Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leadership: What Vision? Part 4

Vision, vision, vision. We here this term thrown around everywhere in the "business" world. A company must have vision. A CEO must have vision. Corporations do not go anywhere fast if there is no vision.

I liken it to my car. I have a great little car. It has a strong motor, all wheel drive, new tires, etc. But if I can't see out the windshield I won't get very far. Also, if I don't have a plan as to where I am going, I may go somewhere but it might not be of any use to me. I need a place, a destination to aim for, then I have to be able see how to get there.

That's how I see "vision." It can't just be a catchy statement about your group. It can't just point you in a direction. It must give destination, and provide a way to see how to get there. The best visions are closely related to goals: attainable yet challenging.

Look if a vision sets such a lofty goal, that it seems impossible, then you may be sabotaging yourself before you ever get started. This is a motivation killer. On the other hand if it isn't challenging enough, you won't get much out of your team. Again there is a motivation killer at play. So a vision must be attainable, accomplishable, not too far out of reach.  But it must also be challenging, give a mark to reach for, pull the best out of yourself and those around you, and give something to work hard toward.

Will Mancini frames vision as 4 parts: mission, values, strategy, measures. Mission is the what: What are we doing? Values are the motive: Why are we doing it? Strategy is the map: How are we doing it? Measures are the mark: When are we successful?

As leaders we often have passion and giftedness in one of these areas, maybe two. But almost never in all 4 areas. We must therefore gather those around us who can help us to define, communicate, and put action steps around each of these 4 elements. Without this, we may have a nice statement to go along with the company name, that has absolutely nothing to do with day to day operations, much less the future.

Which of these 4 parts to the vision are you currently employing? Which one is your organization lacking? Where are your strengths? What is your biggest weakness? Is there someone on your team that can help in an area that is lacking or do you need to bring in outside help? Can most of your leadership accurately quote and frame their work via the vision?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leadership: What Action Steps? Part 3

Part three of this series on leadership will focus on Action Steps. There are many different terms used for this stage in the game plan, but in any case; there must be some sort of action plan or steps put into place. Now I know I haven't spoken about vision (I'm saving that till last), but these action steps should be a natural outgrowth of the vision that is cast and communicated.

The problem I most often see is that if there is vision cast and communicated, no one knows exactly what to do next. Back in one of my undergrad classes one of my professors defined a goal as both challenging and attainable. To me that is what you have to do with Action Steps. What are the next 3 to 5 steps to put us in the direction of the vision. What next steps will help the organization align with the vision?

Ways this must be communicated and followed through:
1) Action Steps must first begin with the leadership core. The leadership must work together on what actionable items they must do to align themselves with the vision of the organization. If the leadership isn't together, they must come together here otherwise they will undo the work of the rest of the organization moving forward.

2) Action Steps must be written down and disseminated throughout the organization to all with whom they involve. In other words they have to be seen at all levels so that all of the organization are on the same page as to what is next. To many times only one level receives these steps. This leaves the rest of the employees frozen, unable to see the picture of what is next. Writing them down also brings them into another level of reality, that is necessary for alignment.

3) Action steps must be specific. Specificity is important at this stage. If the steps are too broad then the organization will loose site of the end goal or vision. If the steps are too open for interpretation, then the end result may not look like the vision. When then next steps are written down in simple, easy to see and understand terms, then everyone is able to understand how to execute them. In addition to this, when they are simple and clear it is more evident when the action steps have been fulfilled.

4) Action steps must be followed through in a timely manor. In other words, they need a level of accountability attached to them. If there is no accountability built into the system, it is easy to get distracted by the next fire that one has to put out. Someone has to keep the appropriate timeline. Someone has to hold responsible parties to their specified role in the action step. This must fall on someones shoulders or the action steps are doomed to fail.

When a clear vision has been set forth (more on that in the next post), communicated clearly and from the heart, and action steps have been put into place, then you can see the movement of the organization toward an end result. This movement or change has to happen from the highest levels. This is real leadership, the kind of leadership that inspires, draws people in, and directs an organization toward its goals.

