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Leadership ideas

The title for this post actually came to me in a dream and I was describing to someone in a heated debate how their version of organizational effectiveness was like throwing dice in the dark: gambling and guessing about success.

This post (and the dream) come in the wake of years of passionate thought around what it takes for organizations to realize their potential and prevent the loss of toes at their own hands.

To me, it comes down to just one thing: metrics. Every action can be measured in some form or fashion. Consequently, that measurement can be evaluated against a standard and determined to either exceed or fall below that standard. The difference (or delta for any math majors) between the standard and the measurement will help determine next steps to either help maintain an exceptional result or correct a sub-standard one.

The real money is in answering some very key questions:

  1. What’s the question? Most want to ask a different question first – what to measure? But, before you determine what you are going to measure, you must first know what question you are trying to answer. Of course, there is an endless number of questions, so you have to be willing to ask the best and most important questions. How do you determine that? The mission statement of the organization should be your guide.

    For example: If the question is how to determine sermon effectiveness on a given Sunday, someone might suggest you measure attendance. Is the question a good one? Sure it is because spiritual growth is most likely part of any church’s mission statement. Can you measure attendance? Sure, just count the people in the seats mid-way though the service. Does that number correlate to effectiveness of a sermon? Unless you’re sole reason for preaching is to fill seats, then the answer is no. Silly example? You would be surprised how often this metric is used to answer all kinds of questions.

  2. What to measure? Now that we have our question, we can now get down to defining the measurements we need to make. Even still, a deep understanding of what success looks like must shape our thoughts in this regard. To be truly beneficial, success must be defined AND agreed upon before we can measure and draw conclusions from the data we collect.
  3. What to conclude? Ever heard of a police detective determining the suspect before any evidence has been processed? That’s called predetermination and just as in police work, making the data fit a predetermined conclusion is – simply put – wrong. Why go through the exercise of asking good questions and putting together meaningful metrics only to get the answer you wanted anyway?The truth is rarely easy to uncover and  sometimes less easy to swallow. It’s our nature to want to shortcut the process and our brains automatically make connections that aren’t based totally in factual evidence. That’s why we must resist these urges and maintain the integrity of the process. The only way to move forward toward a better tomorrow is to let the unfettered truth come to light and allow it to dictate next steps.

Like I said in the beginning, I believe this is the crux to discovering the potential for an organization’s effectiveness, but it is by no means the only piece of the puzzle. The process of examining decisions for success takes time, resources and energy – all of which are in short supply in America and especially in our churches.

It is my assertion that until we are able to ask the BEST questions, measure the RIGHT criteria and conclude HONESTLY the truth of a situation, we won’t BE better tomorrow than we are today. Until then, we are just throwing dice in the dark.

Whether talking about a person or an organization, there exists a framework – intentional or not – that dictates how decisions are made and situations are handled. Greatness can be described as an intentional examination of this framework and rigid adherence to it. Great leaders know how to develop and use each part effectively.

Below is a graphical representation of that framework. The core is critically important as it provides the basis for all other parts. Integrity among the elements of the core will help to ensure that the Strategies and Tactics are unambiguous and clear results can be achieved.

Entitlements FTW…

Steve —  4.20.2010 — 2 Comments

Most of you know where I stand politically, but for those of you who don’t, I’m a Constitutional conservative. I believe in small government, personal responsibility, strong national defense and a free market where competition is the driving force that keeps things balanced.

Ever since I became sensitive to the political climate in this country, I’ve been intrigued at the strategies of liberals. In a recent post, I reveal what I think to be the motivations behind their actions and today I want to add some fuel to the fire.

This new facet of the liberal agenda stems from their intense desire to give something to people who do not deserve it according to the foundational principles of this country. We call these programs to give where it isn’t warranted “entitlement” programs. Welfare and unemployment benefits are two programs that readily come to mind.

Embedded in that very term is the idea that these programs have become “rights” by which they can and should never be taken away. See that? What was designed to assist someone in a hard spot has become a right, not a gift or a loan or even a gracious provision. The implications are staggering.

On the surface, these programs look like a good idea – they are designed to bridge the gap for those less fortunate in times of need. On paper, they look great because they were designed to be TEMPORARY programs – a hold-over until one could get their feet back under them.

What was not considered when these programs were still ideas is the human heart and its propensity to desire something for nothing. We love to get presents and gifts and unexpected surprises that we don’t deserve or have to pay (in any way) for – it’s in our nature to desire this.

And what’s missing is an incentive to wean oneself from these programs. Sure, they don’t provide much money when compared to what a full-time job offers, and that should be enough to get back in the game. But when combined with other programs and exceptions to other rules, one can (and does) survive solely on the handouts from the Federal government, which is really those of us who work hard and pay our taxes.

