December 16, 2013

Don't Fixate on ONE Solution


Walking on the beach I noticed a dedicated, hard-working egret who knew what he wanted and thought he knew how to get it.
 
 
 
Fish in a bucket should be easy pickings, right?  The only problem was how to get them out of the bucket, because the fisherman had placed a weighted cover there... precisely to keep the egrets from eating his bait fish!
 
Throughout the morning other egrets smelled the fish in the bucket and came to check it out, but they quickly determined that there was a better way to get fish in the nearby surf. Not this guy, though. He was so fixated on this one solution to his hunger that he ignored the obvious solution that everyone else found. He was so convinced that this was an easier and better way, that he wasted the entire morning while all the other egrets got their fill of small fish in the surf. In fact, the fisherman told me this particular egret did the same thing every morning! Occasionally the fisherman would empty his bucket when he was through fishing, but he would never allow this particular egret to have any of the fish, because he was so fixated on this method of feeding that the fisherman knew he would never catch his own fish again if ever allowed to eat from the bucket. Even so, the egret still was determined that this was easier than catching fish in the water, so day after day he keeps dreaming of how to open the bucket and get at all those yummy fish that are just waiting to be eaten.


He reminded me of that simple definition of insanity--continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results.

 


 
Hint to the Leader: Don't get so fixated on ONE solution to the problem. There might be another way. Be willing to think a new thought.

 
Hint to the Follower:  Don't take rejection of your suggestion of a solution as rejection of the problem you are seeing. The resources to open the bucket might be beyond your reach. When you hit a wall of limitations, turn around and look at the ocean of other ideas that might also work, be willing to follow the example of others who are already getting results.
 
 
© Copyright Dr. Larry Gay, December 2013
"Lessons on Leadership and Followership"
 
 




April 10, 2011

Don't Be a Bonsai Leader

So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.”
(Paul’s Letter to the Romans 14:19, HCSB)

I once saw a demonstration of how to grow a bonsai tree. I was horrified to watch the professional horticulturist brutally hack away at a tree branch as he told how the tree, if left to its own nature, would grow to an unpredictable shape, large and reproductive. The goal of bonsai gardening, he explained, is to force the tree to grow small and remain small in a shape that is pleasing to the gardener and that will fit into the pot where the tree is intended to live. Bonsai trees do not reproduce. Later, I came across a website for “Bonsai Leadership” and I thought, “this must be a joke!” When I think of a “bonsai leader” I can only imagine someone who hacks away at people to force them into a cookie-cutter mold that can be controlled and micro-managed. Why would anyone want to be a bonsai leader?  (I honestly do not intend to offend anyone who might be associated with that group or with bonsai gardening.)


Wikipedia describes bonsai:
“Bonsai can be created from nearly any… tree or shrub species… its growth is restricted by the pot environment. Several times a year, the bonsai is shaped to limit growth… and meet the artist's detailed design…. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-sized trees.”



Bonsai leaders achieve conformity, uniformity and deformity
While bonsai leadership might achieve conformity and uniformity, its ultimate result is controlled deformity. The bonsai tree was not originally intended by its creator to be small and sterile. By forcing the plant to grow small, it becomes a deformed imitation of its original intended purpose. In the same way, individuals respond to bonsai leadership by becoming small imitations of what they were meant to be.  By hacking away at any attempts to grow outside the box, the bonsai leader trains individuals, like a bonsai tree, to be ornamental instead of allowing them to grow to their maximum potential and multiplying their contribution to the organization’s purpose. “My way or the highway” is often the theme of such a leader.


Leader-builders achieve diversity, variety and purpose
The best leaders are not threatened by the leadership potential in the people they lead. To the contrary, they actually work at building up others and multiplying their own effectiveness as they celebrate the diverse gifts and abilities of others. The best leaders recognize that it is precisely this diversity that contributes to the organization fulfilling its purpose and reaching its objectives. While uniformity might be easier to control, it is variety that builds strength in the team.


Hint to the Leader
Consider whether your leadership style is characterized by building up or tearing down. You could be doing a bonsai on your workers without realizing it. What can you do to encourage the people you lead to grow to their potential and use their unique gifts, talents and experience to contribute positively to the company’s goals and objectives?

