The WHAT Test – A Simple Strategy to Think Through Level of Commitment

Asian business people team drawing on white wall whiteboard with sticky notes creative real office

The WHAT Test.

Over the years, I have found numerous uses for this simple strategy of thought. The WHAT Test is an acronym of steps to force you to think through how committed everyone involved actually is to a project, relationship or goal. It doesn’t ensure success, but it can help you avoid the disappointment of not having thoroughly thought about the agreed upon direction and level of commitment before you begin.

Here’s The WHAT Test:Where

Where do you want to go? It sounds simple, but it’ serially not. Many times when one person is ready to celebrate success another thinks you’re just getting started. Talk through the end goal. What do you want to accomplish? Collectively define a win. Make sure it is very clear up front where you want to go and how you will know when you’ve “arrived” at your intended destination.

How?

How will you get there? What’s the plan? What are the steps to get us to our goal? Who is going to do what? Who’s responsible? Who’s in charge of what? What are the necessary steps involved? This is where you ensure there is a strategy in place.

Agreement

Are all parties in complete agreement with the previous two? This is critical. Don’t neglect this important step. Don’t move forward without knowing everyone is on board. Many times we agree to a vision on the front end and have reservations once the actual strategy is in place. It’s good to renew agreement before proceeding.

Tenacity

This may be the most important one. I always ask: Are you willing to pay the price to see it through? This is almost a covenant agreement type step – and may even involve an actual covenant. Most great ideas fail – not because they weren’t great ideas – but because no one had the commitment to see them through. This can be especially true when relationships are involved. Decide on the front end all parties have a “whatever it takes” attitude. This will save you many headaches and heartaches down the road.

Obviously, each of these have multiple layers to them, but this exercise always seems to shake out some of the initial reservations which may not have been spoken and avoids some of the personal obstacles which may otherwise occur.

Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve used this:

  • Working with a couple trying to rebuild their relationship – could be after an affair or serious breach in trust has occurred.
  • Prior to attempting a difficult project or assignment.
  • Before a business partnership is formed.

At the beginning of any important venture – Take the WHAT Test

WHAT you are trying to accomplish will seem more attainable when you can easily pass the The WHAT Test.

There are dozens of applications for this simple formula, but the point is strategically thinking through these steps will help protect, build or rebuild relationships – plus help all parties avoid disappointment.

7 Things I Learned about Leadership from a Poor Management Experience

teacher-ruler

Years ago I was working in retail. I was in college, but serving in a junior management for a large department store. I was responsible for ordering the basic items in my department, making sure we were always in stock with regular sellers. One of those items was a collar extender.

(I don’t know if those are even used anymore, and I never used one personally, but basically it was a metal button extender which hooked the button and extended a new button further – allowing a man to wear a shirt longer as the man grew larger by making the neck bigger. You know you wanted to know this.)

Anyway, we normally kept a couple boxes with 12 extenders in each in stock. When we had sold one box I was to order another box. They weren’t fast sellers, so it didn’t happen often. I noticed one day we were down to our last box, so I placed an order, but instead of ordering one box of 12, I incorrectly order 12 boxes of 12 – which was pretty much enough for a decade of extender sells.

I had made a mistake.

How did “management” handle the issue?

Well, I must admit, it wasn’t by using good leadership principles.

The morning after the arrival of our new case of extenders, a memo was sent to all area managers, in every department, throughout the store. It read something like this:

“From now on, all orders will need to be signed by a supervisor prior to completion.”

I was instantly frustrated, since I knew the memo was a direct response to my mistake. No one had said anything to me. I had not been reprimanded. It was never mentioned otherwise, but now we had a new policy, which affected everyone, because of my one error. (BTW, extenders retailed for $1.25 each back then.)

The new mandate slowed down the progress of everyone, because they now had to wait for approval before they could order basic needs. It was not accepted by other managers, proved to be more of an inconvenience than it was worth and soon no one practiced it at all.

What did this experience teach me?

Weak management never produces the desired result – and is never good leadership.  

How should it have been handled?

In my opinion, I should have been called aside, made aware of my mistake (to let me know they knew), and I be allowed to learn from the experience. If I continued to make the same error, which I never did again, then further action could have been taken.

The incident helped shape some of my leadership.

I should also point out these same managers who taught me this lesson from a negative impact it had on me also taught me many, many positive lessons in leadership and management. I’m drawing from this one, because it was such a valuable learning for me, but I don’t at all mean to devalue their other investment in me as a young leader. 

