Hard Things To Say As a Leader

Difficult Conversations

In any relationship, there comes a time where it’s necessary to say things which are difficult to keep the relationship strong and make it better. This is also true in a healthy team environment.

For me, this often involves having a hard and challenging conversation with a team member.

This is often someone I love being on the team, but know they need correction in an area that is affecting the team. These are always discussions I’d rather not have, but I know are necessary for the continued health of the relationship, the team, and the individual.

Tough Love

Over the years, I have had many of these issues which required “tough love” to address them, but dealing with problems like this have included me having to say things such as:

  • You’re too controlling as a leader…
  • You can be perceived as a jerk to people…
  • Your personal life is dragging down the team
  • You have body odor
  • You’re making unwise decisions
  • You are non-responsive
  • You don’t know how to take constructive criticism
  • You are moving too fast
  • You are moving too slow
  • You are uncooperative

I should note that not all of these have been said with my current team. For example, to my knowledge no one on my team has body odor… (thankfully,) but through my years in leadership, I have had to say each one of these statements to someone I was supposed to be leading.

These conversations, as awkward and uncomfortable as they were, always proved to be good for the team and the team member.

There have been times when someone needed to have similar “tough love” conversations with me and those discussions always made me better, as difficult as they were to receive at the time.

 5 Principles for Dealing With Those Times

Handle as quickly as possible

If the problem is clear in your mind (and usually everyone else’s mind), and you’ve witnessed the problem long enough to know it’s a pattern, don’t delay long in addressing the issue.

Be honest

This is not the time to shift blame, make excuses or dance around the issue.

Be kind and helpful

You may read my post 5 Ways to Rebuke a Friend. Although this post deals more with a subordinate than simply with a friend, the previous post suggestions are helpful here also. Your end goal should be to make the team member and the team better after the conversation.

Have a two-way conversation 

You should be willing to listen as much as you speak. You may not have all the facts exactly right…or you may have…but give the person a chance to respond to the criticism you are addressing. This also means you should have a two-way conversation, and not a multiple party conversation. You should address the issue with the person you have a problem with, not with others on the team behind his or her back.

Move forward after the conversation 

The person being corrected should leave with your assurance that you are moving forward, and, provided improvements are made, do not plan to hold the issue against him or her. It will be important he or she sees you responding likewise.

Know when enough is enough 

You shouldn’t have to have these type conversations too frequently. Talk becomes cheap if there’s no backing to what’s agreed upon. If there seems to be no improvement over time, harder decisions or more intensive help may be needed. If you have done the other steps here, there is a time when tough love says “that’s enough…no more.”

One of the most difficult times for me as a leader is addressing issues like this with a team member I genuinely care about, but I know it’s one of my roles as a leader to address these most difficult issues.

What steps would you add to my list? What would you add to my examples of difficult conversations you have had with someone on your team? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
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Leaders: 7 Things, Traits, Characteristics and Definitions

Number 7

Healthy Teams

After a recent staff meeting, I was thinking about what makes our team at Grace Community Church healthy.  I think healthy teams are intentionally created, so I’m consistently trying to make our environment better.

My current thoughts have led me to believe that in our case, it’s as much about what we don’t have on our team as what we do have.  I think our team works well together because we get along well with each other. (Most of the time.)  It may have to do, however, as much with what we don’t bring to the time we spend time together, as it does what we bring to the that time.

Here are 7 things healthy teams check at the door:

  • Egos
  • Closed minds
  • Domination
  • Selfishness
  • Negativity
  • Personal criticism
  • Stubbornness

As I’ve said before, we aren’t a perfect team, but we work well together, we accomplish a great deal, and we enjoy what we do.  (Most of the time.)

Do you currently serve on a healthy or an unhealthy team?

What would you add to my list?

Courageous Leaders

Recently I posted 7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership. In that post, I discussed the characteristics of leaders who fail to have the courage needed to lead well. I thought it only fair to share the reverse post. There are many courageous leaders in our world today, as shown by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.

Here are 7 traits of a courageous leader:

  • Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult…
  • Not afraid to make big requests of others…but willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them…
  • Willing to take the first move into unchartered territory…pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks…
  • Moves forward by faith…even when the outcome is unclear…
  • Makes hard decisions regarding people…trusting responsibilities to others early and acknowledging when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team…
  • Protects the God-given vision in the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks…
  • Implements needed changes even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular…

Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!

When you think of courageous leader, who comes to your mind?

What would you add to this list?

Shallow Leadership

Growing in our leadership abilities, knowledge and relationships should be a goal for every leader. Many leaders settle for status quo leadership rather than stretching themselves as leaders. They remain oblivious to the real health of their leadership and the organization. I call it shallow leadership. Perhaps you’ve seen this before in leadership. Maybe you’ve been guilty of providing shallow leadership. I certainly have.

