What are your priorities?

What are your priorities?

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell wrote:

“Leaders never advance to a point where they no longer need to prioritize.  It is something that good leaders keep doing, whether they’re leading a billion-dollar corporation, running a small business, pastoring a church, coaching a team, or leading a small group. I think good leaders intuitively know that to be true. However, not every leader practices the discipline of prioritizing.  Why?  I believe there are a few reasons.

First, when we are busy, we usually believe that we are achieving. But busyness does not equal productivity.  Activity is not necessarily accomplishment. Second, prioritizing requires leaders to continually think ahead, to know what’s important, to know what’s next, to see how everything relates to the overall vision.  That’s hard work.  Third, prioritizing causes us to do things that are at the least uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful.” 

Other philosophers and writers have also stressed the importance of establishing priorities. In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey devotes an entire chapter to “Put First Things First” and stresses “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” 

The poet, novelist, playwright, diplomat, and civil servant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least,”

I am a firm believer that we accomplish what we prioritize and each of us needs to look at what we do and evaluate whether we are doing what we should be doing. 

Frequently, people say to me, “I don’t know how you have the time to do everything you do?” Now, think about this.  We all have the same amount of time.  Why is it that some people get so much more done than others? It is because the ones who get the most done “put first things first” and do not let other activities take precedent over what needs to be done. They have firmly established their priorities.

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Helpful Hints for Executives

Helpful Hints for Executives

Because of the tremendous response I received to March’s column which contained “Helpful Hints for Executives,” I decided to present some additional   “Helpful Hints.”   The two hints    I would like to pass on this month are: “People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours” and “The Time to Start Planning Your Next Budget is Immediately After You Get Approval on the Previous One.” 

Hint # 4 People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours

As a supervisor, manager, or executive, you may wonder why people you supervise don’t do what you would like them to do or why your boss or board of directors doesn’t respond positively to your ideas.  It may be because you described what you wanted done in terms of what moves and motivates you and not in terms what moves or motivates them.  It is important to understand that people do things for their reasons, not yours. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  The question, then, is “how do we get people to want to do what we want done?” 

The answer is that people will always behave in ways that are congruent with their highest values.  If you understand that person’s highest values—what really means something to them—and you speak with them in a language that resonates with their highest values, you are more likely to get them to perform in the way you desire.

Let me illustrate the principle this way. When I was Executive Director of the Montgomery County Department of Community Supervision and Corrections, the Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), announced that in order to divert offenders from the Institutional Division (ID) of TDCJ, CJAD would make money available to local departments to develop and operate community corrections facilities (CCFs). 

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Never Ask a Question to Which You Don’t Know the Answer

Never Ask a Question to Which You Don’t Know the Answer

First of all, I want to say, “thanks to all the people who were kind enough to write and tell me how much you appreciated last month’s column. Your taking the time to write to let me  know  you  found  the column helpful  is deeply appreciated.  As my grandfather used to say, “Your kindness warmed the cockles of my heart.”

Some of those who wrote asked if I would expound on some of the concepts I presented.  I appreciate the request.  That makes it much easier for me to come up with ideas for this column.

Never Ask a Question to Which You Don’t Know the Answer!

In last month’s column, I illustrated this principle by saying that when I had an item that needed to go on  the agenda  for the meeting of the  Juvenile Board or Commissioners Court, I visited with each member to learn if they were supportive of what I was proposing.  If I discovered a majority of them were opposed to what I was proposing, I pulled the item from the agenda, visited with those who were opposed, found out what their objections were and spent time overcoming them.  I only put it back on the agenda when I had enough votes for the item to be approved.

As one reader pointed out, frequently matters come up that require the item be placed on the agenda of the next meeting and there is not enough time to do the things I suggested.  That reader is absolutely correct.  In that case, this principle would not be applicable. However, most items are not emergency items.

Another reader suggested I provide examples of how this principle works.  Suppose I had an idea for a new program or wanted to suggest a new way of doing something that would require approval from the board.  In a casual conversation with each member of the board, I would bring up the idea.  If I got a negative response from some of the members, I would ask them to explain why they felt the way they did.  Once I knew what their objections were, I could then work on how to overcome their objections or amend the idea to make it more acceptable to them.  [READ FULL POST]

Helpful Hints for Executives

Helpful Hints for Executives

Once again I find myself experiencing the malady which every writer periodically experiences – the malady of “writer’s block.”   Since my creative juices were drained and nothing was flowing from my brain to the keyboard of my computer, I decided to peruse through some past issues of The MBA Dispatch to see whether reading some of my previous columns stirred up new ideas. 

Sure enough it did stir up one good idea.  I decided to update and rerun some columns from a number of years ago.  An earlier version of this column appeared in the March 2013 issue of The MBA Dispatch.

Helpful Hints for Executives

Recently during a conversation with the Director of a Community Supervision and Corrections Department, she reminded me of some “helpful hints” that I had given her shortly after she was appointed as Director and said that they had proven very valuable to her. 

 It occurred to me that “helpful hints for executives” might be a good topic for this column.  Many of these hints were passed on to me by people I considered mentors, by other probation directors or by other friends or are ideas I discovered while exploring the role of a leader. 

Regardless of their source, they proved invaluable to me and I thought they would be worthy of consideration by readers of this column.  Here they are for whatever they are worth. Read full article

The Value of Looking Back

The Value of Looking Back

Recently, I read an extremely well-written, thought provoking posting on LinkedIn written by Valerie Rivera, who describes herself as a “Culture Catalyst/Design Thinker/Coach.” I not only connected with Valerie on LinkedIn, but also obtained permission to use her posting as the introduction to this month’s column. Her posting said:

My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, I thought it might explode.

