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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

HopeGenesis

HOPE is not a strategy. Hope is only the genesis of strategy development. Hope is the mindset that can ignite within us purpose and action.

The best leaders I know use HOPE as the starting point to pull folks into meaningful conversations about...

1) Vision - clarity about that better future we envision

2) Mission - the actions required of us to make that Vision reality

Both Vision and Mission require investment, commitment, and work.

When we stop at HOPE, we're doing nothing but dreaming. When those in leadership stop at HOPE, they're doing nothing but pandering. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

CultureIzation

According to leadership guru Dan Rockwell, culture is the embodiment of Beliefs + Behaviors.

Culture has no traction without both. Culture without traction is .... not really culture.

As leaders of families and organizations, our work is to continually communicate what our Beliefs are, and to model aligned (and replicable) Behaviors.

We are the embodiments of the Ways of Thinking, Ways of Behaving, and Ways of Symbolizing that are the manifestations of our culture. Or, should be. 

Leaders are the most visible models in this process. INTEGRITY is when our words and actions are aligned. Time to scoot... 

Monday, April 8, 2024

CommunicationCancers

I once read that the surest thing about communication is that all attempts at it fail. Seems spot on.

Effective communication is hard enough when our intentions are noble. When attempts at communication are purposefully (or negligently) undermined, it verges on being downright sinful.

Here are some common and surefire ways to toxify communications:

  • Mushify the language to the point that the ambiguity guarantees multiple meanings/understandings will result.
  • Persistently speaking on behalf of others (and allowing it to continue unchallenged).
  • Assuming silence to be affirmation or agreement. It isn't.
  • Avoid addressing difficult topics, or dance around them.
  • Attacking the person rather than the position they are taking. The classic art of diversion.
Meetings are regularly highjacked by such behaviors and tactics. The chair of the meeting can do much to interdict these toxicities. Group norms that prohibit them are even better.

But..................that's only if we want to be productive and impactful in our work.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

OnPrinciple

It is immensely comforting to work for/with people (especially leaders) who operate On Principle.

They speak, move, act, react, make decisions that are grounded solidly on principles of rightness, fairness, trust, and honesty. Minute-by-minute, day in and day out.

Such folks (especially leaders) give the rest of us room to work, to speak, to move, to act, to react, and to make decisions with a high level of confidence (and safety).

Knowing they will consistently stand solidly on noble Principles gives us the safety to do the same.


Sunday, March 31, 2024

Deflators

Leaders in organizations have tremendous impact on others. How we operate and behave has everything to do with how our team(s) perform.

Here are some common habits that consistently cause a team to deflate:

  • Meetings Malfeasance - show up late, start late, arrive unprepared, allow un-agendaed items/discussions
  • Emotional Potluck - responses toward others are unpredictable, emotional, thoughtless, reactive
  • Vacuous Vagrancy- appear disinterested, too busy, disengaged, uncaring, perpetually distracted
Each of the deflating elements above are grounded solidly in a ME-first rather than WE-first mentality. It's treatable, and curable. But Deflationary Leader Syndrome must first be self-diagnosed and then aggressively addressed with very intentional intervention.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Who?

Who?

Who do I know that needs to hear from me today?

Who needs my ear and mind today?

Who will enter my sphere of influence today, and why, and am I prepared to engage?

Who do I need to meet today?

Who do I need to seek out for advice and counsel today?

WHO needs me today? WHO do I need today?

More importantly, will I be "present" enough to notice?

Sunday, March 24, 2024

SlowMo

One of the first exemplary leaders (aka JB) I worked for taught me the immense value of slowness.

JB exuded an aura of stoicism, unflappability, studiousness. I now better understand WHAT he was doing, and WHY. JB understood, and was teaching me, that those of us who lead others are wise to move slowly as often as possible (true emergencies where lives are in danger being the exception).

Here are some of the instructive ways JB moved slowly:

  • He was slow to "fix," or try to solve the problems of, others.
  • He was slow to start talking, preferring to question and deeply listen first.
  • He was slow to accept the assertions/allegation/reports of the first (or only) "reporter."
  • He was slow to jump to conclusions and make impactful decisions without researching thoroughly and seeking insight from wise others.
  • We was slow to adopt novelty in whole cloth fashion, preferring to treat "new ways of doing it" as pilot projects that could be tweaked as they were being explored and adapted.
  • He was slow in physically moving about, recognizing that when the leader appears "on fire" it has a disruptive and unsettling effect on others in the organization.

Thankful to this day for both the direct and indirect guidance I received from JB. Thankful, too, that I had him to learn from early in my career/life. 

I'd bet good money that JB is today one of the slowest movers in heaven.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

MediocrityRules!

