Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Five powerful accelerators of organizational growth and effectiveness

Organizational leaders work extraordinarily hard in most cases to see the mission of their organization flourish: long hours; endless meetings; strategic initiatives and all those things we have been taught to do.

But. In all of our activity we often forget those basic building blocks of organizational growth and effectiveness that are the most powerful accelerators! In fact, no amount of energy and activity can make up for these keys to organizational growth.

One: Know what your priorities are. Clarity is the number one accelerator of organizational effectiveness because a diffusion of energy also diffuses results while focused energy brings focused results. Clarity in a general sense is not enough. The more clear you are on what you are about the more results you are likely to see.

Two: Insist that your staff, leaders and departments are in alignment with, supportive of and focused on the clarity of the organization. How does their work contribute in a specific way to the missional agenda of the organization? Not in a general sense but in a very specific sense. 

Clarity without alignment means nothing yet many leaders do not insist that the parts of the organization are contributing in a real way to the missional direction as defined by its clarity. Acceleration happens when all the arrows of the organization are pointed in the same direction.

Three: Innovate regularly. Innovation - finding new and better or more relevant ways of doing what we do is a key accelerator. One can judge the health of most organizations by the amount of innovation that it sees. 

Innovation is an indication of the level of creative thinking that is going on as well as the level of empowerment that leaders give their staff. High control organizations tend to see far less innovation than those who empower staff. A culture of innovation will lead you to finding the game changers that change everything. Lack of innovation will do the opposite. 

Four: Build a healthy culture. People in healthy cultures flourish while those in sub standard cultures languish. Aggressive leaders who push their staff for results miss the point. If the culture is healthy, there is clarity, alignment and empowerment you don't need to push staff - which is usually counterproductive. Healthy workplaces are in themselves powerful accelerators because they create the environment out of which innovation occurs. 

Five: Get the right people into the right seats. Having the wrong people or people in the wrong jobs is an anchor to any organization. The end result is like an anchor dragging on the sea bed while you are trying to get wind in your sails. The wrong people in the wrong seats are a barrier to acceleration so solving this issue is imperative if you want to move forward. The higher the level of responsibility the more important this is.

It is the neglect of these five disciplines that keeps many organizations from accelerating their growth and effectiveness. These are the basics of acceleration. Starting with the basics will get you to where you want to go far faster. 

Helping organizations and individuals go to the next level.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Self awareness in life and leadership

Self awareness is the ability to understand how our actions, words, and attitudes impact those around us. This is true in our marriage, relationships, leadership roles and with the colleagues we work with. This is one of the most important elements of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) because where there is low self awareness, relational issues usually ensue while a high level of self awareness usually leads to a higher level of relational health.

How often in a marriage relationship one of the parties says or does something that causes irritation to the other without them being aware of how their behaviors impacted the other. A marriage relationship is a journey toward greater self awareness so that they minimize relational issues between spouses. 

For leaders, self awareness is a significant factor in their leadership success. I have on occasion worked with leaders who have a very low level of self-awareness. The result is high turnover of staff, a high level of frustration over the unpredictable actions of the senior leader and the loss of the best staff. Why? Because a lack of self awareness prevented the leader from understanding how their actions or words impact those around them. Don't be one of these leaders!

One of the marks of leaders with low self awareness is that they move through life at a fast pace, making decisions on the fly, changing their mind quickly and all the while thinking they are pretty good leaders. After all they do stuff - a lot of stuff. The problem is that because they don't pay attention to how their action impacts others it creates chaos around them.  

Here are some suggestions for raising you level of self awareness.

First, slow down and think carefully about the unintended consequences of your decisions, who they impact and who needs to be consulted. Talking with those affected by your decisions will raise you level of self awareness because you will hear from your relevant staff. 

Second, listen more than your talk. Those with low self awareness at less likely to be listeners and more likely to be talkers. The only route to understanding and avoiding unnecessary issues is to learn to listen carefully to those around you. The less we listen the more likely it is that we will create issues.

Third, ask a lot of questions. Want to know what the unintended consequences are or what people are actually thinking? You need to ask questions - lots of them and then listen and dialogue. My observation is that those with low levels of self-awareness don't ask many questions. They just act - to their own detriment.

Four, invite those around you whom you trust to give you feedback on your words, attitudes and actions. This will not happen without an invitation and an openness to hearing what they have to say without defensiveness. 

Five, create an open atmosphere on your team where all can speak their minds honestly. I call this robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack. Anything else is fair game.

The question is often asked as to whether an individual with low self awareness can grow in this area of their EQ. I believe they can, to a certain degree. But I also believe that whether or not they grow in this area, they can manage their issue by practicing the above actions. These practices will help mitigate against creating issues for people around you.

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The art of negotiation and how to ensure that you get what you really need as a leader

Good leaders are highly flexible on most things but very inflexible on a few things.

In fact, it is their flexibility on the majority of issues that makes it possible for them to be inflexible on a few truly important issues. 

Where should we be flexible as leaders? On those issues that are a matter of personal preference! Many decisions are not critical to the success of an organization. They could be decided in a variety of ways and still accomplish what needs to be accomplished. The best leaders don't insist on their way or their preferences in these areas. They save their powder for those few areas where they need to be inflexible. Their flexibility on most things gives them the coinage to be inflexible on a few things.

Where should we be inflexible as leaders? On issues that go to the heart of our mission, our culture, our non-negotiables and our central work. These are not areas of preference but of driving the mission of the organization. If you compromise here you lose effectiveness and momentum. Your organization may even go into free fall. On these things a leader must stand firm. Staff will usually give leaders that privilege when they know that on most things their leader is flexible. The fact that they are inflexible on these few issues tells staff it must be important.

Flexibility on most issues allows leaders to be inflexible on the truly important issues. 

This is part of the art of negotiation over the long haul of leadership. You give up your preferences on the less important things so that you can realize your preferences on the most important things.

Don't confuse the two!

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mentoring: A gift that lasts a life time

One of the most unselfish things we can do is to mentor the next generation of leaders. Our knowledge, wisdom and lessons learned over the years can cut the learning curve significantly for younger emerging leaders. Mentoring is a gift that will resonate through the next generation of leadership. For those who intentionally practice it, mentoring is a major part of our legacy.

Think for a moment of what you wish you had done differently as a young leader. Think of the dumb tax you paid for mistakes and inexperience. Consider the things you wish you had known back then. Now take all of that and help the next generation avoid some of the pitfalls you encountered and shorten their learning curve as a young leader. That is a gift!

Mentors can literally shave years off of the growth curve of younger leaders through their encouragement, coaching, counsel, training and developing. 

It is not only the beneficiary who benefits from this relationship. For the mentor there is a deep sense of satisfaction that you are able to make a significant difference in the life and work of another. It also reminds the mentor of things that are important to them and causes them to think more deeply about the issues they are giving advice on. It keeps the mentor sharp as they think about the issues they are advising on. It also bridges the divide between generations and gives the mentor insight on the generation they are influencing. There is learning on both sides.

Those who choose to mentor are living unselfish lives. After all, life is not all about us. The unselfish individual realizes that helping others is good and right and contributes to a better workplace and a better society. At some point in our lives, our greatest influence is in passing on the wisdom, knowledge, experience and dumb tax that we have accumulated. 

Who are you mentoring?

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Overcoming the sin of boring meetings in ten steps

Meetings are a core part of what many of us do. The problem is that it is estimated that half of the meeting time in the United States is wasted time. Thus the love hate relationship with meetings. If they go well they can be the breeding ground of new and innovative ideas and strategies. If they go badly...well, you know the drill.

If you are not willing to engage people in a meaningful meeting you should not call one. But what constitutes a meaningful meeting?

One: You know when you go into the meeting what the outcomes need to be and you can articulate those outcomes at the beginning of the meeting - or better yet before the meeting. For each agenda item there is an articulated outcome. Are you desirous of a decision, are you simply sharing information, are you looking for robust dialogue around a strategy? Whatever it is, everyone ought to know what you are looking for.

Two: You have an agenda with time parameters. That goes without saying except all to often it does not happen. The agenda is your road-map that keeps you from interminable meetings that go nowhere. It also keeps you on tract with the time parameters. Good meeting facilitators don't allow the meeting to stray far from the agenda. That is what a parking lot is for: listing issues that arise but that need to be addressed another day.

Three: Everyone is present! I am not talking physically but mentally. Cell phones are put away, computers are not for reading email but for meeting purposes only. Way too much time is wasted by participants who are not truly present or participating. 

Four: Robust dialogue is encouraged: Any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack. If you call a meeting you must be willing to hear what people actually think rather than what you want them to think. There is nothing more disheartening than a meeting where there is not true freedom to speak one's mind. If there are elephants in the room - issues that cannot be discussed it is not a true meeting. So, no elephants!

Five: Never substitute dialogue and discussion for a decision that needs to be made. Make the decision or accomplish the outcome you have identified and move on. Meetings are designed to drive your missional agenda, not simply be a place to air your opinions.

Six: Record all decisions made or action items discussed and at the beginning of your next meeting review those decisions and action items. Build a culture where participants are responsible for doing what they promised to do. 

Seven: Send out prior to the meeting any context, reading or assignments so they don't have to be covered in the meeting itself. Don't do in the meeting what can be done prior to the meeting. 

Eight: Start on time and end on time. Coming on time is a courtesy for everyone. Ending on time says that you value the time of the participants. 

Nine: If you are the leader of the meeting you are responsible for crafting the meeting so that the time is well spent. If you have ten participants in a two hour meeting you are spending 20 hours of time and it needs to be well spent. Your preparation for the meeting will make the difference as to the quality of the meeting. Preparing on the fly is not going to yield a good meeting. It should be anathema to bore those in the meeting or to wasting their time.

