No one ever wants to be considered a drip. But sometimes being a drip is the best way to lead. My friend and mentor Jerry Martin use to tell me that when I wanted to move others to a new place I had to drip on them. You see just as a slow drip of water, overtime, can wear away rock, simple and gentle persuasion can move people farther along a desired path than being hammered by our position, power or authority. This is because when we drip, we allow people the opportunity to see, understand and then embrace change instead of having changed beaten into them. And whenever people embrace change, they own it. And owning it people move from simple compliance to serious commitment. And serious commitment is the key ingredient in any organization that intends to do remarkable and impactful work. Now admittedly there are times when we need to hammer, especially when safety, significant loss or when there’s clear moral and ethical failure. Most often in these situations there is very little time to drip, decisive leadership’s needed. But, in a leader’s work, these moments are the exception not the norm. And if a leader uses the dripping of gentile persuasion as their primary way to lead, when the moment calls for decisive action they’ve created the credibility and trust needed to move people with commitment and speed. Learning to lead through dripping is also critical to leading those who do not report to you or in whom you have no positional or organizational authority. Effective leaders must learn to persuade and move others who are not required to move. So at SpringHill, we want to be drips, which mean we want to lead through persuasion and influence, so that people move from compliance to commitment, and move our organizations from average to remarkable.
My guess is that your answer would be something like this – “I want to be a part of something bigger than myself and I want to do something meaningful in that something bigger.”
I know your answer because, from the first moment of creation, God put these desires into each of us. They’re a significant part of who we are as image bearers of God.
This first desire, to be a part of something bigger and more significant ourselves, comes from a reality we also sense in the deepest recesses of our soul – that we and the world are not an outcome of time + chance + matter. Instead we’re a result of a thoughtful, intentional, orderly and purposeful plan. And because of this we desire to be a part of a community or organization that is working on and aligned with this order of the world. In other words, what we want to be part of a cause that is making a positive difference in the world and in the lives of others.
The second deeply held desire for our work is directly related to the first. Not only do we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves but we want to make a meaningful contribution in something significant. We want to be a difference maker in an important work. You see it’s not enough to be in the stadium of an important game, we need to be in the game making plays.
These two deeply held desires for our work – being a part of something bigger than ourselves and doing something meaningful in that big thing – need to guide our leadership. As leaders we need to assure that our organizations are doing important work and that the people we lead see and experience that on a regular basis. Secondly, we need to assure that those we lead are appropriately challenged and doing meaningful work. Then we need to make sure they see the difference their work is making.
At SpringHill we lead with this conviction – that all people want to be difference makers in something significant. We believe if we do this, help our staff see the difference their work is making in SpringHill and in the lives of young people, we’ll never have to motivate them to do their work; they’ll do it naturally with zeal, joy and impact.
Any successful venture requires more than the people involved to be compliant, it demands their deep commitment. Why? Because there’s a significantly different impact these two groups of people have on an organization. For example:
- Do the minimally acceptable level of work.
- Just get by.
- Always ask first – what’s in it for me?
- Resist change because change is hard.
- Stagnate and quit growing.
Compared to committed people who:
- Do what is beneficial and necessary even if it means going beyond the job’s minimal requirements.
- Go over and beyond the call of duty.
- Always ask first – what’s best for the team?
- Initiate change because change is necessary.
- Are always learning, growing and developing.
Compliant people make for minimally acceptable organizations that just get by.
Organizations full of committed people do extraordinary work that positively impacts the lives of people and the world. They’re organizations that others emulated and where the best people want to work. Because of this, these organizations create what I call mission momentum, where they’re growing exponentially in their impact as well as in their reach.
So what are the keys to creating a team of highly committed people? Assuring the following four elements are a reality:
- Clarity of mission, vision, and values (answers to the 6 key questions)
- Integrity between the articulated mission, vision and values and the organizations actual behavior
- Transparency of information, roles, responsibilities, performance, and accountability
- And when these three elements are a reality in an organization they lead to high trust. And high trust is the foundation a high commitment culture.
So, as leaders, never settle for simple compliance. Do the hard work of gaining commitment of the people you lead. The payback will be great for you and your team.43.928283-85.286682
Recently I meet with a CEO of a large publicly traded company. I was seeking input from her about how she effectively leads a fast growing and changing organization in hopes of applying what I learned from her in my leadership context. At one point we moved to discussing the essential nature of measuring the right things. That is when she said “you move what you measure”.
