Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Showing grace to ourselves

There are many of us, me included, who need to learn how to be more gentle on ourselves where we don't meet our own standards. Obsessing about a meeting or presentation that could have gone better, beating ourselves up for an idea that failed. Or for believers, being willing to forgive ourselves and let it be when God has forgiven us instead of continuing to resaw the sawdust in our own minds leaving us living in guilt instead of the freedom we have through forgiveness. Satan loves to keep us from experiencing the freedom we have in Christ. He came to redeem and forgive and give us freedom.

Reflect on how Jesus treats us. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)."

If Jesus is gentle with us why are we not gentle with ourselves? If he wants to give us rest for our weary and sinful souls why do we not live in that rest? If he wants to grant us freedom, why would we not live in that freedom? In essence when we do not forgive ourselves when He has we are not fully accepting his gift of forgiveness. And, living in guilt and shame leaves us open to the attack of the evil one in a special way.

All of us live with regrets and past failures. Jesus came to free us from that through His redemption and forgiveness. We are not perfect and will not be till we see Him. Part of followership of Jesus is accepting His grace in our lives and living in grace rather than in guilt and shame. Which are you living in today?

Monday, June 27, 2016

5 marks of humility among leaders

Leadership humility is easily lost as leaders see success and begin to believe that they have all the answers. That is not lost on those they lead. However there are five practices that can help leaders stay humble and lead with humility. They will also help her/him lead better.

First: I don't have all the answers. We all know that people who think they have all the answers are self deluded. One of the most humble attitudes leaders can model is that of communicating to their staff that "we have challenges we need to solve, and we need to figure out solutions together because I don't know the best way forward. I may have ideas but I am open to dialogue, discussion and other ideas."

This paves the way for the second practice: I want your input and I will listen to what you have to say. It is amazing what solutions emerge when we are willing to actively solicit opinions and ideas from those around us. And then actively listen to others, no matter where they are in the organization or team. Leaders who actively ask questions, listen well and show respect for the ideas of others lead better and have better information. They also know what their staff are thinking.

Third, if something goes wrong I will take the hit and protect my staff. This is a real test of humility. All of us want to blame others when things go wrong but the best leaders take the blame when there is a problem. Behind the scenes they may need to have hard conversations but in public they are willing to take the blame for the team.

Fourth, when things go right they give the credit to the team. No leader sees success without the hard work of a team and the best leaders give that team the credit for success. Humble leaders do not call attention to themselves but to the team that did the work together. One of the quickest ways to lose the respect of others is to take credit for what the team did.

Which leads to the fifth practice. A culture where we "do things together."  Staff are not servants to a leader. A leader is an active member of the staff as together they tackle the problems and opportunities they face. "We are in this together" is a powerful ethos for leaders to cultivate with their staff.

Humility is not simply a matter of our heart but it is a matter of our practices in leadership.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Simplicity and clarity are a leader's best friend

Leaders who communicate with simplicity and clarity achieve more because their staff don't need to guess at the direction. Simplicity and clarity win over complicated and convoluted every day. If you cannot tweet your truth it is too complicated.

There are many smart people but fewer who can communicate with such clarity that they can mobilize others. Good leaders have the gift of taking complexity and communicating it with simplicity. This was one of the great gifts of Winston Churchill who could galvanize Briton around simple messages that resonated with those he led.  FDR had the same ability.

Gifted leaders have great knowledge that can be their undoing if they don't take the time to simplify their message until it is short and memorable. Staff and others don't need to know the intricacies of a concept or situation. They need to know the bottom line and direction. This often means that leaders must take the time to reflect on what they are communicating, simplifying and clarifying until they are at the essence of what needs to be communicated. It is not necessarily an easy process but the alternative of complexity  confuses rather than clarifies.

For instance, in the organization I formerly led we were committed to open dialogue on any subject. There are many facets to that but we settled on this way to communicate our commitment: We practice robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas. There is a great deal in that one sentence and it communicates a commitment in a simple and concise way.

Even values and guiding principles that form the culture of an organization must be communicated in a clear and simple way. Not just a word, but with a memorable phrase that captures the essence of what you mean by the value.

It is the job of a leader to understand what needs to be communicated and to take the time to refine that communication for the clearest and simplest way to communicate it. Many leaders do well on the former but default on the latter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Reinvigorating and reimagining your organization

All organizations whether for profit or non profit go through predictable stages of growth. Someone had a vision in the beginning but at some point that vision is reached and unless care is taken the organization starts to stagnate in the status quo and the impetus for forward movement starts to stall out.

But this need not be the case if senior leaders are constantly thinking about the way forward. In fact it is the job of leaders to constantly ruffle the waters of comfortability without sinking the ship. Without this commitment to keep searching the horizons leaders themselves can become the barrier to forward movement in their organization. And this applies to leaders at all levels of an organization.

The way to counter stagnation is for leaders to reinvision every five years or so. In our fast moving world opportunities change and thus organizations need to learn to be nimble to meet those opportunities without compromising the values and mission of the organization.

