Author, speaker, mentor, coach, strategist. One who loves his family, sailing, cities and all things Irish.
Carson lives between Murrayville in British Columbia, and Northern Ireland. His company, Quadrant Leadership Inc., is the platform from which he offers consultancy, executive mentoring, speaking and organizational coaching.
As one who is normally ‘out there’ sharing everything from life, I realize that I have been pretty quiet the last year on social media. The reason is that something very sacred was taking place and we did not want to confuse or run ahead of it by being too social.
Glenda and I were introduced to each other through the friendship of our children. She lost her wonderful husband Dale to cancer and my Brenda to the same. We connected over the grief journey and in time this became a friendship. We started walking together on Saturdays and over weeks and months, our friendship grew into love.
Although we decided to celebrate our love with an intimate and private family ceremony in Whiterock BC, please know that we thought of so many of you in our planning and during our day. We simply wanted to treasure this moment with our families as we joined together for this new season in our lives.
MORE ABOUT GLENDA
Both Glenda and I come from wonderful marriages, and this is reflected in our families. We know what it is like to be happy in a marriage, and we look forward to experiencing that again. In fact, we have high standards when it comes to marriage and we hold our relationship high. We know, in a way more personally through the deaths of our spouses, that we do not number our days. As a result, we are choosing how we want to live the days we have. Glenda and I have resolved to live, not just endure, each season of our lives and we are excited to enter this new season together. We want to take turns being strong for each other.
For over fifteen years Glenda has led a team working with children with special needs and their families. You would agree that it takes a special kind of person to work in this field. Glenda is that. She is a gentle soul but also a strong and wise team leader. She has developed a team culture that is exceptional while working in this challenging field. Glenda is retiring from her school at the end of the academic year and then we look forward to working together in a new business ministry together, Carson Pue and Associates. More on this in the future.
God’s mercy has called us to a place of new beginnings, for He is the God of second chances. We are living in Pue Manor in Langley and busy into the work of merging two homes together. In our home we thank God for this blessing. We encourage each other, we laugh a lot, we take nothing for granted, and we say “I love you” everyday. Glenda and I believe that we were brought together on purpose for a purpose, and we are seeking God’s guidance as to what opportunity there is for us to serve others and serve Him.
Erin Fraser Captures the Day
Our photographer Erin Fraser is the wife of grandson Liam’s hockey coach. She has an amazing talent for capturing moments, and has done our family photos in the past. By sharing these with you, you can share some of the intimacy of our family time as we celebrated our marriage.
Thank you for your interest and emails concerning this series on what questions I am commonly asked by leaders in mentoring relationships. While many have heard the term mentoring, lots of you are not quite sure what takes place in a formal mentoring relationship. Here is my next cluster of topics that I commonly speak to executives about. I welcome your comments or questions so please leave a note in the comments section at the end.
The development of men and women leaders is my calling, starting with my family. My work as an Executive Mentor is to come alongside leaders and their organizations helping them to be effective, well balanced and successful.
Often, I am asked, “What do leaders want to talk to you about?”. Some topics come up frequently and I shared examples in my previous posts in this series found here and part two here.
A mentor walks beside you and, in doing so, helps build your confidence and leadership ability. We help you discover insights, skills and solutions for your business, church, organization, or life. Our support and guidance helps you to draw your own conclusions and decisions guided by experience and passion for you to be a better leader.
1. How to confront an employee
So many leaders have an aversion to conflict and, because of this, do not hold their staff accountable properly. This fear leads to siloing and team members creating their fiefdoms within the organization. Our fear of conflict is usually grounded in our upbringing, and a therapist can be helpful if you want to understand more about your fear of confronting.
Usually, something from the past has created assumptions about how it will go, and you back off.You can’t change what you refuse to confront. Suppose leaders spend time avoiding arguments or difficult conversations. In that case, they are surrounded by people with poor job performance, staff who do not work well with others, a toxic atmosphere in the office, and status quo results.
A mentor can do several things to help also. I usually start with assisting the leader in realizing the “cost” of not being direct and reminding them that it is part of their job. If we consider what might be gained by being direct, leaders often reconsider assumptions holding them back.
