6 Things Leaders should avoid that will poison your Team

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I’ve been reminded recently of the constant tension on a team. And…. the Tension is Good. We talked about this and leaned into this phrase before, and actually dealt with it as an event theme back in 2010 at Catalyst Atlanta. The right kind of tension is important for teams, as well as for individuals. It stretches and shapes and allows for growth.

But there are other things that can creep into a team and poison it quickly. Things that sneak up fast and before you know it, start to define the team and take everyone off course. In the wrong direction. Headed the wrong way.

Here are a few of the poisons to make sure and avoid:

1. Arrogance- Pride comes before the fall, and for teams, the same holds true. Jim Collins talks about this at length in his book How the Mighty Fall. Humble confidence is the ticket.

2. No communication- this one is the most common poison for all teams to have some form of. The remedy? Overcommunicate. Be intentional and make sure folks are in the know. For team leaders, this one is tough. I struggle at this.

3. Me first, vs. We first- see this alot on high profile sports teams. Or with celebrities. As they say, there’s no “I” in team. A WE first mentality starts at the top with the leader who has to set the tone in word AND deed. If you are hearing “it’s not my job,” then it’s time for a gut check.

4. Jealousy and Cynicism- many times these go hand in hand and one follows the other. The remedy? Confronting it head on. Don’t allow jealousy or cynicism or cliques to form. Stomp it out immediately. Team members have to confront it with each other, as many times the team leader won’t be aware of this until later.

5. Distrust- either not trusting the leader, or not trusting each other. A killer of morale and momentum. Trust comes with time, but also is fueled by interaction and shared experiences. So make sure you are creating opportunities for trust to be built within and among your team.

6. Lack of Vision, and Lack of reality- this usually shows up in the form of a team lacking self awareness. And starts at the top with the team leader. One of the roles of a team leader is to constantly cast vision, but also to confront reality head on and make sure everyone is aware of reality. Don’t allow your team to live in fantasy land. You should cast vision constantly, yes, but you should also deal with reality constantly.

What else would you say poisons teams in your experience?

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.

New Stuff Wednesday

Here are some new things you need to know about and go get!

1. Take it All – brand new worship album from Passion

2. Diamonds- brand new music album from JohnnySwim

3. Crimson Cord- brand new hip hop/spoken word/rap album from Propaganda

4. You Make Me Brave- brand new worship album from Bethel Music

5. All Sons and Daughters- new worship album from All Sons and Daughters 

6. Home Behind the Sun- brand new book from Jason Locy and Tim Willard

7. Moment Maker- new book from Carlos Whittaker 

8. The Art of Celebration- fairly new worship album from Rend Collective

9. The Worship Initiative, Vol 1- brand new worship album from Shane and Shane

 

One of the great Leadership Corruptors

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POWER. One of the great corruptors of leaders.

We all deny it in public, but struggle with its pull over us in private.

If you recall, it was one of the temptations of Jesus while in the desert for 40 days. Actually the 3rd temptation he faced.

“I will give you all the kingdoms of this world in their splendor,” the demon said to Jesus (Matthew 4:9).

Power is intoxicating. Throughout history, leaders have given in to the temptation of power- whether political, military, economic, or even moral and spiritual power- even though many continued to speak and lead and influence in the name of Jesus.

But when looking at Jesus, we see a different example. Jesus did not cling to power, but instead emptied himself and became as we are.

Henri Nouwen writes so eloquently in his classic leadership book In the Name of Jesus that the reason power is such a strong corruptor is “it seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.” BAM.

We are constantly confronted with the temptation to replace love with power. Ruling over vs. leading forward. Control vs. love.

Leaders are naturally given power when they are in charge of something. It comes with the territory in leadership. So it’s a given that with leadership and responsibility, you are given the power to influence.

The question is “What do you do with it?” Do you leverage it for your own gain, or steward it for the benefit of others?

10 Must Haves for Leaders

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1. Community- can’t be isolated. Friends and people you can do life with are paramount. Surround yourself with friends and team members who aren’t impressed by you.

