5 Roadblocks of Good Leadership

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I was in a hurry to get to a meeting across town and the traffic was horrible. I decided to take a shortcut. I had been the new way only one other time, but remembered it well enough to believe it would be faster. I turned several streets to navigate through a subdivision, back on to a main road, and then through another subdivision. Just as I was about to get to the road I needed to be on the road was permanently closed to through traffic. It had apparently been closed for some time. Had I checked before attempting to go this direction, probably even long enough for Google maps to pick up on it. I essentially had to completely backtrack and get into the same traffic jam again. Only this time I was even twenty minutes later.

So, much for my shortcut.

It reminded me, however, of something I’ve observed in leadership. There are roadblocks in good leadership too.

I’ve witnessed many leaders, including myself at times, become distracted from leading as well as we should.

Many times it’s a natural occurrence. We aren’t feeling well physically or emotionally. Life struggles distract us and our attention to our work isn’t what we would want it to be. There is a problem with someone else on the team which must be dealt with before you can move forward. They are usually seasonal and mostly unavoidable distractions — roadblocks — every leader faces.

Everyone faces roadblocks.

It’s the roadblocks in leadership which we can avoid that tend to be most damaging. They detract from growth and destroy organizational health.If they aren’t addressed, it can set a leader back months, years, even an entire career.

As leaders, we must avoid these roadblocks as much as possible.

Here are 5 roadblocks to good leadership?

Abusing power rather than extending power

Some leaders try to control every outcome, but end up wasting the valuable talent of others on the team. They limit the team’s possibilities to those the leader is capable of personally producing. As long as a leader refuses to release authority to others there will be a roadblock in the way of the ultimate potential of the organization.

Making excuses for a weakness

These leaders never admit a fault or mistake — for themselves or the organization — even though everyone around them sees it. They hide flaws, pretend everything is “awesome”, and try to make you believe life couldn’t be better. The underlying problems of the team are never addressed or corrected. Strengths aren’t fully maximized because more energy goes to covering up places which aren’t wonderful.

Favoring popularity over progress

I’ve seen leaders who care more about people liking them than about achieving the goals of the organization. When this is the roadblock complacency and mediocrity become standards instead of excellence. Compromise is chosen over collaboration. Conflict is avoided and people will hear what they want to hear — but everyone is disappointed with the results.

Holding grudges instead of building bridges

I once worked with a leader who would never accept a challenge. Whenever he felt threatened he “blackballed” you into compliance or worked to get rid of you. These type leaders are diligent about protecting their image or reputation, so if you appear to question them they pit others on the team against you. They make it very difficult for people to know whether the leader is pleased with their efforts. Their style creates turf wars among team members as people scramble to meet the leader’s approval. Sides are chosen and the team’s abilities to effectively work together is limited.

Waiting for the perfect conditions rather than taking a risk

These leaders refuse to take steps of faith. They demand every detail be answered before a project is launched. They seldom place faith in other people because it’s too risky. This roadblock results in bored cultures and teams, slow or no growth, and eventual declines. The opportunity cost with this distraction is exponential.

I’m certain there are others. This list is only intended to get you thinking. Be honest, have you been a leader with one of these roadblocks? Again, we all throw up roadblocks at times in our leadership. We must attempt to eliminate those which cause the greatest disruption to progress. Discovering them and tearing them down may be a key to providing good leadership.

What roadblock would you add to my list?

7 Ways to Raise up Young Leaders

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I talk to pastors and leaders my age and older who want to see a new generation of leaders. They claim to love investing in younger leaders. They recognize the huge need in churches and organizations. Our future depends upon doing so.

The problem they claim is either they don’t know how or can’t seem to find them. Or they can’t seem to keep them. Frankly, some pastors I talk with are frustrated with what they see as a lack of leadership among the newer generations.

As a church planter, we hired several staff members into their first ministry position. We struck “gold” several times. I was frequently asked how we have managed to find so many talented young leaders. Much of the work God did at the church plant was done through the leadership efforts of people 10, 15, and 20 years younger than me.

