How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this email after a recent post:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People Pleaser Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here is my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish – It appears you have one, but people pleasing must be more important to you than accomplishing that vision. Not trying to sound harsh, but that’s the reality. We tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy. Make sure it’s God-honoring and God-ordained. When you are leading a church, obviously you want to do the will of God. He gives us latitude I believe, but we want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory.

That vision, though, is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it…regardless of who brings it to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say…”I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.” Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy in with a team towards reaching the vision – You need a team around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Be careful who you surround yourself with here. Make sure they are people who are not self-serving, can see a bigger picture, and will protect your back should it come to that. You’ll need others, however, that can back you up when you’re tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

When you recruit them, make sure they understand the vision and are committed to seeing it to completion. Be honest with your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Share with them your desire to complete the vision and given them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines – Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This process is vital, because it keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am. If I let those who lead in a specific area of ministry help make the decisions in their area, we will protect the vision more often.

Allow these same people to hold you accountable to sticking to these determined goals and objectives. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision. I give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us.

Discipline yourself – The reality is that if you recognize people pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. It probably has been a weakness for a while now, so don’t expect it to disappear immediately. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Put it in your schema. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

Those are my initial suggestions. I’m praying for you frustrated pastor, but I’m believing that you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will.

Ron

Ever been a people pleaser? What suggestions do you have?

7 Reasons I’m Dumping Delegation

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I’ve always strived to be a delegator. I know I’ve written posts on it before…how to do it successfully…that kind of garbage. But, that’s before I knew the skinny on delegation. So, that’s it. I’m done. No more delegation for me.

I’m dumping delegation for good.

Here’s what I discovered…

7 problems with delegation:

I might appear to be doing less – Everyone knows I’m the leader. What will they think if I’m not the one doing everything?

I will lose authority – Delegation…done right at least…means I give up the right to control. Does that even need an explanation? Seriously?

I will still have to be available – Supposedly you aren’t supposed to dump and run with delegation. So, if I’m going to be involved anyway…I might as well do it. Duh.

Someone might not do things the way I would – And you know my way is best.

It might get done faster and better – Faster is one thing…but better? Who’s got time for that? And, then what am I going to do with the extra time on my hands?

It might expose or grow a new leader – How threatening!

Someone else might get credit – My credit!

Do you see why I’m dropping delegation from my leadership toolbox? Brilliant I say.

What say you? What problems have you discovered with delegation? Ahh…never mind. I’ll answer myself.

(For those who struggle with a weird sense of humor like mine…or for the extremely literal among us…here’s the disclaimer you’re looking for…Is this enough? Hope so, because I’ve technically delegated clarifications of my posts to someone on our team. And, I think they’re off today.)

The Blindfolding of Experience in Leadership

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Many times, as leaders, we are blindfolded by the experience we have gained over the years.

We assume everyone knows what we know, but we forget what we once didn’t know.

This realization is one of the major fuels of this blog. I feel what I’m writing is elementary in the field of leadership.

But what is elementary to one is high school or even college to others.

I’m not at all saying you can stop learning. That’s a dangerous thing for a leader to ever do. I’m saying to be conscious of the fact that if you are a leader, chances are you’ve learned a few things along the way to getting where you are today.

Remember leader:

You have experiences they don’t have.

You have knowledge they don’t have.

You have information they don’t have.

It may come from experience, training or simply by position.

The key to growing leaders around you is to share what you know. Generously invest in those hungry to learn. Mentor those who are trying to follow you. Be honored they want to know something you know.

Be a people builder.

The more you invest, the more it expands your ability to lead, the more it develops others, and the greater your legacy as a leader will be.

10 Tensions of Every Leader

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Being a leader isn’t easy. There are tensions with every decision a leader makes. I was thinking recently about some of those tensions.

Here are 10 tensions of every leader:

Displaying confidence without being arrogant.

Being inclusive without simply accommodating.

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

Showing strength while displaying compassion.

Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.

Funding dreams and curtailing needless expenses.

Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.

Honoring history while pushing towards the future.

Creating structure but allowing the freedom to create.

Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.

Do you have some to add?

Lead Alone…Never Lead Alone: What?

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Sometimes I seem to contradict myself.

I say one thing…then I say another.

Yet, both are true.

For example. I say: Sometimes a leader has to lead alone.

Another time I say: Leaders should never lead alone.

Both are true.

Let me explain.

Don’t fear times when you seem to lead alone. No one seems to understand. There will be days in the life of a leader where you feel like everyone is against you. That’s normal. Happens to the best of leaders. You’ll have to keep going. That’s leadership. There will be times you have to lead when no one else sees what you see. You can have a firm, even God-given conviction, but it may take time for others to join in on the vision. Every leader will at times have to lead through the darkness of doubt into a greater reality.

But you shouldn’t lead alone for long.. Even when you don’t feel like it, there are usually people who support you. More than that, you should surround yourself with people you have given the freedom to speak into the deepest places of your life. You should allow people to help build the vision, give others ownership, and be a people builder by giving others the chance to lead. There shouldn’t be very long periods where you aren’t stretched by a doss of reality or correction. You should never lead alone…for long.

Both principles are true.

I’ve come up with a better way to say it:

Be willing to lead alone, but never lead in isolation.

Good Leaders Know the Difference in Popularity and Trust

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In leadership, its important to know the difference in popularity and trust.

I’ve seen leaders… whether pastors, politicians or in business…try to take people places…even worthy places…and believe people would follow because they are popular as a leader. But, people didn’t follow…because the leader hadn’t developed enough trust. Misunderstanding this can dramatically damage a leader’s performance. (This is especially true for newer leaders.)

Many leaders assume they are trusted because they are popular, but that is many times not the case. The leader may be very popular, but that doesn’t always translate into trust.

Popularity has some importance in leadership. It is easier to follow a leader we like personally. But, popularity may be seasonal and temporary. Popularity can be altered by current successes or disappointments. Popularity can cause followers to cheer or jeer, because whether it is good or bad, popularity is mostly built on people’s emotions.

Trust is what is needed for the biggest moments in leadership. Major changes involve trust. Times of uncertainty need established trust in leadership. Long term success requires trust. And, trust must be earned. Trust develops with time and experience. Trust invokes a deeper level of loyalty and commitment that helps people weather the storms of life together. Trust develops roots in a relationship that grow far deeper than popularity ever could.

Leader, know the difference and don’t confuse the two. Popularity often disguises itself as trust when people appear to be agreeing with you. And it may fool you into thinking you can do anything…because you are…after all…popular. But, if you are not careful, you will cross a line of people’s level of trust and see a backlash towards your leadership.

It will make you a more effective leader when you can begin to discern when you are popular and when you are trusted.

Have you seen this mistake made in leadership?

7 Things Leaders Must Do To Be Effective Today

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What makes an effective leader these days?

I was asked that question recently and I had to think for a moment. The question was asked in a way that caused me to believe the questioner felt my answer would be different today than ten or twenty years ago. Would it? Is leading any different today than in years past?

Well, it’s a good question, and I’m not going to attempt to answer it in this post (how’s that for dodging a question?), but let me attempt to put some answers to the question I was actually asked.

What makes an effective leader these days?

Perhaps in thinking through that question we’ll find answers to the question this question raised in me.

Here are 7 things leaders must do to be effective “today”:

Think bigger – Leaders don’t have the luxury of “resting in the moment” for long. Celebrate yes. But, then the leader must begin thinking “What’s new?”, “What’s next?” or “What needs improving?” Things are changing fast and to keep up, you’ll have to always be thinking beyond today.

