7 Examples of Shallow Leadership

Growing in our leadership abilities, knowledge and relationships should be a goal for every leader. Many leaders settle for status quo leadership rather than stretching themselves as leaders. They remain oblivious to the real health of their leadership and the organization. I call it shallow leadership. Perhaps you’ve seen this before in leadership. Maybe you’ve been guilty of providing shallow leadership. I certainly have.

Here are 7 characteristics of shallow leadership:

Thinking your idea will be everyone’s idea…

Believing that your way is the only way..

Assuming you already know the answer…

Pretending to care when really you don’t…

Giving the response that makes you most popular…

Refusing to learn something new…

Ignoring the warning signs of an unhealthy environment…

Have you seen shallow leadership before? What would you add to my list?

Three Ways I Process Ideas

Perhaps this has happened to you…

You read a Tweet…you hear a message…you read a book, blog post or article…it gives you an idea, encourages you, prompts you to want to take action on the idea…

If you are like me, that thought can soon become lost in a sea of other thoughts and ideas and, as great as it may have seemed at the time, the idea never becomes reality in your life. Weeks, months, or even years later you may even hear the same idea again and remember that you never did anything with it the first time…

I often am asked:  How do you capture great ideas and make them useful in your life?

Here’s a simple system I use…there’s nothing extremely genius about this, but for me it had to become a habit to be successful. Others will have better systems, but this is what I do:

Record it – You are more likely to remember ideas that you write down. I’m always impressed (and slightly nervous) in the restaurants when the waiter doesn’t write down my order, but while this may work for short-term activities, it doesn’t for long-term. Find a system of recording the ideas that come to you. Right now, for me, that’s Evernote. I actually wrote an eBook about how to use it. Find it HERE.  I have used notepads, notes on my iPhone, notebooks, etc. It doesn’t matter what you use as much as that it be a tool you have easy access to throughout the day. Use the napkin method if that’s all you have, but I find having the same tool with me each time an idea comes to me helps me keep up with the ideas better. Ideas hit you randomly, so be prepared to record them as they come.

File it - Part of saving ideas is to have a system to process them effectively. This is an extra step where many people fail, but it is where I take my recorded notes and place them in a file that makes sense to me. One single idea can easily become a blog post, for example, but the sooner I get the idea in a specific file the better chance it has of becoming something useful. For me currently, Evernote allows me to do this seamlessly. If I have a thought for a blog post, I start a file that is for that specific post. New ideas for that same post can be placed straight into that specific file. If the idea is for a future sermon message, I have a file for that message. I have a file for staff meeting notes, lead team meeting notes, etc. The key here is to decide where it needs to go and to use file names that make sense and I will use and remember later. I also have a random file for notes that aren’t yet assigned to a specific use and I periodically go back to this file to attempt to place them in a useable file, but my first attempt is for ideas to immediately be placed in a useable file. (Prior to using Evernote, I took my handwritten notes and typed them into a Word document or Google document filing system. Again, Evernote make this seamless for me right now, but the key is to file them somewhere.)

Use it - The final step for me is to take the files of ideas, notes, and questions and work through the file until it becomes something of use. Again, for me, that could be a blog post, sermon message, meeting I’m attending, or even an email to someone, but I will process that file to make something of it. If I’m looking for a blog post for the next day, for example, the first place I go to is my list of files that I have saved. Normally I have a couple dozen of these waiting for me at any given time. I’m okay having long-term files, but I like to either do something with the file or delete it in a reasonable period of time. This means at some point during my week I discipline myself to look through my list of files and either update them, add thoughts, complete them into something, such as a blog post, or delete them. I have found that with this type of system I tend to gather more notes and ideas than I can use, so it’s okay not to do something tangible with every thought I have, but recording them in this way helps me ensures that I give ample time to process ideas instead of forgetting them.

That’s my system. What works for you? How do you keep ideas from being wasted?

Friday Discussion: Are The New TSA Travel Requirements Fair?

What’s your opinion?

Since 9/11 traveling has become much more difficult and time consuming. Our government has assumed new responsibilities as we travel. I am thankful for the diligence of people involved in keeping us safe. Their work should never be taken for granted.

