Performance Management or Performance Leadership?


Well put!

Originally posted on Attila Ovari:

Last month I attended a training session called “the psychology of performance” presented by Dr Samantha Johnson. The session was run by the Australian Institute of Management. It was a good session on performance in the workplace and ways to improve workplace performance. Dr Johnson challenged us to think of performance as an attribute of leadership, rather than of management.

What do you think of when you hear the words performance management?

My experience with the words of performance management is that they have been hijacked by what I would refer to “management of underperformance”. This is unfortunate, as I believe that there is so much to be gained from having processes and practices in place to grow or improve performance. I am going to assume that we all want to improve our performance and the performance of our teams. If this is the case then what can we do…

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Leadership: Sociopaths need not apply

This is the week of landmarks for me.

10 years at the same church, and 40 years on the same earth. The second one I cannot speak much to, as my birth was not my decision. I will continue to celebrate it like it is mine to own though. But the first was a move by decision, and continues to be so. 10 years is a good time to consider a few factors which have grown out of that decision, and so I will.

There have been a number of leadership developing moments over the years, but if I had shortlist them, they would look like this:

  1. Abide by the values you hold dear in your life. Make them known, if for no other reason than to remind yourself. If you do not have a list of personal values, then you might ask yourself why.
  2. Change, accept, or deal. Whatever ‘it’ is, you can apply it to any of these ways of figuring out a difficult or tough situation. Do not fester or become passive; change it if you can, accept it if you can, deal with it if you cannot.
  3. Light. Do not allow things to be hidden in secrecy if they are worth upholding. Shed light on things so they cannot grow up in darkness. It will always come back to haunt the whole community otherwise.
  4. Disagree, but do not be disagreeable. This is part of creating peace and harmony in as much as we are able, knowing that we are constantly called to create new things. Those items do not always play well together.
  5. Agendas. Everyone has one, including you, so be aware and be open about it if you expect others to do the same.
  6. Grow in character. Continue being shaped and formed into a complete person in Christ at all times.
  7. Haters be hatin’. Goes with the whole list really, but it is the acceptance that not everyone is going to be your best friend. Do not make decisions based on constant approval.

I guess 7 could have been separated, but they seemed to go so nicely together.

I remember moving into my new office 10 years ago, trying to get a grip on what my 3rd vocational ministry role would develop into. I did not think I would be in that same space 10 years later. But as the years went by I realized I was in for the long haul; as circumstances changed around me; people came and went; as some of the stereotypical ‘shoulds’ of a pastoral length of stay came and went; as my attitude towards leadership and ministry continued to be shaped. Thankfully, I could not have predicted anything that was down the road. Many good lessons, many great God moments for me, my family, and the community in which I serve. But as I look back I realize there is another that could be added to the list:

  • Mirroring appropriate emotional responses. Not felt, but faked. Usually to get the right response. Either you are out of touch with your emotions, or do not have a ‘read’ on others.
  • Manipulating emotions within situations. Once it can be copied, then it can be manipulated for our personal gain.
  • Power plays. Every conversation, discussion, casual interplay, becomes a play on power. Sociopathic behaviour relies on being able to understand power and how to gain the upper hand in each scenario. Without knowing this, they are uncomfortable.
  • Empathy lost. Cold and calculated is the worst case scenario, but at any rate you are unaware of how to empathize with others. Very little human element is realized in interactions with others.
  • Outcomes over relationships. Outcomes are manageable, people on a journey are not. So, if you can bring everyone into a formulaic approach to doing community, then you can manage how they are performing.

There are many who struggle with these things because it is part of their personal profile as an individual. And so you can imagine how it might be difficult for them in a vocation which requires empathy and emotional attachment. This list can however be compared to those who go through some form of burnout or acedia. It is the place where emotions have rubbed raw, people are only seen as issues, and conversations are only problems to be solved. Those who see church as an establishment to be run, celebrate the sociopath in leadership. This has always been at tension in my personal ministry; finding a way to interact in public ministry in a ‘real’ way, not allowing it to thrive on cold formatting over a personal walk with Christ in community.

Two quotes have stuck with me as I consider how to keep sociopathic tendencies out of my ministry:

The late Peter Gomes on asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?”: “…the question we should ask, ‘What would Jesus have me do?'”

Dr. Cornel West, “You can’t lead the people, unless you love the people. You can’t save the people, unless you serve the people.”

To sum it all up, just imagine you are the one washing the feet of your friends hidden away in a room right before you know you are going to die. Better yet, imagine the Saviour doing this for you, right before you enter your next meeting, have your next conversation, or you have to talk shop about the church community. And then hear the words of Mark 10:45 whispered in the background…“For the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.”