Now I am pastoring an established church. I falsely assumed — because of what I’d been told — younger leaders would not want to join our efforts. They only wanted hip and cool church plants.

Not true. At all. We are once again surrounded by young leaders. Sharp young leaders.

Along the way we’ve discovered a few things.

Here are 7 ways to raise up young leaders:

Give them opportunities – That sounds simple, but it’s not. Many leaders are afraid to hand off real responsibility to leaders half their age. I understand, because I made some huge mistakes as a young leader, but at the same time, it’s how I learned — through trying, failing and trying again. Younger leaders want authority and a seat at the table now — not when they reach an expected age. They may not even be a fair expectation for them at times, but it’s a legitimate one. Is it risky? Of course, but it awesome has the potential for awesomeness to occur.

Share experiences – Young leaders are open to learning from a mature leader’s successes and failures. In fact, they crave it. They enjoy hearing stories of what worked and what didn’t. This characteristic is actually one of the beauties of newer generations. The young leaders on teams I’ve led actually seek out my personal experience. They will still want the chance to learn on their own, but they are ready to glean from the wisdom of those who have gone before them — especially in the context of relationships.

Allow for failure – People of all ages will make mistakes in leadership, regardless of their years of experience. It seems magnified for younger leaders, because they are doing many things the first time — which is one reason older leaders sometimes shy away from them. An atmosphere, however, which embraces failure as a part of the growth process, invites younger leaders to take chances, risking failure and exploring possible genius discoveries.

Be open to change – More than likely, younger leaders will do things differently than the older leaders did things. They want more flexible hours, different work environments, and opportunities to work as a team. It may seem unnatural at first, but let their process take shape and you’ll have a better chance of leadership development occurring. And, us “old dogs” might “learn some new tricks”.

Set high expectations – Having different working methods shouldn’t lower standards or quality expectations. The good thing is the younger leaders, from my experience, aren’t looking for a free ride, just a seat on the bus. Hold them accountable to clearly identified goals and objectives. Let them know what a win looks like to you. Applaud them for good work and challenge them to continually improve. It’s part of their growth process.

Provide encouragement – Younger leaders need feedback. They seem to want to know how they are doing far more often than the annual review system the past afforded. They are looking to meet the approval of senior leadership and the organization. Keep them encouraged and they’ll keep aiming higher.

Give constructive feedback – Again, younger leaders appear more interested in knowing they are meeting the expectations of senior leadership, so acknowledge that fact by helping them learn as they grow. Don’t simply share “good” or “bad” feedback. Rather, with the goal of helping them grow as leaders, give them concrete and constructive reviews of their performance. Help them understand not only what they did right or wrong, but practical ways they can get better in their work and leadership abilities.

Raising up younger leaders is crucial to a growing and maintaining healthy organizations and churches. We must be intentional and diligent about investing in the next generation, understanding their differences, and working within their culture to grow new leaders.

Young leaders, what did I miss?

Mature leaders, what else are you doing?

8 Killers of Motivation — and Ultimately Killers of Momentum

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Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

But, here’s the greater reason.

Momentum is often a product of motivation.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and — ultimately — momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like — especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation — and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover — at least for all team members.

7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

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One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team — so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is that leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge. Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t. Or that no one has figured out yet. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them. Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore — especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop.

Mentor them. Invest in them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience.

Give them more creative time to dream. This is huge. You might keep someone who feels they stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t exhibit fear to them. I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. They micromanage. They ask too many questions before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is easily discerned. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them.

Reward them. If they are doing well — let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization. Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Sure, keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Quit Your Organization

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If any organization expects to grow, they need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders.

Any argument with that statement? If so, you just like to argue. And, I get that too.

But, new growth always requires new leaders. Period.

Certainly the church needs good leaders. 

One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. So it’s equally important to know how to keep them. And, to know why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I don’t want to stand in the way of a leader leaving to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something the organization did wrong.