Ten: Evaluate the meeting when it is over. Take five minutes to give a red, green or yellow to the following:

  • We achieved our outcomes
  • We had creative conflict
  • We listened well
  • The facilitator keep the meeting on track
  • Everyone came prepared
  • Assignments from the last meeting were finished
  • We made decisions
  • We had action items
  • The meeting leader was prepared and facilitated well
Don't settle for boring and ineffective meetings.

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level.
TJ Addington can be reached at

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Everyone has a story and to understand another individual you need to know their story

I am a great believer in ways that we can understand ourselves and others. Our wiring is unique and tests such as Strength Finders, Disc and other means of evaluating ourselves and others help us understand who we are and why we react and respond the way we do. 

One of the most powerful ways to understand others, however, is not found in a test but in taking the time to listen to and understand their personal story. Our story defines much of who we have become and a great deal regarding our world view. 

Let me illustrate with a synopsis of my own story. I am the second of ten children, raised in Hong Kong as my parents were missionaries (my father a medical missionary), went to an international school with kids of 22 different nationalities and my first 15 years were defined by an international world view. My parents were strict and fairly legalistic in their faith - and expectations of me. As a child I had the run of Hong Kong, a port city and we regularly had people from all over the world at our dinner table. For several years I assisted my father in surgery as they did not have enough trained assistants. 

There have been many more years of story since them but you can imagine how much of who I am today was formed in the years I lived in Hong Kong. It explains my love of foreigners, my love of the world, a global world view and an innate need to travel. I am one of those folks called a "third culture kid." Our family of origin stories leave a stamp on our lives that is long lasting.

Beyond our childhoods which leave an indelible imprint on our lives for good or ill there are the seminal moments of life that change us and mold us. Deaths of those we love, marriage or divorce, children, jobs and job losses, personal illness. No serious event in our lives leaves us untouched in some way or our life perspectives the same.

Furthermore, the events that have molded me give me the ability to empathize with others, even though their particular story lines are not mine. That common bond of empathy and understanding shapes a deeper relationship between two individuals. And, if you think deeply about their story lines you gain valuable insight into those things that have molded them, their attitudes and reactions to situations they face. 

Because people usually love to tell their story, questions about their lives, sensitively asked in an informal setting is rarely a problem. People like to be understood and hearing their story gives them value and mutual insight. Perhaps the greatest impediment is our own busyness which keeps us from interacting over deep things. 

Take the time to share stories and listen deeply. It will help you to understand and appreciate those around you.

Helping individuals and organizations go the the next level.
TJ Addington can be reached at

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The one practice that will set you apart from other leaders

Most leaders are over-committed and run with very little margin. We say yes too often, no too seldom and don't evaluate our commitments against our true calling and purpose. 

The net effect is that many of the most important things don't get done on time or well. We are too busy working in our business (and pleasing others) and don't have time to work on our business. There is not time to reflect, think clearly and allow our minds to roam freely where creativity flourishes. 

Ironically, we are so busy leading that we often don't lead nearly as well as we should. The key term here is busy. That busyness depletes our minds, energy and spirits. And, it keeps us from leading well. Many leaders don't even have time to go on vacation!

It need not be this way. There is a practice that can bring life to your spirit, renewed energy to your calling and set you apart from other leaders who are caught in the leadership treadmill. 

Most leaders will say they cannot afford the time to commit to this practice. However, if we cleared our calendars of all the things that were not truly mission critical or focused on what we need to do as leaders, we would have time for this practice. And that is simply a matter of discipline!

What is the practice I am referring to? It is to take one hour a day focused solely on your own development, thinking time, blue sky time and personal development. That is about one tenth of the hours most leaders work each day. Think of it as a tithe on your time.

Use this time to:

  • Evaluate all your commitments (before you agree to them) and ruthlessly eliminate any that don't fit directly in your leadership purpose (that one discipline will save you many hours a month)
  • Think strategically about your leadership, looking for how you can focus your efforts in the most important areas and how your team can develop a lazer like focus around their purpose and work.
  • Study the changing marketplace or ministry space you are in to understanding changing dynamics and trends. Better to be on the front of the wave than on the backside.
  • Think deeply about what could give your organization or team greater momentum toward its mission. Not all strategies are equal but only those who think deeply will figure that out.
  • Read widely. Often our greatest insights come from those who are not in our work space but one crucial insight can change everything for you.
  • Evaluate your staff and how they are doing. What do they need from you and how can you increase their effectiveness.
All of these items and there are many more that could be added are about working on the business and on yourself so that the business or ministry you lead can go to the next level. Ironically, you will find margin for yourself as you evaluate your own commitments, will lead better and more wisely and ensure that the investment you are making in your leadership role is the very best it can be. 

It is a matter of continual focus!

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level