Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Be Willing To Take a Punch And Learn From It

Posted: August 14, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leadership
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I’ll admit that at first glance boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA doesn’t look like much of an art or a science. It looks likes the kind of fist fight that tends to happen on the play ground, men’s locker room, or at a bar. Truth is, the more you know about the actual technique, precision, range, and speed that is takes to successfully land a punch the more you appreciate any form of fighting as a sport. I like to describe fighting as a chess match with punches. But in order to play the game you have to be willing to take a punch.

I encourage students and fighters to ask their training partner why they were such an easy target. I have been taught to ask people to help point out why a particular punch was landing. Was I dropping my hands? Am I opening myself up for counters when I launch an attack? Is my technique flawed? Or is my timing or footwork off?

It could be so many things that lead to why you get hit. You have to be okay with that. It is part of the sport. If you don’t want to get hit, maybe boxing isn’t your sport and the closest you will get to fighting is a couple of Wii nun chucks. But when you get hit you should have the humility and teachability to ask what went wrong.

The same happens in any position of leadership. You are going to do something wrong and a lot of times it feels like catching an overhand from a heavy handed heavyweight. As a leader you can’t just shake it off and act as if making mistakes is okay. You can’t keep fighting a fight where you are letting your opponent land strikes consistently without being able to recover from it.

The best fighters and some of the best rematches and trilogies of all times have involved fighters who have gone back, studied their tapes, and corrected their weaknesses and worked on executing their strengths.

Leaders, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to make decisions that you shouldn’t have made. You are going to fail someone. Are you going to learn from it? Are you going to shrug it off and keep making the same mistake? Or are you going to ask your staff, friends, family, and those closest to you for input so that you can lead better?

Fighters who test their chin by repeatedly taking heavy hits don’t last long. Leaders who repeatedly make poor decisions quickly lose the respect of those under them. Take a punch, but learn from it. Acknowledge a weakness, but seek to strengthen it.

What is one weakness that if changed would have significant impact on those you are leading?


Leaders Can Learn A Lot From Boxing

Posted: August 12, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leadership
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There are lessons that we learn in one area of our life that can translate and change the way we act in other areas of our life. Lessons that make and shape who we are. It is my conviction that leaders are not born leaders they are developed. In the same way that I believe that the best fighters who have won belts were not born champions- they worked hard to become the fighters they are in the ring.

As I have been reading books on leadership, I have seen the same character traits in great fighters. As I have read books on coaching leaders, I have seen the same tips applied by hall of fame corner men. As I have read about developing leaders and what to avoid in building them, I have admired the leadership of some coaches and have been able to see the flaws made in the corner of my favorite fighters.

A lot of people want to be leaders. The problem is that not all leaders want to ask the question, “Am I doing all that I can to become the person I need to be in order to be a great leader?” Having been a fighter, a cornerman, and now a director of a campus ministry my hope is not only to share lessons I have learned but to envision leaders to be men and women of conviction, character, and competence.

So what’s the starting point? Well, in order to become a fighter you have to join a gym and surround yourself with people who will get you where you want to go. In the same way, leaders grow in their conviction by listening to others. You become a better fighter when someone comes alongside you and pushes you beyond the limits you set for yourself. My hope is that this becomes a series of blogpost that serves as a form of instruction, encouragement, and correction.

For the next couple of weeks…welcome to the gym!


My Brother, trainer, and corner man- Sergio Cabrera

There are some books that you read because you have to, not because you want to.  That was true three years ago when I read, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins and it is true of having to re-read it again this year. The only difference is that I am not in the same place that I was in three years ago. The first time I had to read this, I knew very little of the social sectors and had never worked for a non-profit organization (NPO’s). Now, I am transitioning into a position that is going to require me to know how to measure success.

I appreciate the work that Jim Collins has put into making his business book translate to NPO’s.  Unlike a business “a social sector’s organizational performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns”. Therefore, directors of NPO’s must ask the question, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” This question not only guards from unhealthy applications of business concepts, it allows you to know how to measure success for your organization.

