May 20, 2013
Define Your Own Success by Jerry Murray
On the first day of practice, we set the following goals for our little league baseball season:
- Team and parents will work together to encourage one another – in essence to build a healthy community.
- Players will improve incrementally each time we are together.
- No one will get hit by a bat.
The coaches’ belief was that regardless of initial athleticism and skill set, the greatest likelihood of success for our players and team will come from feeling that we are rooting for each other, and from improving our skills bit by bit as the season progresses. All that, plus not getting knocked out by an errant practice swing.
Two thirds of the way through the season, I think it’s fair to say that we’re tracking towards a successful season according to each of our goals. The problem is….you may see where this is going….our record doesn’t yet reflect a successful season.
Love it or hate it, society measures baseball success in terms of wins and losses. By that measure, we have failed more than succeeded. It’s tempting for me to measure success by using someone else’s standards. Whenever I do though, it gets messy in a hurry. I go from coach and encourager to boss and discourager. I lose my patience and I forget my passion. I move from positive and motivated to: When is this season going to end? Thankfully, our coaches are good at reminding one another of our goals.
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing an inspired player truly turn his season around. The change in his demeanor and on-field results were hard to believe – all as a result of coaches living out our first goal. It was a clear reminder to stay focused on OUR goals. They are OUR goals for a reason. We believe that these goals best define success for OUR team.
So…I have to ask: How have you defined success for your life and the life of your organization? Be honest. What does success look like? What behaviors lead to that “success”? Be clear for your own good and the good of the people who count on you. Work hard not to fall into the temptation to take on someone else’s definition of success as your own. It will get messy for you and for others if you do.
I smile as I consider how our team is improving over the course of the season. As our players and baseball families live up to the goals that we’ve set, we celebrate them. When we do, the team is motivated to work even harder. After losing 4 out of 5 to start the season, we’ve won the last 3 games. I’d like to think that OUR team’s measures of success are starting to impact the scoreboard as well.
January 21, 2013
Recognize the Gifts of your Team Members by Jerry Murray
The other day, I attended a local baseball clinic with my 8 year old son Jared. Like me, Jared loves baseball. He could play every day of the week.
As a couple dozen kids lined up to start throwing, one particular kid named Jacob stood out to me. I was fascinated by how gifted he is at catching the ball. For young players, a game of catch often turns into a game of fetch. As kids develop arm strength, coaches regularly remind young players to slow it down and throw to their target to give the kid receiving the ball a chance. Jacob didn’t need any help to have a chance. He caught everything – regardless of where it was thrown or how hard. He had both great coordination and soft hands.
I played baseball from the time I was 5 until I was a senior in high school. I’ve coached the sport for the last few years. I’ve always enjoyed baseball. From that perspective, it was not surprising how much fun I had watching this young player catch the ball. As I think about it though, I realize that Jacob was most impressive to me because he had a gift that was different than mine. I do NOT have soft hands. I had a strong arm and was a decent fielder, but I never developed the type of hands that I saw in that young player. Even today, my wife Kim will joke about how my lack of fine motor skills often turns basic household repair projects into major expenses (when someone gets called in to fix my mistakes). There are other things I’m good at – just not those requiring fine, precise movement. It’s why I’d never be a great surgeon, carpenter or mechanic. Even if I can understand the process, my hands are not likely to get the job done efficiently.
Standing there at the baseball clinic, I smiled as I considered how God gives each of us unique gifts. It was a clear reminder. Good teams attract team members with different gifts. Great teams REQUIRE them. Unfortunately, I can think of occasions when I discounted someone else’s gifts because they were different than mine. I can also think of times when I allowed gift-envy to impact both my gratefulness for and use of my own talents. Both thought processes limit the opportunity for optimal team effectiveness.
Look around your organization and smile at the different gifts that you see. Notice the collection of talents; appreciate them; appreciate your own. As you do, acknowledge one another’s gifts and encourage one another to use them to the best of their ability to reach your organization’s highest potential!
September 20, 2012
Team Victories are More Fun by Jerry Murray
My friend Dave is probably the best project manager that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. He’s not just operationally strong, he’s also fearless and direct in his approach to communications. He’s willing to address almost anything and he receives direct feedback well if it’s for the benefit of the organization that he’s working with.
Several years ago, before we had the opportunity to work together, I met Dave for breakfast at Oregon Dairy Restaurant. When I walked into the restaurant, Dave was at the table drawing a picture of a boat on the flip side of his placemat. Of course I asked Dave, “What’s with the boat?” Dave’s explanation of the “celebration boat” struck me then and resounds with me even more strongly today. On the boat were several seats and in each seat was the name of someone. As he explained it, Dave was getting ready to embark on a business project and before he did, he wanted to create a picture of the team members that he would join with to celebrate that project’s success.
As I got to know him, I was impressed that an extremely high performer like Dave seemed to value team success even more than individual success. I remember thinking that Dave’s approach seemed thoughtful, but risky…. trusting that a team of individuals could combine their competencies and efforts for one goal that they would work toward together. To buy into Dave’s approach, I would have to disregard the theory that people in organizations are often most productive when they are individually motivated and rewarded. I’m very glad that I did.
