7 Thoughts to the Families of Introverts

UOMO SEDUTO SULLA PANCHINA

I was talking with a young pastor recently.

It was after one of my posts about introversion and how I don’t think my introversion has to keep me from being a senior leader. Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.

Anyway, this particular pastor is having some issues at home with introversion. He has managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he gets home, he has nothing left to give. He feels the tension. He wants to push through it, but he doesn’t know how. And, his wife is growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and feeling left out of part of his life.

His side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Her side of the story (according to him). She doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted — even when it’s with his family.

I get it. I really do.

So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.

Here are 7 words to families of introverts:

We aren’t crazy. Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time — even when we are with people — you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do — as you possibly do — but introversion isn’t one of them for us. We aren’t weird — okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention.

It isn’t personal. When we don’t talk that is — because that’s what you enjoy doing with people so much It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.

We do love you. This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts — that I know some have a hard time believing — is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality — and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know — for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)

We need time to recharge. The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)

Preparation helps. If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others — not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves that time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it — actually looking forward to it — and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.

We don’t have a right to ignore you. There. I said it. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality — and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation — at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.

Activity often produces conversation. This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking for Cheryl and me helps us communicate. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So — we walk. Almost daily. Certainly enough that she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member that might produce more (and better) conversation?

Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion.  It’s important not to put people into boxes — and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling — and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?

The Biggest Challenge for Me in Leading Church Revitalization

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When I left a very successful church plant (my second plant) to pastor a very established, more traditional church many of my friends in ministry told me I was crazy. It’s not that they didn’t think God could be in it — they just knew me well enough that it didn’t seem like something I would do. I’m a doer. I like progress. I like action. And change. I’m not afraid to push the boundaries.

Those qualities don’t always fit well in some established churches.

So, now my friends often ask me what the biggest struggle has been for me in leading church revitalization. And, it’s not what I would have expected it to be. We’ve actually had a great couple of years. There have been a few bumps along the way, but God has shown up every step of the way. (Imagine that!) I previously wrote about the balance of leading for me and leading for the organization . My greatest challenge is similar.

The biggest challenge for me in leading church revitalization has been…

Leading with purpose and intentionality without being arrogant or self-serving.

I want progress. Still. That hasn’t changed.

But, I don’t want it to be about me or what I think the church should look like.

I want the church to grow. There are lots of unchurched people where I live. (Where you live too I would assume.) And, I think we have an option for some of them.

But, I don’t think we are the only option. Nor should we try to be.

I want to see the church change — be healthy — grow again.

But, I don’t want the church to lose the heritage, history, or culture that has existed for over 100 years. (Long before I was alive.)

I want to spur momentum. I want to use the skills and experience God has given me to lead, cast visions, strategize and organize.

But, I don’t want my abilities to be what we are known for as a church.

I want to feel successful in my efforts. I want God to use me.

But, I don’t want to be the one to get the glory.

How do I do that?

Here are 7 ways I’m attempting to lead with purpose and intentionality without being arrogant or self-serving:

I’m attempting to guard my heart and stay close to Jesus.

I have a clear purpose and calling. I know what God has asked me to do and what the people have called me to do.

I allow others to speak into my life. (And, I’ve had to listen a few times during this process.)

I give others a part in the plan; trying to bring people along willingly, not because I bullied them into my way of doing things.

I am trying to be patient with those who aren’t with me yet, while realizing some never will be — and being okay with that.

I am trying not to allow the few negatives I receive (which have happened often) to overpower the larger audience of positives that the church is experiencing. And, thankfully, the great majority of people are happy with where we are going.

I am attempting to be strategic with change. Well positioned. Well planned. Well communicated.

How do you maintain the balance pushing for progress with humility?

10 Bible Truths Of Freedom

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord Psalm 33:12

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21

7 Ways to Tell It’s Time for Change in the Organizational Structure

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

I’ve been a leader in an almost 200 year old company and a new business. I’ve led in a church plant and now in an over 100 years old established church. One thing I’ve learned is that there are many similarities in organizational structure — especially when it comes to the need for changing that structure.