           
Hint to the Follower
If you feel like you are the bonsai, hang in there! Never forget that your were meant to grow and be productive. Start looking for ways to reproduce and multiply yourself by mentoring others. Learn from the mistakes of others. Determine now that you will not be a bonsai leader.


[See also “Stress and Job Dissatisfaction”, April 4, 2010]


© Copyright Dr. Larry Gay, April 2011
"Lessons on Leadership and Followership"









April 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning for Business


            Spring cleaning is a time to clean out and throw away any old stuff that is no longer useful to make room for new stuff. Your business or organization needs a regular “spring cleaning.”  Every department should look for things not to do. Ask yourselves, “What are we currently doing that we should stop doing?”  You cannot keep adding new processes, procedures, or practices and also keep the status quo of old processes, procedures and practices going at their same rate… UNLESS, of course, you also add new personnel along with the new products or services you want to offer. Most managers will say, “This is all we have to work with. Make it work.”


Make the best use of what you have
            I love a scene from the movie Apollo 13.  The crew is in a critical situation with a damaged spacecraft trying to return to earth and needs to connect the air purification system from the Lunar Landing Module to the Command Module. The problem is, the ventilation hardware of the two systems does not match up. [Several technicians come onto a conference room at ground control and dump boxes containing the same equipment and tools that the astronauts have with them onto a table.] The technician then says to the engineering team, “OK, Listen up folks! We've got to find a way to make this [square CSM LiOH canister] fit into the hole for this [round LEM canister]  ... using nothing but that. Now let’s get to work!” 
            Somehow, they figured out a way to make it work using only what the crew had on board and they brought the crew safely back to earth.


Aim for higher performance
            The leadership team was sitting around the table looking at our job responsibilities and wondering how we could get to the next level of leadership and productivity. At one point, I asked the team, “What is your dream job?” As we went around the room, each team member affirmed that he had the best job in the region. “Alright,” I said. “But surely each of you has something in your list of responsibilities that you would rather not have to do—something that drags you down or you dread having to do, but is necessary because of the job. How could your job be even better?”

            One teammate said, “Yeah. I absolutely hate having to write new job requests and job descriptions. I hate having to write all this stuff in the second person to someone I have never met and in such a way as to make the job appealing and with good grammar and good form.”

            Immediately, another teammate said, “Really? Oh, I just love doing that!”

            To which the first guy said, “Well, here then. You can have ‘em!” He reached down and grabbed a stack of requests that he flopped on the table in front of his teammate.

            His teammate responded, “Great! Now I won’t have to spend nearly as much time rewriting and correcting your requests. Just tell me what you want and I’ll write the request from scratch.” 

            Both of them said something like, “Oh, what a relief it is!” That afternoon we shifted a few more responsibilities around the room until everyone felt we had gotten to our maximum potential, given the tasks we had to perform as a team. That day we began to be a high performance team.


Look for things not to do
            Consider the stated values of the organization. What do we say is most important to us? Is there anything we currently do that might actually be contrary to these values? Next, look at all the processes, procedures, policies and practices in every department to see how these effectively contribute to the company’s objectives and support the company’s values. Some of these might have served a very good purpose in the past, but have now outlasted their benefit.  Evaluate your products and consider if any of these has become less than productive. An unproductive product is not just oxymoronic—it is a drain on valuable resources that could be applied to more productive ones.


Consider the best use of personnel
            After completing your spring cleaning of products, processes, procedures, policies and practices, now consider the personnel. Ask yourself, “Do we have the right people in the right places doing the right things?” The “right things” includes what is right to contribute to the company’s success and it also includes what this individual is best suited to do. Often you will have exactly the right combination of people working together, but at less than their maximum effectiveness because some of them are not doing the right jobs to maximize their contribution. So what if their job description says they ought to be doing _____? Yeah, so what?! Don’t let a job description handcuff you and the organization and keep you from reaching your maximum productivity. Job descriptions are merely guidelines on paper and paper can be wadded up and recycled. SO WHAT  if one person in a job has a different job description from another person in a similar role? SO WHAT! Your goal is not to serve a job description. Your goal is to be successful. Eliminate barriers and facilitate people being all they are meant to be. The result will be increased productivity.