Prioritizing and defining success in terms of team goals above individual goals yields MANY valuable byproducts. The list is extensive. A few of those benefits are:
- Team members expand their thinking to topics beyond their departments. Their expanded thinking grows the overall intellectual property and effectiveness of the team.
- Team members are more likely to create built-in accountability and rely less on accountability and disciplinary measures from their team leader.
- Team members become eager to discuss how to overcome obstacles and barriers toward their mutual goal, rather than avoiding those uncomfortable topics for fear of offending someone.
- Celebrating is more fun when an entire team is involved.
- Team member successes build unity in an organization, solidify core values and clarify definitions of organizational success.
On Sunday, my daughter Hannah and I watched the last few seconds tick off the clock at Lincoln Financial Field as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated our Baltimore Ravens. As we looked around the stadium at the capacity crowd celebrating wildly, I thought about how much fun it must have been to be an Eagles’ fan at that point. It was a picture of a shared celebration – the best way to celebrate a victory!
May 21, 2012
Leading Yourself First by Jerry Murray
Ever felt inspired by the ambition and intentionality of well-known leaders? When I read A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I was struck by the great lengths to which Abraham Lincoln and the members of his cabinet went to be of use to society. They studied, worked and served – all with seemingly endless energy. They bettered themselves for the purpose of creating a great future for others. It wasn’t just their energy and ambition that convicted me, it was that their effort was based on a vision that would mostly benefit those who would come after them. They acted as though their time and talents were first to be used for the benefit of the greater community, not for personal gain alone.
I thought about this recently on a family vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia. The destination was my wife’s idea. Kim comes from a family of educators and lives that gene out through her influence over the Murray vacation schedule. I like to moan and groan to her about having to learn something on vacation, but I almost always come home thinking it was great. This time was no different.
In addition to getting to be with my family for an extended period of time and eating ice cream almost every day, I learned some inspirational things. I learned about the sacrifice and physical trials that were required to sail across the Atlantic for a chance to build a new Virginia Colony. I learned about the cooperation of American and French forces to defeat the British in Yorktown, Virginia at the last major land battle of the American Revolution.
My lasting memory, though, will be from a speech given by Thomas Jefferson (or at least an actor portraying Thomas Jefferson) behind the governor’s palace on Tuesday morning. Jefferson’s view of humanity and the rights that should be afforded to humanity were stated thoughtfully and purposefully. His conviction made me believe without a doubt that the statesman’s actions would support those beliefs. History tells us that they did. As Jefferson’s speech transitioned from his beliefs to the work that needed to be done, he stated: “Leadership of others can only be entrusted to those who lead themselves well.” I’ve been thinking about that concept ever since.
Lincoln and his cabinet and Thomas Jefferson both inspired me for the same reason: They led themselves well by aligning their beliefs with their actions and by maximizing the use of their time and talents for noble reasons. Their ambition was for something great.
Self leadership blesses both leaders and those who depend on them. The integrity of aligning beliefs with actions offers efficiencies in decision-making; it builds trust in relationships and it empowers engaged team members.
Thanks again to Kim for a great vacation idea. The ice cream was good; the lessons learned were even better!
December 20, 2011
Timeless Truths by Jerry Murray
One of our stated beliefs at North Group is that “there are very few shortcuts to personal development and organizational growth.” Personal development doesn’t happen in a microwave oven. It’s slow roasted with great care and intentionality. The concept is simple, but not easy. It’s simple, because timeless life truths are known and admired: have an others-centered focus; live with integrity (100% of the time); be generous (relationally and materially); maintain self control; the list could continue. We know these things. However, they are not easy because we want results now. Without accountability and discipline, most of us are prone to wander from what we know to be true. Some of us may wonder whether the patient application of timeless truths is even worth it.
A few weeks ago, I visited Berkshire Hathaway’s website. You’ve probably heard of the company. Berkshire Hathaway is a publicly traded investment manager with a stellar reputation for investing intelligence and financial results. Warren Buffett, CEO, took over in 1964 when the stock price was less than $20 per share. Today, the price exceeds $75,000 per share. The number is staggering, as is the company’s growth rate of over 20% compounded annually for the past 45+ years. Equally staggering to me is the company’s website. Check it out some time. It’s nuts and bolts – no flash, no glitz, no glamour. It’s fascinating to consider the company’s preference for simplicity in light of its nearly unlimited access to resources. As I learn more about decision-making at Berkshire Hathaway, I’ve found that a long term perspective is at the root of their success and is lived out through disciplined application of timeless business truths. Invest for the long-term; hire very well; motivate leadership appropriately; make investments that you fully understand; avoid fads and get rich quick schemes. Basic, timeless business truths have led to the company’s unprecedented and unmatched success.
