Gratitude & Validation

imgresOne of the strongest reasons why teams lose hope is because of the eerie silence of the leader. It’s not that team leaders aren’t talking. They are, a lot! Teams are certainly recruited and drawn to the vision expressed by the leader. They are motivated through thick and thin by the eloquent oratories of their leaders who paint the picture of a hopeful future. There is always the promise of a brighter tomorrow if teams will just hang in there. But while vision will get you started it wont take you all the way home. Those you lead need more than passionate words about the future.

I am convinced that over time what team members long for more than anything is to know how their personal contribution matters to the accomplishment of that grand vision. They want to know that their efforts will play an integral part towards seeing change. They long to understand where they tangibly fit in to the organizational mission. And they need to hear these words from the leader himself.

You want to know the best way to do that?

Express heart-felt gratitude for their efforts and sincerely validate their gifts and abilities.

Doing this simple act has the potential to encourage the very core of a person. All people have to give are their strong efforts and themselves. If you have a team, then it probably means that they have bought in to your vision and mission. But to sustain their long-term efforts and ownership you must elevate their understanding of how their contributions truly matter.

Here are some practical tips to get the job done.

These need to be personal, verbal words. This is not the time for a late night social media fly by to try to encourage your people. This is the time for real communication. Make the effort to personally go up and tell someone how grateful you are for what they have done or for who they are.

These need to be specific words. This is not the time for platitudes or words that could apply to anyone. They need to be thoughtful, carefully chosen words that communicate specifically to that person. Show them that you are paying attention. Tell them about the moment you noticed their hard work. Tell them about their unique ability that matched the moment.

These need to be timely words. It doesn’t count if you see great effort by one of your team members and you comment on it next week. Catch the moment. Let others hear you do it. Tell them in the moment. Capture the impact.

These need to be generous words. Don’t play favorites. Work hard at complimenting everyone on your team over time. Be a student of your team members so that you can spread the praise around.

What has been your experience in receiving this kind of verbal affirmation? What has been your experience in providing this kind of sincere affirmation?



5 for Leadership (5/4/13)

images-2Here is a fresh 5 for this 1st week in May. It does not feel like May-not even in Austin, where I woke up to 42 degrees yesterday morning. But maybe one of these posts will warm your leadership heart. This week we look at leading the MIllennial generation, servant leadership, self leadership, leaderless teams, and how to let go as a leader. I hope you find something that is motivational and profitable for you.

Servant Leadership  Here is a great post on the meaning behind John 13 in the Bible. This passage wonderfully illustrates servant leadership. Lisa Colon Delay share some key principles from the passage that make this clear.

How Known Are You By You?  This is from Brad Lomenick on the Deeper Leader blog. Brad is a renowned leader and the founder of Catalyst. This post strikes at the heart of self awareness–an absolute essential for every leader.

Danger: A Team Without A Leader . . .  This comes from Ron Edmondson. It is brief and to the point. Let’s not have leaderless teams.

Millennials: Three Characteristics That Define How They Approach The Work Place  This was found on the LeaderCommunicator Blog. David Grossman says, “Like any generation, there are certain cultural experiences that affect the way millennials see the world.” Here are three to pay attention to.

Letting Go With Grace  This final post is on the Lead Change Group blog. “Perhaps the key to life is gracefully accepting the impermanence. Perhaps it’s the key to business success as well.” This post offers four areas to consider for letting go gracefully.

There you have it. Enjoy your weekend and get some rest!

5 for Leadership (1/5/13)

images-2Here is the first 5 for Leadership for 2013. I chose two posts from some thought leader’s most popular posts of 2012. I also highlighted two new bloggers for this 5. Start the new year off right by doing some regular leadership reading.

A Circle of Honor This comes from Robert Crosby in Leadership Journal. He makes a great case for the value of encouragement and honor–from leader to team and leader to team member. Are you drawing people into a circle of honor? Or are your people starving for recognition? Robert draws on some solid biblical principles for honoring others.

3 Traditions for Intentional Leaders This is a short, but very practical post from Julie Pierce and was published on Here are three simple, but profound traditions that you can incorporate as a leader to make you better in 2013.

How To Influence Without Authority I was reading over some different blogger’s most popular posts from the past year and saw this one by Jesse Lyn Stoner. This was originally posted in May of 2012 on Jesse’s blog. She gives you 8 ways to influence others without relying on authority and 3 guidelines for exerting that type of influence. Jesse is always practical and on target for what leaders need today. This is a must read.

7 Steps of Crisis Leadership This was originally posted in October of this past year by Skip Prichard on his blog, Leadership Insights. All of us as leaders will face crisis at some point. I found these seven principles to be very intuitive and useful for those trying times. See what you think.

Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: Building On Your Leadership Success This was found on The Lead Change Group blog and is written by Karin Hurt. She provides some links for other articles that help you reflect and look ahead. But she also emphasizes that we must contemplate what went well this past year and should not change. Through 8 questions Karin gives you a grid for figuring out what to continue in for 2013.

Thanks for taking a look at some of these posts. Pass them on and lead well in 2013.

Leadership Tiredness From Legacy

images-1There has been a lot of talk lately about President Obama’s second term. This is his final lap around the White House. Some have commented in the press that he will be more concerned about his legacy in his second term. Some have stated that it will be this concern for legacy that will force him to the negotiating table. Maybe. But, in one sense, if he makes his legacy his focus I can guarantee you there will be two outcomes: self obsession and exhaustion.  He will be self obsessed because once you make your own fame the goal you can never stop feeding the beast. He will be exhausted because the pursuit of your own fame robs you of the joy of generosity. And we were made for generosity by a generous Creator.

Leadership is demanding. Leading anything of significance will take all you have, and then some. Leaders who become fixated on their own legacy will wear themselves out and also those around them. A legacy is that which is handed down by a predecessor–it is that which you hope outlives you. When we speak of presidential legacies we are talking about how they will be remembered in the history books. All leaders want to be known for what they have accomplished–what they have left behind. This can be true for the school teacher as well as the CEO. Making a good contribution that is lasting is not bad. But making one that is tied to your name so that others will think well of you can be. And the pursuit of chasing your own renown is utterly draining.

Lasting legacy must have an outward focus framed by generosity. Anything less is merely celebrity.

Legacy lives on in the people you have impacted, not in your name on a building. Lesson: Pursue impact through generosity, not renown through self absorption. I have lived long enough to see old, obscure leaders who are vibrant and have a long legacy through the lives they have impacted. I have also seen old, bitter leaders who chased their tails by trying to make a name for themselves so that they would not be forgotten. There is a joy and energy that comes from giving your life away. Your virtue lives on in the lives of others. There is a sadness and a tiredness that comes from a focus on fame. Maybe your celebrity will live on in the answer to a trivia quiz.

King Solomon knew something of the pursuit. He was possibly the wealthiest, most renowned leader of his time. In the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes Solomon recounts his striving for pleasure and significance. He states that there was nothing that he held back from his own enjoyment. Yet in one of his summaries of his pursuit for pleasure he says (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17),

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

Solomon was considered wise. We can learn from his wisdom. He began well, but ended poorly. His pursuit of pleasure and renown as a legacy was his undoing.

Jesus put legacy in perspective. As he is preparing his closest followers for the mission he tells them this, Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The point is that real legacy will be found in giving our lives away for the sake of Christ and his gospel. It will not be found in the pursuit of vain glory.

What will be your legacy?

My Top Posts for November

UnknownHere are my most popular posts for the month of November. There is a mix of tried and true and some new offerings. Take a look for the first time-or again.

Delegation vs Empowerment  Once again, this was the most popular post this past month. This topic continues to be of great interest and has been in every “Top Posts” since I first began to publish these summaries. It is the difference between simply getting work done and raising up more leaders.

Three Marks of Leadership Maturity  I recently highlighted this post from my archives and there was immediate interest around the world. We must continually be growing as leaders. What are the marks that someone is actually making progress? This post seeks to begin to answer that question.

Leadership Proverbs  This post simply provides a survey of some of the proverbial sayings in the Bible related to leadership. The book of Proverbs, written largely by one of the most renowned leaders in the Ancient Near East, has been used by God through the ages to point us toward His needed wisdom.

5 for Leadership (10/10/12)  This particular 5 for Leadership was very popular in October and November. There is a great article on the future of leadership development. I linked to such authors as Michael Cardus, Dan McCarthy, Mark Miller, Gretchen Gavett, and Matt Mikalatos. Two of the topics are excellent on teams.

What To Look For In The Next Leader  This post reflects on a message that one of Cru’s senior leaders delivered to a group of national leaders in development. It provides four critical considerations for anyone building an enterprise and in need of more leaders.

There are the most popular posts for this past month. Thanks for making this blog one of your avenues for learning.

5 for Leadership (10/10/12)

images-1Here is a fresh 5 for the 2nd week in November. There are some substantive posts and articles in this edition. Browse away!

5 Big Ideas: What’s Next for Leadership Development  This is a very interesting article from the Great Leadership blog by Dan McCarthy. You need to read this if you are interested in LD at all. This is a list of five trends that are on the horizon for leadership development. I think these are certainly worth paying attention to. Take a look.