The most active story on my radar this week, however, has been that of the new TSA restrictions on travel. (You can read a Senate hearing transcript about them HERE.) Apparently if you travel airlines in the future you will go through an Xray type machine that shows your body plainly on a screen to ensure you have no hidden weapons or contraband. According to some, you will be basically naked in front of TSA officials. I’ve read that the new body scanners give viewers a pretty good idea of what you look like without your clothes on. If you refuse, in order to fly, you’ll be subject to an extremely thorough pat down by a TSA official of the same sex. My friend Ed Stetzer is advising you to resist these machines, even if you have to face the pat downs. (Read his post HERE.) Another friend Michael Hyatt is addressing the issue with a somewhat different take on his blog. (Read that post HERE.)

I was in Florence, SC recently and a random female passenger was pulled aside and subject to the new style of pat-down search. Honestly, it was very personal…I would have been very intimidated to have the male counterpart.

So here are my questions:

Has the TSA gone too far or is this just being safe? Are we running scared or just being cautious?

Have our rights been violated or is this part of living in a country as large as ours?

Are we overreacting to fear or are we being proactive?

What do you think?

How will you respond to the new regulations?

Great Leaders Don’t Take Opportunities Just Because They Can

Part of being a good leader is not taking opportunities even though you can. Sometimes letting your staff do something you could do, maybe even would like to do, is a better for the entire team.

When we launched our church eleven couples took a risk on a dream we felt God was leading us to pursue.  We empowered this core team to do things the way they felt best doing them, as long as they were achieving the vision we knew God was calling us to achieve.  We encouraged them to explore new ideas, become experts in their field of interest, and then released them to dream and build.  It became part of our DNA and we are still allowing people to explore new opportunities.

For example, we had ideas of what we wanted our children’s ministry to look like.  We could have even scripted it for them, but we knew that the best energies would be invested when those doing the ministry actually created the ministry. Almost five years later, there are parts of our children’s ministry I am clueless to how they are done.  Today there are new creative leaders in children’s ministry and they have implemented even more changes, but God has blessed their efforts dramatically, far beyond what we could have commanded them to do.

One of the greatest things a leader can do sometimes is to let go of the right to control.  Good leaders are willing to take a risk on other peoples ideas, knowing that in doing so, others will be more likely to take a risk on their ideas and organizational strength will be enhanced.  If you want to encourage risk-taking, dreaming, creativity and innovation, then you must be willing to empower others with opportunities you can control.

Leader, what opportunity are you currently taking that you need to release the control of to others on your team?

Have you served under a leader who was always taking the best opportunities?

Let’s Write a Story Together

This story is closed, but you can read our finished story HERE.

My family used to play this game on long car rides. I’ve tried it on my Facebook page. I thought I’d try it here on my blog. Let’s write a masterpiece story together for this week’s Friday discussion.

Here’s how this works:

1. I’m giving you the first sentence.
2. You can add one sentence at a time to the story…one sentence per comment…no more…
Is that clear enough?…one sentence
3. Each new person can add one sentence to the story. You can take the story any direction, but try to write a sentence that doesn’t close out the story…that invites someone to come behind you and continue the story.
4. Please don’t try to write one long sentence that really is a paragraph. The fun is getting the different inputs and imagination to work together.
5. After someone else adds a sentence, or if it has been a while since someone has commented, you can keep the story going by adding another sentence. IIf you haven’t figured out by now, you’ll need to read through the existing comments to understand where the story has gone.)
6. PLEASE, leave the sentence here on the blog as a comment, not on Facebook or as a Tweet. Not everyone gets to read it that way and I will not use those sentences in the final story.
7. I will not be able to use crude or vulgar comments. (I realize that will limit some of you from participating, but…)
8. I’m giving up to a week to keep the process going. When it appears the story is concluding, I’ll wrap it up and post all the comments/the story in a single blog post. (If it got really long I may make it two posts.)
9. If you want me to add a link to you/and or your name in the credits of the post, make sure I have that at the end of your sentence. I will share all names I can decipher, so if you don’t want your name in the credits let me know.
10. Have fun and be creative.

Here’s the first sentence:

“Carolyn knew not to question the timing, but she had never experienced anything like this before now.”

Now go! Add a comment with the next line.

Help spread the fun by Tweeting this post.

Every Organization Needs Some Good Bad Ideas

I love a good bad idea…don’t you?

The truth is…in a healthy organization…there really are no bad ideas…at least not in the organizational sense.