Think outside the box
            Spring cleaning also means rearranging, moving things around and getting a new look. Every time a team member leaves or a new team member comes on board, you need to consider if some responsibilities need to shift around the team. THEN, come back and write appropriate job descriptions that actually describe what the individual is supposed to be doing. Think outside the box. Again, don’t let antiquated job descriptions force your personnel into boxes of lower productivity.


Hint to the Leader
            So… are you ready to do some spring cleaning?
Products
Processes
Procedures
Policies
Practices
Personnel


Hint to the Follower
            Don’t be afraid of change. Spring cleaning can be hard work, but it has the potential of actually making things better.


© Copyright Dr. Larry Gay, April 2011
"Lessons on Leadership and Followership"




March 27, 2011

Three New "R's" for Success

This past week I caught a portion of a radio interview with Arthur Alexander, an economist at Georgetown University, who stated that Japan will recover quickly from the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami. The reason, he said, is because Japan has three things that are built into advanced modern economies: Redundancy, Resilience, and Robustness.  As Susan and I rode down the highway, we reflected on how important these three R’s are for success in any organization.

Redundancy
We usually think of a redundancy as something that is superfluous or unnecessary. In fact, the first definition in Dictionary.com supports that concept: “superfluous repetition or overlapping.” Look farther down, however, and see another meaning: “the provision of additional or duplicate systems, equipment, etc., that function in case an operating part or system fails, as in a spacecraft.” Redundancy, in this light, is preparing for an emergency to ensure the seamless continuation of production even if essential parts or players are unexpectedly removed.

Many businesses do themselves a huge disfavor by trying to avoid redundancies in an effort to reduce operating costs and increase profit margins. Whenever a major merger takes place, for example, redundant jobs are eliminated in an effort to streamline personnel costs. In difficult economic times, tenured workers (who, admittedly, usually have higher salaries and benefits) are offered early retirement incentives without taking into consideration the brain trust of experience they represent and without making sure someone else knows everything they knew before they leave. When the only person who knows how to do the job is suddenly unavailable, momentum is lost or production in that area comes to a screeching halt until the person returns or someone new learns to do the job.

Redundancy in your business or organization is not just a matter of having two people who do the same job. It is more a matter of contingency preparation. Redundancy might include such things as mentoring and preparing young leaders for succession. It could also be something as simple as keeping good backups of your essential files and correspondence. Redundancy, as Dr. Alexander pointed out, can be a good thing.

Resilience
Again, Dictionary.com comes to our aid in defining resilience:
1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

The opposite of resilience is resistance or rigidity. When managers take an attitude of “ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die,” they usually lead people on  a destructive path of resistance or resignation. (These are two R’s you probably would want to avoid!)

Resilience is the ability to deal with unexpected change and adapt to the new reality.  You build resilience by introducing change in increments and developing an ethos of embracing change for the better. In resilient organizations, frontline workers actually will introduce needed change.

Robustness
Robustness is associated with good health. Dictionary.com, what do you say? “Strong and healthy; hardy; vigorous.

A robust organization will not suffer from a prolonged depressed morale. Even robust organizations will have setbacks when crises hit. The difference is, a robust organization will have built the resilience needed to recover and bounce back quickly. A sick organization, on the other hand, will have built up more resistance and rigidity that ultimately leads to another “R”: Rigor mortis.

To have a healthy and hardy organization, you need healthy and hardy personnel. Robustness is not only related to physical well-being. It also assumes emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. To be robust, the organization needs to build an ethos of its members caring for each other. That means coworkers looking out for each other. It also means supervisors taking a genuine interest in the welfare of their personnel. People throughout a robust organization will demonstrate their confidence that they are regarded as more than just expendable resources.

Hint to the Leader
Regardless of your position, you can help develop redundancy, resilience and robustness in the people who look to you for leadership. What can you do right now to start building the three R’s into your organization?