The central questions are these:
  • What do we want our organization to look like five years from now?
  • What new opportunities do we have to fulfill our mission as we look at the changed environment around us?
  • What changes do we need to make if we are going to meet those opportunities?
  • Is there anything we are doing that is no longer mission critical and should be dropped so that we can focus on issues that have raised to greater importance?
  • If we were starting the organization today what would we do differently? And then align to the answer to that question.
  • Do we have the right people in the right seats to meet the opportunities of today? If not, how do you use your talent to maximize your impact?
Thinking through these issues is hard work but it is the work that the most innovative organizations do on a regular basis. It is worth the work because the return on mission increases significantly.

TJ Addington of 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.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Living with courage rather than with fear

It is interesting that in Scripture the most often repeated command is that we should not be afraid. In fact fear is the antithesis of a life of faith which regularly requires us to move from our place of comfort and take risks in our followership of Christ. The courage to step out in faith comes from our confidence that God will not lead us to places where he will not provide.

Think of the powerful role that fear can play in our lives. Fear keeps us from leaving a job even when we know it is time for a new challenge. Fear keeps church boards from dealing with issues in the church. Fear keeps most believers from being generous financially with God. Fear often causes us to live cautiously rather than with courage. Faith is about confidence in God and courage to follow Him. Fear is about doubt in the ability of God to meet our needs.

We like to have all the pieces nailed down before we step out of our comfort zone. It is usually not possible. When God called Abraham from his homeland he could not google Canaan to find out what kind of place it was. He could not use a GPS to plan his route. He went on faith with the courage to believe that the God who called Him would care for Him. Courage comes from faith while caution comes from fear.

It is true that some people are naturally more risk adverse than others. But it is also true that a life of faith is a life of courage - consider the constellation of people in Hebrews 11 who took great risks to do what God called to do. Faith in God was their GPS. Faith and courage was their life currency.

Ask yourself this question: "Is God asking me to step out in faith in some way at this stage of my life where I am resisting out of fear?" If so it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a natural response to stepping into the unknown. The real issue is whether I am able to face that fear and do what God is prompting me to do with a courage that comes from faith in Him. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom while fear is the currency of the world in which we live.

TJ Addington of 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.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Becoming a purveyor of hope

Our world has a hope deficit. Or to make it more personal many of our friends and colleagues struggle from a hope deficit, and maybe we also do. That deficit is fueled by life circumstances that overwhelm us, the suffering of others that we cannot do anything about, situations that we cannot fix, perhaps depression that we suffer from and which colors all of life. All of these and more can bring about an absence of hope and in its absence our hearts and the hearts of others can grow sad, lonely and even despairing. No one is spared either public or private pain. We live in a world that is not fair and all of us have the stories to prove it.

One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is that of encouragement and hope. Whether through a kind word, a helping hand, showing understanding and empathy or praying with someone who is hurting each of us can be purveyors of hope to those whose circumstances have caused a deficit of hope. All it takes on our part is the intentionality to be present and take the opportunity to encourage.

All of us have times when we must live on borrowed hope. Times when circumstances are so overwhelming that there is more hopelessness than hope. It is at those times when the faith and hope of others sustains us or we them. When we offer hope and faith to those in need of it, we become Jesus to them. Think about that!

All of us have things we can complain about. But far more powerful is a conscious decision to become a purveyor of hope to those around us. And if Christ is in us, why would we not? He is the ultimate purveyor of hope - read the Psalms or the Gospels. People love to be around purveyors of hope because they bring an eternal perspective to the situations we face. God is still on the throne and He is good all the time.

TJ Addington of 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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The power of clarity in focusing and retaining good staff

In the busyness of everything we do in any organization it is easy to lose sight of the real reason we exist and the mission that we have. But no matter what kind of organization you are a part of, clarity about who we are and why we exist becomes a far more important catalyst (if present) or hindrance (if absent) in ways that we might not realize.

Consider three ways that clarity or its lack impacts the organization you are a part of.

Clarity focuses all staff around the central mission of an organization while a lack of clarity produces a scattered focus with a great deal of energy being dissipated in activity that is unfocused and ultimately unproductive to the organization's mission. In fact, one way to help staff focus their efforts and work is to ask them how their work contributes directly to the actual mission of the organization.

Clarity allows for accountability of results while a lack of clarity makes it difficult to evaluate results. Unproductive staff flourish in an unclear environment while productive staff flourish in a context of organizational clarity. The more clear you are on your mission the more evident it will be as to who is productive and who is not.

Clarity of mission allows you to attract and retain the best talent. Your best employees want to be a part of something larger than themselves. Larger than the next deal or strategy. They want to contribute something significant through the work they do. A clear and compelling mission that contributes to those we serve is a very strong glue for both loyalty and longevity. If our work matters to God it must transcend how many people attend (say, a church) or what the profit margin is in a business. It needs to count and matter. But none of that is possible without clarity.

Always remember that "clarity leaks," if it is not constantly focused on. We get busy; people forget; the critical gets lost in the urgent. The most successful organizations are highly focused on what really matters - all the time.

