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Leaders do not work in a vacuum. They need people, financial resources, and time to achieve their desired outcomes. High-level leaders may not enmesh themselves in the details of management, but they understand the importance of organizational structure and the need to utilize well their three basic resources: people, money and time. This week, we’ll look at how we lead well by effectively using our time.

This is the third in a three-part series about the essential activity of a leader.

 

Leaders Manage Time

Everyone is entrusted with the same amount of time, but effective leaders seem to get more done with their time than most. Setting priorities is fundamental to good time management. Establishing hierarchical priorities may work for some, but a pass-fail approach seems to be more reasonable.  The pass-fail approach begins with a recognition of human limitations.  Each person only has so much time, energy and creativity.  Strong leaders intentionally commit themselves to a limited number of activities; they accomplish more by doing less.  They focus their time and energy with laser-like intensity.

The pass-fail system of priority setting does not split hairs between what are the first, second, third, or fourth most important aspects of our lives. The pass-fail approach determines what is or is not a priority. Anything that rises to the level of a priority is valuable and worthy of a leader’s time and focus. Non-priorities are distractions and treated with disregard. 

Families, work, religious commitments, friends and hobbies are intentionally included in many leaders’ circles of priorities. But rather than drowning in a sea of options, wise and effective leaders direct more time to things that matter. Their mantra is, “First things first. Second things not at all.”

Strong leaders also know that the critical issue is not ‘doing;’ instead, their most important concern is ‘getting things done.’ There is no reward for staying busy, only rewards for jobs done well.  Leaders delegate tasks to those whose gifts and experience have best prepared them for the task at hand.  Effective leaders understand that they are not omni-competent.  They are not intimidated by gifted followers; instead wise and confident leaders multiply their time by delegating their areas of weaknesses and investing time in their areas of strengths.   

Leaders do not work in a vacuum. They need people, financial resources, and time to achieve their desired outcomes. High-level leaders may not enmesh themselves in the details of management, but they understand the importance of organizational structure and the need to utilize well their three basic resources:  people, money and time. This week, we’ll look at one of the more tangible and practical resources leaders have to manage: money.

This is the second in a three-part series about the essential activity of a leader.

 

Leaders Manage Money

An effective leader accumulates and wisely uses the financial resources needed to pursue the vision. Donors support trustworthy people with inspiring visions.  Assuming a context where funds are available, good leaders who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and who are pursuing an inspiring vision should be able to attract the necessary funds.  But acquiring the funds is only the beginning.  How the funds are used and how that use is reported are also critical responsibilities of leaders. 

Many leaders may not have the background to create detailed, realistic budgets or generate transparent reporting systems, but assuring that those are in place must come from the top. Highly functioning leaders must know the basic numbers and critical rations that indicate the financial health of the institution.  Bad news, as well as rosy reports, must be shared with superiors and governing boards. The financial details can and must be delegated to those with appropriate skills and training but the atmosphere of honesty and openness and the commitment to accountability must start at the top. 

Leaders do not work in a vacuum. They need people, financial resources, and time to achieve their desired outcomes.  Leaders must manage well.  It is often said, “Managers do things right, but leaders do the right things.” Poppycock! Leaders manage and managers lead. The realities of life do not allow us to lead without managing or manage without leading. High-level leaders may not enmesh themselves in the details of management, but they understand the importance of organizational structure and the need to utilize well their three basic resources:  people, money and time.  

This is the first in a three-part series about the essential activity of a leader.

Leaders Manage People

Strong, effective, vision-focused leaders attract followers. But then they face the fundamental question, “Do I want to lead an organized group or a mob?” Many people who are comfortable as strong, forward-thinking visionaries prefer to lead a mob. And then they wonder why their followers do what mobs do: lose momentum, abandon the cause or overthrow the leader. Mobs are good for some tasks – usually destructive — but successful movements build long-term, sustainable, organizational structures. 

Lasting progress depend upon the disciplined work of organizational structure. Three fundamental practices are critical. People need to know: 1) how they fit into the big picture; 2) what is expected of them; and 3) how they are doing. The three basic management tools used to communicate these things are generally referred to as organizational charts, job descriptions, and performance reviews.

