I’d Prefer To Say “No” Than “I Don’t Know”

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As a leader, I’d almost always rather say “No” than “I don’t know”.

Don’t misunderstand. I love when a leader admits they don’t know something. I believe every leader has something to learn and one of the best places to learn is from the people we lead. So, say “I don’t know” when you want your team to share insights and ideas.

And do that often. Collaboration is key to a healthy team culture. 

What I’m referring to here is saying “I don’t know” when the real answer has already been decided. When the answer is already No.

When I know the answer is no I prefer to say no

Weak leaders use phrases like:

“Let me think about it” – which often means I don’t have the guts right now to let you know how I really feel.

“We might consider this” – which often means we will never, ever consider this, but I feel better telling you we will rather than look you in the face with the real answer.

“Let me pray about that” – which often means I have no intention of praying at all, but I sound so much more spiritual when I act like I will.

“We’ll see” – which often means I’ve already “seen” and the future does not look promising for your idea.

“It could be an option down the road” – which often means it will be so far down the road neither of us will ever be here.

Afraid of potential conflict or in an attempt to please people, weak leaders make you believe there’s a chance for your idea even when they’ve already decided there is not a chance.

What’s the damage in saying “I don’t know” if the real answer is “no”?

  • Unanswered questions bring confusion to the team.
  • Energy is wasted dreaming about something that will never happen.
  • Disappointment is bigger when the person learns the real answer (Or never receives one).
  • The team loses confidence in the leader.

Strong leaders, even though they know “no” is not what you want to hear, tell you the truth up front. They eliminate the guesswork.

Hopefully if you follow this blog you know I believe the answer shouldn’t always be no. I’ve written numerous posts about how good leaders empower rather than control. I prefer to say yes to people’s ideas far more than to say no

In fact, I’d be in favor of letting people mistakes before I would be in favor of telling them no – even when I sense no is the right answer. We learn best from mistakes.

If, however, you’ve made up your mind, stop people from guessing, stop building false hope, and say what you’re really thinking.

Leader, what door have you kept open even though you know you’ve already closed it?

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

5 “Secrets” That Made Me a Better Leader

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I am thankful for the people who invested in me and made me a better leader. 

When I became a leader, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a high school student and had just been elected student body president. Although I had served as class president and in a few other positions, there didn’t seem to be a lot of responsibility which stretched me prior to this. As president of the study body, I quickly realized lots of students and teachers were looking to me for leadership.

What in the world does a senior in high school have to add to the field of leadership?

We were in the second year of a new school. Most of the students were forced to leave their previous school to attend this one. Many were reluctantly bused to a school absent of many of their friends. As a junior, I was one of the reluctant students. In my new position, I knew firsthand the need, as well as the challenge, to encourage the morale and build momentum in this new school.

Recognizing a need is one key to being an effective leader, but I still had no clue how to accomplish this.

Thankfully our principal was a seasoned leader. Mr. Huggins was a retired Army colonel who loved seeing students succeed. He became my mentor and my biggest supporter as a new leader.

Every new leader needs someone who believes in them, mentors them, and helps them get back up when they fall.

Through his leadership of me, I learned a few “secrets”. They helped me as student body president. I carried them with me as I entered the business world and later as I led my own businesses. I used them in an elected office.

Even today in ministry, these same “secrets” have made me a better leader. They are more comfortable to me now and are still are pillars of my understanding of what good and effective leadership looks like.

Good leaders learn good principles and build upon them, contextualizing them for each leadership position.

5 secrets that made me a better leader:

Letting go of power

The more you learn to delegate the better your leadership will appear to others. When you let go and let others lead, it will actually look like you’re doing more, because your team will be expanding the vision far beyond your individual capacity.

Good leadership involves empowering people to carry out the vision. (You may want to read THIS POST as a test to see if you’re an empowering leader.)

Giving up the right to control

You can’t control every outcome. Have you learned this secret yet? Some things are going to happen beyond your ability to guide them.

