Leaders and Creatives

As a little girl I dreamed of being a superstar.  In my world of make-believe, nightgowns became evening dresses and hairbrushes became microphones.  If a performer was on television – such as my all-time favorite entertainer, Carol Burnett – I could be found decked out in my superstar attire ready to mimic every movement, every word spoken and every note sung.

Unfortunately my talent didn’t keep pace with my drive but I quickly discovered the next best thing.  While I didn’t have the chops to be a performer, I did have the business savvy and marketing instincts to be part of the team that supports them.  That discovery led me to a nine-year career as an artist development manager for some of the top Christian recording artists of that era.

With those years as the foundation for my leadership development, working with creatives was the only type of leadership I knew.  And perhaps because there is still a bit of that little girl superstar somewhere in my heart, I’ve developed a deep love for working with creative types.  I love their passion and perspective.  I love their unwillingness to settle for the status quo.

This week I’ve had the privilege to hang out with the artists, geeks (self-proclaimed) and storytellers that form the tribe of the Echo Conference.  I was privilege to share my thoughts about the importance of leaders and creatives working together.

Too many times we allow misunderstandings and assumptions to create unfortunate divides between our very different personalities and styles.  I believe that divide is a grave disservice to our ministries.  We need each other!

Here are the 4 foundations that I believe are essential to building healthy relationships between leaders and creatives in any culture.

1) Mutual Respect – Any relationship will go sideways in a hurry if it isn’t built on a foundation of respect.  Respect is about being committed to acknowledging and appreciating the unique ways that each of us are gifted.

2) Seek to Understand – Once you’ve learned to respect one another’s unique and different gifts, you have to dedicate the time and energy to truly understand one another’s perspective and priorities.

3) Consistent Communication – Because leaders and creatives will often view things from a different perspective, it will require an extra does of communication to maintain healthy working relationships.

4) No Gaps – Because of the stereotypes of each of these roles, there is a tendency to make assumptions about one another.  “No gaps” is another way to say “no assumptions”.  Don’t leave a gap in understanding that could be filled in with poor assumptions.

Whether you’re a leader or a creative, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Who do I need to have more respect for?

Whose role do  I need to understand better?

Who do I need to improve communication with?

Who have I been making assumptions about?

Start With Yourself

Leaders like to lead.  And when we say we like to lead, we usually mean we like to lead others, right?

But one of the most important truths that any good leader needs to learn is that leadership begins with you.  If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others.

Self-leadership is defined as “the process” of influencing oneself to establish the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform.

I believe that self-leadership is the foundation for leadership and unfortunately it’s not the flashy part.  It’s the tough part.  It doesn’t get a lot of attention or affirmation.  No one is singing your praises for leading yourself well, but self-leadership is the hard work behind the scenes that prepares you for great leadership.  I promise!

“There is a person with whom you spend more time than any other, a person who has more influence over you, and more ability to interfere with or to support your growth than anyone else. This ever-present companion is your own self. “  Dr. Pamela Butler, Clinical Psychologist

Before we dive into some ways to lead your self, let me share a few more tough truths about self-leadership:

  • From a human perspective, no one else cares more about your personal development than you do
  • You can’t wait for someone else to lead you
  • No one else owes you leadership
  • No one else is responsible for your leadership development

Ouch!  I know.  But if you understand the hard work of self-leadership and pour yourself into it without expectations of others or an entitled attitude, you will develop the character and core of a remarkable leader.

Here are what I believe are the core elements of developing self-leadership.  These are just listed to get you thinking.  You’ll need to unpack them and determine what steps you will need to take to grow in each of these areas.

1) Character

This is who you are when no one is looking.

  • It requires attention to your spiritual and emotional health.
  • It means expecting more from you than others do.

What qualities do you want to be true about your character?  Relentlessly pursue the development of them.

2) Discipline

Be the one to get it done.

  • Set goals for yourself in all areas: personal, professional, family, fun
  • Take initiative
  • “Leaders are readers”; Read ferociously
  • Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it.
  • Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you.

3) Self-awareness

  • Know your strengths & weaknesses
  • Seek counsel
  • Identify mentors
  • Always evaluate what you need to “own” (good or bad) in every situation

You create most of your opportunities by the choices you make in leading yourself.

How are you doing in the area of self-leadership?  What one thing could you start working on today to improve?