Here are 7 things I learned about leadership from a poor management experience:

Never send an email (today’s memo) to correct an action.

Address the person. Be relational. Do the hard work of confronting the real problem – even if it involves people. It’s the right thing to do.

Never over-react to a minor issue.

This was not a major expense to the company. Seriously, had they addressed it to me directly – I would have probably volunteered to buy the excess collar extenders rather than see a needless policy implemented. It ended up costing more in opportunity costs as needless work was placed on others, since they added another layer to the ordering process. 

Never make a policy to correct a single error.

Policies should be few and effective. When you use a policy to address broad issues when it’s really a singular issue you burden people with needless bureaucracy, which only stalls efficiency and frustrates people. This is never good leadership.

Never single someone out publicly who hasn’t been talked to privately.

Do I need to explain this one? Seriously. This pretty much goes back to the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.

Never punish everyone for the mistake of one.

This is so unfair. It builds resentment among people who should consider themselves a team. It pits people against each other.

Never act like it’s not a big deal if you think it’s a big deal.

When my managers talked to me during this incident they acted like everything was wonderful. I recall one even joked with me when I came to work the day the “memo” was released. I felt very betrayed.

Never be so weak as a leader you fail to address the real issue, or the real problem, even if the real problem is a person.

This could be a major determinant of whether someone is really a leader or not. Leaders don’t shy away from the hard conversations. They realize these are necessary for the health of the organization and the individuals involved.

I am certain I have repeated each of these myself at times, but the experience truly did shape my leadership and management practices. The best thing this experience did for me was give me a principle I have used and often shared with other leaders:

If you need to slap a hand, bring a ruler and show up in person.

To use another word – LEAD.  

By the way, if you ever need a collar extender I know where you might can find one.

(In complete transparency, it’s been over 30 years and I don’t remember all the specific details of this incident. But, I know the basics of this story are true and it shaped me greatly. Most leadership principles are born this way.)

7 Suggestions for Leaving a Job Properly

Unemployment

One of the most common questions I receive from others in ministry is about discerning whether to leave a ministry position. I’ve written about this subject a number of times, because I know all of us deal with it at some point in our journey.

You might read THIS POST or THIS POST for more of my thoughts on this question.

The question which should follow close behind, but I rarely receive, is how to actually leave a position well. I am grateful when I receive it.

Here’s one I received not long ago. I’ve omitted a few details to protect the identity, but you can get the intent of the question.

I am writing you seeking counsel regarding a significantly large decision my wife and I need to make about our continued service at a local church. The church is in turmoil and my wife and I feel released from our commitment here. Leaving is probably the best option, but how do I know for sure and how do I leave “properly”?

Good question. It’s honorable to want to leave well – and, it’s the right thing to do.

Leaving is never easy, but many times, even in the worst situations, it can be done in a way which doesn’t further disrupt the church.

Obviously, as with the previous posts, you need to discern first if you definitely feel released to leave and then if you are leaving. It may not be worth putting the energy into deciding how to leave until you decide that you are. But, if God is releasing you or sending you elsewhere, I think discerning how to leave is equally important.

Here are 7 suggestions for leaving “properly”:

Make it a decision of prayer and conviction.

The more you can remove your personality or personal comfort from the process, the more likely you will be able to convince people you are leaving on good terms and you are following God’s will and not your own. (I realize I set this up as a pre-determined, and as I mentioned previously, it may be God has released you to make the decision. I find this true many times. Your first step, in my opinion, is to make sure you aren’t violating something God has told you to do or not to do.)

Have critical, initial conversations.

Before you even announce – maybe before you even solidify you’re leaving, I suggest you discuss with and seek wisdom from one or two people you trust – preferably people who know you and the church. You’ll need a sounding board to help you confirm your decision, but also to help determine the timing and approach of your exit. They will almost always see things you can’t see.

Give as much lead time as possible.

The sooner you begin preparing people for your eventual exit, the easier your exit will be accepted by people when you do leave. Help cross train for your area. Identify key leaders who could fill in for an interim. You don’t even have to share all this information, but be thinking ahead of time who those people might be. Start making lists of things you do that others may not know. Think in terms of “if I’m not here, then…” and write some of that stuff down to share when you leave.

Develop a plan.

With counsel and prayer, put together a plan of how and when you intend to proceed. You’ll need to decide who to contact personally before the big announcement, when to contact them, and how to tell the church. This will likely be different for every church, but it’s critical there be a plan.

Be classy.

