Friday, March 27, 2015

5 Reasons Why Collaborative Leadership Works

joining hands
Over the years I have learned much about leadership. I have learned some invaluable lessons from some incredibly gifted leaders over the years. But some of the most valuable lessons I have learned come from some colossal mistakes I have watched others make. One common mistake I have observed leaders make is this - they fail to involve others around them. I am baffled as to why some people insist on leading all by themselves and refuse to partner with gifted people that God has surrounded them with. I suspect that the number one reason for this is simply due to insecurity. They fear that someone might get the glory or steal their job away from them. That is not leadership and it won't accomplish very much.

I have come to the conclusion that great leaders value something others don't - collaboration. Webster's defines collaboration as "to work jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor." Notice that I put the emphasis on with here because so many leave out that simple little word. It is a trite expression, but powerfully true nonetheless - "There is no I in team." The very essence of the meaning of leadership is to take people somewhere with you. Unless someone goes with you, you haven't led anyone. I have determined to be what I call a Collaborative Leader. This requires not only leading people, but involving them in the leadership process, giving them the reins, and letting them get the credit. I can tell you it works and is the key to successful leadership whether you are a CEO in charge of thousands of people, or a manager in charge of just a few people in a small department. They key is to find creative ways to involve people in the process so that they feel an integral part of the team.

Let me give you 5 reasons why Collaborative Leadership works.

#1 - It forces you to be humble.

If you are going to involve people in your leadership, it will require you to put aside your own agenda and adopt a bigger one. When you collaborate with others, it ceases to be about you anymore and it becomes about us. That is a good thing and will make you a better leader.

#2 - It develops your people skills.

Great leadership is 99% people skills and 1% actual talent. I know this to be true because I have observed two facts in life. First, I have observed that someone who has second-to-none talent and ability yet possesses very little people skills is doomed to fail. Second, I have seen people with very little talent enjoy great success in leadership because they surrounded themselves with people who could do things they couldn't. Like I said before, if you can't get people to go with you, you aren't leading. That is a simple fact of life. Collaboration requires that I work with people. Chances are great that any group of people will have a diversity in talent, skill and personality levels. This will require that you learn the art of team building.

#3 - It nurtures longevity in your team.

Collaborative leaders have a reputation for high morale and a low turn-over rate in their departments. Why is this? It is because people feel valued and needed with this type of leader. I would choose that over a larger salary any day. The reason why longevity is a result is because employees know this kind of leadership is rare and they don't want to give that up.

#4 - It is a lot more fun.

Collaborative leaders sleep better at night, have less stress and are generally happier. I don't have clinical statistics to back this up, just experience. When you lead collaboratively, you take all the pressure off yourself of having to do it all yourself. You don't have to come up with all the answers and do all the work. You have a team that you can draw from. You see, not only do collaborative leaders share the glory with others when things go right, they have a team that is willing to share the responsibility when it goes wrong. Ask any winning professional sports team if this is true. When you win, the whole team wins. And when you lose, the whole team loses. If you chose to lead like a lone ranger, you will get all the glory when your project succeeds, but you will also get all of the blame when it flops.

#5 - It makes you a better leader.

Think about it. When you involve others in the process, you bring their unique talent and abilities to the table. Including their talent and input increases the potential for success exponentially. The more I collaborate with others, the better I become. That is why it is important to surround yourself with people who have skills and experience that you don't. You now eliminate limitations and barriers. I have to admit that I owe all my successes to the people around me. I wouldn't be where I am today without so many others who have walked with me in the process through both the successes and the failures.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, the best way to do that is get people around you involved in the process. Purposefully surround yourself with people who can do things you can't and you will build a winning team that will not only work for you, but with you and will stay for the long-haul. You can do it all by yourself, but doing so will only limit you and you will only end up frustrated and lonely in the end.

I would like to invite you to join me on Monday, March 30 at 7pm (ET) as I co-host this week's Lead With Giants TweetChat on Collaborative Leadership. For information on how to be a part of this weekly leadership chat, visit http://www.leadwithgiants.com/leadwithgiants/
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mentoring 101 From the Story of Elijah and Elisha

passing the baton
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 2 Kings 2:9

The Bible is full of examples of Godly leaders taking the time to intentionally mentor a new generation of leaders. The story of Elisha and Elijah is a powerful example of what happens when we determine to mentor younger leaders around us. Mentoring is not an easy process because it takes considerable time. It will stretch you in ways you never imagined. It will challenge you in your own leadership. It will require you to be humble and learn yourself. But the payoff is worth all of that. Refusing to mentor young leaders around you is very costly. As you read the entire account of Elisha, think of the implications for Israel had Elijah not taken the time to mentor this young man.

Let me share with you some basic principles about the process of mentoring young leaders from this short story.

#1: Let them walk beside you.

