Archives For Team Development

When Apologies Aren’t Enough

March 17, 2013

Our sole responsibility is to respect the personhood of others. As a leader we must be just and pursue justice. Only then can we have right relationships with others and those who follow us.

Anyone in a leadership position who doesn’t care about the sanctity and sacredness of another human being’s dignity is only a mirage of a leader. Your people choke on the sands of excuses and inconsistent standards while you fail at leading.


From Rules to Relationships Part 2

March 14, 2012

Here is a quote I heard in church regarding the spatial relationships of people: If you are 1 step in front of the people you are a leader, if you are 2 steps in front of the people you are a pioneer and if you are 3 steps in front of people you are a martyr.

The paradigm this quote presents has helped me to rightly judge the actions of someone who I admire. Pioneers don’t necessarily want to have a large people following them. Pioneers are people who are opening up new lines of thinking or activity.  I think of Steve Jobs as a pioneer. He was a creative genius who changed how we live.  Great pioneers are often misclassified as great leaders.

Martyrs are so committed to a cause they are willing to die for it. While martyrs do try to influence others to their line of thinking, their death or major sacrifice is the greatest influencer. This may be because their idea or belief is so radical that it takes a jarring action to get people to sincerely take notice.

Leaders are influencers; they have relationships with people. The highest form of leadership is people follow you because they choose to – regardless of your title. The lowest form of leadership is people follow you because of the title or paycheck you hold over them. Leaders are one step in front of people; they are the closest to the people in the Leader – Pioneer – Martyr paradigm.  If you read Part 1 and have made the decision that you want to be a leader you should do the following steps.

Actions you can take to build relationships:

  • Get to know each of your team members story. Everyone has a story and wants to share it.
  • Make a habit of acknowledging every step of progress on towards the teams goals. This is done both individually and as a team.
  • Set expectations on how the team should work together, but don’t cross over into setting expectations on how they should do their work
  • Let them know what they should expect of you
  • Ask for accountability

From Rules to Relationships Part 1 can be read here.

From Rules to Relationships Part 1

March 12, 2012

You can go to Amazon and search for Leadership books and over 35,000 paperback titles come up. There are thousands of blogs on the topic.  Yet I watch people with impressive titles fail at the fundamental of basic leadership: relationships.  Why?   It’s an identity issue.  Who you are is not your title, but if the title is the only thing giving you your self-worth then your tenure in that title will be tumultuous and short lived.

What is the output of an insecure ‘leader’?  Lots of rules, policies and processes in place that help give the leader a sense of worth but burden the team, nor help the team achieve it’s goals. If you are creating a policy or setting a standard, the litmus test for that policies worth is this question: How does it help my team be successful? If you can’t find a good answer, then check your motive.  Only reason to trump this litmus test is if safety is involved.

I’ve sat in meetings where “expectations” were laid out by a higher authority.  And as I read through the pages of “expectations” my only thought was “they can’t lead people out of a burning building!”  None of the expectations were going to help me lead my team of people.  These expectations created an unnecessary bureaucracy. When you set rules and expectations without getting to know the people and their needs, you have a control problem. Nobody willingly follows control freaks.

How do you move from being a ruling leader to a relationship leader?

  • Develop an identity that is separate from your title:  work is only part of your life. What else are you?  Define who you are and what you want to become. Start working towards that.
  • Acknowledge your insecurity:  we all have areas of insecurity. But an insecure identity is an identity that’s always striving for something (approval, acknowledgement, power or control). Aim to get comfortable in your own skin. This takes time as in years of experience. It’s a journey so don’t get frustrated. But start now.
  • Get comfortable with lack of control. I believe the higher up you move in an organization the less control you have. So building high performing teams needs to be your priority.
  • Place connecting with team members as your highest priority
  • Accept the creative tension that comes with building relationships with the team and still hit your deadlines. Push back on your leaders as your attempt to build relationships with people and the appearance is that little work is being done.
  • Set in your mind and heart that you have much to learn from your team and they from you

In part 2 I will go over how to build relationships with your team members while doing all of above.

Captain vs. Coach

January 30, 2012

The term coach is often used to summarize the leadership traits we should exhibit when we lead a team. The coach provides the vision, creates the next steps or plays, and mentors all those under her.  At the collegiate or professional level, the coaching staff will strategize while the team is resting.  But during the game it is the coach and staff who is on the sidelines.

There is another leader that has a crucial component to the success of the team and that person is the team captain. I like this analogy because the team captain not only leads but gets dirty with the team. They are out there on the field taking the hits like anyone else.  Team captains are responsible for executing the vision of the coach while playing their role in the game. The successful team captain is selected and recognized by their peers as a leader.  That is, it is both an honorary position as well as a position with added responsibilities.

Their responsibilities may include:

  • Strategy – the coach will work with captains on the strategy to be executed
  • Teamwork – they are the voice in the middle of the intense action that the team will hear
  • Interacting with officials – they assist with the application and interpretation of the rules for the team.
  • Lead teacher/instructor – most often a gifted performer on the field in their position, they assist other players to achieve their potential

Captains are necessary for execution. The adaptive leader will know how to be both coach and captain to lead their teams to success.  If you are leading a large organization then you need to cultivate team captains throughout your organization to ensure it’s success.