Face the Facts; Keep the Faith

A long time ago, I read a book in which the author penned, “Great leaders can face the facts and keep hopeful expectation for the future” (Collins in Good to Great).  I’ve been challenged to do that even more recently. The fact is, there’s a lot that I can improve on as a leader and manager. I recently got some fantastic feedback based off a book called 42 Rules For Your New Leadership Role.

I asked a key leader in each area of Aroma along with two people I knew would give honest feedback beyond their role to give ratings to each of the 42 rules. It was tough feedback, but filled with clear, actionable data to move forward on. Here are four things I suck at and a brief preview of how I plan to improve them in the next quarter:

  1. Set your milestones. It’s hard to reach a goal if you’re not sure what the goal is. I often fail to be specific in setting goals. Another book offers a great way  to outline clear goals: “From X to Y by Date.” If I can be clearer with a goal that is a “WIN” (What’s important now), people are going to know more clearly how to focus their work. This is highly related to Boundaries for Leaders. What’s important right now? If I don’t clearly say what’s most important, I have no right to be frustrated when people aren’t making forward progress on that a particular issue. It’s time for focus and clarity.
  2. Tune up your team and Launch 1:1’s that actually drive performance (2 combined). I work with many amazing people. I’m excited to see them continue to grow. I put these two together, because they’re intimately connected. As one leader recently challenged me, “You have to be spending more time with your key people.” I often turn those times into sessions that are longer than they need to be. Again, being clear about expectations at the onset allows people to focus on what’s most important. Spending tim with each person on the team is highly valuable. It’s good for their health, mine, and their future growth both personally and for the organization.
  3. Run unmissable meetings. Sometimes, I don’t even want to go to the meetings I call. That has to change. Meetings need to be compelling because they have unmissable information, healthy debate, decisiveness, and a small dose of engaging humor.
  4. Model healthy paranoia. As a big-picture, idea guy, I sometimes get annoyed when people ask things like “How’s that actually going to happen.” Fortunately, these people haven’t given up just because I’ve been rebellious. I’m learning, through more than one source, that healthy paranoia is more than useful!

I actually got a rating a little higher than an F. The good news is I passed. The great news is I still have tons of room for growth. I’m looking forward to this next season.

I encourage you as a leader or manager to ferret out feedback (one of the 42 rules) from people that you work with. It’s one of the toughest, but most fruitful, ways to learn and grow personally and professionally. If you’d like to know more about the book, the test I created, or how you can grow as a leader and manager, please drop me a line. Here’s to your success!


10 Onward Resolutions

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Cloud was, perhaps subconsciously, looking a place to belong. His time belonging at Aroma started around a table while we practiced English together. It continued at the communion table as Cloud learned to trust in Jesus. He belongs everyday as we work together to minister to the larger community at Aroma through small groups. One day it’s going to culminate at the wedding feast of the lamb in heaven.

I’ve been intrigued by the process one goes through to find a place to belong. More specifically, I’ve been reflecting on thoughts from the book “Onward,” by Howard Shultz.  The CEO’s thoughts on Starbuck’s battles from beginning to 2010 are insightful for organizations seeking to live from passion for a particular stance they take. We can and must create places where people belong. Shultz refers to this as offering people a “third space.”

Here are some “belonging resolutions” I’d love to apply to my personal life, business and ministry moving forward. Each of these resolutions are quotes from the book rewritten in a way I want to personally adopt.

  • Resolved to think and communicate as clearly as the Transformation Agenda (a take from Agile Marketing) did for Starbucks in their highs and lows. Resolved to communicate effectively through self-examination in the pursuit of excellence, and a willingness not to embrace the status quo. Resolved to let this be a cornerstone of my leadership philosophy. Resolved to let communication be narrow, clear and repetitive in order to set expectations and win people’s trust. Resolved to tell a great story by making sensory, emotional connections. People belong when communication is open and honest. We can learn to speak the truth in love.
  • Resolved to believe. “The Beatles believed. And if you believe, you can change anything.” Resolved to let knowledge breed passion. People belong when they have something bigger than themselves worth believing in.
  • Resolved to create an engaging, respectful and trusting workplace culture through a combination of intent, process, and heart that is to be constantly fine-tuned. Resolved to empower team members to give legendary service keeping our culture alive, growing and thriving. Resolved to protect and preserve my core friends and family. Resolved to work together with others, instilling confidence. Resolved to utilize boards of directors to make sure companies are managed well. People belong when they see their leader not just “being a maverick,” but rather working together with other, more experienced leaders while maintaining a stance of intentional vulnerability. People belong when a high-invitation, high challenge culture welcomes them to be safe yet accountable to their best.
  • Resolved to get my hands dirty. People belong when everyone gets involved. There’s a certain camaraderie that comes from being in something together, even if it means both of us are tired. Resolved to “climb the mountain.” Resolved to consider the fact that climbing a mountain is not for everyone, but takes fortitude for the journey, skill to make tough, quick decisions and faith the brand and leadership. Resolved to stay the course, maintaining values and our company’s core. People don’t have a problem with hard work. They have a problem with not understanding how it fits into something bigger God is doing or not understanding how it aligns with their personal passions. People belong when they know the vision.
  • Resolved to strike a balance between heritage and innovation. Resolved to maintain confidence about where I’m headed and to bring people along. People belong when they see the vision even if the exact path might lack clarity. Resolved to instill in the organization excitement about and courage for developing new products. Resolved to try to live up to high expectations by pushing people further than they think they can go, yet not further than I believe they are capable of going.  People belong when they know where they came from but are also willing to embrace change.
  • Resolved to be an icon. Icons make use of the times, assert cultural authority, don’t confuse history with heritage, project and protect their values, disrupt themselves before others disrupt them, sacrifice near-term popularity for long-term influence. People belong when they see something bigger than themselves.
  • Resolved to play to win; not to play not to lose. Resolved to care all the time the way I care some of the time. Resolved to be a person of passion regardless of its affects. Resolved to effectively balance entrepreneurial vision with patience of execution, paying the same degree of attention to the back end of the business that I am hardwired to pay to the front end. Resolved to use everything, even marketing, to shape culture for positive change. People belong when we dream big and go for the goal with precisioned discipline.
  • Resolved to be a fiscally responsible organizational leader; for example, cutting labor costs, not by cutting jobs but by holistically reshaping how and when work gets done within the organization. People belong when they know you want something for them instead of from them.
  • Resolved to ask tough questions. For example, How could we re-create and improve the store experience, which is our heritage and the foundation of the brand’s identity? How might we expand on our value proposition, which has always been about emotional and human connection? How should we strengthen our voice to tell a better story? How could we extend our authority beyond the four walls of a shop or venue? People belong when they get better. They get better through facing the facts but maintaining hope in the future.
  • Resolved to grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get my hands dirty. Listen with empathy and over-communicate with transparency. Tell our story, refusing to let others define us. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to our values, they are our foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it’s how we execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what I see, hear, and do. Believe. People belong when we bring our best to the table and dine with them.

I hope ultimately that my life, family, business, and ministry can be one where people “belong,” not because it’s lackadaisical, but because we all strive together to be and do our best.