Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

Opinion: We have almost created a culture where the term management is seen as a negative. I believe this is dangerous.

With the rising interest in the field of leadership, the task of management is starting to get a bad name. Organizations don’t look for people with good management skills anymore, they look for leaders. It seems unpopular or not as appealing to say “I’m a manager” as it is to say “I’m a leader”.

In organizations today, leadership has overpowered management as the desired function. I have to be honest in saying I feel more qualified to talk about leadership than I do management. I’m frankly a better leader than I am a manager, but the reality is that good leadership includes a healthy element of good management and vice versa. Both disciplines are equally important for a healthy organization.   (Read my post on Three basic needs of every organization. Management fits in more of the maintenance category of those three and it’s my least favorite of them.)

The problem for the practice of management these days is that it naturally deals with an element of control, which is now seen as a negative. Read the current books and blogs on organizational health.  It is popular to talk negatively about any control issues. Leader types (like me) often rebel against any mention of control in favor of releasing people to dream and explore.

We want environments where team members are free to create, but every team also needs some guidelines and someone who can hold the team accountable to reasonable boundaries it sets for itself. Management’s role in implementing a vision is to ensure tasks and action steps are met. Good management helps the team stay on target. While leadership motivates the team to reach the vision, without management a team will have a lot of dreams but no measurable results. Managers help develop and maintain a structure that allows healthy growth to continue.

Don’t be afraid of good management. If you are a leader, part of your role is also to see that management is in place.  If you aren’t reaching the goals you have for the organization, it may not be a lack of good leadership, it may be a lack of good management.  For smaller teams, one person may have the responsibility for both functions, which is hard for many wired more towards being a leader or a manager type, but great organizations need good leadership and good management.

Have you seen this trend towards embracing leadership to the detriment of management?  How is your organization responding?  Do you see the difference in the two functions?

For further thoughts on this issue, you can read my post about leadership versus management HERE. You may also benefit by our experience learning of the need for structure and management in THIS POST.

Bring Your Old Bible to Church for ReWord Day

We are recycling Bibles this Sunday at Grace Community Church. Recently during a staff retreat we were thinking of ways to encourage Bible reading. We realized as we were talking that many of us in the room have many Bibles that we never use. Not having one could never be a good excuse for the church staff not to read the Bible. The more we talked, the more we recognized that there were probably others in our church with multiple Bibles they no longer use. At the same time, we are always conscious of people in our church and community who have no Bibles.

What was the solution? Have a ReWord Bible Day! This Sunday we are encouraging everyone who has one to bring in an extra Bible…the one on the book shelf, in the night stand, or in the trunk of your car. (I have one there.) We will then get them to people who need a Bible. We love the thoughts of someone reading the Bible someone else has already read.

Do you have an extra Bible (or two) laying around your house? What are you going to do with it?

Characteristics of People Who Work at Grace Community Church

Recently I asked the staff what characteristics they think a person who is on staff at Grace Community Church should have. As we reflected on the list, we realized we see lots of these values in our volunteers also.

Here’s the list…

Motivated self starter

Servant leader


Team player

Warrior Spirit




Personal Health




Forward thinking




You can read about the people who made this list, and are the team of Grace HERE.

Could you work with a team like this?

Are We Becoming Afraid to Take a Risk?

I was talking with a doctor recently. He said increasingly physicians are deciding not to attempt private practice. They are choosing to work only for guaranteed salaries at a hospital, afraid to take a risk of self-employment. In his opinion, it’s changing the way healthcare is done in America. I can’t speak with authority about the field of medicine, but I have noticed the same trend occur in other fields. I talk with people regularly who are settling for security rather than take a risk in this economy.

In a way, it’s completely understandable. This economy is scary for everyone, even churches (even though we are called to live by faith). I am certainly not an advocate for being irresponsible. I think we should be especially wise in these days. I will say, however, that we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from dreaming big dreams for tomorrow.

My personal concern is that if we eliminate the process of taking risks from our culture, it will be the end of life as we know it as Americans. Our country was founded and made to flourish by dreamers who took big risks.  An even greater concern, and of more personal interest to me, is that we will miss out on some God-sized opportunities because we are developing a culture of fear.

Have you seen this trend? Do you have an example? Have you been scared from following the dreams God lays on your heart?

