As a leader, how can you grow, improve, get stronger?

As a leader, you want to grow. To improve. To get stronger. Question: How can you strengthen your leadership? In a lot of different ways! Search “strengthen leadership” and you get about 221,000,000 results, including:

Right now, I’m focusing on things like asking for feedback. What about you? What are you focusing on in order to grow, improve, and get stronger as a leader?

I’m also focusing on being a better team builder or team coach. Tools that I’ve found helpful include:

  1. 3 characteristics of an ideal team player (model, video, book, assessment, )
  2. 4 disciplines of organizational health (model, video, book)
  3. 4 disciplines of execution (video)
  4. 5 dysfunctions of a team (model, video, book, assessment)
  5. 6 working geniuses (introductory video, video playlist, assessment)
  6. Conflict management styles
  7. Job descriptions
  8. Outward mindset (video, free course)
  9. Personal histories
  10. Personality types (test, personality type descriptions)
  11. Playbook
  12. Radical Candor (video, chart)

One tool I’m especially focusing on using this year is the GRIP Model (Goals • Roles • Interpersonal Relationships • Processes). I’m using it because I believe that effective teams:

  • Have shared Goals.
  • Understand what Role each member plays in achieving the goals.
  • Have healthy Interpersonal relationships.
  • Are clear about Processes for collaboration (decision-making, meetings) and communication (cascading, conflict management).

Next fall I’m especially focusing on the GRIP Model in terms of Roles. Interested? If so, how about facilitating discussions on roles?

  1. Overall team role: In what context does your team operate? What’s your team’s purpose? 
  2. Job description role: What happens when you are clear/unclear about what’s in team member job descriptions? What’s in your own job description? What’s in the job description of each team member?
  3. Personality type role: What’s your personality type? What positive/negative roles does that include? (For me as an INTJ, my positive roles include strategist and innovator, and my negative roles include perfectionist.) What’s the impact? 
  4. Conflict management role: When it comes to conflict, are you an avoider, a competitor, or a collaborator?  (I’m a combination of avoider and collaborator.) What’s the impact?
  5. Working genius roles: Which of the 6 working genius roles does each team member play?: WonderInventionDiscernmentGalvanizingEnablementTenacity. How do those geniuses help the team? When do team members play a working genius role at the wrong time? Which (if any) geniuses are your team missing? 
  6. Feedback role: Is your team a role model of radical candor, ruinous empathy, manipulative insincerity, or obnoxious aggression? What feedback role does each team member model (radical candor, ruinous empathy, manipulative insincerity, or obnoxious aggression)? What’s the impact?

What’s next? Take action. Based on your team’s discussion, have the team develop and commit to action steps. Later, reflect on progress and determine next steps.

What about you? As a leader, how can you grow, improve, get stronger? How can you help your team grow, improve, get stronger? To what extent might discussing roles help your team grow, improve, get stronger? What’s next?

Here’s what I’m learning from ​​The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business:

  • “Cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do).”
  • “When interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less. Listen before you speak and learn before you act.”
  • “Millions of people work in global settings while viewing everything from their own cultural perspectives and assuming that all differences, controversy, and misunderstanding are rooted in personality. This is not due to laziness. Many well-intentioned people don’t educate themselves about cultural differences because they believe that if they focus on individual differences, that will be enough.”

Here are blog posts related to strengthening your team’s GRIP:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word strengthen(s), strengthened, or strengthening:

  1. “A strength is an activity that strengthens you. It draws you in, it makes time fly by while you’re doing it, and it makes you feel strong. And if you define a strength that way then the person best qualified to determine your strengths is you. You are the authority on which activities you lean into. You are the authority on which activities make you feel energized. Somebody else can judge your performance, or the quality and quantity of your work – but you, and you alone, can recognize your strengths” (Defining Strengths).
  2. “Most leaders want to use people to get results, but the best leaders are going to invest in leaders, helping them get better and strengthen[ing] their whole organization. Most leaders are going to spend time doing tasks, but not the best leaders. The best leaders aren’t going to spend their time. The best leaders are going to intentionally invest their time to achieve the desired results” (Think Investment Not Spending).
  3. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence” (The Leadership Challenge, loc 4411).
  4. “…when a leader asks their teammates or their teenagers about the root cause of their success, individuals reveal stories about what’s working for them. As a result, positive emotions are produced, individuals are more confident and committed to continue the positive actions that helped them be successful, and relationships are strengthened” (Positive Questions Create Positive Results).
  5. “Cultivating a sense of appreciation, and showing that appreciation, will make your work more fun and strengthen your relationships with the people you work with. If you’re a manager, showing appreciation is core to your job. The key is to be specific and sincere” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 9: Showing Appreciation Makes Work More Fun).
  6. “Each action you take will either strengthen or weaken your credibility and your connection” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 2346).
  7. “[Conflict] can transform contention into collaboration. It can balance justice and mercy. It can unlock creativity…. It can strengthen our personal and professional relationships. It can solve deep-rooted problems that need to be solved within communities or organizations. And actually conflict can create peace” (Beyond Bold Webinar Series | Summiting Insurmountable Conflict).
  8. “There are five key components to being an effective leader in crisis situations, says Madeline Dessing of Korn Ferry: Calmness, confidence, courage, resilience and empathy. All matter, but empathy has a unique role in strengthening the resolve of people who feel near a breakdown state” (Overcome Social Distance with Empathy in Leadership).
  9. “Do I need to strengthen some aspect of my awareness? My mindset? My skills? Some combination of them all?” (Influence in Action, p. 127)
  10. “To increase your ability to respond more flexibly you must strengthen your focus on four things: [y]our emotional reactions…cognitive reactions…bodily sensations …[and] predilections, tendencies, and habits” (Influence in Action, p. 36).

How can you be an even better teammate?

I want answers. I want answers to the following 3 questions: To what extent am I a bad/ineffective teammate? To what extent am I a good/effective teammate? How can I be a better teammate?