An organizational chart simply answers the question, how do I fit into the organization?  Who do I communicate with to get help and report progress?  Who else is working alongside me and how do I relate to them? Whom, if anyone, do I supervise as they help me fulfill my responsibilities?

A job description essentially explains the responsibilities of the job and outlines the authority that is available to accomplish the job. People who join the mob but never know what is expected of them soon wither from exhaustion or become disenchanted, abandoning the cause. Without well-defined responsibilities, people will never have a sense of accomplishment and eventually, they will leave in frustration. Wise leaders clarify job responsibilities and delegate authority to those who follow them.

People need feedback; they need to know how they are doing. Leaders know that providing informal and formal feedback is essential.  They may delegate some of the details to those downstream, especially in larger organizations, but they foster a culture of honest, constructive, and developmentally focused feedback. 

What Engages the Heart of a Leader? #4 - Vision - Dan Bolin

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP1er @ 13:14

Effective leaders change things.  They love to make things bigger, better, stronger and faster. They develop and articulate the vision for a better future.  They engage a broad base of followers who share ownership of the vision. Highly effective leaders count the cost of change, adjust to obstacles and challenges, and modify the intensity of change to match the situation.

Vision for a Better Future

Self-aware leaders understand the passions that spur them on toward a better future and develop and employ the skill sets to initiate change. Effective leaders know their strengths and weaknesses, building on the strengths and compensating for the weaknesses.

Highly effective leaders have sensitive radar.  They are aware of the needs of those around them and recognize the challenges that confront families, businesses, churches and society.

Like all of humanity, leaders deal with limited resources. Resources are elastic, expanding and contracting with changing circumstances. Sometimes volunteers and funds are readily available while at times scarcity rules. There are always limits.

The vision for a better future generally arises when certain elements intersect and overlap: 1) the leader’s passions and skills, 2) the needs swirling through the lives of the people around them, and 3) the limited available (or expected) resources.  Leaders paint a picture of a better future that they see emerging at the intersection of internal strengths, external opportunities and limited resources. 

Shared Vision Ownership

From the start, extraordinary leaders share ownership of the vision. They engage others in discovering and refining the future that they will help create.

Often the leader will be the first to sense the general direction that is needed, but the wise leader will engage others who can provide added perspective. Additional viewpoints help edit the leader’s first draft and fine-tune the best plan possible.

A group of neighbor kids built a treehouse in the lower limbs of a giant oak tree. Those who built it played in it, ate meals in it and enjoyed just sitting in it. Other children who didn’t help build the ‘mansion in the sky’ didn’t want to play in it; they wanted to build their own. 

The ones who built the treehouse are the ones who “own” it. It is true of treehouses and it is true of vision planning. Effective leaders don’t work in isolation; they involve others and build a team that is committed to the vision. And, the earlier in the process a follower is asked to provide meaningful input into the plan, the greater their sense of ownership.

Counting the Cost

People are comfortable with the familiar. Especially when life is good, people resist what is perceive as a threat to the status quo. A wise leader paints the twin pictures of: 1) a better future that can be realized, and 2) painful, unavoidable consequences that will occur without the change.  

Change threatens some people but inspires other. Highly effective leaders energize followers by interjecting enough change into their area of influence to excite and motivate.  However, they are careful not to redirect the institution’s momentum to the degree that it damages or destroys the organization. 

Leaders who seek healthy and non-destructive change will count the cost. They will recognize the risk of changing nothing only to watch their organization atrophy and die. Wise leaders also weigh the risk of changing too much too quickly; they understand the hazards of too much torque on the organization. Leaders who generate healthy change understand there will be resistance; sacred cows will be sacrificed along the way. They move with confident determination as well as cautious sensitivity.  They strive to inspire the core, salvage those on the uncertain fringe, and accept the reality that a change of direction will not be accepted by all. 

The strength of any interpersonal relationship is measured by trust. Trust is the relational cement that bonds true followers and leaders. Even though both parties are involved, the critical member of the relationship is the follower. Trust allows a follower to willingly subordinate his or her will to the will of another. But when a follower decide not to trust, a leader loses his or her ability to lead. 

