Search This Blog

Monday, August 25, 2014

Micro Becomes Macro

As a followup to my previous blog on the Global Leadership Summit, I want to key in on a difficult area for some leaders. Micromanagement. It’s one of those crippling organizational weaknesses that causes people to leave jobs. As was noted at the Summit, people don’t leave good companies. They leave bad managers. (Or bad leaders!)

This is exactly the way Jessica Marie said it in her recent Linked In article, “Micromanagers: Flushing Companies down the Toilet, One Detail at a Time.” (

Jessica describes herself as a storyteller, marketer, and business designer. She certainly seems to be a clear thinker on this topic.

Here is her descriptive overview of the problem: “Micromanaging is a method of management in which an individual closely observes or controls the work of an employee. In comparison to simply giving general direction, the micromanager monitors and evaluates every stage in a process, from beginning to end. This behavior negatively affects efficiency, creativity, trust, communication, problem-solving, and the company’s ability to reach its goals.” One might sarcastically add, “Apart from this, it’s not a problem.” But, of course, it IS!

I was assigned a leadership role in a company several years ago reporting to only the head of the company. He was very gifted. Highly creative, seasoned well by some earlier difficulties in business, and insightful in many areas. Except one. He loved stepping into a role where it appeared that if he did not constantly look after the details, things would go bust.

Employees felt this, of course. Most of these competent people were not trusted to do their work well. They were not given their clear assignment and then left alone to succeed at it. Read Jessica’s article. Micromanagers cannot expect trust to be developed with an employee because they don’t show it! People prefer to be left alone to do the work after they understand what the job requires.

There is an ugly twin to this issue. It’s doing the other person’s job FOR them. I’ve seen this as well. It occurs when a job title is given, but the employee never gets the real authority to do the job. The boss basically does the job, except for the details, which require less aptitude or decision making ability. This most frustrates employees who are quite capable and feel like they are living in a charade.

Let’s turn to a Master Manager and world renowned leader for how to do this right. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. After assembling his team and giving them several coaching sessions, they were given field representative roles to take His message and His methods to the people. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, we read His empowering words to launch them into action:

“Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: ‘Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.’” (The Message)

Read the entire chapter. It’s a gem. Jesus gives them clear instruction. Authorizes power to act. And leaves them alone to go and do the job. Away goes micromanagement. It’s been the way of The Way ever since…if done right.

If God can entrust the world’s most important message to misfits, well, figure it out. The right people…empowered to do the right thing…led by you. What a concept! (P.S. Don’t try this with cats.)

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Listen each weekday, from 4-6 pm Central Time, to Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand. AM1160 in Chicagoland, AM1160 app, or online/podcast at 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Global on Leadership

One of the blessings of living in a city the size of Chicago is the range of opportunity to see excellence at work. Our museums, professional sports franchises, and theatre productions are top notch. Maybe the Cubs could use a little help.

This past week, I attended several sessions at the Global Leadership Summit brilliantly crafted by, of all places, a church! Well, not just any church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington northwest of downtown Chicago. The incredible facility they operate for ministry of many kinds is a spectacle unto itself. You can best get a glimpse of the Willow world at their website,

Leadership topics, of course, are the Summit’s theme. The cast of presenters is made up of premiere leaders in both business and the nonprofit world. This year, that group included the likes of Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Patrick Lencioni (founder of The Table Group), Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), among many others.

In the nonprofit world, leadership development should be as prized as it is in the for-profit sector. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek and the creative developer of the Global Leadership Summit, understands this very well. His opening presentation revealed his passion and pursuit of this topic. Another Chicago pastor, Wilfredo De Jesus, was given a standing ovation for his passionate commitment to lead an energized charge into the dark side of prostitution, gangs, homelessness, and poverty that plague our city and most other mega-communities.

An important lesson from all helps paint a clear picture that management — even good management — is not the same as leadership. I know this to be true. I probably have about 200 books on some aspect of leadership. The message that seems most effective in any presentation format is to hear 
revelations from leaders who discover their own weaknesses and challenge themselves to find ways to strengthen the weak spots. One presenter, Erica Ariel Fox, positioned four dimensions of human 
development and gave examples of how to overcome weaknesses in each.

One of the sessions I most enjoyed focused on “Crucial Conversations.” Of course, there is a book on this very subject by the presenter, Joseph Grenny. This man is a cofounder of the company VitalSmarts that works with hundreds of companies in developing leaders. And smart he is.

Crucial conversations are those conversations that occur when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions vary. Grenny explained that when those conversations are needed, people will either talk them out or act them out. Both approaches have consequences. Talking them out is always best, though often very difficult. (Audio of this and all the sessions are available from Willow Creek’s website.)

If there was one person in human history who faced the most crucial conversations that I’ve read about, it is Jesus of Nazareth. People loved challenging his wisdom on matters, mostly with the intent of trapping him. Jesus never shied away from any question. 

Take the one about whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asks for a coin. Then He asks whose image was on the coin. That would be Caesar’s. So, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 12) Brilliant. And with a crucial point. As Bill Hybels might say, “Figure it out.”
Jesus got plenty of attention at the Global Leadership Summit. He is not simply a leader. He is THE Leader. Interestingly, one of His most common messages was simple: Follow me.