Regardless of why you’re leaving, don’t throw punches on the way out. There’s never a win and often a lasting negative when a person lashes out in the final days of their involvement with a church. Any credibility gained can be quickly lost based on the way the person handles their exit.

Protect your emotions.

It is likely to be hard leaving, even if things are miserable at the time. Chances are you’ve invested your heart in this church. You started with vision and enthusiasm. You felt a call to go there. Regardless of why you are leaving or what you are going to do next, it won’t be easy walking away from something you have loved. Know there will be an emotional process involved. As soon as you give notice, people will begin responding. People may say things untentionally on the way out which hurt you – because they are dealing with their own emotions. Also, work to protect spouses and children – as they will have emotions of leaving also.

Don’t end when you walk out the door.

This is huge. Be available to further assist them as needed in the months after you leave – even to “train” your replacement. It may not be welcomed or needed. And, if you’re leaving injured it may hurt, but genuinely offering is the graceful way to exit and the right thing to do.

What would you add about leaving properly?

Balancing the Big Deals Within an Organization – A Senior Leader Challenge

balance

I’ll never forget the first time I found out a staff member was disappointed because he didn’t think I supported his ministry. I had said no to a budget item for his ministry, because we needed to do something in another ministry. I felt horrible. I knew personally I valued his ministry – and him – but my actions had led him to believe otherwise.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. First, I needed to communicate the “why” behind my decisions better. Second, there are some things we do as senior leaders others on the team can’t understand – and we shouldn’t expect them to.

As a leader, I have to consistently remind myself one person’s big deal may not be another person’s big deal.

Those in finance naturally believe their ministry is critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to finances above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in small group ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to small group ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in worship planning naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to worship planning above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in children’s ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to children’s ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

You get the point. 

Of course, the ultimate “big deal” is the vision of the organization. As a church, our big deal – our vision – is to “lead people to Jesus and nurture them in their faith“. While everyone on our team agrees with this vision, they are also rightfully passionate about – and actively involved in – their specific role in accomplishing the vision. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want them owning their individual ministry and doing everything they can to see it prosper. But, at times this specially focused passion for their role can cloud their ability to see the needs of other ministries.

Of course, all ministries have equal importance in accomplishing the vision – therefore, part of a leader’s job is balancing all the “big deals” towards one combined BIG DEAL – the shared vision. We can’t spend all our energy, time, and resources in one particular ministry, as important as it is to the success of the church.

Frankly, finding balance between these competing big deals has always been difficult for me, and at times one ministry does require greater attention than others. The key learning for me is I must continually recognize the individual contribution each ministry brings to our overall success, while always keeping the big picture in my mind of what we are trying to accomplish. I can’t allow one ministry to cloud my perspective of other ministries.

It’s a unique role of senior leaders others on the team may not always understand – or even appreciate. And, we shouldn’t expect them to.

Leaders, do you share this dilemma? How do you balance the big deals within your organization?

12 Hard Things to Say – 5 Ways to Say Them as a Leader

men sitting on sofa at home and talking

In any relationship, there comes a time where it’s necessary to say things which are difficult to keep the relationship strong and make it better. This is also true in a healthy team environment. All leaders have things they need to say, which are hard sometimes.

For me personally, this often involves having a challenging conversation with a team member – someone I love being on the team, but know they need correction in an area, which is affecting the team. These are always discussions I’d rather not have, but I know are necessary for the continued health of the relationship, the team, and the individual.

Over the years, I have had many of these issues which required “tough love” to address them. I began my business leadership experience in retail management. At certain times of the year there could be 100’s of associates on the sales floor. It provided ample opportunity for problems I had to address with individuals.

But, those opportunities have continued throughout my career in leadership. And, dealing with problems has included me having to say things such as:

  • You’re too controlling as a leader.
  • You can be perceived as a real jerk to people.
  • Your laziness is dragging down the team.
  • You have body odor.
  • You’re making making too many mistakes and don’t seem to be learning from them.
  • You are non-responsive to your team members or others. It’s slowing down progress and it’s unfair to everyone else.
  • Your personal life is impacting your work. How can I help?
  • You don’t know how to take constructive criticism.
  • You are too critical of new ideas.
  • You are moving too fast.
  • You are moving too slow.
  • You are uncooperative.

I should note – most of these have not been said with my current team – thankfully.

Through my years in leadership, however, I have had to say each one of these statements to someone I was supposed to be leading. Those conversations, as awkward and uncomfortable as they are, always prove to be good for the team and the team member.

In full disclosure, there have been times when someone needed to have similar “tough love” conversations with me and those discussions always made me better, as difficult as they were to receive at the time.

