“I think we are all kind of feeling down right now. It was good for my spirits to put it together.”
Dolly Parton, about Better Day, Parton’s new country-pop CD. (read full profile/interview, Talking with Dolly Parton is like chugging an all-natural energy drink, here).
“Advance or Decadence are the only choices offered to mankind.”
Alfred North Whitehead (quoted by Charles Mylander, Secrets for Growing Churches)
I think many of us are pretty down right now. The economy has rebounded – but it is mostly a jobless rebound, and it is a fragile rebound, and it may be a short-lived rebound.
Everybody I know is, in one way or another, somewhere on a spectrum between worried and scared – to panicky.
Our morale is low.
I thought back to a speaker I heard back in my ministry days. This would have been around 1977, or so – 34 years ago! I was learning about church growth, and the Institute for American Church Growth put on some seminars (I think I heard this at one of these seminars). I head Charles Mylander speak on “Building Your Church Morale.” I adapted his material, expanded on it, and went around the country for The Center for Church Growth, speaking on the same subject. I gave Mylander full credit, but our denomination was pretty in-house/exclusive/closed (one of the reasons I left), and so I was the “build your morale” speaker for “our group.”
In this current era of such low morale, I thought of that material from so long ago. My notes, my files, my handouts are long since lost. So I tracked down Charles Mylander (he goes by Chuck), had a great conversation, ordered his long out-of-print book, used, through Amazon, and just finished re-reading his chapter entitled “Build Your Church Morale.” Re-reading, after a 30+ years ago first-read. (By the way, I still own a copy, but it is buried in storage. Amazon is much easier).
His intended audience members for this presentation were especially the folks who were in established churches (you know, the old, churches – like downtown, instead of in the new booming suburbs). It is tough to maintain high morale when your church is losing members to the new, more “with-it” suburban churches. The chapter in his book sounds like it could have been written for today’s economic climate. We are something of a down bunch.
So, what do we do? Here’s some highlights from Mylander’s chapter (I have adapted the material to the work world instead of the church world):
With low morale, tedium replaces freshness, and employees pretty much just go through the motions. What remains is the appearance of vitality, of success. But little actual success is experienced in such a circumstance, and effectiveness almost disappears.
So, how do you build high morale? How do you turn around the morale in your company in such a time of low morale?
Here are Mylander’s two key findings:
1) Morale builds through a contagious sense of expectancy. When there is a contagious sense of expectancy, high expectations flow back and forth between the company’s leader(s), and the employees in the company. And the interactions between the leader(s) and the people are positive, helpful, supportive.
2) Morale builds through a series of good experiences. You find any victories, any small “wins,” and you celebrate them. Every little win is communicated, celebrated, broadcast far and wide, and then such good experiences spread and multiply, and they become even more expected — thus feeding the contagious sense of expectancy
Mylander, of course, weaves the role of God and God’s grace and leadership throughout his material. But, the principles are transferable to any struggling organization.
And then, one asks – does high morale produce more success in the company, or does success in the company produce high morale?…
So, here is your challenge. If you have low morale in your company or organization, then you need to work really hard to create a contagious sense of expectancy, and create some good experiences, and capitalize on each one of these good experiences, and then… create some more.
As Dolly Parton put it, we need something good for our spirits.
“Despots coerce; managers control; leaders influence.”
First and foremost, Bacon insists that leaders must be authentic. Otherwise, they will be unable to attract followers because they lack credibility…the foundation of trust and respect. I agree with him that authentic leaders “do not seek to compel; they seek to inspire. They do not impose their will on others; rather, they live according to core beliefs and principles that attract others; they initiate change because they envision a better way, and others follow that path because they believe it is a better way.” These comments describe the power of influence.
Bacon identifies and discusses an additional ten “laws” of influence (Pages 20-32). Here are the first three:
1. Attempts to influence may fail for many legitimate reasons because it is “nonsense” to think that it is possible to influence anyone to do anything;
2. Influence is contextual: it most accommodate latitude (e.g. options), interests (i.e. of those to be influenced), and disposition (i.e. how receptive those to be influenced are); and
3. Influence is often a process rather than an event just as earning and sustaining respect and trust also involve a process and must be earned. Moreover, influence, respect, and trust can be lost in an instant.