I’m not the only one who wants answers:

I want to be a better teammate, and as a starting point, I’m asking myself, “What makes a good teammate good?” Once I get a better understanding of that, I can take action to work toward that. For me, a good teammate includes being:

  1. Humble and vulnerable, not proud and invulnerable.
  2. Hungry, not lazy.
  3. People smart, not people awkward.
  4. Engaged in team meetings, not disengaged.
  5. Radically candid, not ruinously empathetic, manipulatively insincere, or obnoxiously aggressive.
  6. Self-aware (knowing strengths/cultural tendencies and when to use them), not unaware (not knowing strengths/cultural tendencies or when to use them).
  7. Aware of teammates’ strengths/cultural tendencies and how to encourage their effective use. 
  8. Collaborative when it comes to conflict, not avoidant or competitive.
  9. Committed to team decisions, not uncommitted.
  10. Accountable and holding others accountable, not unaccountable and unwilling to hold others accountable.
  11. Focused on team results, not personal results.

When reviewing the above list, I notice 2 things:

  • At times I am a bad/ineffective teammate in terms of being “people awkward” (when I don’t notice how others are doing and just push ahead with the task at hand) and “unaware” (when using my strengths at the wrong time).
  • I’m usually a good/effective teammate in terms of being vulnerable, hungry, engaged in meetings, radically candid, collaborative when it comes to conflict, and accountable.

So now I’m asking myself, “How can I be a better teammate?” I need to be less people awkward, to reduce using my strengths at the wrong time, and to more effectively honor the cultural tendencies of others. If I can do these things, I can be an even better teammate. I’m going to need help, so I’m going to ask others to help me and hold me accountable.

What about you? What makes a good teammate good? To what extent are you a bad/ineffective teammate? To what extent are you a good/effective teammate? How can you be an even better teammate?

Here’s what I’m learning from TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement:

  • “The greatest inhibitor to school improvement (and survival) is a lack of trust in the school’s leadership” (loc 349).
  • “Trusted school leaders identify the school’s underpinnings and bedrock, remain unmoved from that foundation, and operate based on core values and beliefs about education” (loc 412).
  • “Change is a core element of healthy schools. If schools are not in a constant state of flux, they grow stagnant and less competent and fall short in meeting continual improvement expectations. School leaders must continually seek how to do school better, and that involves constant change” (loc 1802).

Here are blog posts related to improvement:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word improve or improvement:

  1. “…extraordinary leaders all have one trait in common: deep convictions about helping others to improve. This is their heartbeat. They have mastered the skills and disciplines needed to help others reach peak levels of performance. This is one of their primary areas of focus” (Becoming a Coaching Leader, loc 501).
  2. “Exemplary leaders bring others to life, figuratively speaking. They bring out the best in their constituents, and if the potential exists within someone, they always find a way to release it. These leaders dramatically improve others’ performance because they care deeply for them and have an abiding faith in their capacities. They nurture, support, and encourage people in whom they believe” (The Leadership Challenge, loc 5603).
  3. “1. What benefits are you currently offering to others? 2. In what way do people improve by associating with you? 3. How many lives have you changed positively in the past year?” (Your Next Five Moves, loc 1354)
  4. “Be really clear about what needs improvement” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 2: Radically Candid Criticism).
  5. “Culture is not static; it’s dynamic. You can change it by what you say. You can elevate it by what you think. You can improve it by what you share. You can transform it by what you do. You can be a positive team that creates a positive culture right now” (The Power of a Positive Team, loc 368).
  6. “The best communicator is not the person who is the most eloquent speaker, but the person who has the ability to listen, process the information, and use it to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. The best listeners truly hear what their team is saying and trying to convey, and they strive to improve as a result” (The Power of a Positive Team, loc 1253).
  7. “If you want to improve trust, start with a positive assumption” (The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track, p. 79).
  8. “You learn from your decisions…. When you’re not sure, take action because as you act, you learn from that action and you actually improve…. Make a decision and course correct along the way” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 48. Plant Your Friggin Tree).
  9. “Continuously improve. Increase your Capabilities. Be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems—both formal and informal. Act on the feedback you receive. Thank people for feedback. Don’t consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume today’s knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges” (The Speed of Trust, p. 190).
  10. “Great processors use the word ‘I’ and see their role in whatever problem has occurred. They ask questions such as ‘How did I contribute to this? What did I do to cocreate this situation? How can I improve so I’ll be better equipped to handle something like this in the future?’ Poor processors play the victim and blame others and external events rather than seeing how they contributed to the problem. You know you’re witnessing a poor processor when you don’t hear the word ‘I’” (Your Next Five Moves, loc  935).

As a leader, how do you want to invest your time/attention?

Choose 3 words. Choose 3 words from the following question: As a leader, how do you want to invest your time/attention? Got your 3 words? Ok, here are mine: invest, time, and attention. 

As a leader, I don’t want to spend my time/attention; instead, I want to invest it. I’m looking for a return. Craig Groeschel, in Think Investment Not Spending, asks, “Where do [you] get [your] best return?… Where’s your area of expertise? Where does your knowledge flow freely? Where do your gifts express themselves completely?”

As a leader, I want to invest my time/attention in order to get my best return for those around me and for my organization as a whole. 

  • By time, I mean seconds, minutes, hours—take a look at my calendar, and you can see how I invest my time. What does your calendar indicate about how you invest your time?
  • By attention, I mean what I focus on, what I gravitate to. Right now, I invest my attention in organizational health and developing leaders. What do you invest your attention in? What would those around say you invest your attention in?

When considering how I want to invest my time/attention as a leader, I’ve found it helpful to reflect on 3 questions: How am I currently investing my time/attention? How do I want to invest my time/attention? What action steps do I need to take? Let me explain:

(1) How am I currently investing my time/attention? When I first became a school principal, we were short staffed. So instead of having a 1.0 job (.6 of which was principal), I had a 1.6 job (which included additional curriculum work and teaching). Being a new principal, I found myself overwhelmed, being unable to remember what had happened on some days, and being unable to invest sufficient time being principal. I worked to be helpful and to survive. What was your first job as a leader like?

I learned from that experience, now work to make sure I have a reasonable job, and now assess how I invest my time/attention in terms of things like:

(2) How do I want to invest my time/attention? This year, I am working to invest 70% of my time/attention in developing leaders and in making the organization healthier, with the remaining 30% being invested in making the organization smarter. How about you? As a leader, how do you want to invest your time/attention?

