How Do You Work in the 24/7 Culture?

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Photo Credit: Time, by JD, Flickr

The cover of a Harvard Business Review edition recently grabbed my attention — “Managing the 24/7 Workplace … ‘Always available’ cultures breed problems.”

Facing the “Always Available” Workplace

I’m not sure what your work environment looks like, but the reality of the 24/7 workplace is impacting an increasing number of sectors and an increasing number of employees. Reid and Ramarajan put it this way:

To satisfy those demands [of the high-intensity workplace], employees arrive early, stay late, pull all-nighters, work weekends, and remain tied to their electronic devices 24/7.

For a few, this is not necessarily problematic, even though it may not be healthy. These individuals may enjoy the fast-paced work environment that goes along with such a 24/7-type work culture. For others, the “always available” mode of work life grinds against the core of the work-life balance they desire.

While such work environments may be most closely associated with the always-on contexts of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the nature of contemporary work tools expands this reality to most organizations. Regardless of the field within which you work, paying attention to how you manage always-available communication like email and smartphones is an issue that nearly every adult must manage in our age.

3 Hours of Your Day

One source indicates that in 2015 the average person in the US spent around 174 minutes on their mobile device per day. This is up from around 22 minutes in 2009.

While some of this dramatic increase is due to browsing social media outlets and watching great things like the latest #chewbaccamom video (time well-spent of course!), much of this usage is also symptomatic of our “always-available” work expectations.

While I’m definitely on the end of frequently checking email and working to respond to work needs in a timely manner, I’m seeking to be more intentional these days about being intentional with times to step away from work and always-available communication in a balanced manner.

Intentionality

Here are a two targeted scheduling practices I aspire to increasingly move toward in managing a productive and balanced work life:

  • Schedule 2-3 times a day for engaging and responding to email:

    Rather than approaching email in an “always-available” manner, I want to focus on meaningful and timely communication 2 or 3 times a day. For me, this will take effort. I have a pattern of almost habitual email checking throughout the day on my smartphone. While there are some up sides to this (timely responses being one), this pattern takes away from other important and focused work that needs to be accomplished.

  • Schedule regular time for focused work:

    While administrative tasks such as meetings and email communication are regular and important parts of most organizational settings, typically these administrative tasks don’t move the most important work projects forward. Finding blocks of time to meaningfully engage these items helps to insure that the most important work does not just get discussed, but also accomplished. This relates to a previous discussion I shared about prioritizing the “Big Rocks” in our lives. See this post on priorities here.

So how are you managing your work life in light of these 24/7 workplace tendencies? What are your strategies to both remain relevant for your organization and focused on reclaiming work-life balance?

Is Higher Education Worth It?

This post was just shared yesterday on my blog at Patheos. I’ll provide it here as my normal Monday post as well since it seems to be gaining significant attention.  …

Graduation season is upon us. I celebrated with a friend at his graduation last week. In the coming week my university begins its marathon of multiple commencement services. And, by the end of the month I will be completing a third graduate degree.

As I think about the importance of these events and the value of education in general, I’m reminded of several realities.

Education Is a Good Investment

First, education is a good investment of time and money. This is not the case for all people, but for most, education represents an investment that appreciates rather than decreases in value over time. In other words, it is more like investing in a house (that tends to appreciate in value) rather than investing in a car (that tends to depreciate in value).

Education Improves Earnings and Marketablity

Second, education tends to improve capacity for future earning and lower rates of unemployment. Again, this is not the case for all people, but generally speaking, earnings increase and unemployment rates decrease as higher levels of education are attained.

Here is a helpful table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that illustrates this point.

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Table Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm)

Education Provides More Effective Approaches to Work

Third, education enables us to do better what we already must do. In most cases, employment is a necessary part of life. It is the way people are able to make a living and provide for themselves and their family. This logic might not work for everyone, but for me it does. If I’m going to be engaged in a job, I want to do it well. Education  helps me to do the work I already need to do in a more effective manner.

Education Provides A Pathway for Lifelong Learning

Fourth, education provides a natural pathway for lifelong learning. I view learning as intrinsically valuable. I also believe we are hardwired and created by God as learners. While learning can happen independently, engaging in a structured learning process allows us to benefit from those who have gone before us in a particular field of knowledge.

