Leaders are Servants, Part 2

The Art of Working Together

Many artful leaders spoke words of wisdom at Global Leadership Summit 2016 (GLS-2016).  Bill Hybels kicked off the conference with “The Lenses of Leadership” (https://shinecrossingsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/leaders-are-servants-part-1/) and passed the baton to Alan Mulally, who has accumulated many accolades with his name appearing on several lists including world’s most influential people and world’s greatest leaders.   Who knew that this humble man, who has served as Executive Vice President of Boeing and CEO of Ford Motor Company, wAlan Mulallyould deliver his personal stories of crushing stereotypes and taking the fear out of failure.   He headlined his session as “The Art of Working Together,” which sounded more like an adult title for “Playing Nice in the Sandbox.”  Below is GLS’s second key message (Part 2) shared by what I thought was one of the most heart-warming and soft- spoken leaders, Alan Mulally, along with my entwined commentary.

Alan Mulally stood on stage in his khaki slacks and blue blazer looking rather like a typical corporate executive, a bit nerdy in appearance, and giving a balanced impression of professional approach-ability.  He then proceeded to quickly move through some prepared overhead slides, as if he was a professor in a classroom who was chuckling under his breath to see whether the classroom full of students could take notes fast enough before the slide would disappear forever.  At the pace Alan was moving through his list of principles and practices, within ten minutes I thought he would be done sharing everything he knew about working with teams.  My initial impression was far from the truth.  Alan was speeding through the slides, so that he could get to the good stuff—the stories from which powerful messages are communicated.  Those stories were black comedy ridiculous, but so true in how many organizations work today.

In case you missed it, below are the bullet points Alan shared, otherwise known as, those principles and practices needed to effectively work together as a team:

  • People first
  • Everyone included
  • Compelling visions, comprehensive strategy, and relentless implementation
  • Clear performance goals
  • One plan
  • Facts and data
  • Everyone knows the plan, the status, and areas that need special attention
  • Propose a plan, positive, “find-away” attitude
  • Respect, listen, help and appreciate one another
  • Emotional resilience; trust the process
  • Have fun; enjoy the journey and each other

So that was the simple and concise list—pretty much corporate motherhood and apple pie descriptions.  No one would disagree that the list was good, but the phrases had no life.  Alan then proceeded to breathe energy into leadership when he told of his story in moving from Boeing to Ford and the conversation he had with a news reporter after the announcement he would be CEO of one of the top U.S. auto manufacturers.  Although hesitant, but encouraged by Alan, the news reporter asked the question that held the doubt in many people’s minds.  How could Alan Mulally turn Ford Company around when he knew nothing about the automotive industry?  Afterall, car manufacturing was complicated.  Alan’s paraphrased response was, “And airplanes aren’t?  There are ~ 4 million parts in an airplane, and only ~ 10,000 in an average car?  And you have to keep a plane from falling out of the sky.”  His words brought a huge laugh from the audience, and emphasized the stereotypes that we have about people, their capabilities, and abilities to lead.  I have always been one to believe that personal competencies are worth more than technical skills, except in the case of designing a car or airplane or when arguing a criminal case in front of a jury.  Then, I want the best engineer or lawyer that money can buy.  For the most part, I truly believe you can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach initiative, concern for accuracy, effective communication, enthusiasm for work, concern for effectiveness, and analytical thinking to name just a few.  These competencies are cross-cultural and transcend industry, yet how many times do we want to label or put people in a box based on our own stereotypes and prejudices?  Great leaders know that leadership has no boundaries and that what it takes to lead people from HERE to THERE is applicable in all organizations and communities.

Did you know that 58% of employees come to work only for the paycheck?  Did you know that only 42% of employees have a positive feeling for the company that they work for?  Those statistics are disheartening.  Did you know that Alan moved Ford’s average from 42% to 89%?  Impressive!  As Alan unpacked his stories, there were no magic bullets, just color surrounding the journey in defining vision/mission, developing meaningful goals, including and leveraging people, and most importantly dealing with reality.  Dealing with reality?  Yes, Alan inherited a culture where even the senior leadership did not dare share the truth with each other for fear of being “excused.”  The culture operated in a state of fear and cover-up.  When Alan asked his direct reports to provide a goal status in their respective areas using a general color coding of green (good), yellow (caution), or red (trouble), all he got were full pages of green dots.  Not one red circle despite the company being on track to lose $17 billion.  As you can accurately surmise, the culture embraced a “shoot the messenger” mentality.   Alan’s value as a leader was to change Ford’s culture—one of the most difficult tasks because of the momentum and number of people that needed to be moved from HERE to THERE.  Culture can be changed, and it starts with a decision and commitment from the top.  His philosophy was to always deal with and reward the truth, which was humorously told through his consistent behavior in his staff meetings.  The first senior leader to step out and put a red dot on his paper was not only rewarded with a “thank you” but eventually worked his way down the table to a seat next to Alan despite the others’ assumptions of a kick out the door. Alan subtly showcased the reward for transparency and truth-telling, so that others would feel comfortable following suit.