Power and authority may play into the leader-follower relationship. Positions of power provide coaches, generals, teachers, bosses, police, and orchestra conductors a platform to lead and impose their will on others.  But true leadership resides in those who demonstrate an attractive pull rather than an abusive push.  True leaders are trustworthy – they are worthy of the trust of those who willingly follow.

A person with sufficient force can overwhelm the opposition and force his or her will on others. Chairman Mao said that power was found at the end of a gun.  But that’s despotism not leadership. Positional power not based upon trust quickly degenerates into manipulation, tyranny or coercion. However, combining positional power with a trusting relationship combines the best of both worlds.

No one can force someone else to trust them. True leaders demonstrate highly valued character qualities and the requisite life-skills to foster trust in their followers.  They romance their followers into a deep and committed relationship that, like all interpersonal relationships, will withstand the bumps and bruises of life in an imperfect and at times hostile world. 

The critical character qualities of a trustworthy leader revolve around the fundamental quality of integrity.  The word integrity shares a common entomological root with the word integer - a whole number or a complete entity.  The concept has to do with oneness.  There is no duplicity.  A leader’s presentation to the public matches their internal core known only to self and God. Integrity is demonstrated in honest business dealings, authentic personal relations, sincere words and deeds, and transparent motives.

The fundamental life skills of a leader are their abilities to manage time, money, and people.  How well they stay on task and meet deadlines builds or diminishes trust. Generating, managing and accounting for funds also enhances or detract from the leader’s trustworthiness. Managing people is critical. How well one recruits, organizes, directs, evaluates, encourages and even releases followers has massive implications for the degree of trust others will grant the leader.

Trust is fluid.  No one ever gives trust, it is only loaned.  Trust can be recalled at any time and at the discretion of the follower.  Leaders hold significant power over followers but followers hold immense power over leaders. They are the ones who continually evaluate the trustworthiness of their leaders and respond with greater or lesser degrees of trust.  Followers, in truly free conditions, can resign from their role at any time. Ironically, leaders lead at the will of their followers.  

Leaders cannot demand that followers follow, they can only live trustworthy lives that fosters the growth of follower’s trust. Followers trust; they extend more or less trust based upon their perceptions of a leader’s trustworthiness. The headlines are filled with the names of leaders who lost their followers due to failed character or faulty life-skills. But history is made and life is enriched by those who live trustworthy, competent lives, attracting followers who willingly ride alongside and into the battle. 

SEVEN CRITICAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONS - #2 - Elasticity - Dan Bolin and Mike Bates

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP4er @ 16:53

Everyone is born with a leadership gene – but not everyone’s leadership gene carries the same degree of leadership potential.  Each of us has limits; God designed us with boundaries.  As much as we love the posters that tell us we can become whatever we can dream – the reality is that most of us will never throw a baseball 90 miles an hour, perform a cello solo at Carnegie Hall, or become the president of the United States.  Nobel aspirations don’t necessarily mean that we will succeed in all our endeavors.  But we can all improve in many areas and be better tomorrow than we are today.  With hard work, training and persistence we can throw a little faster, play the cello a little better and maybe be elected to the board of our church.  

Our limits do not stop us, they merely redirect us into realistic areas of contribution and fulfilment.  We need to ask ourselves – what are my areas of giftedness?  And, what can I do to use my talents most effectively?  

Some of our limits are fixed and others can be changed.  I’m six feet four inches tall.  I’ve been that way a long time.  Until my skeletal structure gives way, I’m pretty much set with my height.  But my weight is a different matter, I have a measure of control over how much I weigh.  We all have height and weight issues – things that won’t change much and things influenced by our choices.    

Our IQs may be unchangeable limiting factors in our lives, but most of us can read, listen, reflect and learn more and more.  The size of our intellectual bucket may be unchanging but most of us has never come close to topping off our mental capacities. We need to fill the bucket we have as full as possible.  A full one-gallon bucket is more significant that an empty 10-gallon bucket.      