There are MANY mistakes we can make when confronting others, and a mentor can help. Two quick tips are:
1. Don’t wait and always speak about it in person.
2. Never use email or voicemail for this leadership function.
One book I recommend is Jill Scott’s “Radical Candor” where she describes how she had to learn to be more direct as a leader.
If we confront someone we should have one goal in mind: restoration, not embarrassment.
2. Making difficult decisions
Leaders who postpone making decisions frustrate their teams and lose the respect for their leadership. Over time if you keep deferring making a decision, you will lose your best employees who want more action, and you will encourage those who love the status quo. With similarities to leaders who have trouble confronting employees, leaders who fail to make decisions share fear as the core of the problem. Mentors can help you face your fears and gain confidence.
Overthinking and perfectionism are common culprits with those who delay making decisions. Leaders in the relentless pursuit of perfection are afraid of deciding because they fear making the wrong decision. Only God knows the future, and therefore any decision we make is subject to variables that might happen in the future.
I make a decision. Then, if things don’t turn out like I thought, I make another decision.
A mentor can help you develop the skill of making decisions and can also help you to evaluate your choices after implementation. You can grow in this area by experience, but experience comes at a cost – you are going to make some mistakes.
3. Identifying and solving problems.
A mentor can serve as a safe sounding board for a senior leader to think aloud about identifying a problem. It is essential to discover what the real problem is.
A friend in Houston who was a bonafide card carrying rocket scientist with NASA told me, “The problem is NEVER the problem.”
There is a lot of truth in that nugget. How many of us have solved a problem only to find that it created several new problems. Finding solutions to complex situations requires help. I am always impressed with a leader who knows they would benefit from some mentoring when solving the root cause of some leadership issue. Often fresh eyes, like a mentor provides, can point out the obvious and save a great deal of time and potential loss.
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions
One leadership tip: Don’t let yourself get enamoured with large amounts of data. It is only helpful if you can make sense of it.
4. Handling transition and change.
The global pandemic of COVID, created change for leaders. I think of change as the shift of an external situation. As we have seen, it can happen fast and cause global upheaval. Transition is the reorientation people need to make in response to change, and that takes time.
Sometimes mentors can help leaders, or their teams, accept the need for change. It is easy to believe what they’ve been doing, and how they’ve been doing it, is the best possible way to do it. To be successful in both implementation, and helping people we need to manage both the change and the transition.
Similarly, succession-related factors should be on a leader’s radar. Often a safe discussion with a mentor, who does not hold power or position over the leader, is constructive to begin strategizing for the future.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
5. Leading up and working with boards
I work with many not-for-profit organizations, which means their CEO, ED or President serve a governing board of directors. The operational leader reports to and works for the board, and a healthy, positive relationship with your “boss” makes your life much easier. However, no two boards are alike, and bad board governance is the stuff of legends. Those who serve on boards may need some leadership in working well with the CEO or lead staff person.
Leading up is more complicated than managing your team. It may involve offering your board a strategic insight, or a plan for a new initiative. I remind those I mentor that every member on a board has a day job. They do not live with the day-to-day operations of your organization, and they need leadership assistance to help understand what you and the staff do regularly. A mentor experienced serving on boards and who has worked for boards can assist both the board and the management team in working together.
Lots of times we are afraid to ask our board members to do too much because we’re afraid they will be scared off. I have long observed that more board members resign for lack of meaningful work, than from being overworked.
You and Your Nonprofit Board (Temkin, 2013)
I have drawn together a team of associates to work with me in serving leaders. This new approach to coaching and mentoring has expanded our capacity to help leaders like yourself. Our team has a diversity of giftedness to mentor leaders in life, leading themselves, leading teams, strategy and marketing, all from a faith perspective.
If you would like to speak to me about how you might become more effective as a leader, spouse, strategist or influencer, please let’s talk. Here is my calendar, and you can choose a time that works for you.
The development of men and women leaders is my calling, starting with my family. My work as an Executive Mentor is to come alongside leaders and their organizations.
Often, I am asked, “What do leaders want to talk to you about?”. Some themes come up frequently and I shared examples in my first post in this series found here.
A mentor walks beside you and, in doing so, helps build your confidence and leadership ability. We help you discover insights, skills and solutions for your business, church, organization, or life. Our support and guidance helps you to draw your own conclusions and decisions.
