5 Ways to Benefit from Your Organization’s Best Asset

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Do you want to harness the greatest power in your organization?

The best assets of your church, business or non-profit never appear on your balance sheet.

The truth is any organization is only as good as the people within it. Take the greatest idea and put the wrong people behind it and little progress will be realized. With the right people – even average ideas can achieve tremendous results.

The key to success is to learn how to get the best ideas out of the people within the organization. It’s often been called Human Capital. Learning to glean from this valuable resource takes experience and intentionality.

Are you relying on the knowledge, insight and experience of everyone on your team to make the organization better? Do you understand and appreciate the human capital your team brings to the table?

Here are 5 ways to capitalize on the people value of your team:

Brainstorm

Have assigned times periodically where everyone on the team gets to give input into the organization’s future. It’s important to provide ways for even the most introverted on the team to share thoughts. Information shouldn’t be defined to a “chain of command”. Everyone has something they know better than the leader knows.

Allow mistakes

Create an environment where team members are willing to take risks without fear of repercussion if things go wrong. This atmosphere will often be created with the leader’s instant reactions to mistakes made, but will be reinforced by how the organization learns from failure. When people feel free to explore they will enjoy doing so.

I recently read 12 things discovered by making a mistake.

  • The slinky
  • Penicillin
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Potato chips
  • The pacemaker
  • Silly Putty
  • Microwave ovens
  • Fireworks
  • Corn flakes
  • Ink jet printers
  • Post it notes
  • X-rays

Now where would the world be without Silly Putty – right? Seriously, God has given us creative minds. What is your team trying, which could prove to be a mistake – but it could be genius?

Ask questions

The best leaders ask the best questions. Genuinely seek help from those around you.  Recognize the fact others may know more than you know about a particular subject. I like to follow others on the team when they are the expert in a subject. And, sometimes, I ask questions – not as much for the answer – but to get their minds churning. It’s proven to be gold at times.

Don’t pre-define solutions

If you want help solving a problem or planning for the future, start with a clean slate, without having a pre-determined outcome when addressing an issue.  If the leader always has the answer, team members are less likely to share their input. They’ll simply wait – holding out the best solutions at times – knowing the leader will trump them anyway.

Be open to change

New ideas never come in an attitude of control or when the goal is always protecting tradition. The leader must genuinely desire new ways of doing things – and must lead others to the same mindset.  Everyone on the team knows if the leader is really considering other people’s opinions. If team member’s suggestions are never implemented, they eventually will stop sharing them.

How are you currently taking advantage of the human capital in your organization? Is your church, business or non-profit experiencing the blessing of different ideas? 

5 Steps to Recovery from a Failure

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You’ve failed. It was huge. Perhaps you did it on purpose. Maybe it was an accident. You may have stumbled into gradually over time or suddenly.

Bottom line: You did it. It was wrong. There’s no sense denying it now.

What you do next will determine if – and how well – you recover.

Here are 5 steps to recovery from a failure:

Admit

Be honest with yourself and others who need to know. Quit hiding from the truth. Stop making excuses. Your story is your story. Hiding only delays recovery. Own what you did and take responsibility for your actions. It’s a sign of maturity, but few make it to this point. Be one who does. You may have consequences to deal with – don’t try to run from them.

Repent

Ask God for forgiveness. If you are a believer, He’s already paid your penalty on the cross, but you need to acknowledge your sin to keep the relationship pure. Ask any injured parties for forgiveness. You’re not responsible for their granting of grace – only for your attempt to live at peace with them. Your hardest step may be to forgive yourself.

Plan

Create a new path. Consider the right way to do things next time – so you won’t face the same failure again. Do you need new friends? A new environment? Should you step away from a position for a time? How can you ensure those around you, whose trust you’ve broken can trust you again? Develop a plan of recovery – steps you need to take to move forward again.

