Saturday, February 11, 2017

Seven indicators that our ego may be getting in the way of our leadership


An overly inflated ego is one of the challenges of leaders who are often in their positions because they have seen success. The success that positions one for leadership can also be our subtle undoing when we allow it to feed our ego which has a voracious and unrelenting appetite. 

Most of us like to think that we are not conceited and yet that is the greatest conceit of all. However, we can be aware of signs that our ego (and conceit) are getting in the way of our own emotional health and leadership. Awareness can help us manage the appetite of our egos.

Being defensive or angry when we are challenged.
Defensiveness is nothing more than our ego screaming "don't challenge me because I am right" even when we are not. It keeps us from hearing truth and perspective from others leaving us with only our limited perspective. This is why the best leaders train themselves to be open to differing perspectives and cultivate a non-defensive attitude.

Being reluctant to delegate
An unwillingness to delegate is often our ego speaking: "No one can do this as well as I can." Actually, in most things others can do things better than we can but who wants to admit that! Healthy leaders do. In fact, they encourage others to find better ways of doing things in order to build better organizations. We may not realize it but an unwillingness to delegate can be a sign of an unhealthy ego.

Needing to always get our own way
Why would we need to always get our own way if not because our own self worth or conviction that we are always right reveals an overinflated and unhealthy ego? Healthy leaders desire to do the best thing to reach the desired outcome which has nothing to do with whether it is their way or not. Unhealthy egos demand their way regardless of whether other ways might be better.

Being jealous of the success of others
Whenever we become jealous at the success of another we ought to sit up and take note that we have an ego problem. Jealousy over the success of another is a sign that we believe their success in someway diminishes us! Only unhealthy and hungry egos react this way. These egos will resist hiring anyone who might outshine them in some area and is a dangerous trait.

Taking credit for success and deflecting blame in failure
This happens in ministry, in business, in politics and everywhere there are people. We love to overinflate our abilities and underinflate our weaknesses. Accolades feed our hungry egos and those same hungry egos don't want to admit failure so they deflect it to others. Healthy egos share success with the team and are willing to take responsibility for failure. Healthy egos never need to be fed at the expense of others in success or failure.

A critical spirit
Critical spirits can come from a need to build ourselves up by putting others down or an attitude of superiority - both of which are connected to unhealthy egos. If we find ourselves becoming critical we need to ask ourselves why we find a need to diminish rather than encourage others. An attitude of criticism is rarely a sign of a healthy leader and it usually has to do more with them than with those they are critical about.

Slowing down on learning and developing
How is this related to ego? It is an assumption that we no longer need to learn new things or put another way, we already know all that we need to know. That is a lie of our ego. If anything, the need to invest more time in learning is critical because our world is changing at an increasing rate. Humble individuals invest in learning while proud people feel they don't need to.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.



"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."




Sunday, February 5, 2017

Five difficult transitions leaders must make as their organization grows


Organizational growth is not without its challenges, particularly for a founding leader whose role needs to change if he/she is going to transition their organization from the entrepreneurial  phase of leadership to a more mature and stable organizational environment. In fact, it is the ability and flexibility of the leader who determines whether this transition is successful or not. Below are five transitions that a leader must make but which are often difficulty for them.

One: Moving from solo leadership to shared leadership.
Founders are in charge! But, as the organization grows there must be a move to a shared leadership platform or a team at the top where the key senior leaders chart a course together. This does not mean that the senior leader does not keep some decision making prerogatives but it does mean that they begin to share key decisions with the key leaders who they need to be on the same page as them. This is highly advantageous to the senior leader as several sharp minds are better than only one.  But it can be difficult for the senior leader who is simply used to getting their own way.

Two: Delegating responsibility and authority.
No one's span of control is indefinite and part of leading a growing organization is the ability to delegate key responsibility and authority to trusted leaders. Delegating responsibility is usually not an issue but being willing to delegate true authority often is. After all the founder is the one who is used to keeping authority close to their vest, overruling others as they see fit and making decisions on the fly when necessary. But you cannot delegate responsibility without authority in a healthy organization and what comes with the territory when one does is that your subordinate may choose to get the job done in a different way than you would. After all they are not you. Being willing to delegate both authority and responsibility can be a scary but necessary step a founder needs to take.

