Where My Best Ideas Come From

Where do you get your best ideas?

I love ideas, so I’m always trying to create new ones.

Here’s where some of my best ideas come from:

Brainstorming with others - I love to surround myself with creative thinkers…they expand my thinking.

Running – When I run, my mind races quickly…much faster than I actually run.

Outdoors – When I take a walk along the beach, or sit on a hillside watching a sunset, or staring at the stars…I think big thoughts!

Shower – I remember reading research that said there was something scientific about this…but either way, when I take a shower, I think!

Random - I am a random idea guy, so much so that I must, however, keep something handy where I can take notes at any given time.

So where do your best ideas come from?

7 Ways to Ensure Your Email Gets Read

I’ve been having a problem with my youngest son lately.  He isn’t reading all the emails he should be reading. In fact, we almost missed paying some fees he had due for college, which could have made him miss some deadlines for school.  You see, Nate’s a busy college student.  He’s consumed with school work, church activities, and a host of social activities.  If you want to lose his attention quickly…send him a really long email.

I can’t complain, because he’s wired like me.  He is always busy doing something, hates unproductive time, and some emails, if they tend to ramble, simply don’t capture his attention.  I realize it’s ultimately our problem, not the sender, but to us it almost seems a waste of time to process an email that could have been written with the same information in a much shorter form.  Just being honest…I don’t read all the long emails I need to read.  Sometimes I miss details, because the email was too long to process.

That’s my honesty….I’m working on it…but lately it seems I’m getting a ton of chapter length emails and it prompted me to think through this issue.  If you want to ensure I read your email…and people wired like me, here are some suggestions.  In fact, if you simply want to make sure your emails are read, regardless of who you email, consider these thoughts.

Here are 7 ways to ensure your email gets read:

Make sure your name is clearly listed in the FROM line - I am more likely to read an email from an individual than I am an organization.

Make the recipient ME – I’m less likely to read an email addressed to a group…even if the group is summarized by your name.

Write a great subject heading – “Hey” is probably not good enough…It needs to capture the reader’s attention enough to want to open the email.

Get started immediately with the main idea – Similar to the rules of writing a letter, you should instantly begin dealing with the subject of the email.

Give pertinent details but don’t write a book - Bullet points sometimes help.

Consider the length – Before pressing send, look at the overall length of the email.  Would you read it…or would the length encourage you to put it aside for a later read…or skip it altogether?  Remember many may read it on a smart phone and the email will appear even longer.

Give the option to ask questions - Close your email with the opportunity to ask questions if the reader wants more details or information.

The more emails we send and receive, the more important it becomes that we write better emails.  Writing emails that are to the point and condense ensures a greater chance of them being read.

One idea our small group pastor used recently was to have two sections to a longer email.   He had a “just the facts” section at the top with bullet points of pertinent facts, followed by a longer section for those who may want to read more detailed explanations.  It worked well to capture my attention. I read the first section only!

Now your turn to be honest…when you receive a really long email, how do you respond?

What would you add to my list?  What ideas do you have for writing emails that get read?

10 Characteristics of God Leadership

One of my Top Posts of 2010 was a post entitled 10 Characteristics of Good Leadership. As I was typing it into the year-end review I “mistakenly” typed in the word “God” instead of the word “Good”. I decided to let this “mistake” become a post of it’s own. I’ve written before 10 Reasons I Admire the Leadership Principles of Jesus and 10 Tips to Doing Leadership the Jesus Way, but in this post, it would consider ways I should lead if I am leading in a God-inspired way.

Using my Evernote application, I quickly captured the first 10 characteristics that came to mind.  Basically I asked myself, if a person was leading the way God would inspire him or her, how would he or she lead? (I’m hoping you’ll add to my list.)

Here are 10 Characteristics of God Leadership:

  • Seeks God’s will before his or her own…
  • Humble…
  • Servant…
  • Walks by faith…
  • Patient…
  • Considers the interest of others better than his or herself…
  • Submits to authority…
  • Teachable…seeks wisdom from others…
  • Believes the impossible can happen…
  • Empowers others to do what he or she could do…

That’s a start…

What would you add to my list?

What Are You Leaving Behind to Start a New Year?

Yesterday we began a new series at Grace Community Church called Horizons.  Every year offers new opportunities…the question is are we prepared for what lies beyond the horizon?

I closed the message by asking these questions for consideration of what we need to leave behind as we move into a new year.

