5 Things I Learned from the Bomb Squad Conference

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Last week I had the incredible opportunity to speak into the lives of forty top Salvation Army leaders from their Eastern Territory. We talked about engaging culture in today’s digital age, developing great teams, and becoming more effective influencers. It was a terrific time. But during our sessions, we were next door to a law enforcement conference focused on men and women from bomb squads across the country. During the breaks, I had the chance to talk to a few, and learned some ideas that all of us could use in our own leadership:

The Secrets of Confronting Without Offending

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At some point, all leaders will be required to confront someone on their team. It may be about performance, personal behavior, mismanagement, or a host of other possibilities, but confrontation is critical – and inevitable – in all organizations. However, as Deborah Smith Pegues points out in her excellent book “Confronting Without Offending,” the key is to use confrontation to make better employees, not drive them away. Here’s a few of her tips for making that happen:

Surprise! Here’s Your Biggest Distraction At The Office

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There’s been plenty written about distractions these days – especially at the office. Everyday workers face a variety of obstacles to focused work that didn’t exist with past generations of employees. Social media, the Internet, mobile phones, text messages and more whittle away the kind of blocked out time that it takes to do great work. But as far back as 2011 a study in the journal “Organization Studies” revealed the single greatest interruption we face at work:

Why Brainstorming Rarely Works

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Brainstorming is popular – way popular – especially in corporations and nonprofit organizations. But the truth is, research has shown over and over that people produce better quality ideas when they start by working alone. And yet, companies, nonprofits, and churches have enshrined “brainstorming” as the #1 go-to method for coming up with new ideas. Why?

Why Creativity Isn’t Always Sweetness and Light

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One of my favorite lines in film is when Orson Welles improvised a scene while playing Harry Lime in “The Third Man” in 1949: “In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The Cuckoo clock.”  As creatives, we work hard trying to

Should You Consider a Lawsuit Over a Negative Social Media Post?

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I’ve spent time on this blog warning social media users about inappropriate posts.  But should a church, nonprofit, or company start a lawsuit over a critical social media post?  Outside the United States, it’s almost open season on employees who post negative content about their job on social media – largely because freedom of speech isn’t such a valued principle as it is in the United States.  In fact, defamation is becoming a huge issue on social media sites and legal action is dramatically increasing internationally. In Canada, 15 percent of all Web 2.0 rulings were on defamation cases. In France, it’s 49 percent.  However,

Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor. When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant.

Charles Murray

How “Clutter” Can Kill Your Creativity

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I’ve written many times on this blog about the danger of “clutter.”  Clutter comes in all forms – from the media voices screaming for our attention, to the messy desk in front of us (where was that file again?) to the million other options that keep us from pursuing our creative calling.  Now, The Wall Street Journal reminds us how William Zinsser, author of the writing classic “On Writing Well” (1976) and who died May 12 at age 92, felt about clutter in our writing.  It’s worth the read:

Why You Need an “Elevator Pitch” For Your Life

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If you work in the entertainment industry you know about “elevator pitches.” Essentially, the idea here in Hollywood is that if you meet a big producer or movie studio executive in an elevator, you should be able to deliver a summary of your movie idea in the time span of an elevator ride, or roughly 1-2 minutes. If that short pitch is done right, the producer or executive will want to know more – and theoretically invite you to a meeting. Now, here’s a better idea:

Leaders Should Never Control Employees By Keeping Secrets

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This post isn’t about leaders keeping secrets about sexual affairs, mismanaged money, or harassment. That’s bad enough.  But this is about leaders who use secrets to control people and expand their power. Early in my career I worked for a leader who used secrecy to consolidate his authority. By withholding information from certain staff members, it became necessary to run everything through him – which made it obvious he was the guy in charge.  But here’s why that’s a disaster waiting to happen: