Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 27, 2017 1:00 am

Know why something's working

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Perform an autopsy on your successes. You might learn to avoid failure.

If you don't know why something is working when it's working, it will be more difficult to fix it when it breaks.

Those insights – gleaned during 20 years in leadership – are part of what author and pastor Andy Stanley shared during this year's two-day Global Leadership Summit, hosted by Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago.

More than 4,200 attended the satellite Fort Wayne site at Memorial Coliseum to hear from speakers as varied as corporate executives to nonprofit leaders.

Stanley founded North Point Ministries more than 20 years ago. Today, it consists of six Atlanta-area churches and a network of 30 churches globally, serving nearly 70,000 people weekly.

“Uniquely Better” was the topic for Stanley's summit talk.

Being unique isn't easy, he said, because “somebody somewhere is messing with the prevailing model,” always hoping to pioneer new approaches.

The best hope is to create organizational cultures “designed to recognize rather than to resist uniquely better,” said Stanley, who was recently named one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Pastors in America” by Outreach Magazine.

Strategies to shift the culture include:

• Be a student, not a critic. Stanley said he learned to never criticize something he doesn't understand.

“We naturally resist things that we don't understand or that we can't control,” he said. “The moment you start criticizing you stop learning, and the moment you stop learning, you stop leading.”

• Keep your eyes and mind “wide open.” Embrace the thoughts of others. Outsiders aren't bound by assumptions; their “ignorance may be the ticket to the next best thing.”

Stanley also offered three key questions to assess culture:

• How do you respond to staff when they make suggestions based on what they've observed in other organizations?

• When is the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn't your idea?

• When is the last time you weren't sure about an initiative but gave the go ahead anyway?

When leaders say “wow” to ideas from staff, rather than “how,” they can help ensure the creative juices keep flowing. You lose nothing by saying “wow,” Stanley said, but you may lose the next generation idea by saying “how,” which suggests a skepticism and could deter staff from sharing other brainstorms.

Leaders should “recognize rather than resist,” Stanley said. “Nothing is gained by not knowing what your people are dreaming about.”

Productivity hit

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a respected outplacement and coaching firm, got plenty of attention the past week with a projection that workers viewing the Aug. 21 eclipse would cost employers $694 million in lost productivity.

The math to come up with that projection included:

• 87,307,940 estimated workers who would be on the job during the eclipse

• $7.95 would be the cost of 20 minutes of unproductive time per worker, if you base it on an average hourly wage of $23.86

• 123,761,000 full-time workers age 16 and older, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data.

Sure, some work time was lost when employees turned to TVs, the internet or their mobile devices to view the sensation, which was televised from multiple spots by major media. But probably no more time was lost than on many days when workers chit-chat, surf the web or spend time interacting with friends on social media.

Events such as the eclipse have a way of helping employees who share their thoughts and experiences bond. It might be hard to come up with a dollar value for that.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at