7 Ways to be a Bridge Builder

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Building a bridge is an art. Not literal bridges that you drive over, although those are incredibly important….

I’m referring to building bridges in business, friendships, co-workers, mentors, and key partnerships. I’m referring to building a new relationship with your neighbor. I’m referring to connecting with someone that you’ve wanted to meet with for a long time and only having 15 minutes for a meeting. How do you turn that meeting into an hour or more, and then eventually into a friend?

Many folks just think that showing up is half the battle. Well, sort of. But there’s more. When it comes to winning a client, or inking a new partnership, or developing a new friendship, there are some key things I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful.

A few thoughts:

1. Love people until they ask why. Let your actions speak so loud that people can not help but pay attention. Let them see your authenticity, and ultimately demand an explanation for the reason you do what you do.

2. Prove your craft before asking for something. Excellence, skill and know how is key on this. Show that you are competent before you demand that they should partner with you.

3. Ask more questions than they do. I love this one. Many times asking great questions is way more strategic than giving great answers.

4. Spend lots of time listening. Once you’ve asked a great question, listen. And listen more. And listen more.

5. Find points of connection and shared interests, and be intentional. A crucial part of great bridge building. Find out what motivates someone, what their interests are, what they enjoy. Is it sports? rock climbing? history? Whatever it is, find out and then build on those areas of shared interests.

6. Connect them to others. Great connectors and bridge builders are always figuring out ways to introduce their friends within their circle. Claire at Twitter does this amazingly well. And here’s the key on this- the ultimate value for the connection is not for you, it’s more for others.

7. Follow up. This is the #1 step that everyone seems to forget. We have to follow up. Never assume that because you haven’t heard from someone, it means they are not interested. They’re busy, just like you. Take the first step and reach out. And then reach out again. And then again.

9 Tips for those “Newbies” entering the Workforce

We always have a bunch of interns at Catalyst. And most folks on the Catalyst team have cut their teeth in their “first job” here at Catalyst. They are all really talented, really sharp, and really hungry to learn.

Having young early 20 somethings around reminds me of the days when I started my first “real” job just after college. And while that wasn’t that long ago, I feel like there are a few things I’ve learned since then that might be good reminders for recent college graduates, or those just entering the “workforce.”

1. Show up on time (early). As I tell our team all the time: If you are on time, you’re late. If you are early, you’re on time.

2. Always have something to write with and write on. This is crucial. Don’t go strolling off to a meeting without pen and paper, unless you are planning to take notes on your phone, on your iPad, or on your laptop.

3. Be informed. Regardless of what you are doing, be informed before you get there- whether that’s a new job, or a meeting, or a lunch appointment. Do some research and show up educated about the topic, about the person, or about the context.

4. Be intentional. Start your first day by asking great questions and being inquisitive.

5. Request the tough assignments. Take initiative and request the tough assignment that no one else really wants. Not as a brown noser, but as a go getter.

6. Relentlessly get things done. When given responsibility and a task to get done, make it happen and try your best to get it done early. Then anticipate what else needs to get done beyond what you were assigned, and get that done. Under promise and over deliver.

7. Remember names. If you are new in a large office with hundreds of staff, this one can be especially difficult. But it’s your responsibility. Know everyone by their first and last name within your first week. If that means studying the staff directory at night, so be it.

8. Know what your leader/boss appreciates. If your boss appreciates humor, then lean into that. If your boss appreciates staying late, then lean into that. If your boss appreciates constant feedback, lean into that. If your boss appreciates Chipotle, lean heavily into that….!!

9. Figure out the team culture, embrace it, and add to it. Our team culture at Catalyst includes several key elements- food, hard work, loud, fun, young, etc. Whatever the key elements of a team culture where you are coming in as the newbie, try to add to it. So, for example, if your team’s culture is built around food, then add to that and bring in some snacks without being asked. If it’s celebration, then add a new way to celebrate. If it’s being loud, add a new loud instrument to the team breakroom.

10 Keys to being a Great Employee

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Being a leader doesn’t exempt you from being a good employee. Matter of fact, as leaders, we should strive to be the best in all we do, not just being “good” or “better.”

“Good” is doing what is expected of you. This typically falls in the slightly above-average range and is relatively easy to achieve with a bit of focus and determination. “Better” is rising a little higher than good and typically means you are comparing yourself to the next one in line.

But best is where you should want to live. It is greatness and doesn’t mean you are better than everyone else but that you’re working to your maximum capability.

Whether the one in charge, or just simply part of the team, our goal should be to create an environment that thrives on excellence and always strives to be the best.

This can be a challenge but I’ve discovered 10 ways to be the best employee there is:

1. Write everything down. Never show up to a meeting without something to write with and something to write on. And write it down. Everything. Otherwise you’ll forget. I don’t care who you are.