(3) What action steps do I need to take? In order to invest 70% of my time/attention in developing leaders and making the organization healthier, I delegated some tasks. (When I was first principal, I worked to reduce my overall load from a 1.6 job to a 1.0 job, thereby allowing me to use the full extent of my .6 allocation for principal. This helped.)

What about you? As a leader, do you invest or spend your time/attention? How do you currently allocate your time/attention? How do you want to invest your time/attention? What action steps do you need to take?

Here’s what I’m learning from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:

  • “…only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter” (p. 4).
  • “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential” (p. 6).
  • “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will” (p. 10).

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word attention:

  1. “What is not paying attention costing you?” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 1931)
  2. “How do we choose where and on what to focus our time, energy, and attention? To what do we say yes and to what do we say no?” (The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders, loc 1516)
  3. “Focus your attention on the person over whom you have 100 percent control—you! Pause and turn off your autopilot. Turn on awareness—physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Assess how you’re doing overall. Make the adjustment you need to make. That’s how a leader gets better!” (Lead Like You Were Meant To: Switch from Autopilot to Intentional, p. 266)
  4. “Think about the questions you typically ask in meetings, one-on-ones, telephone calls, and interviews. How do they help to clarify and gain commitment to shared values? What would you like each of your constituents to pay attention to each day?” (The Leadership Challenge, loc 1995)
  5. “How do you bring people around and help them flourish in your environment? It’s not by being a dictator. It’s not by telling them what the hell to do. It’s making sure that they feel valued by being in the room with you. Listen. Pay attention” (Trillion Dollar Coach, loc 454).
  6. “So, how do you connect with those you lead? As a leader, you will need to offer your understanding, presence, time, attention, questions, and enablement” (Lead, Develop, Care, p. 136).
  7. “If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions, they will be more likely to turn their attention to their own needs, and to the advancement of themselves or their departments. An absence of accountability is an invitation to team members to shift their attention to areas other than collective results” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 2682).
  8. “When giving praise or criticism, pay attention to how the other person is responding, and adjust accordingly. If a person gets emotional, this is your cue to demonstrate you Care Personally” (Radical Candor Podcast 3.4: Gauge the Feedback You’re Giving & Getting).
  9. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).
  10. “When people approach you with a concern or error, do you deflect blame to others, or do you recognize your role and thank the person for bringing it to your attention?” (Leading with Grace: Leaning into the Soft Skills of Leadership, loc 1726)

What process does your team use to do something new?

Which of the following best describes your team’s process for doing something new?

  • Option 1: A team member comes up with a new idea, shares the new idea with the team, and the team implements it.
  • Option 2: A team member identifies a problem or challenge. Another team member comes up with a new idea to address the problem or challenge, shares the new idea with the team, and the team implements the new idea.
  • Option 3: A team member identifies a problem or challenge. Another team member comes up with a new idea to address the problem or challenge, shares the new idea with the team, invites team feedback, and revises the new idea. If the team decides to pursue the idea, the team implements the new idea.
  • Option 4: A team member identifies a problem or challenge. Another team member comes up with a new idea to address the problem or challenge, shares the new idea with the team, invites team feedback, and revises the new idea. If the team decides to pursue the idea, the team is galvanized for action. Team members offer to help, and a team member monitors implementation and completion.

Or let me ask this another way: To what extent does your team’s process address ideation, activation, and implementation? 

  • Ideation: A team member identifies a problem or challenge. Another team member comes up with a new idea to address the problem or challenge and shares the new idea with the team.
  • Activation: The team gives feedback, and the new idea is revised. If the team decides to pursue the idea, the team gets galvanized for action. 
  • Implementation: Team members offer to help. A team member monitors implementation and completion.

Bottom line: To effectively implement something new, use Option 4 (above); in other words, use a process that addresses ideation, activation, and implementation

How can you help your team more effectively do new things? 

  1. Have the team assess the extent to which its existing process addresses ideation, activation, and implementation. Take appropriate action (possibly steps 2-5).
  2. Invite team members to take the Working Genius assessment (US$25 each) to identify which of the 6 working geniuses they have: WonderInventionDiscernmentGalvanizingEnablementTenacity. Note: Usually, team members have 2 working geniuses (things they do naturally and find invigorating), 2 working competencies (things they can do but don’t find invigorating), and 2 working frustrations (things they don’t like to do).
  3. Use team member results to determine the extent to which the team has working geniuses that address ideation (WonderInvention ), activation (DiscernmentGalvanizing), and implementation (EnablementTenacity). If your team’s working geniuses do not address all the phases, take appropriate action. For example, add someone to the team that has the missing genius(es).
  4. Encourage team members to use their working geniuses: Wonder • Invention • Discernment • Galvanizing • Enablement • Tenacity. 
  5. Hold team members accountable to use their geniuses when appropriate. For example, if the team is in the implementation phase and a team member with the genius of Wonder or Invention starts to ideate, remind them that while ideation is vital, now is not the time for ideation.

What about you? What process does your team use to do something new? To what extent does your team’s process address ideation, activation, and implementation? How can you help your team more effectively do new things? 

Here’s what I’m learning from Becoming a Coaching Leader

  • “You need to start asking yourself not just ‘How can I lead better?’ but ‘Why do I lead in the first place?’” (loc 149)
  • “Your purpose as a coaching leader is to add the most value to the people you lead and to help them improve” (loc 150).
  • “A good coaching leader is always moving and improving, sees who his people can become, is an improver, helps his players move from point A to point B, never accepts the status quo, is succinct, and truthful, identifies gaps and gifts, inspires, and sees the big picture and clarifies the steps necessary for success” (loc 655).