That changes the way you lead.

Does anyone do 9 – 5? #work #generations (Kern Carter, “Why 9-5 Won’t Work for Millennials”, 6/30/14)

Every generation since WWII has aspired to not work anymore. We want to retire when we are done high school.

I think that is actually a core value from the Boomers on. We all derive full identity and personal pleasure from our work, and yet hate to say it. Instead, we make commentary and strive to be identified by anything else. Your phone, your tablet, your cottage, your children, your clothes…anything else. But the reality is we are categorized by our work and continue to be owned by it. We can blame each other older and younger alike for how we perceive our attitude towards work, or the attitude of the other, but at the end of the day we all contribute to making it the centrepiece of the family dinner table.

Sorry, I still assumed you had a family dinner from time to time. My bad.

The blog rant linked above makes a solid point here. Millennials are the first generation to actually go into the workforce and live what they had been taught about it. Boomers wanted everything so they could live carefree, GenX wants to just chill and have equilibrium in the world through their chillage. Oh, and the Sleepers/Builders want their former empire to be sustained. But here is the problem:

The home empire is global, and no one can afford it.
You cannot work like a dog for all the great stuff and enjoy it in your retirement.
You will end up working for the Man, and may someday become him…if the Millennials don’t beat you to it.

Agile goals. Project mindedness. Loose allegiance. How will this profit me in the near future?

This has changed the way we are doing education, structuring the workplace, organizing our play time, and looking to the future. Now that Millennials have hit the 30’s we get to see some of the longer trajectory of the thinking we assumed and predicted would be present. Case in point, the attitude towards the workplace. It still engulfs every aspect of life, but it is by the choosing of the individual. Working at my pace, where I want, when I want, for the highest negotiated benefit possible. There is no sense that a company may have their best interest in mind in the next 10 years, never mind into retirement.

So where do we place the commentary at the end of the rant?

Funny, all the tired, old and a little burnt out statements rise to the occasion. Many of this rhetoric seems like it should be decorated on a wooden plaque between sets of antlers above a large fireplace in the den of a successful business tycoon. Claiming that this was the recipe he went by to become the man he is today, when really this was what he asked of the worker on his factory floor. “Give me your life of work and we will all benefit.” Some will just benefit a lot more than others. The commentators validate exactly what this Millennial is saying about the attitude towards work in the long run. We should all get the brass ring now because that is all there is in life.

But they also have a point.

A whole generation waited to have a parental figure tell them what they should do. And many are still waiting. Many with great careers in fruitful industries. Some of the entitlement comes from never really seeing the benefit or the wealth of fulfilling a daily mandate, and not allowing that mandate to rule all facets of your life. But also vocalizing the fact that this day to day is a blessing, not a curse. Work is a good thing with benefits far beyond monetary worth, even when we don’t see it immediately. In fact, we do not need to see immediately. To see a world that is not based on “What can I get out of this?” is a value that comes with working. Not slaving, and not hating the job. But working without the brass ring. That attitude is priceless, and it enters into all that we do.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters…” (Col. 3:23)

This can apply to all generational views. Really. And I have heard it defended so. Our social understanding of the times plays heavily into how we interpret what is the right course of action. If the tide puills one way, then we will lean that way. When it shifts the other way, well, there we go as well. Historically this is due to a corrective from one generation to the next, and it does not always work out well. With that in mind, has the so-called ‘9-5’ ever been the dream? Has it ever been the most effective or even the most God-honouring format for a fulfilling work experience?

Not really. Otherwise we would have a whole generation of retirees bucking the system and getting a job.

Helping other people enjoy God


This dialogue caught me as I started this chapter. The idea of growing tired from helping others enjoy God is usually phrased differently in my circles, but the meaning is still there. It hit me on a couple of levels.

Normally I would come across statements of ‘finding God’ or ‘honour God’ or even ‘serve God’, but never ‘enjoy God’. This thought of enjoying God being at the centre of my leadership is profound. All the other statements allude to my helping God in some way. Somehow I get the ball into people’s hands so God can finish the play. That is very tiring. I know many leaders in ministry who have suffered because of this practice. God does not need my help, He wants my heart. I must enjoy God to lead others in the same.

To help others do the same.

The focus is on other people seeing what enjoyment really is in another. I point to God by the way my heart is seeking and being filled by joy, but the life connection is enjoying this practice. This relationship. When I get selfish in a relationship, I am not seeking to enjoy it, but to feel self-satisfied in the moment. Rarely in that frame of mind is the other person put in a position to enjoy the relationship with me.

How do you enjoy God?

Find Your Motivation

What motivates you to do well?


