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So Your Culture is Hospitable to Innovation? Here’s One Simple Test to Be Sure.

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“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

Before his deforming encounter with acid, Batman’s Joker (the Jack Nicholson flavor) was preening in front of the mirror and his girlfriend (the Jerry Hall version) says, “You look fine.” He turns, raises an already famously arched eyebrow and says, “I didn’t ask.”

This honest approach would serve many organizations who claim to have a culture that supports innovation, but really don’t. They ask, but don’t change anything. This is frustrating and discouraging to those souls who can’t help themselves and must look for new, fresh ways to grow. And, failure to innovate may lead to a protracted organizational illness (see John Wooden).

There are many moving parts to a creativity engine such as: championing leaders, outside the box listeners, seed time and money, obstacle steamroller, and bureaucracy flattener. These and other parts should be recognized and measured.

But there is one simple test you and I can use to see if we truly are working to bring positive change.

List below the last five intelligent failures you have celebrated.

  1. __________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________

Trouble completing the test? Then your organization is probably stuck in some important and potentially disastrous ways.

Here are a few quotes to inspire us to get on with the failures so we can succeed.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

 

 

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15 Things I want my Grandkids to Know about Leadership

True, godly leadership—in any context—is inspiring another person to reach for his or her potential.

  1. Why they must forever study and work to be accomplished leaders and managers.
  2. Why Christ-like servant leadership is always best—period.
  3. How to be creative, bold, visionary.
  4. Why culture is so powerful; how to create and maintain a healthy, nourishing culture.
  5. To understand themselves, other personality types and nationalities to create teamwork.
  6. That their personal example is the most powerful way to influence others so they must demonstrate spiritual and emotional maturity, trustworthiness, and competence.
  7. About the complexities of human motivation; how to tap into their own and help others to become highly self-motivated.
  8. That, as leaders, they hold the precious potential of other people in their hands and have a sacred stewardship responsibility to detect, develop, and deploy the gifts and talents of others.
  9. That they need a variety of leadership tools and should thoughtfully choose how to act in different situations.
  10. That their leadership role should always include coaching to help others grow and succeed over the long haul (and to resolve conflict positively).
  11. How important it is to communicate (write and speak) effectively so their messages are timely, appropriate, powerful, understood, and acted upon.
  12. That humans really learn by doing so they must share opportunities and skillfully delegate to develop others.
  13. That crafting clear, measurable organizational and personal goal statements are a powerful way to ratchet up performance and invoke mature, self-accountability.
  14. They must persevere for their job will never be finished
  15. They don’t need a formal position to lead. True, godly leadership—in any context—is inspiring another person to reach for his or her potential.
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It is Difficult to Scan the Horizon When Examining a Mole’s Rear

When should we have our head in a tiny mammal’s tunnel and when should we float in the clouds in a small basket suspended from a potential fireball?

I’ve noticed this interesting phenomenon. Succeeding generations of leaders, managers, and volunteer boards seem impelled to make a mark by undoing previous work, adding layers of bureaucracy, or drilling down to examine sub-atomic particles. (To understand “making a mark,” see Wikipedia about our now deceased and sorely missed poodler, I mean, poodle, Mr. Bigelsworth.) There might be a time for such (although developing a form that is always approved without thought and fed to the file’s gaping maw is never attractive to my way of thinking.)

The trick, to me, is perspective. It is difficult to get a bird’s eye view of the horizon when examining a mole’s rear. Conversely, one cannot pull dangerous weeds out of the garden from a hot air balloon—even with a Ronco Inspector Gadget arm.

When should we have our head in a tiny mammal’s tunnel and when should we float in the clouds in a small basket suspended from a potential fireball? (It is not on my bucket list to travel with a bag of gas and a lit flame. My compliments to those who do.) Tough question. One thing for sure—we should never get stuck just doing one or the other.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves if our probing or drifting will make a contribution to improving organizational performance or if it is window dressing. The benefits should outweigh the costs. In the accounting world, the concept of materiality takes into account context and flirts with gushy notions like relativity. (Not the Einstein version, the beancounter version.)