Here are blog posts related to roles:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word genius:

  1. “…as a leader, your job is not to be the genius…but to be the genius maker of others” (How to Become the Leader You Would Follow).
  2. “If you want to create experiences where everyone plays big, everyone’s at their best, don’t be the genius, be the genius maker” (Are Your Strengths Hurting Your Team?)
  3. “Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius” (Multipliers, loc 274).
  4. “What type of leader are you right now? Are you a genius, or are you a genius maker?” (Multipliers, loc 339)
  5. “Multipliers are genius makers. What we mean by that is that they make everyone around them smarter and more capable. Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence” (Multipliers, loc 341).
  6. “Multipliers get more from their people because they are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others” (Multipliers, loc 347).
  7. “Managers who extract and extend the genius of others get vastly more from their people. They are a force to multiply team performance and fuel business growth through leading, coaching, driving, and inspiring their teams” (Multipliers, loc 4109).
  8. “As a culture, we’ve been trained to focus on “How” and to work in isolation. But if you want to really succeed at the highest level, like Michael Jordan, you’re going to need to shift from a How-mentality to a Who-mentality, regardless of your level of personal talent, commitment, or genius. It is only through teamwork and collaboration that you can achieve things you previously thought impossible” (Who Not How, loc 181).
  9. “What kinds of questions should I be asking on a daily basis—of myself and the people and world around me?….When am I at my best? My most creative? Where is my genius?” (50 Questions Every Student Should Be Able To Answer Before They Graduate High School)
  10. “‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit,’ philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, but ‘genius hits a target no one else can see’” (Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, loc 953).

What role does context play?

It depends. It depends on the context. For example, what’s the significance of the following?

  • “The figures on the left side of the table…”: What’s the context? Are you in a museum looking at a painting? Are you in the retiree’s home looking at a living room display? Are you in a finance meeting looking at numbers on the chart?
  • Your score is 81 and your opponent’s score is 82: What’s the context? Is it a basketball game and you have lost? Is it a golf match and you have won? Is it a qualifying event for an archery tournament where 83 is the minimum qualifying score?
  • A glass of water: What’s the context? Are you trying to fill up a city reservoir? Are you thirsty? Are you trying to wash a dirty shirt?
  • “Stop”: What’s the context? Is it sign you are seeing as you near an intersection? Is it the end of a basketball drill? Is it a warning because you aren’t noticing that you are about to fall into a gully?
  • A house is on fire: What’s the context? Is it a toy house and you are doing controlled fire to demonstrate what happens when fire burns a home? Are you a fireman about to rescue someone? Are you a neighbor about to call the fire department?

When someone asks me what the role of a leadership team is, I say, “It depends. It depends on the context.” To establish the context of a school leadership team, I’d ask some questions, for example:

  • What’s the role of the board of directors?
  • What style of governance does the board use? Traditional governance (meaning, setting graduation requirements)? Policy governance (meaning having a policy that requires the leadership team to establish graduation requirements)? 
  • What role has the board of directors established for the leader?
  • To what extent does the board/leader determine the role of the leadership team?
  • How is the membership of the leadership team established?

My point: Understanding the context helps you understand your team’s role.

However, when it comes to a leadership team, some things don’t depend on the context, for example, practicing the 4 disciplines of a healthy organization:

  • Leadership teams should be cohesive and demonstrate trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and a focus on team results.
  • Leadership teams should aligned around fundamental questions, for example: What’s our organization’s vision? What’s our role? What’s our strategy for achieving the vision?
  • Leadership teams should overcommunicate to their direct reports the answers to the fundamental questions.
  • Leadership teams should reinforce the answers to the fundamental questions through policies, processes, and plans.

What about you? What role does context play? What’s your team’s context? What are some best practices you’d recommend to leadership teams across a variety of contexts?

Here’s what I’m learning from The Power of a Positive Team: Proven Principles and Practices that Make Great Teams Great:

  • “Positive teams are not about fake positivity. They are about real optimism, vision, purpose, and unity that make great teams great. Positive teams confront the reality of challenging situations and work together to overcome them” (loc 288).
  • “Positive teams don’t happen by accident. They happen when team members invest their time and energy to create a positive culture; work toward a shared vision with a greater purpose; work together with optimism and belief and overcome the negativity that too often sabotages teams and organizations. Positive teams take on the battle, overcome the negativity, face the adversity, and keep moving forward. They communicate, connect, commit, and encourage each other. They build relationships and trust that makes them stronger. Positive teams commit to the mission and to each other. Instead of serving themselves, they serve one another” (loc 313).
  • “It’s your culture and your team. Own it. Don’t expect someone else to create it” (loc 432).

Here are blog posts related to teams:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word context:

  1. “In most situations, silos rise up not because of what executives are doing purposefully but rather because of what they are failing to do: provide themselves and their employees with a compelling context for working together” (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, loc 1890).
  2. “In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 2408).
  3. “In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 2562).
  4. “The nature of the communication process contains three major obstacles: lack of alignment, lack of shared context, and overload” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 2546).
  5. “Lack of context sets your communication adrift. It’s no accident that 59% of U.S. workers say that wasteful meetings are the biggest hindrance to productivity.8 So many of these meetings lack proper context. As a result, information flows in one ear and out the other. People feel lost, and they don’t know what to do next. Confusion goes up and engagement goes down” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 2644).
  6. “Having someone on our side who can provide context and honest feedback to us is like opening a gift” (Power of 3, loc 1705).
  7. “That’s what real leadership is: Creating and clarifying the vision (the “what”), and giving that vision greater context and importance (the “why”) for all Whos involved. Once the “what” and “why” have clearly been established, the specified “Who” or “Whos” have all they need to go about executing the “How.” All the leader needs to do at that point is support and encourage the Who(s) through the process” (Who Not How, loc 244).
  8. “[Micromanagers] are the people who tell you what to do and how to do it. They are so lost in the details that they don’t fully understand the context. They set arbitrary goals. They hoard information instead of sharing their context with you” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 13: Help! My Boss Is a Micromanager).
  9. “Spend just as much time preparing to praise as you do preparing to criticize…take time in advance to understand the work, who did the work, and the context…. Make sure that your praise clearly identifies both what was good and why it was good” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 3: Ruinous Empathy and Praise).
  10. “Upstream change often means fumbling our way forward, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and under what conditions. But in this context, even a defeat is effectively a victory. Because every time we learn something, we fill in one more piece of the map as we hunt for the levers that can move the world” (Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, loc 1684).

As leader, what’s your #1 priority?