I think there are a number of factors that drive each and every one of us to do well in our work. For many, our passions need to be fueled by someone or something. Those who are motivated from within have come to a great place in life: Not needing approval or constant nudges to move in the direction they need to go.
For some, we just need a little spark of inspiration to get our fire fueled again. The passion is there, but we may allow the fringe elements to outweigh the mission or purpose at the heart. This blog is a good example of this, as my blog subject file is full, but the actual blogs are not being written. Just too many obstacles in my mind.
This calendar page from my ‘poop calendar’ gave me inspiration. I hope it inspires you as well, if for no other reason than the fact that this is not part of your job.
Enjoy your work week!

Do something tedious

I am one of those foolish people who believes that hard work would still have existed without sin in the world.


There is something refreshing for the soul in tedious tasks such as weeding a walkway. We do so much in the way of working towards more leisure time that we do not realize how much wasted time we spend on leisure. Leisure in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it does not take a whole lot of thought to realize that working towards leisure becomes tiresome as a goal. And we soon get bored with the very leisurely activity that we chose to achieve. There is however something to be said about taking time to work on something that is not ‘work’. By this I mean working on something that is not your vocational focus and requires all of your weekly energy. Your work may be your passion and delight, but it may very well be the thing that is wearing you down.

Let me be clear here, I still dread on occasion the idea of going outside and working on something that isn’t on my schedule or does not seem like ‘fun’. And I can remember growing up how much I avoided the fact that I needed to go outside and weed the garden as I was told to do so by my parents. But I can also remember how when I actually took the task at hand and began to do the work, I realized that I was also more relaxed and I was able to collect my thoughts while working on this tedious task. Somehow, the tedious became leisure, and my soul would learn to become refreshed by doing so. Even though it was a chore it was as though God was teaching me a lesson on how to relax, collect my thoughts, and think through life . In turn, it made me a better worker for the things I saw as important. I learned that it both emptied and filled me simultaneously.

Today was a good reminder to take on the small tedious tasks that refresh the soul.

Parking Lot Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with your child in the parking lot of the hotel as we all prepared to check-out. It was kind of hard to miss as mom’s voice kind of bounced off every wall around us, and all the birds and small animals went silent. It must have been a tiring and long trip considering the level of patience you were exhibiting. So, I figured I would write you this letter for future consideration regarding your parenting, and what it could look like in future generations.

My wife and I discussed what your ‘private’ parenting must be like if this is what happens in public. Most people tend to be a little more guarded about their actions and social perception, but we could be wrong here. If it is true for you, I truly feel for your children. I don’t say that lightly. We all lose our patience, we blow up from time to time, say things we should not have, get depressed, dehydrated, stressed out, and even adults need to have a ‘time out’ occasionally. (OK, some need more than an occasional ‘time out’) There is a range of acceptability on this for all of us as we grow into adulthood. It is the journey from childhood, reliant heavily on the examples we are given. Partly this is adulthood, part of it is the call of parenthood, moving people from home to the workplace as functional individuals in society.

It is part of the reason God created us in community, especially in the smallest form we call family, because this is how we keep ourselves in check. Our children learn how to develop their own system of personal accountability and agency by this means. Otherwise we become a nation of tyrants trying to appease an angry insatiable beast of want from within. That is bad. If every parent chose to live as individuals we would encounter a generation of adults who either shut others out, or expect others to fulfil all their internal needs. At the very least, they will assuredly know they are a burden in the setting of which they had no choice being placed.

For example, dropping F-bombs as you lean into the van, and using terms like “You’re just like your father”, while he is loading the van, may not be the best route to developing Kingdom-class adults. I’m almost certain that last statement was not meant to be a compliment to the man to whom you are betrothed. Just a guess. Consider for a moment that you are the first image of nurture, and the man holding the bags is the first insight into honour, and then reconsider your words. The interpretation of a life of love & respect are in your hands, until they pull themselves from your grip, and you will only be able to observe what they saw and experienced in your care.

A good friend once shared with me his view of parenting in a small apartment above another small family dwelling. His concern was that they only judged his family by the sounds produced when things got tense, but they could not hear the sounds of forgiveness and peace. There is an immense amount of grace available to those who choose to accept and share it. God grants this for all, and He is able to redeem all situations and relationships. But that involves us allowing it into our situation. If mom & dad do not accept and share grace, then kids struggle with it well beyond their upbringing.

So mom & dad, I will pray for you. I would love to be able to walk up to every vehicle in a parking lot and offer up a corrective, but that is usually frowned upon. Especially in an already tense scenario. My hope is that you encounter grace, and learn how to live in it for the future generations you impact through the home you are creating.