I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. (Looking for missed posts, Mistakes Leaders Make (1/10))
Mistake #2: Putting Paperwork before peoplework
I love what Hanz states about this mistake: “The greater the leadership role, the more important ‘peoplework’ is. People are opportunities, not interruptions.”
As an owner of a publishing company I deal with lots of paperwork, physical and digital. As a parent I process thousands of emails, flyers, posters, parent-newsletters and school awards every year! It’s easy to become obsessed with organizing, filing, storing, accessing, and admiring paperwork. And paperwork is important, but...and that’s a BIG but...not early as important as the people connected to it.
Why do some leaders prefer to process paper/data/to-do lists and more? It’s pretty simple and you Type-A’s know this is true (Ha!):
- Observable results are more fun than trying to cultivate relationships
- Tasks easily allow you push aside small talk
- Because the material world dominates the immaterial world
- Often you feel judged by what you do, not by who you are
- Personality preferences
- Relationships don't easily fit your deadline, task-oriented mentality.
(You could reverse each of these and come up with reasons why relationship oriented people like me don’t accomplish our paperwork in a timely fashion!)
Generally, when paperwork trumps peoplework, it’s because people are viewed as interruptions and distractions, instead of opportunities. But people are the heart of almost every organization, family, school or business. Without people, your cause/ministry/team dies. An orchestra plays the music, but without the people, the paper with the notes is meaningless. Carlo Maria Giulini, former LA Philharmonic conductor is quoted as saying, “My intention always has been to arrive at human contact without enforcing authority...What matters most is human contact. The great mystery of music making requires real friendship among those who work together. Every member of the orchestra knows I am with him and her in my heart.”
Couldn’t we say that the real mystery of any industry/team/family requires friendship among those who work together? I’d love to believe that great things can be done for God by people who don’t get along, but the reality is that God’s work, in the long-haul, is short-circuited when God’s children don’t get along.
As most of you know, I'm a relationship guy, so while I make plenty of mistakes as a leader, this generally isn't one of them. My buddy and contributor to these posts, Justin VanRheenen, founder of Kaleo Media, offers these insights for task-oriented people like himself:
3 Ways to be more people oriented
Use your planning skills as a strength. This begins with your email inbox. More time is wasted in a day because of email. Kaleo Media spends only two hours a day in email, AT MOST. That’s one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon (generally 10am and 3pm). Rule of thumb is to get the email out of your inbox. I believe that having 2000+ emails in your inbox will kill you faster than eating a pound of bacon everyday. To help you empty your inbox, choose an email client you like. This is incredibly hard. Every client has its own perks. Don’t use an email client that overwhelms or distracts you getting stuff done.
Kaleo Media uses Mail Pilot because it allows you to organize and get email out of the inbox fast. Inbox Zero is the most genius way to get your inbox to zero. It's not for everyone, but very effective. I've been using SaneBox, a paid service, for three years. It moves only the important emails to my inbox and creates a few other folders (SaneLater and SaneNews) for all the other stuff. It also helps you unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. It even learns what emails are important.
Take ten minutes of every hour to get out from behind your desk and go have a conversation. Not only is this good for your health to get up and walk around but it helps refocus your mind, invest in those working with you, and gives you a break from staring at a computer screen or book or spreadsheet.
Relationships are ALWAYS greater than deadlines. We live in a society that places progress over relationships. But what I’ve tried to do for Kaleo and my clients is build relationship time into contracts, because I would rather go into your shop and spend quality time with you for a couple hours than bounce emails back and forth. This helps me get a bigger picture of what we are accomplishing and helps me be a raving fan of your product. A phone call or drop-in is ALWAYS better than a text message or email if you can help it.
This isn’t to say paperwork is an important or unnecessary aspect of leadership, but rather to ask the question: What’s your primary focus as a leader? I love the story of Jesus and His disciples trying to move from one ministry location to another, when a woman, suffering from severe menstrual bleeding reaches out to touch Jesus robe, hoping to be healed. Jesus halted the procession and says, “Hey, somebody just touched me!” Peter’s response is awesome: “Of course someone just touched you! We’re in a crazy mob-like crowd and hands are everywhere! Let’s keep moving!”
But to Jesus, peoplework trumped paperwork. He stopped everything until he found the woman whose faith was so strong. I wonder how often we leaders ignore the touch of others, the requests of others and the need of others in order to finish our tasks? As Hans writes repeated, “Only through association is their transformation.” Let’s associate more with the people we lead.
How well are you balancing paperwork and peoplework in your family? In your work? On your team? In your school? We can’t just ignore our tasks or the paper trail we’re a part of, but has it subtly taken charge of your life? Are you finding your identity in what you do or who you are? Do you see people as interruptions or opportunities? Jesus stopped, met with people, talked to people, touched sick people, played with children and in general, believed that transformation and association went hand-in-hand. How about you?
I’m fully convinced, the greater the leadership task in front of you, the more critical it is for you to hone your peoplework skills!
Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!