Healthy organizations maintain an unchanging vision long-term by being willing to change their organizational structure as needed.

When it comes to organizational structure not everything needs changing. If the structure works. Keep it. It’s comfortable. People understand it. Progress is happening.

But progress is happening is key.

There are times to change. It’s important that leaders realize those times.

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed?

Here are 7 considerations to discern it is time:

When you continually encounter obstacles trying to move forward. If every decision you are trying to make hits roadblocks or dead ends, it may be time to build a new road.

When the steps to make the change is more exhausting than the value the change provides. Change should be exhilarating once you get to it. Change brings momentum. When the process to get there is so long or difficult that it wears you out and you’ve got no excitement left — it may be time for some structure change.

When you can no longer attract leaders. When people are controlled more than empowered you will attract doers but you won’t attract visionary leaders. Creative leadership will die, because genuine leaders rebel against controlling environments.

When you spend more time discussing than doing. Granted we need to meet about some things. We need to plan, strategize and organize. I suggest we have better meetings, but more than that we need action. Our visions are hungry for progress towards them. Meetings should create action. The best structures help you get busy doing not attending yet another meeting.

When the structure you have now isn’t sustainable long term. Structure based upon people, for example, rather than progress, will eventually need changing as people change. Ask yourself will this structure work 10 years from now? If not, the time to change is now.

When all creativity is structured out of the system. Sometimes the process can become so clearly defined that nothing new is needed. There is no room for different ideas or opinions. No one needs them anymore. Every question is answered. When people fall into routines, they get bored, and complacency becomes the norm. Development stops. Time for some structural change.

When there is no longer any confusion. If everything is so carefully scripted you may need some organizational structure change. Some of the best discoveries are found amidst chaos. I love what Andy Stanley says about “a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved”. Good organizations have some of those.

Those are some of my thoughts based on experience. What would you add to my list?

What My Fitbit Taught Me about Myself — and Life

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I’m a Fitbit wearer.

It’s a wristband that syncs with an application on my phone to count the number of steps I take each day. It’s set with an automatic goal of 10,000 steps.

This is not an advertisement — although if Fitbit wants to endorse this page I’d be open to that — but, I’ve been using it for several months now and it’s taught me a few things. About myself. About life.

Granted, I knew these already. They are not new revelations. But certainly I’ve had some principles that have been reinforced by my use of Fitbit.

Here are 4 things I’ve learned:

I respond better when I have a goal. Goals encourage me. Knowing I need to get at least 10,000 steps per day motivates me. Even if it’s at the end of a long day I will find a way to complete the goal. I WILL GET MY STEPS!

There’s a special joy in completing a goal. When you reach 10,000 steps the Fitbit goes crazy. (Or crazy compared to what it had been doing just sitting on my arm.) That tingle. That buzz. Those lights flashing is a pep in my day. Sometimes I use the elliptical and place the Fitbit bracelet around the bars of the machine. (It’s more accurate that way it seems.) I miss my “buzz” of reaching the goal. Okay so I’m being a bit dramatic, but if you like completing a task this does give you something else to get excited about each day.

Accountability challenges me to do my best. Cheryl has a Fitbit too. We keep track of where each other is in our daily goal. If she doesn’t feel like walking the nights we need steps, I’ll challenge her. If I’m not feeling it, she encourages me.

A little competition never hurts. I have “friends” on Fitbit. To be a friend, they have to have a Fitbit too. Granted, I don’t need another social media outlet to keep up with, but with Fitbit, my friends keep me going. I know they are “watching” — and trying to catch me — so I must stay ahead. I must. :)

My experience with Fitbit has been a daily reminder how valuable having goals and objectives, accountability, and even competition can be in my life. Think with me:

How can I apply these same principles to other areas of my life?