Commit

Commit to your plan. They may mean new accountability. Commit to the people you love. Commit to yourself. Commit to walking a new path and writing a new story. You can do anything with the discipline and tenacity to see it through. Believe in the power and sufficiency of God’s grace in your life.

Grow

We should learn from every failure. You do not have to be defined by this season of your life, but you should mature from it. Move forward – looking back not to feel bad about yourself, but only enough to remind you to never go there again.

You can do it!

Have you ever recovered from a failure? What would you add to my list?

5 Clever Ways I Find Time to Exercise

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I’ve written before about my discipline of exercise. Honestly, it has to be one of the keys to me being effective in life and leadership. I can tell the difference in productivity when I exercise and when I don’t.

There are always seasons where the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’m traveling more, or I simply am busier than usual. I have to be more creative in those seasons.

I talk to busy, stressed pastors every week and frequently I ask them how they are staying physically fit. Most have been trained and are more disciplined in their spiritual life, but the reality is their physical life is impacting their health – and – if its not now, it will someday impact every other part of their life.

As much as it depends on me, I think it is important to take care of our health. But, I’ll admit, working 50 or even 70 hour weeks normally makes it difficult to fit exercise into an already packed schedule.

I’m purposeful enough though – and know the value – if I can, I’ll find a way.

Here are 5 clever ways I find time to exercise:

Work on the elliptical.

This one takes practice learning to balance on the machine, but it’s proven gold in the quantity of my exercise. For example, a few times a week I go over my notes for Sunday. Why not do it while I exercise? I sometimes write blog posts from the elliptical. (Posts like this one.) It has become a great way for me to accomplish two things I need to do at the same time. What do you have to do that is a routine for you, but you could do while exercising? Anything? Be creative.

Exercise on lunch breaks.

One problem for me is eating three full meals a day. I can’t do it these days and maintain my weight. Sometimes my schedule dictates three meals, because many of my meetings are done at these times. I’m bad at resisting food when I have it in front of me. On days I can, I try to grab something light, fast and healthy and hit the road or gym. It fuels me for the rest of the day, gives me a sense of accomplishment and I’m healthier.

Walk to talk.

Weather permitting, Cheryl and I take walks together almost daily. It allows us to catch up on the day, debrief the week ahead and enjoy exercising together. I’ve done this with staff members too. If you schedule me for a phone call I will likely be walking as we talk. I’ve even gone to a stand up desk so I’m less tied to a chair. Remember this phrase: If you have an extended talk – take a walk.

Strategic mental breaks.

If I’m stuck in my thoughts, I can almost always spur myself if I exercise. The break in schedule always pays back dividends beyond the apparent loss of time. This is especially true during the most stressful weeks. (By the way, this means I’m always ready with clothes at the office or in my car.) If you need to think or pray through an issue – get your body moving. It’s almost always productive for me. It’s often my best prayer time.

Let my calendar be my conscience.

I love having a goal on the calendar. A half or full marathon – or even a 5K. You can walk it or run it, but knowing it’s coming for me is a motivator. I also sometimes plan my schedule around exercising. My long day to prepare for Sunday is Wednesday. I try not to have breakfast appointments this day because I want to get in a good run – especially if weather permits. Your calendar often controls the rest of your life – why not this vital area?

Again, I realize the value of exercise for my life – for the quality of my life – and so I’ll make time for it. You can find time if you are creative and disciplined with your time.

(By the way. This principle works for anything you value. Prayer. Bible reading. Relationships. We find time for those things which we value most.)

Have you found any clever ways to work exercise into your schedule?

I’m open to learning new ones.

7 of the Biggest Misunderstandings Millennials have about My Baby Boomer Generation

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So much has been written about the Millennial generation. They may possibly be the most studied and documented generation – and, I thought this honor would go to my Baby-Boomer generation. Millennials have unique challenges. The world has been quite different during their lifetime. Fast change. New technologies. Increasing global tensions. 

