Have you benched creativity?

Have you ever witnessed a leader lose it?  I did this week.  It wasn't pretty and it put the entire team in a very uncomfortable situation, the loss of self control and screaming will be remembered for decades.

Why the blow up?

The system wasn't working.  It's formulated.  It's planned.  It's step by step.  And yet it wasn't working.  In fact, the system is causing the entire team to lose.  The blow up results from loss of control.  For some leaders, when results don't come from the system they assume a team member is failing or hijacking the system.  Rarely do we have hijackers on our team.  But the team member who presses back against the system will be seen, and treated, as a possible threat.  This is when a blow up occurs.

When the system isn't working creativity is required.

Creativity is an important team member.  Creativity could change the current momentum of your team.  If you put creativity on the bench you subject your team to a waiting game, hoping someone else will come up with a solution.  Or, a leader lives by a stronger conviction about the system than believing in their team members, creating a culture of mistrust and doubt.  Systematic leaders are not poison until they bench their creativity and the creativity of their team.  They leave no room for suggestions, feedback, or alterations to the plan.  The ship will sink before they give up control of the wheel.

What can you do to keep creativity in your team culture?

1.  Create a plan - You're like, "What?"  But yes, planning is required.  The plan is where creativity thrives.  A plan should be married to core values and goals.  Don't let you plan be married to a system.

2.  Evaluate regularly - I like to ask this question to a team, "How are we doing?"  This question provides team members the opportunity to give input and an opportunity for a leader to see new things that could be future obstacles.

3.  Pick your battles - Too often we pick battles over results.  We should pick battles over culture.  Teams that get results have a culture of doing little things, or daily things, consistently right.

4.  Make it okay to poke the box - If your system is more valuable than your people, creativity will be on the bench.  Be a permission giver to your team to try new things.  I think about Seth Godin's equation in his wonderful book Poke the Box: If "poking the box is less than or equal to zero = poke.  Meaning, if the plan, model, or system isn't working make creative changes now because you have nothing to lose.

Today is Friday.  Friday is a great day to stop and reflect on your teams progress.  What do you see?  Have you asked your team if they see anything that's stalling the plan?  Are there conversations focused on creative solutions.  Do you give yourself permission to be a creative leader?  Next week can be different for you and your team, make sure creativity is not sitting on your teams bench.


How to help others be happier

Culture has become critical. People have too many options to be a part of something that isn't enjoyable. Those that stay in miserable cultures have been deceived believing they can neither change the culture nor be a part of something better.

Photo credit to Jason Hargrove

How happy is your team? How happy are you?

Maybe these questions feel ridiculous. Results are all you measure. If that's the case the first question is answered, your people are not happy. To you they aren't people, the are a labor force. Poor cultures are often a result of emotionally insecure leaders who consistently worry about how others view them.

When I was part of a labor force nothing was enjoyable. Even though there were individual wins and team wins there was always something else on fire. It felt like perfection was the only expectation and it was exhausting. I don't remember feeling encouraged, valuable, affirmed, or appreciated. How can anyone feel like they are part of a team with those feelings in their heart? They can't.

I want to help you create a "wow" culture. A "Wow" culture produces great feelings in your people. A culture of happier people will be a more productive team. Here we go:

1. People first - How are you helping people succeed? When was the last time you thought of someone else before yourself? This is leadership, influence is a result of helping others achieve their goals. As I heard someone say being selfless means thinking of yourself less. If you focus on helping others become the best at what they do than how can your team not be great?

2. Be generous - In any way you can be generous. Be generous with words of praise. Be generous with thank you's. Be generous connecting your team to resources and people. Be generous in pay. Be generous in gifts. Be generous in prayer. Be generous with your time. Be generous! The level to which you are generous is a reflection to the level you value people.

3. Give a voice - Allow your team to participate in the conversation. Leaders will want to pass over this believing it means allowing the team to make a decision. But it's not the same. I saw one leader put it, "Decision making here is not a democracy but we want to allow room for input." If I can add my opinion to the top headline at by making a comment than how in the world can I not make a comment on the team that I work so hard for? That's pretty backwards if you think about it.