  • What do you need to leave behind this year?
  • What changes do you need to make?
  • What failures do you need to forget?  (Or at least let them work for you rather than against you?)
  • What disciplines do you need to take on?
  • Whom do you need to forgive?
  • What grudge do you need to release?
  • What burden do you need to give back to God?
  • Do you need to trust Him more this year
  • Do you need to serve Him…or serve others more this year?

What you won’t see in this message is the closing challenge.  It was more difficult to capture this for recording, but people were encouraged to write on an index card what they most need to leave behind in 2010…and not take with them into 2011.  It could be an answer to one of these questions or perhaps a secret sin, a worry, burden, anger, or fear…

What would you need to write on that card?

Writing a Life Plan for the New Year, Part 3

This week we are writing life plans for the coming year.  If you have missed the first two posts, read them HERE and HERE.  My desire is that we realize all the dreams and goals we have this year.   I’m convinced many of our resolutions…if we make them…are reachable with a little more intentionality and discipline. Many refuse to make resolutions, because they have repeatedly failed at keeping them. The purpose of these posts is to help you start the year on a good path towards reaching those goals.

Today we add another step.  Let me be honest.  This step is not as fun as setting goals…at least for people wired like me.  This is a little more difficult and will take a little more time to complete, but it is a vital step to the success of your plans.  Chances are good that if you fail to keep your New Year’s resolutions, not doing this step well is the more likely reason.

In this step, we will write some action steps, which will help us reach our specific goals.  The question you should attempt to answer here is: What specific action steps do I need to take to ensure I reach my goals?  Be specific here.  The more specific the action step the greater chance you have of completing it.  I continue to use the same hypothetical set of goals for illustration purposes.  Below you will see the specific goals followed by the action steps.

Lose 10 pounds – I want to lose 10 pounds by (Insert Realistic Date Here) by eating less and exercising more.

  • Exercise on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
  • Limit eating fast food at lunch to twice a week
  • Stop drinking diet soft drinks and drink more water
  • Keep track of calories, attempting to eat less than 2,000 calories per day

Improve my marriage communication – I want my wife and I to argue less about things, simply due to poor communication.  I want to understand her better and find more times when we are on the same page without arguing to get there.  I want us to be able to talk through issues without raising our voice at each other.

  • Write out questions for our date nights to answer together…
  • Read one marriage book together and do one Bible study together
  • Attend a marriage conference this year
  • Have a date night every week

Pay off my credit card - I want to pay off $7,000 worth of debt by (Insert Realistic Date Here).

  • Limit eating dinner out to once a week
  • Work to refinance the house
  • Write a realistic budget by Jan 30th. (Set a date approximately 30 days out)
  • Read the book “I Was Broke and Now I’m Not” by Joe Sangl

Read through the Bible - I want to be able to say I have read the entire Bible and finish all of it this year, without losing interest in three months.  I want to read the Bible consistently throughout the year at least 5 days per week.

  • Use one of YouVersion’s daily reading plan
  • Not check Facebook or email until I’ve read the Bible
  • Follow along with my small group curriculum
  • Get the YouVersion smart phone application

Write a book - I want to finish one of the many book ideas I have, have it completely written, and either have a publisher for the book or decide to self-publish. (These dates are for example. You set the realistic date that works for you.)

  • Write a book proposal by January 30th
  • Send out proposal letters to book publishers and agents by March 1st.
  • Outline book chapters by Feb 15th
  • Write a chapter every two weeks beginning March 1st

As I stated yesterday, during this step you may decide to alter some of your goals…or even scrap one of them…that’s okay…they’re your goals.  You are far more likely to follow through with goals you fully believe you can accomplish.

Tomorrow we add another step…yes…there’s just a little more to do to ensure success…

What do you think?  Is this difficult?   Is this helpful?

50+ Examples of “Successful Leadership Requires…”

I was thinking about successful leadership recently…actually, I think about the subject a lot… I guess because I want to be a successful leader and, because I know so many “leaders” who think they are, but aren’t successful.  You know the kind….  I talk weekly to ministers serving on church staffs around the country who are struggling with the leadership of the church where they serve, mainly because of the leadership…or lack thereof…coming from senior leadership in the church.  Perhaps you understand…

I decided, since I have such awesome Twitter followers…and most people have an idea of what they think successful leadership looks like…that I’d put the subject to the test. I simply asked: What does successful leadership require?

