Be Careful Where You Aim – You Might Hit It There

a guest post by Mark Miller, bestselling author of Chess Not Checkers and The Heart of Leadership


When was the last time you took a vacation? This may seem like a random question, but it is not intended to be. One of the disciplines I have learned and had to relearn over the years is the value of getting away. Even when I’m not working, I can still learn something…

This learning experience came while playing golf. Now, let me set the record straight; I am a lousy golfer. However, for some strange reason I really enjoy the game. Although I played quite a bit years ago, these days 6 – 8 rounds a year is typical.

We were making our way around the course, and I had enjoyed my share of good shots and bad. I am always excited when I can string two or three good ones together. This greatly enhances my chance of a bogey!

We approached the 9th hole and the yardage indicated about 280 yards to carry the water or a layup with a considerably shorter shot. I should confess, for me to hit a drive 280 yards involves some roll and maybe a bounce on a cart path. To carry the lake was not a likely outcome.

I stepped up and crushed one. We watched in amazement – this was one of the best drives I had hit in years. It landed about 270 yards away… in the lake. The guys with me seemed to be impressed with how far I had hit it; little consolation knowing I would have to hit another one from the tee with the addition of a penalty stroke.

I teed up my second ball – I blasted it! Two in a row – what were the odds? Again, it landed about 270 yards away, exactly where the first one had landed. Wet!

What’s a guy to do? I reloaded and hit a third one. For this one, I really stepped on it. It went about 275 yards. Wet again.

And not to be deterred, I teed up my fourth ball and launched it – you guessed it, SPLASH!

The point of the story? There are probably several, here’s one…

I knew I couldn’t hit a golf ball 280 yards on the fly before I took my first swing. So, what happened? I wasn’t trying to. I was aiming about 20 yards LEFT of where the ball was landing. Or at least I thought I was. In reality, my alignment was off!

Many times, leaders think their organizations are aligned and the truth is they are not. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome. That’s the trap I found myself in. I rationalized my poor outcome:

“I guess I’m just pushing it a little; maybe the wind is a factor; all I need to do is fire through the hitting zone; full rotation with a complete finish.”

All these thoughts ran through my head. Never did I consider, or want to admit, I might be hitting it exactly where I was aiming!

Great performance begins with great alignment.

A former golf coach taught me, “The flight of the golf ball never lies.” As it relates to organizations, my friend and colleague, Randy Gravitt, reminds me that our systems, structure, habits and behaviors are perfectly aligned to create the outcomes we are currently experiencing.

If your organization is not hitting it where you want, there could be many reasons – however, I would start by checking your alignment. Great performance begins with great alignment.

Keep swinging!

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

How to Rewire Your Teams for Maximum Collaboration

Do key leaders in your organization only think about their ministry area and not the entire organization?

Divisions are necessary in all organizations, even churches. They provide the structure that allows your ministry to function smoothly. Every organization is divided into divisions, functions, or some type of grouping. Doing so allows each group to develop the special skill sets needed to make it function.

But when departments or functional areas become isolated from one another it causes problems. Leaders often refer to this as creating silos.

But organizational silos can also cause problems – the same structural benefits listed above also prevent the flow of information, focus, and control outward. In order for an organization to work efficiently, decisions need to be made across silos.

To break the down the barriers of silos in your organization, the goal is not to destroy the meaningful structural divisions themselves but to eliminate the problems that silos cause.

Many organizations will face the following barriers:

  • Uncoordinated decision-making
  • Competing priorities
  • Dilution of energy and effort

The following excerpt will provide your organization tools to help break down the silos in your organization.

rewireteamsfb-2

THE QUICK SUMMARYMidnight Lunch, Sarah Miller Caldicott

Thomas Edison created multi-billion dollar industries that still exist today. What many people don’t realize is that his innovations were generated through focused approaches to teamwork and collaboration.

Authored by the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Midnight Lunch provides an intriguing look at how to use Edison’s collaboration methods to strengthen live and virtual teams today.

 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

A church accomplishing its mission requires many people working on multiple teams to be successful. Often, these teams drift into a pattern of accomplishing things “their way,” erroneously thinking that what’s best for their team will be best for the organization as a whole.

This lack of coordinated decision making across the organization is the third indicator of silos in the organization.

True collaboration operates like an invisible glue that fuses learning, insight, purpose, complexity, and results together in one continuous effort.

