Effective Leaders Make Decisions

A major part of being a leader is making decisions. In fact, some would say that it is key to being a leader because a leader’s role is to make decisions for others and then lead them forward towards wherever that decision takes them. As a leader, I am sure you sometimes make a bad mistake here and there, but you must not let that get you down, keep pressing on and keep leading.

making-choices-trees-in-the-pathWe all make small decisions every day. We decide if we will wear a blue shirt or red one, if we will eat at one restaurant or another, or if we will have one cup of coffee or two. These all seem like easy decisions because you have probably made them before, you have already considered the benefits of another cup of coffee and the only factor left is if you have time for it or if the coffee is already made. When you have a harder decision, it is usually harder only because you have not had to make that kind of decision before, or because you have not really considered the benefits and costs fully.

Decision making is something that takes time to work at and practice. You practice making decisions, and sometimes you make great decisions, and other times you do not. When you make a bad decision, you must learn from it, and then move on. A mentor once told me that decision making is something that you will always need to work at and practice, and it will become easier, but never easy.

I can remember one business class I had in college where the professor told us that all he wanted us to learn in that class was how to make good decisions. Everything we did in that class was aimed at helping us become better decision makers. It really was more of a transformational leadership class than a business class, but it has helped my leadership and decision making skills in many lasting ways.

So where are you at today? Do you avoid making decisions? Or maybe you are a fairly decent decision maker? No matter where you are, you must remember this; making good decisions takes practice, so get out there and start practicing, and soon your leadership and even life, will benefit from better decisions .

As a final note, if you are facing a big decision, it is imperative to include God in that decision. He knows the answers and he is willing to guide you. So rely on Him and his expertise in decision making to help you make better decisions.

photo by Rickydavid

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The Need to Inspire

In anything a leader does, he or she must inspire those around them. In the toughest situations or the darkest of nights, a leader who is still courageous and inspiring can give new hope to followers.

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

I remember one time when I was at a youth camp. We were planning to play some outdoor games all afternoon. Games like kickball, tag, and dodge ball. However, a few hours before the whole camp was going to take part in these games, it started to rain. And it kept raining. I, along with almost everyone else, was disheartened and frustrated. Now we would probably have to sit inside and play boring inside games or something equally  unexciting.

Yet the youth leader of the camp was unfazed and recognized the situation. He immediately announced that we would still be doing games outside, but they would be games suited for wet weather. He proceeded to talk these games up so much that everyone in the camp was soon even more excited about these new wet weather games than the other games we had planned. Even today I still remember all the games we played that day and the fun everyone had because of one inspiring leader.

A leader who can look at a situation, change plans, and then inspire others to follow is a great leader. It is not easy at times to throw out plans and come up with something new, but it is necessary to do in certain situations.

So how can you do a better job of inspiring people? The next time when your plans do not work out very well, try to be flexible and change, and then be excited about the new direction you are heading. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to follow an inspirational leader who is genuinely excited about leading.

photo by B Tal

5 Steps to Follow to Make Great Decisions

To reach our goal, we often must make a decision at a fork in the road

To reach our goal, we often must make a decision at a fork in the road

Decision making is something we all have to do, but few of us enjoy. Many people often make bad decisions for many reasons, but one reason is because they simply did not know how to make a decision. So if you would like to know how, or if you just want to make sure you make good decisions, check out these five steps to making a good decision.

5 steps to making a decision:

1. State the problem – begin by defining what the decision you need to make is. Try to put the problem into one sentence and make it as clear as possible. This is both for your benefit and others in case you are not the only one involved in this decision.

2. Identify alternatives – what are the options? Take time and carefully look at the deferent solutions to your stated problem. This is like a brainstorm session, so do not get rid of any solutions no matter how outlandish they might seem. Look for every possible alternative or solution.

3. Evaluate alternatives – which option is best? Look at all the factors involved, you might even need to put some criteria together to help whittle down your options. This is probably the longest step of the process and it requires some careful analysis of each alternative. Here is where you throw out the alternatives that do not solve your problem or are just impractical.

4. Make a decision – choose the best option. You have analyzed and found the best option to fix your problem, so go with it and do not second guess yourself.

5. Implement your decision – follow your decision and do whichever option you chose. This is the most important step. You must implement or your problem will remain unsolved.

Let’s look at an example to help put all these steps together.

Let’s say that you are in charge of an organization and you want to do some sort of stress relief activity for your workers. The first option you have is to do a stress relief party. This would cost $100. The second option is to get stress relief balls for everyone. This would only cost $50. Which option should you take? Well follow the steps. Define your problem, which is that you need a stress relief activity. Then look for your alternatives, the two options. Now, evaluate each option. Which one would be a more effective stress reliever? Which one is more cost effective? Which one has a combined better value? After figuring out the answer to these questions, make a decision on one of the options. Now, the last and most important step of all, implement your decision. You will never know if you made a good decision if you do not implement it, and you will never solve the problem if you do not act on your decision.

Follow the five steps and the example and you should be able to start making better decisions today. Remember, it takes practice to make good decisions, so do not get distressed if your first few attempts end badly. Just keep trying and keep learning and very soon you will be a better leader.

Photo by pfly

The Importance of Short Term Goals

Using short term goals you can reach even the most lofty goal

Using short term goals you can reach even the most lofty goal

Photo by Kevin Steele

You may be great at putting together a lofty vision that encompasses your long term goals, but what are you doing to reach them? Do you have steps and short term goals to help you reach your final objective?

Long term goals are great, but as long as you don’t have a step by step plan for getting there, you probably won’t get there. Setting several short term goals that lead you to accomplishing your final objective is the best way to stay focused and on track.

In a great book I was reading called Axiom by Bill Hybels the author said that he uses a six by six rule for planning and accomplishing short term goals. He puts together a list of short term tasks and goals that he needs to do and then narrows it down to just six key tasks to do that will also work towards his long term vision. He then gives himself just 6 weeks to do each of the six short term goals. Once the six weeks are up, it’s time to put together a new list of short term goals.

This method of organizing and then giving yourself a specific amount of time to accomplish your short term goals is a fantastic way to boost your effectiveness. You will also feel much better about your long term vision because you are taking manageable steps towards reaching that vision.

Is it time for you to stop being frustrated with long term goals, and focus on six specific short term goals for six weeks? Get something done now, and write down what your short term goals are. If need be, you don’t have to make it six goals in six weeks, you can tailor it to fit what you are doing. The important thing is to start doing something now to ensure you reach your long term vision in the future.

Zig Ziglar Free Gift for Military

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I really like Zig Ziglar and I love the United States military so I was stoked to see that Zig’s son Tom has opened the Ziglar Vault of all the best audio and video for free to any active duty member of the United States Armed Forces.  Makes me want to join the military.  OK, I know that God hasn’t created me for that but do take advantage of it and pass it on to any of your friends that are in the military.

https://www.ziglar.com/military

Reading Right – How to Get the Most from a book.

readingrightforleaders

“Leadership development is synonymous with personal development.”
– Henry Blackaby

Effective leaders maintain an aptitude for learning throughout all of life. Show me a great leader, and I’ll show you a hungry learner. The old Irish proverb is true: “You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is.” When a leader grows, he or she opens the door to organizational growth. In the words of Henry Blackaby, “As leaders grow personally, they increase their capacity to lead. As they increase their capacity to lead, they enlarge the capacity of their organization to grow. Therefore, the best thing leaders can do for their organization is to grow personally.”

One of the most basic expressions of a desire for growth and openness to learn is a leader who is a disciplined reader. Read any good books lately?

I routinely ask that question of leaders around the world as I interact with them. I find many of the books I read have been recommended to me by people I respect. But in asking this question – Have you read any good books lately? – I have learned that not all leaders are readers and that not all readers are learners. Let me explain.

