Monday, March 14, 2011

When should a leader blow a gasket?

When is it okay to yell and scream as a leader?

We've all been there as a leader. You set expectations with those you're leading and they don't follow through. How do you respond? Is it okay to bring emotional intensity to the situation? When isn't it okay?

Emotional intensity can be a very effective tool in motivating, but when is it wise. The danger done from a half-cocked tirade in the heat of the moment can destroy credibility.

Emotional intensity is not always yelling and screaming. It can be manipulation, guilt trips, a know it all attitude, or anything else that creates unnecessary tension, drama, or emotion.

Here are a few rules for how not to use emotional intensity;

1. Don't use emotional intensity when the receiver has no opportunity to respond with their behavior. If they screwed up and made a mistake, but what is done is done, and they can't do anything about it, yelling and screaming moves from motivating to humiliating. Odds are they know they screwed up, embarrassing them won't fix the problem. It just makes you feel better for the moment. In reality you're just embarrassing yourself however.

2. Don't use emotional intensity to demoralize or insult someone. There is never room or cause to insult, make fun of, or attack somebody personally. As a leader you may need to criticize behavior or decisions, but never the person. You will lose your team immediately if you start insulting them.

3. Don't use emotional intensity often. You will become "that boss" that is always bringing too much drama to the office. Like the boy who cried wolf, you will be written off and blown off when you are trying to motivate your subordinates.

Here's when and how emotional intensity can be valuable;

1. Use emotional intensity to motivate when the person has a chance to respond. Now it is more of a pep talk than a scolding. You can be to the point, and point out unsatisfactory behavior or results, but then you need to send them out on a mission.

2. Let your anger and emotion shine through when someone needs to understand how important an issue is to you. If they are blowing off the assignment or initiative, it may be valuable to help them understand how important it is.

3. If you do choose to let some emotional intensity into the situation, the best thing you can do is walk right out of the office, and get your hands dirty with the person. This will demonstrate that you're not better or view yourself as superior. It will also diffuse any resentment or anger from the subordinate. Gordan Ramsey is the master of this. In almost every episode he will dress down the kitchen staff about how disgusting the kitchen is. Then he will grab a mop and get his hands dirty along side them.

So beware of letting your emotions get the best of you. If in doubt the best choice is to approach an interaction with the intention of eliminating personal intensity. Ultimately emotional intensity is an external motivator and left alone will not sustain change in a person. There must be an internal motivator as well or else change will short circuit.

What do you think? Ever been the victim of emotional intensity from a boss? What would you do different?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When is a leak a good thing?

Just got home from the Michigan Sectional Conference for Christian Camp and Conference Association. What an amazing time every year to gather with other Christian Camp professionals from around the state.

This year was very special as a senior saint spoke many times. The character of a leader came up and he made the statement that our true character is what we display in times of pressure or turmoil. His picture was like this. Imagine a cup. It is filled with water. When the cup is bumped what will come out? Water. What you are filled with is what will come out of you.

A mentally handicapped camper years ago once told me, "Ryan, I know that I am not normal. I have tons of holes in me. I pray every morning that God would fill me up with Jesus. That way all day long I am leaking Jesus out of my holes."

What are you filling yourself with? Fill yourself up with the things that you want to display when you are tested and that is what will come out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I got no rythm, but I can dance: Part 2

  • In my last post, I explained how Tom and I ended up at our daughter's middle school dance. The first surprise was the complete lack of any other parent's presence. Not even one parent came through the doors to drop off their student. Granted we did bring three girls, which means they were late in trying to get ready. So I only witnessed the arrival of about half the students. A credit to the school because they had the dance well chaperoned by teachers.

  • Flashbacks to my middle school days popped up as I hung out in the back of the room watching. As expected, circles of girls bounced up and down to the music and circles of boys stood around talking. I got the inside information on a number of the boys from one of the teachers. Friends of my daughter said hi and boys nervously walked by the two stern looking fathers.

  • Finally, the moment for the King and Queen arrived. Without too much ceremony the crowns were placed on heads and the King and Queen danced. It was hilarious to watch two very straight and stiff middle schoolers dance, which really meant stand in place and sway ever so slightly. I noticed with relief my daughter dancing with one of her girlfriends. But then another friend started repositioning the King and Queen into a more intimate pose.

  • It was time to act. I leaned over to Tom and said, "Time to cut in." Of course our daughters were horrified. We insisted and they let us cut in for about 10 seconds. The King and Queen dance was over. Mission accomplished!

  • Numerous studies have shown the importance of a parent in a teen's life. Our children want to hear from us and surprisingly want to do what we say. Tom and I did not go to the dance as friends of our daughters. We went as Parents. Two fathers desiring to love and protect our daughters. Leadership in the home is vitally important and leadership is not a popularity contest. Consider how you have been influenced by the 'parents should be friends concept'? What actions can you take this week to be a leader in your home?

  • By the way, this week my daughter reported that I was really popular with her friends because I had been at the dance. Doing the right thing, almost always attracts people.

I got no rythm, but I can dance: Part 1

In case you missed it, Valentine's Day is in February. At our local middle school, the Valentine Day Dance was last Friday. I am the father of a middle school daughter. Many see the dilemma immediately; for those without daughters, think middle school boys. Picture getting clearer? I have always desired my three daughters to be beautiful; when they were 25. Unfortunately, they are early bloomers. The school dance debate began earlier this year with my 8th grade daughter. She hoping to have fun with her friends: Me picturing bump and grind with boys. As Lou Holtz once said, "Somewhere in between lies reality."


The dance debate turned into an opportunity to negotiate an acceptable compromise. My daughter researched what happened and how it was chaperoned. I trusted her judgement in a relatively safe environment. But then the Valentine Day Dance loomed on the horizon. I am no prude, but do not see the need to promote dating in 8th grade. Wanting to protect my daughter from forming unhealthy patterns in her relationships with boys, I said no to the dance. Desiring to help my daughter navigate the tricky waters of middle school relationships, I found an ally. Her best friends father and I decided to take our daughters out on a date the night of the dance.

Here it comes... the monkey wrench. My daughter's best friend was elected the Queen of the dance. The dads debated and decided it would work to let the girls go to the dance until the ceremony was over and then go out for dessert. Of course, we would be at the dance the whole time. You will have to read the next post to find out what happened at the dance. As a leader you must know what remains the core principles. Everything else can be negotiated. If you live by a set of rules, eventually you will break. If you live by principles, you will be able to handle the challenging times. What are your core principles?