Yes, mediocrity rules! Almost always. It's the norm.

A precious few decide that mediocrity is not enough. For themselves, and for their organizations, they choose a life of excellence.

Here are some of the common attributes of mediocrity:

  • Don't care.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Don't try.
  • No clarity of purpose.
  • Don't grow/learn.
  • Dodge responsibility and accountability.
  • Waste >> time, effort, resources, relationships.
Flipping that script would be a pretty good move toward excellence (and away from mediocrity).

Sunday, March 17, 2024

AuthenticSelf

"The real deal." --- "What you see is what you get." ---  "Bank on it." ---  "She/He will 'hold the rope'."

We all have some conception of what authenticity looks like. Most of us likely aspire to be our authentic selves. And, for most of us, it is likely a "work" in which we are constantly involved.

When I look in the mirror to assess my own authenticity, here are some questions I ask myself:

How pure are my motives/intentions as I go about my daily life and work?

What are the 3-5 BIG picture drivers of my life and work?

How much of my time, effort, and resources am I dedicating to pursuit of those drivers?

How likely would others be able to discern those drivers (without me having to articulate them)?

Looks like I still have work to do.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

PowerProjectors

The most impactful leaders and influential mentors I know are skillful in the art of projecting power. 

Not power OVER, but power TO. They effectively cause others in their sphere of influence to feel more powerful. 

Some strategic moves those impactful influencers make are:

  • Seek - They persistently seek input, feedback, advise, and counsel.
  • Include - They include others, in the discussions, in processes, in decisions.
  • Listen - They ask good questions and listen "deeply" to the answers.
  • Care - They show care, at multiple levels, in many ways.
  • Empower - They give authority, monitor the work, follow-up regularly.
  • Praise - They express gratitude profusely, both publicly and privately.

With power comes responsibility. That is the constant drumbeat underneath that projection of power.

Notice please, that not one of those strategies requires a line in the budget.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Amplifiers

I am a pseudo-musician. Occasionally I use an amplifier during a musical performance. While I am not classically trained, nor is my voice superbly polished, the amplifier makes me sound better than I really am. 

What does that amplifier do? 
  • It allows me to project my music without as much stress and effort.
  • It pushes my music further, extending its reach.
  • It brings clarity to the subtleties and nuance of my music.
  • It gives my music far greater "signal" strength.
The best leaders I know play a similar role in their organizations. They are excellent amplifiers. They clean, clarify, and push the best efforts of others. 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Ready-gation

Impactful work is always complex. It's always difficult. And it's always too much!

When we choose to do impactful work, we absolutely must do it as a team. What happens far too often is that the leader sees where the work and workflow should be going, but some (or all) of the team does not.

Aligning the team to the work needs is a fundamental responsibility of leadership. It is essential to executing the work and achieving the aspired outcomes. 

Some particularly successful leaders in this regard practice the following. They...

  • Relentlessly remind the team of where we're going and why.
  • Match team members with work that aligns to their skills set.
  • Establish clear and written assigned roles for the team members.
  • Schedule regular and brief team-wide "check-up" meetings.
  • Meet with each team member much more frequently, around the specifics and depth of their assigned role.
The best leaders I know praise and express gratitude a LOT publicly. They redirect/criticize individually and privately. 

I've worked for a few leaders like that. (A few too few.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

47

My pentecostal grandmother convinced me at the age of 10 to pray daily for my future life-mate, even though I had absolutely no idea who that person might be. I did (and still do).

That Girl entered my life several years later, and immediately changed it for the better. She still does. 

The hang has been easy for 47 years.................and still counting.

Tracy Byrd captures is HERE.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Graticism

Over the years I've often heard leaders posit the strategy of pairing criticism (usually of employee performance) with doses of gratitude/praise. I think of it as "graticism."

The best, and usually the smartest, team members I've worked with recognize this psycho-manipulation for what it is: an attempt to "soften" criticism with praise. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as the old mantra goes. 

I am neither a fan, nor practitioner.

Two considerations that spring from my hard experiences on this front:

1. Uninvited criticism is rarely, if ever, received well (I believe the research in psychology supports my position in this regard). Rather, surfacing poor performance issues through conversation and inquiry has always provided for me better results in conducting these difficult conversations. Trust is the starting point of solution crafting in this area. Making folks feel they're being psycho-manipulated is not a very good trust building technique. 

2. Saying THANKS and offering praise for good effort (and work) in stand-alone formatting is a marvelous and high yield strategy. The cost is low; the dividends are high. In fact, it's often the antecedent to that trust building thing... (and it makes both giver and receiver feel a little better).

(And, yes, I know I'm not in the main stream of thought on this subject. I'm fine with that....)


