The Well Guarded Secret to Discovering Personal Giftedness – Shhhh!

One of the most important things anyone can do is determine his or her own giftedness. There are few things more satisfying than working in one’s giftedness. Everyone has individual gifts. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The key is to find out what they are.

Here are three simple points about giftedness:
• True giftedness energizes. One looks forward to using and developing these gifts the minute one’s feet hit the floor in the morning. They add verve and excitement every time they are used.
• Some people might be good at something but the activity doesn’t energize or uplift them. These are more “have to” abilities that a person possesses and can do well. I can do administrative budgets really well, i.e. line item budgets, zero based budgets, program budgets, etc. but I certainly don’t wake up thinking, “Gee, I can’t wait to do a budget today!” I do these types of things well but the activity does not add excitement to my life.
• The final type of giftedness category are the things we like to do and might even enjoy doing a lot but we only might perform at a mediocre or average level. Most of the time we call these things hobbies. For me, this is called golf.

The trick is to do a personal inventory of what you have done in the past and identify specific tasks what you really enjoyed doing and did it well. Be careful of some so called “personal giftedness inventory tools.” Like any assessment they might lack content validity or have questions skewed to be answered in a certain direction. What a person wants to be gifted in might not be the reality. Consider the hypotheticals of a person who thinks he’s a great leader of a church team and the divisiveness on the team indicates anything but good leadership or the college professor who may be good in the classroom but being elevated to a dean’s position is catastrophic. In the latter case a different skill set is required and the Peter Principle took hold. The Peter Principle suggests that many people perform well in their jobs and then get promoted to the point where they are inept in a new position where they are no longer using the skills they were good at in previous jobs.

The best way I have seen to identify giftedness is to actually track a week or month of activities and list what you love to do and what you hate to do. This is a great start. After a short time a pattern starts to develop that indicates where one’s talents lie and these talents excite us to use them.

Further, be careful when other people actually make personal judgments about your own giftedness. It is easy to tell someone, “You have the gift of discernment” or “You have the gift of leadership” or “You have the gift of teaching.” In fact, some people may exhibit skills in these areas but their true giftedness may lie elsewhere that energizes them. Once again, that’s the key. If they are not energized when they go to work that is a huge red flag they are not in their true giftedness.

Finally, leaders who really possess the quality of leadership do not dread everything or every challenge and consider every issue a land mine. Teachers who really possess the gift of teaching are full of excitement when preparing a lesson and then delivering it. People with a gift of hospitality look forward to planning events and seeing them happen. The secret to discovering one’s giftedness is no secret at all. It’s really common sense.

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Restructuring: Avoiding the Insanity Trap

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. We won’t get fooled again.” The Who (1971)

After a period of great stress within an organization many people breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to reorganization and change. When a toxic or predatory leader departs the organization those on the inside and out anticipate better times ahead. It is important during these critical times the right choices are made so change is for the better.

Remember the adage defining insanity as doing the same behavior over and over again expecting different results? Avoiding the same behavior holds true for effecting positive change in organizations. After the leader problem child has departed there has to be a close look as to what is left for leadership. Sometimes that situation is sad. Toxic leaders have a unique knack of choosing yes people and those with minimal skills for management and leadership. Toxic leaders intentionally choose those who follow blindly and question little. This pertains to finance people, boards, middle management, and in church world, sometimes elders. Church world people can be particularly problematic when they are told they have giftedness in areas in which they do not have giftedness. You can tell giftedness when you see it. People get excited to use their gifts. If not they really need to take personal inventory. Replacing the leadership with people in positions who were previous followers and work horses for the dysfunctional leader is a poor decision. Why?

Consider those raised in a dysfunctional or abusive environment. Research reveals these people tend to be dysfunctional themselves unless they receive some type of intense intervention. The same holds true for those under previous toxic leaders especially new and emerging leaders handpicked by the toxic leader. All they know is how they have been trained. All they know is dysfunction.