Include others – There once may have been a day where a solo leader could flourish, but those days are gone. People want a seat at the table of decision. Information can no longer be controlled. (Not that it ever should have been, but it was easier. We can Google most anything today.) Reclusive leaders aren’t trusted and therefore not followed far. In the process, they waste valuable talent and opportunities from people on their team.

Remain positive – Leading isn’t easy. To say it is would mean life is easy…and it isn’t. Leading involves navigating through ups and downs and the successful leader will be the one who can keep people anxiously and excitedly looking forward through each season. On dark days a leader must point people towards better days…towards hope.

Challenge status quo – Change has always been part of society, but today change is happening at warp speed. Leaders must be agents of discovery and agents of improvement. Effective leaders must continually encourage people beyond what they think they can do.

Insure strategic thinking – We rarely reach a destination by chance, and so effective leaders are strategy experts. They work with people to craft a path to reach a destination that may not always look exactly like what we thought it would, but gets us closer to achieving our vision. We must get better with less resources and that will require strategy.

Communicate effectively – In a day where information is at everyone’s fingertips, and the quantity of information is overwhelming for all of us, the most effective leaders will be skilled communicators. They will be able to filter us through the mass of information to the most important information in the context of achieving our vision.

Stand firm – The successful leader will be able to guide a group of people towards a well-defined, easy to understand, worthy vision…in spite of hardships, setbacks and disappointments. As fast as change is changing, there must be some things which are consistent, which can grab and keep people’s heart and energy long term. Otherwise, we will see no real progress. That means effective leaders can’t get distracted with things that in the end won’t even matter. (Of course, for me, my constant guiding vision is the Gospel.)

That’s my answer of what it takes to be effective in leadership today. How is that different from years past? Is it?

How would you answer the question?

When you’re trying to figure out your right structure

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I received the following email, with a few key points disguised for anonymity, and thought it could be a question others are asking. Do you ever wonder the right structure for your church? If so, this post is for you.

“Pastor Steve” wrote (not his real name):

Hi Ron,

We are a small town church about 100. I have one full time and one part-time staff besides me. I would like to reorganize for better efficiency. We have a deacon board leadership and would like to come up with different titles and job descriptions for the leadership. Right now we have assignments for building, music, finance, missions, education and chairman. Pretty standard, traditional titles.

I lead the board and, thankfully, they are open to change. I’ve pastored here for over a dozen years, so they trust me.

Any suggestions on structure, purpose and job descriptions?

Thanks,

Steve

My reply (Slightly expanded from the original):

Steve,

I applaud you for thinking about how to be more efficient as a church. Frankly, that almost seems unusual for pastors, churches and church leadership.

I’d probably start, however, by asking bigger questions. Not magical questions. Just bigger.

Start with questions like these:

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What is our vision?
  • Who has God uniquely called and equipped us as a church to be to our community and world?
  • What are my unique passions as a pastor?
  • What do we want to be known for above everything else as a church?
  • What are three or four activities or programs we would do if we had to quit everything else?

Once you (And I’d invite others) have spent sufficient time brainstorming and summarizing some those questions, (feel free to add your own) then you can ask:

  • Considering our answers above, what are vital steps needed to accomplish each of these listed?
  • What’s an appropriate timeframe to expect to be doing these?
  • What are action steps, with timelines, for the future goals we have as a church?
  • How can I and/or the staff or leadership improve so we can lead these new initiatives?
  • What are things we are currently doing that simply aren’t needed anymore or don’t work?

And finally, ask yourself or as a group:

  • Who do we have on the team to accomplish this list?
  • Who is gifted best to serve where?
  • What can I do and what will others need to do?
  • What can other staff members do?
  • Are there key leaders in the church we’ve not tapped for leadership who could fill some of these roles?
  • Where are the biggest holes in people and leader resources we need to fill?

Keep in mind these are broad, general questions designed to get you and your team brainstorming. You’ll need to choose the questions best for you and adapt them accordingly.