In order to measure success you need to have an executive and legislative leadership structure that can keep the checks and balances in order. The execute leader provides the overarching leadership, vision, and goals of the non-profit. The legislative leader organizes people and trains them to effectively carry out the plan of the organization.  Both are leaders, and they both train leaders, they simply carry their role within the larger vision of the organization in different ways. Therefore, for an organization to carry out its goals, it needs to be clear on the kind of leadership that is needed for the goals to be carried out.

If you have ever worked or volunteered at an NPO, you come to find out quickly that people are either passionate about the organizations goal, or underpaid in comparison to the private sector.  Finding leadership with a very small pool like this is difficult. This is why Jim Collins recommends figuring out the kind of leadership that is needed before getting the wrong people on the bus. He recommends making the selection process difficult and then states “[A] lack of resources is no excuse for a lack of rigor- it makes selectivity all the more vital.” Choose who you need carefully; they will be the ones ensuring the success of your non-profit.

In conclusion, there are three components that are critical to have for an organization to identify and ensure success. First, you need to be able to define what success will look like for your organization by the impact that is distinct to the resources you have. Second, you need a leadership structure that works for your organizations effectiveness in being successful. Lastly, you need to get the right leaders. Great leaders will work hard in their role and secure your organizational goals by developing and deploying your staff to reach them.

Reading Andy Stanley’s, Next Generation Leader, was like being with a leaders leader. He knew the challenges, temptations, problems, and decisions that need to be made. What was most encouraging was his tone and humble example. He didn’t write as someone who has it all figured out. He wrote this book as someone who has learned lessons along the way and felt compelled to tell others.

Though this book has 5 strong sections for leadership, I found three to be specifically helpful. I have heard about the competency of the leader and the character that should go with it, but I had never heard someone clearly articulate the need for courage, clarity, and coaching.

Stanley knows that leaders are placed in situations that seem uncertain to everyone. The goal is not creating, or persuading others that you know what to do. The role of a leader is to have clarity in the midst of uncertainty so that everyone knows exactly what he or she is to be doing. Uncertainty is familiar ground to the leader. In places where the path is certain, there is no need for leadership. Unchartered ground is the ground in which a leader is identified or disqualified for being capable of leading. Leaders need to be clear in the direction they give to people who follow them

Being willing to stand in the middle of uncertain ground isn’t that difficult. Leading others with clear direction is. How are you sure that they will get through? How do you know that the course you are taking is the best? Well…you don’t know. That is the reason why leaders need courage. They need the courage to be willing to own up to whatever is the result of their leadership. Leaders need to have the courage to say no to initiatives that seem promising, facing a reality that may be difficult for any organization, and they need the courage to dream big. Leadership not only needs a clear direction, it needs a leader with the courage to take them there.

With clarity, courage, competence, and character there seems to be little missing from a pretty good arsenal of tools to pull from in leadership. Leaders who rely on their own evaluation set themselves up for stagnation. Without a leadership coach a leader will only accomplish what they measure as success. Stanley believes that, “[Leaders] have a tendency to measure ourselves against the people around us. They become our point of reference. A good coach will evaluate your performance against your potential”. A leadership coach will push you to exceed the goals that you set for yourself by pushing your performance capacity.

All of the five characteristics mentioned in this book come together in coaching. You need to have character that makes you teachable. It requires humility and courage to have someone speak into your life. The more eyes on your leadership, the clearer your direction, mission, and vision will become. The clearer your direction becomes, the more competent you will be in leading those who follow you. You will become a leader worth following by the humility displayed in your leadership.

Have you ever thought about getting coaching for your leadership? Have you ever received coaching for your leadership? If you did, have you seen benefits to having someone help you?

             There are good and bad things to getting great chapter recommendations. The good thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money when someone has already weeded out the best content for you. The bad thing is, when the chapters are exceptionally good, they make you curious about the rest of the material. Reading, Leaders Who Last, chapters 4 and 5 only made you wonder what else was in store. 