I’d finally attempted to go running in Colorado, but my lungs were revolting against me. After years of living at sea level, the altitude was really taking its toll.

In a show of solidarity (or maybe pity?), my right shoe untied itself three times. The left one was not so generous. Still, I welcomed the excuse to stop and catch my breath, grateful that I’d skipped the double knots – but dejected by my apparent lack of stamina. I turned around to head back just as the sun began to set, and the view shocked me. I’d been running uphill THE ENTIRE TIME!

I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I hadn’t even noticed the true magnitude of my quest. Then it hit me – this was just like starting a business. Disappointment, rejection, elation – sometimes all in the same day! Which leads me to wonder: when things are difficult, do we turn around often enough to celebrate how far we’ve come? More.. Read Full Article

Do It – Write: Part 2

Do It – Write: Part 2

In last month’s column we explained the “Do It – Write” approach to writing for publication, explored how to develop articles using this approach, and discussed potential sources from which you could draw material for publication.

Incentives to Write

While the leaders in most professions are not generally given the “publish or perish” mandate faced by those in the academic ranks, having material published in a recognized journal can enhance the career of the writer. Most employers will view favorably those individuals who bring positive recognition to their organization by publishing information about their programs, services or products.

Having your work appear in print also brings recognition from peers in the field. This recognition often brings with it opportunities to speak at conferences and seminars or to serve as a consultant to other organizations. These activities, in turn, provide additional opportunities to develop material for publication.

In the “Do It – Write” approach, not only does speaking furnish material for articles, but having your work published can also provide additional opportunities to speak. Each activity serves as a resource for the other.

In addition to the benefits or incentives mentioned above, writing for publication gives one a sense of accomplishment and also serves as a form of self-development. The more you write and speak, the better you become at writing and speaking.

Do It – Write: Part 1

Do It – Write: Part 1

In your capacity as a leader/manager, you may be called upon to make a presentation to a group regarding the work your organization does, to serve as a speaker for seminars or workshops, to write a grant or a proposal or to prepare a report for your boss or board of directors.

The next time you find yourself involved in one of these activities, ask yourself if what you have to say might be of interest to a wider audience. If so, when you do one of the above activities, write. Consider turning that report or speech into an article for a magazine, newsletter or journal.

The “Do It – Write” idea came to me quite by accident. Just prior to moving to Conroe Texas in November, 1979, to begin my job as Director of the Montgomery County Juvenile Department, I attended a meeting of The Texas Corrections
Association. The editor of that association’s journal asked me to submit an article for publication. Extremely flattered, I readily agreed. However, I moved to Conroe, got involved in my new job and forgot about writing the article.

When the deadline for submission my manuscript was imminent, I frantically began searching for a subject for the article. In my search I discovered the penciled outline of a speech I had given numerous times to college classes and civic
groups. That outline became the skeleton around which I built the article, “A Philosophy of Juvenile Detention,” which appeared in the January/February 1980 issue of the Texas Journal of Corrections.

How to Get People to Want to do What You Want Done!

How to Get People to Want to do What You Want Done!

I wanted one of those facilities for my jurisdiction. The state required that the application for these funds be approved by the local Board of Judges prior to submission. I knew each of the judges on my board. I knew their values and their judicial philosophies. I went to each judge individually to try to persuade him or her to support the application when it came to the entire Board for official approval. What I said in my presentation to each of the judges was based upon his or her philosophy.

While there were 9 judges on the board, I am going to share with you the approach I took with the two who were on each end of the continuum of judicial philosophies. On one end was a judge who had been the elected prosecutor for 12 years before ascending to the bench. His philosophy of probation was something like “trail ‘em, nail ‘em and jail ‘em.”

The other judge was what I refer to as a stereotypical “frustrated social worker” judge. His approach to community supervision was therapeutic. He wanted to “save the world,” but he continued to give offenders chance after chance long after their behavior demonstrated they had no desire to change.

Supervisors Who Are Afraid To Face Challenging Personnel

Supervisors Who Are Afraid To Face Challenging Personnel

The situation in the column to which the reader is responding, the supervisor had valid reasons for terminating the employment of someone. That being the case, the expected performance would be that the supervisors appropriately respond to an employee who was not performing as he/she should.

Since the article dealt with the issue of termination, we can assume that either there had been attempts to address the poor performance of the employee with a model of progressive discipline or that the issue was so great as to justify proceeding directly to termination of employment.

The current performance is that the supervisor is failing to respond appropriately to the need to terminate an employee.

The difference is that the supervisor is not performing effectively and the employee who needs to be terminated remains an employee of the organization.

Building or Reshaping Organizational Culture Part 5

Building or Reshaping Organizational Culture Part 5

So far in this series, we have explored the importance of creating a mission statement (which provides the organization with a clear meaning and purpose), developing a vision statement (which provides personnel direction in the form of a mental picture of what the organization wants to achieve at some point in the future) and identifying the organizations’ core values (the principles, beliefs and philosophy by which the organization will operate).

We also pointed out that the vision, mission and core value statements need to be more than something just hanging on the walls of the office, printed in the organization’s literature, and talked about in new employee orientation. All three must be implanted in the hearts of the organization’s employees and the decisions being made must be made on the basis of whether the decision is consistent with the organization’s values, will help the organization accomplish its mission and enable it to achieve its vision.

With the vision, mission and core values as the foundation upon which the new culture will be built, the administrator needs to understand that changing an organization’s culture occurs in three ways:Hiring and keeping team members who buy-in to the organization’s mission and vision and share the organization’s core values.  In selecting employees, administrators must focus on doing more than screening for skills, knowledge and abilities required to do the job. They must also screen for organizational fit.  Employees who share the same values, and buy-in to the organization’s vision and mission and who feel valued as employees will help shape the organization’s culture by serving as examples to other employees.