Leadership & Formation #14 – Clock or Compass

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Leadership & Formation #13: Decision Filters

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holding_on_to_principles_pc_400_clr_3543.pngA leader’s beliefs and values will affect their judgment and behavior regardless of protestations otherwise!

This is the season for hopeful politicians to showcase their wares in anticipation of being elected to office.  In the midst of the blather we are subjected to on news channels with growing frequency we hear a common pronouncement of the values they hold.   Much of the rhetoric seeks to create a bond with the voters by suggesting that the politician identifies with and shares common values with the masses who he or she hopes will elect them over other candidates.

Just because a person declares a value set similar to your own you cannot assume they are the same.  For instance, let’s say the candidate espouses a value for ‘family’.  Sounds good but what does the person really mean? Or let’s say a leader stresses the value of ‘integrity’.  We may think we know what is meant but we can’t be sure.  Just because the term used to express a value is the same, the expression and outcome may be entirely opposite to our expectations.  Why is that?

When a person says that they will suspend their personal beliefs or values to govern effectively they are portraying an impossible scenario.  No matter how hard one tries he or she cannot divorce themselves from their inner convictions and beliefs.  They can mask them, they can hide them, they can try to suspend them but they will not be able to remove their influence. What we truly believe (trust in, rely on, cling to) establishes our values (what we esteem).  Our beliefs and values are a fundamental part of our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual makeup and wiring.

So, simply declaring a value is not significant in and of itself.  Declaring what gives rise to and influences one’s values is significant.  We can envision the behavior produced by a declared value when we consider what gives life to that value for the one expressing it.

I have yet to hear a journalist press a politician to explain what they mean about a value they say they hold.  More significantly, I have yet to hear a reporter ask a variation of the following question?   

What informs, conditions, and establishes the values you say you hold?

In the spirit of full disclosure I have personally chosen Jesus Christ and the Bible to be my authority for faith and practice.  When I allow something else to creep in and unseat this authority the decisions I make and the behavior produced is inconsistent with what I say I believe.  Competing authorities will always be there.  I must decide what will rule my beliefs, values and behavior on a daily basis.

In its most simple form values are the hills you are prepared to die on, the principles you intend to live by, the filter through which decisions are processed and made.  Every decision we have made, are making, or will make is based on the values we hold, whether or not we can articulate them.

For many of us, our system of values is an unordered set of qualities often in conflict with one another. One day, we make a decision of merit; the next day, a bad decision with negative consequences. For still others, the consistency of the decisions they make may indicate a congruent system of values.

Like beliefs, values can be aspirations rather than observable realities in our lives. Men and women often ask me to mentor them. They know I am big on values, so they often begin their comments by stating their values. I listen intently and respectfully. I then ask them the following question: “What decision have you made or what action have you taken within the last three months that gives evidence of the values you say you hold?” Many of them cannot give me any examples. This is due to the fact that the values they say they hold may simply be an interest, preference, or affirmation but not an actionable commitment as yet.

The most important question to ask however, is what stands in the privileged vantage point of authority over your values?  Whatever stands in a position of authority over one’s value system will determine the quality and substance of the behavior it produces. 

For instance, a Christian can have a value for truth—and so can a humanist or atheist. What that value produces in one’s behaviors will more than likely be different from the others. A Christian’s underlying belief may be that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and if he holds to His teaching, he will know the truth, and the truth will set him free. His behavior has the focus of living by God’s truth, instead of the world’s truth. For the humanist, having a value for truth may be favorable for business or the esteem of respected colleagues. The practice of truth for the atheist may be to promote his or her beliefs as the only truth. So you see, what informs your values makes all the difference.

When values are loosely acquired without attention to any ordering structure or congruent belief system, the values can produce conflictive results—they may be inconsistent from one day to the next depending on the circumstance or the situation. 

Many authorities compete for influence over our values including tradition, heritage, experience, convention, culture, some ideology or philosophy, our faith, or some “-ism” such as postmodernism, Marxism, capitalism, socialism, humanism or a combination of some or all of them.

Some of us are unclear about our values.  Answers to the following questions might clarify your values.