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

TruthLeaning

Obfuscation, ambiguity, misdirection, and outright bamboozlement. We see tactics of this sort steadily employed from leaders in all kinds of organizations.

And then....

Other leaders take the position that TRUTH is the starting point of TRUST creation.

Wise leaders of this ilk practice a simple set of strategies:

  • They package and report organizational news (both good and bad) in plain language.
  • They remind us of the WHY of our organizational efforts.
  • They challenge us to own the bad news, and to collectively correct the problems that cause(d) it.
  • They celebrate the good news and praise those (both publicly and privately) who had a hand in generating it.
  • They remind us again of the WHY that underlies our work together.
The best servant leaders invest daily in building TRUST. They know that the foundation of that covenant is telling the TRUTH. They lean into it daily. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

ListenLeverage

Attention spans seem shorter than ever. Droning on is one of the surest ways to lose our audience(s). 

The best communicators I know engage some very intentional strategies when they have opportunity to speak. They leverage:

  • Connections -- Folks listen best when we are discussing something important to them.
  • Future Focus -- Speak to a better future we can craft together.
  • Specificity -- Ambiguity and mush are.............ambiguity and mush.
  • Inquiry -- Let powerful questions drive the conversations toward solutions.
  • Brevity -- Less is more, especially when garnering attention/interest is our goal.
  • Inclusivity -- WE is always a more powerful attractor than me.
When we successfully engage the thinking of others, we rattle around in their brains long after we have relinquished the microphone and the room has emptied. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

ContinuousBetterment

Most people think of their job as continuous work. Folks who are committed to excellence, however, think of their work as continuous improvement.

ONLY when our work is that of service -- making the world a better place -- does that continuous march toward excellence yield the best versions of ourselves. Continuous improvement, constant betterment, and the pursuit of excellence can be undertaken regardless of job title.

Getting better. Every day. On purpose. 

Yes, we can. And LEARNING is the vehicle that gets us there.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

InquiringMentors

Most of us have mentors. Most of us have many mentors. Most of us also serve as mentors.

The magic of mentoring is asking the right questions, the ones that cause the mentee to think.....

             What am I doing? 

                  Why was/am I doing that? 

                       How can I do (it) better? 

                            What do I need to learn next? 

Master mentors are maestros of inquiry.

Mentors who don't ask powerful questions.......................should just send a memo. (Which no one will read.)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Poor-formers

Every organization has poor performers on the team. What are leaders to do with those poor performers?
 
Our options are few:
  • GROW 'em -- We can choose to build their capacity toward achieving the outcomes we need from them.
  • MOVE 'em -- We can admit that we are asking them to do a job for which their skills are not well suited. Moving that team member into a role for which they can be more successful may be the best option.
  • ACCEPT 'em -- We can choose to live with their shortcomings, if and only if their contributions in other dimensions adequately offset those deficiencies.
  • REMOVE 'em -- Separation is the most painful option. IF the poor-former is willing and able to get better, at an acceptable speed, choose one of the other three options. If not, respectfully remove them as quickly as possible.

Deciding which of those paths to take is more occult art than exact science. Making that decision requires that we know the poor-former well enough to have some understanding of the genesis of the problem. Sometimes, life circumstances cause windows of poor performance, for which we are wise to exercise a measure of grace.

Always, these decisions have rippling implications for the health and wellbeing of the whole team. The Team is watching. ALWAYS!

Friday, February 2, 2024

Stuckedness

Ever work in an organization that felt like it was "stuck?"

Some of the best leaders I know interdict this state of stuckedness by engaging in the following strategic moves:

  • Make perfectly clear to all stakeholders -- internal and external -- WHY the organization exists and what it's noble pursuits are.
  • Clearly define the roles of those in the organization. Everyone knows how they can, and are expected to, contribute.
  • Listen daily to team members up and down the food chain, to get their take on how those pursuits are going.
  • Model and insist upon continuous growth and improvement from everyone in the organization, beginning with the head honchos. 
Unstuck is a way better state than stuckedness. The leader moves described above make the folks who revel in stuckedness extremely uncomfortable. By design.

Time to shift into four wheel drive... 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

HELPitual

Feeling the pull toward a life of service to others is quite common. Committing to a life of service to others is a whole nuther ballgame.

The most effective servant leaders I know quite deliberately engage in the following:

  • They serve WAY more than they talk about serving.
  • They view NOW as the best time to serve others. 
  • They actively pursue ways to be of service.
  • They serve in both small ways and large.
  • They seek not praise for their service.

HELPing is what those servant leaders do...................as matter of intentional habit.

Applications are not necessary. Anyone can play. Now is the best time to start.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Transmission

Most of us have a license to drive vehicles. Virtually ALL vehicles have a transmission.