Here are 7 reasons leaders tend to quit an organization:

They couldn’t live out their personal vision. Leaders are internally driven. They have personal visions in addition to the vision of the organization. They need opportunity to explore, find their own way, and feel they are making their own personal contribution to overall success.

They were told no too many times. Leaders have ideas they want to see implemented. If they get their hand slapped too many times they will be frustrated. And, not for long before they respond.

They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities. This goes for all team members. People need to know that what they are offering is valued. Leaders especially want to know their contribution is recognized and valued.

They were given no voice . Leaders want input into the direction of the organization. They want a seat at the table of authority.

They were left clueless as to the future of the organization. Leaders need inside information so they feel ownership in the overall direction of the organization. They don’t like constant surprises or feeling they are always an outsider.

Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization. This is best discovered before the leader joins the team, but when it is discovered a leader will be very uncomfortable. Something must change. And, it will. Trust me.

They were micromanaged . Leaders don’t need managing as much as they need releasing. They more they are controlled the more they rebel.

You can allow leaders to work for the good of the organization or stifle them, discourage them and spend valuable time and effort consistently replacing them. If you want to keep leaders — them lead!

5 Common Objections to Change – And 5 Suggestions to Lead Through Them

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One of the biggest — yet seemingly smallest — changes we have made in church revitalization was switching our service times. It seemed so simple yet I was pulled aside and told several times it would be the last change I made in the church. The word was the seniors — who primarily attended the later service — had made so many changes they weren’t doing this one. And they were extremely serious about it.

(Let me give a side note here to my pastor friends. Your seniors who don’t like change are usually more supportive than you think they are or will be. Granted, there are those few who are difficult, but those people come with all age groups. Good leadership can bring your seniors along — which is the point of this post.)

But, foolish as I can be, we changed the service times.

(Another side note. To all leaders. If you aren’t occasionally doing some things others call foolish — at least initially — you may not be leading.)

Frankly, I don’t believe we would be on any “fast growing church” list had we not made the change in our service times.

But, it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of resistance. We even lost a few families. Not many, but a few.

For the most part, however, it was an enormously successful change.

Part of the reason is we were methodical about addressing objections.

I’ve learned in leading change there are a few common objections to change. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.

Here are 5 common objections to change — each followed by suggestions for addressing them:

Confused -These people just don’t understand the change. They can’t get their minds around it yet. It doesn’t make sense to them. They may lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Or they heard one point about the change and came to their own conclusion about the everything else.

Suggestion: Over communicate. When you think you’ve shared too much — share it again. And again. And in different formats. We created a brochure for a change which seemed to many to be so simple to understand. We held meetings. We placed it in the Sunday bulletin. I talked about it from stage. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, they become supportive or less opposed.

Conflicted – Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. It’s not about you it’s about them. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Maybe even by something which happened to them in the church. But, maybe something in life which has nothing to do with you or the church but your change reminds them of their pain and so they take it out on everyone else. And, you’re leading the change so you’re the target now. Frankly, some of these people can be mean. These type critics can be the most hurtful as a leader.

Suggestion: Attempt to understand them. I have learned many times they are dealing with an injury which never healed. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. Unfortunately they usually influence others with negativity. Sometimes these people will be critics unless they are addressed directly. If you do — the change is necessary — and you can’t get them on your team you may have to simply work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.

Care – These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their opinion or concern. They may feel this way regardless of how much you have communicated. They may feel the changes favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. Whether it’s true or not it’s how they feel.

Suggestion: Spend time with them as you’re able. Or empower others to spend time with them. I have seen many times if these people are included in the decision process, and you acknowledge and attempt to understand their concerns they will come along with you. Good vision casting can alleviate some of their concerns.

Control – This objection comes simply because you stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This is so common in church work. I have found many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. They don’t like feeling they’ve lost their seat at the table of authority. Frankly, this reason for criticism is probably the most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them.

Suggestion: Recognize the pain. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you — even if they still don’t agree with the change. Then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support. And, yes they are the most difficult people to confront and can be intimidating. But, remember — you’re the leader.

