Monday, February 25, 2013

What Drives You? - Principle Based Leadership

Picture This
I love this picture for many reasons; the effect of the contact between the two horses is cool, and it looks dangerous. In fact, most of the comments and questions I get about this particular picture are around the idea of danger. The truth is that the filly in the picture was two years old and it was the second time she had ever had a saddle on. She was rearing and fighting to get away from that scary blue tarp on the ground and had no aggression towards me or my horse.  There was no real danger. However, she felt like she was in danger and thus her reaction.
Leaders Make Choices
As a horse trainer, I had to make a choice working with this filly. Was I going to react, get mad, and “discipline” the filly for not going across the tarp and acting this way? Or was I going to act out of the horse training principles that I know to be true to help her work through the flight or fight instinct that was controlling her at that the moment?  I chose the second, and within a very short time the filly was calmly walking and standing all over the blue tarp. As the crowd watched, it responded with a roaring applause (and she still remained calm on the tarp). As leaders, we have to decide if we are going to lead from a principle based platform or an emotional based platform.
Emotional Driven Leadership
Many leaders are also passionate, emotional people. The question is what drives their leadership? Emotionally driven leaders focus on themselves. They react to circumstances and situations based on how it affects them. Therefore, they are hard to predict and are very inconsistent in their actions (or lack of action). They are concerned about what others think, live in the present, don’t seek out others’ opinions, and often take credit for what others do.  Whether you’re a horse, a child, a student, or an employee, following an emotionally driven leader is difficult, draining, and discouraging.
 Principle Driven Leadership
Principle driven leadership is just the opposite. These leaders focus on those they are leading. They respond rather than react. You can predict how they are going to respond as they are consistent with their actions. They are concerned about living with integrity, want to empower others, focus on the future, and they give credit to others without expecting it themselves. As a follower you feel equipped, encouraged, and empowered to carry out what you have been asked to do. In John 13:13-17 we see Jesus modeling to his disciples and he says, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
 What Drives You?
So what drives you? If you have a hard time figuring it out, look at those you lead. How do they respond to you? How do they lead others?  Luke 6:40 explains John 13:16 this way, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Your followers will “tell” you what drives you.  For more reading, I recommend David Cottrell’s book, Leadership Biblically Speaking – The Power of Principle Based Leadership

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Playing The Blame Game

Last year Grace Adventures made a big change in our organization. We weighed the options, sought wise council, and debated the pros and cons.  We took the plunge and switched from using Nextel with the built in walkie-talkie feature to Apple iPhones.  We had entered the 21st century and I felt cool.

Image courtesy of [photostock] /
About 2 weeks ago, my awesome iPhone started displaying the message “NO SIM”. I don’t know much about phones and technology, but I do know that a phone will not work without a sim card. Sure enough, I was dropping calls, missing text messages and carrying around a piece of plastic that wasn’t doing its job. I read online tutorials, played with settings, reset functions and went on and off of airplane mode and finally got fed up so I made the 90 mile trip south to the Apple store.

If you’ve ever been in an Apple store, it’s a very cult-like experience. The employees are very friendly, the environment is white and sterile, people are packed in shoulder and shoulder and everyone is tuned in to their devices. From past experience (did I mention this was my third trip in 18 months to the Apple store for a malfunctioning phone?) I had made an appointment.

My friendly hipster technician in his cut off jean shorts, Apple t-shirt and large framed glasses greeted me, took one look at my NO SIM message and said, “That’s an AT&T problem, you need to go to their store.”  Luckily they were in the same mall so I walked out of the Apple store, across the corridor, into the AT&T store only to be told, “Did the Apple guy even run a diagnostic on it? That’s their problem.”  Back across the mall I went. I tracked down my now less friendly technician who asked, “Who did you talk to over there? Oh, he’s the new guy.”

After 30 minutes of bouncing back and forth and listening to the blame game I left with a phone still displaying the NO SIM message and instructions to call another branch of AT&T for resolution. I was frustrated, confused and lost respect for both companies. Even though both of the technicians I talked to were very nice, they still trapped me in the blame game and it was awkward. I don’t know a lot about technology, but I do know that customer service matters.

How often do we as leaders get caught in the blame game? When guests come to Grace Adventures, I may have no control over their contract process, what food is served and if their heat works properly but they don’t know that. To the guest, I am Grace Adventures, there is no difference between the maintenance and program department. Instead of blaming others, I need to take responsibility for their experience and serve them the best I am able.

Image courtesy
As a staff we are reading “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni, a book about why organizational health trumps everything else in business. He talks about one team, one score and says this, “Teams that lead healthy organizations come to terms with the difficult but critical requirement that its members must put the needs of the higher team ahead of the needs of their department.” This starts with you. 

Where have you been blaming others or putting your own departmental needs above the higher good of your organization, home, family or group and what will you do about it?