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People vs. Productivity

We have spoken a great deal on this forum about productivity. Certainly, it is a critical quality for success. Leadership, however, often demands that priorities are shifted.

I’ve (re)learned this lesson a few times lately. At the end of the day, people trump productivity. There will always be moments when you have the choice between serving people and serving tasks. And the choice should be automatic.

In the Gospels, Jesus always takes time for people. There’s a book whose very title captures this idea. Playing off the fact that Jesus walked everywhere he went, the book is called The Three Mile An Hour God.

If God sees fit to “interrupt” our schedules with people, who are we to cast them aside in order to serve the god of productivity?

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Delegation

One of the best and perhaps most challenging skills for leaders to learn is the fine art of delegation. Done well, it is a powerful tool to grow someone’s leadership abilities. Done poorly, it is nothing short of a nightmare. John Maxwell has some wise words about delegation that are worth sharing:

“Easing people into delegation is important…if you want them to succeed. Delegate according to the following steps: 1. ask them to be fact finders only; 2. ask them to make suggestions; 3. ask them to implement one of their recommendations, but only after you give your approval; 4. ask them to take action on their own, but to report the results immediately; 5. give complete authority.”

I would add that clearly communicating the process and the expectations ahead of time would be a critical piece. In my experience, the “delegatee” always thinks they are ready for more before the “delegator” feels that they are ready. Clearly communicating the plan before hand eliminates hurt feelings, etc.

If you are looking to gain more responsibility, or if you are looking for a good way to “test drive” a young leader, offering this plan might be a great way to start.

What experiences do you have with delegating? Were they positive or negative?

What advice might you add or disagree with?

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Obedience

I’ve been studying my way through Genesis lately, and came across an interesting detail in the book. Only two times is the word “blameless” used. Once in describing Noah (6:9) and once in describing Abraham (17:1). In both cases, these men demonstrated by their actions radical obedience to God in the midst of seemingly impossible situations.

And really, that is what obedience is. It is active. John Maxwell says it this way: “In twenty of the world’s most primitive languages, the word for belief is the same as the word for do. It’s only the modern world that has separated them.”

As we lead people, it is not always enough to get them to think properly (though that is critical) or to understand correctly (also important). True obedience is a matter of action. Faith must ultimately result in obedience, or else it is not really faith.

Are we steering people toward action?

What strategies have you used to encourage people take tangible steps of obedience?

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Leadership Chunking

If you surveyed 100 people and asked them what abilities separate top athletes from amateurs, most of them would probably say something about their innate ability. Comments like, “they just see the ball faster” or that sort of thing.

Interestingly, when it comes to reaction time, there is absolutely no difference between elite athletes and normal people. The best reaction time that anyone can have is about 200 milliseconds from the stimulus to the reaction. So, Albert Pujols and I can both react to a pitch at about the same rate. So what makes him so much better at baseball than me?

It turns out that it is not innate ability as much as it is a learned trait (though innate ability certainly helps). In numerous scientific studies, professional athletes and amateurs were shown photos of their sport. From volleyball to field hockey to chess boards, it turns out that the better athletes could see a picture for only a fraction of a second and still take in more info about it than amateurs who saw the picture for several seconds. In one case, a volleyball player was able to recall the exact game from which the picture was taken–again, having only seen it for a fraction of a second. Professional athletes don’t just see where the ball will be next, but they are able to see where the ball and the defenders and their teammates will be next.

So what is the secret? It turns out to be something scientists call “chunking.” Chunking is a skill–a learned skill–that means a chess master doesn’t have to memorize where each piece on the board is, because he can “chunk” pieces together in his brain and therefore better anticipate possible future moves. If the knight and bishop are in such and such a place in relation to the queen, then x possible moves can happen. Or, if Lebron James shoots with his hips in that position, then the rebound will be over to that portion of the court. Chunking means that Peyton Manning doesn’t need to scroll through all his possible receivers consciously in his mind, because he chunks the field. He can look at groups of defenders in motion and realize where his open man will be. As a result, he holds on to the ball for an average of only 2.5 seconds per play before completing a pass. (It would take me a lot longer–assuming I wasn’t sacked on every play).

This is a skill that comes from a lifetime of practice, studying game film, and the like. That is how great athletes are able to do more in the same 200 millisecond reaction time than you or I could. A learned behavior.

So what does this have to do with leadership? Certainly there are portions of leadership that are innate abilities (as we’ve discussed previously). But the learned ability over time to “chunk” key ideas in our leadership is something worth pursuing.

When it comes to managing people, discerning future problems, strategizing, and other similar leadership activites, I can see how “chunking” could be an invaluable skill. Especially for many whose work or ministry contains repeated elements, the better one gets at managing these chunks, the better leader one could be.

What application does “chunking” have in your leadership?

What potential dangers do you see in adopting this mindset? 

Note: The research cited here comes from The Sports Gene, by David Epstein.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Productivity, Part 3

I’ve enjoyed the interaction I’ve seen and heard over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been digging in to this idea of productivity and prioritizing. Certainly it looks a bit different for everyone, but one thing that is true for all of us is that we need some way to prioritize our life in order to make us more productive.

This is where the Urgent/Important matrix comes in to play. Essentially, the matrix is a quadrant. Items which are Urgent are placed along a spectrum from left (most urgent) to right (least urgent). Items are placed in varying levels of Importance from the top (most important) to the bottom (least important). So, the top left corner is “Urgent and Important” and the top right corner is “Important but Not Urgent” and so on. Placing your “to dos” on this quadrant is a helpful way of prioritizing your tasks and making sure you are putting the right amount of effort into the right places.

For a fuller explanation, click here: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm

 

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Productivity, Part 2

Last week we talked about productivity. This week, I came across an article that is related. This article talks specifically about being productive in create tasks, but I think it has applications beyond that.

The basic premise of the article is that when we give our time to small tasks (like sorting through our email inbox), we get the (false) feeling that we are accomplishing a lot, which then makes us less motivated to accomplish significant tasks. So, we can choose to either throw our energy into several hour long tasks, or we can choose to throw our energy into one long-term task.

There’s some other good insights into the article. Read it here:

http://99u.com/workbook/16527/why-emailing-gives-you-a-false-sense-of-progress

What about you? How do you manage small tasks along side big tasks?

As leaders, how do we balance getting things done with more long term projects of developing others, etc.?

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Productivity, Part 1 (Time Management)

After spending much of my time this morning sifting through my inbox, I realized that it took me way too much time. I’ve got a full week’s worth of “to dos” and to use more than one hour on email seems like poor use of time.

I reminded myself (after the fact) about the Pomordoro Technique. The Pomordoro Technique is a system of time management. There’s a lot to it, but the basic system is this: You choose a task (such as “replying to my emails”) and then you set a timer for an appropriate amount of time (such as 30 minutes). You work on that task until the timer goes off, and then you take a break (about 3-5 minutes).

I tend to use the system a little differently (when I remember to use it). I will set the timer for a slightly shorter amount of time than I think I need (maybe 20 minutes instead of 30) and then work hard at that task to try and finish it by the time my timer goes off (I use a free app on my Mac called “Timey.”). Then, instead of taking a break, I’ll reward myself by reading for 3-5 minutes or doing something else I enjoy, but that keeps me productive. Then, I’m ready to move on to the next task.

I don’t use this technique for all my work tasks (which is why I sometimes forget about it), but it is great for simple tasks like email and other things. It plays into another time management principle (known as Parkinson’s Law) that work will expand to fill the amount of time you give it. So, if you allow over an hour for email, then it will take you that long to finish it. If you set a timer and allow only a limited time to complete simple tasks, then you might be surprised how much you can get done in a shorter amount of time.

What about you? Do you have experience with these techniques?

What works well for you? What doesn’t?

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized