Leaders Consider the Bigger Issue

In an organizational setting, when little issues arise, I try to consider the bigger issue at stake. Not everything has a bigger context worth considering, but strategic leaders consistently consider if there is one.

For example, if a staff member makes an awkward or unusually negative comment during a meeting, I try to consider the bigger issue. Did he or she simply make a random remark, was the comment limited to the meeting, or is there something unspoken going on that could point to a bigger issue in the person’s life or the organization? If I can’t immediately discern, I’ll most likely question this after the meeting.

If I receive criticism from someone I trust, is it limited to the matter being criticized, or is there a bigger, unspoken issue of concern? I’ll always try to discern what isn’t clear, but ask if I need more clarity.

As a leader, I have learned that I don’t always get the full story. As much as I try to lead around that fact, some people are afraid of hurting my feelings, may be intimidated by my position, or just fearful of speaking up with their true feelings.

I discipline myself to always consider bigger issue questions such as:

  • What’s the real problem?
  • What’s really at stake?
  • Who is really affected by this decision?
  • What’s the real potential outcome?
  • How much is this really costing?

I know as a leader that what I don’t know may be the real issue. Discovering it soon enough avoids potential greater damage in the organization.

What other question should we be asking?

Organizational Learning From Google

I read recently that the creators of Google weren’t looking to create Google when they discovered the complex way of indexing pages. They were working on a research project for their PhD program and stumbled upon the genius of google page ranking, did a little more exploration, and the rest is the incredible history of Google. In fact, I also read where, learning from their history, Google allows employees up to 20% of their time to explore new ideas and innovation.

It made me think about how organizations function. Are we organized to discover the next Google?

Let your team explore and you’ll discover some great stuff. Finding the “next big thing” is certainly more difficult without the exploration.

Plus, it’s damaging long-term for a team to be limited in this area of growth potential. If your team isn’t freed to explore:

  • They grow bored
  • Growth stalls
  • Valuable discoveries are never found.

What new insights is your team discovering?

More importantly perhaps, are they being positioned for discovery? Do they even have the freedom, built into your system?

The Dumbing Down of Leadership

Leaders lead…

Leaders are going somewhere…

And taking others with them…

I love leadership…

I love leading…

I love leaders…

I love the word leader…

I wonder though…

If we’ve popularized the team leader so much that we’ve made everyone a leader…

But not everyone is a leader…

Certainly not everyone is leading…

Even some who think they are…

Is everyone supposed to be a leader?

There are different styles of leadership…

We have different ways to lead…

But if you want to be called a leader…

Then lead…

Any questions?

What do you think?

My Standard Reaction When Someone Quits

I have a basic policy…

I’ve held it almost as long as I’ve been in a management/leadership type of role…

Whether paid staff or volunteer…

If you come to me ready to resign…

I won’t attempt to talk you out of it…

I may try to:

  • Understand your heart
  • Make sure it’s not a knee jerk reaction
  • Make sure you aren’t being treated unfairly by someone else…
  • Make sure there are no misunderstandings between us…

But, if those check out, I won’t stand in your way…

I’ll simply encourage you as you move forward…

I’ve found that convincing a person to stay hardly ever works…

You’ll tend to never be satisfied again…

If your heart has already left our vision….

Am I wrong?

Leader, what do you do when someone quits?

Leadership Evaluation Summary & Observations 2011

Recently I posted about the annual review process where our team evaluates me in my leadership of Grace Community Church. (You can read more about that process in the initial post HERE.) I ask the staff to anonymously evaluate my performance as a leader. After a few weeks to answer, we met yesterday for lunch to go over the responses.

I was nervous about their responses this year, because our growth and the personal life changes have stretched me this past year. This year, unless they told me separately, I was not able to tell who said what in the evaluation, so it was good feedback without taking reading anything into the responses based on personalities.

Below are the questions and the most repeated answers. I tried to pull out the themes of the comments, summarizing the most repeated responses. I am not leaving any out that were mentioned. There were a few private comments/suggestions made that were not directed at me personally, so I left them off this public list. I’ll make some general observations after the answers.

What am I currently adding to the team? What do you see as my strengths?

  • Leadership
  • Wisdom
  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Team Building
  • Communication

What is my greatest weakness? Where do you think I still need improvement? (The goal here is to be helpful, not hurtful.)

