Recently we had a 3-day staff retreat that frankly I was honored and excited to be a part of.

I feel like anytime you are invited to participate in something where other really good leaders will also be, it’as reason for a sense of honor and anticipation.

I guess some people wouldn’t find it such a thrill…? Because it takes away from our normal work load or it means time away from family or you just think: ‘what’s really the point/benefit of these things anyway?’

If any of those have ever described you in the past, once again I would suggest that perhaps you’re missing an opportunity for influence, impact and ignition in at least 3 major ways.

(Keep in mind, that, after 3 days with these amazing people-this is a highly condensed list of my leadership learnings.)

  1. Great leaders understand that metrics (or data) may drive us forward, but stories keep us alive

Any organization worth its salt KNOWS it simply must make strong use of data, metrics, information to actually see if goals, progress and mission are being actualized! It’s so very basic and yet so very hard (to commit to using metrics wisely).

However, if it’s only ever data, structures and systems alone, your people and your organization will soon be in the tank. One reason is that you may have highly underrated powerful stories or testimonials about why your product or service really makes a difference in the world.

The short and sweet truth is: people will forget all your charts, data-points and Powerpoint presentations. But they will never forget one image, one name, one story of life change.

2. Great leaders refuse the urge to descend into details

Basically it’s this: the forest through the trees… the forest through the trees… the forest through the trees. If all we ever do is talk about and devote ourselves to ground-level tactical details in our day to day, we will NEVER go anywhere!

The real challenge for leaders and organizations is to create some serious pause in the day to day grind and intentionally work in some future-based, high-level vision time, which brings me to #3

3. Great leaders are bold enough to pause and rebuild

While at the retreat my boss mentioned that great organizations change or evolve anywhere from 8-18 months. And this makes sense that truly nimble and growing organizations would have the fortitude to introduce change often in order to stay with the times-growing and flexing with individuals and communities as we gradually morph over time.

The problem is: most people don’t have the patience, will, vision or passion to stop everything (and stop everything for 11 other staff people!), get out of town and get it right.

When the organization or the organization’s values requires tweaking, do the bold thing and get out of town.

4. Great leaders go slow to go fast

Bottom line is this: if you speed people through things ESPECIALLY new organizational culture, values or structures without creating incredible buy-in, without celebrating and reflecting on what was and without making sure “the big WHY” is absolutely crystal clear, then you won’t go as far or as fast as you could otherwise.

5. Great leaders pull

Meaning instead of push, direct, tell (as the one authoritarian in the room)-even if you are the only CEO in the room. Great leaders realizing that the collective capital and contribution of a room far exceeds that of a single, unilateral leader-no matter how gifted that senior lead may be.

Otherwise, why else create, develop or invite a team to the off-site to begin with!

6. Great leaders defy circumstantial climates by “leading people to…”

It’s one of my absolute favorite learnings from the past year and I can hardly take credit for it, but it comes from @craiggroeschel. In his leadership podcast, he guides the audience through one very important mantra.

We can no longer say, “our people won’t.” Whether that be our customers or staff, we will not allow ourselves to use circumstances or current trends or down markets to determine where we can “lead our people to.”

It’s a mantra that is fundamentally about putting the ownership and onus on the leader. And it’s really best explained by another direct quote of his, “you can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.”

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