Leaders who attempt to control stifle their team’s creativity, frustrate others on the team and limit the growth and future success of the organization. (In fact, you might want to read THIS POST about controlling leaders.)

Not always having an answer

If you don’t have all the answers, people will be more willing to help you find the answers. Equally true, if you try to bluff your way through leadership, pretending you don’t need input from others, your ignorance will quickly be discovered. You’ll be dismissed as a respected leader and will essentially close yourself off from gaining wisdom from others.

The best leaders I know are always learning something new – many times from the people they lead.

“Wasting time” is not always wasted

Great leaders spend developing relationships with their teams. The time may initially feel unproductive to driven leaders, but it ends up being among the most productive use of their time. (I wrote a post about this principle HERE.) Great teams laugh together, share personal life with one another, and build relationships beyond the work environment.

Therefore, spend time with people, in ways which may or may not produce immediate results. Over time, you’ll find your team to be more satisfied and more productive in their work.

Bouncing attention

The more you deflect attention from yourself to others the more people will respect you. People follow confidence in a leader far more passionately than they follow arrogance. You can be confident without demanding all the attention or without receiving credit for every success of the team.

Great leaders know that without the input and investment of others they would never accomplish their goals. They remain appreciative of others and consistently share the spotlight. (You may want to read the attributes of a humble leader in THIS POST.)

Those are some of my secrets in leadership. Thanks, Principal Huggins! My life of leadership has continually shown these to be true.

What secrets have you learned which make one a better leader?

5 Leadership Situations I Tend to Micromanage

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I like to lead leaders, so I prefer to be a macro-manager. This means I try to cast the vision for a team and get out of the way, releasing each team member to do his or her work in their own individual way. There are times, however, where I tend to micromanage.

In those times as a senior leader,  I am needed for more coaching, encouraging or correction for a season.

5 times I tend to micromanage:

When a team member is new to the organization.

New people to an organization need to learn your culture and way of doing things. They don’t know. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow them to invent, dream and discover, but they also need to know how decisions are made, the unwritten rules, and the internal workings of the environment. It will serve everyone well and they’ll last longer on the team if these are learned early in their tenure.

When a team or team leader has been severely crippled by injury or stress.

I’ve had a few times where a member of our team just wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of making the right decisions. It could be what they were dealing with in their personal life or with the stress of their work. I have had to step in and help them more than I normally would for a season to help them succeed.

When in a state of uncertainty, transition or change.

I once had a strong leader quit abruptly from his position. His team was devastated. I quickly realized they had relied too much on his leadership and were now lost without him. It required more of my time initially until we could raise up new leadership and better empower everyone on the team.

When tackling a new objective, critical to the organization.

This is especially true when, as the senior leader, I’m the architect of the idea. They need more of my time to make sure things are going the way I envisioned them to go. That doesn’t mean the outcome will look exactly like I planned. In the initial start, the team can waste time and resources trying to figure me out without my input, rather than doing productive work.

When a team member is underperforming in relation to others.

As a leader, I feel it is part of my role to help people perform at their highest level possible. Sometimes this requires coaching, sometimes instruction, and sometimes even discipline. Part of being a leader is recognizing potential in people and helping them realize that potential within the organization. For a season, to help someone get on track for success on our team, (or even to discover they aren’t a fit for our team) I have to manage closer than I normally prefer.

Obviously I wrote this in the context of an organization. While not specific to the church, these principles equally apply in the church. The important thing is that the end goals and objectives need to be reached. So, at certain critical times a leader must step in and ensure the vision is being accomplished.

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

A Leadership Pet Peeve – People Doing the Work

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I must admit I have a good number of pet peeves in leadership. If I had to name my top leadership pet peeve – it would have to be the one I share with you here. 

Like many of my leadership principles, this one starts with a personal story. 