2. Honor people’s time. Show up early and finish on time.

3. Come with solutions, not just ideas. This is crucial. Move towards completion, not away from it. Ideas are great, but always have to lead towards the finish line.

4. Learn how to anticipate. Be one step ahead. Do something every day you weren’t “asked” or “told” to do, but know you should do.

5. Be a disciplined learner. Understand it is your role to be an expert, no matter what level or role you play in an organization. Don’t just be one step ahead of your boss in being skilled at your job …. be an expert.

6. Listen well. Listen when in a conversation; don’t just think about what you are going to say in response. Listen for next steps, not current realities- this has to do with anticipating.

7. Reflect most of the credit; take all the blame. This is more for leaders, but still a great principle to put into practice no matter what level you are in the organization. Be a reflector of praise, not an absorber. Absorb the blame if at all possible.

8. Never speak negatively of your peers for personal gain. This is a hard one for everyone, especially when your boss or superior wants to pit you against that peer and see how you respond. Don’t give in to that. Stay above it.

9. Push back. Almost every organizational leader I know wants their team members to challenge the process, question assumptions, bring new ideas to the table, and push back when they don’t agree. Don’t be afraid to do this. If your leader is not mature enough to take this, then they probably shouldn’t be in the position they are in. If unsure on whether you truly have “permission” to push back, ask for permission on the front end.

10. Take on more responsibility. Ask for more power and involvement, and you’ll be lifting the load of your employer or boss. That is always a welcomed conversation. Always. Help by taking on more.

Quit Being a Wimpy Leader

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I have great respect for professional baseball players; they are anything but wimpy. To stand in front of home plate with a ball heading toward your head at 95 miles per hour with nothing but a piece of wood to bat it away takes guts.

Life and leadership are a lot like baseball. Even the best batters strike out sometimes. But a true athlete, and courageous leaders, can never run away from the pitch.

I may not play baseball, but I do snow ski, and the analogy is much the same. The first time I faced the challenge of a mogul run on a black diamond slope that was steep and overwhelming, it was tough for me to muster the energy to get down the mountain. While gazing over the steep side from the top of the run, my friend’s advice was, “Point your skis down the hill and keep your nose over your tips. You have to lean forward and over your ski tips. Even when you are overcome with fright, maintain a posture of nose over tips, rather than leaning back.” In essence: lean back and you fall.

This is not only great advice for skiing steep slopes but also good advice for leadership. As a leader, you sit atop the mountain. You have no choice but to face the slopes. You can lean back, coast, and play it safe, snowplowing your way painfully back and forth across the mountain, or you can point you skis down the hill, nose over the tips, and dominate the run. Being a courageous leader requires you to push beyond the norm, be willing to take risks and quit being a wimp.

Courage is not an individual trait but an organizational one. It’s a natural instinct that all leaders confront fear of failure and fear of the unknown. But living in that fear is destructive for a team and will kill momentum.

Courage is not waiting for your fear to go away; it is confronting your fear head-on.

Through working with young leaders around the nation, I have found six essentials that can help build a culture of courage in an organization:

1)    Set scary standards. Your level of excellence and expectation for your product, service or experience should be something that is nearly unattainable. Safe goals are set by safe leaders with safe visions. Give your people a goal that scares them, and you’ll produce leaders who know what it means to overcome fear.

2)    Allow for failure. The road to success is many times paved through multiple failures. Allow for and even encourage your team to fail as they attempt to succeed.

3)    Make decisions. Don’t let ideas, strategy, communication, and important organizational markers sit idly by on the side without saying yes or no. Leaders are decision makers, and must do it constantly.

4)    Reward innovation. Innovation requires taking risks. And bold risks create bold team members. Rewarding innovation will challenge your team to grow in their roles.

5)    Pursue the right opportunities. Not every risk is a good one. Be disciplined. Aggressively pursue a few things that make sense. Say no often.

6)    Learn to delegate. This is one of the most courageous things a leader can do. Entrusting others with important tasks requires letting go and relinquishing control. Liberally pass responsibility and authority to your team. If you want your team to be courageous, give them the chance to lead. Early and often.

These elements aren’t easy to nurture in a corporate setting. You and your colleagues will likely resist it at every turn. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of readiness to die.” Courage mingles our desire to rush forward with a willingness to accept the possibility of being stopped in our tracks.

Yet if you desire to be a leader who changes the world, you have no choice but to exhibit courage on a constant basis.

The good news is that unlike some leadership traits, courage is not inborn; it’s learned. The natural response is to run from what frightens us, but life’s greatest leaps occur when we resist this impulse.

