Would you rather . . .

. . . have some of something or all of nothing?

Would you rather . . .

There is a game going around. It is been popularized in a movie from 2012 by the same name. It is called, “Would you rather”. And it has been spread throughout the culture via its popularity on social media sites such as “Reddit” and “BuzzFeed.” It is also available in an on-line version on http://either.io.

The question that seems to be the most fitting for the events in Washington, DC is this: “Would you rather have some of something or all of nothing?”

I am watching this health care legislation work its way through the U.S. Congress. And it is providing incredible insight into what leaders do when faced with two fiercely opposing positions. Now, I do not, for one second, care about your political affiliation or the direction to which you lean. My concern today is about the leadership implications of each of the options — some of something, or all of nothing.

If you are a leader, you will have to face a similar (albeit a smaller scale) scenario where you will be in a situation where there are two competing interests. You will face a situation where neither side seems initially willing to negotiate or to compromise. What is the role of a leader in this situation? What is the “right” thing to do?

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Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

Being Right Has Nothing To Do With It

Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

I awoke yesterday morning to the terrible news that I lost a dear friend overnight. My friend, Butch Sweeney, could no longer stand to be in this mortal shell. He had suffered tremendously for years. But, he is not suffering today. He is dancing on the streets of Heaven and his amazing tenor voice is being heard loud and clear once again.

But this article today is not merely a tribute to him and to his life. Rather, it is a brief story about one of the toughest leadership lessons I ever learned. Butch taught me that it is not a question of who is right or wrong. It is a question of including all of the stakeholders and “selling” the idea to them first.

The Idea

The idea was that in order to increase the effectiveness and reach of the organization that we both loved and served, a change was necessary to how we served the people of that organization. It was my idea that if we radically altered how we delivered the message to the members, we would see greater attendance, greater involvement, and greater engagement. At least, that was the idea.

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Conflict and Leadership

Is there a hidden opportunity in conflict?

Conflict & Leadership

I have been thinking a lot lately about conflict and conflict resolution. We are certainly seeing it played out on a daily basis in the news. Although I think we can all agree that some level of conflict is unavoidable, we do seem to have it in abundance and it is coming more and more because we are so polarizing in our communications with those around us. However, how we face it and resolve that conflict says a great deal about our own leadership styles and abilities.

Conflict as Opportunity

Consider the following statement by Warren Bennis, one of the foremost writers on leadership and organizational and management theory.

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” 

Leaders, this is one of your primary responsibilities. I believe strongly in delegating. But, you cannot delegate this one. Nor can you pretend that conflicts do not occur within your organization. I have spent much of my adult life working in the corporate world during the week and serving in a non-profit and volunteer organization on weeknights and weekends. And conflict is common to all organizations. Yes, even within churches and religious organizations. But you, as leaders, have the responsibility to sense a conflict at its earliest stages and resolve it before it affects the entire organization.

True leaders do not avoid or run from conflict. I am not proclaiming that they go and seek it out or invent it where it does not exist. But, leaders lead in times of calm and in times of conflict. And by the way, while we are on this subject, let’s not just “manage” the conflict, let’s “resolve” it once and for all!

Conflict Resolution is an art as much as it is a science. The goal of conflict resolution is to assess and resolve disputes at the lowest level possible and do so before they escalate into something major.

What is Conflict?

Conflict is fundamentally an indication of a miscommunication that has an enhanced level of emotion attached to it. It could begin as a request for clarification based upon a perception. And, depending on how that clarification is requested, received, and interpreted, it can lead to a conflict.

Conflict and Conflict Resolution Require Emotional Agility

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Leaders and Conflict

What can you do about it?

Leaders and Conflict

I have been thinking a lot lately about conflict and conflict resolution. I think we can all agree that some level of conflict is unavoidable. However, how we face it and whether or not we resolve that conflict says a great deal about our own leadership styles and abilities.

Consider the following statement by Warren Bennis, one of the foremost writers on leadership and organizational and management theory.

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” 

Leaders, this is one of your primary responsibilities. You cannot delegate this to one of your followers. Nor can you pretend that conflicts do not occur within the organization that you lead.

Conflict is unavoidable

I have spent much of my adult life working in the corporate world during the week and serving in a non-profit and volunteer organization on weeknights and weekends. And let me assure you that conflict is common to all organizations. Yes, you will even find conflict within churches and religious organizations. But we, as leaders, have the responsibility to sense conflict at its earliest stages and resolve it before it affects the entire organization.

True leaders do not avoid it nor do they run from conflict. I am not suggesting that they go and seek it out or that they invent it where it does not exist. But, great leaders must lead in times of calm and in times of conflict.