Tennessee Titans Have a Leadership Problem

Yesterday I watched the Tennessee Titans seem to fall apart on the field. From being shut out from scoring to fighting on the field to the defeated look on the Titan player’s faces on the sidelines, this is obviously a team in difficult days.

The post game shows were saying, “this is a team in trouble” or “this team is going downhill fast”. As a student of leadership, I have tremendous respect for coach Jeff Fisher and, although I’m a more silent NFL fan, I have enjoyed watching his team since the Titans came to Tennessee. I’m wondering now what it will take to bring the team back together. I suspect it’s more than getting a new quarterback.

I wonder if the biggest dilemma for the team these days is a leadership issue.

In case you aren’t familiar with recent drama, quarterback Vince Young injured his thumb and is out for the season. Notoriously immature, Young apparently stripped off his jersey and shoulder pads and tossed them into the stands after Titans coach Jeff Fisher prevented him from returning to the field in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. Fisher gave him a timeout, but Young reportedly got into a shouting match with Fisher in the locker room following the loss and stormed out of the stadium. Fisher responded by banning him from a team meeting Monday. Finally, I hear Young pulled a “class-act” by apologizing to Fisher via text message.

Anyway, here’s where the leadership battle starts. Coach Fisher is an old-school style of coach. He demands to be respected by his team, and he has the experience and reputation in the league to deserve it. It appears Fisher would be done with Young, except that owner Bud Adams says Young is going nowhere. Both Fisher and Young are under expensive contracts and the team can’t afford to buy out either contract. In my opinion, it leaves Fisher crippled as a leader.

What do you think? As a former business owner, I understand Bud Adams dilemma. He has a bottom line to protect. You can argue that point all you want, but if the team is no longer profitable, it can’t continue to operate as a business…and, make no mistake about it, professional football is a business. On the other hand, I am a leader of a team. I can imagine how it must feel to have a key player who has seemingly been given the freedom to do whatever he wants and knows the leader can do nothing about it. Fisher can sideline Young, but he can’t get him off the team. I also know that if you tie a leaders hands you cripple his or her leadership and the ability to lead well.

Do you see the problem? What do you think? Some of you football fans educate me if you want, but what am I missing? Is this a player/coach problem or a leadership issue?  Have you ever had a leadership issue where you were accountable for results, but didn’t have ultimate authority to do your work?   What would you do if you were Coach Fisher? What would you do if you were Owner Bud Adams?

Let’s talk about it…

We Wrote a Story Together

If you follow this blog, then you may remember that a couple weeks ago we wrote a story together. You can read how it started HERE, but basically I wrote an opening sentence and then different commenters each added a line to continue the story. Today I’m providing the completed story…or at least where it is today. It’s “different”, but reading it shows me how unique our minds work. I never would I have imagined taking the story in the direction it went. Have you ever been in a planning session that went this way? It’s how a team operates.

Here is our story:

Carolyn knew not to question the timing, but she had never experienced anything like this before now. She was anxious that someone so important was interested in her opinion. That she did not know what to say!!

Here she was, in a place that was both exciting and terrifying. And she could not have felt more exhilarated! The CEO, Mr. Jenkins, had asked to see her first thing this morning.

“Carolyn,” he said, shaking his head. “How did we not see this coming?!”

Puzzled, she really had no idea what he was talking about. “See what coming?”

Her mind raced as she replayed all of her hard work over the last month. But knowing about the events last week at the company HQ her pulse quickened. She tried to maintain her composure so as to appear neither excited nor nervous.

“Carolyn, the demand generated for your new book has been off the charts!” he exclaimed.

Her ADD was kicking in, this was important, she MUST STAY FOCUSED! Assured that she had, she struggled to retain her composure and asked to see the report. She turned her head quickly feigning like she was looking for something in her purse, but in reality she was executing a well-timed sniff test. See Carolyn had a history with deodorant.

She sat down, still confused and jittery. …as Mr. Jenkins announced, “You’ll be happy to know you’ve won employee of the year, and you won’t believe what the prize is!”

And then the hardest question of all:” Did I even remember to put on my deodorant this morning?” “What am I thinking? I’ve got to stay focused on the issue at hand”, which now seemed impossible as Mr. Jenkins was reaching for something inside his desk drawer.

However, since she is hardcore ADD, the thought faded as quickly as it came. As she contemplated her deodorant, her mind took her back to the place she most hated. Even though she should be enjoying this success, she felt like she was sitting in her high school principal’s office again.