Hint to the Follower
The difference between building resistance or resilience starts with a personal decision. Decide right now to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Look for ways to make things better and find an appropriate way to share your thoughts with others.  


© Copyright Dr. Larry Gay, March 2011
"Lessons on Leadership and Followership"


February 2, 2011

How do you spell "Success?"

"I want that guy out of here in 60 days!" The angry CEO made it clear he did not like the lower level manager, not necessarily because of poor job performance, he simply did not like the guy.
A major part of the problem, however, was the fact that from the beginning there was no standard of performance or clear expectation of how the manager would do his job. So he had rocked along for several months doing what he thought was a pretty good job. Then, "Wham!" Out of the blue he was blindsided with the fact that he had not been meeting the CE0's expectations and there was no opportunity to rectify the problem.
Sometimes even following a clearly written job description is not enough to guarantee successful job performance. Job descriptions often describe typical tasks that are to be performed while failing to define the most important item of all, which is how will success be defined?
Remember the old antacid commercial: "How do you spell relief?" Smiling men and women declared, "I spell relief R-O-L-A-I-D-S." They knew exactly what to do to get the desired outcome of relief from the pain of heartburn.
So how do you spell SUCCESS? A team can get along fabulously well, with no conflicts, everyone respecting each other and enjoying working together while they are effectively accomplishing absolutely NOTHING for the company. They might rate themselves an A+ team in spite of the fact that they have zero tangible results. They can even come up with a score card rating themselves on their performance while measuring the wrong things.
To head off this train wreck before it leaves the track, be sure the train is on the right track! Make sure you both spell SUCCESS the same way!

Hint to both the Leader and the Follower:
Make sure the job description not only includes tasks to be completed, but also the main objective to be accomplished through this position.
Make sure you both know how you will measure success and agree on how and when success will be evaluated.

Hint to the Leader:
Clarify what steps will be taken if success is not acheived. The first corrrective action should be to help the follower improve performance, increase their effectiveness and contribute more positively to the company's objectives. Don't just fire under-performers without first investing in them to help them become peak-performers.

Hint to the Follower:
Ask how you are doing and if you are making a positive contribution to the company's objectives. If you have not received a performance review in over a year, ask for one. Let your boss know you want honest feedback so you can give the job your best effort. Show that you care for the company and want to help it be successful. To do that, you need to know how to spell SUCCESS.

(c) 2011 Dr. LarryN. Gay http://mylead360.blogspot.com/
     "Lessons on Leadership and Follwership"

December 6, 2010

Do what is right because it is right

How often do you vote for someone who has a reputation for being corrupt?  We try to elect people who we think will be men and women of integrity. Then we are often disappointed when our elected officials do not behave as we had expected. Politicians have no problem making promises about how they intend to make changes if they are elected to office. In fact, they probably really do believe they will behave differently than their predecessors when they come into office. All too often, however, something happens when they get to Washington, the state capital, or City Hall. They discover that the view from inside the office is not the same as it was from outside and, instead of changing things for the better, they seem to change.


But do they really change, or are they just acting like the person they really are?


The 2010 mid-term elections in the USA saw a large number of turnovers in national, state and local elections. Many of the elected officials promised to clean up, make reforms or otherwise change things for the better. While that all sounds very good, I am waiting to see if a king-sized HOWEVER spoils their good intentions. I know some of them will do good things, but they could do so much more if they would be true to values on which they campaigned.


In the First and Second Books of Kings and the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel, history records how every few generations a king would come to the throne with very good intentions. He would make decrees and reestablish the order of law according to the principles and promises God had made to his ancestors. In a few cases, it looked as if a man of integrity had come to the throne. Sadly, there would always be a big “HOWEVER” following all the accomplishments of these kings who set out to be faithful and trustworthy leaders.


What happened? Why do people who show such promise fail to follow through to the end? Because they reach the limits of their integrity. That’s when you can see the person’s true character. Even the great king Solomon failed the integrity test. He made some astute political allies by marrying many foreign wives, but did so in direct violation of clear restrictions God had established. Ultimately, he lost the majority of his kingdom for his descendants because of his lack of integrity and failure to be true to the values he originally espoused.  (See 1 Kings 11)



Leaders show their true colors when they come into position and power.  Integrity is not something that can be ordered, regulated, regimented or legislated. It also is not something you can switch on or off. Either you have it, or you don’t. 


