Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

As a goal-focused person, one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn was to choose people over projects.

A Changing Perspective

Several years ago, while living in Denver, I was helping to lead the church I belonged to through a transition. We were tasked with taking years of established tradition and creating something new. We had to honor the old while adapting and evolving into something new.

Honor the past.

Build the future.

As with any such endeavor, emotions were high. There were literally people still on the attendance roster that were there when the church started. With member number one still active, I literally had someone who could tell me in all seriousness, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Whiteboard business hierarchy with overlay text: People over projects

How do you handle the need for change without destroy what has been? How can we, as leaders, honor and celebrate the past while creating something new? Something beautiful? Something expansive?

We choose the people over the projects.

People Over Projects

I remember the moment this crystalized for me. I was sitting in the living room with my wife after I had received some negative and unfair criticism. In that situation, my natural inclination is to fight back. To wound. I wanted to hurt them the way I had been hurt.

But I also knew that I had to model something different. If those I was trying to serve were ever going to see the picture I was trying to paint, I’d have to expose them to something different.

So I mentioned to my wife, “I don’t know how to respond yet, but if I win this battle but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything of significance.”

That sparked this idea of “People Over Projects.”

Together, we can do so much more than we can on our own. As leaders, we are called to not just lead our people, but to serve them as well.

Leading Our Teams

I have seen this idea now play out over the last seven years in a variety of fields, locations, teams, and organizations. The truth has remained. Leaders who are willing to choose the health of their employees and relationships over the bottom line numbers end up winning.

Leaders that care more about profit than people end up having neither.

Why?

Because no one will follow a leader that makes them feel dispensable. Great employees, excellent team members, world-class staff all have one thing in common: a leader that believes, inspires and equips.

Leaders that are willing to choose people over projects see amazing results in all categories.

Three Tips For Growth

Looking for ways to choose people over projects? Look no further! Here are three of my best tips to help you:

1.) Focus on people-development.

As leaders, we should always be concerned with how our people are growing. 

We also need to realize that people have lives outside of work.

An owner of a business once told me that he was willing to work 24-hours a day on his business and he expected the same from his employees.

Employees usually did .. early on during the honeymoon phase. Once that time period ended, however, employees wanted their normal lives back. Family dinners were missed. Vacations postponed. Weekend naps interrupted. 

Excelling leaders care about the whole-being of their people, not just the 9-5 shift they are working.

One way you can do this is to help your people get the right things done. When the 9-5 is taken care of effectively, they are free to enjoy their life outside of the cubicle.

2.) Focus on the right numbers.

Number matter. The problem is that we tend to focus on the right numbers. Built off of the last point, look for numbers where people are growing.

Sales are a by-product of other things done right.

Do you want better sales? Provide better customer service.

Want better customer service?

Invest in your customer service employees.

When Bill feels valued, appreciated, and integral to the health of the company, he works with more clarity, more integrity, more intensity, and greater levels of satisfaction.

The customer feels that and responds.

Even though Bill isn’t in sales, he directly affects the bottom line and the sales numbers.

Like the janitor that believed in NASA’s mission when approached by JFK with the question of what he was doing responded, “I’m putting a man on the moon.”

He bought into a larger mission and saw what was at the time beyond him.

3.) Don’t be afraid to try something new.

I’ve always found it funny that leaders are criticized for discovering a new idea or reading a new book and trying to implement it. One of the criticisms I’ve often heard is, “You’re just trying this because you learned a new skill in a book.”

Of course, I am.

That’s how learning works!

Learning is about discovering new ideas and implementing what works. But how will we know what works if we don’t give something new a try?

Maybe for you, that directly relates to your people. Maybe you want (or need) coaching for you or your team.

Or maybe it’s a new concept, time-saving strategy, or brainstorming topic.

Perhaps the conference you just attended wants you to offer more flexible working hours and you’re convinced to give it a try.

Whatever it is, go for it!

Involve your people. Offer to create an experiment (scientists do this because they don’t know or can’t guarantee the final result) and tweak what didn’t work.

Whatever it is, just keep trying. Push through fear and criticism and lead boldly.

Conclusion

Every day we are presented with a list of objectives. As a goal-oriented person, and a success coach, much of what I do is help people reach their goals, push through obstacles, and experience success.

But we must also remember that we never choose projects over people. We need each other, go farther together, and ultimately only ever find lasting success when it can be shared.

Person Rock Climbing with Overlay text "Do Hard Things"

One of the common phrases in our house is, “Do hard things!”

It’s a call. A challenge. To our kids, but also to the adults. Life requires, necessitates difficulty. We should rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things

Life is full of the difficult.

Taking our first steps requires doing hard things.

When we’re young, learning to walk is hard. Yet without knowing any better, our natural instinct is to persevere. We fall, we rise again, and we take another step.