Mentoring simply will not work from a distance. It requires letting them get up close and personal with you. Mentoring requires letting young leaders get their hands dirty themselves, not just watch you do the work. We learn the most by doing. Elijah tried to go alone but fortunately Elisha was persistent and insisted on going with him. Jesus modeled this so well with his disciples. He literally put them to work and didn't do all the work himself.

#2:  Take time to talk with them.

In verse eleven we read that they were walking and talking together. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as mentors is merely talking to them and failing to talk with them. Mentoring is much more than just imparting your wisdom to others. It also requires listening to them and giving them opportunity to ask questions. A big part of the process requires letting them talk things through. An added benefit is that you will learn something yourself in the process.

#3: Don't be threatened by their future success.

The number one reason leaders don't ever mentor young leaders is because they are insecure. They are afraid that if they successfully mentor others, they will rise up and steal their job from them. Insecure leaders just can't stand to let someone else succeed. Leaders--we need to just get over ourselves! We must accept the fact that we will eventually be replaced, whether we retire or God moves us to another place, and if we don't intentionally mentor our replacement then we have failed as leaders. Elijah knew he was leaving soon and he didn't want to leave Israel without a qualified, experienced leader to be able to step in when he left. Elijah wasn't threatened by Elisha's request for a double portion of his anointing. I think he was thrilled and that released him to move on. Leaders--don't be threatened by the fact that younger leaders around you are more talented than you are. That's a good thing! The greatest compliment to your leadership abilities is your success in developing young leaders who can do things better than you could ever dream of doing yourself.

#4: When it's time to go, LET GO!

I have seen many leaders over the years make the mistake of not completely letting go when it's time for them to step away. When Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, he wasn't giving Elisha last minute instructions and he never came back to check up on him. Leaders who fail to fully let go and walk away after giving the reigns to the new leader do incredible damage by undermining the authority and leadership of the new leader and ultimately end up undermining the authority and leadership of God himself. Not only is this poor leadership, it is simply unethical.

If you are a leader, I challenge you to be the kind of leader Elijah was. Be determined to find potential leaders around you and follow these four principles for mentoring a new generation of leaders who will accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God. And in the process, if they end up stealing your job, God will honor you because you were an honorable leader.
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Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Characterisitcs Of Truly Wise People

wisdom sign
The beginning of wisdom is this: "Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” Proverbs 4:7-9

In the information age that we live it seems that knowledge is valued above wisdom. I don't think this is intentional but is a result of misinformation. Many think that knowledge equals wisdom. This is a fallacy. I have observed that the more information we have access to in our present culture, the less wise we are becoming.

The Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Wisdom has nothing to do with knowledge or even experience but how you apply that knowledge to everyday life. You can be the smartest person or even the oldest, most experienced person in the room, but if you don't know how to use that knowledge and experience to make  right choices and decisions, you are far from being wise.

I have heard it said that wisdom is not repeating the mistakes you made when you were young. That is a good measure, but I think wisdom goes a step further. Great wisdom is not making the same mistakes your elders made. According to the verses above from Proverbs, wisdom does not come to you. You must pursue it. You have to go after it if you want to be wise. I'm not saying that knowledge and experience aren't important. What I am saying is that we must put a premium on wisdom above everything for without it, we have nothing.

How do we get wisdom? There is no easy answer to that question and I believe there are no formulas for getting it. I can tell you that you can spot it when you see it. There are a number of people in my life that have modeled true wisdom, Let me share what I have found to be 5 characteristics of truly wise people.

They never stop learning.
This is key and is the common characteristic I have observed. These people are like sponges who soak up everything they can. They aren't passionate about knowing more but how to be better people. That is what sets them apart from everyone else. The moment we stop learning is the moment we become foolish.

They don't claim to be wise.
One thing I have noticed about truly wise people is that they never talk about how wise they are. In fact, they tend to downplay their wisdom, knowledge and experience. They are the first to admit that they don't know everything and don't have all the answers. They ask questions rather than make statements. That takes wisdom!

They don't play the age card.
I have learned from them that wisdom has nothing to do with age. I have met plenty of elderly people who sorely lack wisdom. I have also met many young people that are wise beyond their years. Those who are wise in their older years never assume that they are smarter than those who are younger. Young people who are wise beyond their years never assume that they aren't as smart as those who are older. True wisdom is the ability to learn from those older as well as younger than you. The pitfall of age is thinking others don't know anything. The pitfall of youth is thinking that you know everything. Wisdom breaks through the age barriers.

They embrace failure.
Wisdom is not the result of living a perfect life. True wisdom comes when we learn from the mistakes we make in life. I have heard it said that success is falling down nine times and getting back up ten times. Truly wise people never, ever claim to be perfect. In fact, they are quick to admit their mistakes. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned in life were forged in the furnace of failure.