Comfort – These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change will be relative to the size of the change. I hear people say they aren’t change resistant but all of us are at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. That’s what most people are going through when you introduce change. They don’t know how it will feel after the change.

Suggestion: Sympathize. Change can hurt. Every change has an attached emotion. (I’ve posted on these emotions previously.) Understand the emotional response part of change. It’s normal. The only real solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt. Most of these people will come along eventually.

Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that’s leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.

I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of the objections. Even the best ideas will receive some.

5 Reasons Delegation Fails

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I encounter many leaders who claim to want delegation to be a part of their leadership. They know the value. But they are often frustrated with the results they receive on delegated projects, so they tend to control the project — which isn’t delegation — or they do everything themselves.

Many times I hear two sides to the reason why delegation fails. A leader may feel they have done their job simply by delegating. The blame naturally shifts to the delegate who should have figured out how to do the work.

The delegate often feels overwhelmed, like they didn’t have the freedom, resources or knowledge to complete the project to the leader’s expectations.

Both sides are frustrating.

Many times the problem rests with the way a project was delegated from the beginning. There are certainly times when the delegate drops the ball and doesn’t follow through with the task, but in my experience, the failure of delegation most often rests with the leader.

Here are 5 reasons delegation fails:

A predetermined win was never clear or understood. Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what is trying to be accomplished. Further, there should be accountability in place prior to delegation. When someone receives a project, they need to be given a timeline for completion. They need a system of follow up, measures of accomplishment or benchmarks towards completion.

The leader dumped or controlled instead of delegated. I have written about this previously, but the leader retains a level of responsibility to check in periodically with the delegate’s progress. At the same time, it’s delegation. There’s a release of direct oversight which needs to take place. The delegate should feel freedom to accomplish the predetermined objective in their own way. There’s a balance and partnership in a healthy delegation process, where the leader remains close enough to assure completion, but distant enough to let people do their work.

The delegate was not properly prepared. Assuming someone knows how to do a task and can figure out their way on their own isn’t only naive it’s unfair. Questions need to be asked and information given on the front end to make sure the person has the ability to complete the task or the ability to learn along the way. This may involve the leader spending more time in the beginning phases of a task to ensure completion is attainable by the delegate. Specialized training may be needed. In fact, a failed delegation may be just the experience someone needs to do a better job next time.

Adequate resources were not in place. It’s difficult to expect someone to complete a task when the leader hasn’t given the proper tools for the job. Sometimes anxious leaders delegate a project too soon, before the team is ready, either in structure, people power or resources.

The wrong person was chosen for the task. Let’s face it. Not everyone is up to every task. Many times delegation fails because the leader picked the wrong person for the job. Selecting the best person on the front end or reassigning when an improper fit is discovered is critical to assure completion of a task.

Do you have delegated projects that didn’t get completed this past year?

Could one of these be the reason? If so, who needs to take responsibility for the failure?

7 Characteristics of the Backside of Leadership

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One critical part of leadership is what I like to call the “backside of leadership.”

It’s the part that is unseen. Or unknown at the time. It’s the unspoken, unclear, has-to-be-tested side of leadership.

So critical.

Years ago I had a leader I could never predict. One day everything was wonderful and the next day nothing was right. It was frustrating. I could never read this leader and whether or not he was happy.

Some have probably accused me of this at times. Probably all of us.

Leading well means sometimes what a leader does when the team’s back is turned is more important than what they do in the team’s presence. When they don’t know what the leader is thinking or how he or she will respond — they can still trust the leader.

The backside of good leadership means a leader does what is best for the team and the organization — not for his or her personal gain — regardless of who gets credit. 

Even if no one saw it coming.

That’s the backside of leadership.

Still trying to understand what I mean?

Here are 7 characteristics of the backside of good leadership:

Protects you.

When critics rise against you or your work a great leader stands behind you. Better yet, they stand in front of you to take the first bullet. They are predictable and consistent with their support. 

Won’t back you in a corner.

Good leaders don’t hold you accountable for unreasonable expectations, especially when you didn’t know what the expectations were. They make sure you have the resources you need. They never put you on the spot. They make sure the team operates with a plan.

