Raymond L. Wheeler

Musings about leadership


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How the nature of relationship intersects with the organizational structure found in the local church


customersIt isn’t uncommon today to find remnants of the mindset of the industrial revolution in how the church thinks about structure. The mechanistic assumptions so predominate in business and non-commercial structures throughout the 20th century often seeped their way into church governance here in the west in the adoption of a corporate organizational authentication for tax purposes.  The emergence of the church growth movement contributed to this same mechanistic set of assumptions in that it often uncritically adopted effectiveness driven assumptions that placed relationships in a subordinate position to growth and self-preservation in the church. This propensity to mechanize organizational structures to gain efficiency and effectiveness fall short in that they stumble over the reality that people are involved. One business writer commented that a well-known shoe company’s heavy investment in TQM was undone by one guy in the order fulfillment department who purposely stuffed two right foot shoes or two left foot shoes in a single box. When asked why he was doing this he responded that his manager had treated him poorly and his actions were revenge because his manager’s bonus depended on consistently accurate order fulfillment.

Similarly, church leaders can tell their own stories about how one person’s or pastor’s vindictiveness held the entire organizational structure of a congregation hostage and leveraged a mechanistic structure to redefine reality or expectations of what the community of the church should be.

What makes the church so unique is that Jesus set the cornerstone of the church’s structure firmly in healthy relationships. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:8-10)

Jesus outlines the task (remain in love) and the outcome (bear fruit) that make up the parameters of the church’s organization. Based on what Jesus modeled, love (or the organizational structure of the local congregation) is characterized by truth-telling, forgiveness, support, instruction, insight, inquiry, missional focus, and developmental bias. Love is not an afterthought or optional component to the relationships Jesus expected of the disciples as they continued his ministry. Love and its characteristics are the core feature that determines the legitimacy of the church.

Relationships are not an intersection in the organizational structure of the church they are the constituting frame that allows for the diversity of gifting, outcomes, and methods inherent in the works of God operating through the church. Relationships define the church’s purpose and its method. For example: does the organization accept responsibility i.e., bear fruit as outlined in Luke 4:18-19? Does the organization evaluate its context and behavior with truthfulness? Does the organization generate restored relationships, maturing behavior, continuous insight into what God is doing? If relationships serve only to intersect with a structure that is built on some other foundation (e.g., mechanistic) then relationship fails to be the nucleus and becomes a secondary add-on that is not elemental to effective and efficient operational systems. Organizational structures that push relationships to a secondary status inevitably become toxic and a contradiction to missio Dei.

So, how do you functionally define the structure of your congregation? Perhaps it’s time to sit with your leadership team and review what makes the structure of your congregation really tick.

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How Do you Measure the Health of Your Christian Organization?


10931217_10205220733576419_4977262972998137073_nHow do you measure the overall health of your Christian organization? In this presentation I discuss the correlation between spiritual awakening and mission. Inevitably understanding spiritual vibrancy leads to a different way of assessing organizational health. This presentation was made at the Great Commission Mobilizer Summit for the Student Volunteer Movement 2 (SVM2). For more of the speakers and for the power point that corresponds to my presentation below go to http://www.svm2.net/special-events/gcsummit/gcsummitresources/. Cut and past the following link into your browser to access the mp3 file.  http://www.svm2.net/Correlation_between_Spiritual_
awakening_and_missions.mp3.


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Curiosity still leads me – so I started a company to engage it


whySomeone recently asked me why I started Leadership Praxis. I started Leadership Praxis because I am curious about what makes leaders effective. Leadership is a tough job – I know, I have led administrative departments, sales divisions, operations, congregations, international programs, and regional church planting efforts. The challenges are the same for leaders in any field of endeavor.

My curiosity led me back to school and in the process started a company that allowed me to encourage and coach leaders as a trusted advisor.  I get to think about, research, and observe leadership from the front row of life. I get to integrate and synthesize faith, organizational development and leadership development.

This is why the word praxis is part of the name of the company. The word praxis signifies ethical action in a political context, or purposeful human conduct, or behavior guided by purposes, intentions, motives, morals, emotions, and values as well as the facts or science.  Praxis implies a duality in action: (1) of consciousness and reflection and (2) of action and commitment. Praxis is far more than reflexive or mechanical response that so often characterize modern management theory – it is conscious, reflective, intentional action of the kind that characterizes highly effective leaders.

The ideals of the word praxis capture the character of service that is so important to leadership. In my view serving others is the proper domain of leadership and of leadership development.  Servant leaders use power, influence, and authority with awareness that avoids the trap of toxicity.

I am married to Janice. We are celebrating 40 years together. We have raised a family.  Work/life balance? I understand those tensions as well and know that the challenge is not answered in trying to balance life and work (something that is impractical) but in remaining present and attentive.

I have authored some great failures and successes.

I love working with leaders.

I understand the pressures, challenges, opportunities, risks and motivations.

I wanted a coaching company that synthesized all my experience in leadership and life in a way that provided other leaders with a safe place to be transparent and gain clarity and focus.   So, I started a company designed to do just that and so far the adventure has been rewarding, challenging, and enriching. I love what I do.


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Leadership Development – A New Horizon: Preparing Servant Leaders for Sustained Organizational Success


Drive Strategic Value

A report by Bersin in October 2008 reinforced that it is more important than ever for organizations to invest in leadership.   Why? Because the investment is strategic:

…not all training drives the same level of strategic value. What companies need most vigorously today is …talent-driven learning programs, particularly leadership development.[i]

The competitive environment of today’s global venues provides a strong reason to develop leaders. The speed at which competitors rise requires an agility that can only be accomplished by exercising a range of leadership skills across organizational functions.

In addition to the competitive landscape organizations today stand at an unprecedented generational crossroad.  The retirement of Baby-Boomers and entry of Millennials into the workplace presents organizations with a trillion-dollar question mark according to the Seattle Times.[ii] Many Boomers expect to continue working well into the traditional retirement years – a fact that provides a false sense of security for some organizations who feel they can put off developing new leaders.  The sheer number of Baby Boomers that will leave the workplace places many organizations in jeopardy of losing key leaders at a time they need them most.

So how ready are organizations to make a leadership transition? Only 36 percent of companies surveyed in 2008 felt prepared to immediately fill leadership positions – See Figure 1.

Leadership Development

Three challenges standout: (1) the need to define leadership clearly and strategically; (2) the need to find qualified candidates to fill current and future leadership roles; and (3) the need for a comprehensive leadership program to cultivate and develop the leaders of tomorrow.

Leadership and the Competitive Environment – A Changing Terrain

Developing leaders the leaders of tomorrow is not a simple extension of the styles and values of yesterday’s leader.  Programs entrenched in yesterday’s ideas of leadership will be left behind in the competitive dust of lost opportunity. Why?

Universally, it seemed that people had grown frustrated by a world dominated by codes of what they saw as traditionally masculine thinking and behavior: codes of control, competition, aggression, and black-and-white thinking that have contributed to many of the problems we face today, from wars and income inequality to reckless risk-taking and scandal.[iii]

The change identified by Gerzema and D’Antonio’s research quoted above cannot be ignored. A global shift is happening in how leadership is defined.  Leadership in tomorrow’s world must be able to break gridlock through reason and not ideology or sheer aggression. The leaders of tomorrow must be intuitive as well as empirical, think long-term as well as short-term, and bring about sustainable solutions and not posturing for expediency. Another way to describe this kind of leadership is servant leadership.

Servant leadership is interconnected and interdependent perspective on the act of leading. It works from a win/win not a zero sum game. Servant leadership is decisive and resilient and is so out of an orientation that is neither controlling nor stubborn.  Instead servant leadership operates from a clear value base that informs a leader’s decisions, reactions, plans, and ethics.

A servant leadership approach appeals to the intrinsic motivations if people to carry out organizational goals.  Does it work?  According to Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company it does. When Mulally took the helm in 2006, Ford was losing billions of dollars and was on the brink of bankruptcy. Since Mulally stepped in, Ford has posted a profit every year since 2009.  When asked about his leadership style, Mulally responded,

At the most fundamental level, it is an honor to serve—at whatever type or size of organization you are privileged to lead, whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit…. Starting from that foundation, it is important to have a compelling vision and a comprehensive plan. Positive leadership—conveying the idea that there is always a way forward—is so important, because that is what you are here for—to figure out how to move the organization forward. Critical to doing that is reinforcing the idea that everyone is included. Everyone is part of the team and everyone’s contribution is respected, so everyone should participate….A big part of leadership is being authentic to who you are, thinking about what you really believe in and behaving accordingly. At Ford, we have a card with our business plan on one side and the behaviors we expect listed on the other. It is the result of 43 years of doing this.[iv]

Leadership is changing – the world is changing.  What does a leadership development plan look like that aims at developing servant leaders?

Seven Design Components of Effective Leadership Development Programs

One: Determine the Leadership Culture and Life Cycle Position of Your Organization

What is the leadership culture of your organization?  The concept of culture is wildly popular if not always understood. The significance of starting with a view to what makes up the way your organization actually works is that all leadership action is done in a context and must be appropriate to that context. To initiate a leadership development plan without understanding the culture of the organization is like insisting that the operational norms of a McDonald’s drive through should be the basis for developing leaders at Ruth Chris’ Steak House.

Organizational culture can be defined as:

…a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.[v]

Identify your organization’s culture. What are the implicit rules of operation, relationship to power, the nature of vendor relationships, the rules for relating to stakeholders, and the rules to promoting up,  etcetera? Will your organization’s culture support servant leadership?