  • Speed of decision-making
  • Management
  • Abnormal pace of life (fear of burning out)

Knowing my skills, where should I be placing more of my attention these days?

  • Staff leadership development
  • Teaching
  • Long-term planning

What do you need from me that you are not currently receiving in the way of leadership/direction?


Do you feel I have your best interest at heart?

100% Yes

Do you feel I am supportive of your area of ministry? If not, please explain.

100% Yes

Would you feel comfortable bringing problems to me? If not, why?

100% Yes

The larger the church and staff get, do you see my role needing to change? If yes, in what ways?

  • Concentrate more on strengths
  • Less managing responsibilites
  • Less direct responsibilities
  • More oversight responsibilities

What would you like to say to me or what questions do you have for me, but you haven’t said them or asked them, for whatever reason?

  • Are you a Christian?
  • Please take care of yourself and have more down time
  • Will you be here in 5 years?
  • Thanks for being open to challenge

Here are some general observations:

  • I am a Christian, and will be contacting Survey Monkey (The tool I use to do this) to see who the person asking this is…then I’ll show him (I know it’s one of the guys) how a Christian can still kick butt.  Ha! Got to have one clown in the bunch.
  • I’m very pleased that our team feels I’m approachable, that I have their best interest in mind, and that I remain supportive of their individual ministry area. This is a high value for me and I haven’t always had 100% here. I must work hard to maintain this level of agreement.
  • Ben Reed, our Groups Pastor, made the comment that the list of suggestions is getting shorter each year, perhaps because we are getting better as a team. I really do consider the suggestions for improvement and try to make changes in how I lead following this annual review.
  • The follow up luncheon is critical to the success of this. The open, honest dialogue helps solidify the central themes and flushes out some things I don’t completely understand, such as the suggestion that the person needs more “communication”. That was more of an organizational issue than a personal issue, and the point was well taken. It’s a area in which we need to continue to improve.
  • Sometimes I’m guilty of neglecting to lead my own team. I admitted that I am often, because they know me personally, bashful about sharing leadership principles with them. They want more direct and intentional leadership development from me.
  • We have some organizational and leadership changes that will be needed in the coming months and years in order to remain effective as a staff and team. My role will need to change.
  • It remains a matter of discussion concerning the pace of life I live. I assured our team that I never expect people to repeat my pace, I’m at a different stage of life, and I am in a very healthy place in my life right now. I do realize the potential for burnout and appreciate the accountability and concern in this area.
  • The pace of the church’s growth demands that I make dozens of decisions each day. I need to slow down in some areas, perhaps delegating more decision-making and developing systems that allow me more time to make other decisions.
  • Improving the management of the staff is a continual need. Admittedly, I’m a much better leader than I am a manager. Someday this will be an additional staff position, but in the meantime, I must work hard to grow as a manager.
  • Well, the evaluation is finished for another year, but my part is really just beginning. Taking this information and feedback and using it to make me a better leader (and manager) is a year-long process.

What are your thoughts based on this post?

Not Getting Credit for an Idea

I’m an idea guy.

Ideas are plentiful, I know, but I tend to have more than average.

As a leader in an organization, that means I throw out a lot of ideas to those I lead.

Some of them work.

Some don’t.

One thing I’ve learned, though, is that if an idea sticks, someone else may end up using it.

If it’s a success, others may get credit for my idea.

In fact, some may never remember where the idea originated.

And that’s ok.

Part of being a leader is celebrating the success of others.

I’m not saying it’s always easy.

Our nature causes us to love the recognition.

But that’s what leaders do.

Leaders seek the progress of the organization over recognition for the leader.

Be honest, are you okay if others get credit for your idea?

When You Don’t Need a Leader

People follow the leader…


One of the key aspects of being a leader is leading…

Leaders have a vision that includes other people…

Leaders are typically the ones who are willing to think bigger…

Leaders will usually take greater risks…

Leaders dream bigger than they can complete without others…

Leaders take people where they are afraid to go…

Leaders strategize plans they can never accomplish alone…

Leaders aren’t just talking about it…

Leaders are actually going somewhere…

If the goal is not bigger, further, more difficult and risky than today…

Then you don’t need a leader…

Doing a Stakeholder Analysis

The longer I lead and manage people, the more I realize that the most important element in leading and managing people is….

Have you forgotten that principle?

