Monthly Archives: December 2011

Inventory Time!

One of the best things about this time of the year is the feeling that we have the opportunity to begin again. Even though we know, deep down inside, that all things past may still have their consequences and repercussions, that feeling of being able to start over persists. Maybe it is because we are “hope mongers”, as a good friend once describe humanity to me. Hope for a better future is what keeps us going, isn’t it? So, I am going to ask you to take advantage of this period of “hope” as it pertains to you as a leader.

Like any good business, taking inventory is a good first step to a better future. Take a look back over the past year and identify your successes as well as the places where you know you can improve. On the success front for this year, I could name quite a few, but a few stand out. I was able to wrap up a year of self-employment feeling pretty good about the progress that I had made in starting my own coaching and consulting business. It felt pretty good knowing that I could be successful in doing something that I am passionate about and to realize that I can actually make a decent living at it. As good as that felt, it felt even better to be recruited by one of my clients to join them as an executive coach and Sr. Director of Leadership Development. I am still doing most of the things I love to do, without having to worry about some of the less pleasant aspects of being a business owner. In addition, I have been able to help my new company launch several executive development programs that have been well received. I have also been on the leading edge of designing a new and exciting in-depth program for the development of our more senior executives that we will launch in the new year. In all of this I have learned a great deal about the Healthcare industry and have a new appreciation for the leaders who lead in a very complex and highly regulated environment. I have also continued to grow in my appreciation for the power of leadership. I have had the privilege and opportunity to provide coaching and consulting in a wide variety of organizations and industries, and can affirm that leadership is the single most important ingredient differentiating the good from the great.

In addition to the professional accomplishments, my wife and I were able to sell a house in the Atlanta area that had been on the market for over 18 months, and we didn’t even take too much of a beating. I felt that was pretty good in that particular market. I also had the privilege of officiating at the wedding of my son and his new bride. I was humbled and honored to be asked and was blessed to have been a part of such a special occasion in their lives.

Areas for improvement: Again, they are numerous, and there are probably many areas that I need to improve upon, that I don’t recognize, because they are my blind spots. (read more about Blind Spots in my November 2010 postings) So, one area for improvement is for me to be open to feedback that will make me more aware of these. More specifically, however, I believe I still have a long way to go in learning to navigate the internal workings of a new organization in an industry that is still new to me and that is undergoing significant change. I am glad to have a great coach and several colleagues who are committed to helping me navigate these waters successfully.

After taking inventory, it is a good idea to envision a more positive future. In other words, what kind of leader do you want to be a year from now? What kind of things will you be doing differently? How will you know that you are a more effective leader a year from now than you are today? What kinds of things will you see happening then that are not happening today? These are just a few of the questions that will help you get a better fix on your desired future.

Once you have a clear picture of that ideal future, it is time to identify the gaps, between where you are now and what you have envisioned, and then develop strategies to close those gaps. If you have significant changes to make, you will also need to incorporate a system of accountability that will ensure that you make the changes that you say are critical to your success. That system must include people with whom you will share your goals and strategies, and who will help you be accountable to those commitments. Without this part of the process, it is likely that next year will roll around and little will have changed. After having coached hundreds of leaders, I can assure you that good intentions alone don’t count for much.

My hope for you is that this process will provide you with the clarity for a very positive and prosperous New Year.

Merry Christmas

To a few this very wish will be offensive, or at minimum, viewed with caution. Seldom does a day go by without someone crying “foul” at a nativity scene being erected in celebration of the birth of Jesus, or of someone “Tebowing” or mimicking a young, inspirational football quarterback who gives God credit for everything in his life.

Even as a believer, I find myself frequently offended at things done in His name. I’ll never forget my thoughts as a young pastor trying to establish a new church in Vancouver. While I was trying to hold Christ up as a savior and bringer of hope, several televangelist of the time appeared to have lost their minds. Oral Roberts claimed God would take him on to if he didn’t raise $8Million. Jimmy Swaggart took a public dive into immorality. And Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker ripped off thousands of their sincere donors. My thoughts were, “How could an unchurched community ever be open to the message I was delivering in light of this lunacy?!”

To my amazement, they remained open to the same message that has always been meaningful to me, the message of hope, salvation, and fullness of life; to a light burden and easy yoke; to an abundant life; to joy unspeakable; to peace that passes understanding; to forgiveness and unconditional love; to a transformed life and a life fulfilled.

Truth be told, there will be always be things about Christ and Christianity that will be offensive. He said very clearly, that he would be a stumbling block to some. I hope that you are not one who stumbles at the mention of his name, or at the behavior of some of his followers and allow those to keep you from hearing the message he came to deliver.

Managerial Words that Make My Skin Crawl

“I’m disappointed.” It’s hard to imagine that there are managers who still use these words. I cringe when I hear them. I am sure that others have significantly more negative reactions.

These words are evidence either of a really low emotional intelligence, or an overblown ego and arrogance on the part of the managers who use them. These words tell the person being addressed that they are supposed to live to please the manager and make them happy. Unfortunately, there are managers who believe this is as it should be.

Further, these words are paternal in that they treat respectable adults as if they were very young children, indentured servants or, even worse, little puppies rather than people. They are designed to shame and attack the character of individuals.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t commonly recommend these words for parents either. However, for a very young child they can be motivating, if only in a negative way. The trouble with these words is they intend to instill shame, telling the person that they are not worthy of the praise or attention they seek or desire. Such shaming destroys self-confidence and is antithetical to the development of capable people. As children grow, they should be transitioning from living to please their parents or others, to having confidence in their own values, and living in alignment with them.

It is possible that there are employees who have not matured past the need to live to please others. And unfortunately, there are still managers who believe that employees are so immature that they are primarily motivated by external rather than internal sources. Either of these is a tragedy.

It is the responsibility of the manager to treat every person with the highest respect, even when they make mistakes, miss deadlines, or generally screw up, and even when they have to let them go. Shaming may get short term results, but will not resolve the problem that led to the mistakes. A more effective approach is for the manager to step into a place of inquiry to find out what was behind the mistake, missed deadline, or problem behavior. When a manager gets to the root cause and helps a person discover a better approach, they are on their way toward developing more capable people.

There are a lot more managerial words that make my skin crawl, but these two are on the all time top of my list. My hope is that you will eliminate them, and the thought processes behind them from your managerial vocabulary and begin looking for a more effective and respectful developmental approach.