  • What is it that I treasure so highly that I am irritated when other people don’t also treasure it?
  • What are the things I respect so deeply that I tend to be resentful of those who treat them with disrespect?
  • If I knew that I had six months to live, what would become the most important to me? What would become unimportant to me?
  • What core value(s) do I hope my children will adopt?

If it were possible to follow you around without being noticed for the next three months, I would be able to tell you what you truly valued. Your behavior over time would reveal your values. If I could talk to people close to you—a wife or a husband, a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, or a close friend—and I asked them what your values are, they could probably tell me. If I were to ask your work associates what you valued, they could probably tell me.

I often give an exercise to the people I mentor. I instruct them to meet with their spouse or loved one or someone who really knows them. They are to assure that person that there will be no argument with or consequences to his or her response when they ask this person the following question: “Based on your observations of my behaviors over time, what would you say are my values?”

Acting on one’s values over an extended period of time will embed them in your spiritual DNA.  When that happens they cease to be a value to be cultivated, they become a virtue that marks your character.  You operate from them without much thought because they are now an integral part of who you are.

What informs, conditions, mediates, and establishes your value set will determine the nature, quality, and substance of the behavior it produces. 


Are your values an aspiration or an operational commitment?

What informs and conditions the values you say you hold?

What provides consistency, coherence, and congruence to your value system?

What organizes and prioritizes your values?

What would your loved ones, work associates, friends (and enemies) say you value?

How do the values you say you hold inform what you do?


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Leadership & Formation 12: Time Management

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Do you live your life by the clock or the compass?  Is the frenzied activity of your life reactive or proactive?  Are you in control of your schedule or does your schedule control you?  The following ancient scriptures help to frame our discussion today.

“Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  James 4:13-17

What problems are you having with personal time management?  What percentage of time is controllable and uncontrollable?  What’s your biggest time wasting activity?  As you think of your team members what are the biggest time wasters?  What do you wish you had more time to do?

Steven Covey popularized a matrix depicting four types of activity.  Quadrants I, III, and IV are REACTIVE activities while quadrant II is proactive.  Too much time spent in I, III and IV results in a fast moving, treadmill existence.   Spending sufficient time in II limits and controls the effects of the other quadrant activities.  Activities in this quadrant are PROACTIVE in nature. 

 Slide3.JPGIf we spend too much time in Quadrant I we are susceptible to stress, burnout, crisis management, and always putting out fires.  This quadrant includes our normal responsibilities, obligations, and duties.  It also includes crises of our own making such as situations where a decision was needed but put off.  Now we have many other decisions we have to make because we didn’t make the critical decision initially.


Too much time spent in Quadrant III results in short-term focus, crisis management, reactive leadership, little time or patience for goals and plans, feeling victimized, feeling out of control, and produces shallow or broken relationships.  This quadrant often contains other people’s crises that we assume or are triangulated in on because of their failure to complete assigned tasks we oversee.

Too much time spent in Quadrant IV results in total irresponsibility, being replaced or fired from jobs, and an unhealthy dependence on others or institutions for basics.  We escape to this quadrant when quadrants I and III become overwhelming.  Too much time in this quadrant makes us susceptible to unhealthy activities and dysfunctional behavior.

When sufficient time is spent in Quadrant II the results are quite different:  vision, perspective, centeredness, discipline, few crises, and control.   Covey states that “In a successful company 20-25% of time is spent on Quadrant I activities, just 15% of time on urgent but not important (Quadrant III) activities, and 65-80% of time on Quadrant II activities. Quadrant II activities - important but not urgent activities, are present wherever success is present.”  Spending appropriate time in this quadrant will control the unrealistic demands or negative influence of Quadrants I, III, and IV.

As indicated earlier, Quadrants I, III, and IV are reactive in that we are reacting to people, events, and circumstances.  Only Quadrant II is proactive.  But because it is important but not urgent we tend to put off these activities for another day, week, month or year.  Making Quadrant II a high priority will, in effect, control the ‘size’ and ‘influence’ of Quadrants I, III, and IV.

I strongly recommend that you conduct a personal audit of how you spend your waking moments each day.  Regardless of the type of calendar you use to keep track of your time I suggest you track the use of your time for at least a week.  I recommend the follow color scheme.