Increasing organizational health—if you asked me what the #1 priority of a leader is, I’d say it’s increasing organizational health. This means that as a leader, you need to consistently model the 4 disciplines of organizational health (build a cohesive team, create clarity, overcommunicate the clarity, and reinforce the clarity) through a variety of roles (coach, clarifier, reminder, and reinforcer). 

Let me explain:

How can you more effectively address your #1 priority? Things I’ve found helpful include:

  1. Assessing myself in terms of humility, vulnerability, discipline, motive for leading, self-awareness, clarity, and working geniuses.
  2. Providing team training on the 5 dysfunctions of a team, the outward mindset, and radical candor.
  3. Helping others thrive by getting to know them, clarifying their job descriptions, and developing key performance indicators that help them know how they are doing.
  4. Improving my meetings by starting with a hook and by mining for conflict.
  5. Reading books (like Death by Meeting), listening to podcasts (like At the Table), watching videos (like those on the 6 working geniuses), and then writing blog posts about what I’m learning.

What about you? As leader, what’s your #1 priority? What does that look like in action? How can you more effectively address your #1 priority?

Here’s what I’m learning from The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business:

  • “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it” (p.1).
  • “An organization has integrity—is healthy—when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense…. A good way to recognize health is to look for the signs that indicate an organization has it. These include minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees” (p. 5).
  • “People who lead healthy organizations sign up for a monumental task—and a very selfless one. That is why they need to relinquish their more technical responsibilities, or even their favorite roles, that others can handle. Because when an organization is healthy (when the leader at the top is doing his or her most important job), people find a way to get things done. When an organization is unhealthy, no amount of heroism or technical expertise is going to make up for the confusion and politics that take root. The truth is, being the leader of a healthy organization is just plain hard. But in the end, it is undeniably worth it” (p. 191).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word health or healthy:

  1. “…healthy is more important than smart…the answers to our challenges in our organizations and teams is not about what we know…but it’s really first and foremost about human behavior” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 42. Why Your CEO Doesn’t Get It).
  2. “The vast majority of organizations today have more than enough intelligence, expertise, and knowledge to be successful. What they lack is organizational health. This point is worth restating” (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, p. 8).
  3. “First, health organizations have a way of making themselves smarter…. Second, healthy companies are far less susceptible to ordinary problems than unhealthy one…. Finally—and this point is critical—no one but the head of an organization can make it healthy…. And so, as odd as it may seem, it is actually more important for leaders to focus on making their organizations healthy than on making them smart” (The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO, loc xiv-xv).
  4. “…no one but the head of an organization can make it healthy” (The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO, loc 242).
  5. “…managers can—and really should—view their work as a ministry. A service to others. By helping people find engagement in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God” (The Truth About Employee Engagement: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery, loc 3517).
  6. “…real teamwork requires tangible, specific behaviors: vulnerability-based trust, healthy conflict, active commitment, peer-to-peer accountability, and a focus on results” The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, loc 199).
  7. “Ironically, most leaders of meetings go out of their way to eliminate or minimize drama and avoid the healthy conflict that results from it. Which only drains the interest of employees” (Death by Meeting, loc 2947).
  8. “Curiosity is the healthy antidote to autopilot assumptions” (Lead Like You Were Meant To: Switch from Autopilot to Intentional, p. 94).
  9. “A productive team knows itself. The team members know each other’s names, and they understand and appreciate each other’s respective strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. They are not strangers. With this essential understanding in place, and with practice, the humans in a healthy team effortlessly and without ego call on each other when they need help. They do not care who gets the credit for the work because they want the work to get done well by the most qualified humans with the best judgment. This is a team that trusts itself, and it is likely that you’ve spent most of your career not on this type of team. I’m sorry” (The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well, p. 104).
  10. “…you can guide your business well if you get a handle on the four documents that form the foundation of any healthy organization. The first document is a vision script, and that tells you where you’re headed. The second document is a mission statement, which tells you what you do. The third document is a strategic plan, which is about how you will get to your destination. And the fourth document is core values, which say who you are and who you’re becoming along the way” (Lead to Win: 4 Essential Documents for Leading Your Business).

How do you feel about meetings?

Resigned, sad, anxious, relaxed, happy, excited—how do you feel about meetings? I’m asking because I know leaders who dread meetings, and they basically think of meetings as inherently awful, mind-numbing, unproductive wastelands. They really think this, and when I raise the possibility that there are good meetings and bad meetings, they look at me like, “I don’t know what planet you’re from. There are no such thing as good meetings.”

I’m interested in good meetings, and a lot of others are, too:

I actually like meetings. As a leader, I recognize that meetings are what I do. Meetings are where things get done. So let me ask you, “Can there be a more critical, central, or indispensable activity within an organization than a meeting?” (The Motive, loc 1731). My answer? No—meetings are my key activity. Let me put it this way: meetings are to leaders what classes are to teachers, what games are to basketball players, what performances are to actors. It makes no sense to me if a teacher doesn’t like class or if a basketball player doesn’t like games—so it makes no sense to me if a leader doesn’t like meetings. 

As a leader, I strive to have good team meetings because I recognize that we have to live with the decisions we make, that team members make better decisions when they are engaged than when they are bored, and that bad meetings have a negative affect on others: “Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism. And while this certainly has a profound impact on organizational life, it also impacts people’s self-esteem, their families, and their outlook on life” (Death by Meeting, loc 3283).

This past year, I took 2 steps to improve my team meetings: I started meetings with a hook, and I mined for conflict. Let me explain.

  • Starting with a hook: I’ve found it helpful to start meetings by explaining what’s at stake. To put it another way, “[d]on’t make your meetings like a bad movie, where you drain it of conflict and where the first 10 minutes you bore with things that don’t matter. Hook them at the beginning and really elevate the conflict and nurture it throughout, and at the end drive it to resolution. And if you do that, people will start saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking forward to our next meeting.’” ( At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 6. Meetings and Movies)
  • Mining for conflict: As the meeting facilitator, I actively invited team members to explore disagreement, and I assigned a team member to serve as conflict miner. I got pretty good results—including people feeling freer to share their thoughts. As Lencioni notes, “To make meetings less boring, leaders must look for legitimate reasons to provoke and uncover relevant, constructive ideological conflict” (Death by Meeting, loc 2889). 