Hint to the Leader:

Do what is right because it is right. Stand by your convictions, regardless of the political outcome. Someone is always watching and following your example.


Hint to the Follower:
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to climb the political ladder by compromising your values. Some hills are worth dying on. Some are not. Learn the difference.



© Copyright 2010, Dr. Larry N. Gay http://mylead360.blogspot.com/
“Lessons on Leadership and Followership”


(You can see some of the “Howevers” from the Kings in:
1 Kings 3:2-3; 1 Kings 11:1-6; 1 Kings 22:41-43; 2 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 12:1-3; 2 Kings 14:1-4; 2 Kings 15:1-4; 2 Kings 15:32-35)

November 17, 2010

Being Precedes Doing

          Recently, I have talked with several people who left their place of work because they were expected to do something that they considered to be unethical or in violation of their values. In one or two cases, the individual felt they were being asked to do something that they knew was illegal. At some point, you have to decide if your core values line up with the values and culture of the organization. You might decide you can live with some minor discrepancies because higher priority values are still being met, but when core values are being violated the time comes when ways must part.

          When my sons were adolescents, whenever they would leave the house to go out with friends I would always say, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” They never asked what I meant by that. They knew that I was trusting them to remember their upbringing and to act according to the values my wife and I had tried to instill in them.

          There was only one caveat to that. I assumed that my values had become their values when, in fact, they were in the process of deciding just what their own values were. So they acted according to their own sense of right and wrong which did not always line up with my sense of right and wrong. Naturally, we had a few clashes when our values were not in alignment with each other’s.

          It would have been easy to say, “My way or the highway.” In fact, I did say a few times, “My roof, my rules,” but I valued the relationship, so we tried to come to terms. Frankly, some of my values needed to be put to the test. And then there were other values—core values—that were non-negotiable. Having teenagers forced me to prioritize some of my values and determine which were negotiable (and to what degree) and which were non-negotiable.

          Our values determine who we are and how we will act. So being really does precede doing. If my values and the values of the organization are in alignment, I should not have much trouble keeping the rules and acting in accordance with the organization’s policies and practices. If, however, the organization allows rules and regulations to be put into place that are not in alignment with its own stated values, then all sorts of problems can result… and will

          The official rules and regulations are not the only source of problems. Consider a manager who is allowed (or even encouraged) to continue to practice actions that violate the values and/or rules and regulations that support those values. The people under this manager’s authority and influence will be conflicted with questions:

- Why is this person being allowed to act this way?
- Could it be that the company’s real values are not what they say?
- What should I do about this?

          All too often, individuals and organizations fail to do the most loving thing of all, which is to take corrective action as soon as any behavior is detected which violates any known value. Dissatisfaction will grow until someone finally feels compelled to act—probably by leaving, being encouraged to leave, or flat out being fired. Either way the result will not be uplifting for anyone.

          So how do we turn this around to a positive note?

Hint to the Leader

- Take a hard, critical look at your organization’s core values and compare these to your current policies and regulations. Where do you see misalignment? What can you do to bring these back into alignment?

- What corrective action have you been putting off that should have been taken earlier? What values are being infringed upon by this behavior? What negative consequences are resulting because of your delay to act? What should you do about it? Do you have the will to do it?


Hint to the Follower
           
- Know yourself. Determine your own core values.

- If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your work, could it possibly be because some personal value is at odds with the policies or practices of your organization? 

- If a manager is demanding something of you that you know to be contrary to the values and culture of the organization, what alternatives to leaving can you see?  With whom should you share your concerns before taking action?