Thomas Edison viewed true collaboration among his teams as a value creation continuum, recognizing that complexity was a norm that all team members needed to understand and address. Here is a four-phase model of the collaboration process that translates Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader. A core question serves as a launching point for the exploration of each phase.

> How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

> How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

> Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

> How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Midnight Lunch

A NEXT STEP

Church leadership teams aren’t working to invent the next light bulb, but Edison’s Four Collaboration Phases can be instructive for leaders who want to break down silos on their teams

Within the four phases of capacity, context, coherence, and complexity lies the invisible glue that can help your organization develop true collaboration practices to achieve your mission.

Phase 1 – Capacity

Create your own “midnight lunch” experience by ordering pizza or other takeout food. Pick a unique place in your normal environment that is not normally associated with regular tasks, or go offsite. Use the informal atmosphere to foster conversations about interest areas of all your group members. Actively listen to the conversations, and develop a deeper level of knowledge – and connection – with your teammates.

Phase 2 – Context

As a team, take 10 minutes and create an individual list of the various sources of information you draw from each week. Does your team see a pattern in their lists? Now challenge them to create another list of five additional sources that will intentionally shift the context of their information-gathering. During weekly meetings, take five minutes to share how this new context is broadening their ministry context.

Phase 3 – Coherence

When team members begin to use self-referencing language (I, me, mine) more than team-referencing language (us, our, ours), it is an indicator that defenses are being raised and the team is in danger of losing coherence. Often, the language of the team is the first indicator of a team losing its momentum toward a shared goal. Lead your team to be constantly aware of their language, and guide them to practice inclusive language by first modeling it yourself.

Phase 4 – Complexity

Among all organizations, the church has the most potential for the existence of excessive hierarchy. To overcome this, lead your team to clear away internal roadblocks which add unnecessary time and complexity to your process. The use of the strategy map process above can be both a beginning point and continual guide to your journey toward simplification.


Closing Thoughts

Cooperation, communication, and collaboration are three keys to breaking down the organizational silos that are keeping you from achieving your mission.

Taken from SUMS Remix, Issue 9-3, March, 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

LEGO Bricks: Toys for Kids, Lessons for Adults

LEGO Bricks and I go a long way back.

As a boy growing up in the mid-60’s, LEGO play sets were a treat at our church. After we completed our Sunday School lesson, and if we had any free time, and if the weather wouldn’t allow outside play, our teachers would bring out a big box of LEGO Bricks and let us have at it.

Lego Bricks - pile

When I became a parent in the early 80’s, it wasn’t long before the first of dozens of LEGO sets appeared. Over the years, our four children (now 35, 31, 27, and 23) were the recipients of LEGO play sets with themes like Castles, Undersea Adventures, Cities, and of course, Star Wars. For some reason, our second son was captivated by the Star Wars universe, especially LEGO sets with a Star Wars theme. Even at age 31 and in the Air Force, he still manages to acquire a new LEGO set every Christmas (my wife and I – guilty as charged!).

With 4 grandchildren now part of our extended family, the LEGO fascination has been passed on to a new generation of Adams kids. It started with Duplos for Jack, but at age 8 he has rapidly progressed to creating masterpieces with traditional LEGO sets. Lucy, age 5, is enjoys regular LEGOs but always eyes her dad’s Star Wars collection. Lola, 3 years old, left Duplos quickly after eying her brother’s LEGOs. Leia, almost 3, doesn’t have a chance! Between her Star Wars dad and sister, she will probably pass us all in LEGO abilities!

LEGO Bricks are not just for kids. The LEGO Group – reluctantly at first, but now all in – regularly connects with AFOL (Adult Fans of LEGO) groups. There are user groups like LUGNET (LEGO User Group Network) and dozens of conventions, competitions, and the like all over the world.

The full-scale replica of a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter astounds me: It’s 43 feet long with a 44-foot wingspan, weighs over 22 tons, and was built with over 5 million LEGO bricks. A crew of 32 builders took over 4 months to construct it.

Amazing.

All from a plastic toy brick which only has value when it’s connected to another brick.

Authors Ron Hunter and Michael Waddell recognized this, and included the LEGO Brick in their book Toy Box Leadership. Here’s how they saw the value of LEGO Bricks when talking about leadership:

LEGO Bricks provide the essence of the leadership lesson on Relationships: Building begins with connecting.