5 Times You May Need to Micromanage Your Team

Leader and big red arrow

I prefer to be a macro-manager. I like to lead leaders. That means I try to cast the vision for a team and get out of the way, releasing each team member to do his or her work in their own individual way.

There are times, however, where more micro-management may be needed by senior leadership. More coaching, encouraging or correction may be needed for a season.

Here are 5 times to consider some micromanagement:

When a team member is new to the organization. They need to learn your culture and way of doing things. They don’t know. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow them to invent, dream and discover, but they also need to know how decisions are made, the unwritten rules, and the internal workings of the environment. It will serve everyone well and they’ll last longer on the team if these are learned early in their tenure.

When a team or team leader has been severely crippled by injury or stress. I’ve had a few times where a member of our team just wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of making the right decisions. It could be what they were dealing with in their personal life or with the stress of their work, but I had to step in and help them more than I normally would for a season to help them succeed.

When in a state of uncertainty, transition or change. I once had a strong leader quit abruptly from his position. His team was devastated. I quickly realized they had relied too much on his leadership and were now lost without him. It required more of my time initially until we could raise up new leadership and better empower everyone on the team.

When tackling a new objective, critical to the organization. This is especially true when, as the senior leader, I’m the architect of the idea. They need more of my time to make sure things are going the way I envisioned them to go. That doesn’t mean the outcome will look exactly like I planned, but in the initial start, the team can waste time and resources trying to figure me out without my input, rather than doing productive work.

When a team member is underperforming in relation to others. As a leader, I feel it is part of my role to help people perform at their highest level possible. Sometimes that requires coaching, sometimes instruction, and sometimes even discipline. Part of being a leader is recognizing potential in people and helping them realize that potential within the organization. For a season, to help someone get on track for success on our team, (or even to discover they aren’t a fit for our team) I have to manage closer than I normally prefer.

I obviously wrote this in the context of an organization and not specific to the church, but these principles equally apply in the church. The important thing is that the end goals and objectives need to be reached, so at certain critical times a leader must step in and ensure the vision is being accomplished.

Are there other times you revert to micromanagement?

How to be a better blogger. Write poorly — but do it often.

Blog word.

Do you want to be a better blogger?

I have some advice.

Just a warning, you won’t hear this advice everywhere. In fact, it runs contrary to most of the better blogging advice out there — perhaps even some I’ve probably offered people in the past.

But, I believe it’s true. Especially for the beginning blogger.

Do you want to be a better blogger?

Write poorly — but do it often.

Yes, that’s what I said.

I think one key to being a better blogger is to write more bad posts.

Okay, Ron, you’ve lost me.

Let me explain with an illustration.

People ask me all the time how I became a runner. I run an average of 5-6 miles a day. I ran a marathon a few years ago. I’ve run dozens of half marathons. I’m planning to run another full marathon this fall.

My discipline is not to run. I’d do it everyday.

But, I once hated running. Despised it. I had been a runner earlier in life, but thought I outgrew it as I got older. I even announced from behind a pulpit one day that I’d never run again — unless I was being chased by an angry deacon. :)

Then one day I decided to give it another try. I don’t know why. I just did.

Someone gave me advice — I’m not sure who now — but it was brilliant. They suggested I set a time limit for running and always finish that goal. It could be 20 or 30 minutes. If I couldn’t run that long at the time, the advice was to finish the time, running when I could and walking the rest.

I’d run for 3 minutes and walk for a while. Then I’d run 5 minutes — then walk some more. I kept this up but always tried to complete my allotted time. Eventually, over the weeks, I found myself filling the entire time running. And soon learning to love every minute.

That’s my running story. How I became a runner.

And now you’re wondering…

How does my running story fit into encouragement about blogging?

Well,

Write poorly — but do it often.

Just write blog posts.

Please don’t misunderstand. “Poorly” is probably a poor word choice. It exaggerates my point, but I’m not saying write junk. Give it your best effort. If you’re not any good at writing period, maybe blogging isn’t you’re thing. But if you have a few minimal skills, this might work to make you better over time. You just need to write — the best you can — more often.

