ON vs. IN: A Distinction Between Leading and Managing

Shifting From What You're Supposed to Do, to What You Should Do

Management and leadership are uniquely different. In previous articles I’ve shared the traits that set management and leadership apart, how to manage the tension between the two, and how leaders can resist the lure toward management. Both leadership and management are essential in an organization. Without management, there will be vision without action. Without leadership there will be routine without risk. But with leadership and management, there will be inspiration plus execution.

Another critical distinction in the leadership/management tension is the all too familiar ON vs. IN. Leaders have a responsibility to work ON the organization. They work at the 30,000 foot level, leading with a unique perspective on the organization, and charting a course toward a brighter future. Leaders work ON the organization, endeavoring to help it grow, expand, and multiply.

Managers, on the other hand, work IN the organization. They spend their time ensuring systems and processes are functioning efficiently. They keep the team focused on the day-to-day task at hand. They don’t look up to see where we’re going; instead, they make sure we’re doing what needs to be done to get where the leader said we’re going.

When leaders get bogged down with the IN, they abdicate their responsibility to work ON. Both are important, but ON is the priority for leaders.

If you were once a manager (and now you’re a leader), you’ll especially find yourself tempted to drift back into management mode. The goal of management is to do what we’re supposed to do; the goal of leadership is to do what we should do. One focuses on the past while the other focuses on the future. You can work IN for a season, but in the long-run you’ll drift into predictable mediocrity. You’ll get stuck. Progress will cease.

Leaders lead with a vision for the future, not a system for sameness. Leaders determine what’s next, what’s new, and what’s not. That doesn’t mean that people don’t need systems. Systems actually help you better manage the chaos that organizations experience when they’re growing. But if systems dictate the future, innovation will quickly go by the wayside. Leaders innovate. They work ON not IN.

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How the Ritz-Carlton Delivers Exceptional Customer Service

Seven Lessons that Make a Difference

Exceptional customer service is a game-changer when building loyalty among clients. I’ve shared the story of our greatest customer experience ever at Disney, and I’ve written about how Disney uses systems to deliver stellar customer service. I recently discovered the same is true of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, widely recognized for providing truly extraordinary customer service to people worldwide.

I recently read The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Lessons for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company by Joseph Michelli. I also sat down with David Cayuela, the General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico, and interviewed him about leadership, organizational development, and customer service. From these interactions, as well as our own experiences, I’d like to share seven insights I gleaned about how the Ritz-Carlton deliverers truly exceptional service.

How The-2

1. Organizational Culture

Each staff member at The Ritz-Carlton carries a “Credo Card” that describes the core element’s of the hotel’s organizational culture. I asked a concierge if I could see her Credo Card and she happily said, “I’ll be glad to get you a copy to keep.” She handed me a small, multi-folded Credo Card the size of a business card. The card included six aspects of the organization’s culture:

  • Credo – A creed that describes the Ritz-Carlton’s mission, service, facilities, and experience.
  • Twelve Service Values – Twelve one-sentence values that employees personally own and model. These values begin with the heading, “I am proud to be Ritz-Carlton.”
  • Mystique – A combination of emotion and tradition to create memorable and unique experiences for guests.
  • Three Steps of Service – A concise list of three practical ways to offer exceptional service.
  • Motto – “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
  • Employee Promise – A description of the Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to its employees and work environment.

Having clarity about these principles, promises, and values sets the tone for the organization’s culture. Nobody has to guess what target the Ritz-Carlton is trying to hit. It’s clear.

Lesson: Healthy organizational cultures are created with intentional clarity about what matters most.

2. Employee Selection

I asked David Cayuela what he considered to be the most essential keys to creating an effective organizational culture. Without hesitation he said, “The selection process.” The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t select employees haphazardly, hoping to fill a vacancy quickly so they can get on with business. They take hiring (known as the selection process) very seriously. It’s not uncommon for the selection process to involve six or seven steps (and even more for management positions and higher). Mr. Cayuela said, “We don’t hire for technical talent but for natural talent.” It’s easier to train technical talent, but natural talent makes the difference. He pointed to being a “team player” as one example of natural talent. A person’s ability to work with a team and reflect the organization’s values has far greater value than any technical skill.

