Fast or Slow – Making Decisions as a Leader

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As a leader, or even as a team member, we constantly have to make decisions. Great leaders understand the power of decision-making and learn to use this power wisely.

In simple terms, leaders should consider two methods of decision-making. Some decisions can be arbitrary decisions and others need to be calculated decisions. Knowing which type of decision making to use at a given time will help you be a better leader.

I know leaders who make very quick, instant decisions only to grow to regret them. (This leader being one.)

Here are 7 characteristics of each type decision-making process:

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7 Dangerous Leadership Practices

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I’ve seen it so many times. Most likely you have also. Dangerous leadership practices. 

A leader can be doing everything else right and one flawed practice overshadows and jeopardizes all the good leadership principles we know.

One constantly repeated action, trait, habit, mindset – one practice.

Sadly, many times it’s not even the person isn’t a good leader – it’s one continued practice gets them off track. So, I believe leaders should constantly be working on bad practices, which keep them from being as successful as they can be.

Here are 7 dangerous leadership practices I’ve observed:

(In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership practice. I can even know better and yet I allowed it to continue too long.)

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled. Yet, the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead.

I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate.

Ironically, I have found that when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which do need my attention.

Always seeing the glass as half-empty.

A consistently negative leader will seldom find success long-term, simply because people will not care to follow.

Some people have a negative view all the time and about everything (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing). Practicing this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments.

If we aren’t careful – we can let a practice develop where we constantly have a negative mindset. That begins to carry over into every other area of our life – and we start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership.

High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life.

I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. Also, I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential.

The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale.

People need disciplined plateaus where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

I once worked for a leader like this. He had high expectations for everyone, not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself.

He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was.

People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit or all the blame.

This is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves all the credit or all the blame.

There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. That’s true of the mistakes a team makes as well.

It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own. Shared success and failure is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down or turning everything off.

You can’t do it. Don’t think you can. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but, you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try.

(Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.)

For me, this poor practice usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (For me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating from other people.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people, accountability and community. All leaders need those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

An Elementary Approach to Facing Conflict

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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. And I’ve been to more than one church business meeting gone bad. Along the way, I’ve often thought there must be better ways to approach conflict. 

I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed 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 have a choice. You can come out fighting or you can be smart, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.

I have concluded, therefore, that the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.

3 elementary ways to approach conflict:

Stop

Stop and think.

  • What is the best approach?
  • What do you really want to accomplish?
  • Based on your time to reflect – 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. I shared how I do this in my book The Mythical Leader.)

Drop

Drop the right to win. That’s hard, but if you want the conflict to be resolved you have to start with the attitude that you want the best resolution – even if you don’t get everything you want in the outcome.

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 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 to the conflict. Use the appropriate strategy, skills and temperament to resolve the conflict. This means you hold your temper, watch your words, and value the other person’s viewpoint.

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. I believe this will help in family relationship, work environments, and even on social media. 

Stop, drop and roll.

Try it next time you are facing conflict. 

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

7 Common Tensions In Times of Overwhelming Change

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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 2020 taught us there are times where the speed of change is overwhelming. It was hard to keep up. I have learned there are common tensions during overwhelming change. 

7 common tensions during overwhelming change:

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. 

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.

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.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

Phrases to Ban When Developing Ideas

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The best ideas in an organizational setting often come by getting a group together and throw out random new ideas or ways of doing things. 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 – or on a white board – even seemingly bad ideas (at least at first). But there are some phrases you must ban when developing ideas.  

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 at ideation. You need enough people. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people. In fact, 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. It needs to be a relaxed environment where people feel 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 you must ban 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.

Phrases to ban when developing ideas:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • Let’s get serious – so only throw out ideas that make sense.
  • We 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).
  • Tell me how we would even do that.
  • There’s not enough time for that idea. 
  • Let’s wait a while before we try to go there.

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.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

7 Ways to Keep Leaders on Your Team

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One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders. Yesterday I posted 7 reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team. I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

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7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Leave Your Team

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If your organization expects to grow, you’ll need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders. One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. I was reflecting recently on why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I never mind losing a leader to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something I did wrong.

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How to Encourage Cooperation on the Team You Lead

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Leader, do you want to encourage cooperation on the team you lead? Do you want people to get along, support one another, and join forces to achieve the vision?

