Posted in Leadership

Thinking Gray

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The times when I implement “thinking gray,” I have most often saved myself from making a poor decision and usually save myself time. Steven Sample, in his book The Contrarians Guide to Leadership, unpacks the idea of “thinking gray.”

The major takeaway is this: when an important decision isn’t mandated to be made at the moment it’s asked for, pause and think gray. Thinking gray means this:

  • Back away;
  • Don’t pull the trigger when more time could help bring clarity;
  • And set the decision point just prior to the deadline for the decision.

It may seem as if you’re dragging things out and procrastinating. But the created mean-time can provide your answer. What transpires before the decision deadline can be magical.

The people asking for your decision often find other ways to go about getting what they need. The decision-seekers think creatively and often think of a work-around to get a solution. And oftentimes, some external factor occurs and renders your pending decision null.

Thinking gray also gives you time to think clearly and do a virtual SWOT in your head. Many times you’ll come back to your initial thought (gut reaction) on making the decision. But many times, things change, and you have no decision to make.

When you can save your decision-making for the highest leadership questions—the decisions no else can make—the better off you and your organization will be. You only have so much personal power, and saving that power for critical decisions has pay-offs.

A simple way to begin the process of “thinking gray” is to ask these questions when a decision has been requested:

  • What options and solutions have you (the asker) considered?
  • Who else is involved in making the decision?
  • What’s the deadline for a decision being reached?

By nature, I tend to be black and white. I like quick results. But paradoxically, thinking gray has served me well and might do the same for you.

 

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The Best Kind of Encouragement

“I was talking to Nancy the other day, and she was bragging about how well you’ve been ministering to the Smith family through their crisis. Well done!”

Third-party encouragement can be the best kind of encouragement.

Typically, triangulation has a negative connotation. But when you can triangulate someone in encouragement, you can actually multiply the compliment.

As a leader, this requires you to listen for those times when people are bragging on others. This can happen by waiting on coffee in the break room, skimming social media updates, or asking your direct supervisors who’s doing exceptional work.

Then, it takes some personal initiative. Make a point to send those people notes, or stop by their offices and compliment them.  Telling them you’ve heard others complimenting their work is a central part of the third-party encouragement only you can provide.

To the recipients, it communicates that their bosses (or others) are proud enough of their work to discuss it openly, and that the “big boss” thought it was important enough to repeat back to them.

Multiply the blessing.

Praise with collateral impact.

Third-party encouragement will make your employees’ or volunteers’ day, and maybe even their week.

Long live encouragement-triangulation.

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How You're Disrespecting Others

We’ve all done it.

But the occasional occurrence isn’t the issue. It’s the pattern that’s the problem.

It’s being late—habitually late.

Primarily, I’m focusing on lateness in the work environment. (For lateness related to both church and work, @BillHybels treats this superbly in this sermon podcast, “Simplify, part 2)

A pattern (more than 1/5 meetings) of lateness communicates one thing to the others in the room:

“My time and work is more important than your time and work.”

You’d likely never say those words, but that’s often how it’s interpreted.

I don’t believe, nor do I model, that the higher on the org chart you are, the more margin you have for lateness. Promptness and respect are a cultural ethos thing, and it emanates from the leader(s). If in fact your time is more valuable than others’ time, then be courteous enough to either:

1.            Let others know you’ll be late;

2.            Or have the meeting set at an alternative time that works for you.

How to modify your habitual lateness:

•  If a meeting is called, it’s likely collaborative. If you’re invited, it implies you add value in the collaboration. When you’re not there, you can’t collaborate. You lose value.

•  Even if the meeting isn’t collaborative, your supervisor wants you there. You should respect his or her wishes.  (If you don’t think you need to attend the meeting, address that with your supervisor in a respectful and thought-out plan at the appropriate time.)

•  Being late creeps into longer lateness. It begins with five minutes. To you, no harm, no foul. But then next time, it’s ten minutes, and you begin an expanding pattern. It creeps into others, and you begin setting an unhealthy cultural ethos.

•  Consider how you feel when you host meetings or schedule something, and people are late. It’s a sign of disrespect—and it impacts the plans you had.

How to deal with habitually-late people:

•  Make promptness a part of your ethos. Clearly communicate the expectation, and then model it as the leader.

•  Start meetings on time—no matter who’s not there. (At least when they walk in late, they’ll realize they’re, in fact, late.)

•  After 2-3 infractions, challenge the person. Do it privately, but do it. It could sound like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late to our meetings for several weeks in a row. I realize you’ve got a lot of things going on, and you produce a lot of great results, but the chronic lateness is something we don’t allow. I want you to be diligent in being on time. When you are, it communicates to others on the team that you’re in with them, and you share in the mutual responsibility of using everyone’s time well.”

•  As much as possible, be conscientious of setting meeting times when they’re likely going to work for the majority of invitees.

If you’re “the late person,” I challenge you to focus on being prompt for your next three meetings.

If you lead those who are “the late person,” challenge them within the next week.

Email me or message me, I’d love to hear how your late experiment goes.

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