Category Archives: Leadership

Presents of a Leader: A Picture of Shared Vision


I’m an impressionist or maybe an abstractionist. I think and speak in broad, abstract terms. That can be quite good for stirring the imagination, inspiring people, and moving them in the right general direction. There is a time for that, but there is often a greater need for realists like Bob Byerley who gave us vivid, lifelike art.1  that comes to life before our eyes.

Like artists, leaders paint inspiring vivid pictures that captivate and energize people, but unlike artists, leaders empower people for success with their vivid images. While there is a broad range of subjects for leaders to portray, there are five essentials messages for leaders to master: vision, success, strategy, role, and personal potential.  In this post, I will share some practical tips for painting your vision.

Vision

Every leader needs a vision; otherwise, there is nothing and no one to follow. A leader’s vision is simply the image of the organization or team they dream of being. I prefer to describe it as the “who” an organization wants to be rather than “what it wants to accomplish,” in part, because it helps people embody an inspiring identity rather asking them to strive towards a far-off, impersonal goal.

The most important thing about a vision is that it is shared – as in common to everyone on the team.  As the lead “influencer,” it’s up to the leader to build that shared vision.

Painting a Shared Vision

To effectively paint a shared vision:

  • You must have one. One cannot lead unless he/she is heading somewhere or trying to be “someone.” So, you need to figure out who, at least in broad strokes, you want your team to be. Notice that this requires you step back from the day to day in order to engage your creative mind, and to express your personal will. That is the privilege and responsibility of a leader.
  • Sketch your vision in “pencil,” and get help filling it out. Shared visions capture the values and desires of a “people” which typically requires them to be creations of a people rather than a person. So, invite others to help you refine your ideas – to add  color and detail that reflect your shared values. It takes time to build something with team members, colleagues and stakeholders. So remember, masterpieces are not made in a single sitting but are created over time through many sittings. Don’t rush through the process.
  • Put it on display as constant reminder and source of inspiration. Unless your vision is kept in front of people, it will be lost to the personal imaginations of team members and to more visible and pedestrian ideas. Inspiring visions are commonly overtaken in the minds of people by the problems of the day and the minutia of completing mundane tasks. To break through the clutter of daily muck, “advertise” your message using posters, wall art, and digital art. Adopt slogans and tell stories to continually communicate your message. Discuss your products and services, work tasks, problems, and decisions in relation to your vision. Each of those things are servants to the master – which your vision.
  • Make a habit of breaking away from the daily routine to dream of your vision. Dedicate time to talk with different teams and individuals about the vision and how you are working towards it together. Doing both of these things will keep the vision alive and vibrant in your heart and those of the people you serve.

Some people mistakenly believe that visions are for the “big wigs” at the top of the company. Not true. Leadership is personal and relational, so every leader needs to have a vision worth following, and every vision needs to be vividly painted in vividly and capture the imagination of every team member.

Who are you trying to be as a leader, and who do you want your team to be?

If you need some clarifying your vision, consider calling us. Credo helps leaders find capture their personal vision and build them into team visions.

1  A signed and numbered version this painting, The Red Hen, was gifted to me by my wife and mother-in-law after they noticed my fascination with it. It captures my vision of family life and the deep restful love between a child and her mother.

I’m Losing Money, Now What?

For most of us, revenue is in the tank and we don’t know what is coming.  So, we are certain that our economic situation is bleak and uncertain about everything else. That is leaving a lot of people dancing awkwardly on the verge of panic.

Does that sound about right to you?

It does is if your business mission is to make money. If that is your school of thought, then you can stop reading now.

It Sounds All Wrong To Me

If your mission is to serve, to deliver an experience, to provide some benefit, then there is so much more for you.

Get Perspective

At some point in the not too distant future, the COVID-19 crisis will pass. Two world wars had their grips on the country, depressions and recessions brought us down, and social revolutions have turned us upside down. They passed. business, community, families, and friendships have endured.

Focus On Your Mission  

There is a reason we call it MISSION

Now is not the time to focus on money; it is time to focus on your mission. If your mission is to serve, then serve. If your mission is to advise, then advise. If your mission is to keep people productive (that’s you IT people), then keep people productive. And do it for as long as you possibly and responsibly can. That is why your business exists.  

Your Mission is your Future

Your mission is your purpose. It’s your reason for being. If you really believe in your mission, then you have to pursue it. Persevere.