In my particular field of leadership studies, I’m convinced that leadership involves a deep commitment to learning (see my previous thoughts on this here). But learning is not just the work of leaders. There is both intrinsic and utilitarian value in learning for any field. Formal education is not the only path by which lifelong learning can take place. However, it is a key pathway that has helped many people.


While there are certainly examples that would not support the above, these four benefits of higher education are true for most. As you celebrate with the graduates in your life this season, be reminded that their investments and labors have not been in vain.

The World’s Toughest Job

On Mother’s Day, I’m reminded that the work that matters most in life is often unpaid.

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Photo Credit: MOTHER, by the lost gallery, Flickr

At its core, work is what we do to contribute or add value to others. Hopefully this happens in the context of paid work for you, but any parent understands that mothers and fathers often engage in such unpaid work on a daily basis.

I love this video by American Greetings that captures to the beauty and importance of this work. Enjoy!

Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living

 

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I’m in a mini-series sharing my 4 Top Leadership Priorities. These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

In the past weeks I settled in on the first three priorities:

This week I will briefly engage the final priority — Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living.

Purpose Matters

Leaders must attend to many priorities in their work, but I argue that purpose needs to top this list of priorities. Others, such as Podolny, Khurana, and Besharov, have argued that leadership practitioners and scholars have lost sight of purpose due to a dominate focus on performance.

For leaders, performance does indeed need to be a focus. But alongside this, leaders and followers must also be able to contextualize the meaningfulness of this performance. That’s where purpose enters the discussion. Understanding purpose in leadership and work contributes to job satisfaction and an authentic belief that the work one does matters and is meaningful.

Beyond the Paycheck

Working for a paycheck is not insignificant. Work is a way to provide for many of the needs and wants we face in life. But as Eisenberg and Goodall put it, people also “want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile, rather than just a way to draw a paycheck…a transformation of its meaning—from drudgery to a source of personal significance and fulfillment.”

While purpose is important for leaders and followers alike, there is a special responsibility placed on leaders in this realm. As a leader, do you have a clear sense of not only what your organization needs to do (performance) but also why this needs to be done (purpose)?

Not Just a Good Idea

Having a sense of purpose—personally and organizationally—sounds good, but does it also bring about results?

I argue, and am seeing supported through research, that purpose also is connected to key organizational measures such as job satisfaction, leadership effectiveness, organizational commitment, and person-organization fit. For an introductory conversation around this research, see my post entitled Assessing Leadership — The Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

Leadership, Purpose, and You

Whether convinced of the importance of purpose through your own experience, or whether you are seeing the research-based evidence, it is time to bring the importance of purpose home to your life and leadership.

I encourage you to take some time in the coming week to think through the purpose that guides your life and work as a leader. I raise some questions for thinking about how to take the next steps with purpose in the following post: Leadership, Work, and the Priority of Purpose. Feel free to use these reflections and questions as you take these next steps in reflecting on purpose in your life and leadership.


In this series, I’ve laid out my top 4 leadership priorities. I hope they have been helpful, and I look forward to hearing what priorities you would add to the mix.

Here are the links to each of the posts in this series:

 

Priority #3: Team Leadership and a Collaborative Orientation

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Photo Credit: collaborate, by Jonny Goldstein, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series sharing my 4 Top Leadership Priorities. These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

In the past two weeks I settled in on the first and second priorities: Servant Leadership and Follower Focus and Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation. This week I’ll settle in on the third priority: Team Leadership and a Collaborative Orientation.

Leadership & Collaboration

The great temptation of leaders is to try to go it alone. But as the complexity of our world increases, today’s challenges need insights from multiple perspectives. Collaborative approaches to leadership and the use of teams recognizes and affirms that great wisdom exists within the people of organizations.

Rather than providing an overly directive or top-down approach to leadership, collaborative and team-oriented approaches to leadership harnesses the wisdom and insights of the people on teams. This leadership commitment is about leveraging team wisdom and utilizing collaboration toward the end of decentralizing authority and empowering people to effectively carry out local work.

What is a Team?

In another post I tackle the question of how teams differ from groups. The core of my presentation in that article is the definitions or descriptions of bot teas and groups.

I describe teams as individuals bringing together coordinated work in light of collective goals. This description stands in contrast to groups that organize around individuals bringing together independent work in light of individual goals. Both teams and groups have an important role to play in collaborative efforts, but it is helpful to highlight the difference between the two. Whether using teams or groups, great wisdom can come through collaborative endeavors.

What are the Benefits of Teams?

So why are teams important? Again, I’ll point to a previous post in which I highlight 4 Benefits of Teams. In that post I argue that teams provide the following core benefits:

  1. Better Ideas and Increased Insight
  2. Increased Courage to Face Challenges
  3. The Presence of Peer Support
  4. A Context for Mentoring and Training

Teams, Collaboration, & You

Truth be told, everyone brings their own experience with teams to the table. Some love teams. Others may have experienced some of the challenges associates with teams. Either way, as the needs and demands our organizations face increase, so rises the need that leaders and followers alike have for collaborating with others and gaining the wisdom of teams.

Take some time in the coming days to think through meaningful steps you can take to lean into the wisdom of your team and foster a spirit of collaboration in your organization.

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In my final post next week, I’ll turn my attention to the fourth leadership priority: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living.

Priority #2: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation

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Photo Credit: Butterfly, by David Yu, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series sharing my 4 Top Leadership Priorities. These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

Last week I settled in on the first priority: Servant Leadership and Follower Focus. This week I’ll settle in on the second priority: Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation.

A Commitment to Transformation

Complementing the follower-focus of servant leadership, transformational leadership is about creating broad and intrinsic ownership of the organization’s mission by leaders and followers alike. Such ownership happens as leaders and followers together mutually value and commit to transformation.

Although this commitment to transformation has significant organizational implications, I argue, particularly from a biblical perspective, that transformation of teams and organizations finds its roots in individual and personal transformation. If I want to lead an organization in a transformational journey, I must being willing to engage a process of transformation myself.

Presenting a vision for personal and spiritual transformation, Paul in the Bible wrote:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Much can be said about this verse and the surrounding arguments in 2 Corinthians, but the main point I want to make is that a commitment to personal transformation into Christ-like character is a deeply biblical and Christian concept. From such personal transformation springs forth transformation and other levels of life and leadership.

A Commitment to Transformation
is a Commitment to Ongoing Growth

At both the individual and organizational level, a commitment to transformation and change really comes down to a commitment to ongoing growth. While other forms of leadership may be content with a status-quo approach to maintain at minimal levels, transformational leadership is about raising one another’s aspirations—leaders and followers alike—to higher levels of impact and opportunity to serve.

There certainly are appropriate cautions that could be raised at this point. Focusing on growth toward higher levels of impact and opportunity to serve could be more about vain ambition than it is about the priority of serving others discussed in the last post. This is why beginning with personal transformation before organizational transformation is so important. We need to pay attention to the motives behind a desire for greater impact and service.

However, if we are actively paying attention and guarding against the negative dimensions of ambition, the pursuit of growth personally and organizationally often leads to significant health—both personally and organizationally. Pursuing transformation and change is really about maintaining on open posture towards growth. It is about maintaining a commitment to ongoing and life-long learning.

Creating Owners of the Organizational Mission

As a formal discipline of study, transformational leadership emphasizes need for leaders and followers alike to own the organizational mission. Other forms of may be content with autocrats dictating to others what needs to be done, but transformational leadership at its core is about engaging leaders and followers in what they want to do, not just what they have to do.

Transactional and autocratic forms of leadership are primarily based on a leader-follower exchange that incentivizes followers through extrinsic motivators. In contrast, transformational leadership is based on a leader-follower engagement that motivates followers intrinsically. Transformational leadership is about engaging followers in such a way that leaders and followers are mutually committed to the organization’s mission and are willing to undergo transformational change with organizational goals in view.

Francis Yammarino puts is this way:

“The transformational leader arouses heightened awareness and interests in the group or organization, increases confidence, and moves followers gradually from concerns for existence to concerns for achievement and growth.”

Rather than lining up willing renters in the cause of the organization’s vital mission, transformational leadership is all about lining up willing owners of the organization’s mission. People become owners of the mission because the mission itself becomes something that is intrinsically motivating. When this shift from extrinsic incentivizing to intrinsic motivation takes place for leaders and followers, organizational members move from a spirit renting to a spirit of owning.

If you want to help develop owners of the organizational mission, draw on the wisdom of transformational leadership theory. This will provide a foundation from which you may engage in the journey of ongoing growth and transformation in service of your organization’s important mission.