Bottom line: “Do you complain about your own meetings being boring or ineffective, and do you long for the end of them? Do you allow your people, and yourself, to check out during those meetings, or perhaps skip them from time to time for ‘more important’ work? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a problem with your leadership motive. You can pour yourself into designing and facilitating more intense, focused meetings. Or you can resign yourself to suboptimal decision-making, reduced innovation, and a good deal of regret. Easy choice, right?” (The Motive, loc 1766).

What about you? How do you feel about meetings? What role do meetings play? How can you improve your meetings?

Here’s what I’m learning from Death by Meeting:

  • “If we hate meetings, can we be making good decisions and successfully leading our organizations? I don’t think so. There is simply no substitute for a good meeting—a dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement—when it comes to extracting the collective wisdom of a team. The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity” (loc 307).
  • “Everyone, but especially you, as the leader of the group, needs to be looking for places where people have different opinions but aren’t necessarily putting them out there. And when you see that, you need to force them to communicate what they’re thinking until they’ve said all there is to be said. You need to be constantly mining for buried conflict” (loc 1657).
  • “The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients” (loc 3021).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word meeting(s):

  1. “If a leader does not have great meetings, he or she is not an effective leader. The most important moment in a leader’s day, week, month is when they’re leading people in meeting” (4 Reasons for Meetings).
  2. “…a meeting is not just about accomplishing some work or giving an update. It’s about developing a relationship with a bunch of people in the room” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 12: Make Meetings Less Awful).
  3. “No action, activity, or process is more central to a healthy organization than the meeting. As dreaded as the “m” word is, as maligned as it has become, there is no better way to have a fundamental impact on an organization than by changing the way it does meetings” (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, p. 173).
  4. “…meetings are the most important work that a CEO does. And that bad meetings, boring meetings, ineffective meetings were my fault, and were lethal to the company. Until I really believed that, no meeting tactics or tools were going to make a difference” (The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities, loc 846).
  5. “One of the best ways to recognize a cohesive team is the nature of its meetings. Passionate. Intense. Exhausting. Never boring” (The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO, loc 1704).
  6. “I’m solidly on the record as believing 1:1s are the most important meeting of the week. A very close second is the staff meeting. I find that 1:1s beat staff meetings in two important categories: trust building and quality of signal” (The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well, p. 61).
  7. “As CEO, a significant part of my job is to sit and learn from people. I’ve participated in thousands if not tens of thousands of meetings with teams of people across many disciplines and at many companies. My biggest takeaway from all of these meetings? Nothing is more important than leading with questions and then making space to listen” (Leading with Questions—Get More out of Meetings by Leading with Questions).
  8. “The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients” (Death by Meeting, loc 3021).
  9. “And how disciplined were you during meetings about reviewing the goals in detail and drilling down on why they were or weren’t being met?” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 1093)
  10. “Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you are always the right person to lead the meeting. You may be better served to have someone else facilitate. This can free you up to fully immerse as a participant” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 4269).

As a leader, how can you help others thrive?

Job misery—to me, that is the opposite of thriving in a job. Realistically speaking, job misery is something you’ve experienced or something someone you know has experienced—maybe even right now. Job misery seems to be everywhere:

What causes job misery? Patrick Lencioni, author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, cites 3 basic causes:

  • Anonymity: “People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority” (loc 3099).
  • Irrelevance: “Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment” (loc 3104).
  • Immeasurement: “Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be” (loc 3109).

These 3 basic causes fit with my experience. I tend to experience less engagement and more job misery when I don’t feel known, don’t understand who I’m helping, and/or don’t know how to determine how I’m doing. How about you? How do anonymity, irrelevance, and/or immeasurement affect you and those around you? 

How can you help others thrive? Notice that I didn’t ask, “How can you reduce job misery?” For me, the goal of reducing misery is too small—while I want to reduce job misery, what I ultimately want is for others to thrive.

Step 1: Identify specific things that contribute to job misery:

  1. Not having a supervisor who shows interest in each direct report. 
  2. Not being clear on the mission and vision. “Eighty-five percent of respondents don’t know the goals of the organization they work for; 44 percent of the people say they know, but when asked to identify the goals, only 15 percent can actually do it” (Unlocking Potential, loc 820).
  3. Not having a job description, or not having an effective job description, or not having an effective job description that is regularly reviewed.
  4. Low/no expectations by the supervisor.
  5. Not having goals or not being held accountable for goals. “Seventy-nine percent of the respondents are not held accountable for lack of progress made towards critically important goals. Only 21 percent meet with their bosses even as often as monthly to assess achievement of their most important goals. Usually, accountability is top-down, punitive, or intimidating; or it is soft, permissive, and infrequent at best” (Unlocking Potential, loc 826).
  6. Not receiving feedback from a supervisor.
  7. Not enough time to do the job.
  8. Not enough resources to do the job.
  9. Not enough growth opportunities.
  10. Not enough professional development funding.

Step 2: Address the specific things that contribute to job misery by instituting practices that help others thrive, for example:

  1. Ask each supervisor to get to know each direct report and to talk with them on a regular basis (see above video).
  2. Require employees to memorize the mission and vision, and help them understand how their work contributes to the mission and vision.
  3. Several times each year, have employees use their job description to assess their own performance.
  4. Require supervisors to overcommunicate high expectations.
  5. Require each employee to work on 1 or more goals and to report weekly on progress toward the goal(s).
  6. Require supervisors to regularly give radically candid feedback: praise that is specific and sincere, and criticism that is kind and clear.
  7. Ensuring there is enough time to do the job.
  8. Ensuring there are enough resources to do the job.
  9. Providing enough growth opportunities.
  10. Providing enough professional development funding.

Or to put in another way, helping others thrive by increasing the practice of the 4 disciplines of organizational health, increasing the practice of the 4 disciplines of execution, and strengthening your employees GRIP on their job (Goals • Roles • Interpersonal relationship • Processes).

