Top ten ways to be a great leader

The Smart Manager - - Reading Room - By hans finzel

Ge­orge Bernard Shaw said, “The sin­gle big­gest prob­lem in com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the il­lu­sion that it has taken place.” Donna and I learned this first­hand when liv­ing over­seas as a young mar­ried cou­ple. We had the priv­i­lege of work­ing in Vi­enna for a decade. Two of our four chil­dren were born there. What a great city to start your work­ing ca­reer! When Donna and I ar­rived, we were one of the first five fam­i­lies to start a dy­namic new project based there. Within a cou­ple of years, we were up to about thirty fam­i­lies. It was so ex­cit­ing to be part of a vi­brant, entrepreneurial min­istry start-up. Our mis­sion was to train church and min­istry lead­ers be­hind the Iron Cur­tain in com­mu­nist East­ern Europe. Since these lead­ers had no ac­cess to sem­i­nar­ies, we launched a se­cret “sem­i­nary on wheels” that took the train­ing to them.

About three years into our project, we be­gan to sense ma­jor grow­ing pains. We in­vited a man­age­ment con­sul­tant to come in and spend a day with our top lead­er­ship. That’s how we found our­selves around that con­fer­ence ta­ble, fill­ing out 3x5 cards and learn­ing that no two of us thought the same thing. There was a lot of con­fu­sion about our pur­pose and di­rec­tion. Like the strings of a guitar that lose their tun­ing, we had lost our har­mony as a lead­er­ship group. Never as­sume that ev­ery­one is on the same page with you.

You know you’re in trou­ble when the top lead­er­ship team is con­fused about fun­da­men­tal is­sues, such as the core pur­pose of the group’s ex­is­tence and where it should be go­ing. Our team did not spend enough time mak­ing sure we were all singing off the same page of the hym­nal. Our leader was the founder, and many founders fall into the trap of as­sum­ing that the vi­sion in their heads is crys­tal clear and oozes by os­mo­sis into ev­ery new per­son who joins the team.

This com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lem was ex­ac­er­bated by the other big prob­lem on our team: hall­way de­ci­sion mak­ing. Our small team all worked in the same of­fice, on the same floor, down the hall from one an­other. We de­cided ev­ery­thing in the hall­ways. When a prob­lem came up, some­one would lean their head out the door and ask, “Hey, what do we do about this?” Pretty soon, we were all out in the hall mak­ing pol­icy and set­ting di­rec­tion—and not both­er­ing to write any­thing down.

What was go­ing wrong here? These were nat­u­ral grow­ing pains. There was a lot of con­fu­sion about what we were go­ing to do next. We had an oral cul­ture, and we were

guilty of rou­tine hall­way de­ci­sion mak­ing. This was fine when you were new and small and all work­ing at the same lo­ca­tion: “Hey, I’ve got this prob­lem; let’s all gather in the hall and fix it.” The prob­lem was that be­cause noth­ing was writ­ten down, there was no process, and con­fu­sion be­gan to reign as more people were added to the mix. People who were not there at the be­gin­ning did not have the his­tory of what hap­pened in those hall­ways. Oth­ers joined the team at re­mote lo­ca­tions and in other cities. They were left to guess and won­der about a lot of things. Be­cause of our suc­cess, we out­grew our of­fices and no longer shared the same hall­ways!

How would your team do with this ex­er­cise? Would your 3x5 cards all look the same? A small team can get away with an oral cul­ture for a while. This is true of small busi­nesses, new church plants, and most start-ups. But as you grow and suc­ceed, not ev­ery­body can fit in a hall­way any­more. Whether you like it or not, when you grow big­ger and when your team is de­cen­tral­ized, you have to for­mal­ize com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems and de­ci­sion mak­ing. You’ve got to get out of the hall­way. Things must get or­ga­nized, and de­ci­sions have to be put on pa­per.

the sec­ond “e” in lead­er­ship

Did you no­tice that the let­ter “E” ap­pears twice in LEAD­ER­SHIP? When I was map­ping out this book, look­ing for the right words to put with each of the let­ters, I de­cided the first “E” would be for EQ, and this sec­ond “E” would stand for a topic equally im­por­tant to your lead­er­ship: ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In this chap­ter, I will share four things that will help launch you as a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor. First, why is com­mu­ni­ca­tion so im­por­tant for you as a leader? So many people feel that their lead­ers leave them in the dark. Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills will solve that prob­lem. Sec­ond, I will tell you why you have to set a high pri­or­ity on com­mu­ni­cat­ing of­ten with your team. Third, I will share with you the con­tent of your com­mu­ni­ca­tion as a leader—what I would call the build­ing blocks of great com­mu­ni­ca­tion. And fourth, I’m go­ing to leave you with five ac­tion steps you can ap­ply right away to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively with your people.

I men­tioned be­fore that I asked my pod­cast lis­ten­ers for feed­back as I was build­ing this book. I wanted them to an­swer the ques­tion “What is one of the ten es­sen­tial skills ev­ery new leader must mas­ter?” I’ve re­ceived some qual­ity feed­back re­gard­ing suc­cess­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion in lead­er­ship. Tim said, “Ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is es­sen­tial in all re­la­tion­ships. Be able to set clear ex­pec­ta­tions (send­ing) and be a good lis­tener (re­ceiv­ing).”’ Rev­erend Gibbs of Tal­la­has­see, Florida, re­marked, “I be­lieve the sin­gle most im­por­tant skill is com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”’ So many other fac­tors come to mind, but I think we prob­a­bly can all agree that a leader’s abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with clar­ity and con­sis­tency is vi­tal.

Your team can­not read your mind. That was the prob­lem with our leader in Vi­enna. He as­sumed that what was in his mind was in ours. We never com­mu­ni­cate as much as we should as lead­ers—or as much as we think we do. All the fol­low­ers I talk to seem hun­gry to hear from us more of­ten. The funny thing about com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that we as­sume too much. We think our team has ab­sorbed what we are think­ing with­out us ac­tu­ally telling them.

Your team can­not read your mind. That was the prob­lem with our leader in Vi­enna. He as­sumed that what was in his mind was in ours.

Hans Finzel Jaico Pub­lish­ing House 2017, 220 pages, Pa­per­back

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