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In my next post, I’ll turn my attention to the third leadership priority: Team Leadership and a Collaborative Orientation.

Priority #1: Servant Leadership and Follower Focus

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Photo Credit: Focus, by ihtatho, Flickr

Last week I shared my 4 Top Leadership Priorities.These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

In this post, I want to settle in on the first priority identified in that post: Servant Leadership and Follower Focus.

Greenleaf on Servant Leadership

Robert K. Greenleaf was one of the first people to write about servant leadership in the contemporary literature. Although it is easily argued that servant leadership has ancient roots, I’m grateful for voices like Greenleaf who brought attention to the practice of servant leadership in the context of modern organizations. Here is one look at Greenleaf’s priorities:

“The servant-leader is servant first…. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first…. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?”

Greenleaf was working out his approach to leadership in the context of AT&T at the time of these reflections. Others have gone on to engage this “servant first” approach to leadership in diverse organizational sectors since then. At the core of this servant first approach to leadership is the focus leaders place on follwers.

In my own dissertation research, I discovered that servant leadership practices are not only a good idea, but that they also are effective. Here are a few resources that point such findings: (IJLS Journal Article; PIL blog series). 

The Core of Servant Leadership is Follower Focus

What differentiates servant leadership from other approaches to leadership? The short answer is “follower focus.”

Stone, Russell, and Patterson put it this way:

“The principal difference between transformational leadership and servant leadership is the focus of the leader…. The overriding focus of the servant leader is upon service to their followers…. The stress of servant leadership is upon the leader’s aim to serve. This desire to serve people supersedes organizational objectives. Servant leadership is a belief that organizational goals will be achieved on a long-term basis only by first facilitating the growth, development, and general well-being of the individuals who comprise the organization.”

In a previous post, I expressed this concept in the following manner:

While the organization as a whole needs to be externally focused (serving its customers, constituents, or mission), the primary focus of the leader must be on serving and caring for the followers who are directly responsible for fulfilling the organization’s mission.

At the end of the day, servant leaders care deeply about organizations meeting their goals. However, this commitment starts with care for and focus on followers.


 

When you consider your own approach to leadership and where your focus lies, where do followers fit into your primary commitments?

When honestly answered, are followers viewed primarily as a means to organizational ends, or are followers at the core of your leadership commitments, and thus valued primarily for who they are rather than simply what they contribute?

In my next post, I’ll turn my attention to the second leadership priority that further connects follower focus to organizational transformation and goal attainment.

As always, I love to hear your thoughts. Please share them below.

4 Top Leadership Priorities

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Photo Credit: Priorities, by Washington State House…, Flickr

I’m grateful to teach in an area of study I thoroughly enjoy. My primary role is serving as Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel Seminary. While every job has aspects that require work that is not explicitly enjoyable, I’m thankful that a majority of what I get to do also is personally enjoyable and fulfilling.

 

When I consider the core of what I teach about leadership, the focus of my teaching revolves around four leadership priorities. Here is an overview of these priorities.

1 – Servant Leadership and Follower Focus

How do your prioritize your commitments and practices as a leader? Servant leadership is an approach to leadership that prioritizes followers over leader self-interest. While many leadership thinkers would argue a commitment to organizational goals must be prioritized over the people of the organization, a servant leadership perspective argues that the most effective way to accomplish organizational commitments is through focus on followers. By focusing on followers, these followers are then able to deliver exceptional products or services to those the organization as a whole serves.

While the organization as a whole needs to be externally focused (serving its customers, constituents, or mission), the primary focus of the leader must be on serving and caring for the followers who are directly responsible for fulfilling the organization’s mission. I point my students to the importance of servant leadership practice and follower-focus in their leadership work. This leadership commitment is about prioritizing follower-focus and empowering followers for service of the mission.

2 – Transformational Leadership and Organizational Transformation

Complementing the follower-focus of servant leadership, transformational leadership is about creating broad and intrinsic ownership of the organization’s mission by leaders and followers alike. Transactional leadership is primarily based on a leader-follower exchange that incentivizes followers through extrinsic motivators. In contrast, transformational leadership is based on a leader-follower engagement that motivates followers intrinsically. Transformational leadership is about engaging followers in such a way that leaders and followers are mutually committed the organization’s mission and are willing to undergo transformational change with organizational goals in view.