We all have personality tendencies that emerge early in our lives, some are naturally more outgoing and others more reserved.  But introverts can learn to engage life in an uncomfortable, noisy, crowded room and extroverts can learn to slow down, sit quietly and have non-verbalized thoughts.  

Energy levels, creativity, social styles, and a host of other variables impact our lives and influence our leadership capacity.  We need to accept the things that are set and develop the many areas of our lives where we can grow.  

Leaders stretch every possible area of life to expand their effectiveness.  Mentors, books, conferences, introspection, education (formal and informal), travel, responsibility, jogging, eating well, hobbies, spiritual disciplines and a host of other influences help us grow or allow us to atrophy.  A leader engages the opportunities that challenge him or her to greater leadership growth.

NEW SERIES - Seven Critical Questions of Leadership - Mike Bates & Dan Bolin

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP12er @ 12:36

The first question each of us must ask about leadership is, who is a leader? A boatload of energy and has been spent on this fundamental question.  The answer is simple yet profound – everyone is a leader! God created each of us to lead. 

Some people have tried to divide the world into leaders and followers or leaders and managers. But these divisions are helpful only in momentary and situational contexts.  No one only leads and never follows.  No one only leads and never manages – in fact to be a good leader, one must also learn to follow well and manage well.  Life does not give us opportunities to isolate ourselves into leadership silos – whatever those may be.  The Lord calls us and the real world expects us to lead, follow and manage and expects us to do all of these things well. 

As a young man I (Dan) feared that I was destined to be a follower – and nothing more.  I wondered if God might have excluded me from the leadership class and that I had missed the blessed leadership gene.  

In reality, God designed each of us to lead.  Genesis 1:26 records this mysterious and pivotal statement from within the council of the Godhead, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them rule over. . . .”  The Hebrew word rdh that is translated into English as ‘rule over’ means to ‘exercise authority’ or ‘to be in charge.’   Literally it means to “reign,” “tread down,” “subjugate” or “have dominion.” 

So being made in God’s image, makes us leaders - men and women, introverts and extroverts, all kinds of IQs, personalities, creativity, and energy levels.  Men and women, old and young, every nationality, economic state and religious condition.  

As we become aware of our own leadership opportunities and responsibilities, let’s not lose sight that not everyone has the same leadership capacity and that people apply their leadership in different ways and in different places.  Some people lead multi-million dollar organizations – some millions – some have no budgets at all.  Some people lead on a broad stage and some lead locally.  Some people lead businesses, others governmental agencies, not-for-profit organizations, churches, schools, community groups, or families.  We each have different leadership capacities and interests. 

Leadership development has typically tended to focus on helping those few people with high leadership capacity to develop and grow.  The assumption that may never be stated but is always implied is that the other 90-95% are merely follower.  Lacking high leadership capacity the majority of people are incapable of or unworthy of leadership training.   In reality, we should help everyone realize that God has designed them to lead.  And as opportunities arise, we should develop the leadership capacity in all those we influence, encouraging them to be the best leaders they can be.  

But if we are all leaders, who are the followers?  The answer -- we are all followers.  Each of us needs to lead well AND follow well.  

Context determines when we follow and when we lead.  In many contexts I lead; but on Sunday morning, I volunteer at church helping my wife who is the director of the preschool children’s program.  I’m Mr. Dan the Story Man, but I tell the story my wife assigns and I tell it when she schedules story time.  

Leaders are not an exclusive class of people. Outlying, high capacity leaders are special and need significant opportunities to exercise their God given gifts.  However, leading is part of God’s design for each of our lives.  Whether at home, at church, at work or in our communities, the question is not if we will lead, but if we will lead well.

#23 - Motivation - Conclusion

Posted by Dan Bolin on OA11er @ 11:52

Leadership is a murky subject.  I hope these blog posts help provide the cubbies needed to store your thoughts and insights into the discipline.  Understanding leadership is not so much an academic exercise as it is an expression of God’s image in our lives.  Only in the past 70-80 years have we tried to scientifically analyze what people have assumed and applied for millennia.  

To summarize my reflections on leadership over the past few years – 

  • God designed each of us to lead.

    • The world is no divided into leaders and followers and it is not divided into leaders and managers.  We all lead.  We all follow.  We all manage.