Define your organization’s life cycle place. Organizational needs and focus shifts depending on the life cycle age of the organization.  Younger organizations tend to be creative, aggressive, sales focused, et cetera.  Prime organizations are disciplined, opportunity drivers, attentive to policies designed to maximize resources, et cetera.  Aging and stuck organizations tend to be autocratic, highly formal, and characterized by a lost sense of mission other than profit.  The skills and traits required of leaders in each life cycle stage are different. So, not only is it important to know where the organization is at today in its life cycle but also where it expects to be in tomorrow.

Evaluate the gaps between your current organization culture and a culture of servant leadership.  Gaps show a shift is needed in how leaders are developed and socialized into your organization. What does a servant leadership culture look like?  Here is an insight from Greenleaf:

…today is the urgent need, around the world, for leadership by strong ethical persons – those who by nature are disposed to be servants (in the sense of helping others to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to be servants) and who therefore can help others to move in constructive directions.  Servant –leaders are healers in the sense of making whole by helping others to a larger and nobler vision and purpose than they would be likely to attain for themselves.[vi]

If you find gaps be honest about them. Look, no organization is perfect – but everyone wants to work for an organization that is improving the way it sees itself.  Pull your people into the process and help them own the changes that will make your organization world-class in its culture as well as its performance.

Two: Identify Current and Potential Leaders within Your Organization

Start by identifying the competencies your organization needs.  When developing leaders look at the whole picture. Use dynamic management as well as leadership skills.

Identify the competencies that are needed in both poles of leadership (i.e., management and leadership). Leadership Praxis measures these competencies using a statistically reliable and validated 360 leadership assessment.  These include:

  • Spirituality: the ability to define a sense of ultimate (or immaterial) reality. Spirituality enables yourself and others to discover the essence of being, their deepest values, and meaning by which they make decisions.
  • Vision Casting: the ability to define a preferred future, communicate it to others in a way that inspires commitment, confidence, conviction and contribution in others.
  • Ensure Long-term Results: the ability to think strategically by integrating industry knowledge with organizational knowledge and knowledge of your customers.
  • Build Strong Teams: the ability to help the members of your work translate strategic goals and initiatives into specific responsibilities and priorities.
  • Managing Outcomes: the ability to set up measurable outcomes and create systems for monitoring progress toward them that includes ethical evaluation and specific activities.
  • Developing Others: capacity for building the strength and continuity of the organization by recognizing individual potential and acting to developing them through training, coaching, and performance evaluation.
  • Delegate: readiness to explain expectations, give appropriate resources, and assist with regular and unscheduled coaching.
  • Decision Making: ability to stay strategic, results oriented, and productive without losing sight of the complexity of issues and the diverse views of others. Capable of making implicit assumptions explicit prior to acting and anticipates potential outcomes to all actions.
  • Courage: the ability to speak out in the face of opposition, acknowledge conflict, and work openly toward strategically aligned solutions.
  • Resilience: ability to solicit and act on constructive feedback, challenge yourself with tough assignments, and demonstrate resilience and courage in the face of setbacks and opposition.

Do the work needed to correlate these competencies to the job skills needed at every level of your organizational leadership structure.  The objective in any leadership development program is not just to find whether these competencies exist and how to introduce them as effective behaviors but to build a capacity for complexity in the exercise of these competencies.

Test your leaders for these competencies via your performance appraisal process and the use of the Leadership Praxis 360 degree leadership assessment. Then assess the goals to development and the length of time it will take for a leader to be ready to assume a position.

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The criterion for assessing potential leaders also includes values. What are the values that show a leader understands the concept of service in behavior?  These values determine how a leader relates to their environment and people and offer the foundation for sustained performance.

  • Conceptualization – the act of looking empirically and symbolically at how things work and an ability to forecast changes in future behavior as a result.  The opposite behavior is vanity metrics i.e., using numbers to make one look good rather than make decisions.
  • Awareness – entering every situation and personal interaction with one’s full attention and emotional intelligence.  The opposite is an appeal to rationalism characterized by unilateral control, minimization of loosing and maximization of winning, and suppression of negative feelings or feedback.
  • Differentiation – the recognition of one’s unique contribution both direct and indirect and a commitment to help others discover and use their unique skills and abilities as well as holding others responsible for their own emotional well-being. The opposite is a victimization posture that yields personal responsibility for wellbeing and performance to forces outside oneself.
  • Stewardship – a commitment to use resources with the recognition of their cost both real and symbolic. The opposite is an arrogance that assumes the source of all available resources is the direct result of one’s own efforts – results in competition, one-upmanship and brinkmanship.
  • Foresight – the commitment to work to understand the lessons of the past to change activity in the present to altering the consequences of the future. The opposite is the failure to learn from experience so that work patterns are simply engaged with greater intensity without regard to outcomes.
  • Healing Community – a commitment to building an organizational culture and work environment where people can be their best selves who are rewarded and not castigated for their creativity and innovation. The opposite is a culture of one-sided task demand that fails to recognize the impact of employee engagement, commitment, and direct and indirect contribution.
  • Persuasion – the realization that power is the least effective means of sustained performance and reliance upon building systems that leverage intrinsic v extrinsic motivations.  The opposite is the use of power to cajole, threaten, and suppress opinions or data sources that do not find its source in the person with power or contradicts the mental models of the powerful.
  • Service – a commitment to the holistic development of others in work. The opposite sees employees as expendable resources to be controlled and discarded when their immediate usefulness is exhausted.

Developing internal talent is an advantage.  Internal talent achieves productivity almost 50 percent faster than external candidates.  This is particularly true for organizations in which the knowledge of internal politics and structures is required to get the job done.

Developing leadership competencies does not occur from a singular source.  A world-class leadership development process takes deliberate advantage of serendipitous as well as formal and informal development methods as is illustrated in Figure 1. [vii]

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Start identifying leaders in your recruitment process. Pre-hiring assessments can be used to drop candidates that do not pass a minimum threshold score in the pre-hiring assessment screen that includes assessments, resume review, and reference reviews.  Focus your time on the more promising candidates.  Automated pre-screening can offer up to 42% increase in recruiter efficiency if the right tools are in play.  Use recruiting to build your bench strength of future leaders.

Three: Identify Leadership Gaps

Identifying leadership gaps is a function of individual and organizational readiness. It considers the life-cycle stage of the organization, the competency development of candidates, and the cultural behavior of the organization’s leaders.

  • Determine current and future leadership requirements
  • Compare those requirements with the current leadership team
  • Identify current leaders who may be at risk of leaving
  • Identify succession plans for those at risk of leaving or planning to leave
  • Look at leadership development pipeline
  • Identify gaps in skill and the time required to fill those gaps
  • Identify gaps in values i.e., the degree to which servant leadership values are exhibited in future leader behaviors

Look at the sample gap analysis below. This type of summary is helpful in surveying the potential talent pool.

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If your organization uses a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to catalogue performance appraisals and development plans/activities this summary takes little time. If your organization has not leveraged a HRIS this information should be on file in your personnel office.

Four: Develop Succession Plans for Critical Roles

Succession planning is not a luxury – it is a necessity even in organizations that simply do not anticipate a change in any of its critical leadership roles. Life is unpredictable and no organization escapes the disruption and employee trauma that occurs when key leaders leave the organization. Succession planning is an insurance program that admits the unpredictability of the future and prepares to thrive in spite of the potential for the unexpected. Succession planning should be a company policy, dealt with openly and deliberately by corporate boards and corporate officers and leaders.

Succession planning should not be limited to executive roles. As part of a leadership program, organizations should test all critical leadership roles.  One survey found that whereas more than 70 percent of large companies have succession plans at the director level, only 41 percent have them at the manager level, and just 11 percent included first-line supervisors.

Enduring great organizations carry out succession planning across all levels of the organization – they are proactive and deliberate at getting the right people.  In contrast the lack of bench strength in other organizations creates significant vulnerabilities in the neglect of mission-critical roles.

Coaching and mentoring has gained in usage as a critical element of succession planning.  The American Management Association (AMA) reported that of the 1,000 business leaders surveyed nearly 60 percent use coaching for high-potential employees. These leaders used primarily outside versus inside coaches because outside coaching brought greater objectivity, fresh perspectives, higher levels of confidentiality, and a broad base of experience in many different organizations.[viii]

Increase efficiency in succession planning by using technology systems to support the succession planning process. The best technology systems provide the ability to:

  • Create back fill strategies that use data captured in the recruiting and performance review processes, coupled with individual career plans
  • Add multiple candidates to a succession short list and view all the best options – with necessarily adding them to the plan
  • Displace multiple talent profiles – from C-level to individual contributors – side by side to quickly identify the best fit
  • Track candidates readiness based on skills, competencies, and performance; promote top candidates based on relative ranking and composite feedback scores

Five: Develop Career Planning Goals for Potential Leaders

Companies that support career planning for their employees gain in retention, engagement, and protection of the leadership pipeline. 61 percent of employed college graduates surveyed by Taleo Research in 2008 said they left their first employer because there was no potential for career advancement or organizational opportunities.  Career planning is not just the responsibility of the person any more if companies want to keep top talent.

If companies do not offer employees with career planning and advancement opportunities, their competitors will. 77 percent of workers ages 36-40 (right in the middle of the pipeline for leadership) last in new jobs less than five years.  This rate of turnover represents a high cost and loss to organizations that fail to offer career planning.

Combining employee development and career planning enables employees to explore potential career paths and to watch and progress through the development activities necessary to meet them. Competencies tied to relevant development activities can be incorporated into the performance review process and thus support succession planning.