Here are 7 characteristics of shallow leadership:

  • Thinking your idea will be everyone’s idea…
  • Believing that your way is the only way..
  • Assuming you already know the answer…
  • Pretending to care when really you don’t…
  • Giving the response that makes you most popular…
  • Refusing to learn something new…
  • Ignoring the warning signs of an unhealthy environment…

Have you seen shallow leadership before?

What would you add to my list?

Stellar Leadership

Leadership is abuzz these days. Everyone is talking about it, yet it appears many organizations and churches are consistently looking for leadership. In my conversations with other churches, people want to know how to find, attract, and train leaders. Apparently it is far easier to call oneself a leader than it is to actually be a leader.

Perhaps we need to do a better job distinguishing what leadership actually means. Without great definitions of leadership, we almost need to talk about what makes up great leadership. I wonder if there is leadership…the kind anyone can do…and there is stellar leadership…the kind only great leaders provide.

The word stellar means: pertaining to a preeminent performer…or…outstanding or immense…

Isn’t this the kind of leadership we are seeking?  Stellar leadership?

I am still a leader in training…not sure when I’ll “get there”, but I know I’m not looking to be an average leader. I want to be a stellar leader.

7 Definitions of Stellar Leadership

With that in mind, here are 7 definitions I think we find in stellar leadership: (The words are mine, but I got the definition from dictionary.com)

  • Consistency - steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form,etc
  • Follow-through the act of continuing a plan, project, or the like to its completion
  • Respectable – worthy of respect or esteem
  • Truthfulness - telling the truth, especially habitually
  • Valor boldness or determination in facing great danger; courage
  • Trustworthy – deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable
  • Authentic not false or copied; genuine; real

In my opinion, stellar leaders would possess ALL of these attributes.

What words/definitions would you add to my list?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
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10 Ways to Encourage Innovation

I firmly believe it is a mistake of leaders to feel they can force innovation or even create innovative people.

Innovation, in its purest form, means change. And while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person.

Great innovation comes from the gut.  You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

Culture of Innovation

Even if that is true, however, there are things leaders can do even in a culture of innovation to encourage team members to be more creative.

Here are a 10 random ideas to help.

Feel free to add some that have worked in your organization.

  1. Get away from the office routinely as a team.  There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought.
  2. Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions.  (For an example our staff did recently read THIS POST.)
  3. Reward new ideas/Recognize new thoughts/Celebrate success – People will want to be a part of it.
  4. Encourage thinking time.  (Read a couple posts about that HERE and HERE.)
  5. Have times together as a team that are simply fun.
  6. Remove obstacles to innovative thought, such as communication barriers between team members and management.
  7. Talk about current culture and how changes can impact your organization’s culture.
  8. Be accessible.  It encourages team members to share new ideas with you more often.
  9. Welcome diversity of thoughts and opinions, even if they are different than yours.
  10. Set innovation goals, such as “make changes to the website next year this time.”

Here are more steps from e-How.com

  • Promote regular team brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming allows employees a chance to produce a high quantity of ideas. Once a large store of ideas is built up, teams have an opportunity to choose only the best of the bunch, leading to higher quality of ideas as well.
  • Take short breaks during brainstorming sessions. Psychological studies prove that taking short breaks during brainstorming sessions can increase productivity and lead to greater creativity and innovation.
  • Ask team members to think about the issues at hand and write down ideas before attending a brainstorming session. This will lead to greater productivity during the session.
  • Create a positive and encouraging work environment. If employees feel comfortable and encouraged, they will not be afraid to express their ideas to the team. A positive work environment also reduces stress, which can inhibit creativity and innovation.
  • Consider adding a new member to the team if it seems creativity and innovation are lacking. A new member can bring a fresh perspective and more ideas to the table.

Read more: How to Encourage Team Creativity and Innovation

I encourage you to innovate and come up with better ideas than these and share them with us here.

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
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Image Sources: eHow.com

Leadership: Encouraging Innovation

A friend of mine called recently to discuss his business.

He wants his employees to assume more ownership for their work and take more initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something.  He wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders, not a bunch of managed followers.

Knowing a little about his workplace, I asked him an important question:

“Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of employees you say you want?”

Organizational DNA

Organizational DNAThe way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of employee it attracts and retains.

An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with the culture of the organization than it does specific programs or activities the organization does.

Leaders determine, therefore, whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers.

Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:

One That Produces Innovative Leaders

  • More rewarding
  • More entrepreneurial
  • More freedom
  • More encouragement
  • More open-minded
  • More creative
  • More informal
  • More changeable
  • More risk-taking
  • More trusting

One That Produces Managed Followers

  • More oversight
  • More corporate
  • More rules
  • More controlling
  • More closed-minded
  • More defined
  • More formal
  • More static
  • More penalties for failure
  • More critical

I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments.  Obviously “more” is a subjective word, but if you apply these broad characteristics to most major corporations you can probably tell which ones attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment.

If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead.  (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously.  You may be surprised at their response.)

