Sometimes it takes an outside professional (a.k.a., strategic management consultant) with the intelligence, experience and savvy to help you avoid the temptations that could disrupt your organization and even harm your workplace culture. Meet the best management consultant you may have never heard about and his “Three Leadership Traps” every leader must avoid.
The words “professional,” “integrity,” “trusted,” and “advisor” are all apt synonyms for John Pearson. He’s been a respected leader of three large ministry associations and a management consultant to 100-plus Christian organizations and churches. Today he leads his own board governance and management consulting firm, John Pearson Associates, Inc.
On our blog last week, John shared with us his 3 Secrets to Read More Leadership Books (And Apply Their Solutions) in Less Time. And this week, he’s back to answer my question, “What, in your mind, are the three chief obstacles that can trip up an organization and its culture?” His immediate answers opened my eyes.
1. Without identifying your assumptions at the start, you’ll have no plan.
“Without healthy communication” — one of BCWI’s eight-factor FLOURISH Model of healthy workplace cultures — “varied working assumptions around the table can be the black hole that swallows up understanding, patience and, ultimately, needed mutual trust.
“In his book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, Rumsfeld describes a military planning meeting. He writes, ‘The objective of the plan was straightforward enough: to defend South Korean sovereignty and defeat the North Korean threat. What I found troubling, however, was that there was no discussion of the key assumptions in which the plan was rooted.’
“Rumsfeld dismissed the meeting and they reconvened on the next Saturday. He adds, ‘That Saturday we met for hours and never discussed any of the plans, only the assumptions.’” (Read more about how effective boards address assumptions on John’s blog.)
2. Without a SMART Goal Test, you risk getting a failing grade on your assignment.
“I’m a big fan of the three-year rolling plan with three to five measurable, smart goals. Every goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related. This allows leadership to take an annual ‘SMART Goal Test,’ and see the true, measurable progress (or decline) of each goal. Smart evaluation is a must for every organization that wants its culture to move forward. Here’s the reason why:
3. If you don’t get it right with your board (and you name it), you’ll keep getting it wrong – in all kinds of different ways.
“Fortunately, God has created lots of excellent resources for every board and senior leader that wants God’s best for the organization. If you want the best for your board, I heartily recommend these resources:”
- Murdock Trust Board Leadership and Development Program
- Murdock Trust Board Program: Book 1 of 2 (2017)
- Murdock Trust Board Program: Book 2 of 2 (2017)
- ECFA Governance Toolbox Series
- BoardSource resources & solutions
- Christian Leadership Alliance board resources
If you don’t get it right, you’ll keep getting it wrong—in all kinds of different ways.
John’s success as a consultant has something to do with his immense creativity, which leads leaders and teams to accept the challenge before them and reap the rewards.
This personal story he told me says it all: One day, John took all 13 staff members out to lunch at a mall. After lunch, he personally handed each person an envelope. “Don’t open it just yet,” he said. “I want each of you to buy something for yourself in the mall in the next hour, and we’ll meet back at the fountain. Now open your envelope!”
“Each person found a $50 bill, and everyone tore out of that restaurant with their hair on fire.” While John was picking himself off the floor after the stampede, a fellow restaurant customer, who’d been watching the whole thing, approached him and said, “I have two questions. First, what’s the name of your company? And second, do you have any openings?”
Looking back, John confessed to me, “For months, our staff couldn’t stop talking about their shopping experience. The investment of all those $50 bills reaped so much more goodwill and trust among our team that the investment in our culture was truly priceless.” (Note: You can read more of this story on pages 148 to 150 in John’s book – see the link below.)
Proof that a trusted Christian leader, with a big heart and a little ingenuity, is no obstacle to building a healthy, ever-improving workplace culture.