After you’ve gone through the questions, which is not a quick process, you can then begin to organize the new structure around tasks and people. This type process gives you a more realistic and effective structure. Keep in mind, the more you keep the list of things you are trying to do to a minimum, the more you will increase your effectiveness.

To summarize:

I always try to start with the biggest vision and work backwards. We want to reach people. We want to disciple people. Etc. Always start with what you MUST complete and do well.

Then, I lead us to ask, how are we going to accomplish that? Finally, we need to know who the people on the team are to help us do that.

If you spend time working through that process you’ll be close to having your new structure. Also, you’ll need to review this process again over time as people and times change. Your broad answers of what you’re trying to answer will likely stay the same, but it is always good for review. Your more specific answers will change depending on who the people are in the church at the time and how things need to be done now.

Quick response, but hope that helps some.

Ron

3 Basic Needs of Every Organization or Church

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Several years ago I read an article by Raymond P. Rood’s entitled “How Then Should Organizations Live”. (http://www.humantechnologies.com) Rood makes the point that every organization has three basic needs. This philosophy resonated with me and, based on my experience, I can see how it relates to the churches, businesses, and non-profits I have led.

Here are 3 things Rood says every organization needs to thrive:

Growth – Rood says “growth needs focus on productivity and expansion.” The growth of any organization is vibrant and fast-paced and requires lots of energy and attention. It’s a world of numbers and percentages of increases. Without growth, the organization will eventually die, but if an organization only grows and never matures, that growth will not sustain itself for long.

Maintenance – According to Rood, “maintenance needs focus on order and the reduction of problems.” The more an organization grows the more it needs a structure in place to manage the growth; that’s maintenance. Systems. Some people love the maintenance world. Maintenance is extremely necessary for the organization to remain healthy. Still, if all an organization does is maintenance it will become dull, boring, legalistic, and uninspiring. (Did I paint that well enough?) Some organizations, and even churches, die because they live in the maintenance world. They become one large bureaucracy of rules and regulations, designed with good intentions, to sustain the organization’s growth. That leads to the third basic need of organizations.

Development – Rood writes that “development needs focus on organizational quality.” The development needs of an organization are designed to take it to the “next level” of success. This is where an organization really matures, develops lasting principles and values, and prepares itself for years of growth and success. Without developing an organization it will eventually wither and die.

(A common mistake is to confuse development with growth. Growth is always growth. It is focused primarily on things getting bigger. We need that focus. Development is focused on things getting better, which may or may not lead to growth. It may be completely internal. As a development person, I always hope this leads to growth, but quality is my main objective. An example here would be developing or improving the internal accounting or paperwork systems…the maintenance function. It’s more difficult to tie these directly to growth sometimes, but they can always be tied to development.)

For an organization to thrive it must do all three well. Using this information, I have expanded my thinking around these areas.

I’ve discovered, for example…

  • Everyone in the organization tends to prefer one of these three, even though all of us need all three to be successful in our role.
  • For a position to be most successful, it should have a primary focus on one of these three, although, again, all of them are necessary, for every position.
  • If a person is mismatched in one of these they will more quickly burnout. A person with a preference for growth, for example, will burnout sooner when they are function in the maintenance function.
  • We have to discipline ourselves as leaders and team members to make sure all three of these are a part of our work and the organization.
  • I have heard some people say they love all of these…or really “confident” people say they are good at all of them. I question this. In my experience, they may enjoy elements of all of them, and may even be good at all of them to some degree, but there will be one preference in the bunch (and weaknesses they can’t see in one of them.) For years, I thought I would be good at maintenance need, because I like organizational efficiency. When I was put in that position exclusively, I bombed at it.
  • When shaping a team, we need to make sure people specializing in all three are represented, and allowed to lead in their area of strength.

With these understandings, I have frequently walked our staff through each of these in a retreat setting. We expand our thoughts on these three needs as they relate to the life of our church and each individual area in which we serve. The discussion always leads to ways we can improve in each of these areas. As a pastor/leader, knowing the importance of each of these, I want to make sure we are excelling in all of them. That’s a healthy church.