Three: Flying at a higher altitude
Since founders are used to doing many things themselves they are comfortable being in the minutia of details as well as thinking through the larger picture. This works when an organization is small. It does not work as the organization becomes larger. Now there are others who are responsible for many of those details and a leader needs to get out of the way and allow others to do what they were hired to do. They in turn need to fly at a higher altitude and focus on those issues that they are best suited as the senior leader to focus on. Diving from ten thousand feet to intervene at 5,000 feet does not work in the long run as staff start to feel that they are not trusted and that their work is devalued or interfered with. But it can be very hard for founders to stay out of the way of others as they are used to being able to pop into any situation they choose to. As long as they do, however, the organization will not flourish.

Four: Meeting regularly with a senior team to drive the agenda of the organization.
In small, founder led organizations the founder often runs things by the seat of their pants with little organizational rhythm. After all the goal is simply to survive and not become one of the statistics of the many who don't. As the organization grows, however, there needs to be a shift to a more mature leadership environment and as other leaders are added, this includes a senior team that meets regularly and where the direction of the organization is determined. These meetings are not simply forums for the leader to tell others what they need to do (remember there is now shared leadership). Nor is it simply a forum for each member to update the others on what they are doing (remember the words shared leadership). Rather it is a place for the team to grapple together on short and long term issues that will help the organization grow and be successful. Because founders are not used to these kinds of meetings they can view them as an afterthought when in fact meeting regularly and having the right things on the agenda is crucial for success.

Five: Realizing that ego is the enemy
There is a book by that name and it is well worth the read! It is easy for founders to believe that they  have all wisdom - after all, it is they who got the organization to where it is today. If they believe that they are all wise, have the best ideas and wisdom or must have the final word on all matters they lack the personal humility to lead well and it is likely that other good people will not stay with them. Ego is often the nemesis of founders. In fact one of the functions of a senior team is to keep a leader from making foolish decisions! Humility gives a leader the ability to listen, take advice, hear things they don't want to hear, delegate authority, and keep themselves from messing it all up. The active practice of humility and recognizing the dangers of ego is perhaps the most crucial thing a leader must pay attention to - especially founders.

Growing an organization is exciting work if we are able to recognize the transitions that we must make in order for it to be successful.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.


"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dealing with the parts of our lives and jobs that we put off because we hate doing it


For all of us there are pieces of our lives that we don't enjoy doing. It can be in our personal lives or in our jobs. These are the things that we put off, procrastinate on and allow to pile up and the longer we ignore them the more daunting it looks. Often when we do tackle what we don't like to do we are grossly inefficient at it. After all we are not motivated to get it done. For those who are normally disciplined it creates dissonance knowing that the pile of stuff accumulating in a corner of the office is unattended to.

Even when we are in our perfect job there is a percentage of our time (20 to 40%) that requires us to attend to things that drain rather than fill us. For me it is taking care of small details. At periods of my life I have had administrative assistants who loved the details (a great blessing to me). At other times I have had to do them myself. I just don't enjoy doing them so it is easy to put them off. For some it is phone calls, for others meetings where there might be conflict. Whatever it is, it is important to deal with it.

The key to this dilemma is to develop habits (actions done enough times so they become habitual) that help us overcome our aversion and allow us to stay on top of important details. I have several suggestions.

First, schedule regular time weekly, in a block, to deal with those things that you really don't want to do. One can get a lot done in a two to three hour block of time. The key to this is to focus completely during that time so that one gets as much done as possible. When finished you have the satisfaction of knowing that a great deal has been accomplished.

Second, schedule a short period of time each day for the things that need to be done immediately but which you would otherwise be tempted to put off.

Both of these should be in one's calendar and the more often we practice it the stronger the habit will become and the less aversion we will also have. In addition, the dissonance of undone work is no longer an issue and our tendency to procrastinate will be lessoned. It is, after all now a habit in our weekly and daily work.

Of course we can always put this off....


TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com




Monday, January 16, 2017

Three meaningful gifts every leader can give away to their staff


Leaders come bearing gifts to their staff. They set the culture of the organization in positive and sometimes negative ways. The best leaders create a culture of clarity, development and optimism that we can accomplish our mission. All three of these are positive gifts to the staff they lead.