And the long-term problem with these programs is that they:

  1. Produce a lazy and expectant segment of our population that will just want more and more
  2. Pave the way for other entitlements (can anyone say health care?) to be created for the same reasons
  3. De-incent people to work hard, earn a commiserate wage and contribute to the principles that make this country great
  4. Become a template for use in the state government to further “protect” the less fortunate

Before I conclude, I want you to know that I am all for helping those that need it. I have been the recipient of unexpected gifts and, likewise, been the giver. I realize there are certain situations where temporary help might legitimately turn into permanent help (e.g. injury sustained while protecting this country in the armed forces), but these should be the greatest of exceptions and, sadly, they are not.

As the political landscape in Washington becomes more liberal, the number of social programs continues to rise and we are primed and ready to turn these programs into rights that cannot be taken away without much pain. Let us not forget, the government (Federal or State) does not create any wealth – all of the money they spend comes from the people by way of taxes.

So, for each new program that comes out or an extension of existing programs (e.g. unemployment benefits), the taxpayer (individuals and businesses) will be called on to fund them. The implications of taking that money out of the private sector and putting it in control of the government will have catastrophic implications on this country’s ability to respond to the ever-changing global landscape.

There’s a reason that a 235 yr. old country is viewed as the most powerful, influential and desirable destination in the world – innovation in everything we do. If you want to know why I am so against big government, it is this one point. Taking money away from people and businesses to fund programs designed to make people dependent on the government kills innovation because it kills the spirit needed to push past the pain and sacrifice to obtain the dream of freedom and liberty.

It’s been a slow boil (frog reference) and along the way we’ve been collared and harnessed to serve the government all in the name of compassion. We’ve become slaves to our government and liberalism the master. More programs means that freedom becomes harder to see because the carrot of a free ride becomes more and more enticing.

More people see that entitlements are easier than fighting every day for your wage and don’t realize that with each bite, the water temp goes up. But this isn’t just a problem for them, it’s a problem for us all. Nobody is immune to the effects of big government – especially if you are a hard working wanting to obtain financial independence (a form of freedom).

This is a philosophical fight that has real-life implications and the long-term good isn’t found standing in the line at the unemployment office:

  • it’s found in taking personal responsibility for your actions
  • it’s found in doing what’s right in the face of intense opposition
  • it’s found in making sure the next generation has more opportunities and options than you do
  • it’s found in punishing the corrupt and rewarding the righteous so others will see where we stand and what we value
  • it’s found in the freedom to choose what to do with the hard-earned money in our pockets

it’s found in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

The time is now to decide to stand up and say with a loud voice that you desire the long-term good over the short-term salve that never leads to true healing. Don’t know how to make your voice heard? With your vote in November. With your e-mail and phone call to your elected official. With your voice online. Just start flapping those gums and people will listen…you did after all.

Every so often I am reminded of a time in my professional career that, to this day, gives me courage. I was a Systems Administrator for a technology company – responsible for the internal network and associated services (e-mail, file storage, disaster recovery, etc.). One day, a salesman approached me intent on making me feel about 2″ tall because he disagreed with how I was running the network. He had tenure. He had the right relationships with the big dogs. In essence, if he wanted to really make trouble for me, he probably could…or so I thought.

I was working for a guy named Lance McGonigal at the time. Lance is a wise man, a great leader and a friend to this day. After my run-in with Mr. Puffhead, I walked into Lance’s office with my tail between my legs and proceeded to recount the incident. He listened and responded with words that have stuck with me to this day. He said, “Steve, you work for me and you’re doing a great job. If anyone has a problem with how you do your job, you tell them to come see me and I’ll handle it.” Just writing these words, the emotion is almost overpowering.

For the first time in my life, someone really had my back. I can’t tell you how confident I felt from that day forward and how freeing it was to go to work every day knowing that I had an ally who trusted and believed in me enough to put his name on the line right next to mine. It was like I had Lance standing behind me all the time waiting to step in should things get too dicey. (Think Mr. Clean commercials)

A few years ago, God took that lesson and made it even more special. The more I’ve learned about Jesus and what He did on the Cross, the more confident I live my life. I realized that I am living my life for Him and if anyone has a problem with it, they can take it up with the Big Guy standing behind me. God has put his name right next to mine when He saved me and gave me an advocate in Jesus. This is true when I am living rightly and when I screw up royally.

How confident are you that God has your back and desires to see you win? How often will you let a Mr. Puffhead make you feel 2″ tall? Next time it happens – just remember that you have the creator of the universe standing right behind you ready to defend and speak Truth into the situation. He’s the one you are living for, not anyone else.

Into the Fire

Steve —  1.21.2010 — 1 Comment

Priincipal's OfficeI had a chance to speak some new truth into my son the other night. About an hour after he went to bed, he woke up crying and I went to see him. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he didn’t like “those boys at school pulling on my shirt.” I knew what he was talking about because it coincided with other events of that day that resulted in a trip to the “principal,” but that’s not the story.