Maybe one year, Willow Creek will hold the Global Followers Summit. Hmmm.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for 
WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making Work Fun

Over the years, I’ve taken several of those personality tests that are aimed at telling you what work style works best for you. Whether it’s Myers-Briggs, DISC, the Jung Personality Test or one of the other 2500 personality tests on the market, the effort is to help both you and your company develop the best way to function at high productivity. Of course, there is no pass or fail. Well, really there is.

Depending on the personality assessment, you may or may not be a good match for the job you thought you wanted. I’ve seen this applied when hiring sales people. Certain “types” are turned away because they don’t match the profile needed. That is probably a good move most of the time. But not always.

In her 2006 book, The Cult of Personality, author Annie Murphy Paul raised some questions. She claims many personality tests lead us to miseducate our children, mismanage our companies, and misunderstand ourselves. As with many things, she may be right. Keep in mind that at one point, 89 of the Fortune 100 companies used the Myers-Briggs test. Impressive.

One of these “tests” I found of particular value I discovered in a video from the wonderful series on manhood by Dr. Robert Lewis. The assessment was called Your Unique Design. ( It costs just $35 to complete.

From their Q&A on who I am, it was discovered that I have a foundation to my “personality condominium” that requires fun. That’s me. If the job can’t be fun, I move on. That’s why I love radio.

So this week, I found an excellent article on making work fun. It’s by Cliff Oxford, the founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. His blog article is titled, “Making Work Fun Is not about Table Tennis and Paintball.” Of course, I have nothing against either.

His piece challenges readers to take any job and find a way to make it fun. Why? Happier employees. Higher performance. Less turnover. Win-Win.

Oxford relates a classic story from his childhood about a neighbor. The man was a farmer and had a problem with rats. He tried offering financial rewards to find rat killers. No one showed up for the job.

Then he got creative. Mr. Harris, the farmer, applied three powerful things to attract a Rat Pack destruction team. All were designed to create a festival that was fun. First he built a huge bonfire to attract hunters. Hunters love big bonfires. (This alone probably scared the living daylights out of the rats.)

Next, he gave the hunters a unique tool…a spear dressed up in feathers for the kill. Oh how cool. Finally, a prize: A Zebco One fishing reel with a graphite rod. What self respecting rat hunter could pass THAT up? NONE! Farmer Harris had people lined up and down the country roads for the mission! I love a good success story.

King Solomon came up with this perspective: “There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in their work. I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24. (NET)

Want productivity up at your place of work? Make the job more fun. And a Zebco One fishing reel with a graphite rod for a prize wouldn’t hurt either. I’m confident you’ll wind up with a good supporting cast.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Good Job. Good Church.

Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has recently completed a rather unusual study. A random sample of full time employees was surveyed on their attendance at their place of worship and whether a faith integrated message on work was emphasized. Key to this question was how that faith integration made a difference.

Is there a noticeable impact of faith on work? As Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D who led the project, claims, “It turns out it does make some difference in their attitudes at work. That means it has a potential ‘payoff’ not only for employers, but for employees themselves.”

The study by Baylor involved three areas: job satisfaction, job commitment, and entrepreneurship. I found it quite interesting that it was determined to be an interesting contrast with entrepreneurs. These business builders in particular enjoy this faith/work integration. BUT…church impeded their work. Check it out in the link above.

As the article states, “Workplace attitudes such as job commitment also were evaluated by a variety of items that asked how much participants felt like ‘part of the family’ at their organization, how efficiently they get proposed actions through ‘bureaucratic red tape’ and whether they ‘went to bat’ for good ideas of coworkers.”

A few years ago, I began developing my own thoughts on the importance of connecting our faith with our work. It was wonderful to discover that this is being researched by many. A book from the 1980s that still gets good traction today is Your Work Matters To God, by Bill Hendricks and Doug Sherman.

I just spoke with Bill a while ago on my radio talk show in Chicago. He’s still at it…helping others determine their true giftedness and getting them to align that with their work. His organization is called The Giftedness Center. He has two levels of engagement: The Giftedness Portrait and The Giftedness Snapshot. For more information, see Bill’s website.

That being said, the best more recent book I’ve come across on this topic is from the gifted pastor Tim Keller from New York City. His excellent teaching found in the book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work would be required reading if I were to teach a course on this subject. Andy Crouch provides worthwhile reading in a Christianity Today interview with Keller that summarizes the book.

The Baylor study, however, was significant to me because it documents something we often miss. Where we choose to worship can make a big difference in our attitude toward work AND our performance. Once a person clearly understands how God blesses us with gifts and calls us to serve Him with those gifts, things change. We work differently than others. More passionately. Mondays can be a day of rejoicing! Ok…maybe that’s a LITTLE stretch.

Jesus gives us this most interesting model as recorded in Luke 22:27. He says, “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (NLT) I recommend we go and do likewise.

If this has helped you, just leave a nice tip.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.