I get to spend a lot of time with Millennials in my work as a pastor. I have two sons who are Millennials. Frankly, I love the generation. 

What is interesting to me when I talk to Millennials is some of the misunderstandings they have about my generation – specifically how my generation views their generation. 

Recently a young Millennial asked for some of my time to talk through where he felt God was leading him. He was so apologetic for “taking my time”. What he didn’t understand was how much his conversation fueled me for everything else I had to do that day. I loved it. I’ve had similar experiences many times.

The encounter caused me to reflect on other misunderstandings I’ve observed from Millennials about my generation. Feel free to add your own in the comments. 

7 of the biggest misunderstandings millennials have of my Baby-Boomer generation:

 

We really do enjoy helping you. Your inquisitive nature is not a burden to us. We don’t consider your questions to be dumb. We know we all have to learn somewhere. There is no higher compliment than to be asked for wisdom – or seen as knowing something worthy of your attention towards us. 

We wish we had asked more questions when we were your age. Yours is an inquisitive generation. You want to know. You’ve been used to having information – in fact, you can Google most your answers. We admire this about you and wish we had learned to ask questions earlier. Instead, we learned too many things the hard way – by experience – but we would have avoided some of those experiences if we could have. You inspire us to ask more questions. There are lots of things we can learn from you. (Thank you for this.)

We don’t think we know it all. At least most of us don’t. And, we are okay with it. Frankly, the older we get the more we realize we don’t know. And, it doesn’t seem to bother or frustrate us as it did when we were younger. 

We don’t always understand your impatience. Seriously, sometimes we don’t. We look at your life and you seem to be doing okay. So, when you are frustrated you don’t have everything yet – or aren’t where you want to be in your career – we don’t always “get it”. But, we know we were much like this when we were your age – and probably more impatient in our younger years. There was more of a sense of “work your way up” in our generation, but we often saw unfairness in who got to move up and how. 

We often understand what you’re feeling more than you think we do. You think because we are older, and aren’t experiencing some of the issues you’re experiencing, we don’t understand the frustrations you face. It is a new day – and the world is much different – but the things you experience today are some of the same issues we experienced – just without the texting or social media sharing possibilities for them. We struggled (and mostly still do) in relationships, careers, with our parents, trying to find our place, fears about our future – all of those things. 

We have a different perspective, but we aren’t as different as you think. We see life from a different viewpoint. We are further along in life. We have more experiences – more laughs, more heartaches, more disappointments, more failures – and, all of this makes us see the world a little differently. But, we aren’t as different as you might think. We have the same desires you have – for mutual respect, trusted relationships, workplace fairness and opportunity. We may disagree on how to get there – but we want the world to be a better place – as you do. The basic human wants and needs are often filled differently – but they remain much the same. 

We aren’t as crazy about all the tech advances either – when it comes to real relationships. Sure, we love the new gadgets – and appreciate you for helping us learn them (thankfully, I finally figured out the DVR) – but, we prefer real conversations with people we love than a text or phone call any day. Sure, we’ve taken advantage of the ease of social media to keep up with loved ones. We are guilty of emailing instead of walking down to your office. We fall into the trap of overworking and under-relating to people in our life. But, just like you, we value genuine relationships. We even like “hanging out”. And, hanging out with your generation – are some of our favorite times. 

Those are a few I’ve observed. Got any to add? 

7 Ways a Leader Can Invite Constructive Feedback

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I remember an especially hard year as a leader. It was so bad several members of our staff had told me where I was letting them down. So much for having an “open door policy”. The next year I closed the door. :)

Not really, but this was a year where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear – I can be an idiot at times. There were significant areas where I needed to improve. Thankfully I haven’t had many of those years, but I’m glad now I had the ones I have. 

There is room for improvement with any leader and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

I realize some would question me for allowing such correction, but most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserved it. Plus, anytime an associate is brave enough to rebuke an employer, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything.
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care.
  • Feels welcome to do so.