Every leader experiences situations where a mentor would be a helpful side-kick. Leaders ask me about delegation, leading up to their board or supervisor, getting more “buy-in” from their team, and being more strategic in their leadership. Also, situations arise that are very challenging and time-sensitive. Having a mentor as your partner can make a significant difference and help you not feel alone.
Leaders face situations where they wish they had a safe and knowledgeable person to discuss options with; this is especially true of verbal processors who understand by verbalizing thoughts, feelings and ideas aloud.
A leadership transition is any significant change in a leader’s role caused by promotion, changing organizations, merger, restructuring, taking a sabbatical or returning from parental leave. A good mentor can help you take what you learned in the past, are learning in the present and launch into the future. As the world tentatively reopens, there is even more uncertainty than when it shut down, and we all can benefit by engaging a mentor for perspective.
One of the areas that I have specialized in is assisting founding leaders in stepping down, while at the same time coaching the incoming leader. It is stressful for all, yet there are clear patterns a mentor can assist the board, CEO, and successor in navigating through.
Empirical research argues that self-awareness is THE most fundamental issue in the science of leadership, personal growth and general wellbeing. There is a direct correlation between your leadership ability/capability and the potential impact of your organization. So, if you are not self-aware of your abilities, strengths and areas of weakness, you hinder the entire team and organization.
Research by Tasha Eurich states, “Our data reveals that 95 percent of people believe they are self-aware, but the real number is 12 to 15 percent.” You can read more about the research from Harvard Business Review here.
One of the most powerful techniques to promote self-awareness is asking a mentor direct questions, and allowing them to mirror back, providing you clarity through reflection. Feedback from direct questions can help leap-frog you ahead in your life and leadership:
“What is hindering me?”
“What are my weaknesses?”
“What is the shadow side of my leadership?”
Whether leading a business, an organization, church or you are self-employed, having a mirror is so helpful. It is also applicable to students, homemakers, academics, and parents.
4. Leadership Skills
Frequently, I assist where the leader’s skills need enhancement? Areas such as long-term planning, budgeting systems, strategic thinking, delegating, handling conflict, or written/verbal communication? As a mentor, I delight in developing leaders and understanding what is needed to polish their leadership skills.
Mentors know of books and resources, plus have the experience, to assist you in your growth. As a mentor, I focus on character and values as I nurture your growth personally, as well as your leadership.
Whether it is our current global circumstances or a system of leadership development that did not address these, I am finding many leaders needing coaching in the area of “soft skills.” Communication, patience, empathy, listening, flexibility, adaptability, creativity, sensitivity and even humour are the skills I refer to as “soft.” Becoming intentional with a mentor is the most effective way to develop these skills. They cannot be effectively taught in large group settings or webinars. Yes, you can pass on content that way, but an up close mentor can catch you, and your behaviour, in teachable moments.
5. Confidence and Encouragement
Every leader needs encouragement. Let me repeat that.
Every leader needs encouragement!
Haymitch is a troubled soul in the Hunger Games series. He constantly was drinking to drown the sorrow of having dozens of his mentees die in previous games. Yet, in several scenes in the movies, Haymitch is such a solid encourager to Katniss. Leaders need to have someone occasionally take a seat beside them, pick up an oar, and help them row.
With the toll that COVID has placed on leadership today, the strain is showing. It is time to engage a mentor for all of the reasons above. You will be nourished and encouraged by the experience.
Every leader needs encouragement.
In other news…
As we enter into the summer, I will be announcing the expansion and rebranding of my mentoring services. It will include news of adding a team approach where associates will work with expertise in various leadership and life areas. Wait for it!
Thanks for reading these mentoring themes. I am pretty sure I have a couple more of these in me so, Volume Three is coming.
Do you have a question you would like to ask a mentor?
Recently I received a gift box from my friends Jennah and Joel, a couple that I have mentored. Heck, I even officiated at their wedding. When I opened it and saw this keychain it made me smile from ear to ear. They reminded me that this is what I do. I am a leadership mentor, and day after day, I am engaged in mentoring men and women about life and leadership.