2. Credibility- you must be believable. And a leader who is trustworthy. Above reproach and constant integrity. If you say you’ll get it done, you will. Your word is your bond.

3. Hunger- leaders are learners. And always want to get better. Constant posture of improvement.

4. Hope- vision for tomorrow. A belief that tomorrow will be better than today. And constant encouragement to those around them, giving them hope to tackle what’s in front of them.

5. Self- awareness- know who you truly are. And lead from that authenticity. Do all you can to understand the true you.

6. Confidence- confidence, not arrogance. In a shaky, insecure world, you must be confident and secure. Thanks to Louie Giglio for this one in a recent message.

7. Humility- understand and realize that it’s not about you. A bigger story is going on. Always make it about someone else on your team. Hand it off. Pass it on.

8. Competence- be the best in the world at what you do. A level of excellence. The expert in your field/industry/niche.

9. Passion- Jesus focused. A contagious love for what you do, and overall passion for life. You are your best customer, and would actually purchase or attend or be part of whatever you are creating.

10. Courage- leaders take risks. And are willing to step out in front when no one else will. And make constant decisions. Bringing certainty to uncertainty.

 

9 Ways to Truly Connect in a Conversation

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Connecting in a conversation is very important. Whether someone you are meeting for the first time, or everyday greetings in your office, close friends.a follow up meeting, or a longtime business associate, it’s important to properly connect.

So here’s your cheat sheet for connecting in a conversation.

1. Start with a proper greeting- We’ve talked about this before. Handshake, bow, hug, etc. Figure out what is appropriate and then stick to that.

2. Look them in the eye. It’s amazing how many folks still can’t do this. Here is a post with more about this.

3. Listen more than you talk. Ask more questions than you give answers. Listening is an art.

4. Find at least one area of common interest. Look for the area you all have common interests in. Food, cooking, sports, church, family, hobbies.

5. Make at least one valuable connection for them. Might be that you commit to introducing them to a friend of yours, or you heard about a business opportunity they might be interested in, etc.

6. Create one simple action item. Could be a follow up call, another meeting, an email they need to send, an email you need to send, or a simple reminder to connect again soon.

7. Ask great questions. Here are a few:

What are you learning lately?

Who has had the greatest impact on you?

What gets you up in the morning and keeps you awake at night?

What do you love most about your family?

What do you love most about your job/profession?

What are you most excited about right now? 

8. Look for opportunities to provide encouragement. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to be encouraged. Find places in the conversation where you can provide some “ego biscuits” (as my good friend Steve Graves always told me).

9. Give plenty of “conversation exit ramps.” Always give opportunities in a conversation with someone new the ability to exit quickly. Options to jump out of the conversation and into another one. This is paramount in environments where there are lots of other folks- dinner parties, weddings, social gatherings.

8 Reasons why Joseph was a great Leader

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Joseph is one of my favorite personalities in the Old Testament. The story of Joseph in Genesis is one worth reading again and again.

In regards to Joseph, here are some leadership qualities I admire in him:

1. Principled- he had character and integrity. He was honest. He was tempted at multiple times, and he resisted.

2. Humble- the power and prestige of his position working for Pharaoh never changed him.

3. Disciplined- Joseph had the proper long term perspective, even while in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

4. Faithfulness- while in jail and throughout all of the turmoil, Joseph remained faithful to God and never wavered from his commitment to follow Him.

5. Grace- Joseph showed grace and mercy to his brothers, even though they had sold him into slavery.

6. Competence- he did his job with excellence. Whether as a servant, or the interpreter of Pharaoh’s dream, or as the manager of the family sheep flock.

7. Wise- Joseph was wise beyond his years. He was 30 when he stepped in to help set up Egypt for the famine, and demonstrated a seasoned perspective with decision after decision.

8. Strategic- Joseph was a planner. He instructed the officials to prepare for a famine, even though it was years away, gathering up food to store up, even during the seven years of “plenty.”