Simple Solutions within the Complex

Last year I posted several Leadership Minutes about Proficiency and Competence in which I spoke of a leader’s need to work to the point where one knows their craft so well that their proficiency is based in the subconscious, that is, that they are unconsciously competent (a UC). You can review those videos online or at curtis.net [ Video 1 ] [ Video 2 ]

That being said, I recently heard a story that ties into this same idea of so deeply knowing what you do that the answers come quickly and easily, at time bewildering your direct reports. Simple answers come to the proficient leader that is always practicing, studying, and thinking about her craft.

The story was widely circulated in the early 2000s. It appeared online and in emails in many different versions. It goes something like this.

A philosophy professor gave an unusual test to his class. As they watched him, he lifted his chair onto his desk and wrote on the board: “Prove to me that this chair does not exist.” The class went to work, composing long complex explanations related to perception, existentialism, epistemology and the like. However, there was one student who took less than thirty seconds to answer and handed in his paper before many of the students even began to write. This obviously attracting surprised glances from his classmates as well as his professor. The following week the class received their grades for the test. The student who took less than thirty seconds to answer the test received the only “A” grade in the class. His answer was simply, “What chair?”

 
The story is one of a multitude of similar urban myths which poke fun of high-minded academia, in which an apparently very difficult or impossible question is destroyed by a terse comprehensive answer.

As a leader, proficiency in your craft comes only with long term, repeated exposure to the decisions, the systems and the circumstances with which you deal. The highly proficient leader can see the simple, encompassing answer within the complex. For the committed leader, proficiency — that is being an unconscious competent — is attainable if he or she is willing to put in the time.

I made a quick video related to this post. You can view it HERE. If you like it, please share it.

One Bad Decision

April was not a good month. A young leader that I thought had the charisma and talent to be one of our strongest church planters is gone. He left. Burned out, Quit, Stopped, Bailed, Fried, Skipped town, Crashed, Gone…

Those in his trust were left to speculate… What happened?

As an insider I will tell you exactly what happened. He’s gone because he didn’t listen to others and had a unique ability to make really bad independent decisions.

As a church planter, you need to carefully consider every decision that you make. The Word of God is clear, that “in a multitude of council there is wisdom.” If you fail to make good decisions it is nearly impossible to plant a God-pleasing church. The church belongs to Father, and the church planter is appointed to lead and guide His people in a way that is both God honoring and wise. Unfortunately bad decisions, made in isolation, can have ramifications that will last for generations.

I recently toured (for the third time) the Manzanar Detention and Internment Camp in the shadow of Mount Whitney, near Independence California. From 1942 to 1945 American citizens of Japanese decent were interred at Manzanar. Because the American government did not trust the Japanese they forced Japanese-Americans to leave their homes and businesses and detained them in California’s high desert. It is a decision that serves as a blight on the history of the United States of America. This great nation, based on freedom and liberty, made one really bad decision that altered the lives of innocent people, and is still seen as one of the great human liberty violations of our country’s history.

As you lead Gods people, remember that decisions have ramifications. and if those decisions are really bad, they can alter the lives of innocent people. Remember, you have an obligation to seek council and more importantly, the prompting of the Father in every decision that you make. Hold that path, and you may just create a future free from the regret of bad decisions and proud of what Father has done through you and your ministry.

If you are making your decisions in isolation, or void of council, stop. God’s people are too important for you to risk their spiritual health. Place wise individuals around you and allow the wisdom of the [godly] crowd to help shape and direct your future.

Church Planting Minute at Manzanar

Three Pillars of Trust

I write a regular article for STAR News, a publication for Law Enforcement Personnel. While directed at Law Enforcement I quickly realized how this applies to organizational leadership as well.

Any highly successful leader will tell you that the reason they were able to excel in their career and win the respect of their direct reports, is that they were able to foster an environment of trust. For some, this trust came easily, for others it was hard fought and won with time and a proven record. Regardless of which organization you represent, those that look to you as a leader must trust you. If they do not, you will fail as a leader, if they do there is no limit to the possibilities of success.

The problem? The realities of our culture and the many examples of broken trust place the leader in a position where distrust is the norm. For this reason, the leader must make building trust a priority. Trust must be built at all levels to succeed. Allow me to explain.

A man or woman of character builds trust at all levels; those below them, equal to them, and those above. This 360-degree approach comes naturally when one possesses integrity and has the character to respect and honor others.

That mandate to be a 360-degree leader is difficult in Law Enforcement. While it is easy to earn the trust of our superiors and colleagues, it is extremely difficult to earn the trust of the people we serve. While difficult, it is not impossible.

Each of us has a responsibility to earn the trust of others in three specific areas.

First, we must build Interpersonal Trust. Interpersonal trust is built when we keep our word and when our communication with others is civil, respectful and wise. Interpersonal trust is the foot in the door to the development of comprehensive trust. Without it, the other two trust areas are meaningless.

The second area of trust is one of Action or Application. Those we deal with must trust us to do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances. This is most important, especially in our field. We need the trust that we have each other’s back. We must know that one can be counted on when things get crazy. Trust of Action gives others the security that we care for their well-being and frees them to care for ours.

The third and final area of trust is Trust in Competency. This third area of trust brings with it a well-rounded relational trust to all parties. It is one thing to know you can trust an individual and their word. A new depth of trust is gained when you can rely on both their word and their deed. Comprehensive trust happens when you can trust their word, their deed, and their competency to accomplish what they set out to do. Competency instills trust. It is the capstone of the trio of trust.

While this triple trust relation is applicable to business, family and any aspect of life, it is clearly brought to reality with the following law enforcement example.

You have served for years with a fellow deputy that affirms that they will always be there for you. They have always kept their word, affirmed you on the job and encouraged you with their words. You have interpersonal trust! Eventually, you find yourself on the same shift and you roll to the same call. You enter a building with limited visibility, guns drawn, tactical light on, and he or she is right there at your side. You now have Trust of Action and the trust relationship deepens. Finally, the events of the night go south, you take fire. Your partner returns fire, as do you. His or her aim is impeccable and both of you get to go home tonight. You have Trust of Competency!

No matter how you apply trust, no matter the situation, all three areas are necessary to truly be a trustworthy partner. On the street, in the workplace, or most importantly in the home, you must work on trust.

I recently spoke with a newly married couple and grew in my respect for the husband. She had been married before and I admired them both as I heard the wife say: “He tells me he loves me all the time, and he shows me as well. He does the nicest things for me. He lets me see his love for me. Not only that, he has the ability to love. My first husband, though I think he tried, did not have the ability to love anyone but himself.

I saw it immediately: Interpersonal Trust, Trust of Action and Trust of Competency, a truly healthy relationship.

For the LORD God is my shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD, blessed is the man that trusts in you. (Psalms 84:11-12)