People like me have two natural settings. We are either 100% invested, completely owning responsibility for a project OR 100% disconnected, allowing responsibility to fall completely on others. I remember taking a trip with a group of friends in college. There were too many strong personalities involved in planning the trip. My default setting in organizing a trip that I cared about would have been to wrestle for control over every decision. But this trip was different. I tried an experiment. I didn’t say a word. I disconnected. I sat back and rolled with the decisions of others. I – surprisingly – liked it. I thought living like this might save me a few years at the end of my life. I was, however, dead weight. My gifts were completely useless to the group. I didn’t add any value.
Working well for someone else drives people like me crazy. Why? Because being a good employee means having 100% ownership of my work, without 100% control (tweet this). Sure, it’s easy for me to sit back and let others make all the decisions and never lift a brain cell to contribute. It’s equally easy for me, though, to make every decision in a vacuum and never lift my eyes and ears for feedback. Neither extreme will make me a valuable employee. I must move into the uncomfortable place of owning the success of my assignments but disowning my ideas.
What do I mean?
- Own the success – Every boss wants to have employees who own their work. Whether you work an assembly line or manage a department, your boss needs you to give your assignment your all. They have other things to focus on. They want to know you’re going to keep the show going, whether they are there or not. They want you to solve problems. It’s true – you’re not the person in charge. But, if you don’t take ownership, you’re no good to the organization. You’re not putting your best foot forward. You’re just a pair of hands waiting to be told what to do.
- Disown your ideas – As much as your boss wants you to completely own your assignments, your boss also wants input into your assignments. They have their own ideas and their own way of doing things. And this is where it gets hard. Confronted with their consistent input, you may think like I have, “If you want me to do it YOUR way, then just do it YOURSELF!” You’re smart, though, so you don’t say that – But your actions are screaming it! You stop thinking, and you stop owning. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Owning the success” is different than “owning your ideas”. The truth is that the way you would do things is just that…your idea on how to do things. If you can distance yourself from your own ideas, it’s possible for you to accept feedback and input from your boss and remain in full ownership of your assignments. Your ideas become mere suggestions on how things could be done, and the input and feedback from your boss become guidelines for your success.
There is a lot of management talk about how “controlling” leaders need to become more “empowering”. The idea is that leaders who stop micromanaging every area of their organization will find their employees taking more ownership and producing better results. What’s missing from this idea, though, is the reality that bosses have great input into the work of their employees. They often have more experience to pull from and more intimate connection with the larger picture of the organization. And they ultimately bear more accountability for decisions that are made. They have a right to bring all of that perspective into our decisions, and we should welcome it…because of (not in spite of) our ownership of our assignments.
How about you? Do you wrestle with how to take ownership of assignments that are not completely within your control? How do you handle it?
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Loyalty. I’m not talking about the old ideal of loyalty, that you should stay with one company your whole life. I’m talking about something much more practical: your everyday allegiances within the company you work for right now. If you want to work well for someone else, you have to figure out where to place your loyalty. And that’s not as easy as you might think.
As a manager, it’s often the team that works for you that you like the most. Those are the people you had a hand in hiring. You spend the most time with them. You understand them and the challenges they face. But because you’re a leader, that’s not the only team you’re a part of. You’re also a part of a team that leads you. Your boss is the leader of that team. Here’s the loyalty question: You can either see yourself as having allegiance to the team you lead or to the team that leads you. [TWEET THIS] And there is really only one way that will work.
Patrick Lencioni asks team members while consulting, “Which team is your first priority, your Team #1?” The answer to that one question can in many ways determine the health of the organization. It’s probably not too hard to imagine managers placing their first priority on the teams they lead. We’ve seen the results. The organization is siloed, caught up in departmental warfare. It can’t develop a collective path forward. It fails. But when bosses and managers figure out how to turn the allegiance the other way, anything becomes possible for the organization!
If you can change your perspective and place your loyalty up, you will become a much more valuable tool in your organization. But it will require some work. Here are three ideas to help:
- Take off your department hat.
When you go to meetings with your boss, especially when there are other leaders there, remember that you’re no longer just representing your department. You’re a part of the bigger picture. Allow yourself to see things from an organizational perspective. Allow yourself to become committed to the overall success of your company.
The point is not for you to suppress the concerns of your team. Rather, search for opportunities to bring up those concerns with your boss and work together. Develop solutions that help your team succeed at meeting organizational goals.
The fact is that your team may have to change for the health of the organization. Leadership involves helping people see the need for change and motivating them. At the end of the day, your role as a manager isn’t to be led by the concerns of your team. It’s to lead the team toward the objectives of the organization.
There are all sorts of challenges to this approach, but it’s really the only way that works if an organization is to function.
What challenges do you see? What ideas do you have to overcome those challenges?
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We’re all wired to primarily focus on ourselves. Think about the last change that your boss initiated at work. If you’re normal, the first thoughts that went through your head had to do with what you thought about the change and how it would affect you. You started thinking about your teams and how the change would impact them. That’s just human nature. If we want to work well for someone else, though, we have to resist the urge to let those knee-jerk thoughts become our first vocal response to the boss.
What should your first response be? Seek to Understand. (TWEET THIS)
Over the last ten years, I’ve been so thankful that my level of influence has grown in our organization. It didn’t happen, however, by running my mouth all the time about what I think about things. I attribute much more of that growth to taking time to listen and understand the concerns and motivations of those around me. How about you? Is communication with your boss primarily about you communicating your thoughts or really trying to understand his/hers?