Somewhere along the way, however, we get talked out of that mindset. We learn to shrink back, play small, give in, and give up. Ultimately, we end up missing out on some of the greatest aspects of life.

Because everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Our ability to push through, rise to the occasion, and achieve the difficult things, determines how far we get in life.

 

Don’t Run From Hardship

One writer from the early church history penned the idea of difficulty this way:

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (The Voice)

We were warned thousands of years ago about the necessity of doing difficult things in life. From cleaning our rooms to forgiving someone who offends us, the message is the same: do hard things!

Got a side-hustle you want to be your full-time gig? Do Hard Things. 

Looking to advance in your career and get a promotion? Do Hard Things.

 

Discovering the need to be a better parent, spouse, or lover? Do Hard Things.

Trying to lose ten, fifteen, for fifty pounds? Do Hard Things.

Convicted to swallow your pride and ask for forgiveness? Do Hard Things.

A Call For Growth

Ultimately, this is a call for growth. For all of us. We are presented each and every day with the chance to grow and get better.

For my son, it’s cleaning his room, engaging in his math homework, and being nice. (Even when his little brother is legitimately being annoying).

 

For me, it’s putting in the focused effort on the right action items every day. Ignoring distraction, feeding my quest for self-improvement, and growing a business.

For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s to put the phone down and engage with the family. Perhaps your growth point is to finally start that business venture that has you so scared (I can help). Maybe there’s that small voice that is urging you to show up, to speak up, and to act for justice.

Whatever it is. Embrace the call. Press into that feeling. Rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things.

Shift: Book Cover Title

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Shift: 7 Essential Mindset Strategies For Today’s Elite Performers. To keep aware of the release date and other excellent training material, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Shift: 7 Essential Mindset Strategies For Today’s Elite Performers.

Shift is about achieving ultimate performance.

In my work with my high achieving clients, I’ve discovered one thread in common with almost everyone: the biggest obstacle they face to success and transformation is the three pounds of grey matter lodged between their ears.

Our brains play host to all sorts of inherited narratives that influence our everyday lives. Take, for example, your thoughts about money. While I’m sure on some level you like it and know you need it, many of us carry around deep-seated issues towards money.

Is it a tool to be used for our own benefit or for the service of others?

A resource to be hoarded or given away generously?

A worry that consumes our thoughts or a blessing of enormous magnitude?

Chances are, whatever you think, you inherited those thoughts from your parents, your peer group, and other close relationships.

If you grew up in a house without a lot of money, it’s probably a constant stress or worry, even if you make enough of it now. It’s even worse if you don’t make enough. If you regularly experience more month than money, most of your stress (and spousal arguments) probably revolve around needing more of it.

If you think money is a sign of power and control, it will influence the way you approach all human interaction. Feeling stressed and need to seize control of a situation? Throw money at the problem. Feeling inferior, stressed, or irrelevant? A little retail therapy should help… Want someone to do what you want? Generosity with some strings attached could solve the problem.

Thoughts About Life

Whether you’ve consciously thought about your relationship to money or not, your life is dictated by it. As a business, you can’t survive without it. As a family, you can’t pay your bills without enough of it.

What is true of money is true of other inherited narratives as well.

What do you think about marriage? How do you explain your stance on family dynamics and relationships? How do you decide who’s house to go to for the holidays?

What is your view on loyalty in the workplace? Have you worked in the same place for more than five years? Ten? Twenty-five?

What about your own mindset? Why do you think the way you do? What story do you believe? Is it even true?

Mindset

The reality is that we all have preconceived notions of how the world should work, look, and feel. My son once asked me if I was the boss of mommy. How would you respond in that situation? Shift: Book Cover Title

Shift is about creating a new mindset around the narrative that we tell ourselves. It is about rewriting the script on your own life from two primary perspectives.

First, is about the habits of success. There are fundamental practices that you need to engage in to create success. While I don’t believe that there is a “secret formula” for success, if there was, this would be it. I’m going to peel back the curtain on today’s top performers, elite accomplishers, and world-changing leaders to reveal what they do to be successful. This formula can be boiled down to one overriding principle: working smarter, not harder.

Make no mistake, it will take hard work. But, at the end of the day, hard work will never be enough. If you’re not working on the right projects, at the right time, with the right frame of mind, you’ll never get the right goals accomplished.

My coaching practice is built on this. My focus, quite intentionally, is Empowering leaders to get the RIGHT things done.

Why?

Because I’ve never met a leader who was looking for more things to do. In my five-plus years of experience coaching pastors, entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, and various levels of employees, I’ve never once heard it. Quite the opposite is true. We’re all overworked, overbooked, overstressed, and overcommitted.

Over It.

To be honest, I’m over it.