This kind of approach to employee development recognizes that people are intrinsically motivated and that this motivation possesses three critical elements: (1) Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery, the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.[ix] As a result of using leveraging intrinsic motivation, the engagement and commitment levels of employees rises significantly. This makes it far more likely that the organization will retain its investment and capitalize in significant returns through talent retention and performance.

Six: Develop a Skills Roadmap for Future Leaders

A skills road map provides the direction high potential employees need to direct their learning.  Connecting competencies to a skills map and identifying the type of training needed (formal as in academic work, non-formal as in seminars, and informal as in coaching) allows the employee and the company to track progress.

See Table 2 following as a sample skills map.  In one organization the COO mounted this as a poster outside his office and used it to conduct ad hoc coaching and mentoring sessions encouraging key employees to pursue more competencies that potentially positioned them for future open positions.  Notice that this skills map includes all levels of this organization’s leadership.

Seven: Develop Retention Programs for Current and Future Leaders

Monetary and non-monetary rewards can be used to improve retention of any employee.  Recognize excellent performance through tools like: salary increases, bonus plans, promotions, additional paid vacation or sick days, public recognition, acknowledgement through private praise, and stock options.  Retention is critical not only because its cost is high but because top performance dive best business performance.

Conclusion

A well designed leadership development program is the key to identifying, attracting, filling, and retaining world-class organizational leadership. The benefits of an optimized leadership develop program include: a pipeline of leadership talent, talent aligned with corporate goals, improved morale, increased retention, improved leadership skills, and consistent measurement through development and performance management. (To request a PDF copy of this article email info@leadership-praxis.com.)


[i] “Driving Performance: Why Leadership Development Matters in Difficult Times.” Source: http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/landing/DrivingPerformance.pdf. Accessed; 18 Mar 2014.

[ii] John Gallager. “Retirement of baby boomers may reverberate in the workplace.”  Source: http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2002185894_boomers21.html. Accessed; 18 Mar 2014

[iii] John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio. The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 7.

[iv] Rik Kirkland. “Leading in the 21st Century: An Interview with Ford’s Alan Mulally,” McKinsey & Company, November 2013.

[v] Edgar H. Schein. Organizational Culture and Leadership 4th ed. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 18.

[vi] Robert Greenleaf. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition. (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2002), 240.

[vii] Raymond L. Wheeler. An Inconvenient Power: The Practice of Servant Leadership. (Claremont, CA: Unpublished Manuscript, 2014), 357.

[viii] “Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices.” AMA, 2008. Source: http://www.opm.gov/WIKI/uploads/docs/Wiki/OPM/training/i4cp-coaching.pdf. Accessed: 19 Mar 2014.

[ix] Daniel H. Pink. Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2009), 204.


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Entrepreneurs – Listen Up, It May Be Time to Hire Differently


HiringA friend of mine recently called and needed to blow off some steam. His organization grew out of a passion discovered by accident. He jumped on his passion, started a nonprofit, and the organization took off.  “We are at $2 million in budget and I have figured out that I don’t have the right people. A consultant waltzed in and told me to hire an administrator at a six figure salary immediately – lives depend on what we do.  I am not sure I can jeopardize our programs by putting out that kind of salary.  I don’t want to be in the place of hiring someone and then letting them go in six months because our revenue projections were not quite right.”

Sound familiar? This founder’s story is not unlike any other founder who has experienced the exhilaration of watching their blood, sweat, and tears turn into a vibrant, howbeit, gangly organization.  At the same time the founder experiences a sense of legitimization and affirmation in the risk they engaged they also face burnout in trying to keep things moving in the right direction. Their original employees don’t have the skills and competencies needed to keep up with the new demands for structure and systems. If left unaddressed the founder ends up feeling like all they are doing is chasing their tail.

Business entrepreneurs, non-profit founders, and church planters all go through this very predictable stage of organizational development. It is important to recognize that founders are simultaneously their organization’s greatest asset and greatest liability!  Founder’s who use an excessively autocratic style become toxic to their own organizations creating the pathologies that ultimately deal a death-blow to the organization. In a fast growing organization like that of my friend the crucial question is, “Will you mentor future leaders in your organization?”

The challenge is making the time. The hardest transition for a founder has two aspects. First, a founder must learn to delegate activity so that there is enough of a margin to spend time developing others.   Second, the founder must recognize when it is time to hire a different kind of person.

Delegating effectively is not simply handing off tasks.  Why? Fast growing organizations typically run with time coefficients that are driven by ego not planning.  “I want this done yesterday” is the predictable demand. The result of this ego driven time coefficient is that delegation occurs on a bungee cord and delivery and service suffers.  Every task that is not accomplished at light speed is pulled back by the increasingly irritated founder. Add to this that no one can do the task correctly. How do founders escape this trap? There are three critical skills every leader must develop: define your working values, be consistent in delegation, and recognize when you need a new kind of employee.

