Paying Attention

Attention Paid

We are all supposed to “pay attention”. And indeed it does cost us something.

We do “pay” for being attentive. But why are we to be attentive? And how are we to do this? And what does being attentive do for a leader? Let’s explore a few of these questions for a moment.

There is a popular saying that bears repeating here: “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” But sometimes we are so busy, distracted, and inattentive that we don’t see the roses or realize that there is actually time to smell them. Paying attention is vital to enjoying life, being productive, building healthy relationships and truly living an abundant life.

So how do we pay attention?

What habits and practices can we incorporate into our lives in order that we might be more attentive?

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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Everyone loves to have a new beginning.

To be sure, we all need new beginnings.

Some come everyday.  Some come during certain seasons in life.

A new beginning is the end of what has come before and starting on the path to what is next.

Spring is a season of new beginnings. After the winter when everything has either died or gone dormant, Spring is the time when things are “reborn”, “revitalized” or “reawakened”.

Spring is when Easter is as well. Easter is the time when we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died so that we might have new beginnings. He rose again so that we might have new beginnings. Jesus’ death and resurrection are all about us closing the door on the past sins, failures and dead-ends and receiving His free gift of new life!

Since this is Easter weekend it seems fitting to consider the new beginnings available to us.

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Motivation and the Greater Good

Motivation and the Greater Good

I want to take a moment to examine the heart, character, inner thoughts and motives of one who desires to lead. This is a helpful practice that we each ought to engage in on a regular basis. Without self-examination, accountability and attention to moral development even the best of leaders will slowly drift and become overtaken by the allure of power, pleasure, greed and self-satisfying behaviors.

At the heart of every leadership attitude and behavior should be the inherent desire to help our fellow humans. Leadership is not some kind of encapsulated behavior that gets things done without human interaction or personal influence. Instead leadership is with and for people. Leadership is for the purpose of getting something done (for the purpose of the greater good of humanity) or for the purpose of shaping and influencing someone (for the purpose of the greater good of that person). And so we must examine our own hearts.

leadership is with and for people

Why do I lead?

Much of the time we lead others because it is part of our job description. In some way, shape or form our position requires us to “lead” a group of people in order to get a job done for the organization for which we work. However, if we begin digging down,

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20 Fundamental Questions for Team Building

Teamwork - Dogs

In my last post I shared 5 sports-themed principles of team building. In this post I would like to give you a practical tool to help you build a team, unify them, point them in one direction and then let them execute the plan.

One of the best leadership practices is question-asking. Accordingly I would like to give you 20 questions that you first answer yourself and then work through with your team. As you think through these questions and collaborate with your team on possible answers and implications I believe you begin will see the true potential of team-effort. There can be a beautiful synergy between team members co-laboring on mission, vision and goals but as the leader you have to ask the right questions.

The first three question are foundational questions that will lay the groundwork for building your team:

1.     Why do I want a team? — Loneliness isn’t a good enough answer; neither is “trying keep up with the times” or “trying to be relevant”. Simply claiming “best practices” or “streamlining our organization” isn’t enough either. Is a team really necessary to accomplish your task? Continue on through these questions to help you decide if you really need a team.

2.     What can a team help me do that I can’t do on my own? — Is your task big enough to need the insight and assistance of others? And are you really needing a team or do you merely need to disseminate projects? There is a difference. Simple delegation can be done without a team. True teamwork means the job can’t be done alone, and requires each person to contribute thoughts and ideas and to do their part in order to accomplish the end goal. Before we can determine if we need a team, then I guess we better discover what we are trying to accomplish.

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Teamwork Principles from Sports

Mule Team

Teams are all the rage today in business. Surely some of this comes from our love for sports and the beauty of seeing a group of people on the field or court, working together in unity and skillfully executing a play. But furthermore we love to talk about teams today because of the camaraderie represented, the importance of each team member knowing and executing their job and the synergy that occurs through mutual trust and proficient performance. But loving the concept of “team” and actually building a team and helping it realize its potential are completely different things. I would like to propose 4 sports-themed warnings to help you build a better team.

Going 5-wide just isn’t possible; Going 4 wide isn’t sustainable – I know when you are watching Nascar the adrenaline gets pumping when the competition is tight and an inch can mean the difference between placing or even finishing. But a good crew chief will recognize how many things can actually be done effectively, simultaneously and won’t attempt more than this. When you attempt too many things at once the bottleneck will slow down progress or even worse, end up in catastrophe.

