Three Common Fears of Every Young Leader

Businessman showing thumbs up

I’m convinced.

After years mentoring younger leaders, there is something all of us leaders with more experience need to know.

Every young leader shares some common fears.

Granted, I’ve mostly worked with young male leaders (and I am the parent of boys), but I suspect these fears aren’t gender exclusive.

And, they aren’t talked about much — or even admitted — the pressure to perform often keeps us from admitting fear — but they are real fears.

Three fears of every young leader:

Am I good enough?

Have I got what it takes?

What happens if I fail?

Common, legitimate fears.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of a young leader? Help them answer these questions — in the affirmative.

Help them believe in themselves. Help them discover that inner strength — that God-given grace — that God-given talent — that helps them weather any storm and overcome any obstacle that may get in the way of being all God has called them to be.

Seasoned leaders, this is a great pursuit for us. Find the young leaders who need to hear our words of affirmation. Something tells me we can help build a future. And — in the process — we will leave a legacy.

5 Areas I Have Micromanaged in Church Revitalization

Rural chapel

At least once a week a pastor contacts me about church revitalization. I always tell them I’m still learning, but we have seen God do some pretty amazing things in our church. Through this blog I’m trying to share some of the things I’m learning.

The primary question I receive is where I spend my time. What am I doing to lead the church to grow again?

And, I understand the question. It’s the question I’m asking other church leaders also.

One of the things I’ve learned is that there are some things I have to micromanage.

It’s important to know I’m not a micro-management leader. It goes against everything I stand for in leadership and even how I’m wired personally. I have written extensively about the need for delegation in leadership. I’m not good with details. I have a problem focusing minutely, So, I really do control very little that happens on our team. Plus, I love the team process. I don’t like the word “I” as much as the word “we”. (Even though I’ll use “I” more than “we in this post.)

In church revitalization I’ve micromanaged a few things a bit closer than I normally would. We are leading a church to survive it’s second hundred years. That’s not easy. It’s not easy work and it’s not easy for a church to continue to thrive that long. And, I knew that — not as well as I do now — before I entered this pastoral position.

I began with a keen sense that some things were vital to our success long-term. I view it as one of my roles to see the bigger picture and make sure all of us are going in the same direction. Therefore, I have micromanaged some things. I’ve not necessarily made the decisions, but I’ve made sure I had a strong voice in the process. (Actually, some of these were just as true in my years of church planting.)

Here are 5 things I’ve micromanaged in church revitalization:

Who we add to our team. Even people I don’t directly supervise. Now, I haven’t always made the final call — I don’t do all the interviewing — but I’ve been part of recruiting, part of discerning and part of the decision process. We are shaping a culture. It’s one of change and adaptability. It’s one where everyone takes ownership. It’s one where people enjoy their work and pull together as a team. That requires a certain “fit” and staff culture. Who we add to the team from this point forward says a lot about who we will be as a staff and how well we will work together. I want to make sure everyone we add is on that same page.

How we cast vision. We knew that having a common voice as a staff was vitally important — especially in the earlier days of change — but really always. We purposely developed some common language that would serve as rallying points for the church. We had a few key areas of focus. We said the same things repeatedly. I didn’t come up with those exclusively — we developed them as a team — but I led the charge and micromanaged to keep us on that track until it began to stick as our common vision.

Where we place our greatest energies. Many times in revitalization efforts we can get distracted chasing after too many ideas. We are trying to grow again and often churches (and other organizations) will frantically move from one bad idea to another trying to find one that works. We needed some common goals and ideas and a limited focus. Again, this was especially true in the early days until we could gain trust with the people and gain buy-in for larger changes. I knew one of my roles would be to say no to some new initiatives and to slow the pace of change in some areas, while fueling that pace in other areas.

Organizational structure. As an established church, we had over 100 years of structure. Bureaucracy and process we know well. We had rules for everything. Over time, the church doesn’t stop to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Typically we just add new layers of structure. Some of our structure, quite frankly, had become extremely burdensome and stood in the way of making progress. Some things we had on paper as “rules” we didn’t even follow. (I don’t like that either.) And, some rules we follow were simply archaic. They didn’t work or weren’t necessary. They slowed us down filling out paperwork no one was even going to read. We had duplicated processes and systems. I knew in the early days I would be a fresh set of eyes on our structure and would need to micromanage quickly before I “settled in” and became just another participant in the established process. (After we do something long enough it becomes habit and we can’t even see that it needs to be changed.)