For disclosure, I’m a development guy. My lesser strength is in the maintenance area, but I have seen what happens when we are weak in this area. I love the growth area, being a starter and entrepreneurial, but in an established organization, I always drift towards development…which usually involves starting something new in the same organization. If that’s all I had to do, I’d be happy. To be an effective leader, however, I must discipline my time to focus on all three needs. I can specialize in one, but I must be committed to playing a part in each area.

Some questions to ask, considering these three basic needs:

  • Which of these are missing most in your organization or church?
  • Which of these do you prefer doing most? (If you say all, let me encourage you to reconsider your answer.)
  • Should you discipline yourself in the other areas so you can be a healthier organization?

7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

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As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life. For all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. But, when making major change…change that impacts everyone…change the may be controversial…there are some steps to take before you begin implementation. Failing to do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change. Keep in mind, these are steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you.

Here are 7 steps before implementing major change:

Establish trust authority – I wrote about this principle HERE. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to implement change until they have enough trust of the people to solicit the support necessary for the change. You will need people to follow your leadership and that requires an established relationship of trust. Leaders need to be careful to not move until enough trust is in place for the size of the change. This doesn’t mean people will trust, or even like, the change, but it does mean they have trust in the leader.

Personal confidence and conviction – Check your heart. Have you prayed about it? Do you sense any reason you shouldn’t do it? In my experience, God gives tremendous freedom to us in how we carry out the mission. That’s why there are hundreds of styles and structures of churches all carrying out the same Great Commission. But, before you do anything else, make sure you are in this enough to see it through. Would you be willing to fight the naysayers on this one? Are you willing to lose people over it? I’m not saying it will come to that, but that’s the level of commitment you need to have before you introduce major change.

Leadership – Make sure you get buy in from those who will most likely end up implementing the change. Personally, I’m seldom willing to move forward if the staff I’ve surrounded myself with doesn’t believe in the change. There may be times I need to vision cast better and help them see the need, but their support is critical if major change is going to be successful.

Focus group – On major changes, I like to bring in a group of people who are generally supportive of my leadership, but represent all the major groups within the church. I cast the vision for the change, get their feedback and answer questions. Again, they may or may not immediately agree with the change, but I know they will be a respectful audience. I always tell them that as a leader, I will have to follow the direction I feel God is leading me, but I value their input in the process of discernment. (And, I genuinely do. Make sure you are open to this as a leader.) This step always makes the change better by their input and helps build a base of support for the change.

Stakeholder analysis – I wrote about this concept HERE. I try to know the most interested and influential people in the particular change. We attempt to reach out to them first. Again, this step builds support among influencers and usually further enhances the change with their input and hopefully their support. Many times this group become supporters of the change, or at least they don’t work against it, because they feel included in the process. (Again, leader, make sure you are open to this input. You need people to make any change effective. The more buy-in you get early the more effective you will be.)

Major questions answered – (Or a plan to get them.) One of my goals is getting as many answers to questions as possible on the table before the change is implemented. We can never anticipate all the questions or scenarios that will arise, but the more we can address in advance the better prepared we will be to handle them when they do. In each of the groups listed here, I always ask what questions are in the room and what questions they may sense others will have.

Timetable – It is impossible to do this perfectly, but having a planned approach to implementing the change makes the change more successful. This needs to be planned, as much as possible, before the change implementation begins. People WILL ask this question. Be realistic with your timetable, but don’t be afraid to let it stretch you either. The best change requires an element of faith.

Those are some of the steps I think through before making major change. As a pastor, I know God has called me to lead a church that will always need to be changing as the people we try to reach our changing. Refusing to change simply diminishes our effectiveness and shortens our lifespan as a local church. The more I can do to prepare people for change, the more effective that change can be.

Any steps you would add?