This past week a friend was curious and asked, “Carson, what do people want to talk to a mentor about?”
With my head cocked slightly to the right and my inside voice going, “Hmmm?” I pondered before answering. Sharing what had come up this week, my friend found the variety of topics interesting and suggested that I write about this. So, this begins a series of posts on what people ask me as a mentor. Here are my first five:
It is not uncommon for me to engage in conversations about time. How does one give quality time to friends, spouse and family while juggling work, recreation and others’ expectations? Of course, the discussion goes deeper than just learning some time management hacks. We need to understand often the drivers beneath how we use our time.
Priorities and Goals
Very much related to how we use time, is the focus and discipline required for getting things done. I find most people function, some at a very high level, with no real priorities or goals. They can find themselves in job settings where deadlines and seasonal patterns create a false sense of focus or goal. I help people to understand their purpose, and then help them live on purpose.
Choosing between Good and Great
In his book Good to Great, Collins points out how we often settle for good instead of choosing great. After talking with mentees about the previous two areas, a mentor can be a helpful sounding board to identify what “great” would look like and how to pursue it.
Leaders, homemakers, business people, teachers, construction people, law enforcement, pastors, professors and entrepreneurs are among those who have approached me wanting help in growing and developing themselves. This development they seek is not about work (that will follow). They want to grow and develop. They feel like they are stagnant or, worse, stuck. Often a mentor asking the right kind of questions can draw them into seeing a plan for their development, bringing so much more pleasure in life.
Another form of development sought is the more specific work-related mentoring? Perhaps you have a new role or a particularly challenging situation. In either case, the listening ear of a mentor with experience can help leapfrog you ahead and provide more confidence and affirmation. The workplace has changed a great deal in the past ten years, and organizations are often willing to invest in mentoring for their people.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
How about you? What question would you like to ask a mentor at this moment in your life or career? Add a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Awhile back, I had a conversation with my therapist, Ahmad. I cannot stop thinking about it. Ok, so he is not really my therapist, he is my barber, but our conversations are always fascinating.
Ahmad and I talked about the summer holidays and a time when he drove his family pulling a trailer. As he was driving, he felt the trailer’s weight and momentum behind him as he held the wheel. On the other hand, his wife was chatting to him without any sense of the pressure and responsibility of towing a trailer.
The first time I drove a trailer that was not behind a tractor was towing a sailboat in downtown Vancouver. It was scary at first. Was it hitched properly? Would my brakes handle the extra weight? What about the extra height – would I make it under bridges?
There was a certain sway to the trailer as the sailboat seemed unbalanced. I knew I had to be careful, especially when backing up while having my brain wrestle with counter-intuitive steering in the opposite direction. No question, Ahmad was correct in identifying driving with a trailer as stressful.
In a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, eighty-eight percent of leaders reported that work is the primary source of stress in their lives and that having a leadership role increases stress levels. No kidding!
..having a leadership role increases stress levels. No kidding!
In all my years of mentoring leaders, I have never seen an intensity of stress faced by leaders, as during this COVID-19 season. Whether in business, non-profits, or churches, leaders are juggling many additional demands on their time, attention, and focus. This past month, even the most effective leaders I know are feeling emotionally and physically worn down because of the pandemic.
When we as leaders are under extreme stress, it affects us in many ways. Our decision-making is affected because we have trouble processing information, and COVID has caused extreme responses. Often leaders focus on the immediate and have been kept from thinking about the long-term implications of decisions.
Another stress response is to become very controlling. Leaders stop working with their teams and make unilateral decisions as they try to control the situation – a pandemic beyond our ability to control.
Leadership stress also drives men and women into isolation. They want to withdraw, to hide, to run. By shutting other people out of their lives, leaders are often left with only their own counsel causing people around them to lose trust while they lose perspective.
The most common question I ask leaders these days is, “How well are you sleeping?” Stress impacts the quality of sleep we are getting. Lack of sleep affects our behaviour, reduces confidence, and can damage relationships with those closest to us.
Do you know a normally calm and positive leader who is now showing signs of anger, irritability, and being overwhelmed? These are signs that your leader needs to be encouraged to take time to practice radical self-care.
