Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trump, Clinton, truth, Jesus and grace

One cannot read any social media these days without being inundated by information on the upcoming election, the demonization of one candidate or the other, charges, counter charges and some pretty hot feelings about what a Christian should do in the upcoming election.

There are Christ followers who believe they cannot vote for either candidate. There are others who insist that you cannot be an evangelical and vote for Trump. And there are those who say you cannot be a true evangelical and vote for Clinton. Enter theologians with PhD's who have proven to us their case (on both sides). They in turn have been vilified for taking the wrong side in this interesting election, which ever side they have taken.

A few observations.
Neither side respects women. Trump may lack tact and may well be guilty of what he has been painted as (per his own words). On the other hand if the unborn are truly human (and I believe they are) Clinton is certainly not respecting the right of those "girls" or "boys" to live. Both sides have lied significantly and both deny the obvious. Politics today is dirty - and any reading of American history even back to our founding father's shows that this is nothing new. Further, much of our politics is driven by our own fears - whatever they are: immigration; supreme court choices; character of our elected leaders (they have rarely if ever been saints); the economy; and whatever else our fears are. All of this has polarized the nation and Christ followers as well - sadly. My final observation is that Jesus does not carry a card of the independent party, the Republicans or the Democrats. He is above our party squabbles and He has His own concerns that are not directly mirrored by any political party.

Paul made a significant statement when he wrote that we see through a glass darkly. I certainly do on many issues. I think each of you do as well. Our truth on issues not clearly delineated in Scriptures is always partial truth. It is why on even theology, God fearing individuals can have differing interpretations. Convictions are great and I respect them. But in the political arena there is a lot of grey given the observations above. I can share my convictions and the reasons for them with others but I cannot expect all to agree with me if we see through a glass darkly.

Members of my own extended family most of whom love and follow Jesus will vote on different sides of this election for valid reasons. It would be wrong for me to judge their choice if they are doing so out of their own conscience. It is equally wrong for us to allow politics to divide us in the church. There are valid reasons to vote for both candidates even from the perspective of a Christ follower. And there are reasons for those who choose not to vote for any candidate in this election. Civic duty notwithstanding.

This is not the first election - and will not be the last where people believe that the fate of the nation is at stake. We hear that every four years. And the gospel is not dependent on who gets in the supreme court. Besides, if you notice, those who do get in often don't vote the way the president who chose them thought they would. And last I heard, Jesus stands above nations and rulers and accomplishes His will since He is sovereign and is bringing history to His intended conclusion. Daniel in the Old Testament fully understood that as he represented one of the most pagan kings of the ancient world.

So my commitment is to pray for the nation, for the candidates (and God is quite capable of using either one for his purposes) and to give others grace in their convictions knowing that I see things through a glass darkly and will until the vision is fully cleared in the presence of the God of complete truth and righteousness. Jesus expects grace from His people toward one another and toward those who don't follow Him. When we lack grace we are not representing Him no matter which candidate we intend to vote for (or none at all). Grace matters!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five ways for leaders to overcome their fear of organizational change

Let's face it: organizational change is uncomfortable and it is one of the reasons that it does not happen often enough even when there is clear evidence that without it our organization will not go to the next level of effectiveness. In the many years that I served as an organizational leader I had to personally deal with this uncomfortableness. In my years of consulting I have watched leaders struggle with the implications of necessary change because of its impact on them and the comfort of the status quo.

Organizations that remain static today quickly find their effectiveness erode. Changes in the marketplace, the size of the organization, the need to break through growth barriers or the necessity of trying new strategies all require change and the first barrier that must be overcome is the reluctance of leaders to embrace it.

Why would organizational leaders not embrace change that can help their organization become better and more effective? Change is uncomfortable! It means that we must move from comfort to discomfort. It means potential changes to our "turf" and how we are used to doing things. It can impact reporting relationships and therefor the "politics" of the organization (and all organizations have politics). It requires us to think about our work differently and often more strategically. All of these factors make change uncomfortable and unless leaders are able to overcome their discomfort they can be the barrier to organizational growth and effectiveness.

How then do we overcome our discomfort to change? It really goes to how we think about our work and about change. 

First, it is OK to admit that change is simply hard. Often we resist change as leaders by arguing that it is not needed rather than just admitting that it makes us uncomfortable. Any major change needs to be prefaced by the fact that it will make us uncomfortable.

Second, we need to remember that our work is not about us but about the mission of the organization. If change is required to better fulfill our mission (and it will be) we embrace it because our commitment is not to our personal comfort but to the fulfilling of the mission of the organization. To resist change because of our own discomfort is to see our work as about us rather than about the mission we are committed to.