New expenditures. As with most churches in need of revitalization, our finances had been struggling for several years. Thankfully we had good people in charges of our finances and they had held the church together through very difficult times. But, I knew to be successful long-term we had to be in the best financial condition possible. And, I knew that as the senior staff leader I had to be the primary voice for this on a day-to-day basis. Even though changes were needed (and are needed) that can be expensive, we have been extremely careful to make sure our basic financial condition is stabilized first. I don’t make economic decisions alone — and shouldn’t — but I’ve been a key driver in that process. And, we have done remarkably well financially (again thanks to tremendous finance committee and staff efforts), but we still have a ways to go.

I’ve not worried about a lot of things in church revitalization. What color carpets or wall coverings don’t excite me very much. I’ve given a few song suggestions, but I’ve not been too involved in that process. Apart from my normal responsibilities of preaching and being a pastor, these are the things I’ve concerned myself with most and that have received my best energies.

Here are 5 ways I Expand My Leadership Potential

growing team

I think the best leaders expand their influence and leadership potential by continuing to learn and grow in experience. It takes an intentional effort to improve as a leader. You can read books, follow blogs and Tweets, attend conferences, and hang out with other leaders. These are all good practices to improve as a leader.

In my experience, however, my leadership influence grows the fastest when it grows through the people I’m supposed to be leading. Let me explain.

Here are 5 ways I expand my leadership potential?

Invest in other people. It’s amazing, but when I invest in others, they invest in me. I have had several mentoring groups or relationships — where I am supposed to be the mentor, but I feel I learned as much as they did.

Allow someone you lead to lead. When I get out of the way of my team amazing things happen. Now, first, I surround myself with people smarter than me about their area of expertise, but they make my leadership better. I may even get credit for the overall success of the team — but I’m quick to admit — I couldn’t have done it without them.

Promote someone else’s agenda. I’ve learned people have better ideas than me. A lot better ideas. Actually, I’m an idea guy. I have lots of them. But, if the team is bigger than one — there’s always one more idea to consider. I’m a better leader — with more potential — when I open the idea generation task to more people than me.

Celebrate a team member’s success. When I hog the stage — or the recognition — I limit other people’s willingness to contribute to the success of our team. When I share the lime-light I expand my own capacity as a leader — and everyone wins.

Invite other people’s opinions. One of the most dangerous things I’ve seen a leader do is to build an atmosphere of elitism, where no one else is welcome at the table of decision-making. When a leader values a range of thoughts and opinions it makes people feel valued and expands the leadership base of the senior leader and the entire team.

The best leaders I know understand that when the people they lead are growing in their leadership, it spills over into their personal leadership potential.

As a team improves, so improves the leader.

When others who are following a leader grow in their leadership capacity and influence, the senior leader’s capacity and influence increases. It truly is one of the win/win scenarios of leadership.

Invest in others and watch your leadership potential expand.

Seven Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization (While Others Don’t)

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This is a guest post by my friend Thom S. Rainer.

I have a great love for local congregations. To be sure, I’ve never been in a perfect church. They just don’t exist.

But I still love local churches.

One of my greatest joys in the past several years has been to see and work with churches that have experienced significant turnaround. While that turnaround is typically evident in attendance numbers, it is much more than that.

I recently categorized those reasons some churches experience revitalization. I then compared them to churches that have not been revitalized. I found seven differences between the two sets of churches.

These are the seven traits unique to the revitalized churches:

The leaders and members faced reality. One of the reasons most churches don’t experience revitalization is their unwillingness to “look in the mirror.” Denial leads to decline which leads to death.

Many in the church began explicitly praying for God to revitalize the church. I know of a leadership group in one church that prayed every week for over two years. The church is now in true revitalization.

The churches had an explicit and clear focus on the gospel. Preaching became clearly gospel-centered. Ministries became gospel-centered. And many members began intentionally sharing the gospel, which brings me to the next reason.