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional value

  • Connecting builds a strong foundation
  •  Connecting unleashes the power of synergy
  • Connecting utilizes the strength of unity

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional ability

  • LEGO bricks are reliable
  • LEGO bricks are reusable
  • LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

  • Misplaced bricks
  • Forced bricks
  • Isolated bricks
  • Unorganized bricks

 

Leaders often get so caught up in the programs that they forget about the people – the building blocks of any organization. There may be tremendous value in plans, but the strength of any organization is in its relationships.

In LEGOS – and in organizations – building always begins with the clicking sound of connections.

 

Toy Box LeadershipToy Box Leadership

Consider the LEGO Brick…

It’s the ubiquitous toy.

Lego red brick

Lego pieces of all varieties constitute a universal system. Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers and adults.

It’s been named the Toy of the Year, Decade, and Century.

Who hasn’t been mesmerized for hours, building things, tearing them down, and starting over? It’s been a part of children’s lives since 1949 – but before that, LEGO meant wooden toys.

Speaking of meaning, the word LEGO in Danish means “play well.”

That applies to adults, too. LEGO bricks may have been designed with children in mind, but it didn’t take long for adults to get into the act.

A global Lego subculture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and themed amusement parks. All for the kids, right?

 Right.

Each Lego piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When two pieces are engaged they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled. The machines that make Lego bricks have tolerances as small as 10 micrometers.

The Lego Group estimates that in the course of five decades it has produced some 400 billion Lego blocks. Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 36 billion per year, or about 1140 elements per second.

And yet with all this, remember these two complementary facts about LEGOs:

  • The unique and singular purpose of a LEGO brick is to connect with another brick.

  • A single LEGO brick is worth, well, practically nothing.

What will you learn from LEGO today?

Lessons in Leadership from a Solar Paradox

Last night the Winter Solstice occurred at 11:48 PM ET, making today the first day of Winter in the U.S., and the shortest day of the year. This is a typical day for me, in that I see both the sunrise and the sunset. Reflecting on this, a question popped into my mind:

Why does the dawn “break” but the sun “sets”?

From the science perspective, they are equally defined: when the upper edge of the sun appears (or disappears) on the horizon, that’s the sunrise (or sunset).

In our language, however, the dawn appears in an instant (breaks) while the sunset takes its time (sets).

I’m no scientist, but I think it’s a matter of visual contrast. In the darkness before dawn, the world is hidden. Unless our eyes have adjusted to the darkness, everything is hidden to us – until the sun illuminates it in a flash. At that instant, everything becomes clear.

As the day winds down, we are cognizant of our surroundings even as the light fades into darkness. We are comforted by what we see, even when we can’t see it any longer. The memory of what we saw remains even when we can’t see it.

As a leader, we often have both dawn and sunset moments. Sometimes we sense things around us but only see them when something “breaks” – an idea, or a comment, or a situation. Other times, we are so familiar with the visible that we “see” it even when it’s not there.

A wise leader knows the difference, and can utilize both “breaking” and “setting.”

 

 

Leading Forward by Looking Back to the Leadership Lessons of Walt Disney

Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion, no matter where it is exercised. Usually it implies some risk – especially in new undertakings. Courage to initiate something and to keep it going – pioneering and adventurous spirit to blaze new ways.   – Walt Disney

Jim Korkis is a Disney historian and long-time writer and teacher about Walt Disney and the organization he created. Who’s the Leader of the Club: Walt Disney’s Leadership Lessons is a departure for Korkis in that his usual subject matter is about the culture and history of Disney, a topic which he is uniquely qualified to write about.

As a boy, he grew up grew up in Glendale, California, which just happened to be located next to Burbank – the home of the Disney Studios. Korkis was an inquisitive and undaunted fan of Disney who not only watched the weekly Disney television series but took the initiative to write down the names he saw on the end credits.

He matched passion with inquisitiveness and began to look for those names in the local phonebook. Upon finding one, he would call the individual up and ask them about their work. Many were gracious enough to invite Korkis to their homes where he spent hours being enthralled by their stories of their work at the Disney organization.

Fast forward decades, where you will find that Korkis relocated to Orlando FL to take care of aging parents. In his own words,

I got a job at Walt Disney World that included assisting with the professional business programs, where I met many executives who had worked with Walt Disney and been trained by him.

I was often called on to research, design and facilitate customized programs for different Disney clients like Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Toys “R” Us and more that touched on both the connections of the individual companies to Disney history, as well as how Walt did business.