A problem exists in that you and I can just be “along for the ride.” We are unaware of the stress involved in driving the leadership trailer. So let me urge you to reach out to a leader and encourage them. Let them know you understand the stress they must be feeling and encourage their practicing of self-care. Lower high expectations during this time, and recognize good things they have accomplished. Encourage them to recharge, recover, pray and practice restorative activities.
For those who grieve, special days such as anniversaries, birthdays, or Valentine’s Day can be difficult. Other holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter can introduce a whole season of difficult days.
Well, this is Brenda’s birthday. It’s been five years since she passed and she would have been sixty-five today. This threshold, turning sixty-five, was achieved by me just two weeks earlier.
While significant dates can be, and have been difficult, the anniversary of Brenda’s birthday brought me joy. Memories of her make me smile from ear to ear and sometimes laugh out loud. Let me explain.
The Birthday Zone of Endurance
From the time we married, Brenda carried on a running gag for the two weeks I was “older” than her. If we were out somewhere and asked, “How long have you two been married?” I would answer with the number of years and Brenda would slip in, “But I am much younger than Carson.”
Yup, for two weeks she relished being younger. At a restaurant, while we were celebrating my birthday, she would not so quietly tell the server that I had “robbed the cradle.” “I am significantly younger than he is,” she would say with her alluring smile and sparkly eyes to all who would listen. Who was not to believe her?
On occasion, I would protest and retort,
“Only by two weeks! You are only younger by two weeks!”
To this Brenda would roll her eyes communicating to the individual without words “Yeah right, LOL like I am only two weeks younger that this old guy.”
Once during the “birthday zone of endurance,” we were snuggling on the couch watching television. Brenda had her head resting on my shoulders and against my neck. I was stroking her hair and, trying to be romantic.
”Where have you been all my life?” I whispered.
Without lifting her head she responded, “Well for a large portion of it I wasn’t even born.” This was followed by chuckling, that she could not stop. <Big Smile>
She had many more typical jabs I’d be expecting. For example:
At the dinner table, “Honey, let me help you cut your meat.”
“Carson, here” as she reached for me. “Take my arm. I will help you with the stairs.”
“Dear, can I read that for you?” or,
“I am going to call Glen to see if I can borrow his truck to go pick up your birthday candles.
On and on it would go.
When our boys were young, she would smile at me and kindly tell me, “If we are ever out somewhere, and you are mistaken for our boy’s grandfather, don’t worry, I will correct them.” As she walked away, I swear I could see her smile through the back of her head.
So you get the picture. I had to endure these two weeks every single year, as she loved this annual season of teasing me.
Brenda seemed to gather energy and slow down time all at the same time during these weeks. She would be in a state of absolute joy. She even spent extra time on her makeup and how she dressed. She just loved playing the “much younger woman.”
Turning Sixty Five
This year, oh she had plans for this year. Suddenly in my waking on August fifth, I would be sixty-five, and for two weeks she would be married to a senior citizen. She desperately, passionately, unswervingly wanted to reach this milestone for me and had been contriving some great plans for years.
..But she never got to carry them out.
Her best friend Alison and I walked to the cemetery today to celebrate her birthday in heaven. When we arrived, I was filled with these memories of her and so grateful for the years we shared.
Time and good memories do help the grief journey but I have the grace to realize we all have our own pace. Allow yourself the time needed.
Our family loved our sailboat and for sixteen years we would be out on the ocean as often as we could. Today, I kept noticing my head raised up to look at the weather. What do I look for first? The wind. It is the wind that gets the attention of sailors, and this was one of those days.
In a sailboat, you cannot get back to port quickly should something go awry. This fact breeds self-reliance among those of us who love the sea. You learn to look at all the elements, to study the weather, to do a walk around your boat before casting off, and to understand where you are going and all about navigation.
Laughing now at the thought of how many times I would drive my car 100 kilometres per hour to get to our sailboat at Point Roberts WA so that I could get on board and proceed at seven knots towards some unknown destination. All the while, adjusting the sails, tweaking the sheets and scanning the water trying to get one more tenth of a knot out of her.
Sailing, for me, has been the one thing I do that puts everything in proper perspective. I see it as the ultimate expression of freedom – perhaps exactly because I have chosen to place myself in a position where there is no forgiveness for mistakes. This causes you to become very aware of what’s going on.
