Team Hack #13: Three essentials for team leaders

J. Richard Chase was recently quoted in an article I read as saying: “Aristotle is credited with the concept that leadership requires character, competency and concern for others.” The short but important saying is helpful for all team leaders. In essence, there are three areas we must focus on mastering to successfully lead an effective team.

First, we must get good at being good (character). People are interested in following a person they believe in. They want someone who is living life by moral restraints that make them safe and reliable. They want to count on their leader. The bitterness of giving one’s self to a leader only to be betrayed by horrific character flaws was illustrated in a Presidency not so long ago. Some who ardently defended that President were the very people who were most hurt by his actions and subsequent cover-up.

Get good at doing good (competency). People want to follow a team leader that knows how to produce the desired result. Ineffective and inexperienced leaders frustrate the loyalty of followers. Nothing feels more fruitless than throwing yourself at a task for the team that you can predict will fail because it is stewarded by ineffective leaders. People will not stay engaged in fruitless efforts.

Get good at good giving (concern). People want to make a difference in the world. They hunger to leave a mark and help to fix a problem. When we give our team an opportunity to give to someone and transform the world of one less fortunate, we will immediately see the light in the eyes of each team member. They want to see someone have a better life because of their efforts.

Hack #12: Keep the Tools Working Well

I worked with a number of really good men in my career. One of the most helpful was a man I was with for only a few days during my summer job at Mobil Oil in the refinery in New Jersey. He was an older man, and I cannot even recall his name, but I remember an important lesson he taught me: Keep your tools orderly and clean and whole team will be able to use them effectively.

That sounds like a “no-brainer” but I am amazed at how few team builders understand this concept. In my work I use the computer a lot. Yet, my team members have had to access files for me at numerous times in recent months while I was “laid up” with a broken ankle. The only way I could tell them what to retrieve and have them ever hope to find it was have it in order. How do I keep my tool (computer) in order?

I don’t spend any money on Anti-virus software. I the FREE AVG software available on the web for my basic blocker. Then I downloaded the FREE excellent CCleaner software and FREE Spy Bot Search and Destroy software (available through CNET downloads) and periodically I run them. It keeps the computer in good order and Norton, McAfee and all the others don’t slow down my operations, nor collect a hefty fee in updates from me. These three free tools keep my tools in order. They make my computer stay in line.

In the office I have a filing system that is simple. Each company (I have created several) has its own drawers, and the order of every company is the same. Company official docs first, Tax files second, Banking third, A-Z income and expense files fourth. It almost doesn’t matter which system you use, as long as it is both predictable and explained to the team!

In the end, the clean and ordered tools, well maintained, make the team more effective without as much frustration!

Team Hacker #11: My Favorite 7 Free Software Picks every team needs!

My all time favorite free items include software I have mentioned before, and thousands of others have mentioned. Why list again? Because I keep getting asked for my short list pics:

1. Instead of Microsoft Office, there is a completely compatible FREE version at that works exactly the same way and has millions of users.

2. My cheapest domains for websites or blogs were be purchased for $6.95 per year through , a huge corporation with great service.

Google is the world’s largest FREE software developer.

You can get FREE programs as follows:

3. Blogger ( will give you a free weblog. I use typepad and pay, but I like the layout better.

4. Google groups: ( you can create public or PRIVATE discussion groups. Teams can share thoughts on an idea that is only accessible by password. You can read, create and discuss policies, etc. without needing to be in the same place at the same time.

5. Google Reader ( lets you put on one page all the blogs and news sites you want to read without surfing around for them each day. You can select news articles only on specific topics that you want to read and it will collect them from all over.

6. Picasa ( will organize all your pictures on the web. If you have a team book of photos, you can arrange to have as many people as you want upload their pictures of events for you to have to draw on when making publications and powerpoints, etc. Password it and you can keep an archive of the organization that is permanent.