Team Building and Accessing Accountability and Authority  This was found on the Create Learning web site and the Team Building blog. In this post, Michael Cardus references a series of great questions designed to help you assess if you have the right mix of accountability and authority for any team or work project environment.

How President Obama Should Choose His Leadership Team  I found this on the HBR blog. Obviously it is in line with the election this past week, but it provides a real life example of the principles anyone should apply in choosing a leadership team. Gretchen Gavett does a good job of putting those principles right in front of us, attached to something should all be interested in.

Today’s Challenge: Filling A Key Seat On Your Team  This comes from Mark Miller, who is a Vice President with Chick-fil-a. I had the privilege of meeting Mark a few weeks ago because he is living out what he believes. His blog is called Great Leaders Serve–and Mark is serving my organization by volunteering as a coach for 18 months to help one of our national leaders grow in his leadership. This post is timely because this was a critical question our leaders were asking during that venue. Mark offers some great insight about this important topic.

The Burning Hearts Revolution This is the blog of my friend Matt Mikalatos. Matt is a leader in our organization in Portland, OR. Matt is also an accomplished author, with his 3rd book hitting the shelves any day. Matt has a keen way of combining humor and thought provoking insight that will cause you to look in the mirror of your soul. You will certainly be entertained, but you won’t be able to stop thinking about the cracks revealed. Check out his blog and his books (they are highlighted on his web site).

There are the 5 for this week. I also want to say THANKS to all of the veterans in our country for putting your lives on the line so that we can still have free and democratic elections like we did this past week. We can never repay you!

My Top Posts For September

UnknownWow-it is October and I have not yet highlighted what was most popular for this past month.  Here are my five most popular posts for September.

3 Things That Erode Team Unity  This post had the most hits.  Team leading takes a lot of skill and artfulness.  And team unity can seem very elusive.  Here are some markers of what can cause unity to be damaged.

2 Critical Ingredients To Team Unity  It logically follows that once you think through what might harm team unity that we would think through ways to build team unity.  This post looks at two primary ingredients that contribute toward that desire.

5 for Leadership (9/15/12)  Every month one of these weekly posts show up on the most popular list.  I hope being exposed to various points of view and different authors is helpful.  In this edition there are some great posts from Ron Edmondson and Dan Rockwell–as well as others.  Take a look for the first time–or again.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This has been on the monthly top five for a long time.  It continues to be a topic of great interest.  Take a look and contribute to the learning through your comments.

5 for Leadership (9/28/12)  Finally, another edition of 5 for Leadership shows up in the most popular for September.  In this one there are posts from Georgia Feiste, Tim Stevens and Kevin Eikenberry–as well as others.

There are the most popular for September.  Thanks for making them popular and for adding to the learning.

Leading Change

newyork-church-leadership-inner city
Recently, I had the privilege to meet with a group of men who have done an extraordinary job of turning around a branch of our organization. The ministry is called Cru Inner City and these leaders represent a national effort to bring hope and help to the poor and the marginalized. A few years ago there was a leadership void. It was a fragile time that called out for some fresh direction and thinking. A leader was chosen and the change process began. It was fascinating and encouraging to hear these leaders tell their story. Three aspects of this change initiative stood out to me.

Getting the Right Leaders

We studied their newly revised organizational chart and we engaged with some of the top leaders that have been put in place in the last few years. The chart revealed a group of young leaders with fresh energy and more mature leaders to provide wise experience. There were ethnic leaders that thoroughly understand the missional audience. There were men and women to add a balanced perspective to the needs of both genders. It was also clear that the top leaders had carefully placed the rest of the leadership team in roles that tapped the best of who they were and stewarded them well toward their best contribution.

Engaging the Main Stakeholders

This leadership team also spent countless hours engaging staff, interns, and partners about a new direction and new initiatives. They spent many hours in contemplating their future branding and the implications of how they might be even more powerfully represented among their chosen audience. They took the time to be sure that those who had invested well and were vested deeply were able to contribute their thoughts to the broader discussion.

Clarifying the Vision & Direction

One thing that clearly stood out from the report we heard was the emphasis on being partner centric in the mission. These dedicated staff seek to bring help and hope to the inner city. They rightly understand that they must come along side urban pastors and other leaders to serve them. Effectiveness lies in not coming in from above, but in coming along side. This team also desires to provide great tools and resources that will allow these churches to bless their own neighborhoods. The hope is to make the local pastor the hero, not our national organization. That is a direction that is worthy, compelling, and elicits whole hearted effort.

If you need to lead a major change initiative you need to get the right leaders, engage the main stakeholders, and clarify the vision and direction. Only then will you be in a position to see the change that you desire.

Here is the link for Cru Inner City-take a look.

