Know How You Work Best
Earlier this summer I carved out a Saturday to evaluate SpringHill’s present and think through its future. As a leader this time was important because of the critical junction SpringHill finds itself at. I needed a clear head so I could evaluate SpringHill as it is today and where it needs to be tomorrow.
I’ve learned over the years, because of how I’m wired, I need the following tools and space to do this kind of mind bending, paradigm breaking work:
First, I must have an inspiring location. I draw inspiration from nature and from quiet spaces. I also find inspiration from places with historical significance, whether it’s personal or general. On this day I chose Acorn Pointe, SpringHill Indiana’s guest house, a location that is stunning and a place that has strong historical significance for me and SpringHill.
Second, I need to stand and move. So working at a white board or flip chart is best. I also need the opportunity to go for long walks. Some of the best thinking I’ve ever done has occurred as I’ve walked. So the location needs to lend itself to leaving my work as it is and going for a long walk. For this work, my location granted me long walks around Rust Lake.
Third, it’s essential I can write my thoughts out with pen and paper. Writing helps me order my thoughts and ideas. It also helps me refine and clarify my understanding of a topic or situation. On this day I used giant 2 by 2 foot Post-It-Notes and stuck them to the windows of the guest house’s great room. This allowed me to stand, move and write all at the same time. Later, each Post-It-Note became a slide in a PowerPoint Deck that I used to present my thinking to three different SpringHill teams. I also had a journal I carried with me when I went on my walks so I could write any thoughts or ideas that came to me.
So now you know how I work best. But the more important question is – how do you work best? What are the elements that create the space you need to bring out your highest quality work? If you’ve never answered these questions, now at this moment, there’s no more important assignment you have than answering them. Because when you have the answers, you’ll have the tools to do work that makes a difference.
The Key Ingredients needed to Create a Great Job
In my last post, as well as in a previous post, I talked about meaningful and challenging work as key to staying energized and focused in your job. Though work that is both meaningful and challenging is critical to creating a job you’ll love there are three other ingredients that make up the recipe for your dream job that we need to talk about.
- Working for an organization whose mission, core values and culture align with your own calling and values. You may love your work but if you don’t get excited about your organization’s mission, values and culture you don’t have your dream job. Hint – is the organization you’re working for have an articulated mission and values as well as actually living them out? If not, there’s a good chance you won’t aligned with this organization
- The people you work with. Though closely related to culture, part of a great job is working with people you like, you respect, who treat you and others with dignity, and help make you both a better professional and a better person. Hint – do you find yourself looking forward to seeing your team after a weekend or a vacation? If not, it maybe because you don’t really like to be around them.
- The lifestyle it provides. Does your job provide you the pay, benefits, hours, flexibility, and location to help you have the life style you envision for yourself? It’s more than about salary; it’s about both the tangible and the intangible benefits a job offers that either positively or negatively impacts you and your family. Hint – does your job keep you from doing the things outside of your work you love to do or enable you to do those things? Remember, a full and healthy life outside your job is critical to long-term success in your work.
If you can land in a job where all four of these ingredients come together in the perfect blend, congratulations, you have a dream job. But the truth is life isn’t a dream. We live in a broken world where perfection rarely happens and when it does, it’s usually for a fleeting moment. What that means is there is no perfect job that has all the four ingredients in the exact amounts you’ve always dreamed of.
So even in the best jobs in the world you’ll find that you often have to compromise on one or more of these ingredients. If you can find a job that has the right balance of 3 of the 4 you’ve got a great job. The important issue is to know which of the four ingredients are the most important to you. These are the ones you don’t want to compromise on. You also need to know which ones mean less to you so you can make appropriate trade-offs and assure you have the ingredients you want. For example, if lifestyle issues are your highest value, you may be willing to work with people you don’t particularly like if the job provides you the benefits you want and need.
So know it’s possible to have a great job, one you want to get up for every day and will want to do so for a long time. But it requires knowing what’s most important to you and then never compromising on those values.
What will keep me from Retirement!
