Archive for the ‘Organizations’ Tag

Back to the Original   2 comments

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One of the realities that leaders have to accept is that not always is a group willing to be led.  This can be a very difficult reality for a leader to get their arms around.  However, if a leader tries to deny this, the leader will become frustrated and may even doubt her/his leadership abilities.  A leader is not a leader without people who are ready to follow the lead.  Sometimes you must guide a group with a gentle lead and other groups require much stronger leads but ultimately either approach is only successful to the point that the group is open to being led.

This is not a new concept in any way.  I think this is exactly the point that Jesus was trying to make over and over again.  He even told his disciples as he prepared to send them out:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  (Matthew 10:14, NIV)  Jesus was a great leader but also realized that sometimes people do not desire to be led and there is nothing a leader can do at that point except to move to another group of people.

The other reality that a leader must accept that if a group does not wish to change, they may present an image of change but the minute the leader moves on, everything returns to the state in which they were prior to the leader’s arrival.  This also can be very disheartening because it can cause a leader to think their work was all in vain.  The image that comes to mind is that of a 1970’s toy called Stretch Armstrong.  This toy was made of a material which could stretch but as soon as you let go of it, everything would return back to its original form.  So a person could pull the toy’s arms or legs in all kinds of directions and create what appeared to be changes to the toy but as soon as you let go of those extremities, the toy returned to its original shape.

I think the lesson in these situations is to realize each of them can and probably will happen during your tenure as a leader.  However, do not let them discourage you.  Learn from each situation and determine if there was something you could have done differently to have a more lasting and clear impact on the group.  Sometimes the answer is that nothing different could have been done.  Also, remember that while the group as a whole may not have truly changed, there are individuals within the group who may have changed.


The Loch Ness Monster   1 comment

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This week there was a Google doodle regarding the Loch Ness monster.  You probably recall that there is a legend indicating that some sort of aquatic creature lives in a lake in Scotland.  There have been claims of photographs capturing images of this creature as it surfaces.  Despite years of stories and multiple attempts to locate and capture this creature, the Loch Ness monster appears to be elusive to even the greatest technologies of humanity. Yet the legend will not die.

The image of this elusive creature came into my mind this morning as I pondered some situations in a couple of the organizations in which I have involvement.  Much like the Loch Ness monster, these organizations have something which seems to live just below the surface but on occasion rears its head to breach the surface.  When this occurs, the seemingly tranquil waters are disturbed and there is great angst, fear, and disruption that transpires.  Many want to pass all of this off as legend but it is very real (maybe the key difference with the Loch Ness monster).

The cause of this underlying creature within organizations can be varied.  Some would attribute it to a need for certain individuals to acquire or maintain control and power.  Some would attribute it to greed.  Still others would say that what feeds the creature is a desire to shape the organization according to one’s own definitions.  Whatever has led to the existence of and on-going feeding of this creature in the organization, the results are always the same…. deterioration and eventual death of the organization.

Leaders in an organization which has been infected with such a creature need to work at removing it from the organization.  This can be as much of a challenge as the one presented to researchers who want to study the Loch Ness monster.  Finding the source and nurturing of the creature can be elusive.  Even if one is successful in capturing the creature, what to do with it is another quandary.  The work can be exhausting and achievement can be difficult.  Yet, it is vital that this occurs so that the inevitable death can be averted.

Break the Mold   Leave a comment

One of the most difficult things for an organization to do if it has been in existence for a relatively long time is to break out of its patterns of behavior.  I encounter this on a fairly regular basis and I think it is due in large part to the fact that most people find it difficult to change their patterns of behavior unless they are forced to do so.  So it is only logical that if individuals struggle with this, organizations which consists of individuals would struggle to break the mold of their behaviors.

I have been working with a group which has a role in an upcoming event.  The group contains some very committed and knowledgeable individuals.  They have worked hard to prepare their portion of the event.  One of their charges is to introduce new ways of doing something that is at the core of the member’s reason for existing.  As I have worked with this group, I find that they consistently fall into the same modes of behavior and approaches each and every time the organization meets.  So I have pushed the envelope of their work for the next upcoming event.  The group has shown little resistance, which is not always the case in similar situations, and seems to have embraced some new approaches.  I am causing them to break the mold.

