Bad Questions Stop Good Movement

city-life-5-1446453-1599x2404We have a negativity bias in our brains. This simply means we are more wired to review, and remember negative outcomes. We all know this is true, just do a presentation and have 3 people say it was great, and one person trash it and you obsess over the one person.

But what can sometimes happen is that because of this, we are more likely to create an obstacle to movement rather than capitalizing on movement.

I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say you have a new idea, a new proposal, or some great new shift in your industry. This is a good thing, and a needed thing and you bring it to your supervisor, your spouse, or whomever else. You sense some reluctance; you sense some hesitation, you sense things aren’t going well. Then you say the psychologically worst possible thing:  “Well why don’t you think this will work?”

And here is why this is a bad question. It primes people for negative responses. It actually causes people to think of more reasons than they currently have for what is wrong with your idea. It actually starts to gain speed in their brain, and weight for all the reasons your idea is a bad idea, and solidify it before it’s even had a chance to be processed. And once people have staked out an opinion or position it is really hard to shift.

Maybe you’ve seen this happen.

Maybe this has happened to you in a meeting.

Maybe you’re guessing now why your last pitch floundered.

So what’s a better question or way to go?

  • What if this works how would that change things?
  • What are some good reasons this is something to try to figure out?
  • How might this change things positively if it worked?

Push the positive, and let their brains do the rest. It might just help you create some new movement and new initiatives!

Leadership Like the Dawn

dawn-2-1504573-1280x960I stumbled across this verse and it just jumped out. Listen to it deeply especially if you are a leader of any kind. Because here is a beautiful description of what power, authority, and leadership should be. It’s poetry but that’s why it’s so inspiring:

When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light. (2 Sam 23:3-4)

I think that’s just a beautiful picture of leadership rightly exercised. That when leadership is done rightly it’s like “he dawns on them like morning light”. That when leaders are full of justice and fear of God, their leadership isn’t heavy and burdensome. It’s soft, it’s light, it’s full of future and promise like an early morning. And just as the dawn creeps up pushing away darkness, this is what it’s like when someone rules justly and in the fear of God.

When I think about my leadership if someone were to describe it like that to me, I would be honored. That’s what I hope for, that my leadership would be like the breaking of the dawn. My guess is if you are a leader you hope that too.

So what can you do today to start to live into that vision of leadership? Because it’s worth chasing after, just like the dawn chases after the night.

The Good and Bad Kind of Authority of a Leader

??????????Leadership is authority. There is no other way around that fact. But in today’s culture we don’t like authority. We don’t’ like being told what to do. We don’t like following authority or obeying authority. We like to become self-made people by each of us rebelling against the same authority (there is irony in that).

But I want to talk about the authority of a leader. Because I still believe that leadership is authority, but the type of authority really matters. Because there are different kinds of authority. There is authority that is based in power, and authority that’s based in gift (people choosing to follow and give you permission to lead).

And this distinction between the kinds of authority is so necessary. And the trouble is that most leaders haven’t consciously decided which type of authority they will rely on. The authority based in power (you have to do what I say) or the authority based in permission (you listen because you choose to).

In my role I’ve decided to never use coercive authority based in power. I could, lots of pastors do, especially when things get sticky and messy. They might say, “I am God’s anointed”, or “I’m the leader”, or even worse “I speak for God”. And the same temptation is for all leaders. That when things get tough, when stress rises, when there is crisis people reach to use power rather than authority based in grace that is given.

Parker Palmer gets at the difference when he writes this,

“The authority such a leader needs is not the same as power. Power comes to anyone who controls the tools of coercion, which ranges from grades to guns. But authority comes only to those who are granted it by others.”

So my question for you is this: what kind of leadership are you using? Is it based in power, or authority, based in grace and gift from others? Do people follow you because they “have to” or because “they want to”. And you might think that in the end the results are the same – as long as the job gets done. But it’s not – why people follow or listen to you is just as important as the outcome it produces.

So in your leadership with your authority is it power based – or people based? Because that small difference makes all the difference.

Quit Trying to Get Ahead and Rest

rest-1579864-1279x1802Today I’m not writing a blog post. I’m simply going to post a quote, it’s long and it’s good, and I’m going to go take a nap. I think you should after reading this too:

“Maybe what we all need most is time to process what we already know that we can put it together differently, even more effectively than ever before. Maybe we need to think a bit, out on a porch in a summer breeze, down by the creek when the trout are running, back in the garden when it’s time to put the beet and beans in again.

Turn off the television and read a good book. Quit texting and ride your bike. Close the computer and go to a movie. Don’t’ answer any emails. Don’t try to ‘get ahead’. Don’t’ take any callback. And during the family dinner, turn off the phone. And when the television is on, watch it instead of talking through it. Reclaim your life, your thoughts, your personality, your friends, your family.

