There can be a myriad of things trying to get our attention, and consequently pulling us away from the things we want to accomplish.

Over the last few years, I have set many personal and professional goals. My personal goals usually revolve around my key relationships and family goals, while my professional ones are around developing the people and organizations I lead.

I have had seasons where I was failing at accomplishing most of my goals. While I had clarity around what I wanted to accomplish, I was failing on execution. Then a solution came.

While on the phone one day, someone told me that there were some goals if accomplished would help you accomplish many other goals. So instead of focusing on dozens of goals, we can accomplish more if we have just a few goals.

1. Personal:

Is there one goal personally that if accomplished, will help you accomplish your other important goals?

For instance, eating healthy will help you with your fitness and health goals. Another benefit is that you may eat out less, which will help you achieve your financial goals.

For me, my one goal that helps accomplish many others is waking up early. If I wake up hours before the rest of the house, it helps me accomplish my goals in the areas of faith, health, and my coaching business. In fact, I am writing this post while the rest of the house is sleeping.

2. Organizational:

You have probably seen a company or department have ten to fifteen goals they are trying to accomplish this year. So how many of those get achieved? Very few.

Look at the findings of the Franklin Covey group shared in the book  The Four Disciplines of Execution:

If a team focuses on two or even three goals beyond the demands of their whirlwind, they can often accomplish them. However, if they set four to ten goals, our experience has been that they will achieve only one or two. They’ll be going backward! If they go after eleven to twenty goals in addition to the whirlwind, they’ll lose all focus. Confronted with so many goals the team members will stop listening let alone executing. Why is this so? The fundamental principle at work in Discipline 1 is that human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence.

The book also stresses that organizations should only attempt to achieve one or two wildly important goals (WIG) at a time.

The less you do, the more you can do with excellence. If you focus on just a one or two wildly important goals in your life and business, you will get more done, by focusing on less.

What is your wildly important goal in your personal and professional life?

In sports, the players typically recognized are the stars; the players that have the best stats at the end of the year. Well, what about the rest of the team?

Growing up, I loved to watch the NBA. Michael Jordan was my favorite player and was the most popular player of his era. Yet, Jordan was not alone. The Bulls had a dynasty that rested on Jordan’s shoulders, but there were other team members that made consistent Championships a possibility. I believe the same is true in other organizations. For a team to win, it has to have more than just stars, they need ideal team players.

In this series of posts, I will lay out some keys to look for in an ideal team player.

  1. Invest.
  • In your team

A team player is someone who recognizes, believes in, and leverages the strength of the team and its members. They are not blinded by pride and believe the statement that we are better together is true.

Paraphrasing my favorite leader, Jesus, he tells to live a life of serving others, this includes those you work with. A true team player.

A true team player leverages their influence and strengths to help the team individually and collectively.  One of the key ways they do this is uniquely caring for and encourage their fellow team members.

They care for team members whenever others are going through a difficult time personally or professionally. They point out when other team members are doing a good job and encourage them to keep it up. As Andy Stanley is known for saying, “if your leadership is not about you, it will go way beyond you.”

  • In yourself

Not only should you invest in your team, you should invest in yourself to help you become the optimal team member.

This could include hiring a coach to help you stay sharp and hit your personal and professional goals. Or you may need to acquire or sharpen a skill by investing in training or in courses which is a great way to do that. Don’t rely on the organization for all of your development. Even beyond coaching and training, simply reading development books and listening to a podcast is a great way for you to improve yourself which will ultimately lead to you being a better team player.

After reading through this post, I want to encourage you to reflect on whether or not you are investing in your team and yourself. If not, pick something you can do in each area to get you on the road to becoming a great team player.

Over the last few years, I have read a number of books and listened to many teachings on change. A few of the books that I have perused include Relaunch, Leading Change Without Losing, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I learned quite a bit from these titles, especially those that were timely for what was going on in my life.

Most recently, I finished another book on change titled Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard. In this book Chip and Dan Heath lay out a framework to help make hard change a little easier. They grabbed the phrase of the first two from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.