What have you done to create specific Action Steps for your organization? Who is the keeper of the timeline and the accountability? Who will champion these steps for your organization?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be His hands and feet

"Christ has no body on earth but yours, not hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." -St. Teresa of Avila

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leadership: Communicate What?: Part 2

My last post simplified (maybe over simplified) great leadership as three basic principles: Vision, Communication, and Action Plans. Much has been written on each of these subjects but I thought I'd take some time to dive into them a know, because there is still so much that can be said.

I'll come back to vision next week or some time soon. This post is primarily about communication. No vision or action plan can be completed unless there is good communication on the front end, in the middle, and on the back end. Communication is an ongoing process, not a one time event when it comes to leadership.

I remember way back to my collage communications class often, I was terrible! I barely passed with a B. I had no idea what I was doing. I would basically read my "speeches" word for word. My excuse: I didn't have time to memorize. I didn't realize, as I do now after speaking in front of people for the last 16 years, communication happens best when the principles have been internalized and then are spoken from the heart.

Now I'm not saying I have it all figured out. There are people way better than me at speaking, preaching, presenting...I could go on. But I have come a long way and that is because of a couple of basic principles I have learned along the way, oh and I'm still learning how to best apply these!

1.  Begin with the end in mind. OK, I know that is straight up "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" but hear me out. When I don't have a clear picture of how my vision looks a few months or years down the road, it becomes even more difficult to communicate exactly what it is that I see. When we begin communication we have to have an end goal in mind. This is the path that we are attempting to take people on. When I gather people together to attempt a 14,000 ft mountain, I don't tell them about the months of planning, the pain of the heavy packs, or the possibility of altitude sickness. I tell them about the beauty of the mountains as your standing at 14,000 ft looking down across the range. That captures people. That is the end goal. But that is not the full picture of the journey to get there. People have to see where you are going, and your communication has to give them a picture of what this looks like in the end.

2.  Internalize, Internalize, Internalize. Change must first happen in you. Vision must first be captured and must first capture you. When your heart and passions are captured by something you can't help but to share. No one needs to write down the top five things about their fiance, it comes to them naturally from the heart, and you might have a hard time shutting them up at five. The mountains are something that captured my heart years ago. I have been on top of many 14ers (14,000 ft mountains). When describing the experience I can talk about what it has done for me, why I go back, and why others should too. This type of communication comes from within, from the heart, and people are captivated by it. They want to see it. They want to experience it. They desire it.

3.  Speak first to those close to you. Listen to those close to you. Recast to a larger group. This is a part of the process that is often most difficult. We want to go right from thought to actionable items. We want it to roll slickly off the tongue, but it can fall on deaf ears if it has not not been properly prepared. Often as leaders we don't know what others will hear us through. So test out your communication with others. Talk to your managers. Write it down for others to read. Listen to what they have to say. Create a feed back loop. I took a group up to the mountains last year, and did not follow a very direct path. Some on the trip loved it, some thought we should never do that mountain again. I had to take that in, listen and evaluate some of my process. Listen to the thoughts of those around you, stand by your convictions, and recast the vision when necessary.

4.  Tug at heart strings not just thought processes. It is tempting to give all the facts and figures of why our vision will/should work. But people are often first captivated by the story, the heart of the "why." When we communicate from our heart this should happen naturally. One of the reasons I got into hiking was because of the stories that some of my early guides told. I was captivated by them. I was engrossed in the possibilities of experiencing a similar camaraderie that I saw in them. I wanted to tell those stories. Let your communication tell a story. It could be your story or someone else'. It could be that you are telling the story of your company, the people in it, or the people you serve. Story is powerful because it tugs at our heart.

Each of these come from what I remember as "encoding" and "decoding." What we are attempting to encode via communication, is not necessarily what is decoded by the other people involved. We have to know them, know who they are, know their past, know their that we have some idea of how our communication will be decoded. These 4 principles may help you in the encoding, and as you communicate this way, hopefully it will help those who are decoding as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leadership: What? Part 1

What is leadership? What are the characteristics of one who leads? How does one lead well? What does it feel like when you are under the leadership of one who leads well? 

These are questions, and many more,  that have rolling around in my head for a few months now. I haven't really had time to dive deep into it, although in many ways I've been studying leadership going way back to my undergrad days at ACU. I like to watch how leaders act, how they react, how they lead through the hard times, how they stay with it long enough to make it work out.