No, the world will not end. And no, the rest of the staff will not get ahead of you. They’ll be too tired to even think about catching up. It’s time to sleep in like you did in the good old days. Have a late breakfast. Read the newspapers all day long. Call some friends in for a game of pinochle. And then, on Monday, go back to work – having really gotten away from it all – feeling like what you have to do is really worth doing. As Ashleigh Brilliant says, ‘Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is to take a complete rest.” – Joan Chittister

The Expectation Gap in Leadership

mind-the-gap-1484157-1280x960I want to talk about something in leadership I call the “expectation gap”.

The truth is that all leaders are always looking forward, and see “where we could be”. That’s inherent in being a leader, seeing the goal, the vision, and the hope.

But that creates an “expectation gap”. The “gap” between where we are at, and where we hope to be. And this gap exists for leaders in all sorts of areas in business, church, or even in relationships. We see where we hope to be, where we are working towards, but we aren’t there yet.

The trouble is that this “gap” can cause discouragement easily and quickly, because we have never “arrived”. We are never able to be content, and at ease because there is always more to do. This is inherent in any leader to drive for continual progress, growth, and excellence. But what do we do with the “gap”? How do we not let it discourage us, nor also create in us a sense of apathy?

Well to ensure that I don’t get discouraged, or apathetic I ask myself one question: is the gap shrinking or growing? Are we getting closer to the goal? Are we making progress? Because that’s what really matters to me – progress and movement. This helps me not to be discouraged that we’re not there yet, but also not apathetic that the journey is never completed. That question focuses me on the things that I think matters for leaders: movement, progress, and growth. Because the gap will always exist; so the point isn’t to get rid of the gap but continually shrink the gap.

Testing the Waters with Both Feet

1445490_31979296I want to talk a little bit about launching things. Because we all launch things all the time. You might not think about it that way but you do. For sure some people launch businesses, new enterprises, or new ventures in their careers. But “launching” applies to so much more than just entrepreneurs. You might be launching a small group, a ministry, or what about a new plan for your life. What about a plan to potty train your kids? What about teaching yourself a new skill, or leading in your kids’ sports teams?

These are all simple but real examples of launching something. Whenever we take a new step we are launching something. But I’ve learned a lot from a little African Proverb that helps us when we launch something. It’s this:

Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

And isn’t that true?

What I love about this proverb is that it reminds us of two things.

First, this proverb reminds us to try new things. Change is a part of life, we should be launching things, trying new things, jumping into new waters. Why not try a new business, why not build a new team, why not try something new with your kids? This stuff matters and we shouldn’t let fear tell us to just stay put.

But the second thing this little proverb reminds us of is to be wise. To test the waters with one foot before launching with two feet. All it’s saying is that if you are able to try something, to test it small scale, to get your hands dirty before cutting your safety net – why not test and try? I’m all for audacious crazy big goals. We should be launching, reaching, and trying new things. But all this little proverb reminds us is that there is a difference between being courageous and also well…silly or stupid.

So what are you maybe pondering or dreaming about starting? Is there a way to test the waters, and get going?

Here is the brilliance of the proverb. Most of us don’t actually have problems with jumping in with both feet because we don’t ever jump into new waters at all. But if you test the water a bit, try it out, it might just give you enough courage to jump…

The Leadership Test: Are you leading, or helping others to lead?

The real test of leadership isn’t what you can do, but what you empower and enable others to do.

What I mean by this is simple. Real leaders raise leaders, enable others, and empower others. But we have this idea in our cultural mind that leaders blaze a trail, get stuff done, and move things forward by the sheer force of their will. And maybe that’s true sometimes.

But I think the true leader isn’t’ the one who focuses on what they can get done, but what they can help others to get done.

And it’s a shift in thinking but it needs to happen.

The best leaders are the ones who help others to lead well. 

So it’s not just about focusing on what you can do, but what can you help others to do?

Pretending in Leadership

926343_45454100Dan Rockwell, tweeted this a few days ago:

Pretending we know more than we know is one reason we don’t know more.

And that is absolutely true. Pretending we know more than we know isn’t one reason we don’t know more – it’s the reason.

To say, “I don’t know” is one of the least accepted things in our culture. Especially in business, leadership, and in theology today. To say “I don’t know” is tantamount to saying, “I’m not a real leader, an expert, or capable”.

But this pressure to pretend and posture in our culture is killing our leadership and influence.

Another way you could to put it is this: arrogance is killing our leadership and growth.

Or as the Bible puts it, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”.   Proverbs 11:2.

The point is that if we want to grow, if we want to learn, if we want to lead well’’, pretending has got to go. Arrogance has got to go. We need to learn to grow humility, to learn from those around us, and to be okay with saying “I don’t know”. And as we do this not only will we become better leaders, but better people.