a heart check-up for leaders

You can’t lead if no one follows.

On the other hand, a lot of people don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a business title or position, but others are watching them and following their example all the time. We can all learn to lead better.

I had the privilege last week of attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Summit, spoke first. He shared three hard-fought leadership lessons from his experience. This is my adaptation of his first point:

stethoscopeTAKE CARE OF THE HEART

“Oftentimes, leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest awareness of the spirit of their team.” ~ Bill Hybels

Leaders can get so fired up about their vision and strategies that followers begin to pay the price. The leader starts to view everyone else as caring less about the goals than they do. The leader then determines that if the followers don’t care about the vision, then the leader doesn’t have to worry about the followers’ heart… and those followers become expendable.

This attitude may not get expressed out loud, but everyone can feel it.

Some ways to protect against this error and truly care for your people:

  • Do an objective/outside evaluation. Bring in a professional team, get a coach, ask a friend. Find out what your followers are thinking and feeling. Have someone else give you honest feedback about how you are treating your team (or students, or children…) with your attitudes and actions.
  • Make sure the leader and team “own” the desired culture. If the leader does not lead by example, others will get frustrated with the hypocrisy and not embrace or apply the culture either.
  • Get serious about training the leaders who manage other people. Some people simply should not lead. If others are continually getting hurt, discouraged, held back, or frustrated by a leader – do something about it! Hybels said, “People join organizations, but leave managers.”
  • Increase the level of candor in evaluations/reviews. An easy format to use is the Start, Stop, Continue categories… and be specific! People (including children!) want desperately to know, “How am I doing?” They can’t get better or grow in areas, if they don’t know what it is that they need to improve.

The kindest form of feedback is the truth. 

  • Practice a ruthless commitment to conflict resolution. View conflicts not as burdens, but rather as opportunities to strengthen the relationship. (more on this area in a coming post!)

WOW! I have plenty to work on here… and that was just his first point! I’ll write about more of the sessions in upcoming posts.

Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you care about the heart and spirit of the people who follow you?

facilitating change

IMGP0641 webChange: heart attitudes, training styles, organizational culture… and the world!

I just returned from a week in Kenya where I greatly enjoyed a transformational time with 50 of our African staff – to help them learn new training paradigms and materials to use with their new staff. Men and women, grandparents and young singles, they came from all over the continent: Ghana, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Niger, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and more… They spoke English and French, in addition to many national ethnic tongues. They had up to 20 years of training experience or none. They work with students, business professionals, families, athletes and rural communities.

How to help such a diverse group desire, understand and prepare for change? Change is hard. Change is powerful.

We began with vision. Vision for them. Vision for their work. Vision for the organization. Vision for the world. We talked about the value, privilege and responsibility we experience when we invest in others’ lives.

They studied the character of those who are willing to change – humble, teachable, life-long learners, innovators, team players – and evaluated their own…

Our Design Team demonstrated the power of teamwork, adult learning, creative teaching methods, coaching processes and coaching groups, shared leadership, freedom to fail, and growth in community.

We also discussed the challenges and the barriers to change – their own personal internal struggles and the organizational struggles: traditions, aligning others, resources.

We modeled, and then they practiced with new tools… teaching new lessons, coaching each other, leading interactive groups, giving and receiving feedback.

Everyone ate well and slept little; we drank lots of tea; we shared life stories and prayed for each other. We became friends.

Together they decided on action points and next steps.

Our staff have a long road ahead of them. Change does not happen overnight. It does not happen easily. They will face opposition, and they will get tired and frustrated and discouraged in the process.

But I have hope for them. They are deeply committed to their people and their purpose. They serve a great God. They will help each other in a learning community. Change is healthy and necessary for the future.

I feel honored to have been part of the time. I look forward to what will happen in the future.

How do you respond to change? How do you help your people prepare for change?