Her mind wandered back to her hometown of Tribune, Kansas where Mr. Shaeffer had often had to dish out discipline to her and her friend Charlene. Where was Charlene now? Was she still alive….”What was that Mr. Jenkins?”

In that moment before Jenkins answered the question, Carolyn made a decision. It was time for a trip back home. She thought to herself, “I wonder if my name is still carved into the door to the gym?”

Mr. Jenkins answered, ” Oh, sorry…that’s just the new ring tone on my iPhone.” Sugarland’s, “Stuck Like Glue” echoed in the conference room as Mr. Jenkins pushed silence on his phone. The country music ringtone suddenly made all the pictures of Chuck Norris on the walls of Mr. Jenkins’ office make sense.

Her alarm clock was blaring in the background as she slowly woke to face her day. But going back also scared her…it had been so long since she had seen him. A secret only her dog understood. It had all been a dream- but it stirred up the desires in her to revisit her past.

She quickly scrambled to pack a bag and headed home, wondering after all these years if her secret would be revealed. On the plane, she thought more about Charlene, the murder, and of course, him.

The countryside seemed to move by in slow motion; would she ever be home; did she really want to be home? She dialed her phone with trembling hands: “Charlene?–it’s me.”

No one knew she had been there when it happened, and the shame and guilt were sometimes overwhelming. Silence crackled across the telephone wires as she waited for Charlene’s reply. And she wondered, ‘Should I really be here…should I be doing this? Does any of it really matter anymore?’
Sheepishly she pulled into the driveway, brushed a tear from her eye and slowly began to open her car door. Even the sound of the door opening and the wind as it whipped through her hair brought back unwanted memories.

The explosion knocked her to the ground.

Off in the distance a man with wire rimmed glasses looked on through a pair of military issue binoculars. The small device in his hand would ensure that the reunion would never happen. Carolyn raised her eyes up over the porch steps only to realize that Charlene was gone.

The only thing she could think to do was sit on her favorite rock in her favorite bay and think about what was happening. Carolyn was so confused! Everything was gone. Where was she! Who was Mr. Jenkins?

Rolling over in the bed she grabbed her blankets, pulled them up over her head and wished for a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep. Dreams sure have a way of ruining a nights sleep!

Something, perhaps a log floating in the rippling water, perhaps a shadow, reminded her of a long ago trip to Puerto Vallarta…Where she had visited a local Mexican restaurant. The owners, a kind indigenous family, had taken her and Charlene in for the night after their purses, with all their money and personal identification, had been stolen. Could Charlene ever understand the feelings being there brought back?

Suddenly, a gnawing feeling engulfed her as she recalled something…and it hit her: in only twenty four hours, she had left her boss standing in the office bewildered and begging her not to leave at this incredible moment of success, had shot off to see Charlene, had nearly been blown to bits, and then flown to Mexico like some asylum escapee passing into and out of reality, like some character in the first novel written by a writer with catastrophic ADD and way too much caffeine.

Startled by Bobby McFerrin singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, she answers the phone and hears a familiar voice say “I’ve been thinking about you”.

It was her Father; “You shouldn’t have come back!” He said. “You know what will happen now!”

Carolyn started to wonder where all her past friends were, just now, she needed them for support, validation or celebration, she didn’t yet know what Where were all her friends now, for support, validation or just plain help? More importantly, would her ADD allow her to make any sense of what was happening?

Right then, her phone vibrated, it was a text ” I’m not dead, meet me at our spot “. OMG, was all she could think.

The sound of sirens in the distance brought her back to the situation at hand. She knew she needed to leave before she was asked any questions. So she climbed back into the car, stared at the burning house in front of her, and made her decision. She knew that she could not talk to the police just then. She started her car and headed off to find Robert.

Though stunned by the fact that Robert was clearly not dead, Carolyn drove quickly, arriving within minutes to “their spot”– But what was that object he was carrying and why was he waving it in the air?

She pulled into a secluded spot, turned off the engine and got out of the car. In the distance she saw Robert waiting for her. Suddenly she heard a loud BANG! …as the balloon Robert was carrying burst…and she saw the person who had perpetrated this cruel action.

Could it be? “No, that’s not possible; she’s dead”, she thought as she ran to Robert. Carolyn, reached Robert right at the same moment that Charlene did.. Both of them where alive, for years she had lived with regrets that weren’t real, her world was about to change.