Of course. All leaders want their teams to cooperate. It builds stronger teams when people aren’t on islands to themselves.

How do great leaders encourage cooperation?

I can help you encourage cooperation on your team with one quick tip. Let people collaborate. It’s that easy – and powerful. 

Collaboration leads to Cooperation

Cooperation rocks in organizational health!

Cooperation brings:

  • Collective buy-in
  • A sense of ownership and empowerment
  • Less petty arguments
  • Lower resistance to change
  • More passion towards the vision
  • Shared workload
  • Fewer cases of burnout

What leader doesn’t appreciate those things?

When you are leading a team, the more you collaborate with your team, and let them collaborate with others – during the planning process and before the final decisions are made. The more collaboration you have the cooperation you’ll receive from your team during the implementation process. 

Let people participate in brainstorming. Give them a voice in the way things will be done. Allow them to ask questions and even offer pushback.

Of course, you can’t collaborate on every decision. One of the reasons you are leader is to make big picture, strategic decisions. You often have a vision other people can’t immediately see until you lead them there. 

Whenever a decision, however, impacts other people, especially if it:

  • Impacts how they do their work.
  • Changes the basic nature of what they do.
  • Significantly impacts the future of the team or organization.

In those type situations, I suggest you allow collaboration, because it always brings better cooperation from the team. (By the way, in the church, this is true of paid staff or volunteers.)

In fact, the opposite can be equally true. A lack of collaboration naturally brings a lack of cooperation. People will resist the change. They will be less enthusiastic about the outcome. They will wait for instruction rather than take initiative on their own.

As leaders, we must learn to collaborate better –  so our teams can learn to cooperate better.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

7 Indicators You are Serving on a Dysfunctional Team

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Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, you’ve served on one which is dysfunctional. It appears to me we have many to choose from in the organizational world. There are no perfect teams. And we are all dysfunctional at some level and during some seasons.

In case you’re wondering- my definition of a dysfunctional team – in simple terms – is one which cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance, because it is impacted by too many negative characteristics. There’s more going wrong than right more days than not.

In my experience, there are commonalities of dysfunction. If you have been on dysfunctional teams before you’ve probably seen one or more of the common traits.

See if any of these seem familiar.

7 indicators of dysfunctional teams:

Team members talk about each other more than to each other.

The atmosphere is passive aggressive. Problems are never really addressed, because conflict is avoided. The real problems are continually ignored or excused.

Mediocrity is celebrated.

Everything may even be labeled “amazing”. Nothing ever really develops or improves because no one has or inspires a vision bigger than what the team is currently experiencing.

It’s never “our” fault.

It’s the completion or the culture or the times in which we live. No one takes responsibility. And everyone passes blame. Will the real leader please stand up?

Communication usually brings more tension than progress.

There may be lots of information, but it’s not packaged in a way which brings clarity. No one knows or recognizes a win.

The mention of change makes everyone nervous.

Either change is rare, or it’s been instituted wrong in the past. Any real progress must be forced or controlled.

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions.

Team members never feel valued or appreciated. No one feels empowered. The leader uses words like “I” or “my” more than “we” or “us”.

There are competing visions, goals or objectives.

It’s every team member for his or herself. The strategy or future direction isn’t clear.

According to my observations have you served on dysfunctional teams?

Granted, every team goes through each of these during certain seasons. And, again, there are no perfect teams. But if there are at least two or three of these at work current I’d say it’s a good time to evaluate the team’s health and work to make things healthier.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

5 Ways to Hear Different People as a Leader

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership, Uncategorized | One Comment

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader. To lead well, I need to hear from different people. 

I have personally made the mistake of assuming what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Time has proven this to be wrong repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful, because if the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. 

So, if you recognize the need and want to hear from different people – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this and hear from different people:

(I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we. But I want you to see how I am being intentional in this area, so I provide a few practical examples.)

Welcome input.

This is more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office and challenge my decisions.

Granted, I want to receive respect too, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Intentionally surround yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. One of my closest friends is a different race from me. I learn so much from him.

Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Ask great questions.

And ask lots of them. Personally, I love to ask questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I invite different people to staff meetings to hear from different voices. Periodically, I set up focus groups of people for input on various issues.

I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible and try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. A personal value is hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me.

I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings, I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Structure for expression of thought.

This refers to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality.

As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.