He was mad – the kind of mad that makes you cry and hit and scream…all at the same time. In that state, he told me he wasn’t “going back to that school – NEVER!” and continued to sob. I snatched him up and tried my best to console him. This is the first time that I felt like he was being picked on by other kids. It obviously made him mad and it certainly made me mad. It’s my boy they’re jerking around, and what’s worse, it has caused him to be afraid.

Fear is tricky and very powerful. Even more so in the mind of a 4yr old. So I did what any other dad would do, I told him that I had his back and that Manatt boys don’t run away from our problems, we use our head and our heart to overcome it. Low and behold, it seemed to work. Cool – that was just a shot in the dark. It was true, but I didn’t expect that to actually assuage his fears.

This taught me two things:

  1. My son looks up to me and believes that I can help him
  2. This parenting thing is starting to click for me…a little…ever so slightly

Today was the day he went back to school (only half days, one day a week) and it went great. My wife was able to talk to his teachers and share our concerns about an apparent breakdown in supervision and asked for a higher degree of sensitivity for the way the kids “played” with one another. How about some kudos for the wife – she’s getting that parenting thing down too!

All kidding aside, this showed me how important my job is to help prepare my kids to handle situations that scare them and to remind them that mommy and daddy have their backs. I sure am glad that God has my back!

God has been stirring in my heart over the past several weeks and the Tipping Point (great book) was a friend of mine torpedo-ing his life. I say the Tipping Point (great book BTW by Malcolm Gladwell) because God has been working on this in me for a while now, but seeing a friend lose everything in a blink of an eye made it very real and God used it to knock me off center.

One of the “ah-ha’s” from my friend’s situation was me concluding that nobody was close enough to him to identify the signs that led to his very public failure. There wasn’t anyone with enough relational capital to get in his chili about the condition of his heart and what he was doing to stay out of the deep weeds. I concluded this because I’m confident that had a person like that existed, things would be different for my friend.

That conclusion sparked another rabbit trail centered around the analogy of war. I had just finished watching Band of Brothers for the tenth time and that provided the visuals God needed to bring some very important points home to me:

  1. No war is won by an individual – it takes a team. Not just any team, but a well-trained, strongly led, close-knit group of soldiers with a common mission and like minded strategies.
  2. Success is a result of solid preparation, great execution and fanatical perseverance. The soldiers of Easy Company that jumped in behind enemy lines on D-Day (from the series) had all of the ingredients to play a critical role in winning World War II. They trained tirelessly, kept their heads in the heat of battle and dug in like ticks when they absolutely had to hold that line.
  3. There’s a time to play it smart and a time to get crazy. Taking undue risks usually meant trouble for those soldiers except when it was the last thing the enemy expected. Wisdom is knowing the difference and that comes from great leadership.
  4. We need men around us that would weep if we died. One of the things that can’t be calculated tactically is the extent we would fight for those we love. The war produced a bond that was both unexpected and surprisingly strong. When that bond was threatened, logic faded, raw emotion took over and survival became the sole focus. And when survival didn’t happen, their hearts broke and were never the same.

I started trying to take an inventory of my own life against these principles and I found myself sorely lacking in every one of them – and that scared me.

  • I don’t feel like I’m on any teams that both believe victory is possible and have a consensus about how it can be achieved.
  • I don’t feel like I’m prepared or execute very well and at the first sign of resistance, I crumble like a Christmas cookie wondering where my fallback position is.
  • I play it smart when I should be charging the hill and I charge the hill when I should be playing it smart. Sounds like Paul’s famous passage in Romans 9:15.
  • I also don’t think there is any man who would miss me so much that tears would be the result of my passing.

This is very sad to me and not how I wanted it to be at 37 years old. And God tells me that isn’t how He wants it either. Scripture is filled with references to how important it is to live life in the context of close relationships. Love implies that very condition and we are called to love above all else.

I’ve thought a ton about how I got here and why the principles listed above aren’t more true of me and perhaps they will find themselves listed out in another post; however, I want to conclude by telling you that I am on a journey mission crusade to change this.

  • I’m going to be sure that the teams I serve not only believe victory is possible, but they have a good sense of how it will be achieved – especially those in the Church.
  • I’m going to better prepare my mind and heart with His Word and use it when making decisions and facing the hard things in my life.
  • I’m going to more frequently use prayer for wisdom when discerning  the difference between hunkering down and issuing a battle cry.
  • I’m going to, in faith, reach out to my friends and figure out a way to move those relationships to the next level. I’m ready to be open and honest and place my heart in their and His hands in the hopes that it will produce a bond that makes a difference in the middle of a firefight.

I’m so convinced that these steps are no longer negotiable that I’m going to dedicate this year to seeing real change in this arena. And now that I’ve made my plans public, you are free to ask me how it’s going. I hope you will from time to time and I also hope you will take a moment to assess where you are and come up with your own action plan to ensure that no man is allowed to take himself out of the fight.