Slide8.JPGFor activities that fall in Quadrant I highlight them in GREY on your calendar.  For activities that fall in Quadrant III highlight them in YELLOW on your calendar.  For activities that fall in Quadrant IV highlight them in RED on your calendar.  Finally, for activities that fall in Quadrant II highlight them in GREEN on your calendar.  If you do want to highlight your activities in colors simply put the appropriate descriptor (QI, QII, QIII, or QIV) next to the activity.

At the end of the week, analyze how you spent your time.  You may be surprised with the results.  Remember, Quadrant II activities are intentional choices we make but are often neglected because of the tyranny of the urgent.  We desire to be proactive with our lives but instead, spend the majority of our time reacting to life or the demands of our responsibilities and obligations.  By devoting time in Quadrant II you will find that you are moving from a desperate attempt to maintain balance to one of centered living.


How much time are you spending (in a given week) in each quadrant

What percentage (%) of time is spent in each quadrant?

What activities are you engaged in waste time or are not healthy?

What changes must take place if you are to manage your time more effectively?

What kinds of activities will you prioritize for Quadrant II?

Leadership & Formation #11 – SMART Goals

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Goals.jpgThe only time you are guaranteed a 100% success rate is when you aim at nothing – you are destined to reach it; nothing. Effective and efficient planning and implementation of key objectives be they annual, trimester or quarterly will help ensure that a leader makes meaningful progress and reaches their outcomes

In strategic or tactical planning we brainstorm a preferable future by seriously considering the implications of the following questions…

  • What are we doing now we need to KEEP doing, but do better?
  • What are we doing now we need to CHANGE doing if we are to succeed?
  • What are we doing now we need to STOP doing?
  • What are we not doing now we need to START doing?

Answering these thought provoking questions will help a leader and their team look at new possibilities, options, and alternative solutions to a specific problem, a new initiative, or a prescribed objective.

Generally, once an environmental analysis (external and Internal) is completed in a strategic planning exercise, VISION is formed about a new or better future as an organization.  This ‘vision’ is informed, conditioned, and established by agreed upon ASSUMPTIONS, BELIEFS, and operating VALUES.  OBJECTIVES are formulated and applicable STRATEGIES are identified to reach those objectives.  Each objective might include one or more strategies for reaching an objective.

The proverbial rubber meets the road in the implementation.  This is the “action” or “doing” steps for all areas that are used to support the overall strategy.  This phase addresses organizational relationships, lines of authority, reporting relationships and communication requirements necessary to effectively implement the strategic plan in general and the operational plans specifically.  This phase deals with the support mechanisms that need to be in place to provide adequate direction and resources for accomplishing the plans. 

An implementation plan may include the following elements for each strategy:  SMART goals, qualifying conditions, communications required, time lines (schedule), personnel needs, training plans, materials and resources, budget, and facility needs.

One of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use of SMART goals, the focus of our discussion today.

Setting Goals

Establishing performance goals helps a leader, manager, supervisor, or project team move in a straight line toward accomplishing long-term objectives via key strategies. Team members need to have a part in determining the goals but in the final analysis they are the leader’s goals.

As I told you when I began these posts I would be operating from a Biblical worldview.  Even though the principles I discuss have application regardless of your faith persuasion. From a scriptural perspective, then, planning using SMART goals ‘redeems’ the time (Ephesians 5:15, 16; Colossians 4:50), helps us be stewards of God’s precious resources, and to focus our efforts according to His plan (Psalm 20:4; 33:11; Isaiah 32:8; Jeremiah 29:11).

Regardless of your context, one of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use and application of SMART goals.  Goals are simply a means to that end. Goals are the steps, tactics, programs, recipes, tasks, course, or operations we intend to use to make and mark progress.

SMART Goal Guidelines

They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time constrained. Thus, they are called SMART goals.  Before examples of SMART goals are presented let’s look more closely at what makes a good goal.

Is the goal SPECIFIC?  Most goals fail initially because they are not specific enough.  Is the goal clear enough that a team can ‘see’ it?  Or is it so open ended you’ll never know if you attained it at all? 