1. Direct the Rider.

The rider is the rational part of you. Your rider is good with thinking and planning and can, therefore, plot a course for a better future.

The challenge with the rider is that he can also see all the problems in a situation. Because of this, he can get bogged down in analysis paralysis. To help with change, we are told that you must direct the rider. This is done by scripting the critical moves and pointing to the destination.

Scripting the critical moves are giving your rider specific behaviors that need to be done. In one of the stories, they shared that someone was trying to help raise the safety level in an automotive plant. So, instead of simply saying, “stay safe,” which leaves a lot of room for interpretation, they made two clear directives: 1) everyone is required to wear hardhats and safety glasses, and 2) no one can expose any bare skin, meaning no one can wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts, etc.

Pointing to the destination means reaching the desired outcome. It could also be called your goal. For the automotive plant that would be every single person wearing the safety equipment and wearing the proper attire. This made it very easy to see when the destination was reached.

2. Motivate the Elephant

The elephant is the emotional side of you. Your elephant is the part of you that is more likely to make a decision based on feelings. In order to get your elephant to change we are encouraged to find the feeling, shrink the change, and grow your people.

In their book Dan and Chip relate some findings from John Kotter and Dan Cohen’s book Heart of Change:

Kotter and Cohen say that most people think change happens in this order: ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE… in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE.

So instead of trying to present evidence that caused them to think (analyze) about something, present evidence that causes them to feel something.

Sometimes when we go out to make changes, the amount of work needed to accomplish the needed change seems overwhelming. This is where shrinking the change comes into play. In the book, they mention the Five-Minute Room Rescue. Instead of telling your child they have to clean the whole room, you tell them to clean for five minutes. Once the person starts to clean the room, there is a better chance that they will work longer than the five minutes, but you made the start much easier by shrinking the change.

By growing your people, you help your team to have a growth mindset. By doing this you potentially help people change the way they identify themselves. In one company they started to call their team members inventors, and over time the people started to come up with amazing ideas to move the company forward.

3. Shape the path.

If you don’t want to direct the rider or motivate the elephant, there is a third alternative; shape the path. To shape the path you can tweak the environment, build habits, and rally the herd.

Sometimes shaping the path by tweaking the environment is a less painstaking way to get the desired result. Think about grocery stores. They want you to stay in their stores for a longer period of time because that could result in more sales. So what do they do? They put the milk in the back of the store, so you have to pass through a larger portion of their goods.

The second thing you can do to shape the path is to build habits. I will let the writers of the book speak on this:

How can you create a habit that supports the change you’re trying to make? There are only two things to think about: 1) the habit needs to advance the mission, and 2) the habit needs to be relatively easy to embrace.

The final thing needed to shape the path is rallying the herd. Behavior can be contagious. There are YouTube videos where people are sitting in a room and all of a sudden a noise goes off and everyone in the room stands. Then the person who just came in the room would eventually stand, following the behaviors of the others. They, in turn, would encourage the next new person to do the same. If you can get a few people to start with change, it can catch on to others.

I am not sure what change you need right now, but it is easier if you direct the rider, motivate the elephant, or shape the path.

How have you seen these principles play out in your own life?

Why We Is Better Than Me

Most leaders want to see their business or cause reach more people, especially if they strongly believe in its purpose and vision. We get frustrated when we don’t see the expected results and are left wondering why. Much of the time, it’s not because of a lack of desire, skill, or passion. There is something else that may be holding you back in your desire to reach the next level for your organization.

I was in my late twenties when I became the lead pastor of a church. To be honest, the ministry had been through a challenging season before I started to lead. To make matters worse, I didn’t know what I was doing.

There came a point, while I was leading, that it was “Make it or Break it” time. I knew that change needed to happen. Our organization decided to take some time to evaluate every person and every program, to make the necessary changes in order to re-launch the church.

During the evaluation process, I believe I was the one who changed the most. I realized that I could not get us to where God wanted us alone, but that it would take a team.