Forgives easily.

You gain good favor quickly after you make a mistake under a good leader. They extend grace knowing the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. And, the investment made in people when they fall often yields the greatest return.

Empowers you.

The leader doesn’t have to know everything you do and every decision you make — before you make it. They are okay with the unknown. They invest trust in you. They empower you to make decisions without their direct oversight.

Invests in others.

The team receives more from the leader than the leader takes. No one feels used or like they’re building an empire for the leader. Rewards are shared and celebrated together.

Never stabs you in the back.

People don’t feel threatened in their position. They know the leader can hold a confidence and will never say one thing to one person and something else to another.

Responsiveness.

Everyone has been in a situation waiting for a leader to make a decision. It can be a frustrating experience. Impatience can rise. Good leaders are responsive. They don’t make people come to their own conclusions. They communicate in a timely manner. 

The backside of leadership. Have you thought about how you lead on the backside — when no one knows what to expect. 

10 Ways To Be A Great Non-Profit Board Member

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I believe in public service and giving back to the community. While I was in the business world, serving in an elected office, and now in ministry I have continued to volunteer in the community in which I live. I believe it’s truly the best way to be a Kingdom-builder.

Along the way, I have served on dozens of non-profit boards at the state and local level. I have worked with nationally known organizations, such as Boys Scouts, Red Cross, United Way, and YMCA and numerous other local non-profit ministries and service organizations. I realize the value of non-profits in community development.

It could easily be said that the success of any non-profit is directly related to the strength of its board. Finding, training and keeping good board members is a critical part of non-profit leadership. With this recognition, I have also helped develop non-profit boards over the years.

With that experience, I share a few thoughts for those who set out to serve in such noble ways.

Here are 10 ways to be a great non-profit board member:

Find out what’s expected. Determine what they expect a board member to do — preferably before agreeing to serve. Know what the role of a board member  is, how they define a “great” board member, and consider how the requirements fit with your talents, abilities, and schedule. Don’t agree to serve unless you know you can meet the expectation.

Live up to expectations. If you agree to serve, serve well.  Work the meetings into your schedule, participate in activities expected of board members, and fulfill the obligations expected of you. Don’t make them feel awkward about you being on the board. I’ve served on boards where no one knew where the person was and yet no one wanted to have the awkward conversation in order to learn. Granted, they should, but, in my opinion, the weight of responsibility to shift to the one who is supposedly a good enough leader to be considered for the position.

Learn the organization. It’s hard to lead what you don’t understand. I’ve seen board members who just sit in meetings and vote. They don’t learn the language of the organization or ever feel a deep commitment to the cause. Don’t be that member. Participate. Show up when things are most exciting. Ask questions. Learn the “lingo”. It’s the responsible thing to do and you’ll make better decisions.

Don’t micro-manage. You are there to advise and hold accountable — not to run the place. You should check your power at the table of decision-making. There may be times when you need a more active role in day-to-day operations, but those should be rare — not a regular occurrence.

Invest your strengths. You bring qualities to the board no one else has. Figure out why you are there and what your unique purpose is for the board and organization. Then leverage yourself for the good of the organization. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so you may not be a good fit for the board.

Be a connector. This may be one of the best roles for a board member. You have influence places the organization may not yet have. Use your network of connections for the good of the organization.

Ask good questions. In the end, even though you shouldn’t micromanage, it is your job as a board member to protect the integrity of the organization. That may involve asking hard questions — the ones you may not even feel comfortable asking. You may be the only one who is thinking the way you are, but you may not be. You may regret not asking later. There are no bad questions, but there may be some great questions, which protect the mission, and you may be the only one brave enough to ask them. Be kind always. Believe the best in others. But, do the right thing.

Willingly be a fundraiser.  If it is part of the assignment – work to raise money. Remember, you are not asking for yourself, but for a cause in which you believe. Money is the leading need of most every non-profit. Not every board is required to raise money. Every organization appreciates when a board member recognizes the need.