            The only two chapters I read were phenomenal. Kraft begins in by encouraging his readers to think about what would be most important for them to do. In terms of priority, what would be the most significant thing to accomplish in your role? He then asks leaders to take stock of how well they have done in protecting their priorities. Kraft knows well that leaders have a tendency of wanting to do everything. I was really encouraged by this chapter to sit down and think of what would be the most beneficial thing for me to be accomplishing. Am I protecting it? What do I need to delegate in order for me to give myself to what only I can accomplish? I never would have thought in this way, if not for the help of Kraft. 

            But then I began to ask myself “Why?” Why do I have to stop certain things that I am doing? Dave followed up with what seemed to be a direct answer to my question. Pacing. It is all about pacing. Leaders have different capacities and it is important for leaders to operate within the God-given capacity that has been entrusted to them.

            I overwork. I have been burnt out. I have felt like quitting…and I am only 25. I need and will always need the reminder that in order to accomplish something well, I need to zero in my energy into what I am gifted to do. I don’t have, nor will I ever have, the capacity to do more than what I am physically, mentally, and spiritually capable of doing.

            Kraft brings home the point by giving us an analogy. Leaders are like rubber bands, which come in different shapes and sizes. Different bands were made for different things. When a rubber band is stretched far too much for far too long, it is only a matter of time before it snaps under the pressure. We need to be able to stretch but come back to a rested position before enduring a prolonged period of hard workflow.

            Overall this, accompanied with the other resources for this month, has made me protect my priorities, and pace myself. This is an extremely helpful resource for young leaders like me. 

The Leader’s Pacing

Posted: May 30, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leadership, Productivity
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I love recommending books. Good books, challenging books, convicting books, practical books, and well written books. But not everybody is going to like the entire book. Sometimes we read for fun. Other times we read and discover a helpful chapter. Sometimes we only find a sentence that is meaningful. This is one of the reasons I am thankful for my friend Jon Smith. I know that may look like a pseudonym, but that is really his name.

Jon has at different times recommended books, pages, paragraphs, and chapters to me. Recently, he asked me to read a chapter titled, The Leader’s Pacing by Peter Kraft. Again, the whole book wasn’t necessary but this section was extremely helpful…well mostly the analogy. Here is a quote that I found helpful in understanding how I should pace how hard I work.

We all don’t have the same gifts, personality, or capacity. I think people are like rubber bands, which come in all sizes and shapes. Some are small and some are large. A small rubber band can only be stretched so far. It has limits. A rubber band that is larger can obviously be stretched further. Regardless of how big or small the rubber band, it can only be stretched for so long, and then it needs to go back to  a resting position. If it is stretched too far and stays there too long, it will snap.

We have all had the experience of picking up something that was wrapped with a rubber band for a long time, only to have it snap when we touched or moved it. Likewise, leaders need to determine what size their capacity is and how long they can remain in a stretched situation before they need a pause-whether emotional or physical.

He then goes on to say that most leaders need to slow down. There is a tendency to believe that being busy is the same as being productive. It isn’t. We can be busy doing a hundred unnecessary things and miss the most important things on our plates. There are times that we know we need a break, recalibrate and slow down, but we decide to push through. God has given us a capacity and we should work within that range. We should work hard and rest, trusting in the sovereignty of God.

Kraft then writes this convicting section

I think that if the Lord were an officer of the law, he would give many of us a speeding ticket. Is there a speed limit for life and ministry? It’s called the gauge of God-given capacity. We are not all the same.

If you are a leader, or someone who feels like life is fast paced, you may want to slow down. Take a look at your capacity, your strengths, and your priorities so that you can focus on what is really important. You don’t have to do everything. If you are a leader, you can delegate work to someone who would not only do what you can do, but potentially thrive at it. Work hard, play hard. Rest intentionally so that you can work intentionally.