So overall, what role do leaders play? Patrick Lencioni says that leaders “can—and really should—view their work as a ministry. A service to others. By helping people find engagement in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God” (The Truth About Employee Engagement, loc 3517: 

What about you? What comes to mind when you think of job misery? What causes job misery? How can you help others thrive? What overall role do leaders play?

Here’s what I’m learning from The Truth About Employee Engagement:

  • “Human beings need to be needed, and they need to be reminded of this pretty much every day. They need to know that they are helping others, not merely serving themselves. When people lose sight of their impact on other people’s lives, or worse yet, when they come to the realization that they have no impact at all, they begin to die emotionally. The fact is, God didn’t create people to serve themselves. Everyone ultimately wants and needs to help others, and when they cannot, misery ensues” (loc 3231).
  • “If managers cannot see beyond what their employees are doing and help them understand who they are helping and how they are making a difference, then those jobs are bound to be miserable” (loc. 3278).
  • “…being miserable is not necessarily related to the actual work a job involves” (loc 3072).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word misery,  miserable, or miserably:

  1. “What is it about jobs that makes them miserable?” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 57. The Worst Job in the World)
  2. “Job misery is a real tragedy in society. People spend a third of their waking hours at least at work, and if they come home feeling demoralized, this is a real problem for their family and their friends and their own psyche and their own self-esteem” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 5. Curing Job Misery).
  3. “People who are miserable in their jobs dread going to work and come home frustrated, defeated and weary. The cost of job misery is very real, both for the individuals who are miserable and for the companies that employ them. Scores of people suffer every day as they trudge off to jobs that make them cynical and unhappy. Over time, this dull pain can erode the self-confidence and passion of even the strongest people. The primary driver of job dissatisfaction is not pay or benefits, but rather the relationship that an employee has with his or her supervisor” (Reducing Job Misery).
  4. “Like you, I used to think that way—that being a CEO was a reward for a lifetime of hard work, which meant it was about getting to do what I wanted because I had earned the right to do so. That’s why I failed so miserably” (The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities, loc 1246).
  5. “Leaders who choose their vocations out of notoriety or power or money create serious problems in the organizations they are supposed to be serving. They find the daily responsibilities of their jobs—meetings, difficult conversations with employees, management duties—to be tedious or unfulfilling. So, instead of embracing those responsibilities, leaders abdicate them leaving a gaping hole that no one other than the leader can fill. The result is a culture of underperforming companies and confused employees who have come to accept the idea that work is frustrating, if not miserable” (Leadership Shouldn’t Be a Grind).
  6. “…I’ve seen reward-centered behavior show up when I work with leaders…. A leader who overidentified with the ‘responsibility’ of his job so much that he – and his team – were miserable. The leader was the only one who could do anything well. He didn’t trust his team to do anything right. This one is quirky because the way the reward-centered behavior shows up is under a cover of competence. But is a leader who has not developed his team – or is unwilling to trust them — really a good leader? (Omission: Developing your team.)” (Why Matters: A Leader’s Motivation Can Drastically Change How They Show Up)
  7. “When life’s twists and turns work against us, we retreat into a rotten attitude or heap blame on our surroundings. By doing so, we neglect to deal with our problems and only add to our misery” (Problems).
  8. “Setbacks are inevitable; misery is a choice” (Stephen R. Covey, Twitter).
  9. “Procrastination is wisdom—if you listen to it. If you don’t listen, then procrastination leads to misery and mediocrity. Procrastination is a very powerful signal telling you that it’s time to get another Who involved. You’re stuck. You need help. The question is: Will you find that help or just sit by yourself?” (Who Not How, loc 679)
  10. “Endings are not comfortable for any of us. But they are also neither unprecedented breaks with the past nor attempts by those in power to make people’s lives miserable” (Managing Transitions, loc 944).

How much clarity do you have?

Clarity. I want it. A lot of it. Without clarity, my understanding of what is happening is insufficient. And when my understanding of what is happening is insufficient, I don’t make good decisions and don’t take effective actions. How about you? What happens when you don’t have clarity?

Clarity is a big deal:

How much clarity do you have? For example, how much clarity do you have regarding…?

  1. Your level of self-awareness?
  2. What the most important thing you do as a leader is? (May I suggest organizational health?) 
  3. What your team’s #1 priority is right now? (Teams can use a thematic goal to establish this.) 
  4. Your organization’s level of health and how to increase that? (Try the 4 disciplines of organizational health: building a cohesive leadership team, creating clarity, overcommunicating clarity, and reinforcing clarity.)
  5. Your organization’s level of execution and how to increase that? (Try the 4 disciplines of execution: focus on 1 big goal, act on lead measures, keep score, and establish a cadence of accountability.)
  6. What effective leadership is and is not? For example, effective leadership is empowerment, not control; partnership, not absentee management or micromanagement; seeing others as people, not as objects/tools/machines; and being the facilitator in chief (connection, communication, and collaboration), not the commander in chief (Cracking the Leadership Code).
  7. What the characteristics of an ideal team player are and the degree to which you demonstrate those?

Things that help me increase my clarity include:

  • Taking self-assessments and using the results. Here are some self-assessments I’ve found useful: 5 dysfunctions of a team, working geniuses, and accidental diminisher.
  • Developing a playbook and actively using it during weekly staff meetings.
  • Memorizing the mission, vision, and philosophy so I can talk about with others.
  • Reflecting regularly. I do this on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis.
  • Creating a toolbox that contains the mindsets, models, practices, and questions I use when talking with others.

What about you? What happens when you don’t have clarity? How much clarity do you have? What helps you increase your clarity?