7. Google Calendar: ( is one of the available options at Google Apps web. Every Team leader needs a calendar organizer, but this one allows you to blend any number of calendars for the whole staff or building use (vehicle use, etc). You can set up as many calendars, import the information from Outlook or start from scratch in minutes. Other Google apps are Google Docs (word processing online where a whole group can access each file and revise it, keeping every former revision), and dozens of other applications.

Team Hack #10: Four Danger Zones of Team Leaders

Every team has struggles synchronizing to each other and learning to be consistently effective in producing predictable and desired outcomes. It isn’t always smooth sailing, but we need not be hung up on the rocks of the shallows either. The first step to avoiding the danger zones is recognizing them. You cannot fight what you cannot see. Here are a few practical “danger zone” issues you want to pay attention to!

1. Assumptions: Be careful about assuming you know all the facts based on any report. Everyone sees from their perspective, and it may not be the right one. I am reminded of General George S. Patton’s book War as I Knew It . I read the book years ago. What stuck out in my mind was the statement, “Never ask a wounded soldier how the battle is going!” That’s a great reminder, because it helps us identify that the reporter cannot be separated from the report.

2. Boredom: Periodically get a new look at your team. Go to a baseball game together. Force them to play a board game together. DO something that will shake them from their normal roles and allow them to show a different side of themselves. What? Play a game? How will that help us with productivity? It will! Your team is made of people, and your success is derived from their productivity. Understanding them is paramount to success. Shaking up the office and helping them to see each other in a different role can be very helpful. In addition to taking a new look at them, have some sessions with the whole team to take a new look at the task that everyone is working. Ask serious questions about whether the process is going as well as it could. Let them be a part of the shaping of the work.

3. Fear: Pick members that have great potential and remind them often that you see it in them. They need to believe they CAN do great work. Years ago I read of a teacher who got assigned a class list of students with numbers beside their names. After the first grading period, the Principal came to the teacher and remarked: “You have done great things with these students!” The teacher replied with surprise in his voice, “Well, thank you, but after all you gave me such bright students! Look at the I.Q. list!” The Principal smiled and said, “That isn’t their IQ, it is their locker number!” Because the teacher believed they were capable, he taught as though they were capable. He expected more and got more.

4. Blindness: In a seminar recently, the presenter said something that I believe should be attributed to John Maxwell, the leadership guru. The presenter said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people past where they want to go to where they ought to go!” To get people motivated, we must know where we are trying to lead them. Hellen Keller was quoted as saying: “What is worse than being blind, you ask? The answer is simple: having sight but having no vision!”

Team Hack #9: Cardinal rules of motivation!

Despite the many books that tell us otherwise, many team leaders and managers simply don’t believe the one simple truth about motivating people. People work hardest when they believe in the task they are doing, and believe the person they are doing it for believes in them. In other words, there are two cardinal rules for motivating a team member.

1. They must see that what they are doing matters. Now admittedly, not everyone is handing the brain surgeon the critical tools to keep the patient alive, but in most organizations every task has a true and necessary purpose. If that is not the case, the place will be going bankrupt sometime soon. There are essentially two ways a manager or leader can show people the importance of their work. First, they can connect the worker to the process. That means they show how each copy of that report flows through the system to keep the whole process working. Second, they can show the worker how their part of the work directly affects the success of the overall project. A dirty floor seems unimportant until the worker understands how that dirt directly affected the quality of the final product.

2. People want to work for someone who notices the efforts they put in. When we “talk down” to people, we crush their creativity and drive to succeed in our team. The author Tony Campolo (a Christian sociologist) shared how he was once at a sophisticated academic gathering at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote: “I didn’t want to be there, and I felt uncomfortable with the kinds of conversations that were going on. A woman colleague who taught sociology struck up a conversation with my wife and me. At one point she turned to my wife and asked, in a condescending fashion, “And what is it that you do, my dear?” My wife, who is one of the most articulate people I know, shot back, “I am socializing two homosapiens in the the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be the instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation!” Then my wife asked politely and sweetly, “And what is it that you do?” The woman answered humbly, “I…I… teach sociology (Campolo, Let Me Tell…, 144-145).”