Worn Sneakers & Broken Systems

80 degrees

79% humidity

The conditions for my 6:00 am run today.

Rather than refreshing, I felt like I was running through lava.

Slow. Resistant. Miserable.

To make matters worse, my running shoes are old and worn.  They are done!  They have logged all the miles they need to log but I’ve been putting off buying a new pair.  I haven’t had time.  I haven’t wanted to spend the money.  They haven’t bothered me enough until today when the external forces beyond my control were exasperated by something I can control.

Why do we have to get pushed to the limit to make necessary changes?

While I do this with the simple things like sneakers, I also do this with the major things in my leadership.

One of the places I see teams “wearing worn sneakers” is with internal systems.  Systems are simply the methods you’ve created to get things done in your organization.  It could be how you assimilate volunteers, how you assess employee performance, or who takes out the trash.  You have a system whether you’ve purposefully designed it or not.

The trouble is that growing organizations quickly outgrow old systems.  You have to recreate them.  You have to give them new life.  You have to take what is old, worn and tired and inspire with fresh, new and energized.

But oftentimes this is the stuff we keep pushing off until the external conditions push back so much on our old worn out system that we have no choice but to change it.

A sure sign you have a worn out system is when you hear things like “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  If your team doesn’t understand the true purpose of your system, it’s likely worn out and needs to be recreated.

What’s feeling tired and worn out in your organization?  What would it take to re-energize it?

 

You Failed: Retry

CandyCrush

This little graphic has become all too familiar.

Yes, I’m rather ashamed to admit that I have joined the other 45.6 MILLION monthly users who play Candy Crush!

The words “You failed! Retry” are a daily occurrence.  I’m at my capacity.  I’m beyond my scope.

But rather than those words defeating me I get back up and keep going or I at least wait it out for a few more lives.  I’m determined to beat it.  I know that I’m better at this.

“You failed! Retry” poses a challenge I’m determined to take on.

That’s all well and good in candy land, but those words in real life… that’s another story.

We face “You failed! Retry” every day.  A leadership situation that went awry.  A parenting blunder.  A harsh word uttered.

We fail often and we know we’ve got to retry, but somehow we don’t get back up with the same energy.

“You failed! Retry” aren’t words that make us try harder, oftentimes they’re the words that hold us back or shut us down.  We’re not convinced we can beat it.  We aren’t so sure we’ll get re-energized with new life to get back up and go after it again.

But what if we did?

What if we had the same assurance that we can win this thing eventually?  What if we believed that failing wasn’t the end?  It just means “retry”.

What are you feeling defeated by?

What would change if you were simply willing to retry?

Is It Me or Is It Them?

Leadership can present a lot of moments of disappointment.  Things don’t always go as we plan.  Initiatives fail.  Team members make poor decisions.  We say or do the wrong thing.

In these moments of frustration, I often find myself asking a couple of questions:

Is it me?

Is it them?

I think both questions are essential.

Problems or dysfunction in our teams always have to start with a look in the mirror.  As Henry Cloud says in Boundaries for Leaders, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow”.

We always have some responsibility for the issues we’re dealing with.

But we also need to ask “is it them?”

Sometimes people are just people.  They are dealing with distractions.  They’re wrestling their own inconsistencies and issues.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you lead them.  As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

But here’s the problem for us as leaders:  Most of us don’t ask both questions.  We’re more likely wired to ask one or the other.

We either shame ourselves by constantly feeling responsible for everything or we always blame others.

Next time you’re dealing with a less than spectacular moment with your team, resist shame or blame.

Instead…

1) Look in the mirror and ask “Is it me?”  Is there anything that I’ve created or allowed that is contributing to this problem?  If so, go to work on remedying the issue but don’t wallow in guilt or shame.  Just make it right.

2) Consider what part of the issue is them.  Is there a person on your team who is wrestling through their own issues and that is overflowing to the team?  If so, look for ways to coach and lead them through what they’re dealing with.  It’s another opportunity for you to lead them well.

When things aren’t going the way you hoped are you more prone to shame or blame?

Boundaries for Leaders

BoundariesForLeaders

I just finished Dr. Henry Cloud’s newest book Boundaries for Leaders.  I really believe this is a must have for your leadership library.