I am not advocating that a person should be running around and breaking molds every opportunity which exists.  Instead, I am advocating that people should be encouraged to break the mold when there is possibility for growth to occur; especially if you have a charge to introduce different ways and approaches to benefit individuals and organizations.  If an organization continues to do the same activity in the same way ad nauseam, then new discoveries will not occur.  Opportunities for growth can easily slip away.  Energy and enthusiasm may wane.

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So go ahead….. break the mold.  Who knows?  You may create a masterpiece in the process.

Soar Above It   Leave a comment

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I love bald eagles.  If you were to walk into my office, you would see bald eagles all over the office.  I have three rather larger prints that feature bald eagles in each one of them.  I also have a set of shelves that are full of bald eagle statues and pictures. As I was sitting in my office this morning, I was looking at the prints of the bald eagles.  I was admiring the majestic look of the eagles in each print.  I was noticing how they seemed to always be soaring above whatever else was in the print.  This lead me to think about how it is important for leaders (and people in general) to soar above much of what is occurring.

Now, I realize that the previous statement can give an impression of arrogance.  I am not intended to indicate that there is some superiority that a leader should try to communicate.  Instead, I believe there is some practicality here that I am wanting to share.  First, we all know that there can be times that day-to-day life can become rather messy and personalities can create gossip, conflict and controversy.  I believe that it is vitally important for leaders to soar above those items.  In order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to not get bogged down in messiness and negativity.  An organization is dependent upon its leadership to help lift it out of those situations.  If the leader gets embroiled in them, then it is impossible for her/him to guide the organization out of them.  So the leader needs to soar above.

Second, the perspective of an eagle above the landscape is much different from that of an animal walking along the landscape.  I believe leaders need to have a perspective of an eagle.  They need to be able to see a broader view.  They need to be able to spot pitfalls and dangers which cannot be seen on the ground.  They need to be able to guide the organization along the path which may only be visible if you are looking from above versus down low.  So the leader needs to soar above.

There are times that a leader needs to walk alongside.  There are times that a leader needs to sit and rest beside others.  There are times that leaders need to be close enough to listen and to hear.  But there are also times when the leader needs to soar above.

Posted September 30, 2014 by thoughtfulbeliever in Experiences, Leadership, Life, Organizations

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Locomotive versus Horse   Leave a comment

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Back in the 1830’s there was a competition between Peter Cooper’s Tom Thumb locomotive and a horse-drawn railroad car.  This was a time of great change in transportation in the United States.  People were skeptical of this new invention called a locomotive and most preferred the familiar mode of transportation that used the power of a horse (or horses).  Peter Cooper wanted to prove that his Tom Thumb would help to increase the speed and efficiency of transportation for humans and freight alike so he staged this competition to win the support of the people.  Cooper’s locomotive lost due to mechanical failure but prior to the break down, the locomotive definitely was winning the race.  Over time, the horse-drawn trains were replaced with the locomotive-drawn trains and another step in transportation advanced.

I share this story because of some of the work that I am doing with two different organizations.  These organizations are in the midst of transition.  Both of them have individuals who are very dedicated to the organizations and the goals of the organization.  Some of them have given many years of blood, sweat, and tears for the organization while others have just begun their adventure.  Much like in the race between the locomotive and the horse, their is a division among the people regarding the introduction of a new idea or invention.  There are some who are skeptical about taking different directions and steps.  There are some who want to remain with the familiar.  There are others who have a great passion and energy who wish to help the organization move forward in new ways to achieve the goal that all of them share.

The lesson that I think those with new ideas can take from the Peter Cooper’s story is this….  you need to win the people over.  This means that you cannot create something new and unleash it on the people without helping them to experience how it can bring a benefit.  You need to allow time for conversation around the new idea.  You need to create opportunity of experiments and demonstrations.  You need to receive input and allow people to adjust to the ideas.  By taking these steps and going at a pace which will allow people to experience and adjust, you will be much more successful than if you go full force.