Sometimes when I ask a leader what he or she has been reading, I’m met with a blank stare – that “deer in the headlights” look that makes me feel as awkward for a moment as they do. I usually try to bail them out by recommending a book I’m reading or one I feel could be helpful based on where they are in their journey. I want to gently nudge this kind of leader to become a reader because I know they will be vulnerable to “plateauing” if they don’t cultivate the discipline of personal growth. One of the most common barriers to finishing well is to plateau as a leader.

Other times I find leaders are quick to list the latest books they have purchased and begun to read. So I follow up by asking, “What was the most important new idea you gleaned from reading that book?” And now I have yet another deer in the headlights.

Still other leaders share in a straightforward and self-assured manner what they are reading and what they are getting out of it. That’s a leader who is both a reader and a learner. And if you dig a little deeper inside this kind of leader, you will almost always find a leave of proactivity or “intentionality” to their reading. So let me ask you again – have you read any good books lately?

John R. Mott: A Historical Model

One of my favorite historical mentors is John Mott, the leader of the Student Volunteer movement for over thirty years. Mott was a reader and a learner. On one 17-day voyage to South Africa, he booked a second cabin on the steamship just for his books! Mott sat on the deck of the cabin on the ship reading one book after another. An opinionated leader, he was observed ripping pages out of books he didn’t agree with and “flinging them into the sea.” On at least one 10-day trip, John Mott read almost an entire book each morning before feeling up to writing letters and reports.

What Makes a Good Read?

Remember the last time you were disappointed by a book? What makes a good read, and how can I maximize my time and resources when it comes to learning through reading? I’ve been asking myself that question and sought to organize my thoughts. I believe the right combination of content, format, style, timing and approach makes the best opportunity to read and learn.

* Content. I know it is not very profound, but if the author doesn’t have much of value to say it will be hard to harvest a great deal from the book. You would think the publisher ought to be your ally in screening out poor content, but plenty of fluff gets printed and promoted these days. But what if you get going on a book that turns out to be disappointing from the perspective of content? I believe it is the author’s responsibility to engage my mind and stir my heart. Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down with a bad book. It’s amazing how many people feel some sort of moral obligation to finish a book, no matter how disappointing it may be, before they move on to the next title. Learn to find the balance between giving up on a book too early and bogging down in a quagmire of disinterest or disappointment.

* Format. Books come in a variety of formats including biographical, inspirational, devotional, instructional, recreational, etc. (By format I’m obviously not referring to fiction/nonfiction or hardcover/paperback) While it is ideal to develop an appreciation for a wide variety of formats, most people gravitate toward one of two. And authors tend to stick with a specific format as well. I prefer biographical and instructional formats. I don’t do much of any reading in the inspirational, devotional, or recreational formats. (By devotional I’m referring to a genre of writing, not the personal time spent in worship, prayer and the study of Scripture.) When good content is combined with one of my favorite formats, I know I’m building momentum for a good read.

* Style. Some authors use flowery word pictures and lots of illustrative material while others write in a more natural or conversational style. The format of the book often dictates to some extent the style the author will choose. I like illustrative material but not when it gets in the way of the content. I prefer a conversational style of writing where I can almost imagine the author speaking out loud to me as I read. I like charts and graphs in more technical books to give visual depictions of the concepts. I have found some very popular authors whose books have sold extremely well write mostly in an inspirational or devotional format with a style that is harder for me to digest. I don’t tend to buy this type of book although I know many other leaders who purchase everything these authors write.

* Timing. In some cases the only thing between me and a good read is the timing of what is happening in my life when I pick it up. We have all had people enthusiastically recommend a book as “life-changing” only to be disappointed upon purchasing it. Six months later the same book can become life changing for me too. Why? It’s all about timing.

* Approach. The people I know who benefit most consistently from reading books have an approach to reading that is intentional if not explicit and preconceived. Leaders who are both readers and learners have an approach to reading that enables them to get the most out of the material and develop systems that enable them to utilize what they learn well into the future.

One Approach to Reading Right

I have met very few younger leaders with a well-developed approach to reading books that maximizes the potential for learning. So let me share with you how I’m seeking to read and learn with the goal of inspiring you to develop a system that works for you.