The gift of clarity is helping everyone be crystal clear as to what we are about and what our focus needs to be. The more sharply we can articulate our direction and focus, the more our staff can in turn focus their work! Focused clarity within organizations is not as common as one might think because it requires an enormous effort  by leadership to clarify their mission and an equally enormous effort to keep the organization focused on that mission. However, that clarity is a great gift to staff as they know what the goal is and where their energies need to be focused.



The gift of staff development is an indication of whether leaders are generous in seeking to help staff grow and develop or selfish in simply using staff for their own purposes. Think about the various work roles you have had over the years and ask the question, "did I leave that role with greater skill and success because someone intentionally developed me or was I simply left to my own devices?" Leaders have a stewardship responsibility to help staff grow, flourish and to give them opportunity to use their gifts fully. This is a truly significant gift and staff never forget the gift.



The gift of optimism is an attitude that together we can get our job done and accomplish our mission. A leader's optimism with their staff is critical in today's uncertain and competitive marketplaces. Optimism creates momentum while pessimism creates discouragement. Optimism married to a culture of teamwork and cooperation allows organizations to see results that no one could accomplish on their own. Regardless of whether a leader feels optimistic on any certain day, they give a gift to their staff when they choose to convey a positive attitude.

Every leader can give these three gifts to their staff - if they value their staff enough to do it.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In serving our customers it is often the little things that count the most


Serving our customers is a goal that every organization would say they have. And many organizations do it very well. But we often don't realize how the small things we do or don't do directly impact customer service. In fact, some of those small things don't even seem to relate to customer service - but they do!

Let me give an example. In working with an organization that does excellent work there is a common complaint. Email's between colleagues often do not get returned in a timely manner. Some not ever. But that is an internal matter, right? Not really! What seems to be a strictly internal matter which we often think does not matter has a direct bearing on the customer because how we operate and communicate internally either allows us to serve our customer well or not.

In the case referred to above there is a customer service department that deals directly with those served to solve problems and ensure an outstanding customer experience. This often means communicating with others within the organization. When there is no response or delayed responses they end up operating in the dark as to whether issues have been addressed or not. In addition, in the absence of information it is not possible for those responsible for the customer experience to ensure that breakdowns in that experience get addressed. So what is seen by some as unimportant (answering an email in a timely fashion) is actually very important in fulfilling the mission of the organization.

In most cases, it is the small things rather than the big things that allow us to serve our customers well. What seems insignificant to us may in the end be most significant in delivering on our promises to the customer.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The absurd story of Christmas

No story is better known. No story better captures the heart of a child - small or grown - than the one we celebrate today. No matter how many times we hear the story it never grows old, it never disappoints, never ceases to evoke deep emotions of wonder, awe and comfort. An angel’s proclamation to illiterate shepherds, a teenage unwed mother, a loyal carpenter fiancee, the evil king Herod, a cold, clear, Bethlehem night without a place to stay. A messy birth in an animal’s stall, alongside a dirty alley in the dark of night. Confused cows watching unknowing as the Son of the universe stares back unknowing at the very animals He had created eons before. A mother, a child, a carpenter, a few agitated animals and the pungent smell of manure.

This is a story so absurd that it could only have been scripted by a Divine hand. No other writer would have attempted such a script. If they had they would not have claimed it to be true: fiction maybe, but not reality. This is not how the One whose voice had echoed off of a billion galaxies would make His entrance. Without CNN and Fox News, into a hovel known affectionately today as Bethlehem but then nothing more than a tiny village on the path to Jerusalem. 

His entrance was marked not by a proclamation to kings but to astonished herdsmen sleeping with sheep. The heavens opened with ten thousand voices – not over Jerusalem the ancient capital – but over a tiny grazing field for a handful of insignificant shepherds. They would be the only witnesses of the grand entrance of a King. No other writer would have written such a script. 

No other author would have taken such a chance. For behind this story there are echoes of another story - equally incredulous. Centuries before in the vastness of eternity past – when infinity kissed infinity, The Master of Infinity spoke into being the universe in which we live - 3,000 of whose stars are visible to the careful eye, 30 billion visible from a large telescope, - the other 90% of the universe still hidden from our eyes. Its splendor an eternal testimony to the Author of the story.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render: O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.
(Walter Chalmers Smith)

The Author’s heart had love that could not be contained. A heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longed to give away infinite love. Again the Author spoke: A planet was expertly crafted. One among billions. A people wonderfully created – in the image of the Author. Free to love, free to experience the infinite goodness of the Author. Free to revel in His infinite Love. But above all free. Love cannot be forced and remain love.

