Archives For leadership

Leaders crave for a way to increase the horsepower of their organization. And, by horsepower, what I really mean is manpower. It shows up in questions and conversations like, “how do we keep our people motivated and engaged?” “How do help people give us their best?” “What does it take to get more people to volunteer or to volunteer more of themselves?”

Creating an empowering environment is way to do just that.

I want to argue that building an empowering environment is one of the greatest contributions leaders can make to unleashing the potential of people. Piece by piece, it isn’t complicated at all, but it takes intentionality.

Over the next three weeks, I will post seven articles on how to create an empowering environment. Here is the first:

Creating an Empowering Environment #1:
Give Them A Compelling Reason

 

Knowing why comes first. Your people—employees and volunteers alike—need to know what is at stake and how their contribution is directly connected to it. Every church, non-profit, business, or enterprise of any sort is actually populated by volunteers.  Even when there is a paycheck involved, employees volunteer themselves to the challenges of the task at hand every day.

In the day-to-day people lose sight of the reason behind what they are doing. It isn’t a devious plot, it’s just human nature. It happens to you and me. In the midst of detailed and often mundane steps natural to fulfilling any responsibility, it is human nature to lose sight of the big picture. Individual trees dominate our field of vision and we forget about the forest.

You see, vision has a half-life of seven days.  That is to say, no matter how strong and clear the vision for what you are doing is today, seven days from now it will only be half as clear and half as strong.  Seven days later another half-life evaporated. Within 28 days, no matter how strong and clear initial vision was, you will be limping along with a meager 6½% of its original strength.

This means smart leaders are always asking connecting the dots for people. They are always talking about why the things you are doing matter so much. They get creative about finding ways to paint pictures of the compelling reason behind your work. An annual vision push will never be enough. People respond when the compelling reason motivating their effort is current and clear.


Without a compelling reason:

  • People are left to work out of duty or obligation alone.  And working solely out of duty is the pathway to burnout.
  • People compete for resources based on personality or positional power rather than vision and strategy.
  • Turf wars become the order of the day.
  • Pettiness reigns! Pettiness is a clear indicator of the absence of compelling vision.


This Week?
A brass plague in the lobby won’t get the job done. Get creative. What could you do?

  • Could you tell a fresh story illustrating the compelling purpose of your organization? 
  • Could you reward personal or even departmental behavior that is fully aligned with the reason you exist?

 
After you give it a try, consider coming back and posting a comment about your experience.
And, come back in a couple days for the next installment in this seven part series.

 

Building and leading any robust enterprise is an endlessly creative and fulfilling challenge. However, managing people can be, well, a pain in the butt. So, how do you get the most from your people?

I am not going to pretend that this one post will change your universe, but, it’s ramifications are huge. Let’s start with a little confession.

I’ve spent my life working in and with churches. Translation: I have spent my life leading and working with volunteers. Volunteers are amazing. They give of their own time and good will to make things happen. At the same time, when I looked over the fence to the greener pastures of “normal” workplaces, I often got jealous. It looked like the power of the paycheck made it so much easier to manage employees compared with what it took to herd a crowd of volunteers.

I mean, employees have to “shape up or ship out.” If they want to get paid, they have to perform and “fly right.” Right? Volunteers, on the other hand, have calendar conflicts, can be hard to hold accountable, and often feel their opinions hold extraordinary weight. I was jealous of the illusion I’d created about what leadership was like in the for-profit sector.

Until it hit me one day—and, here comes the big idea—at the core, everyone is a volunteer. It doesn’t matter whether you get a paycheck or not.

That’s right. Everyone is a volunteer! Everyone makes willful decisions every day to volunteer their best effort, or not to. Aligning their focus and actions with the larger mandate and mission is a choice. Cooperating with colleagues requires a desire to do so. Just because someone is physically present, doesn’t mean they are mentally, emotionally, or willfully engaged. Any of us can be present in body even though we are rebellious in spirit.

Everyday, at every turn of events, everyone decides how much of themselves they are going to give to the responsibilities they have. The point is, we choose to volunteer ourselves, or, not to.

So, what does that mean for us as leaders?

The answer to, “How do I get the most from my people?” is actually found by flipping the question around. “How can I pour the most into my people?”

It all starts by re-orienting and reconsidering the way we exercise authority. There are four kinds of authority and only one of them is has to do with the power of position.**  Yes, you can swing the big stick, but a big stick rarely creates internal motivation. Overplay it and your people will only feel bruised and beat up.

Ask yourself, what does it take for me to become motivated and engaged?

I suggest that answer lies in the kind of environment you create for your people. How compelling is your vision or mission. How clear are people about the critical essence of their role? How adequately are they resourced? How connected are they to relationships with colleagues they work beside? What kind of reward or recognition do people get for the effort they put in?

Whether the people you lead are employees or actual volunteers, when you begin building an environment that would empower volunteers, you create an environment that will bring out everyone’s best.