Then she shared one example of a simple behavioral change her company wanted to make with a key group of their business partners – improved timeliness of monthly reporting – and how, by simply adding on-time reporting as a measurement to their weekly scorecard, they drastically improved performance in this area.
So the question is – why does something as simple as measurement change behavior?
First, measurements provide feedback and, as social science has clearly demonstrated, feedback is essential for any behavior change. Secondly, by choosing to measure something you’re also communicating it’s importance to the organization. And this is important because people want to do meaningful work that aligns with the values and the priorities of their organization.
Finally, there’s one other bit of advice this CEO had about measurements. She said that it’s important to pick only a handful of measurements because, as humans, we can only focus on a small number of things at one time. So when we measure to many things the measurements looses their power to change behavior.
I’m thankful for this part of our discussion because it affirmed one of the important components of leading the SpringHill way that I shared with our leadership this winter – “what gets measured is what gets done” or as this CEO stated “you move what you measure”. And because we value getting things done, especially the right things, measuring them is an absolutely essential practice that SpringHill leaders prioritize, value, assure happens.43.928283-85.286682
If successful leaders manage things and lead people and never confuse the two, then it’s absolutely critical that leaders effectively manage the resources entrusted to their stewardship. At the core of good management is planning. This is why at SpringHill we like to remind ourselves to “plan your work then work your plan”.
Plan Your Work:
So what does planning your work look like? It always starts at the highest level (answering the 6 Key Questions) then works down to the actual steps and tasks necessary to accomplish a goal, project or a dream. At SpringHill after we’ve affirmed the answers to the 6 Key Questions we build a 3 year plan (that’s updated annually). We followed the 3 year plan with a 1 year, seasonal (quarterly), monthly and weekly goals and plans which have ever-increasing detail.
For individual planning, whether it’s work or personal, it can and should follow the same logic of breaking down long-term goals into annual, seasonal, monthly, weekly and even daily tasks and goals. For work plans we encourage our staff to align their plans and goals with the plans and goals of their team and the organization.
Work Your Plan:
However we always need to remember that the only reason to plan is to accomplish a goal or dream. So it’s absolutely critical to break down goals and plans into actionable steps so we can answer the question “what’s important right now?” When we answer this question then we’re ready to work our plan so it becomes a reality.
I also like to remind to myself and our team that we should spend most of our time working our plan. Because, at the end of the day, we’re not interested in being good at just dreaming big (anyone can do that), but being good at making big dreams a reality.43.928283-85.286682
I believe most thoughtful people, if they like their work and want to keep their job, have asked themselves this question. Of course there are the obvious answers such as stealing, not doing your job up to standards, or changes in the organization. These answers are usually written up in employee handbooks and reviewed in orientation programs.
But it’s the subtle or unspoken answers to this question, answers about attitudes, relationships, and organizational interactions that haunt conscientious people. It’s because these answers are usually what determines a person’s success in an organization.
Now to assure that SpringHill isn’t falling into this fuzzy communication trap, I’ve started to include in my portion of our new employee orientation, a section I call “the things that will cause you to lose your job at SpringHill”.
So I share with them the seven attitudes and behaviors I’ve identified over my more than 15 years at SpringHill that have caused people to fall short as SpringHill staff –
- Misuse of power and authority
- Playing politics
- Not listening to others
- Mistreating people
- Believing they’ve already arrived
- Becoming an organizational martyr
- Having their own agenda
At the core of each of these attitudes and behavior is arrogance, or the Christian version of arrogance – self-righteousness. When people are arrogant, when they’re self-righteous, it always leads to one or more of all these seven attitudes and behaviors.
So I’ve told new staff that any of these behaviors and attitudes can lead to them losing their job at SpringHill. But the warning isn’t really about being self –righteous, instead it’s about bringing an appropriate humility to their work so that these seven behaviors and attitudes never take hold in their lives and in their work.
Over the next several posts I’ll dive deeper into arrogance and self-righteousness as well as each of these seven behaviors because I believe they’re relevant not just for people who work for SpringHill but for anyone who wants to be successful wherever they work.43.928283-85.286682
And more importantly, at least for us competitive types, is the fact that if we can’t measure the most important things then we can’t set clear, measurable goals for them. So, for example, I can’t set a goal of increasing my love for my wife Denise by 20% (though I’m sure I need to love her more).
Which leads to the shortcoming of the leadership maxim I examined in my last post “what gets measured is what gets done” – you can’t directly measure the most important things in life.