In my opinion, good leaders work to live within the third option. I hope this was the case in my situation.

I should say – because I know some are thinking – criticism comes easily to leaders. Do anything at all in leadership and someone will have a problem with it – and they won’t always be kind in how they voice their complaint. But, I’m not talking about this type criticism. I am referring to constructive feedback from people I care about and who respect me. We all need that at times.

Here are 7 ways I welcome correction from the people I lead:

An open door.

This is more than keeping the door to my office open. I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. The person who keeps my calendar always knows people on staff get in first if something needs to be scheduled. And, if I’m in the office, my door is “open” – they can walk in anytime. In addition, my team knows I consider responsiveness to be of the highest value.

Include others in decision making.

If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made. In fact, I seldom make decisions alone.

Ask for it.

Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. I ask lots of questions. I solicit opinions on almost every major decision I make. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. And, the more you ask, the more freedom people feel in sharing.

Admit mistakes.

It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault. People feel more comfortable approaching a leader who doesn’t feel they are always right.

Take personal responsibility.

In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner. When they are criticized I own the criticism with them. I have their back. (By the way – this is only learned by experience.)

Model it.

It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it. If I chooser retribution, I’ve shut further feedback off before it comes.

Trade it.

The best way to get your team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with your team where there is mutual constructive feedback. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

I should also say all these are still not enough. Constructive criticism from people who care about you and want your best – especially from people you lead – only develops over time as trust is developed. They have to trust you and you have to trust them. 

Receiving correction – or constructive feedback – is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, when a leader is open to correction from his or her team, the team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction? Is your leader open to correction?

7 Core Disciplines Needed for a Spiritual Leader

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A spiritual leader, in my opinion, is called to lead well.

All leaders should lead well, but when one claims to be a follower of Christ their leadership reflects on his or her walk with Christ.

I have learned personally that leading well requires discipline. It doesn’t happen naturally.

Here are 7 disciplines needed for a spiritual leader:

Dreaming

You will never dream bigger than God. Imagine 1 Corinthians 2:9, as it relates to dreaming. (“No eye has seen no ear has heard”). It’s almost a challenge to plan bigger than God has in mind. God gave the creative mind to be used. Spiritual leaders must dream huge!

Praying

Oh, the neglected discipline of prayer! I’ve never met a spiritual leader who felt they prayed enough. Ask yourself, “What isn’t moving forward simply because I haven’t prayed?” The prayer of the righteous accomplishes much! (James 4:2-3, James 5:16)

Working

A Christian leader should be a diligent worker. God honors hard work. Spiritual leadership is not only a Sunday event. There is no excuse for laziness when Kingdom work is at stake. (Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 21:5, Matthew 25:14-30)

Waiting

Waiting is a part of walking with God – a part of the faith journey. God does not give us every answer, nor commit to us the immediate outcome. He commands us to go sometimes before He tells us where. As followers of Christ, we must learn the fruit of patience and be willing to wait for God to move. (Isaiah 40:31, Hebrews 6:15, Psalm 25:21)

Listening

The Spiritual leader must learn to discern the voice of God and listen carefully for instruction. (John 10:27) Additionally, because the body is made of different people, spiritual leaders must be willing to listen to others – even when they have a differing opinion.

Studying

A spiritual leader, who desires to be like and lead like Christ, must discipline to be a student of God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15) Moses said “these words are your life.”

Teaching

Investing in others – the ultimate call of the Christian’s life. Following the example of Jesus, delegation is not an option for the spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders must always be kingdom-minded and disciple other Christ-followers and leaders.

Be honest, which of these do you most need to improve upon as a spiritual leader?

5 Ways for a Christian to Rebuke or Correct a Friend

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A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Wounds from a friend can be trusted… Proverbs 27:6

rebuke |riˈbyoōk|verb express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.

Years ago in high school, I had a friend tell me I was hanging out with the wrong people. It was hard to hear, but I listened to the advice and switched my sphere of influence. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, considering the different path my life took and the life of my former friends.

That’s only one example. Thankfully there have been many other times a friend loved me enough to help me see the mistakes I was making. Usually I knew, but the rebuke challenged me to alter my ways. I’ve had to “return the favor” many times.

There are times when you have to rebuke a friend in order to be a true friend. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell another what he or she is doing wrong. You may be the only one who cares enough to point out what everyone else sees, but refuses to address.

If you choose to accept the assignment of rebuking or correcting a friend, you should be sure you are accurate in your assessment – as much as you can be without a conversation, you should pray through the proper timing of your approach, and you should address the person and not others to keep from spreading gossip. And, this should go without saying, but you should make sure they are actually a friend. If the relationship isn’t a close one – you may not be the right person to approach them. 

I’ve titled this post ways for a “Christian” to rebuke a friend. I believe these could apply to believers or non-believers. But, I did so because part of being in the family of God comes with certain expectations, such as love and forgiveness – which we are to extend to all our friends – whether or not they share our faith. 

When the time comes, here are 5 ways to rebuke or correct a friend:

Be purposeful.

A rebuke should not be vindictive in nature or driven by jealousy or selfish interests. The betterment of your friend should be your sole objective. If this is not the case, you may only be acting from your emotions – and things will not go well. You will likely not be received well by your friend. Check your motive first. This is where prayer beforehand comes in handy. 

Be loving.

As we should do with everything, correction of any kind should come in the context of a loving relationship. In fact, one standard might be to not rebuke people you don’t love. If done correctly a rebuke is a part of love. (If you don’t know how, THIS POST was written for a different purpose, but may offer some suggestions.) Part of maturing as a person is learning how to say hard things and still be kind doing so. 

Be truthful.

Don’t dance around or use subtleties when addressing the issue. State the problem as you see it. Keep in mind you may be wrong on some of your assumptions, so be prepared to listen as much as talk, but don’t leave them guessing what you mean either. 

Be helpful.

In addition to pointing out the problems you see, a loving response comes with some offers for resolution and a willingness to walk through any necessary recovery with the friend. Help them process where they are in life. Recommit your friendship to them. Follow up with them afterwards to make sure they know you care. 

Be redemptive.

Be willing to extend grace and forgive the friend for any wrong they have done – towards you, others, or themselves. Make sure he or she knows you are still in their corner. Don’t offer a rebuke or correct someone if you aren’t also willing to forgive or if you don’t ultimately want the best for them – regardless of how they respond.

Do you have a friend you can count on to rebuke or correct you if needed?

10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve as a Leader

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Most leaders want to improve. I hear from leaders weekly who want to get better in their role. They want to improve so the organization they lead can improve.

As much as leaders desire improvement, many leaders wonder where they should go to grow.

Here are 10 things you can do today to improve as leader:

Read the Bible

I know you’d expect this from a pastor, but seriously, this is not a clever attempt to get you to read your Bible. (Although, you should, you know.) The Bible is a tremendous resource for leadership development. Jesus is the Master Leader. And there are plenty of other examples of men and women who, unlike Jesus, were sinful people like you and me. Of course, for me it’s THE source of my foundation, but even if you aren’t a follower of Christ you can learn from the leaders in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the flaws within every leader either, so you can learn from people who recover from failure.

Read a leadership book

There are many good leadership books to choose from, but if you aren’t sure where to start, choose a John Maxwell book. Or a Patrick Leoncini book. Or a Chip and Dan Heath book. Any of them. Safe choice every time. You might read THIS POST for some specific books I recommend. I wrote this post several years ago and there are many I would add to the list now. The key is to read. Leaders are readers. One frequent question I ask successful leaders is, “what are you currently reading?” It just takes one fresh idea to launch you into something golden.