Readers will appreciate Bacon’s research-driven approach (64,000 subjects and more than 300,000 respondents), one that focuses primarily on providing information, insights, and advice that explain the “how” and “why” of influence. In most chapters, reader-friendly devices are provided, notably “Key Concepts,” “Insights on…,” “Challenges for Leaders,” and italicized insertions (as on pages 3, 25, 72, 139). These will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later of key concepts and techniques. Bacon also includes insightful discussions of bullies and bullying, intimidation, fraud (e.g. Bernard Madoff), threat defense, and manipulation as well as clusters of recommendations within these formats: “If you use W,” “When to use X,” “How to use Y efficiently,” and “Defending yourself against Z.” I also recommend checking out self-assessment on pages 177-185. In my opinion, Appendix A (all by itself) is worth far more than the cost of the book. In it, Bacon shares what he has learned about definitions of power sources, influence techniques, and influence skills.
The title of my review is taken from the book’s Preface. It reminds me of my favorite passage in Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
To repeat, Terry Bacon’s first objective is to help each reader to become and then remain worthy of others’ respect and trust. Only authentic people possess authentic power and only they can exert authentic influence. There really is both an art and a science to “getting others to follow” but everything begins with character.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Lauren Pollak and Katherine Wakid for the Harvard Business Review blog’s series, “The Conversation.” To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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Companies often launch separate teams focused on growth, especially when they don’t have exploratory capabilities woven into the fabric of their cultures. Protected from short term demands, these teams can focus on opportunities beyond the core. So when one of our clients created such a team, we weren’t surprised. But this launch was unique: it included a contest to name the group. But, why was the name of the team so important?
After examining other new business groups, we realized that the name of a group is quite revealing. It reflects the company’s frame on ambiguous growth problems. Inherent in the name is a point of view about the way the group will pursue new business efforts.
Three types of names predominate:
Skunkworks: names that imply something unappealing about a group [i.e. discourage distractions and interference]
Special Ops: names that suggest elite forces tackling a problem on the battlefield [i.e. competitive marketplace]
Artisans: names that highlight the artisanal nature of a group’s work [i.e. aesthetics as well as functionality of initiatives]
Skunkworks groups work in isolation
During World War II, Lockheed set up its original Skunk Works team, setting the model for teams that would later develop the U2 and the first stealth fighter. This structure, which segregates innovation teams from the core business, has proliferated in industries from online search to consumer packaged goods. The premise that underlies each is the same: innovation is about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party. While corporate leaders know they need growth, they also know that the exploration of new growth opportunities often acts as a distraction to the core business. Cordoning them off is the only way that disruptive projects can thrive.
Special Ops teams parachute in to solve high-stakes challenges
Nike’s former new business team described themselves as “an elite group of Navy Seals.” Like their U.S. military namesake, Nike’s team responded to specific issues: tackling new categories, entering new markets, fending off competitors, and capturing new consumers. Each project was a mission, with a problem to solve, a short time frame to solve it in, and a small but elite team of specialists to accomplish the objective. This “special operations” frame reflects the belief that growth is a battle that can be won or lost. While these groups may be limited in their impact to a finite set of projects, they are able to bring new tools, methods, and thinking to bear on some of the thorniest growth problems within an organization.
Teams of artisans refine the craft of new business creation
AT&T’s Foundry innovation centers are one part lab, one part test center, and one part collaboration facility. AT&T credits the Foundry with doubling the speed of its innovation efforts. Like the Foundry, groups that go by craft-based names stem from similar thinking about what it takes to create new businesses. These are teams of artisans who craft new ventures, concepts, and technologies. The groups’ names call to mind medieval workshops, and highlight both the art and science of their endeavors. This approach can help recruit the hybrid folks who are best suited to new business creation. At the same time, though, the message that they send to the organization about their work can signal too much preciousness about their efforts.
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Lauren Pollak is a relationship lead and head of the New York office for Jump Associates, a hybrid strategy firm that helps companies create new businesses and reinvent existing ones. Katherine Wakid is a senior associate and project lead for Jump.