I’m a firm believer that you must lead yourself well to lead others better and this is one of those books that will help you lead yourself well.

The key point from the book that I’ve been thinking about over and over is, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow.”  Leadership is tough and there are days that we unintentionally allow or create unhealthy behaviors in our teams.  We must be aware of what we’re creating and what we’re allowing.  Dr. Cloud explains that we’re “ridiculously in charge” and we must own what we’re creating.

Here are a few other key things that I highlighted from the book:

“the leader sets the boundaries that will determine whether the vision and the people thrive or fail.”

“when leaders begin to behave differently, most of the issues that hamper results and harm company culture are truly fixable.”

“Ultimately, leaders own it.  They are the ones who define and create the boundaries that drive the behavior that forms the identity of teams and culture and sets the standards of performance.”

“Sometimes the smartest and most talented leaders are very, very close to significant success, if they can get their ‘people issues’ sorted out.”

“Good boundaries, both those that help us manage ourselves and lead others, always produce freedom, not control.”

“too many leaders forget that they also need to manage themselves, since no one else is doing it; they fail to put into place key boundaries of self-leadership that the sheer volume of work and responsibilities can obscure.”

Where does your leadership need more boundaries? 

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

Every moment matters.

I know you know that and yet, you don’t.

Or maybe you just forget.

I know that I forget.

Some moments don’t seem consequential.  Sometimes it’s the most mundane moments that conjure up the best memories.

I’m visiting family for a few days this week.  I only come back to my hometown about once a year.  Usually I stay so busy that I don’t allow myself to engage memories of the past.  I’ve never been terribly nostalgic.  I rarely long for what’s past.  I’m always focused on pressing forward.

There is good and bad to that mentality I suppose.

But this trip I’ve been reminded of significant moments.  Little points of influence that greatly impacted trajectory.

  • The day I walked into the local ice cream shop to inquire about a job.  A job that turned a boss into a mentor and a paycheck into a passion.  Some of my first leadership and management moments happened in that place.
  • The day I graduated high school and told my baby sister that she had to start using her alarm clock because I wouldn’t be there to wake her up every morning.  Little did I know that she spent the entire summer with the alarm clock by her pillow so that she would learn to hear it by the time school started.  We both grew up that day.

There are numerous others, but you get the point.

You never know when a moment is going to matter for more than the present.  Be alert.  Be engaged.  Look for moments that turn into memories.

You just never know when your influence is impacting someone or when someone’s influence is greatly impacting you.

 

Found

Loss is a debilitating feeling. Something as simple as losing your keys creates anxiety and unsettledness until they are found. The loss of a job triggers fears, insecurities, and doubts. The loss of someone dear creates a sense of desperation, a longing that is never fulfilled.

We’ve been in a series at Cross Point called Cover to Cover where we are looking at the entire story of the Bible and unpacking the themes that God has woven throughout it.  We’ve also had a daily scripture reading plan and daily devotional where we can share our thoughts and learnings with one another.

Today we read John 20:1-18

In this passage, Mary and the disciples are reeling from their loss. Not only did they lose Jesus to death but they soon discover his body is now missing too. One more loss to compound their sadness.

But look closely at how they respond…

Simon Peter and the other disciple looked into the tomb, saw the strips of linen and Jesus’ burial cloth and accepted it as evidence that Jesus’ body was gone. Scripture tells us they went home.

But Mary, seeing the same evidence, stayed awhile longer. She stood outside the tomb crying. It seems that she couldn’t quite bring herself to leave. She grieved.

And then the story turned.

Mary didn’t recognize Jesus immediately. I wonder if He looked different. He wasn’t the crucified version that she lost. Mary was looking for a beaten and battered body. Jesus showed up differently than she expected and she didn’t recognize him at first.

When you experience loss do you leave or do you grieve? Do you look for Jesus or assume He’s gone?

Too many times in my life I’ve allowed loss to lead me to believe God has abandoned me. When a circumstance didn’t turn out the way I hoped or I lost someone or something valuable I assumed God was gone too. But time and time again I discover that He is there. He might look different or behave differently than I thought He would, but He is there.

So often in our lives we fixate on what we’ve lost rather than seeing what we’ve found.

God is there. He’s in your circumstance. He might look a little different than you expected. He might show up in a different way than you hoped, but He is there.