Early in my career, I led a small sales division for a company. My boss told me who to place on my team, how to conduct sales meetings (even writing out my meeting agenda), and what each person’s assignment would be on the team. Understand, he lived in another state, so he wasn’t at the meetings. In fact, he didn’t know the people on my team.

I was held accountable for results in sales, yet he gave me a script for how to do my job. 

It only lasted a season (I eventually quit), but it was one of the most hated seasons of my career. In fairness, I was young and probably not trusted, but I felt so controlled. My team was frustrated. My team and I had ideas we couldn’t even incorporate. And, when I could, I secretly altered things and scripted my own way.

Even as a young leader, I thought he was practicing poor leadership. 

The pet peeve that developed from this experience:

If you aren’t doing the work, don’t script how the work is done.

As a leader, cast vision of what you want accomplished. 

  • Fuel creativity by giving people reasonable boundaries.
  • Share thoughts and ideas.
  • Monitor activity. 
  • Check-in to see how you can help. 
  • Set accountability for progress.

But let people doing the work:

  • Those working the plans 
  • Getting their hands dirty 
  • Being held responsible

Determine how the work gets completed.

That’s my number one leadership pet peeve. 

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

7 Actions Which Can Limit A Leader’s Potential

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I have been in leadership roles for over three decades now. I’ve led large and small teams in business, government, church and nonprofits. Along the way, I’ve learned there are some actions which can limit a leader’s potential to lead well. 

My heart is for leaders. One of the primary purposes of this blog (and our podcast) is to share simple leadership principles I have learned; many the hard way. Often a simple idea is powerful when put into practice in your context.

And it’s easier for me to think logically in lists.

Do you want to be successful as a leader? Of course, anyone who leads has this as a goal. There are some actions which can limit your potential to lead well. 

7 actions which can limit a leader’s potential:

Trying to plan or control every detail. 

Ecclesiastes says you won’t plant if you watch the wind. Risk is always necessary for meaningful success. Is there something you feel certain you need to do – or there is a passion on your heart – but, for whatever reason, you’ve not taken the risk?

Leadership by definition involves guiding people into an unknown.

Lack of flexibility in leading.

Things change. People change. Times change.

Have a great worthy, God-honoring vision – make sure it’s grounded in truth and don’t steer from it, but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way.

Changing the way things are done to be more successful is not a bad reflection on leadership. In fact, it’s a characteristic of good leadership.

What changes do you currently need to encourage?

Shunning or controlling some of the people on your team.

You can’t do it alone. No leader has all the good ideas. You need help.

One of the default actions of leaders is to isolate themselves and/or to control the actions of others. Many times this is out of fear, lack of trust, or sometimes even pride.

Leadership involves knowing people. It involves utilizing the knowledge, skills and talents of others – actually people better equipped to do some things than you are at times. And this should exclude no one on your team. Every person can bring value to the organization or they shouldn’t be there.

Who on your team is just waiting for you to get to know them, believe in them and let them go?

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even with those who hurt you. 

There’s no time for it. The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement.

When people feel you are placing them in the proverbial corner because of something they did or didn’t do they become defensive, bitter, or checkout from trying again. Does this sound like a healthy plan for a team?

I’ve learned over the years that leaders should be willing to go first in extending grace if they want to have a healthy team atmosphere.

Worrying more than trusting by faith. 

Leadership is full of unknowns. There will rarely be a major decision where you are a hundred percent certain it’s the right decision.

When God appears silent, as to the next course of action, you have to go with your experience, your gut, and the wisdom of others. Faith goes without seeing. Take your pick between worry or faith, but you can’t pick both.

In my journey it seems many times God has given me freedom to move and it’s my own fear which keeps me from going forward. Peace often comes through obedience.

Being stingy with your time, money or influence. 

The more you try to control what you hold in your hand the stingier your heart becomes. Stingy hearts are burdened by unnecessary distractions.

(The one who loved money is never satisfied with his wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Why is this in a leadership post? Because leadership at it’s heart should be improving the lives of others – not just the leader’s life.