Don’t overstay your welcome. When it’s time to go — go! Most boards will have some board rotation, but do everyone a favor and leave when you lose enthusiasm to be effective and useful.

If the board agrees — replace yourself. Finding a good board member is hard for any non-profit.  Leave them well by recommending quality people to replace the spot you leave void.

What am I missing? What would you add to the list?

7 Ways I Gain Influence with My Team

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John Maxwell says leadership is influence. If that’s true, then how does a leader develop that influence with the people he or she leads?

I have had the opportunity to build my own team — that’s easier — and to inherit a team I was supposed to lead. That’s hard. But, either requires intentional effort on the part of the leader. Influence is never gained simply by holding a position.

I’ll never forget the first week in my current position. We have a large staff and it seemed everyone was on edge around me. It was awkward. I’m a pretty easy-going guy. I can appear intense at times, because I’m very driven, but I genuinely like people. My door is always open. But, it was tense. Eerily tense. The church had experienced a couple difficult years and they were obviously resistant to give immediate trust. I would have to earn it. 

If John Maxwell is correct that leadership is influence — and he certainly is at some level — I knew I had to gain influence with my team. I can’t lead people if I can’t influence them.

Influence is always based on trust. So, ultimately, that’s what we are discussing in this post. Building trust that gains influence.

Here’s are 7 ways I attempt to gain influence with my team:

Treat people with respect. I expect to be respected as a leader. Most leaders have that expectation. I know, however, that I can’t demand or even expect respect without displaying it. If I disrespect people it doesn’t build influence, it fosters control. People need to know they are valued members on the team and that they will be treated fairly, professionally — with grace and truth.

Take risks on people and give opportunities to fail — or succeed. I like placing faith in people. I love to recruit people who start their ministry career with us. And, if a team member comes to me with a dream, I’ll try to help them attain it. The risk is almost always worth the return. People need to know they are free to explore — even if it’s into unknown territory. More importantly, they need to know you’ll back them up if it doesn’t work. Team members need to be able to learn from mistakes — and success — and continue to grow and develop.

Recognize and reward efforts. I’m not afraid to single out exceptional work for individual recognition. Texting or emailing everyone to compliment one should not be forbidden. Yes, you may miss someone — and I try to discipline myself to look broadly for areas to applaud — but individuals need recognition just as he collective team does. What I’ve learned is a culture which recognizes achievements of others is contagious. As you do, so will the team.

Allow the team to know me personally. This is huge. I’m very transparent. In fact, with my entire church. I try to be clear about my weaknesses and own my mistakes. I’m also not afraid to be the brunt of the jokes. The fact is I miss details. I see only the big picture sometimes. I need people around me who can cover-up for my short-comings — and ground me. They need to know they serve a role on our team — to make me and the team better. 

Be responsive and approachable. I return phone calls and emails to our team quickly. It’s part of building trust which leads to influence. They can get in touch with me and on my schedule before anyone other than my family. I keep the door open when I’m in the office and welcome walk-ins. I don’t make them wait long for an answer and follow through on requests.

Be consistent and reliable – I keep lots of lists so I don’t forget things I’ve committed to do. I have an Evernote folder with different teams and member’s name in it. It helps me keep up with things relative to them specifically. I want to always do what I commit to do, so I don’t make many promises. If I tell a team member I’ll do something, I make it a priority in my schedule until it’s accomplished.

Help others achieve personal success. I love to learn a team member’s goals and help them achieve it. Recently we had a staff member who felt God was leading them to another position — one we couldn’t accommodate at our church. I actually served as a sounding board for him, a personal reference for the new job, and coached him through the interview process.

I think it’s vital to a healthy team that the leader be continually conscious of his or her need for influence and ways to improve upon it. Most of what I’ve learned in leadership came from doing the wrong things first.

Keep in mind, I’m not perfect and this is not an attempt to brag about my performance. As with all my posts, I’m trying to be helpful in developing good leadership. I continue to ask my team how I can improve. Frankly, three years into a new position, I probably have influence with some of our team more than others. It’s a work in progress — always.