Third, we need to be willing to embrace uncertainty as to how the change will impact us. Here is another fact: There is uncertainty in change and until we get through the whitewater to the calm water on the other side we will need to live with uncertainty. But also recognize that our fears are rarely founded in reality: they are simply fears of the unknown that change brings. True leadership is about the ability to negotiate needed change for the good of the organization, not to guard our own comfort. Even when we try to understand the consequences of necessary change (which we should do) there will be implications that we do not foresee.

Fourth, as leaders we need to understand that change is good for us. It requires us to sharpen our thinking, our strategies, our assumptions and our ability to adapt to a changing world. Usually our resistance to change is about us while our willingness to embrace it is about the effectiveness of our work and the mission of the organization. Dealing with organizational change makes us better and sharper leaders.

Fifth, we need to think of change as innovation. That is what it is: innovation to increase our effectiveness. No company survives for long without innovation. If I view organizational change as a nuisance I will resist it. If I see it as innovation that will help the organization do what it does better I will more willingly embrace it. Innovation is always an ongoing process in any organization.

Notice that all of these five principles are about how we think about our work and our role as leaders. If we can change the way we think about change, that change will become easier.

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, September 5, 2016

How the internal quality of our organization impacts it bottom line results

I have had the opportunity on two occasions recently to interview the senior staff of business organizations. They were unusual in that they both had amazingly healthy cultures. Staff had collegial and cooperative relationships, they were focused on their mission, were innovative and were delivering results and serving customers in competitive markets. I gave them high marks for the engagement of their staff, their culture of results and the quality of their strategies. In both cases, the businesses were growing and their potential for the future was bright.

So why was I there? Because in both organizations there was a recognition that as well as they were doing, there were internal issues that if resolved could allow them to go to the next level of growth. These leaders recognized that the internal quality of their organizations had a direct impact on their bottom line results.

Think about this. In a flat world, everyone has essentially the same access to information. But that does not mean that all can deliver the same results. To the extent that we allow internal processes or culture to get in the way of what we do we compromise our effectiveness. So paying attention to the internal culture, relationships, processes and the inherent disconnects within the organization becomes a key component of ongoing success.

In my experience, there are three key factors that ought to be paid close attention to.

One: Relationships that are askew. When relationships between staff are strained cooperation, communication and innovation suffers. Solving relational disconnects impacts the whole organization as well as the ability to be all that the organization can be.

Two: Processes that could be more efficient. In the competitive environments we all work in this is a huge factor. Ironically, it is often in our times of success and growth that we ignore this factor because we don't have the time to focus internally with the work we are doing externally. Yet, focusing on our internal processes is the key to future growth and effectiveness. The goal of efficient processes is to drive wasted time, energy and money from the system and foster cooperation and efficiencies that will give us a competitive edge.

Three: The quality of our services or products. In a recent conversation, I discovered that service calls needed to be done on about one third of installations from a well known and successful home product supplier. Driving down such time consuming service calls would obviously make a difference to the bottom line as well as to customer satisfaction.

The key to all of this is developing a system for ongoing analysis of the internal culture, relationships and processes of an organization whether they be in the for profit or non-profit sectors. This presupposes that there is as much attention paid to the internal quality of our organizations as there is to the services we provide to external customers. The first directly impacts the second.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

The consequences of leaving poor leaders in place

I have been following the saga of a friend who works for a global company. She is very good at what she does, outperforms her peers and produces results that have cause more senior managers in the organization to take notice and cheer her on. There is one manager, however, who does not and it is her supervisor.

The MO of the supervisor is one we have all probably seen at one time or another. He loves to blame when things don't go well. He has been known to be less than honest. He has a history of berating his staff. When staff need help he often does not come through and rarely on time when he does. One can leave conversations with him feeling belittled and denigrated. My friend has experienced all of these behaviors.

Here is the interesting thing. Everyone seems to know of this individual's behaviors. Fellow staff do and warn one another. More senior staff members have indicated to my friend that they know her manager can be difficult and tell her to let them know if she needs anything, effectively telling her to work around the system when the manager misbehaves. It seems to be common knowledge that this manager does not produce, does not build team, divides rather than unifies teams, is consistently defensive and difficult to work for. Yet, no one seems to be willing to do anything about it except to acknowledge it quietly behind the scenes.