4. Be the loudest - Don't let your applause fall short. If you are the leader be the one to cheer the loudest for team members when they succeed. Cheer even louder when they fail. I'm not saying you cheer for the failure I'm saying you cheer for the person. Tell them to get up, get back in the game, and work again. The only failure is to quit trying. People quit trying because a leader isn't cheering for who they are as a person.

I can be a help but you can also help! How have you experienced being a part of a "Wow" culture? What made you feel happy to be part of that team? Please leave a comment below!



Does your gut hurt? Time for a culture test

In a leaders life stress can become a consistant companion.  We can become locked in on results, after all, that's what we are here for: to produce.  As we obsess over numbers and other quantitative items we fail to see a much larger issue plaguing our team.  The culture of the team is suffering.   Culture is critical.  

 Being a leader is like being a farmer.  You want to grow great things so lots of people benefit from your labor.  Culture in leadership is to soil in farming.  

Photo credit to Waine Wright

You can water bad soil all day but you're just wasting water.  The same is true for your team.  You can cast vision, be a training ninja, and communicate like the associated press and still not see anything grow.  Great culture creates the opportunity for great things to happen.

So how does a leader evaluate the culture of their team?

1.  Listen to people pray - People will pray for what they care about.  If team members don't pray about the mission and for one another there is a culture issue.

2.  Listen for affirmation - Pride can be a cancer in a team.  You know you have a rockin culture when affirmation is said often between team members.  The leader has to be the primary example and the permission giver to team members to share affirmation.

3.  You're never wrong - If you're a leader and no one has disagreed with you in over a year, you have a culture issue.  This means people have stopped caring or you stopped listening.  Limiting the input of others is devastating to team or organizational culture.

4.  We never celebrate - Teams that set goals but never celebrate accomplishing those goals are like a hamster in a hamster wheel.  The never ending movement will lead to burn out.

Life as a leader is no fun when we dread being together.  That pit in your stomach is a result of stress.  Don't try to medicate the symptom through accomplishing more actions.  Instead, focus on culture and how you as the leader can improve it.

I would love your thoughts on other ways to evaluate culture?  Please leave a comment below!



Coaching Essential #4: Culture is critical

Before we move ahead let's stop and review the previous coaching essentials: 1.  Do you ruthlessly believe in people and what they are capable of?

2.  Are you coaching the fundamentals everyday that includes observation and feedback?

3.  Are you scripting your time with people?  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

The fourth essential in coaching is that developing a culture in a community is as important as the effort to move knowledge from your head to someone else's.

What do you see in this video:

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Pete Carroll, at this time was the head coach of the USC Trojans.  The Trojans were one of the most competitive football teams in America while Carroll was coaching there.  When I watch Pete Carroll I see an infectious leader who knew how to develop a culture.

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I think there are some keys to developing a culture that leads to success:

1.  Consistant time together. The most critical piece to developing a culture within a community is quality time together.  A culture is developed in training, practice, having fun, meetings, praying together, dreaming together, and investing in one another.

2.  Is the vision clear?  Is the vision everywhere?  Is the vision in your words?  Is the vision in your writing?  Is the vision in your coaching?  Is the vision in your prayers?  Is the vision in the prayers of your people!?  Andy Stanley says the clearest way to know if your people are catching the vision is if you listen to them pray and they are  praying for that vision.

3.  Catch people living the vision and celebrate it.  Do you know what defines a culture founded on fear verses a culture founded on success?  The answer is the leader.  A leader who always catches people doing things wrong will set up their people to fail in the greatest time of need because of their fear of failure.  They Choke.  However, a leader that catches people doing things right is a permission giver to people to creatively excel in the greatest time of need without thinking, "What will he/she do if I fail?"

4.  Focus on the V.T.P's.  Gordan MacDonald talks about three types of people in your life, one of them being Very Trainable People.  The opposite of V.T.P's are V.D.P.'s, or Very Draining People.  The mistake some leaders make is they spend 80% of their time on V.D.P.'s instead of spending 80% of their time with V.T.P's.

Culture is a critical piece of our success as teams.  Ultimately, this requires a great deal of emotional intelligence.  If you just read this and disagreed with almost all of it, you need someone on your team who can do this for you.  Chances are people don't enjoy being on your team.