                                                                                                                   
Previous articles on the subject of alignment:

© Copyright 2010, Dr. Larry N. Gay, http://mylead360.blogspot.com/ “Lessons on Leadership and Followership”

November 7, 2010

Don't Throw Training off the Train


When economic times get tough, one of the first things that goes out the window is the training budget. Such a knee-jerk reaction throws the organization into a downward spiral that is extremely difficult to reverse when the economy supposedly improves. Leaders often make the mistake of throwing training off the train, without realizing how important training really is. Training is not a benefit. It is not a luxury. Training is essential to any organization reaching its stated objectives, goals, mission and vision.  Throwing training off the train is like getting rid of the fuel makes the train run efficiently. 

Think about it. Your organization begins downsizing, laying people off, firing people who are not top performers, or enticing people to take early retirement. Then you put a hiring freeze on to curb personnel costs. The remaining employees are expected to pick up the slack and take on the responsibilities of the people who have left, but they are told there will be no budget for training to help them learn how to do their jobs better or improve productivity. The predicted results of all this?

·         Stress levels go up.
·         Productivity goes down.
·         Layoffs increase. 
·         Morale declines.
·         Some of the best performers start looking for other places of employment causing unwanted attrition.
·         The downward spiral goes on and on…

Looking for a Catchy Slogan? DON’T BOTHER!
As the organization begins to decline, some leaders mistakenly think the answer is in rallying the troops around catchy slogans, like: “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” Or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” In response to that, the worker on the frontline is saying, “Yeah, right. The only problem is I now have twice the work with no more pay (or perhaps even a cut in pay) and there are still only so many hours in a day!”  As Deming pointed out in point number 10 of his 14 points, slogans do not address the causes of low quality and low productivity. They don’t motivate us to do better work. In fact, they can actually become the cause of serious relational problems in the workforce. Slogans have their place, but they cannot take the place of training. People need to be given tools that will help them increase productivity, relieve stress, and give them a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that what they are doing really makes a positive difference in the world. Slogans alone can never do that.

A few astute leaders know that training is not a luxury; it is a necessity—especially in difficult economic times. You might not be able to afford the cost of a large conference center with high-priced motivational speakers of great renown who come in to speak to large numbers of employees all gathered together in the same place, but that does not mean you cannot afford to continue to train your people. In this age of technology, it is possible to do more training than ever before at lower costs than ever before.

Webinars
Webinars, for example, allow people to sit in on a training session saving travel costs for the presenters and the participants. You can do a full two-day seminar with scheduled breaks for a minimal cost. Webinars can be presented one-on-one, to small groups or up to hundreds or thousands. And the sessions can be recorded for later viewing by other participants or reviewing.

Skype
Skype is a great way to give or receive coaching one-on-one or in a very small group by conference call.  And it’s free! If the coach is already someone employed by the same company, then you have no extra cost at all.

Tweet to Train
Or what about training on the fly? You can send out snippets of training in small, bite-sized nuggets throughout the day or week via Twitter, Facebook, or old-fashioned email.

Remember the Library
Hey, here’s a novel idea. Remember libraries? They still have books, videos, and a number of resources available for loan. Why not encourage your people to use their public library or libraries at local schools and universities. Some universities and graduate schools will mail books on loan to alumni.

Mentor/Coach
Assigning mentors or coaches can be another great way to carry out training. Assign every new personnel or new member of your organization to someone who will guide them in learning the ropes.

It really does not require you to think that far outside the box to discover ways to increase training at a time when “logic” might indicate cutting the training budget. Don’t throw training off the train. Instead, go against the flow and train more to increase productivity.


Hint to the Leader
·         Be sure someone has the responsibility to coordinate all training, making sure your people are on track to get the right tools to do the right things that will help your organization to reach the right objectives.
·         Think of three ways you can increase training opportunities for your team and others under your leadership.
·         Set some personal goals for self-improvement that will demonstrate a learning attitude to others who will follow.
·         Volunteer to mentor/coach new people joining your organization.

Hint to the Follower
·         Start a discussion group with coworkers to share best practices or ideas for improving productivity.
·         Think of three inexpensive or free training opportunities that you could suggest to your leader.
·         Volunteer to be a mentor/coach.


© Copyright 2010, Dr. Larry N. Gay  http://mylead360.blogspot.com/,   Mylead360@gmail.com 

October 17, 2010

Lead them Where No Man Has Gone Before

           An effective leader can lead people to go places where even the leader has not been before without coercing, convincing, manipulating, shaming, or in any other way trying to force the people to follow. This is especially important when launching any new project. 