TJ Addington of 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.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Don't allow divisive politics to cause conflict in your congregation

The election season is upon us with its typical vitriol, charges, counter charges and of course the whole destiny of our nation is at stake, never mind we've seen this all before and it is repeated every four years. What is true is that with the 24 hour news cycles the differing visions of governance get raised to a new level.

I have often observed that the conflict in the nation over its elections has a spill over into the church especially when different sides claim God's blessing on their party - as if God is a card carrying member of any party other than His own.

It is at times like this that we have an opportunity to remind our congregations of some central truths.

First, what brings us together in a common community is nothing less than a vision of Jesus who is the ultimate hope of the world, our nation and our community. Politicians come and go but Jesus remains the same yesterday, today and forever. The more we focus on Him the fewer divisions we have over politics or a host of other issues.

Third, any time we align the church with a political party we do a disservice to the Lord of the Church and set ourselves up for grave disappointment. The concerns of Jesus are far broader and overreaching than the interests of any political party: righteousness; justice; fairness; seeing that all people are treated as made in His Image; truthfulness; compassion; care for the poor and needy and the least of these and the list could go on. Political ideas matter for any nation but ultimately our highest priority must be the values that emanate from the character of God.

Fourth, the vitriol of campaigns has no place between believers who are to treat one another with kindness, respect, patience and the Fruit of the Spirit. I expect the kind of behavior we see in campaigns - it is the nature of political clashes but they have no place between believers in the church where the standards for relationships are higher.

The political season is a great time to remind people of some deep spiritual truths.

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."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Three counterintuitive practices of wise leaders

There are three practices of wise leaders that are not instinctual to most leaders but which if practiced build incredibly strong and loyal teams.

First is the practice of holding staff with an open hand. When we hold on to staff and make it difficult for them to move on or to explore other opportunities we breed resentment. On the other hand if we always tell them that we want the absolute best for them whether with our team or on another you breed loyalty. Those who are willing to let go find that people actually stay longer!

Second is the practice of encouraging people to speak their minds even when it disagrees with your ideas. The ability of others to engage in robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas actually brings the best thoughts to the table. Leaders must get over their own insecurities to encourage robust dialogue but when they do they get the best from their people. Letting others speak their minds even when it contradicts our ideas is powerful, and counterintuitive.

Third is the practice of empowering staff to accomplish their jobs in their own way (not the way we would do it) within specified boundaries. Empowerment means letting go and unleashing others to use their creativity and gifts in their way. It is hard for leaders to let go but when they do they get the best out of their staff - if they have chosen staff wisely. Micromanagement breeds resentment while empowerment breeds great loyalty.

If you lead, examine your own practices and ask if there is a counterintuitive behavior that will actually help you lead better.

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."

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When loyalty becomes a threat to an organization

We all want loyal staff, particularly to the mission of the organization we lead or are a part of. However, that very important element can become a problem when leaders choose staff members primarily on the basis of loyalty to them.

Recently I had a first hand glimpse into an organization that does great work. But there was one key staff member who caused me puzzlement. He had poor interpersonal skills, did not empower others below him, made snap decisions and created major consternation for about half of the staff who served at his direction. Don't get me wrong, he was a great individual but was in a spot that everyone seemed to know was not designed for him.

As I asked around about this individual and a few others the consistent answer I received was this: The leader of the organization values personal loyalty above all other qualities. And by this they meant loyalty first to him. Thus he would choose leaders based on their personal connection with him regardless of that individuals qualifications for their role. In doing so, he inadvertently disempowered those who had to work for these loyal but miscast staff members.

That loyalty also fostered a "yes person" culture as these staffers tended to not challenge the thoughts of the leader as loyalty to them was taken as agreement. Thus the concept of robust dialogue was not fostered at the top of the organization and subsequently throughout the organization.

What fascinated me was that this was a healthy organization overall and the challenges it had internally almost always went back to one of these leaders who was chosen for their loyalty. Not because they were not good people but because they were in the wrong spot for their gifts and had been chosen for the wrong reasons - loyalty to the leader irregardless of their qualifications for the role.

Competence for ones role needs to come first along with loyalty to the mission and respect for leadership. But when personal loyalty or long term relationship with the senior leader is the primary qualification for leadership in the organization this loyalty factor becomes a threat to the organization as a whole.

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."

Friday, June 3, 2016

Enjoying the Feast

This caught my attention. A friend who lives in the Middle East kept telling me about the feast they were attending, almost weekly. Finally I asked what the feast was about and the answer surprised and encouraged me.

The feast was not about food. Well it was and it wasn't. It was a time when the faithful got together and prayed. Yes, it was a prayer meeting but instead of calling it a prayer meeting, it is called a feast because it is the best food any of us could partake of, enjoying the presence of the living God.

What would it be like if we thought of our weekly prayer meeting as a feast with the living God rather than a chore to be endured? To enjoy the presence of Jesus is better than any other food we could choose. And to recognize it for what it is!

How long has it been since you have been to a feast? And to my Catholic brothers and sisters, this is from the Love of Jesus (LOJ) movement. I want to enjoy such a feast weekly. 

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."