When the last chapter of your leadership is written, your real success will ultimately be measured by how you blessed others with how you led.

Having to do things “your way”. 

You got into the leadership position – most likely – because you knew how to do some things. People trusted you enough to follow you. 

This doesn’t mean you don’t need to depend on the input of others.

When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising.

Success flourishes in collaboration.

Are one of these keeping you from accomplishing all you could?

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

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable On A Team

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One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I’m not quite sure that was a healthy demonstration for building team morale, I think there ARE ways a person can make themselves invaluable on a team.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager.

Great team members help people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. So, be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to help others, bring enthusiasm and show support for the team and its mission.

Support the vision and direction.

Be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Develop a reputation of being a team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but if you can’t support the vision and direction you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others. (And it might be time to consider other opportunities.) 

Respect others on the team.

Always be respectful in the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – regardless of their position. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things and respond differently than you would respond. Value other people’s opinions and viewpoints.

Give more than is required of you.

This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub.

Be well read and share what you learn. Not in an arrogant way, but information is king. Be a king of it. Understand trends and be current in your field with new ideas and innovations that might make the organization better.

Celebrate other people’s success.

Send notes or encouragement when someone does something well. Brag on other people. Tell others what you admire about them. (Without being creepy – of course.)

Be a good listener.

Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they will be genuinely listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of or who lends a caring ear is invaluable to the team. (And be sure to keep every confidence afforded to you.)

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

Leader – Address the Elephant in the Room

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Sometimes, as the leader, you must address the elephant in the room. If you don’t, you’ll have a hard time leading well moving forward. 

The elephant is the issue/person/thing that is obvious to everyone, but no one has done anything about it yet. 

Everyone is thinking it, but no one is talking about it – at least out loud. 

Years ago, I was serving on a team where there was a consistent idea killer. Whenever anyone on the team presented an idea, regardless of the idea’s merit, this person would shoot it down. He always saw the glass as half-empty and was negative about anything new.

It’s okay to have someone who asks questions to make things better. We actually should encourage these people, but this guy was a doomsayer in the room. He never saw any positive in anything – regardless of the conversation, so, for example, we would be brainstorming and he would kill the momentum. Just when everyone thought we had a good plan in place, he would poke more holes in it. He never had new ideas to improve things and simply didn’t like anyone else’s idea.

It wasn’t helpful and was, therefore, actually disruptive.

Yet, as annoying as it was, leadership allowed it to continue. Everyone talked about it outside of meetings. No one respected the idea killer. Our senior leader insisted even he had counseled with this person privately, yet it never seemed to improve.

This guy was the elephant in the room.

It led me to a conclusion I have selectively practiced in leadership:

Sometimes, as a leader, you have to address the “elephant in the room” – in the room.

  • Everyone knows it is there. (You can’t miss an elephant.)
  • It keeps being repeated. (You’ve handled it individually. Nothing has changed.)
  • It likely will keep getting worse if unaddressed. (At least that has been my experience.) 

At some point, the leader has to address the elephant. 

You can’t ignore an elephant in a room. Elephants take up a lot of valuable space.

With everyone in the room, leader, address the elephant.

You may have to call out the person causing the disruption in the presence of everyone else in the room.

Yes, it’s hard, uncomfortable, and, frankly, you don’t want to do it often. You should never address it until you have attempted to handle it privately, but it may be necessary to continue leading the team well.

If you don’t:

  • Everyone will assume this type performance is tolerated.
  • The negative actions will be copied by others.
  • Team dynamics will never be healthy.
  • Respect for the leader – with this issue and others – will diminish.

Leader, when you know in your gut it’s time to address the elephant!

You must, because the best excuses won’t hide an elephant. Plus, elephants don’t often leave the room on their own.

Have you ever served on a team where the elephant wasn’t addressed and it negatively impacted the team?

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

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:

Read More

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.