I have seen this scenario played out too often in both for profit and non-profit organizations. Even in places where the vast majority of leadership is healthy and caring. What puzzles me is that there are consequences to allowing poor managers/leaders to stay in place. Those consequences include:
  • Poor morale
  • People who decide to leave and work elsewhere
  • Cynicism among staff
  • Loss of respect for other more senior staff who know and do nothing
  • The need to negotiate around the very person who is charged with serving their staff
  • Division among staff who are played against one another in an atmosphere of mistrust
  • Significant loss of teamwork, common mission and morale
  • Loss of missionality where staff start to look out for their own interests rather than the mission of the team
The bottom line is that scenarios like this hurt everyone - the entire organization. It is a violation of the pact that organizations make with their staff and eventually it causes loss of good people and effectiveness. If your organization has examples like this, deal with it for the sake of everyone involved.

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, August 23, 2016

The magic, pain and wisdom of reflection

There is no wisdom without reflection. Deep thinking brings understanding and truth and yet we do it too seldom because it requires two commodities rare in our lives: silence and time alone. Precious space for our minds to be cleared of distractions. Without reflection we will not learn the lessons of our past, have wisdom for the present or chart a wise course for the future.

There is magic in reflection when we are able to connect the dots of our lives with insights into ourselves or God or the journey we are on. It is why I journal and walk and reflect. It is why David of the Old Testament meditated and reflected on the truths of God and one can discern his own connecting of the dots in the Psalms that he wrote. Those who write know the magic of insights that come in the reflective solitude of words meeting paper.

If there is a reason we don't reflect more, perhaps it is because along with magic, reflection can bring pain. Things we have done that hurt us or others, things others have done that hurt us, the regrets of life that can accumulate over time. Scriptures speak of Godly sorrow, sadness over actions or words that none of us escape this side of heaven. Yet even this is a blessing as we contemplate how we will live in the future, experience once again the grace of God that always encompasses our brokenness and overwhelms us with His limitless love. Without reflection on our brokenness we cannot experience Gods grace or live in  true humility.

There is a direct correlation between the quality of our reflection and the wisdom with which we live our lives. Wisdom requires reflection: time to consider our motivations, the paths we walk, priorities we establish and the plans we are making. Insight into any of these requires deep reflection.

Why do we read C.S. Lewis, the Psalms, or devotional books? Because the writers were people of deep reflection and we are blessed by their insights. Each of us can do the same.

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, August 22, 2016

Five suggestions for dealing with prickly people

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Five EQ skills that can transform a team or organization

The average level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) within an organization or team has a direct impact on the success of that group. The higher the EQ skills of a team the better they relate, the more candid they are, the less conflict they have and the health of relationships is stronger. All of these contribute to greater cooperation, more innovative thinking, cooperation and lack of infighting and politics. This also applies to boards and in the church world to congregations.

There are five EQ skills that can literally transform a team or organization if leadership will focus on them, train their staff and communicate these skills regularly. These five skills can be learned but we must also unlearn some unhelpful habits to get to a place of health.

The first skill is that of self definition. Self defined individuals think for themselves rather than simply taking the party line, verbalize their views even when it may be lonely and do not worry what others might think of them. They are secure in who they are and what they believe. Innovation experts say that this skill along with a culture that invites it is one of the most significant keys to innovation.

The second skill follows from the first. It is the ability of a team to engage in robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas. Where this does not happen it is almost exclusively the fault of leaders who are threatened by direct dialogue that might rock the boat. The ability to engage in robust dialogue invites ideas, observations, and innovation while the inability kills both ideas and innovation.

A third skill is essential to the first two and that is a non defensive attitude on the part of all team members. It is an attitude of "nothing to prove and nothing to lose" where we do not have to be right and where we approach our work with open rather than closed minds. Defensiveness shuts down conversation whereas non-defensiveness invites conversation, ideas, dreams, innovation and the ability to look at situations with new eyes.

The fourth skill comes into play when we don't do the first three as well as we could: conflict resolution: the ability to quickly address conflict, de-escalate the issue, look for a win-win solution and normalize the relationship. Conflict is not bad. Unaddressed conflict, however, is toxic. Think of the mental and emotional energy that is spent in unresolved conflict. People can be taught how to resolve conflict and to think of it in three steps: address it, look for a win/win solution and normalize the relationship.

The fifth EQ skill that can transform a team or organization is the simple agreement to ban gossip. Gossip is the transmission of second or third hand information to others that is prejudicial or first hand information that is harmful and which need not be shared. All gossip is toxic to relationships, teams and organizations so a concerted effort should be made to eradicate it.

Take a moment and think about what your team or organization would look like with these five skills being lived out by all members. They can be taught and practiced and over time they will transform your team or organization.

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