First, name the values from which you actually work. Take the time to name what is important in how tasks get done. For example: I value cost effectiveness, excellence, and ambiance. I want those around me to be attentive to all three when they make purchasing decisions not just one or two. I value teamwork, assertiveness, and responsibility. When people go to work around me I expect them to give me their best insights and their best work. I can’t see everything in the market place and I don’t possess omniscience. However, early in my career these values were implicit and not explicitly a part of my thinking. As a result I became frustrated with the performance of my employees whose work had to be redone because they failed to meet my expectations i.e., my values. Write out your values and talk with your team about them and show them how core values inform daily decisions about how tasks are done.  For more information see http://wp.me/pYuoc-dL.

Second, be consistent in your delegation. This requires that you understand the levels of delegation and use these levels specifically to (a) carry out more work and (b) develop the capabilities and capacities of your current team.  Avoid the three cardinal sins of poor delegation: (1) Over management – delegation on a bungee cord.  This results in stunted skill development and poor decision-making down line. (2) Under management i.e., sloppy delegation without boundaries – also possesses a fuzzy scope. This results in frustration. (3) Scapegoat or Surprise accountability – you did not know the assignment was yours until just before it is due. This results in anger. Remember to match individual follow-through ability with the tasks being delegated. Remember the less competent an employee is the more directive you need to be.  Conversely the more competent the employee becomes the more supportive you need to be. Expect your team’s competency to increase.

So, what are the critical components of good delegation? (1) Delegate to clear outcomes and expectations. Use specific verbs for outcomes: plan, implement, or report. (2) Delegate to clearly defined time frames. Timeframes must be realistic to the task. (3) Delegate using the appropriate level of delegation i.e., proper to the skills of the volunteer or staff member to whom you plan to assign the task for example:

  • Level 1: Measure and report back or Research and report findings
  • Level 2: Research and present options based on findings
  • Level 3: Research, recommend a response and report back before doing
  • Level 4: Act and report on the results
  • Level 5: Act with no further communication

Third, recognize when to take the leap and hire that administrative professional. Fast growing organizations share a common behavior.  They are opportunity driven and not driving opportunities. This means becoming less intuitive in how the organization is run and more systematic. What indicates that it is time to hire that professional manager?  Is your organization rapidly growing and is it characterized by: Self confidence – Founder indispensable; Eagerness – High energy; Sales v Marketing orientation; Seeking what else to do; Sales beyond the ability to deliver; Insufficient cost controls; Insufficiently disciplined staff meetings; No consistent salary administration; Leader surrounded by claqueurs; Increasingly remote leadership; Leader’s inflated expectations; Unclear communication; Hope for miracles; Unclear responsibilities; Internal disintegration; and a Workable people-centric organizational structure? Then you are at the turning point.

My friend above was a little surprised to hear me agree with the consultant he rejected. “You do need to hire a capable administrative person,” I said. “Everything you have described to me fits the profile of an organization that is moving toward its own adolescence. If you don’t begin to make the shift now, your organization will become toxic and you will burn out.”

My friend is about to begin a powerful and difficult journey. There is more to this transition than simply finding the right person for the job. That is important. But, for the founder the transition means three big changes.

First, a different kind of leader is needed, one who can bring systems, policies, and administration to the organization. This requires a different set of skills and way of seeing the organization. The organization does not need someone like the founder it needs someone who can complement the founder’s style knowing that the two perspectives will conflict at times. The manager cannot be stronger than the founder but must be able to disagree and engage in the kind of fierce conversations needed to bring about a new level of operational discipline.

Second, recognize that the organization will experience goal displacement i.e., a shift from more is better to better is more occurs. Accounting functions begin to look at profitability and long-term funding rather than only the sales or donations generated.  In for profit organizations pricing and product lines become more predictable and profit is as important as cash flow. Founders generally think that cash flow equals success when in fact the company may be going broke. This is equally as true for nonprofits who have yet to integrate operational controls to decide whether their administrative and program dollars exist in a healthy ratio.

Third, recognize that conflict during this period of change is predictable and normal. During this period a temporary loss of vision may occur – that is normal. A shift occurs that makes the organization sovereign rather than the founder sovereign.  Policies are made then challenged.  The point is that the organization becomes a reproducible system it has the ability of moving to a new level of effectiveness in its mission.

What can go wrong?  In this critical transition failure looks like a loss of mutual respect and trust among those who have formal and informal control of the decision-making process.[1] The temptation is to return to a time when the company was smaller and flexible. The founder can fire the new manager. Yet if this occurs the organization does not revert to the past level of fun. Instead, it enters a time of uncertainty and self-doubt.  The other risk is that the organization my lose its sense of mission and purpose and engender an environment of rule following in which the entrepreneurial drive disappears entirely.