Set a goal of how many you want to write per week and do it. Write to fill your goal. If your goal is 3 posts a week — write three posts a week. If it’s 7 — write 7. (That’s probably too many, but it’s your goal.)

Finish your goal. Every week.

You won’t always write the best posts. (You’ll walk more than you run sometimes.) You’ll need to improve. A few years from now you’ll look back at some of your older posts and see how much better they could have been. But, you’ll get better the more you write. Practice makes perfect (or near perfect) as they say.

The problem for many runners is they expect to run the 6 milers as soon as they got off the couch. It takes time. Discipline. Consistent effort. Sometimes walking more than you run. Getting better as you go.

It’s the same with blogging.

5 Goals of Vacation for the Leader

Chaise lounge and umbrella on sand beach.

I recently returned from a beach destination wedding. Someone has to do those you know. Cheryl and I tacked on a few days of vacation since we were at the beach. It was refreshing.

As I was finishing my last vacation run — vacation runs are the best — a friend texted me. He’s a great leader and we’ve talked often about leadership issues — and the stress of leadership. When he learned I was heading home from vacation, he asked me a powerful question. I’m not even sure he knew how powerful, but knowing him, he was probably asking with intentionality.

He asked, “Excited to be going back or dreading it?”

My friend wanted to know — and encourage me to think — if my vacation had been successful. He knows the purpose of vacation.

Do you?

What is the purpose of vacation? Another way I might ask this question: What are the goals of a vacation?

Here are my thoughts.

5 goals of vacation for the leader:

Rest – God has actually given us a Biblical command to rest — to Sabbath — as if He knows something about what we need. (Duh!) You may not “rest” like everyone else, but everyone should rest. This particular friend who texted me was also returning from vacation. He does something that I think shows he understands his need for rest. He leaves his work cell phone with his administrative assistant when he goes on vacation. How cool is that? I know because I texted him while he was gone and she texted me back. Intentional. Love it. Rest should be a huge goal of taking a vacation. We all need it.

Reconnect – Vacation should allow us time to restore relationships to maximum health. With God. With family. With ourself. The busyness of life can strain relationships. Vacation gives you the opportunity to pause and get back to optimum health with the most important relationships in our life. On vacation, I talk to God more. I spend deeper quality time with Cheryl. We date more intensely — ask each other more questions. In years past, I got to spend more time with my boys on vacation. (I’m an empty nester now.) But, vacation helps me reconnect to those I love the most.

Play – We all need to play — regardless of our age. We fuel all the rest of these with this one. As I said already, I run more on vacation. That’s my form of play. But, when I run, I’m better equipped for all the other goals. You may not be a runner, but you have things you enjoy doing that aren’t work. (I tweeted from vacation that a friend of mine got a Lego set for Father’s Day. Cool playing to come for that dad!) Playing enhances my mental energies, my creativity, and my enjoyment of life. Making time to play — with whatever you enjoy doing — is a great goal for vacations.

Dream – What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to doing in the future? One of Cheryl and my greatest enjoyments on vacation is dreaming about where we see ourselves in a year, 5 years, 10 years, into retirement. We also dream where we could see our boys and their families. We dream about careers, personal interests, places we’d love to travel. Dreaming stretches our mind and heart towards each other and energizes us about our future together. A great vacation goal is to take time to dream.

Rejuvenate – Vacation should help you reengage with your work when you return. That’s the understanding my friend had about vacation. And, it is a huge goal. This will be hard to say to some, and some may disagree, but if you leave vacation dreading going back to work, it maybe you don’t know how to do vacation or you’re in the wrong job. It’s work. I get that. We all have Mondays we dread. The day back doesn’t have to be the most fun day at work ever, but a goal of vacation is to help us recover so we can gather more energies to do the work we were designed to do.

Does that describe your vacation?

What goals do you have for vacation?