I'm currently reading a book called "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This book is pulling out some of these thoughts from my head. But the reality is, I've been collecting posts on leadership for a while now. Most of these articles are from a church or christian perspective, but good leadership principles are applicable across many mediums and formats. So here are a couple to kick things off.

1. Great leaders have clear vision. Without vision we can not see where the organization is going. Vision gives people a picture of a dream. Proverbs says "Where there is no vision the people parish." Vision must be clear, concise and actionable. The vision must be clearly stated and stated often. Everything within the organization must be viewed through the lens of this vision. Until the vision invades every aspect of the organization it is nothing more than a dream or words on a wall. Vision must permeate everything you say and do.

2. Great leaders communicate vision clearly. The clarity by which the vision is communicated is directly proportionate to the energy, enthusiasm, and incentive of every member of the team. When a vision is clearly communicated, it is hard not to be excited about it. I can have no connection to an organization, but if the leader communicates vision clearly, I get excited. It is inspiring. On the other hand when a "vision" is cast, and there is little clarity it breeds confusion. You can't pull energy out of confusion. So when a vision is communicated clearly, it looks as if the path is laid out before you. There is no question about when or how it will be accomplished, because it is directly built in to the vision and it is clearly expressed.

3. Great leaders communicate vision via an action plan. It is not enough to only see the vision, for that is a dream. It is not enough to see it and tell others about it, any extrovert can speak about what they see. However, a great leader is able to communicate the vision in actionable items. The next step and future steps are visible from the current state of the organization toward where they want it to go. Without these action steps, the vision becomes simply a pipe dream. A great leader is not only able to see these next steps, but is able to rally everyone around them and move them toward the future.

With out vision clearly communicated in action steps an organization at best is stuck in a perpetual mode of grasping at straws for what the future may hold. Great leaders are able to see vision. Great leaders are able to communicate vision. Great leaders propel people into action based on vision.

Where are you as a leader? Where is your organization? Are there great leaders who's potential is untapped around you? Are you called to lead? How are you doing with that calling?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

25 Discipleship Resources and Counting...Discipleship #8

Over the past 3-4 years I have come across so many books and resources to help in the process of discipleship. I think it was said best by my friend Jay when asked what the best book on discipleship was and he simply replied by raising his bible. I completely affirm and believe this is true. There is really nothing better than searching scripture and looking at the ways God affirmed and demonstrated discipleship throughout all of time. The bible and especially the life of Jesus Christ really is the best way to learn what it is to be a disciple and how to disciple.

However, I am often helped along by those who have fresh eyes to see what is right in front of me, but for what ever reason I am unable to see. I'm thankful for these men and women who are able to see, teach, and write about it. This is how I feel with so many resources that have sprung up over the last few years in regard to discipleship. I read these resources and have "duh" moments all the time. The reality is, discipleship is simple, I just often fail to recognize it. For example, try reading through the gospel of Mark as a manual as to how Jesus was discipling the rag-tag group of followers he had. Reading the stories and parables as if Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples on what it looked like to walk as he did...will down right change your perspective on so many texts!

All that said, there are certainly some resources that have shaped my understanding over the last couple of years. Here are a few personally & another article that has 25 more.

1. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This book completely changed the way I did youth ministry nearly 15 years ago. The concept of cheap grace still pains my soul.
2. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. His view of walking in the Spirit in the face of suffering is a thing of beauty.
3. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. The clash of culture and faith, is real, but must be walked through with grace.
4. Discipleshift by Jim Putman & Bobby Harrington. No this is not on the same level as the previous 3 classics mentioned, but it radically changed the way I saw how discipleship could change a church by growing individuals to look more like Christ.
5. Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden. This is a great 25 chapter study to walk with a small group through the process of discipleship. I am currently using this as the cornerstone of study for a men's discipleship group. It has brought great, deep, relevant discussions to light, and hopefully is fostering as much transformation in the other 5 guys as it is in me.

Here is also a link to another article with 25 discipleship resources, a couple of which I have mentioned, but with many more yet to be explored.

25 Discipleship Resources on Church Leaders

What are you currently doing that is showing successful transformation via a discipleship process?

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