3 – Team Leadership and Collaborative Orientation

In addition to servant and transformational leadership principles, I also advocate for collaborative and team-oriented approaches to leadership. Collaborative approaches to leadership and the use of teams recognizes and affirms that great wisdom exists within the people of organizations. Rather than providing an overly directive or top-down approach to leadership, collaborative and team-oriented approaches to leadership harnesses the wisdom and insights of the people on teams. This leadership commitment is about leveraging team wisdom and utilizing collaboration toward the end of decentralizing authority and empowering people to effectively carry out local work.

4 – Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living

Finally, I point students to the importance of meaning and purpose in their approach to leadership. On this point, Eisenberg and Goodall write that, “employees want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile, rather than just a way to draw a paycheck,” and to see work as, “a transformation of its meaning—from drudgery to a source of personal significance and fulfillment.” While employees bear responsibility for personally engaging their work with purpose, leaders play an important role in helping organizational members understand why the work they do matters. This leadership commitment is about being purpose-motivated and infusing both our personal work and the work of others with whom we work with meaning and significance.


 

In both my masters and doctoral level classes, my leadership courses are infused with each of these threads. This provides an overview of each, and I intend to take up each one in a bit more detail in future posts.

What are your leadership priorities? How do your priorities and commitments line up with these four principles? Take some time to share your priorities and thoughts below.

Easter, The Gospel, & Virtuous Leadership

Purpose in Leadership

Peeps, Mike Mozart, Flickr Peeps, Mike Mozart, Flickr

Easter week is just around the corner as I write this post. At the heart of Easter is the message of the gospel. In this brief post, I’d like to make some connections between the core message of Easter and leadership practice.

Ethics matter for those working in at diverse organizational levels. But ethics especially matter for leaders.

We want to know that what our leaders say is true. We want to see that the actions of our leaders are consistent with what they say as leaders.

General Ethical Approaches

Though certainly an oversimplification of ethical theory, we can argue that there are three primary approaches to ethics:

  • Virtue Ethics
  • Duty Ethics
  • Utilitarian Ethics

Here is a brief overview of these approaches drawn from an article I wrote with a colleague:

 Virtue EthicsDuty EthicsUtilitarian Ethics
Key operational questionWho ought I to…

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Why Ordinary is Extraordinary

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Photo Credit: The greatness of art…, by Nick Kenrick, Flickr

A couple weeks ago a friend and former colleague of mine shared a message entitled, “In Praise of Ordinary Work.” For those with 30 minutes to spare, listening to the message would be well-worth your time as you think about your context of ordinary work.

Along the lines of what Chris Armstrong shares in this message, I’ve been pondering afresh the extraordinary value of the ordinary parts of life. In our celebrity-oriented culture, the ordinary is often overshadowed by what we view as extraordinary.

Enjoying the Extraordinary

Don’t misunderstand me. I love to see greatness shine through in others. For instance, if you’re a basketball fan, it’s been a fun year watching Stephen Curry break 3-point records. It is a delight to watch “extraordinary” talent in the likes of someone like Curry.

My point is not to belittle extraordinary work on the public stage, but rather to lift up the extraordinary work that happens in ordinary and private ways on a daily basis.

Enjoying the Ordinary as Extraordinary

For most of us, our life and work happens on smaller stages. But that does not make our lives any less extraordinary when they are lived out steadily and faithfully. As individuals, families, and a society, we flourish together we collectively live our “ordinary” lives in an extraordinary manner.

When I look around, those I value most in my life are those that are steadily and faithfully attending to their lives and work on a daily basis.

Great things come when children faithfully apply themselves to the work before them in study and practice. Great things come when spouses and friends provide loving support for those closest to them. Great things happen with coworkers support their team in the accomplishment of collective work goals. Great things happen when we live out the ordinary in an extraordinary way.

In the Bible, we read the following call:

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

That is quite an affirmation of the ordinary.

Whether the stage of your life is small or large in its scope, we are all called to attend to the ordinary work that is in front of us. We are called to live our “ordinary” lives in light of what they actually are—extraordinary.

What is the ordinary work you are called to do in an extraordinary way today? What is the ordinary work being done by others around you in an extraordinary way today? Take some time to notice and appreciate the extraordinary that is all around you.