Talking down to people only makes them defensive. Christian author Gary Smalley asked five divorced women, individually, “If your husband began treating you in a consistently loving manner, would you take him back?” Each one replied, “Of course, I would!” Even after all the pain, they would still reconsider. If we understand the deep longing every member of the team has to be loved, accepted and praised, we will understand some keys to motivating them. It is not only because we will get better work from, it is because we will help them become better people.

Team Hack #8: Decrapify Your Team

OK, I know I will get some static on this one. Pastors aren’t supposed to use any language that cannot be found on an old rerun of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”. If you give me a chance, I will explain my choice of title. It started back in April, when I became aware of a piece of software called “PC Decrapifier” (a free download, suggested donation at ). The idea of the developer was to help the purchaser of a new computer to rid themselves of all the trial version software and nonsense that comes on the drive when the PC manufacturer ships it. Instead of simply using the Windows XP or Vista utility, this company came up with a way to allow you to eliminate all of the undesired software by choosing from a list and allowing the whole thing to clean up at one time (Windows makes you select each one individually).

In every growing team there is the addition of new people to the mix. If we try to take them out of the box and start them on their way with a series of tasks without some “untraining time”, we will no doubt find ourselves wishing we had explained more. I am not talking simply about going through the employee handbook with them, as effective as that may be. I am suggesting that we would be wise to plan time with the members of the team individually to explain the other facets of the overall shop, and how each part functions on the team to produce a singular positive result. In the process, we should be careful to ask probing questions like, “How did you accomplish this at ___?” (the place they worked before). We may get some great ideas from them, but in any case we get to hear both the good and the bad of their last employment experience. In other words, we help them purge and “decrapify” so that the bloated bad memories are made into just that — memories. When the team member is able to relieve the past (forgive the pun), they can hear the present. They have open space on the drive of their mind to learn new tasks and see how they fit the common goal of our team. Who knew? What works on drives works in team builders…decrapifying.

Team Hack #7: How to Make a Team Password System

It seems like my life has a thousand passwords. Between bank pins and software passwords, how in the world can I keep them straight? What is worse, is that I work with people that put passwords on various accounts and computer software. How can we get both security and sanity from this process? Two authors I have read this past week have written on this subject: (Gina Trapani of and Mark Frauenfelder at Gina’s suggestions on passwords, in particular, take the sting out of the process of security. She has the right idea for how a team can know what those beyond the team will not know.

Her idea was to take a random set of letters like “a-s-d-f” and add to them the extension of three letters that are the first letters of the service. For instance, if the service provider is “Earthlink” the password can be “asdfear”. If the service provider is Google, the password is “asdfgoo”. The team can all easily recall the access code, but it will be meaningless to anyone else. I have found a variation of this system can be good for your marriage as well. It helps to have good communication before you get to the bank and have to use a pin that hasn’t been used in a while. Since in many countries I travel to the pins need to be all numerical, I have a simple system that uses the same principle.

Team Hack #6: Free Software (2) Organizing Pictures

I have a gazillion digital pictures. Each trip i ask my students to send me their pictures, so I get a trip times thirteen or fourteen = photo memory overload. Whether it is for a team project (producing a newsletter, webpage) or just a photo album of a mission’s trip, etc. I have found that a great piece of software to have is photo software. This simple download can order all the pictures on my drives with the ability to add captions, notes and titles to each picture. The discipline of purging from “My Pictures” became much easier when I started using this one software package. Yes, it is FREE!

Team Hack #5: Free Software on the Web! (1)

There is an abundance of free software (shareware) out on the web. Some of it teams need to operate smoothly. In these hacks, I will try to survey some of it that I have found helpful. There are many blogs that do this well, but I know that there are Pastors and business owners in my circle of friends that may not read them. Nothing in these hacks will be included unless I have tried the software, and deemed it personally useful (a rating that virtually no one acknowledged!). Here it goes!