I was tapped to do this work because of my knowledge of Walt Disney and his approach to business.

I got the opportunity to meet with some of Walt’s “original cast.” I was enthralled by their stories and experiences and took detailed notes. Hearing stories about how Walt led and how he expected others to lead with compassion, integrity and common sense made a huge impact on me.

Twenty years later, the result is Who’s the Leader of the Club.

Korkis goes to great lengths to use Walt Disney’s own words, from a variety of published and unpublished interviews, as well as the words of those who personally experienced him in action, to help elaborate and describe the basic concepts.

In doing so, we have delivered to us a refreshing breath of fresh air – a business book using the words and actions of a rare genius that are glaringly absent from most organizations today.

Five decades after Walt Disney’s death, his achievements and legacy continue to inspire new generations.

In my case, it’s actually to re-inspire old generations. As a Baby Boomer, I grew up with “The Wonderful World of Disney” as a weekly television show. As a child, I was taken to see most of the Disney films of the 60’s and early 70’s. As a teenager, I took myself – and then, once I became a father, took my family to see those movies. Though I only visited Walt Disney World once as a teenager, I maintained a fascination with the Disney organization that has continued to grow in recent years.

In the early 2000s my vocational role as a consultant to churches took on a specific niche – a focus on guest experiences. That lead to a Disney immersion of research, books, films, on-site visits, and conversations with Disney Cast Members past and present.

Vital to that immersion was the work of Jim Korkis – through his books and writings by, for, and about Walt Disney and the Disney organization.

By his own admission, Who’s the Leader of the Club was the most difficult book Korkis has ever written. That may be true from his perspective, but the words and stories flow off the page and into the reader’s conscience in an almost imperceptible manner.

Leaders of any organization would do well to settle in with Who’s the Leader of the Club, and be prepared for a story-filled journey of insight into one of the most creative geniuses of recent history.

Along with the stories the reader will find seven “lessons” about Walt Disney’s leadership. Best of all, Korkis concludes each of the “lesson” chapters with a one page checklist called “What Would Walt Do?” summarizing the key points in the lesson and a space to write notes.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to join the “club!”

For more on the book by Korkis himself, see here.

Who's the Leader of the Club

The Influence of a Father: Passion

My father never worked a day in his life.

Do not misunderstand me: my father was a hard worker. He was born on the eve of the Great Depression, the youngest of six children. He grew up on the grounds of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, where his father was the stock keeper. He moved a couple of times before entering high school. Upon graduation, he entered the Army Air Corps and served until the fall of 1946. Upon returning home he worked in a factory for two years, when at age 22, he opened a Gulf Service Station with his brother. He continued to operate that gas station for the next 44 years, mostly by himself. The hours were long: 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.

He dealt with steaming hot cars in the summer, and worked through cold wet winters as well. His gas station opened up as a full-service station, and stayed that way for the entire 44 years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means my father pumped the gas into the cars – and washed the windshields, and checked the oil in the engine, and sometimes checked the air in the tires. That’s for every car that pulled up to the gas pumps.

Looking back over my years at home, and in the years following my going off to college, starting a family, and all the way up until the close of the gas station upon his retirement in 1993, I realize now that my father never worked a day in his life.

No, he followed this advice: find something you like to do so much that you would gladly do it for nothing; then learn to do it so well that people are happy to pay you for it.

That’s what my father did: his passion for serving people by pumping their gas was his career.

Following your passion is the key to finding your potential. When a person doesn’t have passion, life can become pretty monotonous. Everything is a “have to” and nothing is a “want to.”

John Maxwell had this to say about passion:

Passion is an incredible asset for any person, but especially for leaders. It keeps us going when others quit. It becomes contagious and influences others to follow us. It pushes us through the toughest of times and gives us energy we did not know we possessed.

Passion fuels us in ways that the following assets can’t:

  • Talent…is never enough to enable us to reach our potential
  • Opportunity…will never get us to the top by itself
  • Knowledge…can be a great asset, but it won’t make us “all we can be”
  • A great team…can fall short

Passion is a real difference-maker.

For 44 years my father lived off of the energy that came from loving what he did and doing what he loved.

To most people, there is a big difference between work and play. Work is what they have to do to earn a living so that someday they can do what they want to do. Don’t live your life that way. Choose to do what you love and make the necessary adjustments to make it work in your life.

And you will never work another day in your life.

reflections following my father’s death, and revisited two years later as my mother begins a major transition in life