I primed the pump…so-to-speak…with these suggestions:

Successful leadership requires:

  • intentionality…
  • humility…
  • courage…
  • ingenuity…
  • discipline…
  • risk-taking…

My Twitter friends responded generously with these additions:

Successful leadership requires:

  • discipleship…
  • love for God and for those we are leading.
  • passion…
  • strength to do what is necessary to do…
  • a servant’s heart…
  • discernment…
  • tenacity…
  • authenticity…
  • faith…
  • grace…
  • perseverance…
  • love…
  • vision and an organized plan of attack…
  • perceptive and generous historians…
  • followers…
  • creating room for others to step into leadership…
  • service…
  • influence…
  • the ability to act and listen with humility…
  • sacrifice…
  • patience…
  • coffee…
  • understanding of self…
  • understanding your team’s strengths and managing to those…not weaknesses…
  • clarity of purpose…
  • earning & maintaining the trust of your followers…
  • servant’s heart…
  • partnership…
  • dedication…
  • vision…
  • commitment…
  • reaching for perfection and accepting flawed execution…
  • wisdom…
  • being called…
  • brokenness…
  • movement…
  • compassion…
  • a big heart…
  • total dependence on God…
  • knowing where he is going and takes others with him…
  • strategic thinking….
  • empowerment…
  • big dreams…
  • forward thinking…
  • dealing with criticism…
  • the ability to forgive and not hold grudges…

I’m sure there are many others…what would you add?

Successful leadership requires ___________.

How the World Demographics have Changed in 200 Years

This short video blows me away. It demonstrates the changes in the world over the last 200 years in age expectancy and poverty levels. I saw it on my friend Greg Atkinson‘s blog, but I thought it was worth sharing here also. This shows how things can change in a couple hundred years. That may seem like a long time, but in view of history, it’s fast paced. What are the implications here for the church? For the future economies?  For the way we do global trade, the global economy?  Can you see the change from America being a dominant superpower?  How will this impact this country’s future?  Do you see evidence of the change today?  How?  Just in my life the changes have been enormous.  Share your observations.

And notice the way he’s presenting information….Will we soon be preaching using this technology? Imagine sharing the story of the Bible like this?

Share your immediate thoughts after you watch this video.

3 Critical Aspects of Planning for Future Growth

The main battle for your organization’s long-term success doesn’t exist where you are…it exists where you are going…

Regardless of how great or bad something may be now, this moment will pass. The successes created today will soon fade and current struggles don’t necessarily indicate future victories.

Take writing for example. Unless you are Rick Warren or a handful of others, the best selling authors have to continue to create new material to stay on the best sellers list. In the business world, the hottest products are only as hot as the next great update or until another “greater” product is introduced. Momentum dies…people lose interest…motivation for what you are promoting fades and something new is needed to keep growing.

On the other hand, if an organization is struggling today that doesn’t always mean they’ll struggle tomorrow. Sometimes one big break turns things from stagnant to growing to thriving. Obviously attention has to be current to survive, but struggling organizations often need to focus even more intently on the future.

At some point, to remain viable and to succeed, organizations have to concentrate on days ahead, because a new day is coming. These principles are truer now than ever before. If an organization wants to be successful over time, then it must be winning the battle for the future.

Here are three aspects or planning for future growth every organization must have:

Strategic thinking – There must be a concerted effort placed on thinking about next steps for the organization. If strategic thinking isn’t a leader’s strength (although I think it’s difficult to lead well without this skill), someone in the organization must be delegated the task of strategically thinking forward. The future is coming…things are changing…and the organization must be able to strategically respond.

Flexibility and adaptability - Today’s leader must remain flexible enough to adapt to change quickly. Most likely the plans you set today will be altered in some way tomorrow. As a leader, you must be open to change personally and learn how to lead others to embrace change within the organization.

Staffing and team-building - An organization will only be as good as the people who make up the organization, so the future is dependent on attracting and retaining the best people. Great leaders are planning ahead for staffing needs, always on the lookout for good people and intentionally seeking to develop people in the organization. Great leaders allow people to explore, possess authority and become leaders. In today’s organizations, the strength of the team is the strength of the organization.

I have been on both sides of an organization…both striving and struggling…and I believe all three of these aspects are true in both scenarios. I see these three as critical to the future growth of any organization, but I’m still learning and organizations are changing every day, so help me here. What am I missing? What would you add to my list?