Looking at the life of Moses, there was a time when he was trying to complete everything himself. His father-in-law, Jethro, noticed this fallacy as we see in Exodus:

When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, ‘What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?’ Moses replied, ‘Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God.’ Exodus 18:14-15

Moses couldn’t see his mistakes because he was too busy. He was wearing himself and others out—therefore, he was unknowingly holding back progress. Moses was encouraged to find a team.

“Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to Him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them His instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.” Exodus 18:19-22

We have a hard time letting go because of these three things:

1. We don’t think others will do as good a job. Moses probably thought he was the only one who could make rulings since he was the one to whom God spoke. He was wrong, and so are we, when we believe we are the only one who can do a decent job.

2. We are insecure. Many don’t hand over responsibility because they are afraid of others getting some of the attention. You will never attract high-capacity people if it always has to be about you.

3. We haven’t successfully delegated. The key word here is “successfully.” We may have delegated tasks creating followers, but we have not done the right thing by delegating authority, which creates leaders.

You cannot attain a breakthrough because you need help from a team. One of the first things I did was to appoint key people who could lead areas of the ministry. Now, this is still a work in progress, but much headway has been made. God brought in great leaders, and subsequently, our mission is being achieved.

I encourage you to read Exodus 18:13-27 and go over the reasons listed below that can help bring your desired breakthrough.

1. You can handle more collectively than you can individually.

2. There are many areas where others are stronger than you.

3. More people will be taken care of (i.e. more can be accomplished).

You alone may not be able to bring the breakthrough you desire, but a team working together can go further than you could imagine. If you need help in the area of delegation check out my free ebook.

Question: What do you need to delegate and who do you need to empower to accomplish that?

Four questions that will help you decide whether or not to let someone go.

Letting an employee go is never easy, but it is even harder without a clear process to think through.

There are many reasons to let someone go— perhaps you are restructuring, trimming your budget, or eliminating divisions within a company. This post, however, deals with performance-based issues.

In my early twenties, I got my feet wet managing multiple stores in a growing pizza chain. In this type of business, employee turnover is rather high. I distinctly remember an owner in the company asking me to go into one of the stores and fire the general manager, who happened to be my boss at the time. I always felt a responsibility to God and the owners of the business to properly manage the place.

I have headed teams in both the profit and non-profit arena for over a decade, and I have learned a lot along the way. While I have never enjoyed letting anyone go, I realize being a team leader means parting ways on occasion. I believe these questions will help you decide whether to make that difficult decision.

1. Have I given them clear expectations?

Without clear expectations, you may think your employee isn’t doing anything you want while he may feel as if he is doing an excellent job. The problem may not be with the person; it may be a clarity issue. It is not fair for you to expect something from the employee that you have not made clear. Dr. Mark Rutland, former president of Southeastern University, once said, “If the key to quality is meeting expectations, you owe your employees a clear explanation of exactly what you expect.”

A little work on the front-end makes your expectations clear. Consider having an employee initial all the pages of their job description as part of the onboarding process. You can use this document as you go through one-on-one meetings or 90-day and annual reviews. The job description can also come in handy when you need to coach the employee on opportunities for improvement or celebrate a job well done. If you are considering letting an employee go, there should be multiple documented conversations about their poor performance and where their shortcomings will lead.

2. Have I given them the resources needed to accomplish what is expected?

Once we have made our expectations clear, we must set our teams up for success by providing the resources necessary to meet our expectations. Conferences, coaching, podcasts, and books are all great resources to develop our teams. When you let someone go, you should feel as if you have done all you can to help that person succeed.

3. Would I hire them today?

This question has to be asked after you’ve answered the first two questions. It may be tough to answer, but it will reveal how you truly view the employee’s performance. Something attracted you to hire them initially; is that quality still there? If you can say yes, there is a chance you may be able to better utilize that person in a different role or department. Sometimes we have the right person in the wrong position.

4. Why do I want to let the person go?

Is our issue with the person’s performance or is it something personal? Someone simply rubbing you the wrong way is not a reason to fire them. In order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to work harmoniously with many different personalities.