            The story of Joshua leading his people across the Jordan River provides a great example of how to lead people to go where they have never been before. To read the story, click here (Joshua 3).  Before launching any new project, strategy, or idea, leaders need to:

1.      Learn to follow. The most effective leaders are also good followers. Joshua followed those who carried the Ark. He knew that the leader does not have to be in the limelight all the time.

2.      Lead the people to prepare themselves.  Joshua gave clear instructions to the people to prepare themselves for the battle that was about to come; then he followed to the letter the plan he had been given as he led the people to begin the long-awaited conquest of the Promised Land.

3.      Let go of your ego. Joshua did not have to prove himself or defend his actions before the people.

4.      Lead out in faith with confidence. Imagine being the first person to step into the water. Only the leaders’ feet got wet. They stood in the middle of the river as the people crossed over.

Hint to Leaders

            Are you absolutely certain you are leading people in the right direction with the right plan?  Are you courageous enough to lead your followers to commit to such a plan? What do you need to do to demonstrate that your own faith and confidence are well-placed?

Hint to Followers

            Are you prepared and willing to follow? What do you need to do to get ready?

© Dr. Larry Gay, October 2010

October 10, 2010

Effective Leaders Are Good Mobilizers

            The most effective leaders are good mobilizers. They know how to recruit the right people to do the right job and then release them to do it. For a great example of a leader who knew how to mobilize people, look at Joshua.  As he was preparing to march on Jericho, Joshua sent two spies who would report directly to him. To read the story, click here. (Joshua 2:1‑24)

An Effective Strategy for Mobilization


1.    Select the right people.
A.   Choose people you know you can trust to do the job.  Not everyone needs to know everyone else's business. Give specific assignments to specific persons for specific tasks.
B.   Choose people who are already committed to the project.
C.   Choose people who clearly understand the task when you give instructions.

2.    Trust them to do their job
A.   Although they used some unconventional methods to accomplish their task, they got the job done because they felt empowered by their leader.
B.   They were confident that their leader would back them up when they gave their word.

3.    Clarify the limits of delegated authority
Joshua made it clear that the two would to report only to Joshua. They would give their report secretly to the final decision maker.

4.    Value their influence, from three "I's."
A.   Encourage their input.
B.   Receive their information.  
C.   Ask for their insight.

5.    Wait for the right timing.
A.   What a difference a generation can make! (Compare Numbers 13-14):
                                                  i.    Moses had sent out twelve spies who were already leaders among the tribes. They were chosen by the tribes, not by Moses.
                                                ii.    The twelve were sent to explore the land, not to decide if, how, or when to attack. That was a strategic decision that was never intended to be decided democratically or by consensus.
                                               iii.    The ten majority spies were afraid and used their power, position, and influence to turn the people against their leader.
                                               iv.    The people were predisposed to follow a negative leadership.
                                                v.    Only Caleb and Joshua saw that the decision was really the responsibility of a higher authority than their own.

B.   Joshua must have learned from the negative experience of his mentor, Moses. He recognized that this was not a decision to be made by tribal representatives on a consensus basis, so he sent only two chosen and anonymous spies who reported only to him.

Hint to Leaders

            What can you learn from Joshua's example about empowering your followers and mobilizing them to complete the task you have been given?

Hint to Followers

            What can you learn from Joshua's example about effective followership? How can you use your empowerment and influence to help your leader be even more effective?

© Dr. Larry Gay, revised October 2010

October 3, 2010

Five Principles of Leaderhsip


Several years ago I began to analyze the principles on which I wanted to base my leadership. In my search for a personal definition of leadership, I discovered that spiritual leadership is defined by Jesus in one word—servanthood. (Mt. 18:1-4; 19:30; 20: 8, 16, 20-28; Mk. 9:35.) Jesus’ model of leadership with His disciples demonstrated that the effective spiritual leader is not so much interested in climbing a corporate ladder as in providing himself as the step-support for others to grow in spiritual maturity. Spiritual leadership is helping people to become all that God wants them to be in Him so that He can accomplish all He wants to do through them.