So, it should come as no surprise when after the honeymoon period is over for a new regime and some of the same behaviors start to surface.
• Lack of complete transparency
• Lack of authenticity
• Avoidance of issues
• Development of an us versus them attitude
• The lack of welcoming outside the box thinking
• Decision-making by a lone leader or a collaboration of former managers under the prior toxic leadership exhibiting bad behaviors
• Providing a “show” to the community all the while failing to address dissension within the organization

These are just a few of the dysfunctional behaviors. Some might even smack of the narcissism left behind from prior leadership. All too often, a new regime might say the right words but actions and behaviors don’t correlate with a positive change. In essence, it’s business as usual. When there is no accountability internally or externally the inevitable is in the making, i.e. another disastrous organizational implosion. This time it might be permanent. “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. We won’t get fooled again.”

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Complacency and Ambiguity: Organizational Poison

If I were asked what are two of the greatest internal dangers to any organization hands down the answer would be complacency and ambiguity. These two elements will kill an organization faster than even a toxic or predatory leader. Toxic leaders stick out like a sore thumb and can can be dealt with more quickly than complacency and ambiguity. These concepts are like a slow acting poison or fatal disease that eats away at the core values and morale of the organization.

Complacency lulls leadership into a sense that all is well when, in fact, stagnation is occurring. When the verve and excitement wans in leadership or staff that is a sure sign complacency is not far away. I am not saying when there are no pressing issues an alarm should sound. A good leader can sense when day-to-day activities in an organization get to the point where the mundane is prevalent and staff and leadership is running out of ideas for growth and forward motion. Nobody is looking forward to anything going on or very little, if anything, is on the radar.

Ambiguity gives mixed signals to staff. This can range from gross disparity in job descriptions, performance criteria, discipline, or even metrics. Can you imagine a hypothetical where staff is being held accountable for a metric that has a variable over which they have no control? How about a newly changed performance evaluation that doesn’t have a defined performance criteria or isn’t revealed to staff until individual performance is reviewed. Conflicting policies or policies that don’t coincide with what is actually done within the organization is discouraging to employees. The worst example is an organization failing to develop a policy where one is sorely needed and when the issue arises middle management varies with its actions. The bottom line is that organizational ambiguity quickly burns out employees This happens way too often in all sectors in business.

The elements of complacency and ambiguity will kill an organization. They will contribute to employee turnover and even lawsuits against the organization. Complacency and ambiguity have no place in any organization and need to be eliminated as soon as they are detected in any way.

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Burning Bridges or How to Sink an Organization

It is interesting there are managers in the workforce who have no problem burning bridges yet they’re surprised when the issue comes up later to haunt them. One thing is for sure. There are many industries were the pool of quality people is extremely tight knit and even closed. Word gets around quickly about these problem children in management no matter what their title or how many educational initials they have after their name.

Consider the hypothetical where a manager refuses to hire someone from a particular organization because the hiring manager’s family members disagreed with a product or service of the company the applicant came from. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with the applicant’s abilities or his or her qualifications. The hiring manager decided to seize the opportunity and make a point for what purpose? This is pure gamesmanship at the expense of the organization. A potentially good employee was lost but the end result is the hiring manager has now established a reputation within the community for him or herself and for the organization that tolerates such behavior. Fast forward to a point where the rejected candidate is now elevated in the industry and the community and you now have a great recipe where colleagues and peers want nothing to do with the organization. How unfortunate but people and organizations reap what they sow.

In this case the ego and self serving narcissism of the hiring manager trumped what was good for the company. This is an ethical issue that warrants termination of the hiring manager. Some companies might choose a lesser form of discipline or might not do anything at all and sweep the issue under the rug. In a case like this the damage has already been done. Word travels quickly and that develops an elephant in the living room regarding the hiring manager and his or her organization in the community and industry.

Leadership has only two decisions to make in regard to such circumstances. The personal biases of some managers need to be eliminated so future bridges are not burned. Leadership needs to either eliminate the manager or educate the bias from the manager. If neither of these two is done the result is probable future burned bridges to the detriment of the organization.

