:
I talk to pastors frequently who find themselves in a difficult situation. Many times they know the right thing to do, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. Often, the advice I give is simply received with a reply such as, “I know it’s probably the right thing to do, but it seems like it would be easier just to _____”.
Honestly, good leadership isn’t always practical. Or so it may not seem at the time. Sometimes it would be easier just to take the most efficient way. It’s less controversial. It allows the leader more control. Things can happen quicker.
I’ve learned, however, the most practical way isn’t always the most prudent way.
Let me explain.
Here are 7 impractical leadership principles I practice:
I don’t make major decisions alone – even if I have the authority.
I always invite a team of people, many wiser than me, to help me discern major decisions. I realize it slows down the process. Sometimes it even kills my plans, but it has protected me over and over from making foolish decisions.
I try to kill my own ideas.
I try to find the holes in my ideas and even try to talk people out of it after they’ve already bought into it. I know – that’s crazy, right? Time and time again though this process has improved the decisions I make and it always builds a sense of ownership for everyone on the team.
I always respond to criticism.
What a way to slow down progress! Talk about insane. Why listen to people who have negatives to add to the positives? But, I even listen to anonymous critics sometimes. I previously wrote the RIGHT WAY and WRONG WAY to respond to critics, but I’ve learned that criticism often is correct and it always makes me better. Whether I yield to it or not, it forces me to consider sides I wouldn’t otherwise.
I spend a lot of the most productive days doing “nothing”.
I take walking breaks through eh building. It allows me to talk to people where I learn things I wouldn’t any other way. I exercise during the day. I take intentional breaks in my schedule to workout. It fuels me to finish the day stronger. I allow people to “drop in” to my office unannounced. It makes them believe I’m truly accessible.
I give away tasks to less experienced people.
I do it all the time. I surrender my right to decide to someone who often has many years less experience than I have. Some would call that dumb, but I call it genius. Many of the best leaders on a team are “discovered” this way.
I push for best.
It’s always easier and faster to compromise. Settling for mediocre saves time and energy – and it makes a leader more popular! I work through conflict to get to the best solution for everyone. I know it is time consuming, but in the long run the organization wins!
I watch people fail.
You heard me. I’ve let people make a mistake I knew they were going to make. How dumb can one leader be, right? Why not jump in to save the day? I’ve learned, however, if I do always stop what I see as a mistake, I may miss out on something I can’t see. Great discoveries are often made by allowing the mistakes to take place. I’ve learned my best leadership from the mistakes I’ve made. Others will also.
So much for being impractical. Way to waste some time. Good job being Mr. Inefficient! But, if you want to be a great leader, find ways to avoid practicality.
Of course, when you consider the bigger picture – maybe these are actually most practical.