Here’s what I’m learning from Silos, Politics and Turf Wars:

  • “What is the single most important accomplishment that this team needs to make in the next six or nine months?” (loc 1533)
  • “Silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals. But beyond all that, they exact a considerable human toll too. They cause frustration, stress, and disillusionment by forcing employees to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with people who should be their teammates. There is perhaps no greater cause of professional anxiety and exasperation—not to mention turnover—than employees having to fight with people in their own organization. Understandably and inevitably, this bleeds over into their personal lives, affecting family and friends in profound ways” (loc 125).
  • “Every departmental silo in any company can ultimately be traced back to the leaders of those departments, who have failed to understand the interdependencies that must exist among the executive team, or who have failed to make those interdependencies clear to the people deeper in their own departments” (loc 1907).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word clearly:

  1. “Arrogance leaves us blind to our weaknesses. Humility is a reflective lens: it helps us see them clearly” (Think Again, loc 743).
  2. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”(Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).
  3. “Can you clearly identify and articulate the culture, character, and work ethic that you desire in your organization?” (The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders, loc 654)
  4. “An unclear vision will not produce the results you’re after. As professors Heiki Bruch and Bernd Vogel ask, ‘If you cannot clearly identify a vision in the first place and it remains in the realm of vague generalities, how can you hope to communicate it throughout the company?’ For a vision to be clear, it has to be concrete, not abstract. But that’s not all. Your vision must also be explicit. That is, it must be sufficiently expressed in easy-to-understand language” (The Vision Driven Leader: 10 Questions to Focus Your Efforts, Energize Your Team, and Scale Your Business, loc 1099).
  5. “Both experience and research clearly show that narrowing the focus is essential to high performance. The more goals you try to accomplish over, say, a one-year period of time, the less likely you are to accomplish them” (Talent Unleashed, loc 1123).
  6. “So why do managers fail to build high-performing teams? Most often because they lack the mindset and skillset to talk honestly, clearly, and positively about performance” (Talent Unleashed, loc 955).
  7. “I see so many managers who think shortcutting planning will get them to the finish line more quickly. The irony is that rather than making things faster, shortchanging the instructions leads to more time in editing and rework and ultimately later delivery. Reduced speed isn’t the only nasty consequence of rushing the planning phase. Failing to clearly communicate expectations sets up an interpersonal conflict when the work is reviewed” (The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track, p. 67).
  8. “The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 2686).
  9. “Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter. —Gilbert Amelio, president and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp” (Cracking the Leadership Code, Location 2690).
  10. “When we are afraid, we do not see clearly” (Factfulness, loc 1284).

As a Christian leader, what disciplines do you practice?

As a leader, I want to thrive—so I need to practice self-discipline. I’m not alone in this—do a Google search on “self-discipline and leader” and you will get about 130,000,000 results, including The Importance Of Becoming A Self-Disciplined Leader, The Power Of Self-Discipline In The Growth Of A Leader, and Leadership is all about Discipline.

Ways I practice self-discipline include exercising and eating well, coming to meetings both prepared and on time, investing time each week in learning and in writing, and being available on a daily basis to read to my grandkids on Readeo. What about you? How do you practice self-discipline?

Thriving as a Christian leader includes practicing not only self-discipline, but also spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines can help us abide in Jesus, grow in Jesus. To what extent do you practice the spiritual disciplines? For example, to what extent do you practice Bible reading, prayer, simplicity, solitude, and worship?

In my experience, thriving as a Christian leader also includes practicing the disciplines of organizational health and execution. As the leader, only you can do certain things, one of which is to increase your organization’s health. To what extent do you practice the disciplines of organizational health? To what extent do you…?

To what extent do you practice the disciplines of execution? For example, to what extent do you…?

  • Focus on one big goal at a time. One big goal. Just one. Right now I’m focused on helping Christian leaders and Christian organizations in Japan to thrive.
  • Focus on the action steps that lead to the results you want. For example, focus on staying on your diet when you want to lose weight, focus on reading your Bible and praying when you want to grow closer to God, and focus on starting meetings with a review of the playbook when you want to increase organizational clarity.
  • Keep score of your action steps. Google Sheets are a great tool for keeping score. You can track how many days in a week you have stay on your diet, you can track how many days this month you read your Bible and pray, and you can count how many meeting this quarter start with a playbook review.
  • Reflect on progress and then determine next steps. Regularly. I do this on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis. Teams should do this at least weekly.

What about you? As a Christian leader, what disciplines do you practice? How do you practice self-discipline? To what extent do you practice the spiritual disciplines? To what extent do you practice the disciplines of organizational health and the disciplines of execution?

Here’s what I’m learning from The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive:

  • “No amount of intellectual prowess or personal charisma can make up for an inability to identify a few simple things and stick to them over time” (loc 2102).
  • “…no one but the head of an organization can make it healthy” (loc 242).
  • “There is hope for us because we too can become extraordinary leaders if we only embrace the fact that success is not so much a function of intelligence or natural ability, but rather of commitment to the right disciplines” (loc 1652).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word discipline, disciplines, or disciplined:

  1. “…most of life comes down to simple disciplines…life isn’t all that complicated, but it’s hard…. It’s more about the work than it is about the insight” (Emerge Stronger Conference).
  2. “…self-awareness is a leadership discipline….you cannot be a great leader unless you develop self-awareness” (Lead to Win—How Life Works: A More Empowering Model).
  3. “A disciplined person is someone who can do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit” (The Life You’ve Always Wanted Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, loc 966).
  4. “Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence” (The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, p. 220).
  5. “To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make” (Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, p. 60).
  6. “…extraordinary leaders all have one trait in common: deep convictions about helping others to improve. This is their heartbeat. They have mastered the skills and disciplines needed to help others reach peak levels of performance. This is one of their primary areas of focus” (Becoming a Coaching Leader, loc 501).
  7. “…listening to the team provides one of the greatest opportunities for improving leadership effectiveness. Too many of us have allowed the craziness, the busyness, and the high priority of this meeting or that project to crowd out the discipline of sitting down and intentionally connecting with those whom we serve and lead” (The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders, loc 1044).
  8. “The best companies, the best leaders, the most successful people usually trace their success back to sticking to a few very simple things that come down to discipline, wisdom, and common sense” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 87. This is Your Wake Up Call).
  9. “So how do we face our fear of feedback so that we can overcome it? It starts with how you receive feedback yourself. If you want to create a culture that values feedback, you have to model it yourself and create a discipline of regularly asking for feedback from those around you—which means being aware of how you might react in the moment when receiving this feedback” (Building Champions Podcast: 3.2 Feedback Phobia).
  10. “And how disciplined were you during meetings about reviewing the goals in detail and drilling down on why they were or weren’t being met?” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 1093)