Members did not just talk evangelism; they did evangelism. I did not see a specific approach or methodology to share the gospel in these congregations. It was clear, however, that there was a more focused intentionality on sharing Christ than in many previous years.

Many members in these churches began focusing on serving Christ through the church rather than seeking their own preferences. Another way of stating it is that these members became other-focused rather than self-focused. This attitude seemed to be directly connected to their prayers for revitalization.

These churches raised the bar of expectations. Thus membership in these congregations became meaningful. Members moved from spectators to participants.

The churches developed a clear process of discipleship. The members became more immersed in the Word. There was a clear and cogent plan to help members grow in their walk with Christ.

Do not count me among those who have their heads in the sand about the state of congregations in North America. As many as 100,000 churches are very sick or dying. Many more also need revitalization.

I hope you can join me for a video consultation on church revitalization at RevitalizedChurches.com. It will almost be like I’m at your church offering you guidance and hope toward the future. You can CLICK HERE to sign up for the four-part overview of the series at no cost.

Yes, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local churches. I am seeing too many indicators of His work to believe otherwise. Let me hear from you. And I hope to see you in the video consultation on church revitalization.

What are your perspectives on the need for church revitalization? What do you think might be missing in many churches?

7 Performance Characteristics of a Great Team Member

Portrait Of Happy Businesspeople

I love team dynamics and organizational structures. I have written many times about what makes a healthy team, my expectations of team members, and elements to build health into your team.

I previously wrote 7 Traits of a Great Team Member.

But, how does a great team member perform on a team? I’m not sure I’ve talked specifically about the performance characteristics I believe make a great team member. How do they act on the team?

Here are 7 performance characteristics of a great team member:

Needs very little supervision – He or she catches on quickly, learning the expectations of the team, has confidence in his or her ability, and knows the vision of the organization well enough to make routine decisions. He or she attempts to figure out problems and asks specific questions when something is unclear. This saves everyone time and speeds progress. A great team member follows through on what he or she committed to do with limited oversight. They don’t need a “boss” — they are truly part of a team. “Let’s get it done together!”

Adds to team spirit - A great team member knows there is work to do as a team and limits the drama that comes from working with people. They aren’t known for gossip, back-stabbing, or pouting when things aren’t going as they would have them. Everyone has bad seasons and a good team is their to assist during those times, but a great team member doesn’t allow their personal life doesn’t impact their professional life on a daily basis. They are known to improve team spirit rather than detract from it.

Remains flexible – The work of a team requires synergy from all members. Sometimes one team member carries unequal weight for a season. Great team members are flexible to pick up slack from others. They do what needs doing. They don’t participate or foster “turf wars”.

Recognizes results as part of the reward – Not to take anything away from fair compensation, but the great team player does the work to see the results of a project done well. Their motivation is achieving the agreed upon goal of the team. They love their work — even more the work of the team — and they are motivated to celebrate when the team succeeds.

Considers the interests of the entire team – Great team members are good listeners. They value others on the team. They are humble enough to look out for good of the entire team. They aren’t self-serving. He or she wants what is best for everyone, even if that means having to personally sacrifice for the win of the team.

Adds intrinsic value to the team – Great team members add something to the team no one else brings.  They know themselves and allow their strengths to shine through hard work and dedication to the vision, providing a unique value to the entire team.

Demonstrates Loyalty in Action – No one questions the loyalty of a great team member. They are “on board” with the vision, supportive of the leadership and direction of the organization, and committed unless something unforeseen takes them away from the team.

Of course, I forgot the one about bringing homemade snacks occasionally for the break room, but I’ll save that for another post.

It also bears mentioning that it is difficult to be a great team member without a great team environment and a great team leader. I get that. Granted. I have, however, worked with some great team members who served on a dysfunctional team. And, I’ve seen one great team member help transform an unhealthy team.

I’m confident there are plenty more ways a great team member performs on a team. Feel free to add to my list. I’d love to hear from you.

In your experience, what does a great team member do on a team?

4 Reasons Leadership Development Doesn’t Occur

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Most churches admit they need more leaders. I have never met a pastor who would say they didn’t need more leaders, but I’ve met hundreds who are desperate for new leaders.