Is there a situation in your life where you feel God has abandoned you? Look closely. Made he is there just waiting for you to rediscover him.

It’s Time: A New Movement for Our Generation

Those of you who know me well know that I dodge most women’s events.  When a circle of women starts talking about women’s ministry, I find a way to disappear.

I feel out of place.

I don’t relate.

But something different is stirring and my heart is connecting in a way that it never has before.

ifgathering

Lindsey Nobles has been sharing nuggets with me for months now.  I think she purposefully delivered the idea in small doses because she knew I needed to process, absorb and ingest it slowly to allow my preconceived ideas to dissipate.

They did.

And then a fortuitous and long overdue introduction to the brave and remarkable Jennie Allen sealed the deal. It really wasn’t the words that Jennie shared as much as the passion that burned in her eyes that convinced me this is unique.

It’s different. It’s necessary. It’s time!

On behalf of all the women who fear all the women’s events, I beg you to join us for IF.

The IF movement will have three distinct parts:

IF: Gathering

This 2-day conference will bring women together and wrestle out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives. Throw everything you know about “women’s conferences” out the door. This is by us, for us, like us: experiential, story-driven, tribe-building, plumbing the depths. We can hardly wait. // Austin, TX Feb. 7–8 2014

IF: Equip

We are creating a blueprint for intentional equipping – reaching women with tools that are holistic, strategic and deep. By providing easy online access to a like-minded community and relevant resources created by our tribe for our tribe, we will release women around the world to live out their purposes and advance the kingdom. We have an audacious vision to disciple the next generation.

IF: Unleash

We are a generation passionate about disparity and justice; we won’t sit idly by enjoying our advantages while the world suffers. By partnering with organizations like Food for the Hungry, coming specifically alongside women around the world, fostering relationships and utilizing our God-given gifts, we believe this movement not only transforms hearts but leaves a tangible impact on the entire world.

Are you ready to join us?

If so go put your email in here and prepare to join us February 7-8, 2014 in Austin, Texas. 

http://ifgathering.com

 

The IF movement will have three distinct parts:

IF: Gathering

This 2-day conference will bring women together and wrestle out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives. Throw everything you know about “women’s conferences” out the door. This is by us, for us, like us: experiential, story-driven, tribe-building, plumbing the depths. We can hardly wait. // Austin, TX Feb. 7–8 2014

IF: Equip

We are creating a blueprint for intentional equipping – reaching women with tools that are holistic, strategic and deep. By providing easy online access to a like-minded community and relevant resources created by our tribe for our tribe, we will release women around the world to live out their purposes and advance the kingdom. We have an audacious vision to disciple the next generation.

IF: Unleash

We are a generation passionate about disparity and justice; we won’t sit idly by enjoying our advantages while the world suffers. By partnering with organizations like Food for the Hungry, coming specifically alongside women around the world, fostering relationships and utilizing our God-given gifts, we believe this movement not only transforms hearts but leaves a tangible impact on the entire world.

This is too big for us- will you please join us:

If so go put your email in here and prepare to join us February 7-8, 2014 in Austin, Texas. 

 

- See more at: http://jennieallen.com/blog/its-time-a-new-movement-for-our-generation/#.UcH-64CCOrk.twitter

Get Out of the Way

At a recent meeting with my team, I asked them a tough question:

“Where do I need to get out of the way?”

They were probably as surprised to hear it as I was surprised to say it.  And before you think my motivations were wonderful and selfless, let me assure you that was far from the case.  What led to my question was exasperation I felt over behaviors and outcomes in the organization that I wasn’t happy with.  I couldn’t diagnose where our issues were and so I started with me.

That question sparked a dynamic conversation among our team and caused me to realize it was time for me to lead differently.  And the most important thing that I could do for my team in this season was get out of the way.

We determined which meetings and conversations it wasn’t essential for me to be a part of and we defined some necessary shifts in how and where I lead.

Bottom line was that I needed to remove myself more to give my team more space to lead.

There is nothing natural or easy about this for me.  I’m highly directive by nature.  I thrive in being present and assertive, but in doing that I’m hindering the development of the great leaders I’ve hired.

Sometimes the only way that you allow others to grow and to lead is by getting out of their way.  As long as you’re there you could be holding them back.

Is there an area of your organization that you need to get out of the way and let your leaders lead?