Archives For purpose

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.

Because I spend most of my time working with Christian ministry leaders and leadership teams in churches or ministry organizations, I regularly run into teams that have become hospice care centers to the detriment of quality work that needs to be done. However, as I interact with colleagues in the for-profit business world, I frequently hear about the opposite sinkhole where people don’t matter only what they produce does. Neither extreme makes for a healthy team.

I would like to suggest that the tension of needing to care for people and also get the job done is a tension that can nurture great teams.

If all a team does is focus on task, you are moving into the demoralizing posture of using people without developing or even attending to them as individuals. If all a team does is care for each other, you are moving into the demotivating posture where the hard work, expertise, even sacrifice of people is ignored.

On the other hand, when people are cared for in a team-based context where the cause that drives the team is compellingly pursued, you have the potential of releasing the greatest creative energy. When people feel safe, they feel safe to risk and experiment. When challenging assignments or pressure packed deadlines are balanced with support for the people facing that pressure, the entire team finds the will power to keep their hands on the plow together.

If you can imagine these dynamics as intersecting axes, any team or organizational unit could actually plot their state of balanced tension at any given moment in time. In fact, a five minute check-in could help a team take its collective “temperature” in real time.

You could label these axes a number of ways: Task v. Relationship; Nurture v. Productivity; or as I prefer Cause v. Community.

The “Cause” axis measures the intensity of focus and demands your team places on the work it is supposed to be doing. (Is it very high or low at the moment?) The “Community” axis measures the weight of attention being given to caring for the people on your team.

The point where the two lines intersect reveals the current state of balance between these two tensions. [In the diagram, the dashed line example would be a team that is weaker as a caring community right now but highly productive. The dotted gray line shows a team that is less of a productive focused unit and more of a caring community right now.] And obviously, your team could score high-high or low-low just as easily.

Why does all this matter? It is because highly effective teams make greater impact. They are like finely tuned v-10 race engines instead of anemic gas saving 4-cyclinders. They steward people while making a difference.

So, thinking about the key team(s) you lead or function on how would you diagram these two creative tensions right now?

IDEA: Use this paradigm as a discussion prompt for a work-group, a task-force, a governing board, a focused team, or any other identified group of people you have the chance to work with.

I had a breakthrough I hadn’t sought. I recognized the linkage between annual, monthly, and weekly rhythms that are key to maintaining perspective and focus as a leader. Being a “P” and not a “J,” I think I’ll call it “the Pirates’ Code for Greater Leadership Focus.” If I wanted more grandiose phrasing, I might call it, “Keys to Strategic Life Management for a Leader.”

Continue Reading...

In spite of the fact that we blaze through the demands of our daily lives at an impatient pace, the truth is, life is long.

Continue Reading...