Remember when you were completely fearless as a kid? Children often demonstrate courage naturally. Most of us can think back to times as a child when we stepped out in courage. Whether riding a bike without training wheels, jumping into the deep end of the pool, or letting go of the rails to ice-skate without assistance, life teaches us that progress requires courage. We have to be willing to get out to the edge, look at what is in the front of us, summon up the fortitude, and jump.

The jump may be risky, but the decision to stay where you are is even more so.

Be Brave!!

8 Keys for Leading Musicians, Designers, and Artists

Okay, so alot of us who run organizations, or manage teams, or have staff direct reports, are leading those who consider themselves to be ARTISTS of some sort.

Whether it’s musicians, or designers, or writers, or entertainers, or worship leaders, or those who sketch/paint/draw, I’m going to lump them all together for the sake of this conversation and my thoughts on how to best lead them.

Disclaimer: we are ALL artists. In regards that we all are called to create things of excellence. Some of us are way more “Artistic” at our core than others. That is who I’m talking about here. You know who they are on your team. Guaranteed.

I’m also VERY INTERESTED to hear from you on how you best lead/manage artists. Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Here are a few of my thoughts on effectively leading Musicians, Designers, and Artists:

1. Start with reality. Artists are different. Not in bad weird way. But in a great weird way. So just begin with this, and it will help tremendously.

2. Lead, don’t manage. Share vision, inspire, and let them loose. Managing an artist type like you would an accountant, or a project manager, or a typical hard charging type A, is not a good idea.

3. Be very specific on areas that most think are ambiguous. Most leaders think that because artists are spontaneous and spatial in their thinking, that they don’t want specifics. So alot of leaders will be totally ambiguous in their interactions with artists. But just the opposite. Most artists need and desire very clear, focused and specific direction. They don’t mind boundaries; in fact, they welcome them (more insight on this from my friend Tyler Reagin here).

4. Give them room to dream. This might mean they need to spend an afternoon at a coffee shop or in the park or at the lake. Let them do that.

5. Include them in the process. If you simply tell them what you want once you and everyone else have decided, you’ll probably get it. But including them in the creative process will create more buy in and probably a better outcome.

6. Allow them to decorate and make their area “their own.” Their office or cube or space needs to reflect who they are. Otherwise, finding inspiration could be tough in the office.

7. Release them into their areas of greatest strength. Don’t burden a great artist with tasks and responsibilities outside their strengths. If it’s a money thing, pay them less but let them do what they are great at. Most artists care way more about doing their “art” anyway.

8. Aggregate artists in “pairs” and team lead them. I like to always have at least two artists in a meeting, on a team, working on a project, sitting together, and ultimately working together. It gives them more energy and allows them to vent to each other. Also, if you have personality conflicts with artists on your team, then “team” lead them. Don’t take it personal, but figure out the best way to release them and inspire them. It might be that you are not the best person to do that, and it’s okay that someone else on your team is.

Look at me when You’re Talking to Me

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Because of my role with Catalyst and other organizations, I get the chance quite often to hang with leaders who I really admire. Folks who are high profile and well established. At the top of their industry. Influencers in the truest sense. I’m always honored to be in the room with folks who are well-known and considered experts.

One thing I’ve noticed about those who have “arrived” in terms of influence, and stature, and credibility, is that they are usually the kind of leader who authentically takes an interest in you when you first meet them. They ask good questions, and are genuinely interested in talking with you and learning more about you. They look you in the eyes. They don’t gaze around the room looking for someone else to talk to- they truly engage in conversation with you. Very authentic. Very real. Interested and eye to eye.

Then there’s the “posers.” John Maxwell categorizes these kind of folks as “climbers.” You’ve met them before. So have I. They arrive at any gathering, party, function, or event, and immediately want to see who else is in the room. Especially those who aren’t as “well known.” They are way more interested in climbing than connecting. Talking to you is just simply a step in the right direction to someone else who is way more important.

That really bothers me. And I know I’ve been guilty of doing this before. And that bothers me even more.

So let’s all commit to truly being present in conversations, especially with new folks. Let’s look each other in the eyes. I am reminded today of how important it is to focus on who and what is in front of you. Being present. Whatever environment you are in, it’s way more important to be a concerned connector rather than a conceited climber.

20 Keys for Leading 20-somethings on your Team

Young leaders are the future. They actually are the present as well. Lots of leaders ask me how best to lead the millennial generation, basically those born after 1980. We gather thousands of leaders who fit this category on an annual basis, and most of the Catalyst staff are under the age of 30. I have the privilege to get to hang out with 20-somethings a lot, and I’ve noticed some things very particular to this generation.

I have to admit- I don’t always get this right. As a 100% Gen X’er, my tendency is to lean away from several of these points, and lead how I’ve been led over the years by Boomer and Busters. But I’m working on it….

