Leaders Encourage Vigorous Debate


Vigorous Debate - 1Great leaders know how to focus on the positive, helpful, edifying and uplifting communication while managing the negative, destructive, decisive and demeaning communication in meetings.

Consider this advice from a seasoned old-timer to a young leader who was still early in his leadership career. It happens to be from the New Testament of the Bible.

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” 

Titus 3:9-10

Have you ever been in a meeting that digressed and evolved into almost a free-for-all? As a contrast, have you ever been in a team meeting where the leader encouraged good debates and successfully squashed useless ones?

Such well-managed teams tend to finish their meetings with good plans and they do it on time. The participants feel productive and actually like getting together because everyone feels like they were a part of something productive.

But, back to my brief Biblical text. The Apostle Paul (the old-timer) exhorted a pastor (young leader) named Titus to refrain from arguing about peripheral subjects that divided his followers.  And I think that advice is relevant to leadership principles today.

There is a branch of modern communication theory that seems to have grown out of the apostle Paul’s philosophy. In 1968, Sir Charles Geoffrey Vickers, an English lawyer, administrator, writer, and pioneering systems scientist introduced the concept of “appreciative systems”, which later became Appreciative Inquiry (AI). It was really further developed nearly 20 years later at Case Western Reserve University’s department of Organizational Behavior. It started there with an article in 1987 by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. They felt that the overuse of “problem solving” as a model often held back analysis and understanding, focusing on problems and limiting discussion of new organizational models. At its core, AI is positive debate that explores what an organization does well and how it can build on its strengths.

Vigorous Debate - 3As leaders it’s sometimes difficult to limit discussion and keep debates from getting out of control.

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What in the World?



Who do you trust?  Who do you believe anymore?

Ebola has come to the United States of America. Our President, the leader of the free world said it would not. He was wrong. Maybe the open border policy is not a good one.

The Center for Disease Control says we should not panic and this is an isolated case. This new plague can be easily contained and there is no issue. Nothing to see here.  Purchase your Starbucks and watch your Netflix.  Just remember to wash your hands.  Maybe this disease is weapon-ized and we should be wondering what religion Patient Zero subscribes.

Okay, let’s calm down for a moment. 

My point — A track record of double speak, political correctness, and failed leadership breeds distrust and hostility towards authority.

As a leader of a small team, project or a free republic, our words have consequences. Our credibility can shape the morale and effectiveness of our team or the direction of a nation.

It started with- “You like your healthcare…you can keep it.” To “Read my lips…No new taxes.” Don’t forget — “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

What we are witnessing today in our country and communities is failed leadership.  From the top down in every aspect of execution…this crosses political and ideological lines.

I will never be on television managing a crisis but as a leader in my home, my church, my job, and my marriage I can subscribe to the following:

Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Be truthful.

Just my two cents.  Excuse me.  I’m going to wash my hands.

Communicating as a Leader


transactional-comm-modelI recently spent 2 days in meetings with the North American members of my global team.  There were a lot of presentations.  A lot!  One word that came up over and over again was the word: “Communication”. I have heard many presentations in my career on the importance of communication. But, one guy boiled it down very succinctly.  And I loved the sense of urgency that it conveys.

He said it this way:

  1. What do I know?
  2. Who needs to know it?
  3. Have I told them yet?

I thought that was pretty good. Effective communication is one of the key skills that a leader must possess if they are to be successful. So, let’s break it down.

What do I know? – As a leader, I have access to and am privy to things that the rest of the folks on my team do not have access to and are not privy to in their current roles. So, I must recognize that I have a duty to spread that knowledge when and where it is appropriate to do so.

Who needs to know it? – Not everyone needs to know what I know. And in many cases it would be detrimental to the team for them to know what I know. Personnel and salary information are the easy examples. But it goes well beyond those examples. The ones that need to know specific information are those who are somehow engaged in a project and need the information that you possess.

Have I told them yet? – This indicates that there is time sensitivity or an imperative to share the information when they are the right person to receive the information. So, do not delay. Share the information as quickly as you can because they may be waiting on that information in order to determine how best to proceed.

One to many communicationBut, I think that there may be a little more to the process than those three questions. In fact, I would add three more.

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Leading “As one with authority”

Authority - 20140619 - 1“As one with authority”

“They were amazed at his teaching.” “He taught as one with authority and not as their teachers.” These words were spoken about Jesus. Some of His first words to certain people were: “Follow Me”. Jesus came as a leader. He led people in a different way than the scribes of the people. The crowds looked at Jesus amazed and struck by the fact that He taught as one with authority.