Instead, I decided to take back control of my life and help others along the way. Don’t just get more things done. Get the right things done.

This is a chance for you to examine your life.

Make changes.

Adapt.

Overcome.

Succeed.

Now it’s time to dive in so you can get the right things done.

Blog Post Title on background of workplace

The Culture Challenge

Leaders set the standard. Recently, I read an article (excerpt below) that reminded me about the vital importance of leadership culture. This week, we’re talking about the culture challenge faced in leadership, and ways to overcome and transform poor culture.

“The culture inside the Nebraska locker room isn’t OK.

Scott Frost made that apparent during the bye week, when on his radio show he said there was a “portion” of the team not ready to play at Minnesota, where the Gophers blew out the Huskers.

He went all in and called out his team Saturday, saying his team is ‘just OK’ and that he’s not ‘going to be happy with just OK.'” (source)

As a fan of all things Nebraska, this has been a particularly painful football season. While most of the last twenty years has been a disappointment for one of college football’s most storied and proud programs, this one hurts deeply.

Why?

The expectations were different. The season was supposed to be different. The outcome was supposed to be different.

Year two of a coach’s tenure is supposed to see improvement. Year two of Scott Frost’s tenure at Nebraska, his alma mater, was supposed to be glorious.

Blog Post Title on background of workplace
The Culture Challenge

Instead, eight games into the season, analysts are reporting how the culture is, ‘just okay.’

Just Okay Is Not Okay

When talking about culture, on the field or in a company, just okay is not okay. Fighting okay is a big part of the culture challenge faced by leaders.

Leaders set the standard of conduct. They set behavior expectations, acceptable methods of social interaction, as well as the vision and direction of an organization. When someone, or a group of someones, fails to live up to those standards, it is up to the leadership to change the culture.

There are, of course, many ways to do this. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to unpack the importance of culture in leadership. We’ll examine how to create a new culture if you’re in a startup, and how to change a bad culture.

For now, here are three principles to use no matter what your current circumstance is.

1.) Set a Clear and Compelling Vision

Like a masterpiece painting, a healthy culture is a product of vision and hard work. Longing for a great culture and actually having one are two different things. 

As a leader, spend time intentionally investing in the culture and direction of your company, team, and surrounding people.

What does the workday “feel like?

How do people act?

What’s the end goal?

How does your department handle promotions? Confrontations? Missed sales goals or development targets?

If you can’t articulate your culture clearly and simply, it needs more work. Worse yet, if it doesn’t inspire others to be better, it will ultimately bring harm.

The goal is to articulate the what and why of the organization in a way that shapes, inspires, and transforms.

2.) Inspire Others to Greatness

Once the vision is clear and compelling it should inspire those that hear it. It should be a place where people outside of the organization say, “I want to work for them.

Inside the organization, there should be tangible feelings of joy, clarity, and a desire for growth. This doesn’t mean that people necessarily want to work longer hours, but it means that they want to work harder in the hours they do work. Why? Because their work has meaning and purpose. They know that they are contributing to something greater, something beyond themselves.

The goal is to call forth the highest level of character achievement and belonging.

3.) Take Immediate Action

Violations of the culture will happen. Eventually, someone will know that a tardy might go unnoticed and regularly start showing up late. Part of a healthy culture is dealing with problems that arise quickly, fairly, and with the goal of restoration. Discipline happens to correct behavior and hold the standard high, not to deliver punishment.

Tardiness is corrected not by docking pay, but by showing them what is missed or at stake when they fail to show up on time. Poor attitude with customers doesn’t mean demotion, it means providing better training to help them deal with the stress of other people’s bad attitudes. 

The goal is to restore the person to their own personal standard of morals, to the team, and to the vision and culture set in the company.

Transforming Culture

The challenge presented to Scott Frost is daunting. Not only does he have to instill his good culture, but he also has to overcome the bad culture he inherited. On top of that, he has to rewrite twenty years of poor standards.

For many of us, we face similar situations. Family histories, company profits, and personal standards all confront us on a daily basis. Some we inherit, others we create. All need to be transformed and redeemed.

Creating a compelling, inspiring, and consistent culture is not easy. But it is worth it.

Last week we examined the necessity of talking about burnout.

If we want to prevent leadership burnout, we must first acknowledge it. This week, we want to create a plan for resisting burnout. Below are four things Jesus did. We can implement similar and visions to have sustained leadership success.

Resisting Burnout

Jesus, from the very inception of his public ministry, took intentional action steps to prevent ministry burnout. Aware of the potential dangers and the high price of public demand, Jesus regularly withdrew and practiced steps to healthy spirituality.

Resisting Burnout is a process.

Here are 4 action steps for leadership health.