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Leaders Face Their Fears

One of the most debilitating things any leader can do is to over think an issue and be paralyzed by fear and apprehension. If leaders are confident in their ability and have faith in their staff and what they believe in then forward motion is not a problem. Furthermore, the control of fear is an acquired and developed skill.

Where does fear come from? Actually, fear is a manifestation of one’s true inner self through a lack of confidence or an inability to trust one’s own decision-making. In church world where faith is the foundation on which many things are built this is extremely revealing. Unfortunately, it reveals much about one’s character.

Self doubt in some decisions or undertakings is only natural but true leaders who work in an arena where faith is a cornerstone are to be models for their staff and congregation. Anything less reveals serious flaws. Leadership in the public sector, private sector or church world is not for the timid, the shy, or those who second guess others. That burns up way too many calories and tends to paralyze the decision making that is supposed to occur. The end result many times with leaders who doubt or second guess too much is the coulda, woulda, shoulda syndrome. At some point later on down the road some leaders wonder why they didn’t take decisive action. The best leaders are decisive, thoughtful, and above all, they have faith.

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Discernment, Trust, and Leadership

“One of the common failings of honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.” Thomas Sowell

We all want to trust and be trusted. The problem comes in with some leaders who betray that trust in some fashion and then expect to go on with business as usual. We might even hear monologues about forgiveness after a major fall of a leader but can trust really be established? The short answer is no or at least not for a while.

Those serving under a less than trustful leader have it especially hard. They need to have made choices long before the fall of a leader and were consistently doing the bidding of the leader when less than ethical or even illegal things were going on. The statement can be made they knew about it and chose to ignore or be oblivious to what was going on. How sad.

For many who have this thing we call discernment there are usually signs a long time before anything comes to a head. The best advice is to trust the voice inside. Major falls by leaders typically involve things pertaining to self, e.g. greed in the forms of money or dominating staff time for inane things or things that follow narcissistic behaviors, etc. The list is short but the point is for those who are under leaders now or aspire to leadership positions need to recognize that trust is the hardest thing to earn and the easiest to lose.

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Other Duties As Assigned for Second Mile Leaders

In almost every job description the last indication what the job is all about is typically, “Other duties as assigned.” What does that mean? It indicates there may be situations and circumstances warrant other tasks that need to be completed and are related to the overall job but cannot be readily defined. Nobody can predict the future so, “Other duties as assigned,” is a caveat to cover the bases.

All the really good leaders I encounter live out, “Other duties as assigned.” They do so by thinking ahead and what the organization, staff members, or circumstances need and then make it happen. They don’t have to be told what to do. They see a requirement to be successful and then forge ahead. There is more.

In the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew Chapter 5:41) Jesus states, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” The origin of this verse is the Roman Impressment Law when ancient Palestine was occupied by the Roman armies. In essence, any Roman soldier could require a citizen to carry his pack for a mile. The typical distance was so accustomed by citizens the distance could usually be marked off in a thousand paces. The packs carried by Roman soldiers could also weigh upwards of over a hundred pounds. Some might consider “going the extra mile” an act of defiance to the Roman occupation but realistically it speaks more to individual selflessness rather than selfishness. It is more of an example of the commitment to another person no matter who he or she might be. Narcissism does not exist in the vocabulary for a second mile leader. Second mile leaders consider service to others within the organization more important than themselves. This is also a mainstay concept in the practice of servant leadership.

Finally, something uniques occurs within a person who voluntarily reaches out to others in need. Not only are others helped in their time of crisis but the very act tends to ease or soften whatever hardship is happening for that individual reaching out. I have seen it happen time after time. People who reach out to assist others are helped themselves in their own circumstances. It happens for a variety of reasons but the most common explanation is the exhibition of community is built into the very nature of our human condition. When we reach out to others in time of crisis without an expectation of reward we are, in fact, going the extra mile in terms of our jobs and life journey. Second mile leaders consider all service to others as “Other duties as assigned.”

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