Have you noticed a difference between two people speaking the same message? I mean, they are speaking on the same topic, referencing the same points and principles, and yet the way in which they are received is as different as night and day? This was the case when the people compared Jesus and the scribes of His day. What the scribes went around teaching was considered accurate and truthful. The scribes were speaking words that everyone knew and yet their words had little impact. These teachers were ineffective and their words did not astonish or amaze and were not words of authority. And yet their words were derived from the same book, the same premise, the same story. What was different?

Authority - 20140619 - 2We have many people today who are in positions of leadership and yet have no authority. People aren’t clamoring to hear what they have to say and aren’t traveling miles (in Jesus’ case, miles by foot!) to sit under their instruction or guidance. Why is that? Could it be that we don’t have authority? Could it be that there is something missing within us? Could it be that there is nothing wrong with our subject matter or technical presentation but rather something broken in our character, motive and/or passion? Why did people run to Jesus and not to scribes of His day? Why did people run to Jesus but don’t similarly run to church today? What’s missing?

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New Words for New Situations

New Words - 1What makes our words powerful and effective? What we say, combined with how we live can together offer a synergistic force that can literally change the world (or at least the world around us). So if we are trying to help people become all that they can be, what words should we use and how can we redeem or replace words that have become ineffective or tired and worn-out?

The reason why our words become tired and worn out is because people have heard the claims before and have also seen a lack of follow-through, a lack of consistency and lack of integrity in the lives of those who speak the words. So first of all the simple (and yet not at all easy) reality is that our words will carry weight if our lives are in agreement with our words. If we live what we preach people will take note. If we speak what we mean and mean what we speak. If we follow through on our promises and commitments, if we back up our promises with actions, people will begin to notice. Our words are so often received with skepticism because people have been burned before and are hoping not to have it happen again. If you want to be an effective leader and have them believe your words, you must be a consistent and faithful person full of honesty, integrity and follow-through.

New Words - 2The reason our words become ineffective is because we are addressing things that are no longer an issue or of importance to the people we are leading.

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Leadership Language: Old & New – Part 1

LL Old & New Part 1 - 1We can attract people with our language and we can turn them off just as quickly with the words we use. Which ones are the right ones? Which ones will not only connect but communicate what we are intending? Furthermore what “baggage” do the words we use carry with them? I want to take a moment and consider the importance of words in leading others and how the right words can make something stick but just as quickly the wrong words could result in the loss of our influence and leadership in someone’s life.

There are certain words that I read that quickly turn me off: “Vision-casting, BHAG’s, Successful, Daring, Significant” and more. Now don’t get me wrong I see the value of each of these words. I have incorporated what they represent into my own life and leadership and I have taught them to others. However I do often shy away from people using them because of the abuse of them and the “used car-salesman” (no offense intended) impression that some leadership experts carry with them as they teach others how to manipulate (hm-hmmm, I mean lead) others. So is there anything wrong with these words? No. But when I use them could I just as quickly be turning people off to the message I carry because they are perhaps judging me in the same way I have just mentioned? So does that mean we need to get rid of these words, redefine them, redeem them or replace them? And is it really that important?

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Misleading Leadership

When Leaders Make Mistakes - 1

A lady I know works for a major corporation in their acquisition department. Her manager recently retired and the supposed replacement brings the team in for a meeting. In that meeting it is discussed whether he will or will not seek to be the new replacement manager. The answer rendered here was a “NO”.

Upon her return home and while going through her e-mail, she receives one that states the manager who had just told her he was not going to seek the position had in fact just been awarded the position. Ok, most of you are like me. You will put out your best efforts for someone you trust. Trust from a manager is not something that comes “with the territory”, but is something that is essential not only to the success of the company but the manager as well. The real truth is…Speak a lie once and all your truth becomes questionable.

Leadership and Integrity - 1Trust on all levels whether in a relationship or workplace setting, when violated sets the stage for many hard days at work or home, to say the least. The worst feeling in the world is to know you were used and lied to by someone you trusted. How in the world can anyone think that starting off a relationship with a lie is in the best interest of anyone?

Let’s talk “man to man” here for just a bit. What hurts the most…is a lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear! Hurting people with the truth is better than killing them with a lie.

Misleading Leadership - 1Think about your family for a moment. How would you look in their eyes if all you did was lie to them? Let’s put things in the proper perspective. Misleading someone is NOT a lie when what you are passing along is accurate to the best of your understanding, only to discover that those who based their actions on your statements were mislead by your statements once you determined that they were not accurate. Lying to someone is an intentional act of deception!

Traveling the way of the world will only lead to destruction. The first person you have to lie to is yourself. From there it is the life of a “poser”. You will always need to convince self that you are something you’re not.

Who do we think we are fooling?

Photo credit: TerranceDC / Foter / CC BY-NC
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The Pot Bowl?

details of my garden
MendezEnrique / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I want to make clear this viewpoint is from a leadership perspective and NOT a political view. It has plenty to do with the decline in leadership of core moral values that has made America a great country, and Colorado and Washington great states respectively. I have been following this issue with a keen interest for some time and feel now is an appropriate time to share my thoughts. I have arrived at this conclusion largely due to Wyoming being a peripheral state to Colorado.

As many of you know Colorado and Washington have recently embraced the use of marijuana. I have no real issues with people using marijuana, but here is where the real rub comes in. Does Peyton Manning really want to be associated with retiring after the “Pot Bowl”?

Seriously now; During this time when Colorado and Washington are embracing (according to federal law) an illegal drug, for the sake of revenue, Colorado has lost to the state of Wyoming (so far) three legal revenue generating manufactures.

Magpull Winner
abcovey / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

An even deeper look at the issue of safety shows these states are lacking in judgment and are neglecting to provide their residences reasonable safety measures for a “few more dollars”. This is also indicative of a continued moral decline in leadership of both the Federal and State governments by telegraphing the message, “You don’t have to step up and be responsible, we’ll lower our standards to meet you where you are”. Meanwhile signaling danger to all who travel the highways as well.

The short term effects afforded the states are as follows:

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Fatal Words

I recently facilitated a group study with some friends on a book by John Eldredge called “Wild at Heart”. It was really an eye opening study for me because it stirred memories of my childhood. Deep in this study two words presented themselves, “Fatal Words”. Honestly…I haven’t stopped thinking about their application by fathers, mothers, and leaders.

Let’s first addFatal Words - 1ress these at the fatherhood and motherhood levels. As fathers and mothers our words are just as important if not more so to a child’s life as our love. To a young son he needs to hear the words of affirmation. He needs to hear that “he is a fine young man”, or to hear the reinforcements of “how to treat a lady”, or more importantly to hear that he has what it takes to overcome the trials in life. To a young girl, she need to hear “how beautiful she is”, or to hear that she has what it takes to become whatever she wants to be. Affirmation is a very powerful tool in the early development years of our young men and women. Without it society fails!

Fatal Words - 2But sadly, too often parents are caught up in the demands of everyday living and raising children that all too easily the wrong words roll from our lips. Then just like that… without much less a thought, we have placed in the heart s of those we love, a fatal wound. Failing to support the young hearts and minds of those entrusted to us by the words we use is akin to throwing a dagger to their hearts. How we as parents all too often actually set kids up for failure by the use of words.

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Clear Communication?

Last year, I posted an article titled, “Let Your Yea be Yea; and Your Nay, Nay” in which I discussed the importance of clear communication from a leader. I used a negative example of a press release quoting John Chambers of Cisco Systems which was filled with very ambiguous, non-committal verbiage…or what I call “weasel words”.

Because there was a lot of positive response to that original post, I thought I would continue in that vein, but on a much lighter note. I ran across the following list a number of years ago. It “interprets” terms used in scientific or academic papers, and I found it rather humorous.

  • “It has long been known”…I didn’didn’t look up the original reference.
  • “A definite trend is evident”…These data are practically meaningless.
  • “While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions”…An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.
  • “Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study”…The other results didn’t make any sense.
  • “Typical results are shown”…This is the prettiest graph.
  • “These results will be in a subsequent report”…I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded.
  • “In my experience”…Once.
  • Clear Communication - 1“In case after case”…Twice.
  • “In a series of cases”…Three times.
  • “It is believed that”…I think.
  • “It is generally believed that”…A couple of others thinks so too.
  • “Correct within an order of magnitude”…Wrong.
  • “According to statistical analysis”…Rumor has it.
  • “A statistical-oriented projection of the significance of these findings”…A wild guess.
  • “A careful analysis of obtainable data”…Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of iced tea.

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