Is the goal MEASUREABLE?  Measurement can be either quantitative or qualitative.   Quantitative goals can be numerical or based on percentage of completion.  Qualitative goals may include the presence of observable but non-quantifiable traits.

Is the goal ATTAINABLE?  Overzealous, unrealistic goals outlined may not be attainable.  The onus for attainability rests with those who are tasked with attaining the goal.  Attainability is based on whether the expertise, experience, talent, competence of the team and the resources available to the team.

Is the goal RESULTS-ORIENTED?  What is the ‘purpose’ of the goal?  What is the stated ‘end’ that is to be attained?   How will you know if the goal is reached and that it indeed contributes to the objective sought?  What is the ‘aim’ of the goal?

Is the goal TIME-CONSTRAINED?  What is the time period selected to attain the goal?  My experience suggests that a goal should not be any longer than 4 months.  Three month (quarterly) goals are preferred.  If a goal is longer than that timeframe it should be divided into smaller time increments.

Each strategy should have SMART goals associated with its implementation.

Objectives can be annual and represent key results expected.  To reach the objective one or more strategies (processes, methods, systems, techniques, procedures, etc.) may be implemented.  Each strategy may have one or more SMART goals associated with it.

For instance, to reach a particular Objective three Strategies will be implemented.  Each strategy will include two or more SMART goals designed to employ the strategy.

Although SMART goals can be written to encompass any time frame they usually cover three to four months.  These goals may also be written in terms of steps necessary to fully implement he strategy.

SMART goals can be represented by a time frame (i.e., week, month, quarter, trimester) or a succession of events built on one another leading to completion of the strategy.  Most SMART goals use a designated time frame even if it takes three or more goals to complete the task.  The task is broken up into defined increments of time.

With regard to a succession of events SMART goals may be written as follows.  Let’s assume you were given the strategy to provide qualified individual contributors to a program manager who is responsible for the design and manufacture of a system.  One Smart goal might be to evaluate your personnel resources.  A follow-on goal might be to provide training in the competencies needed by the program.  A third goal might be to implement a probationary period concluding with an evaluation of their effectiveness by the program manager.

As a leader, manager, or supervisor your job is to maintain the integrity of the SMART goal framework, not necessarily the specifics on how the details of the goal are determined- that should be the responsibility of the project team members if possible.

More simply stated, as leader, manager, or supervisor your responsibility is primarily to ensure the framework of the SMART goal is adhered to – specific, measureable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-constrained.

Is the goal specific enough?

Is the goal quantifiably or qualitatively measureable?

Is the goal attainable in terms of the capabilities and capacity of the team?

Is the goal results-oriented in that it adequately points to a recognizable outcome?  In other words, what is its stated purpose?

Is the goal time-constrained in that it progressively leads to the desired outcome whether it is laid out in time increments or progressive steps?


The examples that follow address a ministry context.  The reader will hopefully readily see how they can be adjusted for a non-ministry context if that is your operational setting.

Form a ministry team (specific) to help children process the trauma of their parents divorce (results-oriented) by the end of February 2015 (time-constrained) as evidenced by the selection of curriculum and the scheduling of course dates (measurable/non-quantifiable).

Increase the number of small groups (specific) by 25% (measurable/quantifiable) beginning in March 2015 (time-constrained) for the purpose of reaching those members and regular attenders who have not been involved in small groups and who need intimate fellowship and care (results-oriented).

Form a mentoring ministry for women (specific) to assist them in becoming followers of Jesus Christ by establishing a relationship with another woman who will help them grow spiritually (results-oriented) as evidenced by their commitment to Bible study, prayer, fellowship and witnessing (measurable/non-quantifiable). Training will be conducted in January 2016 for mentors and the program launched in March 2016 (time constrained).

Key Action Words for Goals: Assess, Plan, Design, Develop, Recruit, Fund, Train, Schedule, Promote, Establish, Produce, Communicate, Conduct, Review, Evaluate, Assess, Assign, Critique, select, etc.

SMART Goals can be developed for personal as well as professional purposes.  Wherever I have led others I have used SMART goals with success.  I hope this posting will help you become a more effective and efficient leader, manager, or supervisor.

To be continued…


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