This is Annalong. She was named after a small fishing village in County Down, Northern Ireland where the Pue family are from. In fact the Presbyterian church at the top of the road has the Pue family gravesite with many of my ancestors named. It is also a meaningful name to us as my mothers name was Anna and we purchased the boat shortly after her death.
We don’t own her any longer. She is off on adventures with another family, but I sure miss her. Along with sailing her, I miss writing in the salon, making coffee at sunrise and sipping it outside in the cockpit during my quiet time. As the sun rose I would continue to sit there, my mind coming slowly to rest like I was in a sacred sanctuary.
Annalong was to me as I imagine going to a cabin is or others. But let me tell you, when you put up the sails and the hull moves through the water with waves lapping her side – there is nothing like it.
Being on a boat that is moving through the water it’s so clear… Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important, and what’s not.
How is the COVID pandemic like being out on the ocean?
How has it made you more aware of what is going on, and what’s important?
During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been mentoring Christian leaders around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations.
These are their stories.
Ministry organizations I am mentoring and coaching are now working with fewer people on staff. Staff members are absent due to sickness – either themselves or loved ones for whom they are caring. Others have left because they are caring for children home from school or due to furloughs or layoffs caused by the impact of closures and reduced revenue.
My friend Bob Kuhn, in conversation the other day, said the challenge ahead is discerning how to maintain the mission while modifying the methods. Not only a catchy phrase, but Bob also speaks wisely about the role of leaders in organizations and businesses today. In the book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner considers “fewer things done better” as the most powerful tool for effective leadership. Essentialism, written in 2014, is perhaps the exact theme needed in 2020.
When asked by leaders how they are supposed to cope with all the reductions they are experiencing, I propose some questions to help think through what is essential, and how to maintain the mission with fewer paid staff and reduced financial resources.
Questions Leaders Can Ask
What are the essential services we offer? Can we limit any other services or activities and put more resources into our essentials?
With fewer staff, you cannot expect to do all you have done before COVID-19. Can we reduce the number of service hours we are open?
Do you have any area of your organization where only one person knows how to do a critical part of your work or ministry? If a crucial member of the team became ill or indisposed, is anyone cross-trained to keep the organization going?
Do you have any former staff or volunteers whom you might call on to ask for help during the pandemic?
Is there some new service, resource or product that you might be able to retool with fewer workers and generate new revenue?
What about you? If you were to become ill, have you identified who could make critical decisions in your absence?
I have been very encouraged by leaders who are not trying to be heroes, and who are inviting team members into leadership roles during this time. I think in years to come we will look back and realize how this Covid-19 season re-calibrated teams and revealed previously unrecognized strengths within them.
Last summer I was staying at a beautiful wee home in Northern Ireland. One of the features that I enjoyed was the garden off the kitchen. Beyond that, through the garage and across the lane, was a secret garden. This hideaway had a weaving mowed pathway back towards a grove of trees with benches situated to catch the sun at various points of the day.
The secret garden also concealed a small green house for starting plants and in it two chairs which proved delightful for relaxing and reading as it rained every day while I was there.
On one of my visits to the greenhouse, a bee followed me in through the door. After a short buzz around small glasshouse, it seemed confused about how to get out. I kept the door open and wanted to help the bee but instead of retracing its path, the bee insisted on pounding itself on the ceiling. Over and over again the bee would bounce off the clear glass. I imagined it wondering what on earth was happening when it could see through to the plants and trees beyond – a much more friendly place.
Finally, the bee slid over to the open vent and I was excited to anticipate its escape through the gap. However, the bee didn’t escape and went back to practising the same behaviour as the previous four minutes. Over and over again the bee banging itself against the clear glass as seemingly ignoring the large gap that would provide freedom.
After numerous attempts, the bee collapsed on the frame of the window and stayed still acting like an exhausted runner catching its breath. I was worried about the poor things life but after a few minutes, there was movement again. No flying this time, the bee was just crawling along the frame. Finally, the frame led it to the opening and spreading his wings he flew off into the world of trees, flowers and freedom.
Getting grounded was the path to the answer.