With just a few shopping days remaining, I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a breath and consider the timeless meaning of Christmas. The creator God gifted his son to us, to live among us so that we could “have life to the full.” Despite being God’s son, Jesus entered the world more humbly than most. During His life on earth, Jesus did not shortcut success, but sacrificed much, ultimately to deliver the greatest, most timeless impact of anyone who ever lived.
This Christmas, accept the gift that comes from acknowledging timeless truths. Be inspired to invest effort every day to live with a long term perspective to your benefit and to the benefit of your organization.
We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 6, 2011
Amazing Grace by Jerry Murray
It had been hours since we beached the raft that carried our family down eight miles of rapids on the Lehigh River. We were tired, cold and extremely HUNGRY. We eagerly awaited our favorite pizza and it was almost here. Each family member had already commented how long it was taking when our server showed up with a smile and hot pizza in hand. Finally!
It happened in slow motion. As the waitress departed, our seven year old son, distracted by the restaurant television, turned towards the table with great enthusiasm. As he did, his forearm nailed the sweet spot of a cup holding 28 ounces of cold, sticky, lemony lemonade with force comparable to that of a Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker into Ben Roethlisberger. As liquid flew airborne, the only question was… where would it land? Amazingly, no family members were hit. Like a heat seeking missile, Jared’s entire drink landed squarely on top of the dinner that we had anticipated moments before. You can imagine my shock, disappointment and annoyance. I was blind. What a great teaching opportunity. Thankfully, my nine year old daughter, Ella didn’t miss it. Ella’s justice orientation typically demands payment for all iniquities. She stared at Jared, then with great sensitivity, softened her expression and said – “that’s ok kid, we’ve all done something like that before.” Jared sensed her sincerity and responded (much to my shock), “when we get back to the car, I’m going to hug you.” Two surprising statements – a proud moment for my wife, Kim, and me.
Grace is amazing. It’s amazing to the person receiving it. It frees you to be yourself; to love someone back; it also creates a spirit of gratefulness. Grace is amazing to the one offering it. You see the life giving impact and know you are responsible; you experience the freedom from bitterness that could steal your own “life”. Grace is also amazing to those who witness it. It motivates us all to live better.
A few years ago I learned first-hand how freeing grace can be. I had been harboring bitterness over a work situation that wasn’t resolving itself. Something woke me up one night, so I started to reread portions of a popular book called The Shack by William P. Young. I was incredibly moved by a comment by “Papa” on page 225. “Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver…to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly.” Forgiveness is a gift to me? I was missing freedom from bitterness that was available to me all along? I’m afraid that we all do this sometimes.
In the many competitive environments that we each live, there are ample opportunities for hurt and bitterness to set in. Don’t believe the lie – that someone doesn’t deserve our grace. Forgiveness and grace are for your freedom. Offer them freely and see how everyone in your family, community, church or company benefits.
We welcome your comments at email@example.com.
May 20, 2011
Setting Expectations by Jerry Murray
My friend Brian Kurtz, owner at Elite Coach in Ephrata, PA recently expressed that “if you want to frustrate people, hold them accountable to unclear expectations.” I agree wholeheartedly with Brian on this one. Everyone pays the price for a leader’s failure to set clear expectations.
Expectations directly impact how we experience life. I can find myself either satisfied or dissatisfied by the very same results, depending on my expectations. Considering that both personal contentment and organizational health are at stake, let’s think through some surefire ways to avoid the pitfalls of unclear expectations.
- First things first - ask yourself what you truly expect regarding the results of a particular outcome or event. Consider… is my expectation realistic given the task and resources to accomplish it?
- Next, as often as possible, engage team members to help refine your expectations. The greater the level of team member involvement, the greater the level of commitment and understanding.
- When communicating expectations, be direct. Give your team a chance to meet expectations by delivering a straight forward message. Sugarcoating expectations may seem “nice” in the short term, but the lack of clarity that ensues will lead to frustration in the end.
- Over-communicate expectations. Set expectations, confirm understanding, repeat expectations. We all miss things, whether because of our attention span, learning style or timely distractions. When expectations matter, they are worth repeating.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be consistent to hold team members accountable to unmet expectations. Haphazard enforcement of unmet expectations will create doubt about whether you truly mean what you say, in essence putting your integrity as a leader in question.
In light of these thoughts regarding expectation setting, I feel like it would be appropriate to set a few expectations regarding North Points, North Group’s brand new blog.
- Frequency - As we get our feet wet using this communication medium, we will post blog entries on or around the 5th and 20th of each month.
- Authorship - Each of our consultants will author North Points entries. We believe that the variety of thoughts and experiences of our team, filtered through our shared core values will provide relevant insights while demonstrating our practice and theory – that shared leadership, rooted in shared values yields optimal results.
- Topics - We plan to cover a variety of topics including: family business, succession, leadership development, team building, personal development, business development, non-profit leadership, strategic planning, leadership transitions and balanced living.
- Your feedback - We would be grateful for your feedback regarding North Points and the specific topics discussed. If you would find it valuable to go deeper regarding issues impacting culture, organization and leadership, please contact us. Direct your feedback to any of us individually or to firstname.lastname@example.org.