What is a transmission (in simple terms)? It's the part of the vehicle that takes the power generated from the engine and transfers that power to the wheels. Only then does movement take place.

The best leaders I know serve as the "transmissions" of their organization: They take the power of the Vision and transmit it to the folks who can move that Vision toward reality.

Power on!

Sunday, January 21, 2024

FaithfulnessBoundaries

We all engage in living our lives according to a set of goals. Those goals may have to do with relationships, or professional achievements, or financial aspirations, or ??? There are a bazillion possibilities.

Our level of faithfulness to those goals is directly proportional to the amount of time, effort, and attention we dedicate to them.

As well, opportunities to deviate abound. We are steadily offered opportunity to "compromise," to "cut corners," to "make exceptions" to the outcomes we have chosen.

That's where our faithfulness comes into play. Knowing the lines we will not cross, understanding the compromises we are unwilling to make, considering carefully the "not gonna" calculus is an immensely helpful exercise for us. 

A simple and liberating recipe:

  • Consider carefully the NOBLE and WORTHY goals to which we'll be dedicating ourselves.
  • Clearly articulate those goals for ourselves and others. 
  • Make clear the compromising boundaries we will never cross in pursuing those goals.
These are important considerations for each of us as individuals. They are incalculably more important for those of us who lead organizations -- families, houses of faith, businesses, schools,.... 

Those who trust us must always be confident that "our anchor will hold."

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

LeaderShift

The best leaders I know pull a "switch" on the usual and customary conceptions of how leaders normally approach their work. They shift their behavior in some interesting "contradictory" ways:

  • They seek to serve more than to be served.
  • They purposefully listen more than they talk.
  • They consistently turn the spotlight toward others.
  • They ALWAYS exhibit kindness and respectfulness. 
  • They genuinely care, and take the time to express it. 
  • They stay focused on the long-term goals as opposed to short-term gains. 
All the above are learnable skills. 

Think I'll take another look in the mirror.....

Sunday, January 14, 2024

ExpertFog

It is difficult to read an article these days that does not quote an "expert" or state something along the lines of "experts say." 

Experts have never been in short supply, and they have always disagreed. Always will. As one of my favorite mentors says, "Everyone has an opinion; I prefer the informed ones." 

Worth remembering is that we, and our team, are the experts within our unique contexts. To position our team to make the best possible decisions in a world/fog of confusing and conflicting data, and myriad mitigating variables, consider the following:

  • Add the smartest people we can find to be on our team.
  • Give everyone at the table voice in the conversations around the complex problems, and expect them to use those voices (banish quickly the "hiders" and "dodgers").
  • Refuse to do nothing. Inertia and complacency are diseases to be eradicated.
  • Demand, embed, and incentivize betterment measures, every day.
  • Insist that continual LEARNING is an expected daily discipline. 
If it were easy, anyone could do it. Maybe even the "experts."

Thursday, January 11, 2024

SecretDelusions

For almost 20 years now I have encouraged organizational leaders (particularly school principals and superintendents) to assume that "there are NO secrets." It is delusional to think otherwise.

With instant communications via texts, social media, phones, internet platforms, and (coming soon) embedded chips within the human body, the days of "controlling the narrative" or "keeping a lid on it" are gone.

How can we, as leaders of organizations, handle this dilemma? Consider the following as behavioral strategies:
  • Be honest. ALWAYS. With everyone.
  • Clarify and clearly articulate 3-5 worthy and noble principles which other can count on us to hold to. Come wind, come rain, come storm, come crisis, come scandal......others will know what to expect from us.
  • Don't say or write anything we don't want splattered across the universe. PERIOD!
  • Flatten our organizational communications so that every internal and external stakeholder hears the same thing, in the same way, and (preferably) proactively. Remove as many filters and filterers as possible.
  • When we screw up...own it, fix it, move on.
TRUST is the currency of leadership. Earning it is a perpetual task of our work.

Today is an excellent day to start.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

ReBeginAgain

Life seems to have never moved so quickly. Our attention spans seem shorter, the news cycles are quicker, the information portals to which we have access spin like tops, our work tools appear to be on steroids. Good or bad or both, this warp-speed life is the reality with which we live.

With that life-pace in mind, we are wise to continue (or revive) a commitment to begin anew each day. Regardless of the "speediness" of life, it does not and cannot add a single minute to the day. 

Some good reflective questions:

Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing, to make the world a better place?

Am I letting go of things that do not move me toward my higher purpose?

Are my thoughts, words, and actions promoting love and acceptance to/for others?

If the answer to any of these is "no," perhaps we should tap the brakes...

Today (and every day) is a good day to re-begin-again.