    • Context and opportunity determine when we lead and when we follow; when we lead and when we manage.

    • The question is do we lead well or poorly.

  • Each of us can become a better leader.

    • We all have limits – that’s being human.

    • But we can all grow and become better leaders – that’s responsibility.

  • The cement that bonds leaders and followers is trust.

    • A leader cannot force a follower to trust him or her.  The leader can only create a context where he or she is easily trusted.  Leaders create a context for trust to grow by consistently demonstrating good character and high competence. 

    • Followers extend or withdraw trust as they perceive their leader’s character or competence over time. 

  • Leaders are passionate about change – actually, improvement.  They see and strive for a better future. 

    • Leaders articulate the vision for a better future.

    • Leaders align resources to achieve the vision.

    • Leaders organize people to achieve the vision.

    • Say ‘no’ to things that might distract them from accomplishing the vision.

  • Leaders motivate others to follow them.

    • Leaders embody the vision and values they espouse.

    • Leaders communicate well.

    • Leaders use power well.

    • Leaders face challenges and overcome obstacles. 

Over the next seven months – my friend Mike Bates and I will plow the same field in a different direction.  This blog ‘A Trustworthy Saying’ will look at the subject of leadership from the perspective of ‘Seven Critical Leadership Questions.’  We will try to ask and answer these with a principle that will help leaders in different cultures and organizational contexts. 

#22 - Motivation - Communication

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP12er @ 12:14

For a leader, communication is much more than the simple transfer of information; leaders communicate to generate passion, focus attention and encourage wavering followers.  Good leaders communicate well because they have a clear understanding of the vision and are passionate about pursuing their dream for a better future. 

Communication allows their focused commitment and zeal to make a difference and overflows into the lives of others. But not all leaders use the same communication style; every leader has his or her own way of informing and inspiring their followers.  Some are excellent speakers, others are gifted writers, some dance or sing while others send tweets.  

Speaking has been the primary means of communication since the dawn of recorded history. Joshua challenged the Children of Israel to trust God and take the Promised Land at the beginning and end of his leadership role. Solomon spoke eloquently at his coronation.  Jonah reluctantly preached to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and revival ensued. Isaiah’s words encouraged the soul of a frightened, vulnerable and outnumbered nation.  Jesus understood the power of the spoken word.  His Sermon on the Mount, Olivet Discourse, parables, teaching and disputations show his commitment to oratory and his gifted use of this leadership tool.  

But not all leaders speak well.  Some have physical problems that limit their verbal effectiveness.  Others need time to craft their thoughts and wordsmith their ideas. Some of the best writer I have read have proved disappointing as speakers.  That’s fine.  God designed each of us differently and we all lead from different strengths.  Speakers speak and writers write.  Martin Luther was a powerful preacher but he said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”

Since the invention of the printing press, leaders have moved the hearts and minds of their followers through the written word.  Non-fiction tends to reshape minds.  Machiavelli’s The Prince, Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species, Freud’s On Dreams, Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans are but a few works that have redirected the thinking of our world.   

Many leaders recognize the power of fiction to capture both the hearts and minds of readers. Story, based on real life or imagination, may ultimately influence people more than information alone.  Stowe’s  Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Tolstoy’s War and Peace,  Shaara’s  Killer Angels, and Endo’s Silence demonstrate how great leaders move hearts and minds when they tell great stories.

Some leaders use the arts to motivate followers.  Bach’s Hallelujah Chorus within his Messiah moved the Queen of England to stand, and the rest of the world with her.  We still stand in awe not only of the music but of the Messiah who inspired Bach’s masterpiece.  No one can minimize the cultural influence of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Jimi Hendrix. Frankenstein, Easy Rider, 2001 a Space Odyssey, and Dr. Strangelove are movies that entertained and influenced the values of a generation.  

In today’s world, social media is a powerful communication technique that leaders use to gather flash mobs in shopping malls, influence product sales and overthrow tyrants.  

Through whatever means, leaders communicate and they communicate well.  Max DuPree introduced the term lavish communication, George Duff reminded us that we are speaking to a parade, not a crowd.  We must tell our story time and again.  Effective leaders tell the story over and over realizing that people forget, followers change, and the message is worth telling over and over and over again!