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How to Lead an Underachieving Team

Underachiever's Manifesto

There are times in our various leadership roles that we will have times of great productivity, effectiveness and performance. These times are wonderful and full of promise and excitement. But there are other times when it seems like instead of the Midas touch turning everything to gold, our leadership or our team keeps missing the mark. So what do you do when the group, team or organization that you are leading is unproductive, ineffective and non­-performing? In this post I would like to propose ten basic principles / leadership behaviors that will help you in these dry / difficult times and help you and your team discover your full potential.

Examine motivations – Like the old Sprite commercial that asked the question “what’s my motivation”, we too must examine our own motives and those of our team. If motives are selfish or self-serving the team will inevitably fall short of its potential. Motives need to be focused on fulfilling the mission of the organization and seeking to benefit others.

Discover obstacles – Obstacles come in many shapes and forms. Some are obvious some are not. A leader that can help a team to perform needs to be able to identify bad attitudes, cumbersome systems, unnecessary bureaucracy and so much more. Running a race is a lot more fun when you don’t have to hurdle something every few feet.

Inspect tools – Tools are a vital part of performing and producing. When tools are not ­maintained, not up­-to­-date, not accessible or not appropriate to the task the work of the team will be slowed down or thwarted. Make sure your tools are sharp, clean, organized and available.

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Leading Without a Title

Leading Without a Title

So what can a “leader” do without a title?  What can a “leader” do without a position?

There are many times in life, work and ministry that we may find ourselves without a formal title or position and yet still feel a call to lead. But who will follow? And who are we leading? And for what purpose? And toward what end result?

All of these are questions we may face when we feel a burning desire within to help others, to see lasting change in lives, organizations and communities and yet don’t have an official “platform” from which we can lead.

What are some principles of leadership that are applicable regardless of title or position?

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Leadership is… Releasing


Releasing - 1Today marks the last in my series on defining characteristics of leadership.  I hope that you have enjoyed them and that you have found them beneficial.

The last facet of leadership that I will be discussing is perhaps the hardest and yet the most important.

As leaders we must release the work, the results, the process, the progress and even the direction of the organization into the hands of our team. If we don’t release it to them, they will never have the necessary intrinsic motivators necessary to be fully engaged and successful.

Our releasing actually must begin at the very first discussion about goals and organizational direction. As the leader we may have certain key components that we feel are non-negotiable but we need to keep them few and simple. Leaders must release the work to the team (and they in turn must release the work to those they lead) if we ever want to learn about team-work, collaboration, unity and synergy.

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Leadership is… Involving


Involved - 1Leadership is involving is the third in this short series.  In case you have missed the first two, here are links to those articles.  The first one was Leadership is . . .  Modeling.  And the second one was Leadership is . . .  Teaching.  But today I want to focus on involving others through our leadership.

After we have modeled our convictions, purpose and plan and then shared with others where we are headed and how they can be a vital part of that process, then we must begin involving people.

It is not enough to plan and structure things. It is not enough to have goals and action steps, we must involve and engage people in the actual implementation. Involving begins during the previous stage of teaching/learning because it simply won’t work to tell others what the vision and plan is and how they fit in it without giving them opportunity to contribute to the formation of the vision and plan.

Involved - 2Even if you have the leverage of certain extrinsic motivators,

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Leadership is… Teaching


Teaching - 1Leadership is teaching.

We must tell others what we are attempting, why we are doing it, how we plan on getting there and how to avoid pitfalls along the way. As leaders we can never assume that the people we are leading know what we are thinking or reaching for.

As we live out our personal mission we must constantly be attentive to leading others through teaching. We must explain why we do what we do, and we must invite others to join us. We cannot be timid in our recruiting or our teaching. Our words must be clear and purposeful.

Teaching - 2Our teaching must be about more than just vision, but also about the process. But let me be clear here: the teaching of leadership doesn’t only go one way. In many ways this facet of leadership could be titled “learning” because not only will our team be learning but we will be as well. Sometimes we are the teacher, sometimes one of our team is doing the teaching and of course many times it is the circumstances and failures along the way that teach us the most.

As leaders we must teach and we must learn, because if we do not then we ourselves, not to mention our team and our organization, will stagnate and become irrelevant and useless.

Photo credit: ben110 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Gates Foundation / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Forty Two. / Foter / CC BY-NC