Because the helium that was released from Robert’s burst balloon made her voice so squeaky high that she could now sing super-hyper-soprano.

Amid the random, myriad thoughts, the bunny slippers peeping out from under Mr. Jenkins desk jolted her abruptly back into the present.

Bunny slippers, Mr. Jenkins office; what had happened to the day as it was obviously night now and she was alone in his office; alien abduction perhaps?

Carolyn shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs out-what in the world was going on? Has this all been a dream or is it really happening. Confusion took over. She needed to get out, to clear her head. But as she turned her mind saw two men in the shadows, then the same bright light and suddenly it was day and she was in her own bed; or was she?

She pulled back the covers, sat up and shook the cobwebs of sleep from her mind as she went for her bunny slippers, but where were they and where did those muddy footprints come from?

Carolyn felt a cold chill as she realized that the footprints led to the two shadows in the corner–it was Robert and Mr. Jenkins, and they were both dressed in clown suits!

“What are you doing here?”, she called out; “What’s going on?”

She hated clowns, terrified of them since she was a small child because her father dressed for one at her 5th birthday party and screamed so loudly, as he tripped over one of her friends.

Mr. Jenkins replied, “You’re still dreaming. Think real hard and you’ll wake up.” She did and all of a sudden she was awake in her own bed; no clowns or bunny slippers.

She relaxed with the knowledge that heard dear friend Charlene was, in fact, alive. But something was still not quite right.

So she had no other choice but to drop to her knees and pray “Lord, I have no idea what to do or what’s going on. What should I do?” Just then, she felt the Lord was leading her to the one place where everything would be revealed: The deodorant factory where she had witnessed the murder.She had always had a nose for trouble and now she could understand exactly what had been going on.

THE END (At least for now…)

I included links to the people who provided them. If you didn’t leave a link on your comment, to either a blog or Twitter account, or at least your full name, I didn’t assume you wanted credit for helping write this post. I did add a few names who commented frequently here or on my blog. If you added a line and want to be linked here, send me an email and I’ll happily add you. (Or, if you want your name taken out, let me know also.)

Rick Phillips , Jerry Webb, @LemonJazz, Joe Sewell, Lance Morgan, Charles Anderson, Bryan Ruffin, Esther Rennick, Lisa McAuley, Randy Gravitt, Paul Stanley, Ami Dean, and Cheryl Kosec, Felicity Shiro, Lin Pearson, Jon, Kyle Reed, Tom Jamieson,

This was fun…What do you think happens next in Carolyn’s story?

Thanks for playing along…we may try this again sometime.

Friday Discussion: #BlackFriday …What’s the Deal?

Black Friday…the day after Thanksgiving when retailers hope their financial books go from red to black…when they are completely profitable for the year…isn’t what it used to be…

I was in retail for years…I loved the excitement of this time of year…especially after I was in management.  Seeing people with their Christmas anticipation and the stores being full gave me energy…even as an Introvert.  I love growth, busyness, and energy, so Black Friday became one of my favorite days of the year.

Fast forward almost 20 years and Black Friday isn’t what it used to be.  My youngest son Nate Twittered that he had participated in his first Black Friday event.  He was finished and in bed by 6 AM.  In my retail days, that’s about the time I was going to work to prepare the store to open.  Because of the changes in Black Friday, and because I’m no longer paid to do so, I have participated in the day in years.  (Any other former or current retail folks out there?)

So, let’s have some fun discussing Black Friday today…

Dialogue with me and other readers with your thoughts, experiences, and predictions about Black Friday…

Here are some questions to get you talking:

  • Do you participate in Black Friday?  How early do you get up?  Or do you not go to bed?
  • What stores and prices were most exciting this year?  What are the items most in demand?
  • What gets you out of bed (or from going to bed) to participate…is it more the prices or the excitement?
  • Is Black Friday for the younger crowd or do middle-aged guys like me get involved?
  • Is there an online Black Friday experience?  Help a guy out…
  • For those who don’t participate…why don’t you?  Tell us what you really think of people who would get out of bed at 2 AM to stand in line for a 3 AM door opening…
  • Where is Black Friday going next?  I can see the change in 20 years…Give us your best prediction for the next 20 years…

You certainly don’t need to answer all of these, but hopefully that will get you talking.  I want to hear about your thoughts and experience with Black Friday.