#21 - Motivation - Power

Posted by Dan Bolin on OA11er @ 11:40

All leaders possess some form of power.  Using power effectively is one of the critical factors in developing into a significant leader.   Leaders who learn when and how to use power can maximize their effectiveness.  Strong leaders understand and use power wisely.  They do not abuse power, but neither do they fear employing the power that is rightfully theirs. 

The inappropriate use of power changes leaders into tyrants; but disuse of power leaves a leader impotent and ineffective.  High capacity leaders are aware of the power available to them and judiciously apply it to maximize their effectiveness.

In 1959, John French and Bertram Raven identified five sources of power: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Referent and Expert Power. Later Raven added a sixth: Information Power.   

Coercive power requires that others comply with the leader’s demands through force and intimidation.  Mao Zedong said, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” But is power that grows from the barrel of a gun the stuff that leadership is made of? When a person in a position of leadership resorts to force, threats and intimidation, he or she abdicates the nobility of leadership and descends into the abyss of tyranny.    

Reward Power is the flip-side of Coercive Power.  Instead of punishing people for not following the leader, Reward Power provides benefits to those who follow well. Favors are given and/or pressures removed.  Sometimes these are tangible rewards such as promotions, parking spots or desired committee assignments.  But more often rewards are intangible: smiles, words of encouragement, expressions of gratitude and pats on the back.   

Legitimate Power is associated with title and position. A referee in an American Football game may weigh only half as much as some of the players but his striped shirt and whistle make him more powerful than any player on the field.  Legitimate power generally extends only to the position and not necessarily to the person. Once the game is over and the referee’s stripes are taken off, so is the power that goes with the position. 

Referent Power is tied to admiration and charm.  This type of power is based on the acceptance and approval of the celebrity.  Artists, athletes, people of wealth, political leaders and other high profile people hold Referent Power.  But their gatekeepers, the ones that control access to these people have great power as well.  These people control access to those who are perceived to have prestige or significance.  Similar to Reward Power, Referent Power resides in the person who decides which concert goer gets back-stage passes or which person has press-box credentials to a big sporting events.   

 Expert Power flows from the training, credentials or education.  Master plumbers, attorneys, chefs, accountants, rocket scientists, airline pilots and medical doctors have power based upon the background, experience and certifications they hold.  Even the perception of expertise or knowledge is a source of power. In recent years, padded resumes have unraveled the careers of coaches, politicians, doctors and professors.  Trying to gain power through the perception of Expert Power is a temptation many cannot resist.

Later, Information Power was added to the list by Raven.  This source of power has to do with facts and details and who has access to that information.  When an individual or small group has access to information that is unknown or unavailable to others, they hold the power. 

 Some have said that we live in an era of waning power.  Coercive tyrants are being overthrown by students networked through social media.  Everyone has become an “expert” through the wisdom of Wikipedia and other on-line sources that may or may not be credible.  To some degree this is true; power may be more diffused today than in the past, but it is still a potent tool that leaders must use well to lead well. 

 When a leader uses legitimate power well, followers are motivated toward their desired ends.  Tom Landry, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once said, “The job of a coach is to make players do what they don’t want to do, so that they achieve what they want to achieve.”   That’s a high caliber leader, using power well, to motivate his followers to achieve their shared vision. 

But not all leaders are altruistic nor do they all strive for the common goal and the common good.  British historian, writer, and politician Lord Acton (1834-1902) said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” 

Because leaders are human and have sinful, self-centered tendencies, they need checks and controls on their power.  They need accountability, limits and reviews.  The USA Constitution has endured, to a large degree, because the founders had an awareness of the human tendency to abuse power.  They balanced power between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government and divided power between two legislative bodies. 

Good leaders learn to exercise power well but avoid being seduced by its tyrannical appeal.  Beyond the use of power, they learn to share power by building consensus and finding noble compromise.  Instead of force, they look for creative solutions and thoughtful alternatives to overcome obstacles and keep alive unity, hope and progress toward the common vision.

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A Trustworthy Saying