Falling Skies or Roses Abound   Leave a comment

Falling Sky This past weekend, everyone was encouraged to go outside and watch one of the most active meteor showers that only occurs every so many hundred years.  I must confess, I did not go outside to look for it.  One of my Facebook friends indicated that he had and found it disappointing so I am glad I chose to sleep instead.  However, that came to my mind this morning as I was thinking about the two differing perspectives that tend to exist within an organization.  So today I thought I would do a post regarding those who see nothing but sunshine and those who are always noticing that the sky is falling.

While I find that a majority of people fall somewhere in the middle, there are often two opposing views when you get a group of people together and there is a discussion regarding the condition of an organization, a project, or society in general.  You have some people who can only see positive.  These individuals are sometimes referred to as the “Pollyannas” of the group.  They find only positive and are determined that everything is going to turn out in some marvelous way.  This group is frequently referred to as naive and/or unrealistic.

The second group has a view that is overwhelmingly negative.  These individuals see only the problems that exist and are convinced that doom is imminent.  They are often referred to as pessimistic.  Others in the group quickly tire of hearing from them and find that they are depressing.  The view of the “sky is falling” is seen as over-exaggerating and unrealistic.

(I find it a little ironic that both ways to describe these viewpoints come from children’s literature.)

The similarity found in both these groups is that most of them are viewed as unrealistic.  The larger group discredits them and can easily become annoyed with the individuals.

The challenge for a leader is to manage and navigate through discussions when one or both of these viewpoints are present.  A leader wants to ensure that the voices which have one of these viewpoints are heard.  A balanced discussion requires the leader to not only allow voices from the middle to be heard but also voices from the edges.  At the same time, the leader also has to not allow these opposing viewpoints to dominate the discussion.  These voices can be overwhelming and can easily have a negative impact upon the group as a whole.

So whether you have an overly positive viewpoint (pollyanna) or an overly alarmed viewpoint (sky is falling) or somewhere in between, listen to the other viewpoints, hear the voices and move forward.  Leaders, be sure that you are striving for balance and inclusion.lovely_roses

Boldly Going   Leave a comment

Photo courtesy of wikipedia

Photo courtesy of wikipedia

There are times in an organization when it is appropriate to take some bold steps.  In order to take those bold steps, a leader must be one to propose what those steps might be and then to work with others to move in that direction.  In a time when we clearly understand the great value of collaboration and a move away from hierarchy, it is very easy for leaders to adopt a view that any and all movement must be done in a “team-based” manner.  I think that this view creates an either/or scenario that I believe is unwarranted.  I find it much better to use a both/and approach.  Let me explain.

In the either/or scenario, the idea is a leader must either be dictatorial or must be passive and more of a facilitator.  If the leader wants to move the group forward in this scenario, then she/he must tell the group where it is going, how it is going to get there, and what the members must do as their required part.  The other side of this coin is that the leader calls the group together and then asks the question, “What should we do next?” and then sits backs and listens to the group.  The first option seems harsh and struggles to get “buy in” from the members especially if they are volunteers.  The second option often leads to a lot of wandering and usually a growing frustration on the part of the members.  So I find this approach unhelpful and even detrimental.

Side note:  This either/or approach seems to have dominated the thinking of most leaders and most organizations that I have witnessed or been a part of over the last twenty years.

With the both/and approach, the leader is directive in nature but encourages input and makes alterations based on input.  This approach lends itself to a leader casting a clear vision regarding the direction of the organization.  The leader must be strong in communicating this vision and even stronger in communicating the reasons for this vision.  Once the leader has cast a vision, then he/she seeks out and creates opportunities for discussions to occur.  Input is sought from a variety of sources within the organization.  Dialogue and discussion among members and the leadership occur so clarification and understanding may be established.  The leader takes into account the thoughts and perceptions shared by the members of the organization and makes adjustments to the vision when and  if they are warranted to make the vision stronger and acceptable by the majority of members.  This approach does not present a heavy-handed action of a leader but instead allows the leader to lead and the members to have confidence in that leadership.

So I encourage us to “boldly go where no others have gone.” I encourage leaders to cast clear visions and then truly listen.  I encourage members of organizations to seek leaders who take a both/and approach instead of the either/or approach.