Here are two benefits I’ve seen from training my mouth to lead with questions instead of thoughts:
1.) It makes my thoughts more valuable. Let me be clear. I’m not advocating sitting on your ideas forever. I’m suggesting taking the time to understand your boss, first. Once you really wrap your head around her concerns and motivations, then you can offer ideas that solve them. Your ideas become much more valuable to the organization and your influence will grow.
2.) It communicates loyalty. Your boss doesn’t have an easy job and he probably feels at times like everyone is against him. The simple gesture of asking understanding questions communicates that you’re behind your boss and there to serve. Leading with your thoughts says the exact opposite. It communicates that you care about yourself and that you don’t support him, even if that’s not what you really feel.
Try an experiment today! When your boss comes to you with a new idea or a change or just to talk over something, ask a question. Try to understand, first, and see what happens. I think you’ll be surprised at the results!
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What do you think about all this?
I took one of these tests that are supposed to help you understand what really motivates you to do your best work. Mine was super-spiritual (not): POWER. There were options like ‘compassion’ and ‘love for team’ that seemed more fitting for a pastor. But the truth is, power fits. When it comes to work, I like autonomy. But I (like many of you) work for someone else. In fact, we never really escape working for someone else. There are always stakeholders to be accountable to.
So, how do you do your best work while working for someone else? [TWEET THIS] These are some of the guideposts I live by. I’ve listed them here and will break them down over the next few posts. Make sure to follow me to catch the latest posts. I would love to hear your thoughts about these.
I would love to hear your thoughts? What helps you work well while working for someone else?
I didn’t understand the big picture when I first got wrapped up in Kingdom stuff.
I’m in good company, though. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy didn’t initially decide to venture deeper into Narnia because of their love for Aslan. No, it was Tumnus. It was their sense of duty to Lucy’s friend – their pursuit of justice – that first drew them in. They had no idea that what led them into Narnia would only be a piece of what kept them there.
For me, it was supernatural power. I was fascinated with the idea that I might be able to lay my hands on the sick and see them healed, or that my inspired words could change a life. I started off pursuing His power. But that’s not why I’m still here.
While pursuing justice for their friend, Tumnus, the four children met Aslan. Aslan changes everything. Soon, Tumnus would become a sideshow. Long-after Tumnus was freed, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy would remain in Narnia. Why? Because of Aslan.
I don’t know what first brought you into the Christian world. Maybe you got here because you were hurting, looking for comfort. Maybe a friend was sick and you needed a miracle. Maybe you just needed a community that loved you. You’re here and that’s awesome. What I’ve found is that whatever brought you here is different than what will keep you here. [TWEET THIS] At some point, you’re going to meet Jesus. You’ve heard about Him. You’ve needed things from Him. But when you meet Him, He changes everything. The rest of your journey is about Him.
What brought you to this blog? this church? this pursuit? How did Jesus use that to bring you to Him?
Other Lessons From Narnia
You can call me the worst pastor ever, but it won’t change the fact that I never read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. That is, I never read it until recently. Two kids and a 10 hour road trip to SC finally made for the perfect occasion. Yes, I consider children’s audio books legitimate reading. Don’t hate!
Edmund jumped out to me as the most curious character. Something had happened to Edmund. We’re never really told what, but before the story begins, Edmund had become different. He had lost his boyish innocence and replaced it with a cold bitterness. The judgmental response of his siblings drove him to isolation and a deep need to prove himself.
This is the state in which Edmund enters Narnia…so eager to make a name for himself and prove his worth to everyone around him. The White Witch senses his condition and offers an enticing solution – royalty. “I am looking for someone I can take in as my son,” she says, “who will become King and rule in my place.” She appeals to something he already knows about himself, that he was indeed created for greatness. She affirms that royal identity inside him and entices him to the dark side. Here’s what all this speaks to me.
Lessons from Narnia: (TWEET THIS)
1.) You Are Royalty (Already)
One of our enemy’s tactics is to promise us what God has already planned for us. He did this with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3) and tried it again while Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8). The more confident we can become in our identity in Christ, the less room our enemy has to deceive us. The Bible says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (1 Peter 2:9) Don’t forget that you are created for greatness. Your alignment with God is all you need to achieve the royal heights He has planned for you.
2.) Pursue the Eternal, Not the Temporary
The White Witch may have promised Edmund royalty, but it was royalty in a Kingdom that was passing away! How much effort do we spend pursuing earthly wealth, position, and fame? Is it possible we’ve fallen into the trap of the White Witch…chasing after royal prestige in a world that is passing away? But God’s Kingdom is eternal! Aslan has the better deal!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
3.) Don’t Push People Away
We don’t know why Edmund was the way he was. Well, perhaps those of you who read the other books in the series do, but I don’t. Chances are something happened to him. Someone hurt him. He had his sense of self-worth stripped from him. But his siblings only helped to push him away. Would the story have gone differently if Peter and Susan has dropped their critical tone? What if they had been a continual source of encouragement for Edmund, reminding him of his potential and supporting his God-given identity? Would he have stood up to the White Witch and resisted her empty promises? Our role in the lives of others is to help them realize their true identity as beautiful creations of God. Maybe, just maybe, we can be that soft voice of encouragement that pulls them back in to faith instead of pushing them away.
Who do you most relate to from the story? Peter? Edmund? Lucy? Susan? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this!