As I like to say, the truth is your friend.  You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.  Alan’s next step in the recipe for creating a winning performance culture was to inherently trust that people will help solve the problem.  If you can remove the fear that drives cover-up, you can engage people to work together to solve the problems.  I believe fear is one of the most powerful human emotions, and if leaders can penetrate and breakdown the walls that fear has built, they can allow people to move towards each other in more collaborative and innovative ways.  Daily business operations are fundamentally about solving problems whether that is how to grow more customers, how to get a plant running again, or secure financing to build a new facility.   Attack the fear in your organization and you will have employees who want to work on your team.

Leaders are Servants, Part 1

The Essence of Global Leadership

How do you summarize the information and inspiration that is captured and released upon those who come to Willow Creek Church (WCC) in Barrington, Illinois, for the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS, www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com) or to those who choose to spend two days in a church, prison or other venue across the United States and Canada to soak in the wisdom and blessings via satellite streaming?  I struggle with how to convey the power of GLS to transform your thoughts, thinking and behaviors towards becoming a better leader.  As Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, passionately loves to say, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”  My response is, “Amen! I want to hear more.”

In 2015 Greg Lernihan, friend and church member of Willow Creek, suggested my husband and I attend GLS through a satellite location in Houston, Texas.  Fortunately, our home church, Northside Christian, decided to host this event for the first time, where we were blessed to fellowship in the leadership messages with our pastors, members, and visitors. We were so moved by the power of the experience we immediately signed up to attend GLS in the main auditorium at Willow Creek for 2016.  For the record WCC seats about 7,000 people, and the GLS 2016 tickets sold out in about 30 minutes. When 2017 tickets went on sale on August 11, 2016, auditorium tickets sold out within 15 minutes.  When you get a taste of GLS, you understand its power and typically want to make a commitment to return every year.

So what is GLS all about for those who may never have heard of this two-day personal investment event?  In a nutshell, GLS brings together real leaders who are moving forward, learIMG_0340ning, struggling and succeeding in their fields of leadership, who have a servant heart, and who desire to share with the world their knowledge, so everyone can become better at leading themselves, their families, co-workers, and their communities.  As such the speakers come from diverse backgrounds and cover leadership in faith-based organizations, politics, businesses, and other non-profit government organizations (NGO). There is something for everyone to say the least.  The messages transcend religion, culture, and lifestyles.

Past leaders whose names you probably recognize include Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Brene Brown, Tyler Perry, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, and Condoleezza Rice. Many other speakers, who may not be as well-known as CEOs and celebrities, were just as impactful in their research findings and areas of expertise.  GLS 2016 did not disappoint and included some new and returning favorite speakers advancing new topics.  This year’s lineup included Bill Hybels, Alan Mulally, Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Travis Bradberry, Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Erin Meyer, John Maxwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Danielle Strickland, Horst Schulze, and Wilfredo De Jesus.

So you are thinking, enough of the background, I get it!  I’m sold on GLS, so what did you learn? Below is just one key message (Part 1) shared by what I thought was one of the most powerful speakers, Bill Hybels, along with my entwined commentary.

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  So, how does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change. When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you’re not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it’s the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you’ll be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that he/she cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does s/he get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget as they strive for results is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be?  The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving their goals.   So this correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  So how can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let’s break a myth held by some leaders which is people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  Not giving goals and feedback is essentially cruel.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals you will not have clarity, but entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you’ve left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers?  What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over.  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Bill’s last statement ignited a passion!  My husband and I are executive volunteers for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, www.pep.org) in Cleveland, Texas.  PEP are leaders in their quest to transform men, their families, and the community by empowering ex-felons with character-building and business skills so they can integrate into society as healthy and contributing citizens.  PEP’s success is measured by its recidivism rate of 7% for those graduating from the program versus the prison population at large of > 50%.  We need to add the Cleveland Correctional Facility to the list of GLS satellites, so that at least 44 prisons will be streaming GLS live in 2017.  Who wants to be part of the team?  I’m willing to lead!