If you understand your core values, if you exercise good delegation, if you recognize the need to diversify the leadership of your organization and develop leaders in every function of the organization, then you are in a good place to take the next step and move to a different level of success in what your organization intends to carry out. And so, my friend has begun his journey to a different way of working.  How about you?


[1] Ichak Adizes. Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1988), 48-55.  Adizes’ book is a must read for Founders in all types of organizations.  The more his concept is understood the easier it is to predict organizational transitions and apply the right organizational strategies at the right time.


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Stop Facilitating Toxic Leadership Behavior!


bad boss“We love to play our staff against one another.” I turned to look at my friend who had just uttered this aside in a discussion about coaching.

“I want to come back to that statement,” I said.  And as soon as the meeting was over I pulled my friend aside and asked him what he meant.

“Our pastor loves to play the staff against one another, he thinks this heightens creativity and innovation,” he responded.  However, my friend’s expression and tone, now turning dark and hushed, did not look like creativity or innovation to me.

“So,” he continued, “the staff knows this and they talk together before they complete any assignment because they have all learned to play the game.”

I wanted to ask a question but it was late and everyone dispersed from the meeting quickly. As I drove home I pondered this. It is not the first time I have met this kind of thinking – in fact playing employees or staff against one another is celebrated by many of the CEOs and owners I know who read the biography of Steve Jobs as though it were a text-book on how to create an effective money-making machine.  The behavior does not work in business, it only adds cost as employees devise ways to stonewall unreasonable demands and backtrack over the relational wreckage created the wake of bad leadership behavior.

The behavior does not work in the church either. It is the opposite of the vulnerable, transparent, and healing behaviors Jesus led his disciples toward.  How is it that we (people who are the church) don’t make the connection between our behavior and the toxic behavior of bad leaders. We lament scandal and corruption and wonder what happen.

Stop! You and I bear accountability in the failure and misdeeds of bad leaders. Accountability is built into the nature of Christ’s church. Yet, board members and other organizational influencers continue to think that they are protecting the reputation of the church by hiding its dirty laundry.  The church is like the king and his new clothes. Do you know that story? The tailors of the kingdom decide that their monarch’s arrogance has become so destructive to the kingdom that they play to his arrogance at the anniversary of his coronation. They present him with fabric so exquisite that only the wisest most astute men can see its beauty.  The king can’t admit he sees nothing in their hands and so he agrees to let them tailor festive robes for the coronation celebration. According to the story, the king parades through most of his kingdom to the snickers of his subjects before he realizes that he is in fact walking naked. The tailors in the story of the King and his new clothes model what it means to respect, honor, and esteem a leader without falling prey to celebrity worship.

Covering over dirty laundry only makes a bigger stench. How does a world in need of change find a road map to change if the church fails to model what it means to confess, repent, and be transformed in the midst of its own humanity? We are hypocrites!

Authenticity takes courage. I know, I have seen how bad leaders use their power to punish those who disagree – and I have seen others sit silently by to watch one of their own be belittled and marginalized or ousted by a leader in the midst of an adolescent rage.

Leaders ultimately have no more power than the power granted them.  There is nothing inherent about a leader’s power!

The question I wanted to ask my friends was simple, “do you love your pastor?”

Why love?  It is love that finds the courage to approach and question behavior. It is love that endures rage while pointing to the rage as an example of bad behavior. It is love that refuses to be put off by denial and persist in raising questions. It is love that respects another enough to walk with them through periods of vulnerability and change. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not hide from the truth but allows the truth to challenge and transform.

I will encourage my friends to talk with their pastor in love and respect to ask him if he understands the impact of his behavior. If he listens I will encourage them to work together to change the way they all behave. If he does not listen I will encourage my friends to go to the board of their mega-church to ask them engage the pastor’s poor behavior. I will encourage my friends to do this with the intent of growing together as a team of people who powerfully and tangibly illustrate what it means to know Jesus Christ and grow as healthy people. Enough with the spin and damage control – it isn’t working it is just getting stinky!

Stop facilitating toxic behavior.  Let’s develop healthy and healing organizations that show what it means to follow Christ.


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Power and Accountability: There is More to the Story


AccountabilityWhat is the relationship between accountability and power?  Commentary on the abuse of power is perennial and reflects an underlying assumption about leadership; “…leaders are expected to exert themselves in the service of the collective interest.”[1]  In watching leaders I see leaders exercise a variety of postures toward power. Some fear power and shirk responsibility, some crave power and lose sight of what it’s for and who are comfortable with power and use it to serve the best interests of the corporation and their employees. Even the best leaders find that the act of serving the collective interests is complex and a minefield of competing interests.