It’s easier to train technical talent, but natural talent makes the difference. Click To Tweet

The Ritz-Carlton also values diversity in the selection process. On one occasion I asked an employee how she enjoyed working for Ritz-Carlton. She said, “I really like it. I’ve worked here for ten years. Other hotels only like to hire younger employees, but the Ritz hires people of every age.”

To help them with the selection process, Ritz-Carlton uses assessment tools from Talent Plus and Gallup. While multiple interviews and assessments require greater patience, this thorough process has proven effective. Joseph Michelli shared the perspective of Susan Strayer, a member of the Ritz-Carlton team: “By choosing the right people in the first place, our turnover is in the 20 percent range in an industry that averages about 60 percent. That payoff alone, not to mention staff morale benefits, is enough to justify our patience” (p. 78). Having an effective hiring process is essential.

Lesson: Create a multi-stage hiring process that is thorough, values based, and leverages helpful assessment tools.

The Four Keys to Increasing Volunteer Engagement

How to Live in the Serving Sweet Spot

Every year millions of people volunteer with churches and not-for-profit organizations, hoping to make a meaningful difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people (24.9% of the U.S. population) volunteered through or for an organization at least once in a 12-month period. The most likely people to volunteer were 35-44 year-olds (28.9%), then 45-54 year-olds (28%), followed by teenagers 16-19 years-old (26.4%). The least likely to volunteer were 20-24 year-olds (18.4%).

Recently, a leader of a college campus ministry asked me what he should consider the most when recruiting volunteers: gifts, passions, or ministry needs. The short answer is, “Yes!” In fact, I would add a fourth. To increase volunteer engagement, I believe it’s helpful to consider the intersection between gifts, passions, time, and needs.

Serving Sweet Spot

Gifts are the combination of abilities, skills, and spiritual gifts that define how a volunteer can make their greatest contribution. Without the right gifts, the volunteer can’t help you, the organization, or the people served by the organization. And there are practical steps volunteers can take to confirm whether or not they have a gift. As leaders, when we ignore the gifting of a volunteer, we become self-serving rulers rather than people-empowering leaders. Gifting determines how the volunteer can help.

The Passion/Vision Loop

Three Keys to Keep Passion and Vision Alive Without Killing Your Organization

Passion and vision are important parts of leadership and organizational culture. You have to capture a vision, and make sure the vision has substance. You have to discover your passion, and ensure it matches your vision. The truth is, neither can exist without the other. In fact, each one stimulates the other in what I call the passion/vision loop. Here’s how it works.

First, passion births a perceived vision. Vision doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. It begins when a leader’s hearts comes alive with passion. That passion is usually ignited when the leader is stirred by a need or a problem. Eventually the leader is able to articulate his passion as a clear and compelling vision for the future…something that becomes an answer to the need or a solution to the problem.

Second, pursued vision produces more passion. As the leader casts the vision, and mobilizes people and resources to pursue it, the passion grows even stronger. What the leader had always hoped for is no longer confined to wishful thinking. It’s actually happening, and the energy associated with progress becomes contagious. As Bill Hybels says, “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.”

Passion-Vision Loop

As you experience the passion/vision loop, it’s good to keep three things mind to keep the loop alive without killing your organization.

1. Processes

In his book, Predictable Success, Les McKeown describes the stages organizations experience as they age. One stage is called “White Water.” Organizations experience White Water when their growth exceeds the capacity of the organization’s systems and processes. Things start to get choppy, break down, and fall through the cracks because old processes can’t support the new growth.

This condition can happen when the vision/passion loop picks up speed. The vision is executed to produce great results, and those great results create more passion to produce even better results. Instead of reaching 100 people, now you’re reaching 500. And if you can reach 500 people, surely you can reach 1,000 people. Instead of selling 1,000 widgets, now you’re selling 5,000 widgets. And if you can sell 5,000 widgets, surely you can sell 10,000 widgets. The problem is, your systems and processes can’t handle the growth. If the processes don’t match the growth, the growth will stop and the passion will fade.