I’ve been asked a number of times over the last few months some version of this question – “how long do you see yourself doing your job?” At first I wasn’t sure why people asked me this question. I wondered if it was God’s gentle way of preparing me to move on. Or was it that I unintentionally appeared bored or unengaged in my work – though I am far from either. Maybe it’s simply that there’s an assumption that people in their 50’s don’t work at camp.
I finally asked one of my inquisitive friends what was behind their question. His answer was simple, “most people your age start thinking about retirement and with all the demands of your work I wondered if you were thinking about it as well”
Now his answer took me a bit off guard. You see retirement isn’t on my radar. It’s not something I aspire to. I want to work as long as I’m capable of doing so. You see I love my job and, I have to admit, I love to work.
But I don’t love just any kind of work. I love work that is both challenging
Challenging work is work that leads to personal learning and growth. And because I never want to stop learning, growing and becoming a better person, I need to do challenging work.
Secondly I want meaningful work because making a difference in the lives of others and in the world is why I exist; this is the calling of my life.
So I’ve answered my inquisitive friends in this way – I’ll continue in my role at SpringHill, with the blessing of our board, as long as I’m capable doing quality work and the job continues to be both challenging and meaningful. It’s only when it’s no longer challenging and meaningful that I’ll consider moving on, not to retirement, but to some new work where I can learn, grow and make a difference.
Three Life Lessons from a Holocaust Survivor
I’ve attended a number of college graduation ceremonies, including two of my own. And at every ceremony there’s always been a commencement speech. Yet, until I attended our daughter Christina’s recent graduation from Butler University, I’ve never heard a truly memorable one.
This commencement speech was given by Eva Mozes Kor. She is a survivor of the Holocaust. Every person in Hinkle Fieldhouse was riveted Eva told the story of her experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Because she and her sister were twins, when her family arrived at the camp via train aboard a cattle car, they were immediately separated from their parents and other siblings. Eva and her sister never saw the rest of their family again. They didn’t go to the gas chambers because the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele chose instead to use them as human guinea pigs in his inhuman and evil genetic experiments.
After briefly sharing her story, Eva went on to share with the graduates three important “life lessons” she learned from her life during and after Auschwitz. By this point she had us all ready to not only hear what she learned but, in doing so, find her secret to dealing with the pain, hurts and disappointments everyone in that field house has experienced.
Here are her three simple but powerful life lessons.
- Never give up on yourself or your dreams. Never lose hope no matter how desperate the situation may seem. (I might add, never give up on God and the hope you have in Him)
- Give your kids, parents and other loved ones a hug every day. Never take for granted that you’ll see them again.
- Forgive those who have hurt you. When you forgive you’re no longer a prisoner or a victim.
Unfortunately as Eva’s learned, this last lesson comes at a high cost in return for the high reward of freedom. She has received criticism in the media for her very personal and public forgiveness of Nazi guards at Auschwitz.
After the ceremony we talked about Eva’s message. Christina mentioned how her classmates graduating in her program all commented on how powerful and memorable Eva’s message was. Now to have the graduates really listening makes that speech a true winner and a great example of telling a compelling and personal story that does more than entertain but benefits those who listen to it.
- Never give up on yourself or your dreams. Never lose hope no matter how desperate the situation may seem. (I might add, never give up on God and the hope you have in Him)
Dare to Serve
I just finished one of the most inspiring leadership books I’ve read in a long time – Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. It’s so good that it now sits on my book shelf right next to my signed copy of Max De Pree’s leadership classic – Leadership is an Art.
So what makes this book so inspiring, engaging and helpful?
First, is Cheryl’s thesis – “When you choose to humbly serve others and courageously lead them to daring destinations, the team will give you their very best performance” p. 9. Cheryl’s value based, people centered leadership philosophy is not only right on, it’s a desperately needed message in the celebrity driven, leader centered culture found in so many organizations today.
Second, there’s Cheryl’s courage. Think about it, how many CEO’s of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company, would dare to proclaim such a contrarian idea as one that says – you can lead teams to great performance by serving them? And, of course, courage in others is always inspiring.
Third, Cheryl is not only a student of leadership, she is a leader. Her book isn’t filled with theories but reflects what she’s learned by actually leading people and organizations. Which means this book is a case study in leadership and, specifically, in leading the turnaround of a struggling organization.
