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.
Posts tagged ‘Influence’
“Winning the right to be heard” is another maxim I learned in my years as a volunteer Young Life leader. It simply meant, as leaders, we worked to have students granted us the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. We’d do this first by going to where they were at (physically, emotionally, socially) and building authentic, caring relationships with them. As a Young Life leader I found this maxim to be true, students were significantly more interested in what I had to say only after I demonstrated that I cared for them first.
Stephen Covey, in his classic book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identifies this “win the right to be heard” concept as 5th of his seven habits. He called it “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Covey articulates this fundamental truth about human nature – people care about what others have to say only after believing others care for first. And what better way to demonstrate care for another person than to understand their perspective before trying to convince them to move to a different position.
As a leader in a non-profit organization, I’ve found that winning the right to be heard is absolutely the most effective way to move others to a new place. Why? Because non-profits have many constituent groups (including staff, donors, board, volunteers) to whom I lead and, at some level, I also work for and am accountable to. This means I can’t rely solely on my “positional” authority to move people in a new direction. And, more importantly, if I’m after commitment not compliance, then I’m compelled to seek first to understand before I’m understood, because people become committed when they know they’ve been heard.
And this principle is at the center of leadership at SpringHill – to go where we believe God’s called us to go, to be the kind of organization He’s called us to be – we need to earn people’s commitment to our mission and vision, we need their hearts, minds and resources to be with us. And to gain that level of trust, people need to sense first that we know, hear and care for them first as people.
Forgive my blogging holiday but I took a needed break from writing. But now it’s time to return to the series “What Could Cause Me to Lose My Job?” In my last post we examined the root cause of the seven attitudes and behaviors that lead to so many job failures – arrogance and its sister self-righteousness (arrogance disguised as humility). Over the next several posts we’ll look at each of these seven attitudes and behaviors in more detail.
The first behavior that grows from arrogance and self-righteousness is the misuse of power and authority. It begins with the attitude that “I deserve something more than I’m receiving as part of my job agreement”. This attitude leads to taking advantage of our positions for personal and financial benefits, perks or simply better working conditions than what’s offered to others.
Most of the time people with these attitudes express it in subtle ways, whether there’s a certain parking spot, nicer hotel rooms than the rest of the team, longer lunches, or in the way they treat and expect to be treated by those “under them”. But the message is clear – “I deserve this, it’s owed to me”.
Yet these subtle behaviors normally don’t get a person fired (unless it’s something blatant like major theft from the organization). What does cause a person to lose their job is the erode their influence and credibility consequences of their misuse of power and authority. People begin to doubt their motives, mistrust what they say and simply grow tired of working with and for them.
Finally, it’s important to remember that both power and authority are not inherently evil. They are gifts from God-given to us as leaders to advance His plans and His Kingdom. So we should embrace power and authority but only doing so through exercising extreme caution of their ability to corrupt, in a posture of humility and for the purpose of making a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world.