The Bible says to make disciples. That’s should be our goal for every believer in the church. But, the process of doing church requires leadership. Leaders leading the process of making disciples.

One way to grow a church is to expand the leadership base. And, one way to ensure a church doesn’t grow is to limit leadership development. In fact, if a church isn’t growing — one major reason may be they haven’t developed enough leaders. Without leadership progress stalls.

There are 4 primary reasons I’ve observed for churches that aren’t developing new leaders.

Pride – When current leadership doesn’t believe anyone coming along could do as good of a job as they are doing — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Selfishness – When current leadership doesn’t wish to share the power — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Lack of Intentionality – When current leadership doesn’t have a plan or system to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Ignorance – When current leadership doesn’t know how to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

There are probably other reasons, but these are the four I see most often.

Is your church developing new leaders? How? If not, why not? Do any of these apply?

Great Organizations Empower People to Think

Solving a problem

Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company; all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realize my community reputation is on the line and so I try to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public — even when I’m frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded that it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)

Each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way; with the service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asking me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious that the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get that. As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent that customer service people were scripted in all their responses. They are trained what to say for certain situations, but how was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help.

How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize the scripted question was intended to ensure good customer service and without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried — successfully for the most part — to control.)

This was a minor incident, and honestly not that big of a deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

Great organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves.

[tweetthis]Great organizations empower people the freedom to think for themselves.[/tweetthis]

They allow individuals to make the best decision at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing that the best person to make a decision as to what they should say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my situation, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time.  We will continue to work to resolve your problem.” Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook that really didn’t even apply to my situation. If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, give them the right to think for themselves!

When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

I love the motto of Nordstroms Department Store. I’ve read their philosophy is to instruct employees to always make a decision that favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer; they are criticized for doing too little.

By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church — then empower them think!

Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company that I knew. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion. We went with that. Trouble solved.

Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time?  Have you freed your people to think?

5 Real Reasons Most Dreams Never Come True.

Aspirations

I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet a lot of people chasing after something — yet never seeming to find what they are seeking. I think many times — and most of us are prone to doing this — we make excuses rather better than we make progress. And there are reasons that is the case.

Here are 5 of the real reasons most dreams never come true:

People quit trying. They give up. They may have tried before and it didn’t work, so now they don’t try at all. Seldom is a dream — a worthy dream — realized on the first attempt. The greatest discoveries are seldom found along the path of least resistance.

People aren’t willing to work hard enough. If you have a dream — it will be difficult to achieve. Might I say that it again. It will be difficult. Otherwise it’s not much of a dream. I think sometimes we expect it “just to happen”. But, dreams don’t happen by chance. Lucky isn’t a skill in achieving dreams. You might be “in the right place at the right time”, but those opportunities are rare.

People put too much hope in others and not enough confidence in themselves. Others don’t put as much energy or thought into your dream as you do. Many people never realize a dream because they expected something from others they never agreed to do.

People have unrealistic dreams. Seriously, if the dream is for a trouble-free, perfect life — that’s probably not going to become a reality. Learning to navigate an excellent dream in the midst of a world full of sorrow is a key to discovering the greatest — and most achievable — dreams in life.

People devalue the dreams already realized. This is a biggie. Sometimes we really are “living the dream”. If we always live thinking the “grass is greener” with the “next big thing” we never fully appreciate the dreams God has already given us.

Are you in a funk, because you think your dreams are passing you by? Could there be a reason for that?

8 Ways to Deal With the Emotions of Change

Grumpy, pissed off, unhappy old man

In previous posts I shared about the way people respond to change. One post share the “Absolute Most Common Objection to Change“. Another post shared “7 Common Emotions to Change“. And, there were actually 8 emotions. :) No one seemed to catch that.

With each post I was asked for some feedback on how to address those reactions. Emotions are unpredictable and unique so there’s probably not one answer here — or an easy answer. But, there are some things you can do — much as you would when dealing with emotional issues in any relationships for any reason.

Here are 8 ways to react to the emotions of change:

Fear. Give information. People usually fear what they don’t know more than what they do. During seasons of change it’s important to increase the level of communication.