(photo credit)

Problem Solving-Tips & Traps (Part 2)

Unknown-1Yesterday I made some comments about the primary reasons a leader would use a problem solving process with a team.  The two reasons I listed were the need for strong ownership and/or the need for great creativity.  I also mentioned that a problem solving process should never be used as abdication for good leadership analysis and thinking.  As a leader, you should use problem solving processes sparingly and when absolutely necessary for one of the reasons listed above.  In this post I want to talk a little bit about some practical pointers when utilizing a problem solving process with a team.

1. Think again–is this an issue that requires strong ownership and/or great creativity?  If so, then this could be a great tool to help engage the best thinking your team has to offer.

2. Place a set time in the schedule for how long this process will run.  You will wear out your people if you facilitate a processes that lasts over two hours–and do so on a regular basis.  I would actually suggest that you aim for an hour long process.  If something is too complex for a single hour, then take a break and set a second time (less than an hour this time) for getting to execution.  Too often teams get stuck in endless analysis and do not maintain the focus necessary to arrive at good solutions.  Limiting the time frame will help you maintain focus.

3. The team leaders should feel the freedom and necessity to come to the table with the problem clearly defined.  This is the perogative of the leader and the team is depending on it.  Don’t waste time in the team setting to try and define the problem.  Arrive with a clear problem statement in hand and even a few of the solution criteria that will help form the grid for choosing good solutions.

4. Have a set time for each part of the problem solving process and empower a time keeper to maintain the schedule.  Usually a process will include several steps, and each step, while important, must be limited to a certain time frame to ensure you get through the whole process in the desired time.  The team needs to see progress and have a sense of hope that you will actually get to an executable stage.

5. Be sure you actually get to the execution phase of problem solving.  Often, teams will do some great brainstorming and then never execute what they have decided.  If you don’t get to good execution then you have not really solved anything.  Be sure that the execution includes clear roles, deadlines, and goals.  This will help to ensure a measurable, effective learning opportunity–and keep you from just talk.

6. Consider empowering others on the team to actually lead the process.  Sometimes the team leader is not the best one to lead the team through a formal process.  You might consider another team member who is more gifted in the art of facilitation and empower them.  This will also help to develop their future leadership.

There are a few of my tips and traps on this topic.  What have you learned in your experience of leading teams?

Problem Solving-Tips & Traps (Part 1)

Unknown-1There are many templates for how to engage a team in problem solving.  Some are better than others.  But often I see teams abandon a problem solving technique or process out of tiredness and boredom, rather that ineffectiveness.  When I hear the anecdotal evidence for why it was abandon it usually lies at the feet of the leader for facilitating poorly.  No matter what process or technique you use, here are some tips and traps about engaging a team in the problem solving process.

1. Use a problem solving process when you need strong ownership of an idea or an effort.  Some leaders want to use a problem solving process for every issue they see.  They wear out their teams with this type of thinking.  Not every issue, opportunity, or problem calls for a formal team process to solve it.  There are really only two criteria in my mind when you should use a formal process.  The first is when you need strong ownership from every team member around an issue or obstacle.  When you need everyone’s best effort on something then you better engage them in getting their arms around the problem at hand and how it might be solved.  If you don’t need every team member’s best effort or ownership–then don’t use a formal process.  You may only need some advice from a person or two on the team.  Maybe the issue can be delegated out to others more suited for solving the problem.  But just because you have a “hammer” does not make every problem a “nail.”  Be wise in knowing how to steward problem solving processes with the right people over the right issues.

2. Use a problem solving process when you need great creativity.  The 2nd criteria for using a formal problem solving process is when you need great creativity.  The challenge is so big or complex that it is best to tap into all the minds on the team to get to the best solution.  Sometimes you need a breakthrough idea or newness around an issue.  Then a formal process involving a whole team could be a great way to go.

3. Do not use a problem solving process as a pass for good leadership analysis and thinking.  Sometimes I see leaders use formal processes as a crutch for a lack of good leadership analysis.  As a leader, don’t abdicate your role as an analytical thinker.  Much of your role is about looking into the future and providing direction.  To some degree you have to be able to peer into the future and anticipate possible roadblocks to the vision.  Or you need to foresee possible opportunities that can be leveraged by the whole team.  This takes think time on the part of the leader.  This takes wisdom in knowing what issues are important enough to involve a whole team.  The problem solving process is just one tool in your arsenal to help you lead.  It is not leadership itself.  Knowing how, when and with whom is critical to utilizing good problem solving processes in your leadership.

What are your thoughts?  What has helped or hurt you in facilitating a process like this?  What have you learned?

Tomorrow we will look at some very practical tips and traps in effectively leading a problem solving process.