Finally, I’ve spent some time with Cheryl, so I can vouch for the fact that, as a leader and, more importantly as a person, she’s the real deal, which only affirms that her book is the real deal.
So if you’re a leader of any kind or aspire to be one, Dare to Serve gives you a great roadmap to become a better leader. It will inspire you to lead humbly and courageously so that you and your team will win.
Never Confuse the How’s and Why’s of Leadership!
Our family loves basketball. Our three boys played basketball through high school (sadly it’s our youngest son’s last season). As a result we love March Madness – both high school and college.
So when filling out our family’s tournament brackets I always pick the teams with the best defenses. Because, as every serious basketball fan knows, a team’s success in a single game elimination tournament most often hinges on playing great defense.
Which leads to a couple of questions – is defense the reason why teams play in tournaments? Or is defense simply the means, or how a team wins a tournament? The answers are obvious, teams play in tournaments not to play great defense but to win. Winning is why they play, defense is the how.
Unfortunately, unlike basketball, when people think about leadership they too often mix up the how of leadership with the why. It maybe because one of the best “how’s” is servant leadership. Servant leadership is so right, so good, so appealing, that we tend to think of it as the result or the why of leadership, not the how.
But servant leadership is the how, it’s the posture of leadership, it’s the way leadership can and should be done. But it’s not the why; it’s not the result of leadership. Servant leadership is basketball’s equivalent to playing great defense.
So servant leadership isn’t the purpose of leadership; it’s not the answer to the question –why do we lead?
The answer to that question is that we lead so we can multiply, to reproduce. Our why is to grow those we lead so we can grow the impact and effectiveness of teams and organizations we’re entrusted with. We win when our leadership results in multiplication (click here to see more on leaders as multipliers).
So our leadership strategy is servant leadership but our goal is always multiplication. We must never confuse the two.
“You Need to Feed Them and Love Them Before You can Lead Them”
I recently heard again a pastor’s old maxim – “you need to feed them and love them before you can lead them”. This got me thinking, this isn’t just a helpful maxim for pastors but for every leader.
So I asked myself, “how does this old maxim apply to other kinds of leaders, ones who are not pastors?”
So here’s my take on it.
First, “Feed them” implies giving people the tools, time, encouragement, and clarity of expectations, training, and coaching they need to successfully do their work now and into the future. It means providing both challenging and meaningful work while assuring people have what they need to meet every challenge and, at the end of the day, be successful. Feeding people is building into them professionally and personally.
Then the second requirement of leadership is to “Love them“. How can we love those entrust to our leadership? We start with treating them as people created in the image of God. We can do this simply by knowing and using people’s names. People love and need to be known. We make sure we understand what people do in their work and the contributions they make to the team. Then we should never stop thanking them. We get to know people on a personal level so we can lead them in a way that brings out their best. We also show an interest in them beyond what they can do for the team. This means being committed to well-being of their professional lives (goals, fears, desires, calling, development, etc.) as well as their personal lives (family, hobbies, spiritual).
If, as leaders, we can effectively feed and love people, then, and only then, will we earn the right to lead them, to be granted the privilege to be their leaders. Without earning this right, by definition, we’re not leaders because we simply will have no lasting followers, just people stuck till they can find another leaders and team.
So challenge yourself by answering the following questions about the people entrusted to you. Then earn the right to lead by actually do what you’ve said you will do in each answer.
- What will I do this week to feed them?
- How will I tangibly express my love for them this week?
- What will I do this week to feed them?
5 Steps You can Take to Help Your Team Win
Do you want to assure your team accomplishes a goal, task or project? Then there’s five steps, as a leader, you must take to increase the odds of your team being successful. By the way, in the spirit of transparency, I write these as much as reminders to myself as I do to be helpful to you.
Put the goal, task or project clearly and concisely in writing – writing down a goal, task or project with the accompanying plan gives it a sense of permanency and significance. Making it clear includes defining success so your team knows when it has won. Also outline the steps and resources needed to win. Make sure it’s concisely written because by doing so it will make it more memorable.