Mission Motivates

Continue to remind yourself and your employees of your purpose. It will renew your sense of meaningfulness and give you the energy to face your challenges. Few, if any, things motivate better than a sense of purpose.

Mission Drives Innovation

Once you grab hold of your mission, you can innovate new ways of moving forward.  Let the challenges of today stimulate your creativity and problem-solving skills.  Your delivery channels, revenue models, and work methods are just the way you have pursued your mission in the past.  Imagine other ways; experiment; take risks. That is how you will learn forward.

Mission Focus Builds Loyalty

When this is all over, your customers and your employees will remember what you did for them. They will understand that you are “in-it” for a greater purpose and bond with you because of it.

My mission is to help leaders build healthy, productive workplaces.  To renew people, purpose, and productivity in the world of work.  And that is what I intend to do.

Call us if you need some help. It’s our mission to help you, and we are darn good at it.

(443) 275-8570

Leadership Present: Purpose

Without meaningful work, we sense significant loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical, or other reasons, quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
~ Timothy Keller

I’ve met a lot of people who insist that they only work because they HAVE to earn a living, but that’s not true. People work because they need to work. We are meant to work. It gives us purpose. It gives us meaning in life. 

In the final years of his life, my father lamented that he was “useless.” He wanted to be productive— to be of help to other people— and it depressed him that he wasn’t. My father was not alone. A lot of people suffer through jobs that seem meaningless. Likewise, their managers suffer through dejected employees. People without purpose make miserable employees: they are directionless, unmotivated, unsatisfied, and distracted by anything that is not job-related. Responsibility for this tragedy falls at the feet of managers.

Managers organize and assign work, while leaders give people purpose and unleash human potential. With purpose, people:

  • work intelligently to solve tough problems rather than return them to their manager.
  • believe they are doing what they are meant to do, are satisfied, and experience a sense of integrity.
  • understand the importance of their work, dedicate themselves to it, become absorbed in it, and energetically attack it.

In other words, people who experience meaning in their work are more engaged in it. Consequently, the company enjoys higher productivity, quality, customer service, customer loyalty, and profitability. While those coveted outcomes go up, the unwanted outcomes go down. Absenteeism, lateness, turnover, and employee grievances all dwindle when employees experience purposefulness.

As “purposeful work” promotes everything employers and employees want, it’s leaders’ duty to ensure that jobs are meaningful and that employees grasp the meaningfulness of their work.

Here are seven ways for leaders to do that:

  1. Communicate the purpose of every role in the job description, and hire people who want to fulfill that mission. Focusing job descriptions on responsibilities and tasks only makes jobs and people small. It promotes myopia and invites people to behave like automatons. Instead, focus on the “why” and hire people who are inspired by the “why” rather than people who can do the “what” and “how.”
  • Gladly explain “why.”  People need to understand the purpose of work in order to be motivated to do it and to make good judgments about how to do it. Especially when delegating non-routine work, explain the “why.” When communicating decisions, communicate the rationale you used.
  • Show people how their work supports the mission of the team and of the company.  But don’t just do it once; do it continuously. GE turned this practice into a commercial and scored bonus points with employees and customers when they gave manufacturing employees tours of the completed planes they helped to build.
  • Show them how their work helps people. Some people are more motivated to be helpful than others, but virtually everyone finds work more meaningful and motivating when they know it is helping others.
  • Personally, connect “back-office” employees with internal and external customers to help them understand how their work is used and the importance of specification and standards.
  • Refer to your mission, vision, and values for guidance when solving problems and making decisions (in teams and individually).
  • Ensure that people are in jobs that match their values and where they get to “do what they do best.”

Purposeful Work is one just of five presents that leaders give to their followers, but in my estimation, it is the most important.  Managers are wise to remember that every person was created to live an abundant, purposeful life full of love, wonder, curiosity, and work.  Managers who connect and weave together purpose, love, and learning with work earn tremendous influence with people. They earn the title of “leader.”

Who is Accountable?

 

There has been a lot of talk about “Accountability” in society and in organizations for the past twenty years. In my clients’ companies, leaders and staff often lament over the lack of accountability in their organizations.

So, it seems that something is amiss. But what is it?