My Top Posts From 2015

At the end of each year, I post a list of my top read posts from that year. Below are my top posts written in 2015. Enjoy!

1. The 10 Price Tags of Growth

2. Four Dimensions of Jesus’ Personal Growth

3. Seven Reasons Our Prayers are Unanswered

4. How to Silence the Voices of Insignificance, Inadequacy, and Insults

5. The Four Stages in the Cycle of Pride

6. The Six Metrics of Church Health

7. Heart Failure: 7 Lessons One Year Later

8. Seven Great Assessment Tools to Use with Your Team

9. Four Reasons Leaders Can’t Execute

10. Ten Ways to Lead Up

10 Ways to Lead Up

How to Influence Those Who Lead You

I recently had a conversation with a young leader who is fairly new to his organization. He is full of vision and ideas, but he also recognizes that he’s the new kid on the block, and his influence is limited. His question was simple: “How do I lead up?”

This is a common question, and frustration, among young leaders and new employees. While it takes time, I believe there are practical steps emerging leaders can take to speed up the process. Here are ten suggestions for leading up.

Lead up

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1. Responsibility: Do what you were hired to do

The first thing your leader wants to know is whether or not you’re getting the job done that he hired you to do. Nothing else matters if you’re not taking care of the basics. Some young leaders are anxious to take on additional assignments, but if you’re not responsible with your job description, why on earth would your leader expand it? This is the starting point to leading up. It’s at the heart of someone who can be trusted.

2. Excellence: Consistently over-deliver

Excellence is a commitment to do more than enough to get by. It’s delivering work that is downright impressive. Responsibility means you can be trusted. Excellence means you can be heard. If you want your leader to hear you, he has to see a level of excellence that gets his attention and makes an impression. Doing what you’re supposed to do doesn’t get noticed. It’s expected. You don’t get a trophy or a bonus for doing what you were supposed to do all along. But when you consistently over-deliver, your leader starts paying attention. This one act will set you apart from the pile, and will immediately give you greater influence to lead up.

Responsibility means you can be trusted. Excellence means you can be heard. Click To Tweet

3. Teachable: Be a curious listener and learner

Nobody likes a know-it-all. Nobody! If your leader feels like he can’t teach you anything because you already know it all, you’ll never lead up. That’s a turn off. No matter how smart you are, try not to make assumptions about what your leader does or doesn’t know. Remember, most of us don’t know what we don’t know. You have to deal with your unconscious incompetence. When you make yourself teachable, you endear yourself to your leader. Be humble, listen more than you talk, and exercise patience. Welcome honest feedback, and don’t get defensive when your leader gives it. In addition, increase your value to the organization by cultivating an aggressive learning posture.

The Six Metrics of Church Health

We hear quite a bit these days about the importance of metrics in the local church. Statements like, “What get’s measured, matters” and “What gets measured gets done” are pretty common. I agree with both of those statements. That’s the factual side of metrics. There’s also an emotional side. The emotional side is usually tied to whatever the factual side reveals. Growing metrics produce emotional elation. Declining metrics depress us.

The 5 Metrics of Church Health-2

Because metrics are emotional, it’s easy to ignore them, justify them, or flat out stop measuring anything. We often spiritualize our response by saying things like, “I’m more concerned with quality than quantity,” or “Spiritual growth is more important than numerical growth.”

I’m guessing that numbers matter to God. If they didn’t, why are there so many of them in the Bible (even an entire book called, “Numbers”)? It’s the transformation behind those numbers that matters most. The problem with metrics is when we lose perspective of the bigger story.

Metrics can precipitate pride or drive feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity. One day you’re up; the next you’re down. As emotional as metrics can be, I believe Bill Hybels’ axiom is true: “Facts are our friends.” Good or bad, facts help us understand reality and effectively lead through it.

Metrics! What do you measure? Is what you’re measuring the right thing? I’d like to offer six metrics that can help us get a better handle on church health. While these metrics may be incomplete, I believe they’re a good starting point.