At SpringHill this is the dilemma we face when we want to know if we’re effectively fulfilling our mission of “creating life-impacting experiences that enable young people to know and grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ.” How do you measure a person’s growth in their relationship with the God of the Universe? And even more perplexing how do you set a goal for such transformation?
We’ve accepted that we can’t measure such things directly or with certainty, but at the same time we’ve learned we can measure particular indicators of whether such things are becoming reality. These indicators center on a person’s admitted change in perspective, commitments they’ve made, and the anticipated life change they expect to experience. And when we combine these important indicators with our own professional assessment we begin to understand with some confidence our mission effectiveness. For us, at SpringHill, these indicators provide focus and attention to the most important things without being the final word on such things.
So maybe this old leadership maxim needs to change from “what gets measured is what gets done” to “what gets measured in some way is what gets our needed attention” and it’s this attention that leads to effectiveness.43.928283-85.286682
“What gets measures is what gets done” is a powerful but also incomplete leadership maxims. It was first stated by Michael LeBouef, an author of a number of business and management books. It’s powerful because it turns out to be true. When you measure something on a consistent and timely basis the attention and feedback created by measuring it almost guarantees it improves.
So if you want to achieve a goal, make it measurable and then actually measure it regularly, making it visible to the whole team, then the odds the goal’s achieved goes up significantly. As a result we measure the most important things at SpringHill, such things as the spiritual impact of our programs, number of people participating in our experiences, financial numbers, and quality of the experiences we create.
A good, yet simple SpringHill example is how our staff at our Indiana overnight camp set a goal for the number of campers they’d serve in our summer camp program this past year. Once the goal’s set they created a way to daily track (and sometimes more than daily) the progress towards the goal by using a simple white board in the middle of their office. The result of doing this was everyone knew everyday exactly where they stood in relationship to their goal, then they could, if necessary, make course corrections, and when they beat their goal (which they did) they all knew it and could celebrate the accomplishment together.
The key is to pick the right few things to measure, and then measure them in a timely and highly visible way. When you do this then “what gets measured almost always gets done.”
In my next post we’ll look at the paradox that this maxim doesn’t address – what to do with those most important things in life that aren’t measurable?
A close friend of mine was asked to give a talk to business leaders centered on the theme of “thriving not just surviving” and asked if I would share with him some of the things we do at SpringHill to thrive. Below is my answer to my friend’s request.
Like a garden there are four areas of focus that I’m convinced have helped SpringHill not just survive during these rocky economic and industry challenging times but actually thrive.
- People – always assuring people, whether it is staff, partners, or customers, are the organization’s top priority. Why? Because it’s the committed and talented people who make SpringHill a healthy and thriving ministry.
Alignment – having clarity and commitment throughout the organization on the answers to the most important questions an organization faces such as:
- Why do we exist? Mission
- What’s important to us? Core Values
- What do we want to become? Vision
- What do we want to accomplish? Goals, both short and long-term
- What makes us distinct? Brand
- Culture – creating an organizational culture that is positive about the possibilities, respectful of people, appropriately challenging and accountable, and finally celebratory.
- Work – like a garden, creating a thriving organization requires ongoing attention and care of these three elements – the people, alignment and the culture of the organization.
There may be other elements necessary to thrive, but these four have been the center of SpringHill’s healthy growth for many years.43.928283-85.286682
This past August, on the annual Perry men’s Canadian fishing trip, my boys and I stumbled into a conversation about other types of fishing – fly, saltwater flats, and deep-sea fishing. We agreed that it would be fun to try these other kinds of fishing in addition to our spin casting (traditional), cold water fishing we do, knowing each type of fishing is capable of catching lots of fish.
Yet the more we discussed the idea of trying these other methods of fishing, the more we realized it might not be as good as it sounds. For example, because of our fishing experience, we understand all too well that to be successful catching fish requires the right equipment, knowledge about the body of water to be fished, a working understanding of the habits of the targeted fish, and, most importantly, having the simple experience gained by hours of actual fishing. Which means, because each one requires its own knowledge, experience and equipment, the additional resources (time and money) needed to be successful would make it impossible to be really good at more than one method of fishing.
So it became apparent in our discussion that spreading our limited resources out to thinly between numerous types of fishing would lead us to not being very good at any of them. As a result we decided our best shot at being really good fishermen was to focus our limited resources on one type of fishing (spin casting, cold water fishing).
Which led me to reflect on just how easy it is for individuals, teams and organizations to be enticed by new and novel strategies and opportunities which promise only to deliver the same results (catching fish) as current methods, without considering the additional resources necessary to pursue these strategies nor the negative impact that a wider focus can have on the current work.