I’ve never encountered a vexing problem that was rooted in a single cause, so I won’t pretend to have a simple explanation. I am confidant however that I have eyes to see that many people are operating under a gross misunderstanding of “accountability.”  People talk of “holding others accountable,” but no one, except for God, can hold a person accountable. Rather, people voluntarily submit to accountability. That begs the question:

Who would voluntarily submit to you and under what circumstances?

Hidden within most conversations about accountability is the question of “who has the power to “hold a person accountable?” Most people look to the formal authorities as the keeper of accountability, but relying on the “authorities” is a sign of failure in the community and especially so in the workplace.

High performing teams are flooded with communication about their team and individual performance. Great teams seek feedback from their customers and stakeholders. But that is not all; they are busy giving each other feedback.  Team members hold each other accountable to standards they have all committed to.  People on these teams submit to accountability based on a trusty foundation built from:

  • Credibility: The person giving feedback is a position to speak knowledgeably.
  • Commitment to a common goal:  A strong desire to accomplish the very same thing.
  • Interdependence: The clear belief that they need each other to reach their goal.
  • Love: People submit to accountability when they see that the other person both knows them and cares for them.

Lack in any of these areas makes submitting to others risky.

Perhaps this explains the dearth of accountability that we experience. We don’t need formal authority to “enforce authority.” Instead, we need to clarify our common goals and pursue loving relationship with our neighbors and teammates. Under those conditions, the people around us will certainly be credible witnesses to our triumphs, our failures, and everything between.

Rather than lamenting about the absence of accountability, would should instead build relationships that invite it.

Five Presents From a Leader

It’s often said that leaders are givers – not takers.  Though most of us would reflexively endorse the sentiment, we should ask, “Just what do leaders give?”  The short answer is that they give a lot, and that is pretty much what makes them leaders.  To effectively lead in organizational contexts though, leaders must give five specific presents: Purpose, Position, Pictures, Place, and Pathways.

In this post, I introduce the Five Presents from a Leader, and in the next five I will explain each one and provide practical tips and tools for how you can give them.

Purpose

A sense of meaning, value, and direction in life are as important as air, food, and water. Work is drudgery when a person thinks their job is to complete a form versus securing another person’s ability to get a great education or ensuring that a family has a worry-free adventure.

Inspiring leaders engage people in meaningful causes, continually communicate the purpose of work, and focus people on why they labor rather than how they labor. That keeps them motivated, hopeful, and engaged.  

Why does your company or team exist?

Position

People follow leaders and their cause.  Leaders who clearly proclaim who they are and what they stand for inspire, create bonds, teach, earn trust and plant the seeds for team culture.  Leaders who lack conviction, hide their beliefs, or remain vague and non-committal don’t gather followers. They may, however, gather a few “compliers,” who do what they are told, but are not motivated and don’t take initiative to either solve problems or make improvements.

When was the last time you declared what you stand for?

Pictures

People simply can’t create what they can’t see, so leaders must paint pictures. Like artists in the park who gather an audience, leaders who captivate followers paint vivid pictures of: their ideal future for the company (vision), what constitutes success (performance), how to be successful (strategies), and their followers’ future (potential).  Concrete, detailed pictures draw people in, stirs-up their imagination, and propels them forward.

Can you give a high-definition description of what success looks like?

Place

Every person on a team needs an important job and a unique, valuable contribution to make. Their job is what they do, and their contribution is the valuable gift they give the team by virtue of who they are. Shrewd leaders of teams articulate each person’s place to the individual and to the team so everyone understands each other’s roles and value.

Can every person on your team articulate their special place— their particular role and value?

Pathways

The shortest distance between two points isn’t always a straight line; sometimes it’s the easiest way, and sometimes it’s the way you know.  People are prone to taking the easiest route.  Often that route is the way they already know because it requires the least mental, physical, and emotional energy.  Wise leaders make it obvious and easy for their followers to do what is needed.  They expend effort upfront to ensure that the pathway is well marked and easy to use so their followers are capable and motivated to perform with excellence.

How have you made pathways to success easy to see and follow?

If you are a leader of any sort, there is no doubt that you are already giving.  You are to be commended.  Now, take stock of how consistently you give these Five Leader Presents to the people in your circle of influence.  In the coming posts, I will offer some advice and tools that you can use to elevate your giving.

How Adam Got Engaged

Few companies have found the holy grail of management: High Employee Engagement. In the average company, about 32 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, and about 20 percent actively disrupt operations. But for those who figure it out, the rewards are unmistakable. Companies who score Continue reading