If you have to have one of those conversations, I have learned some principles to make them more palatable.

Here are 5 tips to have hard conversations:

Handle the conversation as quickly as possible – If the problem is clear in your mind (and usually everyone else’s mind), and you’ve witnessed the problem long enough to know it’s a pattern, don’t delay long in addressing the issue.

Be honest – This is not the time to shift blame, make excuses or dance around the issue. Be clear about the problem as you perceive it.

Be kind and helpful – You may read my post 5 Ways to Rebuke a Friend. Although this post deals more with a subordinate than simply with a friend, the previous post suggestions may be helpful here also. Your end goal should be to make the team member and the team better after the conversation. Don’t just blast a person. Use the “sandwich approach” when possible. Place the hard words in the midst of things which are good about the person and your commitment to them.

Have a two-way conversation – You should be willing to listen as much as you speak. You may not have all the facts exactly right – or you may have – but give the person a chance to respond to the criticism you are addressing. This also means you should have a two-way conversation, and not a multiple party conversation. You should address the issue with the person you have a problem with, not with others on the team behind his or her back. If you need someone in the room with you for perception issues or as a witness, make sure they are committed to privacy.

Move forward after the conversation – The person being corrected should leave with the assurance you are moving forward, and, provided improvements are made, do not plan to hold the issue against them. It will be important they see you responding likewise in the days ahead.

Know when enough is enough – You shouldn’t have to have these type conversations too frequently. Talk becomes cheap if there’s no backing to what’s agreed upon. If there seems to be no improvement over time, harder decisions or more intensive help may be needed. If you have done the other steps here, there is a time when tough love says “that’s enough – no more”. You are not doing your job as a leader if you continue to ignore the issues everyone else sees as critical to the health of a team.

One of the most difficult times for me as a leader is addressing issues like this with a team member I genuinely care about, but I know it’s one of my roles as a leader to address these most difficult issues.

What would you add to my examples of difficult conversations you have had with someone on your team?

When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

Funny scared man

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.

They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings. 

They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.

They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.

It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.

It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:

He is the pastor of the church but not the leader.

(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)

Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:

You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.

If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:

  • You can live with the power structure in place and complete the role within the authority you’ve been given. And, probably be miserable.
  • You can fight the power structure, lining up supporters, building a coalition in your corner – and be prepared to win or lose.
  • You can figure out how to “lead up” — build a consensus for leadership, confront where needed, win influence and the right to lead — even sometimes learning to lead people who don’t want to be led. (Read THIS POST on how to lead people older than you.)
  • You can leave.

Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.

And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful. 

With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!

I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ. 

One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?

7 Impractical Leadership Principles and Why I Use Them

Adversaries 1

I talk to pastors frequently who find themselves in a difficult situation. Many times they know the right thing to do, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. Often, the advice I give is simply received with a reply such as, “I know it’s probably the right thing to do, but it seems like it would be easier just to _____”.

I understand.

Honestly, good leadership isn’t always practical. Or so it may seem at the time. Think about it. Sometimes it would be easier just to take the most efficient way. It’s less controversial. It allows the leader more control. It happens quicker.

I’ve learned, however, the most practical way isn’t always the most prudent way.

Let me explain.

Here are 7 impractical leadership principles I practice:

I don’t make major decisions alone even if I have the authority.

I always invite a team of people, many wiser than me, to help me discern major decisions. I realize it slows down the process. Sometimes it even kills my plans, but it has protected me over and over from making foolish decisions.

I try to kill my own ideas.

I wrote about this recently HERE, but I try to find the holes in my ideas and even try to talk people out of it after they’ve already bought into it. I know; crazy, right? Time and time again this process has improved the decisions I make and it always builds a sense of ownership for everyone on the team.

I always respond to criticism.

What a way to slow down progress! Talk about insane. Why listen to people who have negatives to add to the positives? But, I even listen to anonymous critics sometimes. I previously wrote the RIGHT WAY and WRONG WAY to respond to critics, but I’ve learned that criticism often is correct and it always makes me better. Whether I yield to it or not, it forces me to consider sides I wouldn’t otherwise.

I don’t meet alone with the opposite sex.

Unless there is someone else in the office, I don’t meet with females alone. I don’t meet with them for lunch or coffee, except in extreme situations. I know, it’s not practical — and I get plenty of pushback from this one — but it not only protects the integrity of my marriage and ministry, it protects the perception of my marriage and ministry. Which is almost as important.

I give away tasks to less experienced people.