Here’s what I mean…

If you have someone on your team who is coming up with ideas…who is trying to do their best for the organization…who understands and buys into your vision…then every idea he or she has holds the potential to be a good idea.

Even the so-called bad idea usually triggers another better idea, which often leads to the best idea…

It launches discussion…it generates momentum…it spurs dialogue…

Sometimes the best ideas start because someone offered what others at first thought was a bad idea.

Effective brainstorming often involves a lot of bad ideas that help shape the best ideas.

Part of healthy team building is creating a culture where all ideas can come to the table, no idea is dismissed, and there is a freedom to critique, scrap and improve ideas.

If you start labeling bad ideas you shut down team member’s willingness to share more ideas…

Great leaders learn to welcome all ideas…bad ones and good ones…knowing that it encourages idea generation…and that ideas are a lifeline of a growing, healthy organization…

Perhaps the bad idea you’ve been tempted to dismiss is an open door to your next masterpiece idea.

What do you think? Does your organization welcome bad ideas?  Have you seen one bad idea stir a discussion that led to a good idea?

5 Reasons I Recommend the Evernote Application

Let me introduce you to one of my new favorite productivity applications.  It’s called Evernote. Evernote is a note/picture/voice taking productivity application used on laptops and mobile devices. If you aren’t familiar with it, let me share with you five reasons I love this product:

Efficiency – Evernote allows me to put a note, picture, or voice recording into the application and then Evernote automatically syncs with my other devices. Whether I’m using my iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro, I input once and am updated on all three, and it does it quickly and without error. I place my notes into files that are searchable and specific to the subject matter. Every blog post now starts as a separate Evernote file.

Convenience – Evernote is with me wherever I go. I sometimes carry my phone with me when I’m walking the dog. I can quickly put thoughts that come to me into a file in Evernote as I walk. (She’s sometimes slow!) If I see a picture, I can snap it and place it in an Evernote file for later use.

Creativity – Evernote fuels my creativity, because it allows me the freedom to think in the moment. I no longer have to wait until I get back to my laptop to brainstorm. I’m less likely to forget ideas, because I can record them as they come to me in the appropriate file.

Reliability – I never have to lose a thought again! There is seldom a time where I would not have one of these devices with me, so whenever I have a thought, I always have a place to record it, which again, automatically syncs with the other devices. I’ve yet to have the application crash, freeze, or fail to sync immediately.

Access – Evernote is a free application! You can’t beat the price for such a productive tool. Evernote is finding new ways to share information. If you notice at the end of each post now I have an Evernote share icon. You can now save my posts into your Evernote application. (How cool is that?)

If you are looking for a way to stay more organized and be more productive, check out Evernote.

Have you used this application? What do you think?

What application is helping you work better these days? Tell me about one I may not know about yet.

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams.  I love helping people attain their God-given visions.  It occurred to me that there may be a counter post needed here.   This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure it is sometimes.  The fact remains that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.  I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”.  I have many of those areas in my life.  I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no goals – You may have some but you’ve never written them down, analyzed them or organized them into reachable and attainable goals.

You have no plan – A goal without a plan is just a goal. A goal with a plan is an avenue to success.  You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships.  Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through.  Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory.  Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block.  Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears.  Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand.  If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step.  If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish.  What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

4 Times a Leader Should Strategize on Making a Decision

This post continues the thought of strategic thinking in the moment. To completely understand this post, make sure you read the first two posts in this series HERE and HERE.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision.  

As a leader, I am very familiar with the “gut call” of leadership; where a leader must make quick, decisive decisions.  (I even wrote about that concept HERE.)  All leaders, however, if they want to be successful, must use strategy when making decisions.  Developing loyal followers and protecting the organization’s future demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline, if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does…

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The answer is uncertain - I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the risk. That requires strategic thinking.

The issue affects more than the leader - One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision.

The issue is subject to resistance – Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction – When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Leaders, what do you think? Are you strategically thinking through important decisions?

Followers, have you seen these areas backfire against a leader who fails to think strategically?

What would you add to my list?

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

I love and encourage dreaming, because I think it’s healthy emotionally and the process helps us accomplish great things personally and for God. We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours, so dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.  (I written previously about the subject of dreams HERE.)

The reality is that more people have dreams than attain them. Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be attainable to be the next Max Lucado.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability - Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load - Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed. (Read my encouragement to give your vision away HERE.)

Take a risk - If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started now – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?