What other characteristics would you add to the lists above?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
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Image Sources: eng.unsw.edu.au, cedata.org

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Respecting Older Employees

Respect Your Elders

Recently I was in a restaurant and listened to some bickering between waitresses.

One of them has worked in the restaurant industry and this particular restaurant for many years. The other waitress is in the first year of her first job. The younger employee refused to take suggestions or advice from the older employee. Although they did not handle this situation correctly in front of customers, it did remind me of an important principle.

Word To the Wise

Young WorkerHere is a special word of encouragement to younger employees in an organization or to those who are just entering the workforce. I see it all the time in today’s work environment.

If you are the newest person in the organization, you should be willing to listen to whoever has more experience than you have, even if they are equal to you or outrank you in superiority.

For that matter, even if they are report to you consider listening to their advice. This does not make it right for an older worker to treat the younger worker with disrespect, but my momma always said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!”

You should do this for several reasons:

  • It will build their trust in you.
  • It will honor their years of service.
  • It will make the work environment more congenial.
  • It will be a great example for others in and outside the organization.
  • It is the right thing to do.

Have you seen this occur in your organization? Have you been the older or the younger employee? Do you agree?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

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You Need a Good Bad Idea

I love a good bad idea…don’t you?

The truth is, in a healthy organization, there really are no bad ideas. At least not in the organizational sense.

Here’s what I mean…

If you have someone on your team who is coming up with ideas, who is trying to do their best for the organization, who understands and buys into your vision…then every idea he or she has, holds the potential to be a good idea.

Even the so-called “bad idea” usually triggers another better idea, which often leads to the best idea.

  • It spurs dialogue
  • It launches a discussion
  • It generates thoughtful momentum

Sometimes the best ideas start because someone offered what others at first thought was a bad idea.

A Culture of Ideas

Effective brainstorming often involves a lot of bad ideas that help shape the best ideas.

A valuable part of healthy team-building is creating a culture where all ideas can come to the table, no idea is dismissed, and there is a freedom to critique, scrap, and improve ideas.

If you start labeling bad ideas, you shut down team member’s willingness to share more ideas.

Great leaders learn to welcome all ideas…bad ones and good ones. They know this encourages idea-generation, and that ideas are a lifeline of a growing, healthy organization.

Perhaps the bad idea you’ve been tempted to dismiss is an open door to your next masterpiece idea.

Does your organization welcome bad ideas?  When have you seen one bad idea stir a discussion that led to a good idea?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

Edited by Mike Weppler

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7 Steps to (Much) More Effective Meetings

Successful projects and teams require meetings to accomplish important goals and objectives. Busy leaders, however, are typically anti-meeting because of the interruption they appear to be in the process of getting actual work done.

Much of this frustration, I have discovered, is in the lack of proper preparation prior to the meeting.  When done well, time spent in meetings can make projects better and strengthen the work of the organization.

Take 7

Here are 7 ways to prepare for more effective meetings

Ask the big question

Personally, most meetings feel as if they are an interruption, even though I realize their importance. If the issue can be handled without meeting, most people will not dispute that decision.  Unnecessary meetings cause frustration and slow progress.  Gain agreement that a meeting is necessary, and each person will more likely come prepared and focused.

The big question to ask before scheduling a meeting is, “Do we need to meet?

Determine a win

The meeting will be more successful if its purpose is clearly defined before the meeting begins. Ask the question, “What do we need to accomplish in the meeting for it to be successful?”  Working toward a defined win will help keep the meeting headed in the right direction.

Invite the right people

Not every meeting needs to involve every person on the team.  Decide who needs to be at the table, and invite the appropriate people.  Those without a defined purpose will tend to drag the meeting away from its purpose, leaving everyone feeling frustrated.

As a leader, I usually ask people on my team, “Do I need to be there?” I suggest that both the meeting organizer and each person invited ask this question when it is not clear, before placing it on their calendar.

Decide on a time limit and frequency

I get very bored after an hour. Some of our meetings (such as our bi-weekly staff meetings) take longer. As a rule, though, I prefer

shorter and less frequent meetings.  If you are attracting leaders to your organization, they will want to minimize time spent in meetings as much as possible.

Craft an agenda

The meeting should be focused on its intended purpose. Time must be well-managed, but not too rigidly controlled.   Be sure to allow adequate time for brainstorming, questions, and the necessary social interaction that happens amidst healthy teams. For our team, informal social interaction begins the creative process and leads to people buying into the purpose of the meeting.

Give adequate notice

This is not always possible. When it is, however, those people who like to be prepared, have introverted tendencies, or are highly organized will participate much more actively, if they are given adequate time to prepare for the meeting.

Plan to start and end on time

People are less hesitant and more interested to attend meetings if they know their time is valued will not be abused.

Which of these ideas do you think could most improve your meetings? What tips do you have for preparing for more effective meetings?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church

He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

Edited by Mike Weppler

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