There is so much more to unpack on this issue. For the next few weeks, I will post six different articles on how to create an empowering environment.

In the meantime, why not take a step back and ask yourself, how am I deliberately trying to pour into the lives of the people I lead?

 

Your Thoughts?

 

 

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**Bonus Insight:

Four Types of Authority:
Healthy leaders learn to lead from all four postures.

  • Positional Authority (Based on me being the boss)
  • Relational Authority (Based on us are friends)
  • Expertise Authority (Based on my knowledge as an expert)
  • Spiritual or Moral Authority (Based on the depth of my relationship with Christ and/or my character)



Every day
as a leader you have to cut through the fog and noise of the immediate to keep things focused on what matters most. There is no place where that challenge is more important than in managing the tasks and priorities swimming in your head.

Trust me, I understand. I am wired to see and want to accomplish the 17 things I think are important right now. And, when I achieve some modicum of success on those, my juices get flowing and I start thinking “carpe diem,” seize the momentum and bring up those 37 other things I have been ruminating on. Bad idea.

To that end, I offer this simple discipline: Identify the ONE THING. In every situation, every day, identify the one thing that matters most right now. And do that.

Of all the things on your “to do list,” ask yourself, “what is the one thing that will make the biggest difference today?” If your plans for the day collapse because of some unforeseen crisis, what is the one thing that is non-negotiable?

Do the same thing in planning your week and your month. Ask yourself, “what is the one thing I can or should do that will move the ball furthest down the field?”

For every appointment, identify the one thing that is most important for you to address, contribute, leave behind, celebrate, etc.?

For every meeting, what is the one thing you want every participant to walk away with?

For every presentation, what is the one message, insight, action point, principle, etc. that you are going to talk about?

It is simple. Simple to understand, but a courageously contrary discipline to execute. I dare you to try it. Instead of fixating on how to get more done, focus on the one thing that will bring strategic progress in this moment and do that thing.

TWO PROMISES
#1: Momentum. If you do this consistently I believe you will find that every day, every meeting, every communique will find these incremental steps add up to significant momentum. And, momentum is exciting.

#2: Impact. The depth of our impact is directly proportional to the narrowness of our focus. The broader your focus the more you dissipate impact. So, imagine that every conversation, every day, every week had greater impact. How good would that be?

What’s your one thing for today?

 

FYI. For a future post: “How to approach the one thing question for your life.”

Rhythms of Self-Care

Gary Mayes —  May 6, 2017 — 2 Comments

Do your rhythms of self-care position you to thrive? Are they enough to sustain you for the long haul? When your role changes, your responsibilities grow, and the demands on you increase, you need to adjust your rhythms of self-care if you are going to thrive.

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WHY this blog?

Gary Mayes —  April 27, 2017 — Leave a comment

Leading a church or any ministry that longs to make a kingdom impact in a changing world takes serious leadership game. Without robust skills, strategies, and spiritual authority, ministry will eat your lunch and break your heart.

aboutLEADING is dedicated to lessons from and for the trenches of leadership. In this space you will find ideas, insights, resources, and even the occasional twisted view on the humor of life. Things you can use. It is a resource to help you and those you influence thrive as agents of the kingdom.

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Leadership demands perspective.

That ability to see above the fray in order to navigate the present in light of the future. Perspective differentiates leaders from followers and leaders from better leaders. But, here’s the deal. You have to fight for perspective. It doesn’t present itself gift-wrapped. It’s fragile. Elusive. In fact, the relentless gravity of the urgent and the immediate cannibalizes perspective.

For twenty years, I have been training leaders on ways to find, sustain, and lead with perspective. Lately, I have been thinking more about what it takes to win that fight.

By lately, I specifically mean the past two months–the beginning of a long-awaited sabbatical. One of my early “projects” has been to reflect on the things that tend to eat my leadership lunch. Among my observations, a big one is that I have taken my ability to maintain perspective for granted. I allowed the demands of a growing organization to seduce me into thinking that perspective from the past will carry me into the future. New habits overtook former ones and as a result, these past couple years I have been repeatedly sucked into the swamp of operational weeds where perspective is almost impossible.

One of my sabbatical goals is to reinstate and refine the game-changing disciplines that help me live and lead at a higher altitude (my favorite analogy for perspective.)

These disciplines are not rocket science, in fact, it might be best to call them simple practices. The key is in the practice of them, not talking about them. They are much too obvious for extended rhetoric.

You might need things I don’t, but for the sake of a concrete starting point, here is what I have found I need and what seems to be a good framework for most leaders.

1. READ: Read constantly in the area of your normal disciplines AND read broadly on subjects outside of your normal orbit. To say it another way, read things that have no urgent need or useful value. (Consider: Warren Buffet and other uber-successful people talk about spending 80% of their time reading and thinking. For more: click this link.)