This image has stayed with me for months. I believe that the first thing a leader must do to make decisions is to get grounded. That is true at least for making the ‘right’ decisions. So in a time like the pandemic, many leaders feel like their feet have been knocked out from under them. They are no longer grounded and a form of panic can set in making you bump your head against the glass that prevents you from finding the answer.
The majority of leaders I have spoken to since the pandemic started have experienced this. The global crisis has hit us in waves, and each time a new wave comes, leaders have to pivot and change. This impacts us personally and organizationally. If we respond by symbolically hitting ourselves against the ceiling we will upset our team as they are looking to you for leadership in these times. Personally, it can induce fear and uncertainty that shakes you to your core. As a result, many feel like quitting or saying to me that they sense “God is moving them on”.
The leaders I am mentoring are by all measure successful. They are used to living with complex decision making and seemingly unending demands. As the frequency of decisions has intensified, throughout the pandemic many have not been prepared to deal with this.
Even though we have been in isolation, time seems to be absorbed with all there is to do, because the world keeps changing daily applying even greater demands on you. People speak about the world having stopped, but not so for leaders. We struggle to stay grounded in all aspects of life – our job, family and friends, our broader community and our faith life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs as Andy Stanley describes in his book called “Choosing to Cheat”. You may see Andy speak about this here.
Staying grounded is important
Mature and seasoned leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. It is what keeps them from riding the roller coaster of emotions between “I am so great and have got this!” to “I am such a loser, and I think God is calling me on or right out of this ministry thing. What do they say they do to stay grounded? Here are some typical responses:
Spend time with family
Draw close to your best friends
Get some exercise
Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, solitude, worship
Have an attitude of gratitude and thank God daily for your blessings
Go to your spot, where you feel God’s calming presence
It is in practicing these that leaders can return to a stated of being grounded, and being grounded is essential to you being productive, authentic and integrated. This grounding is vital to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.
So let me ask you this. Are you letting frenetic activity dominate your days and weeks? It happens easily, but let me encourage you to stay grounded. Do what works for you. Rest on that window frame and walk along with it slowly. Doing so will eventually reveal the opening that you need, just like that bee in the greenhouse.
Continuing my series on leading during COVID, I want to share an observation about leaders and their teams. When I ask about organizations and employees, I often hear leaders saying, “They are all keeping busy.” Then I pursue this, “What they are doing?” Their answers are often, “I don’t know,” or “They are doing what they have always done.” Allow me to speak to both.
What are your team working on?
If you, as the leader, do not know what your team is doing, then I would want to talk about what is going on – with you. Several things may emerge. • Consider your state. Things are not as they were, and you are in an altered state as a leader. Considering your concerns, how are you doing personally? • It may reveal that you have not been overseeing your team well before this time of crisis.
The people you manage are a direct reflection on you. Every member of your team is inwardly looking at their role in the organization and wondering if they might survive any layoffs necessary. So, of course, they want to be needed. You have probably noticed most of your team with their heads down and busy. The question that needs asking is if they are working on the right things. Without intentional supervision at this time, many just keep doing what has always been or gravitate to those things they really like doing and are good at. The problem is that things are not as they once were, and what we did before makes no sense in the immediate situation.
So what can we do?
This pandemic is going to change how you and your organization function both now and into the future. It is the time to double down on team meetings. Communication is so important to keep your people involved. There are few businesses or organizations that will escape not losing team members.
So, here are somethings we as leaders can do: • Don’t hide from your people. Show them you are still the leader and that you are working hard to figure out the next steps. • Help your team understand what leadership is working through now and keep them updated. • Treat your people with respect. No one has done anything wrong here. The reality is our economy is experiencing devastation caused by the pandemic. • Remember that it is not just about making the right decision, but it is how you communicate it. • Show empathy. Your decisions affect the lives of individuals and families. As a Christian, I pray for team members privately. Sometimes, with permission, I even pray with them.
These are such challenging days for leaders. Suddenly we are not leading. In fact we are being led by circumstances and they seem to change every three hours. We get exhausted because even simple things seem so difficult. Please take care of yourself. Reach out for help if you need it. These are not times to be all tough and proud. Put some boundaries around your days and find a few life-giving things you can still participate in and enjoy. We need you as the leader for such a time as this.