There is ample evidence to show that those leaders who fail to pursue the collective interest have disastrous impact on organizations including such things as: public embarrassment, decreased employee participation, decreased leader effectiveness, decreased employee motivation, and decreased employee performance. The reality is that “Leader self-serving behavior carries the specter of negative consequences for subordinates as well as for the organization at large.”[2]

In light of this calls to greater accountability usually emerge and those calls are not without foundation. Researchers have found that accountability has a mitigating effect on high power leader self-serving actions. Recognizing that power is inherent in the leader role the researchers observed that power affects self versus group-serving behaviors. “Because high power leaders inhabit reward rich environments, they should be more likely to pursue rewarding outcomes than low power individuals, a proposition substantiated by a growing body of research.”[3]

Research and experience show that possessing power impairs one’s ability to take others’ perspectives into consideration and the ability to consider others’ background knowledge or correctly identify their emotional expressions.  The powerful tend to view others through an instrumental lens as tools for one’s own purposes i.e., to help the powerful achieve their goals. I have observed relationships between CEOs and their managers deteriorate in the CEO’s self-serving quest to the point that manager behavior begins to constitute a drag to the accomplishment of the organization’s objectives.

Yet it is important to recognize that self-serving perspectives are not experienced as a black and white reality nor do they simply pop up out of thin air. The quest for organizational success which presumably benefits all stakeholders is the backdrop for a shift from service in the collective interest to self-serving behaviors that undermine the collective interest.  Herein is the challenge for one working from the seat of power. The shift from collective to self-interest is an evolution that occurs under pressure and always claims to have the collective interest in mind.

In one company I worked with the CEO started his tenure with clear commitment to a new day of teamwork, increased profitability, increased efficiency and customer service. He elicited innovation from the rank and file and during his first two quarters at the helm of the organization he maintained this call while also making difficult decisions needed to bring change.  It was working in every area in which the CEO was consistent to his own values. However, in those decisions in which he was inconsistent to his stated values he demanded workarounds. His mixed messages gave his managers pause. Then the management team noticed subtle changes. Executive meetings lost their regularity, decisions and adjustments were announced out of side meetings and over time all pretense of discussion melted into unilateral demands for action for the sake of profit. No one argued against the necessity of profit nor did they balk at the strategic direction of the company but the pace of change wasn’t moving fast enough for the CEO and he reverted to highly directive behavior focused on ensuring his survival as CEO which he made the equivalent to the survival of the company and security of all jobs.

In all the team told me that they wish the CEO had been held accountable. Accountability does play a role in mitigating self-serving behaviors. Accountability is “the implicit or explicit expectation that one may be called upon to justify one’s beliefs, feelings, and actions to others.”[4] Accountability has been shown to:

  • Increase judgmental accuracy
  • Promote careful decision-making
  • Increase thoroughness of information processing
  • Induce more complex decision strategies
  • Enhance a self-critical approach that implies consideration of multiple perspectives

Clearly accountability does counteract self-serving tendencies induced by power. Or is it that clear? The CEO in the story above was being held accountable of new levels of performance. In fact his meetings with the board and owners became highly spirited inquisitions into whether his plan would produce results fast enough to satisfy the risks the owners felt he was taking.

The CEO was accountable but as research had found accountability is not a panacea for all evils. Where accountability does not merge process as well as outcomes it can have the opposite of the desired effect. Where high power leaders are only held accountable for outcomes they tend to behave in ways that are less cooperative, less helpful, less truthful, and less willing to compromise in negotiation with subordinates.

This was the situation with the CEO above.  The challenge was not that he lacked accountability but that the pressure of accountability he faced focused only on outcomes.

A lack of accountability on process as well as outcomes seems to facilitate a “means justifies the end approach” and tendency to treat others as means to an end.  High power leaders who are not held accountable for process typically institute draconian work policies that dehumanize their workforce and may actually work to negatively impact performance accountability was intended to increase. The lesson is a significant one for business owners and board members. The lack of accountability on process is pandemic in small and mid size companies where owners are either still directly connected to operations or have moved out of operations into a governance role.

The big lesson for anyone with governance responsibility is this, “… process accountability can lead to increased perspective taking and more careful decision-making, a combination of process and outcome accountability appears to carry the most promise in terms of mitigating some of the negative effects of power – including the ‘ethical hazard’ of power.”[5]

If you see your organization or company floundering or experiencing something less than flourishing, consider your accountability structures for you top leaders.  High powered leaders are the ones setting the tone of the organization’s culture.  Is it moving in the right direction? Does the overall approach to leadership and organizational culture offer a platform to sustain performance? There is little doubt that high power leaders accountable for only outcomes will hit their performance goals.  There is strong doubt however these leaders will survive to see another year or be able to sustain performance over time. But then the criterion of success often depends on the person who is viewing the outcomes.


[1] Diana Rus, Daan van Knippenburg, and Barbara Wisse. “Leader Power and Self-serving Behavior: The Moderating Role of Accountability.” The Leadership Quarterly 23 (2012) 13-26.

[2] Ibid, 24.

[3] Ibid, 14.

[4] Ibid, 15.

[5] Ibid, 22.