I do it all the time. I surrender my right to decide to one with many years less experience than I have. Some would call that dumb, but I call it genius. The best leaders on our team were “discovered” this way.

I push for best.

It’s always easier and faster to compromise. Settling for mediocre saves time and energy…and it makes a leader more popular! I work through conflict to get to the best solution for everyone. I know, time consuming, but in the long run, the organization wins!

I watch people fail.

You heard me. I’ve let people make a mistake I knew they were going to make. How dumb can one leader be, right? Why not jump in to save the day? I’ve learned, however, that if I do always stop what I see as a mistake, I may miss out on something I can’t see. Plus, I’ve learned my best leadership from the mistakes I’ve made. Others will also.

There! So much for being impractical. Way to waste some time. Good job being Mr. Inefficient! But, if you want to be a great leader, find ways to avoid practicality.

Of course, when you consider the bigger picture – maybe these are actually most practical. 

How good are you at being an impractical leader? What other impractical leadership principles have you seen?

7 Steps to Thinking Strategically in the Moment

man thinking

Have you ever said something you wished later you hadn’t?

It was a quick response, they needed a decision now — or thought they did — so you fired off an answer. Looking back now — you might have answered differently with more information or time to process.

Happens all the time.

What the leader says can negatively impact other people or the organization. Good leaders have to learn to think strategically — even when making quick decisions.

Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question or has to make a decision where an answer has already been clearly defined, then the leader can move quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined solution, especially if the decision could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment.

How do we make strategic decisions quickly? How can we make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time?

Here are 7 tips for a leader to think strategically in the moment:

Pray

I think we have devalued the short, urgent, sudden prayer. (I love to pray Psalm 69:1.) I don’t think God does. I think He responds to the prayers of His people. “If any of you lacks wisdom…”, James reminds us. Getting into the practice of sentence prayers invites God’s gentleman Spirit to join you in the decision-making process. And, I’m not devaluing the human mind or experience. I think God wants us to think. But, remember, this post is addressing making quick, important decisions strategically — decisions I’ve possibly never made before. I don’t want to make those on my own.

Take notes

I always take notes while listening. This allows me to see the situation in writing while I think through a response. If I’m not certain I understand the situation, seeing my notes allows me to ask for further clarification. If I’m in my office, I have a huge painted dry-erase wall. I may diagram different scenarios of the answer. If taking notes is not an option and the answer is not definite — I always postpone the answer. This helps me avoid making major decisions on the run.

Listen intently

This is a problem for some leaders — especially busy, highly creative leaders. It’s one I struggle with personally. Many leaders (this one included) have problems with details. Accustomed to making quick and many decisions, leaders often try to solve an issue on the spot rather than have to deal with it later. This is a great approach for the issues that have a defined solution already, but if it’s committing to something that hasn’t been decided yet, it could be dangerous. I try to listen for enough details to make a wise decision, but if I know I can’t make a quick decision based on the information I have time to hear, then I delay making one.

Think “NEXT”

This is really formed by habit, but it involves training yourself to always ask the question,”How will this decision impact other people and the organization?” If I am uncertain, I know it is be best to delay deciding on the issue until I can give it adequate time for consideration. Many leaders make decisions that others have to live with because they didn’t take time to think through the best answer. Thinking “NEXT” means I am thinking of the repercussions, which will come “next” after the decision is made.

Discipline Mouth

“Keeping a tight reign” on your tongue is actually a Biblical concept. Part of spiritual and personal growth is to mature in the area of what a leader says. The more responsibility a leader receives the more critical it becomes that he or she practice discipline with their words. This is a continuous work in progress for me, but over the years I have learned to hold my tongue until I have thought through a response.

Invite input

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) One of my favorite questions is, “What would you do?” I ask the person asking for a decision from me. I ask others on our team. I’m not afraid to pause and phone a friend. I ask my wife. I ask the people who have to live with the answer. The more time we have for an answer the more people I’m likely to ask.

Value Waiting

Waiting is never a bad idea if it leads to a better decision. I realize time is of the essence in most decisions these days – especially in an organizational sense, but equally important is protecting the vision, the morale of the team or the organization’s future. Plus, I have learned by experience there is a value in caged momentum — making people wait for the best time to give the best answer. Obviously there is an opportunity cost of waiting too long. The leader should not be a bottleneck as people wait for an answer. And, the leader should empower people to make the majority of decisions. But, when the answer has huge implications the leader should not be afraid to say, “give me a few minutes (or some reasonable amount of time) to process.”