2. REFLECT: Use some kind of journal to record what you did and what you learned in the midst of it. Most significant learning happens while we do stuff. Severe your technological tentacles for a while to think, dream, and process what lies behind and ahead of you. (Example: I not only journal regularly, but every week I review the week that just transpired and use what I see to inform the way I will approach the upcoming week or two. I do the same in a more robust way when I do monthly goal setting and calendar work.)

3. RE-CREATE: All of us have things that are life-giving in a re-creative way. For me, it’s a simple two-pronged focus for me: I have to give attention to my soul and to my body. That means time in prayer /communion with God and time in some sweat-producing exercise. (In addition to these core two, I also need time with highly stimulating people and time spent in artistic endeavors.) The thing is, most re-creative endeavors have a non-productive feel to them. Don’t be fooled.

As for me, I know that I need to spend some time in all three areas every day and a lot of time in them every week.

What have you found works for you? Add to the conversation by adding your comments below.

For more thought about sabbaticals, click here.

 

Once upon a time, working on a team meant you worked in the same building, bumped into one other in the hallway, and swapped ideas while fighting for the last good donut at the coffee machine. However, the way we work has fundamentally changed. Our working environment is defined by shared digital space more than a physical one.

Even if you and your colleagues officially work in the same building, as often as not, you are sitting in a cafe or logging in from the road. And, even when you are in fact working down the hall from one another, communication and collaboration are conducted through that ethereal reality we call “the cloud.” So, how does a team set itself up to work effectively and collaboratively in a digital and distributed working environment?

In order to thrive, every team that works in a digital space–and I think that’s pretty much everybody–needs three types of collaborative space.

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Have you ever seriously thought about the fact that the way you decorate or arrange a space changes what it feels like to work or meet in that environment. Right now, offices everywhere are decorated with some form of holiday cheer. Unless you are Scrooge himself, you like it and are probably more productive. The nature of the environment changes what happens inside of it. Consider two vastly different experiences I had recently.

Two weeks ago I attended a church service in a room that was attractively staged with fabric, art, and candles–lots of them. The music was acoustic–simple, with an interesting blend of guitar, beat box, djembe, and the occasional soft tambourine. The congregation sat in a circle of chairs a couple rows deep so they might all see one another.

Kyliah

View of Church #2
(And of my niece, Kyliah, who is truly amazing!)

Then a week ago I attended a second church which could not have been more different from the first. The room where we met was a plain rectangular box with nothing on the walls, but wine colored paint. The floor was black painted concrete. There was no art. No texture. Nothing to invite imagination or create warmth. The rows of chairs were lined up in straight rows facing one of the large blank walls.  “Up front” all you saw was two black metal music stands and a pull down screen. The guitar player/vocalist/worship leader stood at one stand and after a few announcements, the pastor of the day stood at the other. The environment was sterile and no surprise, the response and engagement of the congregation felt exactly the same.

Two churches couldn’t be more different. Both churches were from the same denomination, the same city. Both are smaller congregations, so the difference wasn’t size. Interestingly, even though the sermon at the second church service was more engaging and provocative, I wouldn’t go back there. I would easily go back to the first church.

In the same way that non-verbal cues are so important to communication, crafting the texture and ethos of the environment where you meet or work or worship or think or create will shape everything that happens there, too. Think about your own experiences. The environment where things happen:

    • Sets expectations. As soon as people walk into a room, the start making judgements about what is about to take place.
    • Communicates values. What matters most to you and what values govern the meeting/ training/ or event people are about to participate in? How the room is set up will communicate those values.
    • Creates an invitation. What you do with the space you have invites people to participate in certain ways. Church #1 invited me into a sacred conversation together with the rest of the congregation. Church #2 invited me sit, listen, put my creative self on hold, and participate if I wanted without any engagement wit others. And, these invitations were clear as soon as I walked into the room.

So ask yourself:

    • What do I want to invite people into?
    • How do I want them to participate?
    • What forms of art, color, lighting, texture, plants, or sound could create an environment that transports people out of whatever preoccupied them beforehand and into a new space that fosters the experience and participation you long for?
    • How could you arrange the seating of participants to encourage maximum contribution?  Never settle for how others left the room before you got there, move things around until it feels right.

 

You don’t have to hold back until you can make permanent changes, either. In the same way a good realtor “stages” a house to show well–bring in what ever you can to stage the room where you will meet, work, etc.

 

What works for you?  What secrets have you learned about creating an environment that invites people into a more powerful experience? Make a comment, share the love.

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A sabbatical is not just a different form of work under a different name. It is all about the health of our soul. Over time, we can run dry in the midst of the demand and drivenness of work, but a well planned sabbatical should be a life-giving experience that blows fresh wind into the sails of our souls.

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One of the keys to a successful sabbatical has nothing to do with what you do on your sabbatical itself, but everything to do with how you transition into and out of it. For twenty years I have watched the best and worst practices of my peers as they have taken sabbaticals, (primarily pastors and leaders of other ministry organizations.) I believe a sabbatical, can be a life-giving experience and it is something I whole-heartedly recommend. However, a sabbatical is not automatically helpful.

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