They aren't intimidated by people who are smarter than they are.
This is a big one. I have observed that truly wise people have embraced the fact that there are always others who are smarter, wiser, and more talented than they are, and they are okay with that. In fact, they go out of their way to surround themselves with others who are better than they are. My tennis coach in high school taught me that if I want to become a great tennis player, I have to practice with someone at least three levels above me. He taught me a lot about wisdom that still impacts me to this day.

Read the verses from Proverbs at the top of this post one more time. Notice that it says, "Though it cost all you have..." Wisdom comes with a price. It doesn't come automatically. You have to work for it. You have to go after it and you have to hold on to it. The price is worth it and it will be your most valued treasure.
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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Four Qualities Of a World-Changer

holding the world
When God called Moses to go and lead His people to the Promised Land in Exodus 33, Moses replies in verses 15 and 16, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” What a great response! Moses realizes that if God doesn't go with him, he is destined to fail. We can learn a lot from Moses. In fact, the world desperately needs more people like Moses.

Each one of us has a unique and specific God-designed purpose for our lives. There are people around us that God has birthed us for specifically for the purpose of being the right man or woman at just the right time and place to be a Moses to them. God has seen their bondage and misery and has sent us to be their deliverer. I'm sure each of us have had a Moses or two in our lives that have led us through some difficult times and we couldn't have made it without them. We can't do it alone though. Unless God Himself goes with us, we have no hope of making an eternal difference in people's lives. We need what I call "a spirit of Moses" to fulfill the calling God has put on us. There are 4 character traits that Moses developed that we must also develop in ourselves.
  • He was available. Although he tried to convince God that he had the wrong man, He did go. He just  wanted to make absolutely sure that this was God's idea and not his.
  • He was humble. He understood that he had nothing to offer in and of himself. Moses made sure that it was never about him. He always gave God the credit and attention. That is an extremely rare quality in leadership today.
  • He was dependent. He depended upon God for every step along the journey. He took great care to never venture out on his own. He only went where God told him to. Moses was very smart and intelligent but he never let that get in God's way.
  • He was desperate. He pleaded with God to not only go with him, but to show him His glory. He didn't settle for less than the full and complete presence of God. He wanted no less than 100% of what God had for him. This is also a rare quality today. We often settle for "just enough" to get by when God said that He is "more than enough." Moses wasn't a "just enough" kind of guy. He wanted it all and he was willing to die to get it.
I'll say it again - the world needs more people like Moses today. It doesn't need more talented, articulate, polished, and intelligent leaders. It needs the opposite because it is that kind of person who can be used by God to do the impossible. We don't need what man can offer. We need what only God can offer. Be a Moses for God and to your world around you. Then the Lord will say, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (v. 17)
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Art of Engaging Leadership

hands
Every leader faces the challenge of not only getting employees engaged, but keeping them engaged for good. The more engaged your team becomes, the more productive they will be and therefore, you will spend more time leading and a lot less time managing. I have seen many leaders fail to engage their employees and have no idea why they can't seem to accomplish this critical task. Many fail because they think that engagement is a result of increased productivity. This is backward thinking however. The reverse is true - productivity is the result of engagement. People who are fully engaged and have bought in to the purpose of the company will naturally produce results.

There is no magic formula for getting people engaged but I have found that there are some crucial mindsets of engaging leaders. Whether you are a leader in a tech company, nonprofit, church, school, or private company, a lack of engagement will derail your team's ability to produce consistent results. Here are five leadership mindsets that will help you get your people engaged and keep them there.

Give them a sense of purpose in what they do.
People who simply have a job to do will do what's expected while people who have purpose will do the unexpected. A paycheck gives them a reason to show up while a sense of purpose keeps them coming back. Nothing creates engagement better than a sense of purpose.

Make them feel that they make a difference in the company.
I have worked for companies that saw people come and go in a steady stream. These companies see people as tools. I have also worked for companies that had an extremely low turnover rate. Those companies see people as a treasure. People who know that they make a viable difference in their workplace are highly engaged and produce fantastic results.

Publicly praise them regularly.
Nothing motivates employees better than making them feel genuinely appreciated. Nothing kills employee engagement faster than feeling unappreciated. Be careful however. Always make your praise sincere and genuine. Public praise shown to get something out of someone is humiliating and is rotten leadership. Never do it, ever!

Let them know that you value them personally.
A company that values the bottom line over people will find itself without people to help it make the bottom line. If you are getting results but your people are getting chewed up and spit out, something is horribly wrong and those people will leave for some place else. Companies that value people find its people stay for the long haul. When people stay with a company for ten, twenty or thirty years it shows they value them. Remember, people are your most important commodity. Without people you have no company.

Be a leader, not a manager.
A manager tells people what to do while a leader shows them how to do it. Managers sit in offices and watch everyone else do the work. Leaders get in the trenches, roll up their sleeves and walk along side those they are leading. This creates high engagement as well as respect.

Are you an engaging leader? It's never too late to start developing the art of engaging leadership. What are some of your ideas on how to create engagement as a leader? I'd love to hear them. Thanks for reading.

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