Posts Tagged ‘leadership’



Managing Expectations: The Difference Between Success or Failure

I love to say “YES.” It’s more than just the salesman in me who wants to promise the moon in order to get the deal. I thrive on the challenge to help someone accomplish a goal or seize an opportunity. I specially love tell “yes” to my clients on projects that I know will make a difference in people’s lives. But behind every “yes” there are moving parts, deadlines, budgets and deliverables that most often are beyond my control. I’ve struggled over the years to balance my can-d0 attitude with the realities of resources and realistic time lines. But over the years in business I have come to believe while my clients appreciate my willingness to understand and even share in their sense of urgency, they appreciate even more my honesty on what can realistic be done.  Managing expectations has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn, but…

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How to Deal With The Unhappy Vocal Minority

The vocal minority is the bane of every dynamic leader’s existence. While 98 percent of your organization might be content, it’s usually the discontent 2 percent who make a lot of noise. You cannot lead any type of business, church, or group without having push-back from a few people, sometimes even a single unhappy person. While every case is different, I have learned a few lessons with dealing with the unhappy vocal minority. Don’t underestimate the power of emotions. Anger, frustrations, outrage, and shame are powerful motivators. People who are emotionally charged lose perspective. What was once an annoyance suddenly becomes a cause worthy of their personal crusade. I have seen otherwise reasonable people hurl vicious personal attacks, most of them untrue, when they become emotionally charged by an issue. Don’t overestimate your ability to appease them. Conciliatory leaders tend to want to spend time with their detractors and reason…

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Work Smarter Not Harder

Working hard and working smart are not synonyms. Yes you can work both smart and hard, but you can also spend a lot of effort and fail at the end of the day. Here are a few principles on how to work smarter that I have learned by watching successful leaders and managers as well as those who got them wrong. While these principles are simple…even obvious…they seem to elude us quite often. Do what only you can do for your organization. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Once I was the technology expert for my company–doing everything from troubleshooting network connections to installing printers and drivers. Granted, there were only 3 of us in the early days. Today I don’t even know how to use the fax machine or get a conference call started. I had to let those things go or I could never…

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Leadership 101: The Team is More Important Than Any One of Its Members

I’m responsible for my team. Anything or anyone who threatens the well being of my group becomes an issue I must deal with it. That is true even if the problem happens to be a team member…even a friend. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn. As a young manager, I remember coming to the realization that a good friend I had hired for a leadership position in the organization I managed was misplaced. While he had the temperament and personality for the job, he lacked the organizational skills to be effective at a  high level. No amount of training or coaching would bring him up to par. I agonized for months about what to do, even though intuitively I knew he could no longer lead that program. In the meanwhile I saw his performance continue to falter, his team flounder, and the entire organization under-perform. I was…

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What Should You Stop Doing?

“Every leader must learn that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” That’s what I came up with after the lady asked me to write down my favorite quote. Nothing had come to mind but that statement. That was it. Of all the books I’ve read and of all the people I’ve studied, is that THE quote? Come on. But it has stuck with me over the past few weeks since the incident. As I think back in my professional career, I have lived and continue to live that statement. As a matter of fact, the more I’m able to apply it to my life, the more successful I become. I remember the first time that I decided to stop fixing the office printer early in my career. Yes, I could do it, but so could someone else and my time was best served elsewhere. It’s not…

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A Dysfunctional Team? Blame the Boss

“I just wish my team would get along,” I heard from a leader not long ago. That’s not an uncommon complaint. But the more I learn about organizational health, the more I blame the leader for getting it in such predicament. In my experience, unrest, infighting among departments or ministries, or divisions within an organization can be traced back to two main factors: lack of clarity and/or organizational culture. And in either case, they are always set from the top down. Lack of clarity allows any good idea to be valid. Without a clear and articulable focus for your organization, any good idea is worth fighting for. I have worked with leaders who want to lead by consensus without a clear focus of identity and purpose. It’s a disaster. Usually the person with the strongest personality within the organization gets his or her way while others resent and get frustrated.…

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Leadership Lesson 1: Fight Arrogance. Know What You Don’t know

Arrogance is a downfall of many talented leaders who start believing in their own PR and fail to ask for help. I just got off the phone with a young entrepreneur who has started what I call a “socially redemptive business”: proceeds from the business fund not-for-profit organizations. I love the energy, vision, passion, and commitment I heard during our phone conversation. But no amount of enthusiasm or sheer determination will help my new friend out when he makes a critical marketing or business mistake. Unlike what we have experienced from our parents or our favorite teacher,  life does not grade us on intentions, but on execution. That’s when the voice of wisdom and experience can be critical to a leader. No matter your age, a wise leader knows when to ask for help before it’s too late. I count as a privilege to be able to advise some pretty…

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Work Smarter Part 2

Working hard and working smart are not synonyms. Yes you can work both smart and hard, but you can also spend a lot of effort and fail at the end of the day. Here are 5 more principles that will help you create and maintain a healthy and productive work environment. Ignore them at your own risk. Rebuke privately. Praise publicly. Getting these principles right has the greatest impact on morale for both paid or volunteer staff. One time I almost, and should have, fired a staff member for publicly scolding a volunteer that was late for a key rehearsal. The same is true for praise that’s done privately. If you’re happy with someone’s performance, make sure you praise them in front of their peers and superiors. Monitor morale. Leaders are always looking ahead to figure out what’s the next move. If morale is eroding for whatever reason, it’s your…

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The Question that Can Take You to the Next Level

Recently I’ve spent time with two great communicators: one has sold over 37 million books and the other is a leader of one of the nation’s largest churches and an amazing teacher. For all practical purposes these men are “on top of their game,” after all they have achieved the kind of professional success most people only dream of achieving. Interestingly, each of them independently of one another asked me the same question: How can I get better at what I do?      I’m sure the very reason for their success is, what I call, “the life-long learner syndrome.” I was first introduced to it but an 83 year-old camp cook in South America when I was only 15. She called me in the kitchen and ask me to show her how to make Brazilian Stroganoff. She had been cooking five times longer than I had been alive, and…

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When is Your Project Ready for Launch?

Whether you are ready to launch a new website, program, software, retail store, new product or even a new church campus, you need to know when it’s ready–not halfway and not overdone, but ready. I have coined a term for what the perfect launch stage, I call it “critical mass.” When launching something new, our tendency is to err on two opposite sides: too much or too little. Too much, or sometimes called “overkill,” can delay a project launch date, increase the budget and make it cumbersome and difficult to understand or navigate. I remember working on a software project that started out as a simple idea to solve a straight forward problem. During development it grew and by the time it finally launched, late and over budget, it was bloated and difficult to learn. Sadly, the extra features that cost the most and delayed the project were not as…

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