Conflict must be resolved

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Be Accountable

Leadership Basics

Be Accountable

What do you do when something goes bad? Where are you when there is a failure or when a major deadline or deliverable is missed? Real leaders that folks want to follow understand that the “buck” really does stop with them.

Failure is inevitable. And failure does not have to be fatal to your leadership or your career. I recall working for a CIO many years ago. His mantra was; “If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t attempting big things.” Now, he wanted us to be calculating in our risks. But he wanted us to be taking risks. So often the greatest rewards come from the greatest risks. But you must still be accountable.

One of my greatest failures came from managing a project to restack most of the floors in a high-rise tower. We were reorganizing to increase our efficiency and foster greater collaboration among the business units. One of the major phases of the project was creating a call center on one of the floors. All of the construction work was done and the call center furniture was in place. All that was left was for my team to re-install all of the IT and communications equipment over the weekend. We finished about 2AM on the Monday morning that the call center was to “go live.” And we all went home for a few precious hours of sleep before coming back to work later in the morning.

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Don’t Confuse Loving With Following

Just because I love and admire you, doesn’t mean I will follow you.

Don't Confuse Loving With Following

Feelings and emotions will deceive us. This is especially true when it comes to “love.” And it can be dangerous when it comes to how we view our leaders. What a shame. Especially when they can be so strong and so certain at the time. Emotions, such as the ones we experience in a loving relationship, that are unbridled can cause us to make some very poor decisions. Emotions are not bad. In fact, just look at some studies in the area of Emotional Intelligence and you will quickly see that emotions play a significant role in our personal and professional lives.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Love is a wonderful thing. And love is a great filter through which we need to view the world. However, love can cause us to overlook or make excuses for failures and shortcomings when it comes to our leaders.

Many organizations have leaders who are beloved. I have witnessed this over the years many times. And it is very common in the non-profit world where I do a lot of coaching. In the nonprofit world, you will find leaders who are often in leadership roles for which they are not particularly suited or gifted.

These leaders are frequently appointed or even elected to their positions. As followers, we do this as a way of showing how much we love this particular person. What can possibly go wrong with that?

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Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

What should you do if you find yourself the leader in the midst of turmoil?

There are difficulties in life, in the home, in the workplace, yes, even in society. These difficulties stretch us, and bring out both the worst and best in each of us. In an era of social media, blogging and with the prevalence of cell phone cameras, it is quite easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” and pass judgment and heap praise on leaders whose faces and stories go “viral”. But what do you do when (not if) you come upon tumultuous times in your organization / city / etc.?

In this post I would like look at three crucial components of leading through a crisis.

The first aspect of crisis leadership is actually determined before you ever approach the turmoil. If you want to lead effectively in a crisis you must first lay a firm foundation of personal character development, strong interpersonal communications and healthy team dynamics. C.S. Lewis once said “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” (Mere Christianity).  The same is true about leading in a crisis. The crisis will reveal the quality of the foundation that has been laid, but the crisis did not cause the leadership to be as it is. The reality is that in this world we will face difficulties, frustrations, disappointments, turmoil and crisis. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these times will not come. Instead, let us now prepare ourselves and our teams for the inevitable. I have often found that if I am able to actually create environments (leadership development exercises) where my team has to face a manufactured “mini-crisis” it greater prepares them for the real thing when it comes. There are numerous ways to do this, but think of it as drills, role-play, training, and/or practice for facing what will come. There are some things only learned by actually going through them, but if we can prepare our character, develop our communication skills and develop our team’s effectiveness and productivity now, the trials to come may be more manageable.

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Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry – Part 1

AI - Part 1

I had a “vigorous” discussion several months ago with someone whose opinion I have always valued. I have not always agreed with it. And in fact, I did not agree with it in the context of that vigorous discussion. However, I had reflected upon something that he said to me and have decided to put make of those thoughts available to Leadership Voices.

He challenged me to consider the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Model rather than the model of problem solving that I tend to employ. I was not as versed in AI as he. And you may not be as well. If so, consider this quick definition of AI.

Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a model for analysis, decision-making and the creation of strategic change, particularly within companies and other organizations. It was developed at Case Western Reserve University’s department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article 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.

The model is based on the assumption that the questions we ask will tend to focus our attention in a particular direction. The more common methods of assessing and evaluating a situation and then proposing solutions are based on what AI terms a “deficiency model.” Some of these more common methods ask questions such as “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?” or “What is broken and needs to be fixed?”.

Appreciative Inquiry has 5 Principles:

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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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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?

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