We are not the sole owners of broken hearts. No heart suffered such sorrow as Infinite Love rejected. Image bearers rejected the Image Maker. The story’s characters fired the Author to write their own script. Unmatched, searing pain pierced the Author’s heart as the loved jilted the Lover. 

Chaos infiltrated beauty. A planet was hijacked and spun out of control. Poverty of spirit supplanted endless joy. Unfulfilled hearts realized the pain of lost love. Without the Author, individual story lines faltered – and failed. Sadness reigned. Darkness descended in seeming endless gloom.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. For in the pained heavens the grieving Author plotted love’s revenge. An awesome revenge that only Divinity could contrive – that only Divinity would contrive. Having lost His loved, the Lover would send His most loved to reclaim His heart’s desire. The rejected Creator would kiss the unfaithful created. Tender mercy in place of deserved destruction. An astonished heaven broke into unbelieving applause. Image bearers would be reclaimed by the Image Maker. Light would once again prevail over darkness. Brokenness would be made whole. Peace would triumph over chaos.

All was silent in the heavens on the chosen night. Angels held their corporate breath. For nine months the Son had been absent, resident in a young girls womb, coming to us not as a king but incognito, just one of thousands of children that would be born on a lonely planet that night – into the darkness that our word had become. Placenta covered the Son of the universe arriving to claim back His beloved: this time, one by one, heart by heart. Tender mercy arriving in disguise: one of us, one like us. On that night, the Author personally entered our story. 

Such humility our world has never known. A stunning reversal for a world gone astray. A Heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longing to give away infinite love, arriving under cover of night in order to “shine on those living in darkness…to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:27).

When an author writes, each character is unique; each has his or her own story-line. We, each have a story – unique, unrepeated, singular. Each story has its own joy, its own pain, its own pathos and unmatched quality. But each shares one singular, astonishing feature. We are made in the Author’s image, and He will not rest until we have invited Him to join in our story. 

More astonishing than the script He has authored, the story we celebrate today is that He also wants to enter into your story. This is the most ancient of stories but it is also the most contemporary of stories. The Christmas story is but one chapter in the Author’s divine script. The Author is still writing. And every person who invites Him into their story becomes a separate and unique chapter in His unfinished book. And into each story He brings His light and peace. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17.)

Have you invited Him into your story?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Silence, Chaos, Rejoicing, Holy Awe


Silence
The heavens held their collective breath for the Son was gone. The unimaginable was unfolding. The One who had superintended creation was now ready to be born a creature. What could this mean? Majesty of heaven rejected for the poverty of a squalid earth and a people who had rejected truth too many times to count. They had traded the garden for a lie and now the creator traded majesty for obscurity. It was a silence of unbelief, awe, apprehension and wonder!


Chaos
Nativity scenes are peaceful and neat but this night in Bethlehem was anything but. The tiny town was full of travelers, the inns and taverns were full and noisy and crowed and smelly. Desperately, a man tried to find a place for his wife, swollen with child, water about to break, a place where a child could be born in dignity but it was not to be. Instead, it was the to be with the animals, hay and manure, the sounds and smells of the adjacent Inn intruding on this holy moment.

Rejoicing
The silence of heaven gave way to song and praise and rejoicing penetrating the chasm between heaven and earth so that even poor shepherds heard the choir and angelic announcement. This first musical Christmas card came not to the mighty and powerful but to the poor and powerless: A symbol of the Kingdom that was coming - good news for those who needed the same. Good news of a great joy which shall be for all people. Even us, even today! A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Now there was silence on earth as the shepherds tried to understand the import of the news. 

Holy Awe
There was one who knew that the universe had changed and that what was was not what would be: Mary. Too young to be jaded, faith filled and and in awe of the child that lay at her breast. For she knew that He was not of this earth though she did not know the price He would pay. She remembered the angel who had visited her upon her pregnancy. Now she heard the report of the shepherds who came to visit. All the people wondered at their report but Mary, treasured up these things pondering them in her heart. She knew, not fully, but she knew! 

We know fully for we know the rest of the story. Does it move us as it moved the heavens, the angels, the shepherds, the people of Bethlehem and Mary? This is a day to consider, to rejoice and to be awed at the love that drove a rejected Savior to save the broken, the needy, each of us who have received Him in faith.