Before you Read

As the following questions of a book before you get into reading it:

* Why do I want to read this and what do I hope to get out of it? (There is nothing wrong with reading a book for fun. That in itself is what you hope to get out of it. Knowing what your purpose is will almost always enhance the value that comes from reading a book.)
* What is the subject of this book, and how much do I already know about it? (Obviously if you are new to the subject matter you will need to process the information differently than if you have a lot of expertise in a given area.)
* For whom was this book written? Who is the target audience? (Knowing who it was written for helps you understand how hard you are going to have to work to apply the principles to your situation. A book written about marketing to corporate heavy hitters will require some careful processing when applying the ideas to a very small nonprofit organization.)
* What is the format of the book and the style of the author’s writing? (In most cases the title and flyleaf copy will answer this question but you may need to adjust your opinion after you get into the book.)
* Based on the above information, at what level should I interact with this book? (If you know a lot about the subject, you may simply want to scan or browse through the book looking for new ideas or helpful illustrations. If it is a subject you really need to dig into, you may want to read it word-for-word or even study it by reviewing portions of it several times.)

Note: In some cases you may decide not to read a book at all after answering these basic questions. I like to approach reading a book like I would attend a seminar. I’d never go to a seminar without giving some through to what I hope to get out of it, who it is for, and what I already know about the topic.

While You Are Reading

Devise a system that works for you to identify the key concepts from the book so that you can readily process and utilize them later. I typically look for ideas, research/facts, quotes, and illustrations. (If the book is biographical, I look for process items – how God was shaping this person; pivot points – the key turning point moments in their journey; and heart-stirring vignettes-the biographical equivalent of an illustration.)

I mark these various items as I read and transfer the page number to one of the blank pages in the front of the book along with what is it – quote, illustrations, etc. This allows for a much easier review of what I want to harvest after I have finished the book.

After You Have Finished

If you have invested a few hours interacting with a book, it is important to bring closure to the process sin a n intentional manner. Here are a few questions to consider when closing out a book.

* Do I need to engage this material at another level? (Sometimes a book you intended to browse through may turn out to be work reading or even studying. Sometimes the author will quote another source that piques you interest and is worth pursuing.)
* What are the most important ideas I have gleaned from this book, and how can I apply them?
* What research, data, or facts have I gleaned from this book? How can it help me?
* What quotes have I gleaned that are worth keeping?
* What illustrations have I gleaned that are worth keeping?
* How would I rate this book against others dealing with the same subject? Would I recommend this book to others interested in this subject?

If you want to keep growing you will need to find a way to learn from what you read. My approach might not work for you without some modification. Find an approach that enables you to maximize the benefits that come from reading good books, and use it.

This article is reprinted from the book Leadership Insights, with permission from Steve Moore and Top Flight Leadership. To purchase Leadership Insights or subscribe to Leadership Insights Online, contact Top Flight Leadership at www.TopFlight.org or call 866-9LEADER

With that in mind…have you read any good books lately?

The Best Leadership Question Ever

best question for leaders

A few weeks back in an email exchange with Dr. Ray Wheeler, found of Leadership-Praxis.com, he told me to ask this question to the people I was responsible for leading.

“Based on the time you have known me…what do I believe about you?”

As I asked the members of my team this question it reavealed a lot of things both about my leadership and their beliefs.  I found for the most part they were worried that I viewed their perceived weaknesses as larger than I actually did (in some cases I did not even see the issue they were concerned about or if I did, didn’t see it as a weakness)  Also they were reticent to share what they thought I thought of their strengths.  It is a little bit of an awkward question to ask but it was very valuable for my own insight as well as being able to correct the misperceptions that others had.

Since most of what people believe comes from what we say I realized I need to do a much better job of encouraging my team.

So next time you have the opportunity with a team member, close friend or someone else that will be honest with you ask them,  “Based on the time you have known me…what do I believe about you?” and remember no matter what they respond with don’t be defensive or you’ll probably never get a truly honest answer from them in future.