Five guiding principles have influenced my leadership as I have tried to apply that definition. Although none of the five maxims is original, they have become such a part of my leadership philosophy that I can no longer remember some of their original sources.

1.    Being precedes doing.
2.    Ask God to bless you with His plan, rather than asking Him to bless your plan.
3.    Do what is right because it is right.
4.    Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.
5.    Servanthood is not the way to the top; it is the top.

The effective leaders I have wanted to imitate, the people I would most willingly follow, all seem to share these common principles and characteristics, even if they might not express them in exactly the same way.

It all boils down to having the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he had positional rights in the eternal universal organization, he humbled himself and took a lower position as a servant in obedience to his Father’s plan, so that the ultimate purpose he desired to see fulfilled would be achieved by his followers, even after his death. (Phi. 2:5‑11)  Jesus could do the things he did because he knew Who he was and Whose he was. He always demonstrated his desire to do his Father’s will, and not his own. His actions were not always popular or within the accepted practices and regulations of the authorities, but he acted based on what he knew was right in God’s eyes. He never lost sight of his purpose in coming to earth, to preach the good news of the kingdom. And he showed us the way to the top by such actions as wrapping a towel around his waist, washing his followers’ feet, and submitting to a criminal’s death on the cross.

Good supervision is dependent on good leadership. Applying all the best practices of leadership is no substitute for applying the best practice of servanthood as Jesus demonstrated.


© Larry Gay, September 2005

September 26, 2010

It Isn't What You Know... (Networking)

Your mother probably told you “It isn’t what you know, but WHO you know that really counts.” You might think that you don’t know the right people to help you accomplish what you want to do, but all of us have networks of family, friends and acquaintances that can help us meet someone who could introduce us to someone else, putting us closer to the right people who can help us.
The importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. In career counseling we often repeat that this really is true. Brian Ray of the Crossroads Career Network affirms:

Most employers first try to recruit people through their personal contacts before they advertise a position or list it on the Internet. Of all the jobs that get filled (85%) are part of this “hidden job market.”[1]


So how do these jobs get filled? Through personal contacts.

Another startling statistic came from a private corporate study that demonstrated that applicants who had been personally referred for a job were 42 times more likely to be selected than those without personal referrals. Let’s say that again. According to this study, your odds of being selected for a job are 42 times greater if you are personally referred.

That’s a 4,200% better chance![2]

Did I mention how important networking is in today’s job market? There are several reasons why this is true, but it all comes down to this: employers prefer not to hire someone who is “unknown.”

Six or Seven Degrees of Separation

Consider the phenomenon known as “Seven Degrees of Separation.” The theory was originated by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s and popularized by a game featuring actor Kevin Bacon in the 1990s. Until recently the concept was considered an urban myth by many, but a study by Microsoft has validated the idea that each of us is no more than seven steps from a direct link to everyone in the world.[3]

Just last week, as we were talking about this in a career transitions workshop, someone mentioned the “Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon” when another participant commented, “Hey, I know someone who knows someone who actually knows him!”  I suppose that just gave all of us a “Bacon number” of four! Theoretically, I am only four phone calls from a personal conversation with him, so if I did want to meet him, I know exactly who I would call first. (Note to Kevin: don’t sit by the phone waiting for me to call. You are only four degrees from knowing me if you need to talk.)

Another Illustration
The most effective leaders are good networkers and they are not hesitant to work their contacts.

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to attend the Passover paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida, and said, "Sir, we want to meet Jesus." Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

In case I did not mention it earlier, your mother was right—WHAT you know is not nearly as important as WHO you know. (Thanks, Mom!)

Hints to Leaders and Followers
Start a list now of people who could be good resources to help with future projects or could provide a good recommendation. Maintain good relationships by staying in touch with old friends. Give someone a call this week.


© Dr. Larry N. Gay, September 2010



[1] Brian Ray, Maximize Your Career in the New World of Work, Crossroads Career Network, http://www.crossroadscareer.org/.
[2] Ibid.