1.) Clarity in Calling

Jesus’ first act after his baptism was to withdraw to the wilderness and develop clarity in his calling. Christians claim Jesus as God and  therefore temptations he faces in Luke four have often been thought of as “no big deal.” The mindset is that if God can’t sin, these temptations didn’t really bother Jesus. This sells the narrative short. The real temptations behind all of these are what kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. Behind each of these temptations is a short cut.

Leadership Shortcuts

In the first temptation, he is tempted to transform rocks into bread.

His physical hunger, a legitimate need after forty days in the wilderness, is becoming the focus of the first attack. Clearly there is legitimacy to this need; after forty days of fasting, Jesus needs to eat. The shortcut is to be a one-stop food production worker. Thousands of enslaved Israelites are about to meet him and would love the chance at free food. Satan knows that if Jesus stays busy producing food for the masses, he will never have time or be a threat to conquer death and sin.

We can face similar temptations in our own leadership journey. People will look to us to help them accomplish good things. But good is the enemy of great. Don’t take your eyes off your ultimate calling by settling for something less. Resisting burnout requires clarity of vision.

The second temptation is to worship Satan and be given the status of ruler over the earth.

Satan’s hope here is to usurp God’s authority in the life of Jesus with his own. If Jesus worships Satan, then there is no need for a political-religious showdown with the local rulers. The status quo can be maintained.

Wise leadership knows when to upset the status quo and start a new direction. Courageous leadership takes action when action is required, knowing that the end destination will be worth the temporary pain of change. Resisting burnout requires courageous action.

The final temptation is to jump from the temple and be miraculously saved by angels.

Enthralled masses would soon want to follow this daredevil, Jesus. He would be so busy planning his next death-defying escape that he wouldn’t have time for social and religious transformation. Always needing to please the crowd, Jesus would waste his days performing magic tricks instead of freeing enslaved people.

Called leaders do not settle for being crowd-pleasers. Instead, while they hope to inspire those that follow them, they are more concerned about doing what is right and living in the full depth of their calling. Resisting burnout requires internal strength.

The Danger of Settling

The dangerous grounds for each of these is that Jesus ends up doing all of these tasks any way.

  • Jesus does feed the hungry masses in spectacular ways.
  • He does perform miracles that draw crowds
  • He is crowned and given authority over the earth.

Yet as it relates to burnout prevention we see something important: Jesus does and is able to accomplish these things because he first spent time clarifying his calling and who he was in God. Leaders must use this same sort of diligence.

There will always be the temptation for leaders to fall prey to these temptations in one way or another: the need for validation, the false sense of urgency, or the cheap thrill of mindless entertainment.

Only when someone has been sufficiently grounded in both calling and character are they able to produce lasting and beneficial leadership.

2.) Solitude and Prayer

Another important rhythm that Jesus engages in is to regularly retreat for prayer and solitude. One author records,

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

The demands of leadership are tiring to the body and the soul. By instilling regular rhythms of rest and retreat, leaders can fight against fatigue.

Regular intervals might include:

  • Daily disciplines like prayer, exercise, and meditation.
  • Monthly half-day getaways for extended silence away from technology.
  • Quarterly retreats for planning and visioning.
  • Yearly vacations and times of Sabbath rest.

3.) Focus On The Right Perspectives

The Gospel of Mark records a telling story about Jesus’ perspectives in ministry. Even in the midst of tremendous need, Jesus tells his disciples that it is time to move on from one location to another. He reminds them that they must travel throughout the countryside and to other towns and villages.

The current population wants Jesus to localized and claim him as their own. Jesus refutes this desire and offers a larger perspective about the work he is up to.

Leaders today will face similar temptations. Getting stuck into work ruts, ignoring vision for the day-to-day mundane, the desire to be liked, or the inability to say no. Called and courageous leaders must resist all of these temptations.

4.) Personal Relationships

Two key markers are important to note in an examination of Jesus’ personal relationships.

First, there is the frustration of isolation. The elevation of the leader in the mind of the organization often leaves them with few (if any) close friends or trusted confidants. All relationships essentially become working relationships and lack a personal feel. Jesus builds a personal ministry with close confidants, not only seeking to train the disciples but to confide in them and relate to them as people. Jesus, in eating with his followers and in visiting their homes, shows that while he is here to accomplish a mission, people are the focus and deserve his best.

Second is Jesus’ investment in others. Jesus spent significant time investing in other people: his twelve disciples, a larger group of seventy-two followers, and the masses. Within each of these spheres, he invests in the well-being of others through mentoring, training and education.

What is often lost in the hectic pace of leadership is a commitment to invest, mentor, and train others. When tasks become more important than people and result more important than a process, leaders lose the opportunity for influence. To break free from this misaligned perspective, leaders must regain focus on investing time with people and bring them into further stages of development.

 

Need help or guidance? Schedule a free strategy session to help you in resisting burnout.