Saturday, September 17, 2016

Effective Leaders are More Efficient Leaders – How the Leader's Time Management Affects His Influence

Let me let you in on a secret… Leadership is busy, very busy, and times overwhelmingly busy. As leaders we must set the direction, cast our vision (over and over and over again), and complete every task. This can often become overwhelming and very stressful. So, how do the most exceptional leaders do it? And, in many cases, why do they never look as stressed out as I think I do?

Every day I have people come talk to me, some are just trying build relationships, and others are needing something. Whatever the case, I feel like I am always dismissing these conversations on account of “I’m too busy.” Don’t get me wrong, in the body, I am standing there, but there is no listening. And in some cases, okay, maybe one specifically, I literally begin retreating while that person is talking to me (in my mind I’m laughing right now because this particular person evidently does not catch on to ANY social cues).

You see, my problem was that I am constantly obsessing over the completion of my next task. My biggest problem is not my intentions; it is my time management. I was routinely allowing the urgent (the next task) to always take over the important (building relationships and leading intentionally). You see as leaders, we must be able to build relationships; and when we are too busy to connect, then our time management drastically reduces our influence.

“I was routinely allowing the urgent (the next task) to always take over the important (building relationships and leading intentionally).”

What I have learned is that wise time management is not doing more; no, wise time management is doing more of what is important to you. As leaders, we have to set the “P” word, priorities. To accomplish the most important task, build relationships, cast vision, and manage, we have to clearly understand what is most important to us.

“What I have learned is that wise time management is not doing more; no, wise time management is doing more of what is important to you.”

But what about the task we deem non-essential? Do they just not get completed?

Of course not, we must be effective delegators. After all, the job of the leader is not to build more followers but to grow more leaders. If we unite this principle with effective time management, then we, create a more efficient leader that produces more influence.

So as leaders, sit down and reflect. What is most important to you? Once you decide, write it down and do it first. Because to be effective, we must say no to many small things to efficiently accomplish a few big things which will drastically grow our influence.

“Because to be effective, we must say no to many small things to efficiently accomplish a few big things…”

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Be Yourself. As a Matter of Fact Be More of Yourself.

Be yourself. As a matter of fact, be more of yourself. Recently, I began listening to Craig Groeschel’s leadership podcast (go check it out if you have not already). As he typically maneuvers through an array of leadership topics he always ends with the same saying, and I think it unbelievable profound. Each podcast concludes with this, “Be yourself… People would rather follow a leader who is always REAL before they follow a leader who is always RIGHT.” Wow, for whatever reason that hits me at my very souls.

Well, first, let me describe to you my early leadership struggles. As a coach entering the educational field, you tend to bring with you a stigma. And, it’s not a good stigma. The not good stigma, like associated with New Orleans Saints fans in the 90’s; yeah, paper bag over your head kind of OUCH. You see as a coach I was not supposed to be a great teacher. I was expected to be lazy, only focused on my sport. But, for whatever reason, my mind was not made that way. Instead, within four years I became the teacher of the year. Not because I inherited the world best instructional skills, but because, I think, I outworked everyone around me and gained their respect.

My first leadership position came quick, after my second year, the principal approached me. She said we need a new leader in the science department, can I lean on you? In my mind I was thinking, “Hey I’m just a coach, why would these science geniuses listen to me?”

Our first meeting comes around, and let's tell you I was ready! I created a PowerPoint with a built in timer. I created an agenda to pass out. And, stressed all day.

You see, I saw this as an opportunity. I just received my first promotion within the ranks, and I could not let the principal down.

So, as we entered the meeting, the teachers took their places. As for me, I’m just 26 years old, ready to speak and watch them hang on every word. We will conquer the school, change the world, and become legends.

As I begun to speak a silence hit the air, they were all looking at me-and me at them. I delivered instructions for how I wanted our PLC to look then released them to uncover struggling students, figure out how to enrich proficient students, and share classroom instruction that worked. It was beautiful.  Finally, after forty minutes we dismissed.

In the days following, I could not wait to see and hear about the changes.

Instead, however, all that happened was that the teachers returned to their classrooms to do more of the same. Nothing changed! What did I do wrong? Why did I not inspire change?

You see I had stood in front of all of them, pretended to be an expert, then sent them back to their classrooms to perform my task. As a young leader, I thought it was most important to appear as an expert who knows it all. Ha, boy was I wrong. I had big goals, I knew the big plan, but I spent zero time with the team to discuss what they saw, what they wanted, and how they thought they could get there. I wasn’t leading I was criticizing them cloaked in a disguise. I masked myself as a charismatic, scientific prodigy who had all the answers. And, let me tell you, THAT’S NOT ME.

You see leaders HAVE to be themselves, as a matter of fact, more of themselves. My skill set was based on coaching. I needed to be a coach, not a science prodigy. Heck, those guys knew WAY more than me about science, and they knew it. So, while they respected me enough to listen to my face, once they returned to the classroom they didn’t respect my message. I had gone about it the wrong way.

If life had mulligans, then I would definitely have used it on this one. I should have spent my first meeting uniting the team and building a culture of transparency and collaboration, and that’s only after I spent days leading up to the meeting developing relationships. As a 26-year-old with minimum teaching experience, science knowledge was not necessary. I needed to be a coach. I needed to spend twice as much time listening as I did speaking. My team needed to be empowered not bossed around by an inexperienced colleague.

This was a lesson taught best through experience. We have to be ourselves. After all, people will follow leaders that are REAL (use their God-given skills to influence) before the follow people who are RIGHT (whether your right or not-your tactics are empowering the team to action). 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bigger, Broader, and Deeper

What is the mindset of a successful organization? And, how does a leader set a standard of excellence that never dissolves? Recently, the answer punched me right in the face. As I listened to my daily podcast, author and pastor Craig Groeschel said, “Leaders must think higher, see broader, and care deeper.” At last, a eureka moment. He was not just describing a leader’s mindset, but he was describing the effects of effective leadership on an organization. This was ABSOLUTELY profound. As leaders of an organization, we must do three things every chance we get. We must inspire our people to

1. Think bigger (higher)
2. See broader
3. And care deeper

Think bigger. I honestly believe that the first step in growth is to have a think bigger mindset. As an educator and professional, I must continually try to think bigger and aspire for better. Thinking bigger is not just a leader issue, it’s an everyone issue. In the best organizations, everyone develops this think bigger and higher mindset. Let’s face it, if I’m the only one thinking higher than that is not leadership, that’s a personal goal. We have to inspire and challenge our people daily. We must communicate where we are and where we want our organization to go. We must incessantly reflect, then continue to chase the finish line.

“Every organization’s default mode is complacency.” (Groeschel, 2016) Now I realize this sounds harsh. And, maybe you're thinking, that’s not us. BUT STOP. There is some truth here. It is really easy just to show up to work, do your job, go home, and then do it again. When this routine sinks deep, then growth stops, and you have fallen into complacency mode. And just for the record, I have operated in the zone many, many times. As leaders, it is our job to live differently, see more, operate with an owner’s mindset, and inspire greatness. We must ask ourselves daily IF DEFAULT MODE IS COMPLACENCY THEN WHAT ARE WE DOING EVERY DAY TO IGNITE PASSIONS AND MAXIMIZE PERFORMANCE?

In short, we must challenge everyone to think bigger.

See Broader. The organization becomes EXPONENTIALLY stronger when our people see what we see. Sometimes as leaders we operate as owners and see the big picture. Our people will never perform this way unless we openly communicate our vision every single day. When staff members begin acting as owners, instead of employees, they see changes that need to be made before the leader does and create channels of upward communication. Let’s face, it is their boots on the ground; and they if effectively communicated, see the changes needed to grow the organization. However, these changes are never recognized unless you instill an owner’s mentality in your people.

One of my favorite stories involves an overflowed sandwich shop during lunch hour. As a guy waited in line to order a sub, he watched as two sandwich makers worked calmly to fix sandwiches (and by calm I mean they were taking way too long) while another employee ran frantically back and forth cleaning tables, pouring drinks, checking out people, and fixing sandwiches when he could. So when the patron got to the front of the line, he asked, “How long have you been the owner?” What he was watching were two different mindsets. The employees were satisfied with producing whatever they did at a slow pace. After all, it is not their store, and they are only getting paid by the hour. On the other hand, the owner showed extreme ownership over the store’s success. He saw key issues and fixed them. So often I think leaders see problems, fix them, then move on; which produces followers. In this system, people overlook issues and wait for the leader to fix it. However, what we must create is a new mindset, an owner mindset, where leaders produce more leaders. When an organization is focused on growing more leaders with owner-like mindsets, then the entire organization gets stronger.

Care deeper. The third truth is simple, where is your heart? Have you ever been around someone that you could just tell their heart was not in it? Of course you have, and no matter the disguise they try to mask it with, it’s obvious. When we care deeper, operate with more passion, purpose, and compassion, people notice; and this is infectious. What I have learned is that deep care of you people trickles down to their treatment of others. For this very reason, caring deeper maybe the single most important element in this formula. People who care, do not see their jobs as work, but rather a passion. One of my favorite quotes is from Simon Sinek, a leadership expert. He said, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

As leaders, we must invigorate our people to treat others with love. We must kindle a passion from within everyone because caring deeper is infectious. In education, this care can be felt by students, parents, and the community; and as educational leaders, we must inspire this type of heart, or as we tell our staff routinely, “You have to burn HOT!”