Grief. Allow time to adjust — even to heal. There’s been a loss. You don’t get over that immediately. Obviously, if a person can never get over it you may have to move forward without them. But, make sure you don’t move without them because you stepped on their season of grief.

Enthusiasm. Temper celebration when change is still hurting some people. Don’t slap those opposed in the face immediately. Of course, never say “I told you so”. That screams arrogance. Celebrate yes, but do it with taste when feelings are involved.

Anger. Give it time to see if it calms. Extend forgiveness where necessary. Allow people to express their anger without retribution. Anger is usually the result of unmet expectations. Don’t agitate even further by not following through on commitments made. Some people can’t move forward once they’ve gotten angry. They don’t know to move forward. But allow time to see if it’s just an initial, reactionary outburst.

Confusion. During times of change attempt to be the king of clarity. Use various methods of communication. People hear things in different ways. Make sure everyone hears you or has an opportunity to it they are listening. (And some won’t)

Loneliness. To address this one you have to somehow replace the loneliness people feel with something they can enjoy even more. It will take time. Again, some won’t get there, but if the change is worthwhile, most people will eventual see some value in the change — especially as it relates to their personal values. Bottom line here: Make good changes.

Sadness. Recognize and acknowledge that some people will have a genuine lack of happiness about the change. That’s okay. Don’t force it. Don’t expect it. Give it time. Sometimes giving them new roles within the change gives them relief from the sadness. But the best response here is to be patient with people. Sadness doesn’t heal under pressure.

Numbness. Energize them with the vision. Let the vision drive their enthusiasm. That means you have to repeat the vision often. Sometimes daily. And you celebrate vision accomplishment more than anything else you celebrate.

Any ideas you would care to share?

7 Ways I Have Learned to Focus

focus

I’m fairly productive as a person, but the truth is, I get distracted easily and have a hard time staying focused at times. If I didn’t have notes when I was preaching, I would totally get off track. My mind wanders too much.

Thankfully, there are a few things that help me focus. Or, at least, they help prepare the conditions to keep me focused. It’s still a discipline on my part, but these things help.

7 things that help me focus:

Rest – It could be a 10 minute walk or a nap, but taking a break from what I’m doing helps me better focus when I return to the work. And, being well rested when I start my day helps me face the day with a clearer mind so I can begin to focus. The more tired I am the more restless my thoughts become.

Deadlines – I work better under pressure. I know — that sounds strange, but it’s true. And, many people do. I sometimes set my own deadlines. If I put a task on my calendar or if I schedule the steps to completion, I’m more likely to discipline myself enough to meet the deadline. Checklists are my friend.

Passion – If I’m passionate about a project — I mean really passionate — I’ll invest the energy and stayed focused to complete the task. That’s true about most things that grab our passion. Without passion I give up quickly. If it’s something I know I have to do I even ask God to give me passion and enthusiasm. I return to the roots of where my passion began. I review the purpose of my calling.

Encouragement – It may seem petty, but sometimes one well-worded email can break a period of distraction and push me to focus on the task. It reminds me why I need to discipline myself to move forward. That’s why I keep an “encouragement file”. Basically, anytime someone emails me an encouraging email I set it aside. When I need to focus better, especially when doing things I don’t enjoy as much, nothing redirects my energy any quicker than reviewing this file.

Success – Following a big “win” I’m motivated to work for another. Honestly, it’s usually a short-lived window of opportunity, but if I strike “while the iron is hot” I can better “seize the day”. This is one reason celebrating success is so important. It motivates you to focus on another moment like this one.

Exercise – I’m less disciplined, less motivated, and less content when I’m out of my exercise routine. Actually, I’m less happy overall. I recently had some health issues keeping me from running. I could feel the drain of focus. I had to figure out some new exercises to do. Exercise gives me the stamina to do the things I need to do.

Systems – I’m not a rule follower. I don’t like a lot of structure. However, if there is a system in place, I’m more likely to stay focused to completion. The old saying goes “if you want something repeated — systematize it.” The same is true for completion. You’ll be more focused for progress if you develop a system to get you from start to finish. If fact, if someone tells me focus is a problem for them, I almost always encourage them to first look at their system of doing work first.

Do you have a problem with focus? What helps you stay focused?