Archives For Leadership

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.

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.

A recent “scuffle” relationally has reminded me  how important good solid leadership is needed in our world – especially in the Christian realms. The aspect that is brought to mind is courage. To me, the best definition of courage is found when contrasting it against fear. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it. Courage moves you into the burning building when everything in you is saying “STOP!”

Leaders are often find themselves in the midst of difficult situations requiring vast amounts of courage. This happens for several reasons:

  1. Leaders are typically trying to move people where they wouldn’t naturally go themselves. In Henry & Richard Blackaby’s book, Spiritual Leadershp, the spiritual leader is defined as someone who is trying to move people onto God’s agenda. If you’ve ever explored God’s agenda, you know that not only the destination, but the journey can be hard to get up for. And with that comes tension and hard conversations. A leader not willing to move courageously into those hard places 1) won’t be a leader for long and 2) will miss out on some of the most exhilarating “God moments” that can be experienced.
  2. People are messy and need leaders to help sort it all out. So, from that standpoint, we are all leaders in one form or another. If you’ve ever broken up a sibling scuffle or a stopped your child from doing something very dangerous then you know that on occasion, you get elbowed in the nose or have to endure the tantrum of all tantrums. Every day, we find ourselves faced with choices whether to step up and into something hard or remain silent and let some other leader deal with it. Doing the former is one hallmark of true leadership.
  3. Leaders must make the hard decision when nobody else will. James Kirk, the captain of the starship Enterpise from Star Trek, comes to mind when I think about leaders making hard decisions. Military leaders face some of the most difficult decisions on the planet because they deal with choosing between the good of the few and the good of the many. That’s why I admire former President George W. Bush. He led courageously without much thought as to his approval rating. In short, he did what he felt was right for the good of the many. For this, I’m grateful and very glad I work with computers!

Great leadership requires courage – not just personally, but also for others. The word encourage means to instill or give courage to another person and great leaders can do this better than anyone. They instinctively know the right words or most effective gesture to breath life into our crusty innards – to warm us in places long since cold.

As you look around you, who needs encouraging? Who needs some courage to face the lions of the day? Who absolutely must have you stand up and be strong and look them in the face and say, “together…we can make it!”

Go and be that for them. Don’t hesitate, just go and BE the source of courage for the world…we all need it.

After a recent encounter with a 17 yr. old gone south, I’m reminded how much I hate arrogance. Webster defines arrogance as, “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” You see, it’s an attitude…a mental position that comes out as overbearing. At the center of this mental position is ego (self) that is inflated with an unnatural confidence born out of compensation or fear.

Arrogance is a mask that is designed to keep people from seeing the real person. For anyone with time on the planet measured in decades, the illusion that we are the best – AT ANYTHING – has long since faded. With that comes a realization that anything positive that comes from one’s effort is a blessing bestowed because we’ve seen how horribly wrong things can also go when we get involved.

I’ve had the incredible blessing in my life to have men that cared for me deeply spend the time and risk the relationship to instill in me humility. At times, those lessons hurt and were unappreciated. Other times, there were exactly what I needed to hear. Regardless of how I took them, the wisdom of these men took hold to some degree because at 36, I “get it” – at least more than I did. Life isn’t about me – it’s about others and arrogance gets in the way.

Knowledge is the realization it’s raining. Wisdom is the sense to come in out of it. So, here’s the question: are you driving a wedge between yourself and the world because you’re afraid they might get too close and see your dirty underwear and therefore not love you? Don’t answer now – think about it…it takes time to process. If the eventual answer has even a hint of “yes,” then it’s time to get some new tapes playing and the first one starts like this:

God loves you. Did you hear me? The creator of the known and unknown universe loves YOU. He knew about your dirty underwear and He still sent His Son to die so you could have life – right here; right now; and for all eternity. Wrap your noodle around that and you’ll stop caring what other people think about you and the need for the mask will go away. You’ll finally be free from shame and letting people get close will be met with joy rather than fear. Want to know more about how God loves you, read the book of Ephesians from the Bible – it’s a great place to start.

You don’t have to hide any more – arrogant isn’t something you want to be in the list of adjectives that describe you. It’s ugly and a horrible state of mind. It’s also unnecessary and wastes opportunities to build meaningful bridges rather than strapping C4 to them and pushing the plunger. Joy awaits, but it starts with coming in out of the rain…

People are choosing anonymous 140 character sound bits over real, face-to-face relationships. News stories impact our lives only as long as it takes the blogosphere to write the next 3 paragraphs. And I find myself stuck in an existance that is flying by at the color of vanilla.