There are a few of my thoughts on thinking strategically in the moment. Leaders, the better decisions we make the better our organizations will be. Let’s be strategic.

Could this be a discipline you need to practice?

5 Reasons I Recommend the Evernote Application

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Let me introduce you to one of my favorite productivity applications. It’s called Evernote.

Honestly, I thought everyone knew about Evernote. You are either using it already or you know what it is at least. Recently, however, I was speaking at a conference, I mentioned Evernote, and several people asked me afterward what I was talking about. I was shocked.

So, here goes.

Evernote is a note/picture/voice taking productivity application used on laptops and mobile devices. I actually wrote a very simple — most simple — e-book about it. No pressure (I said it’s simple, but you can find it HERE.)

I can’t imagine my life being as organized or “mobile” without it now.

If you aren’t familiar with it, I want to share some of the reasons I use and love Evernote:

5 reasons to love Evernote:

Efficiency

Evernote allows me to put a note, picture, or voice recording into the application and then automatically syncs with my other devices. Whether I’m using my iPhone, iPad or my MacBook or Google Chrome laptop. I input once and am updated on all my devices. It is cloud-based, so it does it quickly and without error. I place my notes into files which are searchable and specific to the subject matter. Every blog post, sermon or meeting now starts as a separate Evernote file. I have over 1,000 files now.

Convenience

Evernote is with me wherever I go. For example, I carry my phone with me when I’m walking the dog. I can quickly put thoughts which 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. If I’m at my desk — those same files I was using in Evernote while walking the dog are with me. I also store documents this way if it’s something I need easy access to while away from the office. I keep insurance information, certain church documents I have to occasionally refer to, etc. in separate files. Just yesterday I needed a Tax-ID for something. I did a quick search in Evernote and produced the information. It saved me from having to do something when I got back to my office.

Creativity

Evernote fuels my creativity, because it allows me the freedom to think in the moment. And, I think in the moment a lot. 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 soon as they come to me in an 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. In honesty, a few times I’ve had the application freeze or fail to sync, but Evernote saves even those mistakes for me to filter through. My actual information has never been lost.

Access

Evernote is a free application! You can’t beat the price for such a productive tool. I choose to do the paid upgrade — which is minimal in cost but offers unlimited storage — but it’s not mandatory and most people seem to be able to use the free version with no issues.

There are “tricks” to Evernote I don’t use often and many I’ve probably not even discovered. You can email notes to yourself, for example, using a specialized Evernote email address and it places it right in your application. I’m very simple with it. It’s simply my filing system for all the information I have to keep up with.

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

Do you use Evernote?

10 Characteristics of Good Leadership – an Expanded and Revised Version

Multiethnic business team outdoor

When I first wrote about the characteristics of good leadership almost 6 years ago. At the time I had been a leader for well over 20 years and had studied the field o leadership academically. My blog was fairly new but growing.

These were designed to be informative, but honestly, even more, they served as a checklist reminder of sorts for my own attempts at good leadership.

Since then my blog influence has grown, I’ve moved from a church planter to a church revitalizer, and I’ve learned so much more. Still, when I look over these characteristics, I stand behind then. I’ve tweaked them a bit for readability purposes. (Every time I read my writings again I see something which could be improved.)

Here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing people and new leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as leaders begin to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with others.

2. Shares information – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power. A good leader uses this to the team’s advantage knowing the more information the team has collectively the stronger the team.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, in my opinion, they must have a character which is unquestioned within the organization. Their integrity and transparency is paramount. Leadership always draws criticism, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character most.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others – Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin or accomplishing a strategy. In fact, people-building is a large part of the strategy. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are important for the success of an organization (even non-profits – even churches), but a good leader doesn’t separate a desire for helping others from the desire for financial health. And, good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Skillful, competent and professional– Good leaders are talented or knowledgeable about their field and can be depended on for their follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. They may not be the smartest in the room, but if they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does and they aren’t afraid to ask or empower others. They will ensure a job they have committed to do is done the best it can be done. This also means they don’t commit to more than they can reasonably accomplish. They know the power of “No!”

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed — even help them get there.

7. Serve others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continue to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives. They desire to know people, not just be known by people.

10. Visionary – thinks beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking “What’s next?” It is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing someone must continually challenge the boundaries and encourage change. They spur growth and strategic thinking so the organization can remain healthy, vibrant and sustainable.

These are in no particular order. You may say some are more important than others but as soon as I prioritize them we can start to marginalized the higher numbers. They are all important in my opinion. 

What would you add to my list?