Measure and track progress on a regular basis – How often you measure and track your progress depends on duration of the goal or project. The shorter the horizon the more frequent you must measure and track. The farther out the horizon is the less frequently you need to measure and track progress. But no matter the horizon, don’t ever believe you can stop or avoid regular tracking and measurements. If you do, your team will soon flounder. The depth of your measuring and tracking will also depend on the track record of your team.
Provide consistent and regular feedback – If you’re appropriately consistent in measuring and tracking then you’ll be in the right place and posture to provide timely and helpful feedback. Feedback includes recognizing the good progress and providing correction if necessary.
Stay with it till it’s accomplished and finished – Doing these five steps requires discipline on your part as a leader. If you lose sight of a goal, task or project eventually our team will as well. What you chose to focus on will be what your team focuses on, and what you chose not to focus on (or lose focus on) will eventually be what your team choses not to focus on as well.
- Celebrate – By doing these first four steps you will increase your team’s chances for success. This last step increases your team’s chances of success on the next project, task or goal. So celebrate, thank, reward, and affirm the good work your team does and they’ll be ready for the next challenge that comes their way.
The Unexpected Joy of Teaching My Boys to Fish!
It was end of the summer of 1999 and I decided to take my young sons up to one of my favorite places in the world – Camp Anjigami – so they could have their first, of what has become, 16 straight Canadian fishing experiences. My three boys’ ages ranged from 7 to 4 years old. Quite young to be in the Canadian wilderness, but it’s the context where I experienced unexpected joy.
During those early trips I never fished. I spent all my time helping my young boys tie hooks and lures to their lines, net and unhook fish, and keep their lines from getting tangled. In particular, we always took a day to fish a lake where we’d catch lots of (30 to 50) Northern Pike. If you’ve never caught or seen a Northern, they are the freshwater version of a Barracuda – aggressive fish with mouths full off sharp teeth. There were times when two of my boys would hook into a Northern at the same time. It meant chaos as a couple of really mad 3 pound fish with multiple hook lures attached to them would be wildly thrashing around the bottom of our rowboat. All of which created lots of excitement but no time for me to fish.
I remember at first finding it difficult to be in Canada and not being able to fish. It’s something I absolutely love to do. But by the end of that first trip I realized that I was receiving as much joy, or even more joy, watching and helping my sons catch fish as I ever did catching fish myself.
In those early trips I went from being a fisherman to fishing coach. This meant helping my boys become fishermen in their own right. Now today, when we go on our annual trip, I can and do fish because my boys can fish as well. We have multiplied our fishing capacity from 1 to 3 to 4.
I now know this is what leaders do; they multiply themselves and their efforts by developing others even at the sacrifice of doing what they love. And, as I’ve discovered, the reward is great; it’s the unexpected joy of seeing the people you lead being able to do what you do and becoming what you are – a person capable of developing others.
The Benefits of Teaching at Conferences
I had an English professor who would tell me “if you can’t express your thoughts in writing it’s because you don’t know your subject well enough”. Taking this maxim to another level – you can’t teach about a subject unless you’ve mastered it.
This wherein lies one of the reasons I always teach at conferences or other venues anytime the opportunity arises, as I did this week at the Christian Camp and Conference Association National Conference. Because when I teach I benefit at least as much as those I’m teaching and usually much more.
But this wasn’t always the case. Earlier in my career I avoided teaching, or did it begrudgingly, because I believed it took focus off from my “real” work and worse, it wouldn’t benefit my team or organization. But over the last number of years I’ve discovered how wrong this perspective was.
What I now know is teaching:
- Is the purest form of multiplying leadership (Leadership25) because it spreads what you know and have learned to and through others.
- Forces me to think through the what, why and how of the material I’m teaching.
- Provides an opportunity to assess how well I and/or our team is doing with the subject area. In other words when I teach I want to be able to say that we’re doing (or at least attempting to do) what I’m teaching.
- Can and should be used to help sharpen my own skills and those of our team.
- Reflects well on SpringHill.
So next time the opportunity to teach at a conference or other venue comes your way, remember you and your team will benefit at least as much as those who sit in on your workshop, and most likely, you’ll benefit much more.