On the edge

As a leader, you have a responsibility to your team (and to yourself) to be constantly getting better. Once we have mastered something, it is very easy to get in a good groove and just do what we do because we do it well.  The problem with that plan is that the world is constantly changing and those who don’t keep up will be eventually out of a job.

I encourage you to continuously be putting yourself in positions where you are forced to improve and learn something new. There is no "sitting on the job" for a leader – they are always pushing themselves to bring even more value to their teams. When was the last time you learned how to use a new software program that could make your personal scheduling more efficient? When was the last time you read a great leadership book and wrote down three great ideas and started to implement them in your work place?

Give up the idea that you ever "arrive’. Arriving at the top of anything is a myth – there is always higher ground.  Feel good about who you are and what your skills are but know that you can always be a better person. Embrace the challenge because that’s what being a leader is.  

The benefit of the benefit of the doubt

Have you ever been in a situation where something is not quite right with one of the people on your team and you have the urge to confront them about the situation? I have been there many times as a leader: you get the idea in your head that your way is the only way and that you are going to right such an obvious wrong. After looking like a fool many times because of jumping to conclusions, I have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. 

Next time you want to blame someone on your team for making a big mistake or are angry about something that happened (even though you admit you don’t have all the facts) take a step back and take a breath. 

Invite the person in question into your office for coffee and calmly ask "how are you doing?….. I’d love to hear your side of this story."  Don’t judge, don’t look for evidence to condemn them. Sincerely listen. Things get worse when people feel attacked so be gentle and show graciousness to your team mate. 

Once you’ve got the facts, then make a level-headed decision. It is never ok to make a judgement call based on an assumption – it just makes you look like an immature leader who doesn’t know how to handle conflict. 

Maybe you’re the problem?

A lot of times when we face a difficult situation and feel frustrated and agitated we ask God "please fix this, please fix him, please fix her" and we see no change. 

Try praying "God please change me and help me to know the best way to create a win-win out of this situation." 

When you’re training someone and they are short-tempered because they’re overwhelmed, pray that God will make you a better explainer and trainer instead of giving you someone "better" to train. When you’re spouse is distant because they’ve worked a long day pray "God help me become more compassionate and empathetic" instead of "God, change them." 

Take responsibility and be open to the possibility that God might need to change you before the situation can be turned around. 

Peyton Manning Syndrome

There are two different arguments for how to be a leader: be the "linchpin" – someone irreplaceable, uniquely specialized and incredibly talented or the opposite: someone whose goal is to build a program that is systemized, sustainable and not personality based. 

I was watching NFL football with my husband over the weekend and he commented that the Indianapolis Colts have not won a game this season although last year they made the playoffs. The difference? This season Peyton Manning (the team’s MVP quarterback) is not playing due to next injuries. He continued that Peyton may be eligible for this year’s MVP award even though he hadn’t even played one minute of one game this year due to the fact that without him, the Colts are 0 for 12. 

Although I admire Peyton and his leadership, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the him. Imagine the pressure of a whole football franchise dependent on your skills? How could a good head-coach put his whole team in jeopardy by building the team around one key player? 

It is important to be the best you can be but if you’re the only one who can do it I believe that puts your business in a very dangerous position. 

Ouch! Appreciation Effort

I volunteer regularly with a local NPO helping them develop their Volunteer Program. The organization has been around for more than ten years and is primarily run by volunteers but there has never been a program in place to coordinate and empower the volunteers. 

In preparation for National Volunteers Day on Dec 5th, I have been working with the office manager to put together a meaningful handwritten card that would go out to all the volunteers expressing sincere gratitude for the work they had done all year.

Just this last week, I received my "thank you" card. I was excited to open it and see what creative appreciation-expressing ideas they had come up with for their first thank-you mail out. I opened the envelope and found a generic printed postcard signed by the founder of the organization. The card was a thank you for a project I had worked on in the summer and has absolutely nothing written on it despite the fact that the flip-side of the card was blank.

I couldn’t help but feel hurt. This was a thank-you 4 months overdue (strike one), didn’t even have my name on the card (strike two) nor was there any personalized message (strike three). To be honest, I believe the card did more bad than good in showing appreciation. It was more like junk-mail – not the message you want to communicate to your devoted volunteers. 

Don’t make that mistake: appreciate quickly, be sincere and personalize your thoughts. Ouch – it still hurts when I think about it.