Eric Geiger - a Husband, Father, Author, Vice-President of LifeWay Church Resources


Links for Leaders 4/25/14

“Business speak” is a pitfall easy for leaders to fall into, and this humorous article from Entrepreneur points out 10 phrases you should avoid. Actually it points out dozens of instances of business lingo that need to be killed off.

Highly creative people have a reputation as difficult to manage. But is it fair or even remotely accurate? Stephen Brewster shares some helpful observation about creative people and pointers on leading them well.

Much emphasis is put on work habits, efficiency, proficiency, and expertise as a leader. But how much do you think about your heart? A good leader isn’t good unless his or her heart is healthy. Carey Nieuwhof shares 10 habits to help leaders guard their hearts.

Your team’s morale matters. Without good morale energy, focus, and execution all suffer. Here are 10 things you can say to your team to encourage them and improve morale.

Leaders can’t abdicate. There’s nor room for “That’s not my job” or “So-and-so handles that.” Instead, leaders must find solutions and help people. A big part of leadership is customer service.

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Links for Leaders 4/11/14

An important aspect of effective leadership is awareness of what your team is interested in and engaging. This list of the top 300 church blogs is exceptionally helpful in knowing what is drawing the interests of Christians around the web.

You can’t follow someone you don’t trust. The flip side of this is that people won’t follow you if they don’t trust you. Dan Rockwell shares 25 ways leaders exhibit trustworthiness.

Just as no team is healthy without a good leader so no team is healthy without all its members fitting well. Ron Edmondson shares 7 traits that make for great team members.

Few leadership roles are as public and obvious as prominent football coaches. Brian Dodd points to 30 habits of leadership we can learn from the best of these coaches.

Reading about leadership is a great way to glean insights, but often observing what leaders do is even more effective. Chuck Lawless shares 10 helpful ideas he has picked up from watching how other leaders live.

Nobody likes confrontation (at least no decent person), but it is an inherent and important part of leading well. Aaron Coalson explains the bad of not confronting and the benefits of doing it well.

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Defining Expectations with Your Supervisor

For a season I facilitated coaching networks for executive pastors—leaders who serve under the leadership of a senior pastor and are often responsible for the daily operations, the staff, and other large buckets of work. One of the most consistent lines of questioning I received from these leaders pertained to role clarity regarding decision-making and execution. What decisions should I be making without my leader’s involvement? What should I be bringing to his attention? What should I just be executing?

These are wise questions, and if you work for a senior leader, you should be asking them too. But there is not an answer that universally applies because each supervisor and each situation is different. What is consistent, however, is the need for clarity. Without clarity as to who is deciding what and who is implementing what, frustration and confusion will be rampant.

I encourage leaders and their supervisors to have open and continual discussion about the expectations around decision-making and execution. Below is a framework I have used to help leaders work with their supervisors to define who is responsible for what. I encourage them to discuss what types of decisions should go in each bucket. The below framework is designed for a leader to have a discussion with his/her supervisor. So the “You” is the supervisor and the “I” is the leader who reports to the supervisor.

Bucket 1: You decide / I implement:

What decisions do you want to make and then entrust the details of execution to me? What decisions do you want to be the driver of? This bucket is about the types of decisions that the supervisor wants to initiate and then hand-off to others.

Bucket 2: I recommend / We decide / I implement:

What types of decisions do you want me to bring to you for us to decide together? This bucket is essentially about decisions the supervisor wants to have visibility into and influence over before the trigger is pulled.

Bucket 3: I decide / I implement / I communicate to you:

What areas of work are you wanting me to run with completely and keep you informed of along the way? This bucket is about areas of responsibility that have been fully delegated to you but the supervisor wants to be aware of and have visibility.

Bucket 4: I decide / I implement / No communication needed:

What areas of work do you want fully off your plate? What areas of responsibility do you want me to run with fully and only communicate upward if there is a problem?

Over time, decisions may move from bucket to bucket. The senior leader may want to get more involved for a season in a specific initiative. Or the supervisor’s trust of the leader may grow as the leader builds credibility through great decision-making and execution. Because decisions may move from bucket to bucket, an occasional check-in on what types of decisions should fall in each bucket is helpful.

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6 Ways to Shift Responsibility

A team of people who shift blame from one person to another, who do not embrace ultimate responsibility, will never accomplish anything great. And a team who collectively tolerates the shifting of responsibility will never fulfill its mission as fully as it could.

Of course, no one wants to admit that he/she is not taking responsibility, that he/she is an expert in shifting accountability to someone or something else. No team wants to admit they are experts in doing so. No one raises a hand and says, “I do that. I excel in developing excuses that excuse me. I am great at setting up the scenario where I am completely in the clear no matter what.” Instead, in our humanity, we are really good at finding ways to appear to be taking responsibility without really taking responsibility.

If you need help in this skill, here are six approaches to help you more keenly and effectively shift accountability:

1) The post-question approach

Ask questions that indicate you think the direction or mission was not clear. Don’t explicitly say that you think so. That would be too overt. Just ask some poignant questions. The key here is to wait until after the project is complete, until after the deadline has passed. If you ask clarifying questions beforehand, you would then be accountable. So wait till it is over, and then ask questions.

2) The “them” approach

Reference “leadership” or “management” in as many conversations as possible. Paint the picture that there is a nebulous and unapproachable force out there that is really pulling all the strings. By doing this, you will nullify your own responsibility. And the genius here is that if the plan is successful, you will have executed despite the infamous “them.” But if the plan doesn’t work, it’s on “them.” Either way, you can’t lose!

3) The broken structure approach

While the first two approaches subtly push blame upward, this approach absolves you by bemoaning the structure or the system you find yourself trapped in. This one is fairly easy to pull off. Just use big, educated-sounding phrases or draw some circles on a board about how things could be so much better if “we were set up this way.” Just remember: the more you demonize the structure, the less responsibility you have.

4) The lateral approach

This is a more risky approach because it can set you up in an adversarial relationship with colleagues, so use it sparingly and only in desperate situations. To absolve yourself, find ways to throw others under the proverbial bus by pointing out the interconnectedness of your area of responsibility to other areas in which “you have no oversight.” So you don’t come off too pompous, don’t directly question the leadership prowess of another area; rather, make it about “communication problems” or “hand-off issues.”

5) The weak team approach

The struggle with the first four approaches is that a wise leader will call you on them. After all, you likely took the assignment in the current structure and work regularly under the direction of “them.” So you may have to fall back on this approach if you have leaders who are attempting to create a culture of accountability. Blame your own team. Question their skill or commitment. Caution: Only do this if you inherited the team or if you don’t have the freedom to build your own team. If you built it, you will ultimately be accepting responsibility, and you want to avoid that at all costs.

6) The workload or capacity approach

Lastly, this is a trump card you can use. But you should be careful not to use it too much as you don’t want to hurt your credibility. The best use of “the workload has just been so overwhelming” is after a failed deadline or a big miss. Whatever you do, do NOT share workload concerns beforehand because you may end up receiving some additional support or have someone help you with priorities, and then you couldn’t have “workload issues” as an excuse.

Shifting responsibility is an art. It takes practice. You can become better at it over time.

Or you can set your heart and mind to something else. You can be a man or woman of integrity, own your mistakes, learn from them, and become a better leader.