Find a mentor

The best mentors in my life have been people I admire whom I have invited to speak into my life. This has included pastors, business leaders and politicians. I look for character first and then competency in an area in which I want to grow personally. (And, yes, there are politicians who qualify.)

Go to lunch with fellow leaders

I usually have 2 or 3 different groups of leaders I meet with periodically. These are peers. They are at similar places in their career of leadership. Some pastors. Some not. We learn from each other. And, often I have to be the one to take the initiative first. I’m game for it, because I know the value.

Join a civic club

I am not in one, but have attended and spoken to them many times. It’s a great option to put you with other leaders in the community. I have, however, always been active in the community. Most communities have formal leadership programs, often through the chamber of commerce. Ask around. There are leadership principles nearby if we are intentional to seek them.

Ask for input from those you lead

I promise the people you are trying to lead have suggestions. They won’t often share them unless they are given permission. You have to be bold – and humble – enough to ask.

Analyze current conditions

Few leaders stop to see where they are currently. What’s working? What’s not? What needs tweaking? What needs killing? The best leaders don’t have all the answers, but they have great questions. You usually won’t know the answer to the question you don’t ask.

Reflect on past mistakes

The best teacher is experience. Most likely you’ve had situations in the past God can use to prepare you for what you are currently facing. Or you’ve watched others make mistakes. Take time to reflect and learn. I keep a record of mistakes I’ve made. I blog about many of them.

Write some goals

It amazes me when I hear leaders who don’t have written goals and objectives they are currently trying to achieve. Writing something puts it in your schema. You are more likely to have the goals at the front of your mind. When this happens you’ll be a walking sponge of new ideas to accomplish them. You will learn as you go because you are living with your current objectives closer to your mind. I keep an Evernote file so as ideas hit me I can quickly record them.

Subscribe to a few leadership blogs

People are talking leadership these days. Have you noticed? Participate. Listen. Contribute to the discussion. You’ll learn along the way.

Growing as a leader isn’t difficult. It does require an intentional effort on your part.

What are some ideas you have to improve as a leader…today?

7 Casualties of Being a People Pleaser in Leadership

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Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions.

Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others.

At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. We all like to be liked. This leads many leaders, however, into becoming victims of people-pleasing. When pleasing people becomes a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinions of others than by vision.

Every pastor and leader I know agrees people-pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. This is obviously dangerous. Hopefully, I don’t have to build the case here.

But what are the casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties? How does it ultimately play out among people in the church or organization we are attempting to lead? Knowing these answers may help us be more determined not to allow people-pleasing to be our motivation in leadership.

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied.

When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is no one on the team finds fulfillment in their work. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win – no one really does.

Tension mounts among the team.

People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.

Disloyalty is rampant.

One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. The people-pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said. Consequently, people don’t trust a people-pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular.

Burnout is common.

I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.

Frustration abounds.

People-pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions. Frustrating.

Mediocrity reigns.

Second best under a people-pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone, the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)

Visions stall.

Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. This involves change. Always. And, change is hard. Always. People don’t like change. People-pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?

Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?

What results did you see?

7 Ways to Help the Introverts on Your Team Better Engage in Meetings

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I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how. I try to remind them other people are different from me, even other introverts.

Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me authority, I’ll lead the meeting. No problem. That would never be comfortable for some introverts.

So, my best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would not be to consider the introverts, but to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins. If it’s “your” team this is done over time – getting to know the team. If the meeting involves people you don’t know or know well, it’s more difficult, but good leaders learn to study people – things such as the way they respond before the meeting, when they are introducing themselves, or their posture during the meeting.

But, I do understand the introvert question. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion – or it’s a meeting full of extreme extroverts.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Again, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics.

And, by the way, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond

This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to share some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions – ahead of time

Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing

When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot

If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted

If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. Then, prepare to be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control

Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert. Before you have the meeting, if they are willing, give introverts an assignment where they are responsible for sharing.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas

Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?