So with that said, here you go, 20 keys for leading 20-somethings on your team 

1. Give them freedom with their schedule. I’ll admit, this one is tough for me.

2. Provide them projects, not a career. Career is just not the same anymore. They desire options. Just like free agents.

3. Create a family environment. Work, family and social are all intertwined, so make sure the work environment is experiential and family oriented. Everything is connected.

4. Cause is important. Tie in compassion and justice to the “normal.” Causes and opportunities to give back are important.

5. Embrace social media. it’s here to stay.

6. They are more tech savvy than any other generation ever. Technology is the norm. XBOX, iPhones, laptops, iPads are just normal. If you want a response, text first, then call. Or DM first. Or send a Facebook message. Not anti calls though.

7. Lead each person uniquely. Don’t create standards or rules that apply to everyone. Customize your approach. (I’ll admit, this one is difficult too!)

8. Make authenticity and honesty the standard for your corporate culture. Millenials are cynical at their core, and don’t trust someone just because they are in charge.

9. Millenials are not as interested in “climbing the corporate ladder.” But instead more concerned about making a difference and leaving their mark.

10. Give them opportunities early with major responsibility. They don’t want to wait their turn. Want to make a difference now. And will find an outlet for influence and responsibility somewhere else if you don’t give it to them. Empower them early and often.

11. All about the larger win, not the personal small gain. Young leaders in general have an abundance mentality instead of scarcity mentality.

12. Partnering and collaboration are important. Not interested in drawing lines. Collaboration is the new currency, along with generosity.

13. Not about working for a personality. Not interested in laboring long hours to build a temporal kingdom for one person. But will work their guts out for a cause and vision bigger than themselves.

14. Deeply desire mentoring, learning and discipleship. Many older leaders think millenials aren’t interested in generational wisdom transfer. Not true at all. Younger leaders are hungry for mentoring and discipleship, so build it into your organizational environment.

15. Coach them and encourage them. They want to gain wisdom through experience. Come alongside them don’t just tell them what to do.

16. Create opportunities for quality time- individually and corporately. They want to be led by example, and not just by words.

17. Hold them accountable. They want to be held accountable by those who are living it out. Measure them and give them constant feedback.

18. They’ve been exposed to just about everything, so the sky is the limit in their minds. Older leaders have to understand younger leaders have a much broader and global perspective, which makes wowing Millenials much more difficult.

19. Recognize their values, not just their strengths. It ain’t just about the skillz baby. Don’t use them without truly knowing them.

20. Provide a system that creates stability. Clear expectations with the freedom to succeed, and providing stability on the emotional, financial, and organizational side.

 

How Wide is Your Circle of Influence?

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The impact of our influence many times is determined by the circles or spheres of our influence. Our circles of influence can be intentional or unintentional; they can be private or public, and they always have a unique and very specific engagement model.

Not sure how scientific my different levels are below, but at least they get the conversation started. And give us a context for how to think and plan regarding our different levels of influence. In Greek, the word for sphere of influence is “oikos.” So think about your Oikos and how you are being strategic in influencing those around you.

One thing is for sure- don’t live in Influence Fantasy Land. If you think you have a much wider circle of influence than you really do, it will create problems for you, your team, and those closest around you. I call this “Influence Imagination.” I know many leaders who have this symptom. They think they are a way bigger deal than they really are, and believe they have way more influence than they really do.

Another thing- wherever you reside, that is your assignment. Don’t feel like you have to move up the ladder of bigger circles in order to be more influential. Be faithful to the circle you’ve been given to steward.

Family, Personal and Social levels of influence exist for most of us. The other levels take intentionality, focus, and determination.

1-10: Family Level: immediate family and/or those you live with.

10-100: Personal Level: friends and c0-workers; those you see on a regular basis- weekly if not daily.

100-500: Social Level: neighbors, business partners, church friends, sports parents, vendors,

500-1000: Influence Level: intentional influence really starts here. you now have followers and those who are listening, reading, or paying attention to what you are saying and doing. This level usually involves a local context. And you still know most of these people, if not all of them, on a personal level.

1000-10,000: Public Level: your influence has gone public at this level. You have a blog, you are a writer, you are influencing people outside of your ability to know them all personally. Most leaders who have aspirations of being a Major influencer end up cresting out at this level.

10,000-50,000: Popular Level: your influence has gone “popular” at this level. Maybe you are the mayor of a city, or you have a widely read blog, or you are a public speaker, or you are a CEO of a well-known organization, or you coach a popular sports team, or the pastor of a megachurch. Leaders at this level of influence get invited to gatherings, move the needle in culture, and have established and built in systems that continue to push their levels of influence up.

50,000-250,000: National Level: at this level, your influence is established. You have the ability to make things happen in a way that most only hope to reach.

250,000- up: International Level: Your influence has a broad appeal and helps shape conversations, moves industry, and is global in reach.

What circle of influence are you currently residing in?