Organizational needs begin with individual needs: A single question.

Organizational change and improvement is complex  and viewed by many leaders as a daunting series of tasks, with no clear point of beginning.  It’s true that continuous improvement requires leaders to develop a detailed strategy, allocate resources, and direct their time, energy, and focus across complex systems. This challenge results in leadership teams assembling in conference rooms with markers and performance data sheets and financial reports, to determine what we should do to be better? But there is a more natural starting point.   Continue reading

Leadership: How’s the view up there?

The top of the world, climbing the ladder, the office with a view. The opportunity to lead can easily become distorted by your perception (View) of your own self worth in relation to those who’s names are in the blocks below you on the organizational chart.

How we view others determines our treatment of them. Don’t be deceived into thinking others are below you and treat them as such. Don’t view people as sources to be used for selfish wishes, needs, and desires. 

Great leaders value the worth of all individuals, seeking to build and strengthen “their” lives out of a servant’s heart of compassion and love. 

Here’s how: View everyone as one who was created in the image of God, uniquely designed for His purpose…. precious and of value. Then seek to serve them!

The Waiting Room

img_8757This week, I have spent my days in the waiting area outside the cardiac intensive care unit of the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital, as my father-in-law had open heart surgery. During the past few days, I have witnessed an endless stream of strangers, all waiting on an update from their loved one who have undergone some sort of heart or cardiovascular surgery. Sometimes the news is good, and impromptu celebrations erupt. Other times the news is tragic and loved ones are overcome by the loss, often hitting their knees as the wave of grief rushes over them.  Many have been here for weeks, as their loved one’s struggle for their lives. The most impactful observations, are the compassion and concern that total strangers have for one another during this time. Strangers speak, pray with one another, offer assistance, provide comfort items, offer up their seats, and give sincere hugs and share in the celebrations and grieving.  Continue reading

A Liar Cannot Effectively Lead Others

lying-truth_2If you’re going to effectively lead others, you cannot be a liar. Here’s why:

A liar carries heavy baggage– By opting not to tell the truth then you are simultaneously opting to take on the heaviness of the burden of deceit. Each time you encounter a person, circumstance, or situation that reminds you of the untruth, your conscience will weigh you down as you become a fugitive in your own mind running from the lie you told.

Your lies will always come back to haunt you. We’ve all witnessed  elaborate cover-ups, and a they always turn out the same way…in disasters that could have been avoided had the truth been told to begin with. You might be able to run, but you can’t hide from your lies. While you might be able to conceal your deceit for a time, your lies will always resurface at some point in the future…it may be a day, a week, a month or a decade but they will find you out. Continue reading

The Other Side of Servant Leadership: Accountability

images-6With all that is published about the tenants of servant leadership it is easy to make the assumption that everyone is motivated by positive encouragement, reward, and recognition. While this should be true, the reality is that many human beings remain selfish in their intentions and motives.  Among the greatest qualities of a servant leader is the distain for selfishness and the personal agendas that accompany it. Until we arrive in a world where selfishness no longer rules the day, leaders must be prepared to “at least internally”  consider the potential for personal agendas, and be prepared to call others out for this unacceptable behavior.  Continue reading

Onboarding and Offboarding; but who is leading the crew?

Learning_Leadership_SkillsOnboarding is a well documented and accepted approach to effective socialization of new employees as they first enter an organization.  Among the common aspects of an comprehensive onboarding process is a deep dive into the culture, strategy, policies, and work processes of the organization.  The assignment of a peer as the new employee’s “buddy” provides for additional support and coaching as the new team member familiarizes themselves with their new work family. In addition, organizations include off-boarding or exit interview programs that seek to debrief team members who chose to move on in order to gather critical feedback on their experiences and to identify the primary reasons for the departure.  The benefits of on-boarding and off boarding are clear, which caused me to consider, why is it just for new hires or those departing?

Among the most challenging aspects of organizational leadership is the transition from front line employee to middle manager or supervisor.  Although most progressive organizations have recognized the need to provide for individual career development, including training that is specific to managing projects and leading others, most approaches to don’t include the one on one coaching and mentoring during the initial days that follow promotion. Since on boarding and off boarding relate to the nautical theme of sailing a boat, let consider a “Navigation” program. As employees are promoted they should be formally assigned a coach/mentor; preferably a senior leadership team member to provide for ongoing access to information and resources, training, and emotional support, when the wave and wind come.

Navigation relates to equipping the new supervisor or team lead with the support and coaching necessary to lead their crew.  Among the four critical rules of leading a boating and sailing crew and a work unit are:

  • Keep the people in the boat
  • Keep the water out of the boat
  • Don’t hit anyone
  • Look good doing it

Keep the people in the boat

The new leader must embrace and champion the culture. Leaders must insure that there basic physiological needs are being met; maintain a safe and secure work environment; treat everyone with respect and dignity to build community among the work group; create an environment of empowerment and creativity to build confidence and self-esteem; and permit them to grow emotionally, spiritually and morally in a way that gives meaning and purpose to their lives and work.

Keep the water out of the boat- Take care of them

Prevent contradictory leadership from sources that disrupt the team and question the motive and legitimacy of the leader. Leader must support team members, go to bat for them, take steps to build team-member confidence and trust that says, “I trust that you made the right decision and that you are working for the good of the team.” Help them problem-solve personal issues that prevent their total focus on the team vision and purpose. Take an interest in their well-being.

Don’t Hit Anyone – Conflict Resolution
Conflict un-confronted is conflict unresolved.

Leaders must be ready and capable to resolve conflicts regardless of the magnitude of the problem. Leaders need to be skilled in relationship building with empathy, exhibiting a caring attitude about individual success and professional growth. Create team accountability practices that enable individual team members to resolve internal conflicts – resolve disruptive issues at the lowest level possible.

Leadership requires a keen eye for disruptions in the personal lives of team members that interferes with their ability to perform at high levels of success.

You Have to Look and Act Good – Professional Appearance and Attitude
External perception is extremely important to the success of the overall team.

Looking good goes beyond physical appearance of team members to include the outward attitudes and behaviors. Looking good means your professional appearance is sharp, neat and clean. In addition, your methods, attitudes, and behaviors support your values and the customer experience you are trying to create.

This extends to your office and building, which to the customer indicates your team and organizational pride. Each team member looks good because they feel that the organization is an extension of themselves – their pride, their professionalism, and their desire to deliver top-notch customer service.

By developing an effective Navigation Program, Senior leaders can support newly promoted supervisors in effective team building practices – just as in sailing teams that support organizational success. In addition to the assignment of a Senior Leader mentor, what other elements should be included in an effective Navigation program?


Are You Killing Curiosity and Courage?

Without curiosity, innovation dies and so will the competitiveness of your organization. New research shows that curiosity is lagging in American workplaces, and by reversing some common mistakes; leaders can unleash the problem-solving, possibility-creating power of curious people. Here are five ways leaders kill curiosity at work, often not deliberately and how to reverse your course.  Continue reading

iLeadiServe: Making Employee Engagement Personal


Poultry Plant Employees

While organizations, managers and co-workers all have an obligation to maintain policy, process and behaviors that drive employee engagement, at the end of the day it is a personal choice. Each day you make an individual choice to be engaged or not.  You attitude, methods and actions are personal choices that will define the type of workday you will experience. Continue reading