If you have worked through these questions and still believe you should let your employee go, it may be time to part ways. I have learned that a person can be a good employee, just not your employee. Believe it or not, many will do better because you let them go. Multiple times I have seen people push themselves after being let go and find a much better opportunity elsewhere.

When it is apparent this is the route you must choose, you should have the hard conversation sooner rather than later. I heard somewhere that you hire slow and fire fast. Follow these tips to part ways amicably:

  • Be clear. Bring the documented proof- performance reviews, disciplinary reviews, etc. – to the meeting.
  • Be gracious, but honest. You shouldn’t be a jerk when you let people go, but you should be honest. This conversation may be a catalyst to a future breakthrough in their life.
  • Be generous. If it all possible within company policy, give your employee a severance package. This can vary greatly depending on the reason for firing, the number of years at your company, the person’s position, what was agreed upon in the employment contract, etc. I believe it is a good idea to lean toward the generous side.
  • Be legal. Make sure you are following all laws- state and local- when it’s time to let someone go. I am not in charge of an HR department and I am not a lawyer, so get input from these two sources if you are unsure of what the law says.

Do you need to clarify your expectations, give employees some needed resources, move someone to a different position, or let someone go?

Creating a business plan can seem to be a huge task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few simple steps, you can create a business plan.

Early in my career I always felt as if I was spinning my wheels. I would put in countless hours of hard work, but at the end of the year, I would not see the gains I desired. I would look back at the year and realize we had not progressed, but simply maintained. In these seasons I did a gut check and wondered what was going on. Sometimes I questioned whether I was the right person to lead.

While most leaders have visions of grandeur, they often don’t have a plan to get from where they are to where they envision their organization to be. What is needed is a business plan. Creating a business plan may seem like a huge task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few simple steps, you can create the successful business you desire.

I was introduced to the idea of drafting a business plan by Building Champions, an executive coaching company. The ideas in this post come from what I have learned through them.

Your plan does not need to be twenty pages thick; in fact, it may fit on a single sheet or two. It does not have to be comprehensive, but does need to answer the following questions:

1. What is your primary focus for this year?

Many components are necessary to get to your desired finish line, but what is the one thing you want to focus on this year? The rest of your business plan rests on how you answer this question.

The focus can be on one of two things:

  •  Something you measure. I work in the non-profit arena, so the figure important to me is the number of lives being changed.  For your business, it may be customer retention, leads, sales growth, or location expansion.
  •  Principle. While the things you measure are important, sometimes it is a principle that needs the most focus this year. This could include improving internal communication, creating and implementing a plan for leadership development, improving team collaboration, and so forth. Improving in these areas will ultimately have a positive impact on the numbers you measure.

2. What are your desired outcomes?

You need to know when you reach your goal, so the desired outcomes should be measurable. Businesses may measure in terms of revenue, new hires, new clients, money spent on new initiatives, etc. For churches it could mean baptisms, members cared for in groups, salvation, new leaders trained, money given to missions, etc.

3. What consistent behaviors are necessary to get to the stated focus and desired outcomes?

These are the activities you do frequently that will inevitably help you reach your goals. These behaviors should be written succinctly. If I want to improve team collaboration, saying I will have meetings with my team is not clear or inspiring. However, stating I will hold a strategic meeting the first Monday of every month with my leadership team is.

4. What projects or improvements need to be done to make this possible?

Unlike the previous steps, this is not an ongoing discipline, but rather an improvement that can be checked off when complete. Technological upgrades such as new Customer Management Software, a new website, or a needed server expansion can fall under this category. It also may be a facility expansion or other building improvement necessary to accomplish your outcomes.
I believe that a plan works when you work the plan. This may the very thing you are missing to take your organization or cause to the next level. Once you have your document finished, you may want to reveal it to your team members to get their input and buy-in. I encourage you to review it once a week to see if you are hitting your marks and to adjust your course as necessary.

Creating a business plan, life plan, and weekly rhythm are a few of the key elements I work on with my one-on-one coaching clients.

What is the next step you are going to take to make a business plan? What else would you add to this list that could be helpful to readers?