Last year a student came to Great Commission Bible Institute with no Microsoft Office suite. They went to the store and bought a student edition for about $150 before I realized what they did. Because of that, I will post this one first: The whole suite that works with Word, Excel and many other productivity pieces can be found absolutely free (from Sun Microsystems) at ! This is not a new announcement, and thousands use it everyday. It is easily downloaded from their site and works like anything I have ever purchased from Microsoft. You DON’T NEED to spend money updating to newer versions of MS products every time one office somewhere updates theirs. Your whole team can download this and keep it current at no charge.

We have already written in a previous hack about the use of online based document software available through Google docs. Another excellent piece of software (also free) is their Google Presentation software, that has worked for me seamlessly with my Microsoft Power Point files. There are options to work with a presentation that is located on the web, or that is kept on my own drive. If you are familiar with Power Point, this web based application will be very helpful, and did I mention, FREE. A simple but entertaining presentation of all of this software and the concept can be found at:

Another freebie for this hack is a personal favorite. Recently I have been a part of several conference calls and meetings where a group of individuals have needed to coordinate schedules and “poll” each other on a good time to get together or call. “Doodle” is a free website where I can create the poll, ask my questions, send the link to my list of those involved, and watch responses in near real time.

How can I use this? Let’s say five couples want to go out on Friday night. We need a time and a place, right? I can send them a simple link with time choices and restaurant choices and “poll” them. That’s a simple example, but think of how this can work on team based projects. What day of three is best for us to have the upcoming meeting? Is it better in the morning or afternoon? If you are spread out across the globe and you need a quick straw poll, this is your simplest answer. Go to and check this out! It is effective and fast. Yes, of course it is also FREE!

Team Hack#4: Working Together on Notes and Documents

Something remarkable is happening in the team working world. The software framework of our lives is shifting beneath our feet. Yes, Bill Gates is retiring from Microsoft operations, but something even more profound is shifting… More people are using “Team software” or collaboration software. What’s more, is most of this new software is FREE.

Instead of using Microsoft Word or Word Perfect x.0, try a collaboration of writing notes among team members using the Google Docs software, all free online. Set up an online free Google account for your office use and have all of your team members able to log on. When you create a document or update a document, every person who has web access can view the document in real time. In fact, every person on the team who has been given access to the document on the system can change it. If two work on it at the same time, Google will let you know when you go to save that there are two docs competing to become the revised version. You can rename one and compare them, making a choice.

The best part of working online with documents is that you can avoid emailing back and forth fifteen revisions, trying to keep which one is the most recent and best. In addition, no matter where in the world you are, you can access the team’s most recent collaborative document. Simple solutions have already been made for working offline on materials, so you needn’t stay online all the time to be working on them. You can set your laptop to automatically update files you have been working on at the time you next go online.

Someone is reading this and asking, “What about security?” Fair question. Yet, I don’t know many people that have that much secure information that they collaborate on and send via an email or web. Obviously there are ways to encrypt and do that, it just doesn’t happen in my world that much. Most of what we work on simply isn’t that sensitive. If yours is, I would suggest working another way.

All of my students are required to turn in all work digitally. In team projects, I want them to get used to the idea of using online software, because many of them will work on teams that are not geographically bound to the same area as them. Life is changing and even social networks are electronic for many around the world. What makes us think we need the team in the same office to work together.

In my travel office (one of the businesses that we set up years ago) I can get a photo from that day’s Jerusalem event, put into a document written in Florida with travel flight  of a recent teaching details from our booking agent’s office in Ohio and match it to a video clip from our producer in South Africa from a DVD we shot in Israel six months before, link them all and have them on the web by nightfall in Florida. The next morning (Jerusalem time) a brochure can be generated at the printer’s office in West Jerusalem and a pdf copy can be emailed to me for final approval before the press runs. We call that a Tuesday, it happens all time in businesses around the world. I choose color printing based on where I can get a good deal, in Asia or New Jersey. All of it will be shipped anyway.

Our place of business is increasingly becoming wherever I am sitting with a cell phone and laptop. As much business is being accomplished in my local Starbucks on a Wednesday morning, as in the local strip mall. Business is changing. Teams can keep up and work together with no monetary investment!