One Suggestion to Take Stress from the Hiring Process

Handshake and teamwork

There is so much stress involved in hiring the right person for the team. I have a suggestion with may help.

We recently did this with several new staff positions on our team.

Build the job description around the person.

Set the vision for the job, hire the best person you can find (and/or afford as the case may be)…then build the job description…with the person’s help…around that person.

If they excel in administrative tasks…the job description may have more administrative tasks.

If they excel in creative tasks…the job description may have more creative tasks.

Find the right people and you can shape a team around them. This is true whether they are paid or volunteer.

This approach allows you to hire for character, competence, experience and fit with the team, but doesn’t limit you to finding an exact replica of a clearly defined, narrowly focused job description.

Here’s the deal. I ultimately just want a strong team. I want people who share an overall vision with me. But, I don’t want to script how they accomplish their specific part of the vision. This way of hiring allows me to be a leader instead of a manager. It frees people to be leaders instead of employees.

And, I best of all…it makes for a much happier, more productive team.

Find the right people and you can build the right team.

Do you have any hiring tips you could share?

A Sign You’re On a Healthy Team

power meeting from above

I’ve often said that good leaders never assume silence means that everyone is in agreement.

I still believe that. Leaders and situations can be intimidating. Some team members simply choose not to participate.

There is one caveat to this principle, however.

When a team is healthy, the leader is approachable, and team members are encouraged to participate in discussion:

Silence can be interpreted as agreement.

That’s because:

  • The freedom to challenge is present
  • The fear of retribution is absent
  • The power of unity is prominent
  • The spirit of cooperation is elevated
  • The synergy of differences is celebrated

When you are on a healthy team, people feel freedom to speak up when needed, so if they don’t, you can often safely assume they are in agreement.

I’ll be candid, as i write this, I’m six months into leading a new team. I’m not sure we are there yet, but in the months to come, I’ll be looking to measure progress in this way.

Ask yourself this question: What does silence on the team indicate?

In that answer, if you’re honest, you may find the answer.

Are you serving on a healthy team?

7 Leadership Default Zones

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There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. Having a default zone when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” to in common situations that occur most frequently in leadership may prove to be helpful.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way has over time proven to be best. That becomes your default zone.

Here are some of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring…default to no over yes – If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I vote no. It’s not worth taking a chance when adding to the team and when I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it…don’t – I often don’t follow my own advice here, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader.

If it’s between empower or control…choose empower – Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen that the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way.

My preference or the team’s preference…go with the team – There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong.

In person or by email…choose in person – By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But, when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times.

If there’s doubt…ask for clarification – If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking…if it doesn’t appear they understand you…rather than assume…ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams.

Grace or dismissal…choose grace – There are times when you simply have to make the difficult decision. But, when you can….extend grace. Some of my best, more loyal team members became that way only by grace.

Learning some of your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership

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In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps that get in the way of a leader’s success. I’m calling them pitfalls.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride – When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers…watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness – I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days…most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation – A leader who removes his or herself too much from the actual work being done, isn’t visible to the team, or doesn’t bond well with them team, will never gain significant influence with the team. At every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness – Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom – Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored. That’s dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success – Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! Great leaders are always cognizant that the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Elitism – When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow…they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable…and there are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader at times. And, the reason they feel that way is because it’s probably true. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

Alert

Almost on a weekly basis I hear from a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He feels the pressure placed upon him and knows that others are looking to him to steer the church on a healthy course. Most of these leaders are humble, knowing that ultimately Christ is the head of the church. What they also know is that there are expectations of their position, decisions that have to be made which are not clearly defined in Scripture, and that seminary didn’t train them to make.

Sometimes it seems I’ve given the same advice many times; either reminding myself or to another pastor. The more times I share the same concept, the more it becomes a short, paradigm shaping idea that summarizes the basic issue the leader is facing. What isn’t always clear is that I’ve learned these concepts mostly by living these concepts. I’ve made more mistakes in leadership than I’ve had success. That’s what this post is about. These are some warnings I’ve observed first hand in leadership positions I’ve held. I’m trying not to continue to live them and I’d love to help other leaders avoid them.

Here are 7 warnings for aspiring leaders:

What you “settle for” becomes the culture.

Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted.

Your actions determine their reactions.

Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything.

You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”.

If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead.

What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, not your words, no matter how well spoken they might be.

What warnings would you share to aspiring leaders?

Attempting to Eliminate Risk in Leadership

If you want to eliminate risk from leadership…

Here’s what you have to accept:

It will be expensive – You’ll have to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. That will not be cheap to accomplish.

It will be time consuming – You will have to research all scenarios and answer all questions. That will take considerable time.

It may seem impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience.

It may be unrealistic– Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more realistic than no risk…to me. I’m not saying it won’t, I’m just questioning how practical that really is and really whether or not that’s even leadership. Leadership by application involves risk.

I’m not trying to stop you from trying to eliminate risk in leadership. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those. You can certainly keep doing so until you are comfortable the risk is eliminated. Go for it!

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may lose opportunity. Try to eliminate risk and the world and the best ideas may pass you by.

Eliminating risk certainly doesn’t mesh with my understand of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery…risk.

But, if that’s your goal…to eliminate risk…don’t let me stand in your way. Zero risk on the way…right?

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

5 Things I Control as a Leader

Recently, I was talking to a church planter. He was asking questions about the initial days of a church plant. Since I have been involved in two church plants, and I get those questions frequently, I referred him to a few blog posts I’ve written.

17 Months to Launch

7 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting a Church

5 Lessons Learned in Church Planting

5 Characteristics Needed to be a Church Planter

We talked through some of these concepts, then he asked me another question.

A great question.

What things did you try to control and which did you release to others?

Love that question. Not sure I’d ever had it before, at least that directly, in terms of church planting.

I gave the first answer that came to me:

The only leadership lid you will ever create is whatever area you choose to control.

It came out quickly, but I still liked and agreed with my answer. I then realized, as much as I love delegation, there are some things I felt the need to control. I expanded our conversation to include a few things I do control…or at least have a major impact upon: (Some of these came to me after the conversation ended)

Vision – Senior leadership should make sure the vision of the organization is maintained.

Staff culture – Senior leadership, especially in the early days, plays a primary role in setting the morale, approach to structure and formation of the DNA of the organization.

The organization’s pursuit of excellence – People will never push for more excellence than the level expected, led, and lived by senior leadership.

The moral value of the organization – The character and integrity of the organization will reflect senior leadership. Period.

The velocity of change – Senior leadership sets the speed that change and innovation is welcome in the organization.

As a leader, especially in a new organization (church plant), I realize the less I control, the more I can allow others to lead. The result is a healthier, happier organization that is more prone for growth. There are things, such as the above, that by default and, for their importance, senior leadership should control. If control seems to harsh a word, choose another, but these should not be delegated too far beyond the ability to guide them.

Make this post better:

Is there anything else you think a leader should attempt to control?

If you want to attract leaders for your team

Give them a problem to solve

If the answer is already found, you can hire a manager for that job…and you’ll need a good one. You’ll have other problems to solve and a good manager can free you up to lead.

But, to attract a leader…

Help them see a need…give them some freedom to find a solution…give them support…get out of the way…and let them go.

Leaders seek opportunities to lead

Challenge…opportunity…problems…something everyone says cant be done….

That’s an environment that fuels a leader’s energy. It’s what attracts a leader to your team.

Are you in an environment that attracts leaders? What makes it so?

The Unwritten Rules

Are the real rules

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most, become a part of tradition…that’s what is real.

That’s the DNA

They may have never been written down, voted on or “put in the minutes”, but they are assumed true by the majority.

Those are the rules people will defend and protect the most.

They’ll fight to keep them from being changed or bended.

If you are a new leader or a veteran, understanding this principle will increase your effectiveness.

Trust me in this.

Have you ever learned the principle the hard way?

A Leader in Time of Crisis, Uncertainty or Change

After the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-41)

How did Paul respond?

Read it for yourself:

After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia. And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length, he came to Greece. Acts 20:1-2

That’s the role of a leader in times of crisis. In times of uncertainty. In times of change.

The people following you are looking for assurance that everything is going to be okay. They want to know there is a plan. They want to hear things are moving forward with confidence.

Help people process the pain of their circumstances.

Give them hope. Encourage. Challenge them to continue.

Lead.