Leadership is about people. It’s relational. It depends on learning how to interact with people, how to encourage them, how to have healthy conflict, how to recruit them, and how to keep them informed.

You get the idea.

That’s not new information, but the problem is that every decision a leader makes impacts people. Some make the leader popular. Other decisions make the leader unpopular. Therefore, it’s easy for many leaders to become people-pleasers, trying to make sure everyone is happy. Other leaders go to another extreme and become a controlling leader; never allowing anyone input into the leader’s life or the decision making process.

One solution for me has been to do a stakeholder analysis of the situation. When I consider the person’s interest and power or influence in the organization, it can help the way I respond in making the decision, who’s involved in that process, and help us stay focussed towards the mission, while still valuing people.

This diagram shows a typical stakeholder analysis model:

Thanks to MindTools.com for this diagram. You can ever read more about how to use this tool HERE.

If you have an individual on your team with high interest and high power, such as a passionate key leader, you may react differently to their concern over an issue than someone who has little interest in your church and never intends to be a part of the church. As an example, the one-time guest who criticizes your music program may not be the voice you listen to most, but you probably should consider the voice of an elder.

I realize some may see this process as cold or even uncaring, but actually, I see it as a paradigm by which to apply wisdom to a circumstance. Ultimately I think our goal as a leader should be to bring the best people to the table, eliminate obstacles involving people, value people, and yet protect the mission of the organization. Doing a stakeholder analysis may help with that.

What do you think?  Could this be a helpful tool?

Have you seen the need to analyze the stakeholders in making decisions?

7 Questions about the Way People Approach a Leader

A couple of young guys made an appointment and came to my office recently to pitch me an idea for a new ministry they hope to start. They had been told I have a passion to empower people to follow their dreams and callings. I instantly loved their heart and the new ministry, but what intrigued me was how nervous they were making the presentation. I understand, because any kind of presentation like can be nerve-racking, and we are a large church, but I’m also their pastor. It made me wonder if I had ever done anything to make them nervous about approaching me. I concluded that it was just the situation, and not our relationship, but it caused a healthy reflection for me for other areas of my leadership.

It forced me to ask how the people on our staff…the people I work with everyday…the ones I call a “team” feel about approaching me with an idea, an issue, or even a criticism or concern. That’s one reason I periodically ask our team this question as part of an annual evaluation process. (Read about that process HERE.)

In my opinion, if you are a leader, the way the people you lead approach you says much about the quality of that leadership.

Here are 7 questions to consider about the way people approach you as a leader:

  • Do they feel the need to gather support from others before they approach you?
  • Have they begun to expect an immediate “no” answer?
  • Are they overly and obviously nervous during the approach?
  • Do they lose sleep the night before talking to you?
  • Do they make a dozen disclaimers before they tell you what they have to say?
  • Do they only tell you part of the story?
  • Do they think they have to barter with you for your support?

Granted, there will always be tension when approaching “the boss”, but one of our roles as leaders should be to level the playing field enough and build healthy relationships with the people we lead so they are comfortable approaching us when needed. It provides accountability, healthy environments, and keeps us from becoming egotistical.

Reminder: That type relationship doesn’t develop overnight or simply by telling people not to be nervous. It develops over a season where trust is earned and respect is warranted.

Are there any other questions you would add to my list?

(Don’t be afraid or nervous to add to my questions…)

5 Ways a Leader Responds Under Stress

Every organization and team has times where everyone is stretched, stress abounds, and even times where it seems things are going backwards for a while. During those times good leadership is more critical than ever.

In times of stress, here a 5 things a leader must respond with:

A level head – A leader must display a calmness in the midst of crisis. Trying times test a team and the leader doesn’t need to be the one causing panic.

Steadfastness – There will always be temptations to give up under stress. A leader walks by faith and keeps the team moving forward. (You can read the hard lesson I learned about this issue HERE.)

Integrity – Character is tested during stressful times. A leader must remain unquestioned in his or her integrity for the health of the team and organization.

Strategic-Thinking – Decisions are harder to make but more important during stressful times. The leader must think strategically for the organization. (Read a post about thinking strategically in the moment HERE)

Personal balance – Leaders must remain healthy personally in order to continue to lead the organization. During times of stress, the leader must continue to exercise, eat well, and be disciplined.

Leader, have you ever had to lead during especially stressful times?

Are you there now?

What would you add to my list?