This is the struggle of the ages for the finicky “detailist.” It means there is no set rule. It means $1,000 could be material and $1,000,000 could be immaterial – depending on context. (Make no mistake, I love me some good finicky detailists all the livelong day. Please don’t eyeball it on structural engineering or wing it on airplane design – get it? Wing it…)

Anyway, what is wanted is a bit of judgment. An Accounts Payable manager who worked on my team years ago had a small paper taped to her giant, alien-head shaped monitor. It said, “Will it matter in 10,000 years?” If the context is I forgot to pay a bill and got a late charge the answer is always “No!”

For us how about: Will my mark—whatever it is—make a measurable, positive difference to all concerned? Is it material—meaning the benefit is greater than the cost? If yes, proceed. If no, maybe dial it back and rethink.

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Is a Clean Desk a Key to a Messy, Creative Mindset?

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I lived most of my life with stacks of paper on my desk, which I think is wood, and piles of manila folders on my floor, which I believe has a rug somewhere.

Create a peaceful space to be completely present, engaged, and focused on whatever you are doing.

I used to boast I knew where everything was or that for a creative person to clean and organize would be like cutting Samson’s hair.

Not true now. Maybe never was.

Perhaps it is a blessing of the busy-ness of growth or the curse of aging, but I found myself wasting more time looking for stuff.

Worse, work-life felt like Steve Martin being jolted awake by John Candy driving on the wrong side of the road careening toward two semis and cackling like a denizen from hell. “You’re going the wrong way! You’re going to kill someone! Those aren’t pillows.” [···]

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Stewardship at Work

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What pops into your head when I say “Steward”? Perhaps you think of a memorable wine steward (sommelier) at a fine restaurant. Or, you might think Stewardess, the outdated term for a flight attendant. In this context, a steward is person who serves.

Stewardship goes a little further than “hold my beer and watch this.”

There is, however, a higher meaning relating to stewardship. It is caring for what someone else owns, but has entrusted to us. [···]

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How Do You Discover Why You Are On This Planet?

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Winston Churchill said there is a great purpose and design being worked out here below.

Too many end up where they are by accident—not by purpose and design.

The Bible shows God’s ultimate plan is to have sons and daughters in His family. That is humanity’s greatest destiny and seeking it should inform our every thought and action. Should that belief impact our chosen vocation? [···]

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Unleashing Diverse Talent while Working in Glorious Harmony: Key Elements

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In the hopes of inspiring further study of a complex topic, here are some keys to engaging and motivating creative people to produce their best work—in unity:

  1. See the future. Build a grand vision and work tirelessly until it is shared.
  2. Get bold. Set crazy-hard-to-reach goals and allow for groundbreaking initiatives.
  3. Paint targets. Negotiate and agree on outcomes and how to measure results.
  4. Share the wealth. Construct and publicize reward systems (it’s not always money) that are based on personal accountability and team success.
  5. Be Radar O’Reilly. Embrace the role of supplying resources and being a resource-on-call.
  6. Party on, Wayne! Celebrate the freedom to fail and try again. If people aren’t making mistakes they’re not trying hard enough.
  7. Sit on the bench. Let the players play the game, but capitalize on the occasional teachable moment by coaching.

 

Learning to lead effectively is a lifelong commitment. I hope this helps you want to learn and practice more.

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Teens and Horseless Carriages

This post is for a dear friend who, although we were classmates, decided to stay young by having kids later in life. He thinks me surviving teenagers has somehow made me wiser. It has, at least, made me experienced.

His question: Is it a good idea to give a freshly licensed driver a car? Explain.

We could not afford to give our kids a new car when they turned sweet sixteen. It was probably best. Our strategy was to hang on to the old family jalopies for the kids to use. Then, when they were older teens and had matured, we helped them buy a first car. [···]

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Why Small Businesses Succeed: “Know Thy Costs.”

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Heard the joke about the owner who says he loses ten cents on every sale? “How do you stay in business?” he is asked. “Volume.”

All costs are the result of a decision. Small businesses succeed because they give proper focus to knowing and managing costs.

Years ago I worked for a company whose owner, Don, was quite wealthy. I admired Don’s stable of exotic cars and enjoyed my first ride in a new Rolls Royce—his. How did this journey from rags to riches start? Don produced and sold unique, but simple metal artwork out of his garage. His distinctive gift was the ability to create artwork that could be mass-produced with a consistent gross profit margin. [···]

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