Let’s talk…

The Wheels On the Bus Go Round and Round

I saw this plaque in a store window in Michigan recently. I snapped a quick picture. I didn’t need the plaque, but I love the statement.

I dont’ know where the saying originated, but the most memorable time I heard it was when Jack Nicholson said it in the movie “Bucket List”. It’s a powerful and true statement about life.

It has a similar thought process to one of my favorite verses from Scripture. Ecclesiastes 11:3: “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

It reminds me that life happens. Seasons change. Troubles come and they go. You cannot navigate around them. The wheels on the bus go round and round. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Occasionally over rough terrain. At times suffering from a flat tire or two…

I’m also reminded that during the toughest times of life, when we can’t seem to catch our breath and the wheels are turning so swiftly, that:

  • We learn more.
  • Our faith grows
  • Our witness potential expands
  • Our God can be glorified

How are your wheels turning today? Which season are you in right now?

Three Ways I Process Ideas

Perhaps this has happened to you…

You read a Tweet…you hear a message…you read a book, blog post or article…it gives you an idea, encourages you, prompts you to want to take action on the idea…

If you are like me, that thought can soon become lost in a sea of other thoughts and ideas and, as great as it may have seemed at the time, the idea never becomes reality in your life. Weeks, months, or even years later you may even hear the same idea again and remember that you never did anything with it the first time…

I often am asked:  How do you capture great ideas and make them useful in your life?

Here’s a simple system I use…there’s nothing extremely genius about this, but for me it had to become a habit to be successful. Others will have better systems, but this is what I do:

Record it – You are more likely to remember ideas that you write down. I’m always impressed (and slightly nervous) in the restaurants when the waiter doesn’t write down my order, but while this may work for short-term activities, it doesn’t for long-term. Find a system of recording the ideas that come to you. Right now, for me, that’s Evernote. I actually wrote an eBook about how to use it. Find it HERE.  I have used notepads, notes on my iPhone, notebooks, etc. It doesn’t matter what you use as much as that it be a tool you have easy access to throughout the day. Use the napkin method if that’s all you have, but I find having the same tool with me each time an idea comes to me helps me keep up with the ideas better. Ideas hit you randomly, so be prepared to record them as they come.

File it – Part of saving ideas is to have a system to process them effectively. This is an extra step where many people fail, but it is where I take my recorded notes and place them in a file that makes sense to me. One single idea can easily become a blog post, for example, but the sooner I get the idea in a specific file the better chance it has of becoming something useful. For me currently, Evernote allows me to do this seamlessly. If I have a thought for a blog post, I start a file that is for that specific post. New ideas for that same post can be placed straight into that specific file. If the idea is for a future sermon message, I have a file for that message. I have a file for staff meeting notes, lead team meeting notes, etc. The key here is to decide where it needs to go and to use file names that make sense and I will use and remember later. I also have a random file for notes that aren’t yet assigned to a specific use and I periodically go back to this file to attempt to place them in a useable file, but my first attempt is for ideas to immediately be placed in a useable file. (Prior to using Evernote, I took my handwritten notes and typed them into a Word document or Google document filing system. Again, Evernote make this seamless for me right now, but the key is to file them somewhere.)

Use it – The final step for me is to take the files of ideas, notes, and questions and work through the file until it becomes something of use. Again, for me, that could be a blog post, sermon message, meeting I’m attending, or even an email to someone, but I will process that file to make something of it. If I’m looking for a blog post for the next day, for example, the first place I go to is my list of files that I have saved. Normally I have a couple dozen of these waiting for me at any given time. I’m okay having long-term files, but I like to either do something with the file or delete it in a reasonable period of time. This means at some point during my week I discipline myself to look through my list of files and either update them, add thoughts, complete them into something, such as a blog post, or delete them. I have found that with this type of system I tend to gather more notes and ideas than I can use, so it’s okay not to do something tangible with every thought I have, but recording them in this way helps me ensures that I give ample time to process ideas instead of forgetting them.

That’s my system. What works for you? How do you keep ideas from being wasted?

A Week of Thanksgiving – People Who Helped You Professionally

Thanksgiving should be more than a day.

In the United States, we set aside one day a year to ceremonially show our appreciation for all we have been given.  No one would disagree that this practice shouldn’t be limited to just once day.  With that in mind, I thought I’d use part of my blog this week to share a little gratitude.  Throughout this week I’ll be sharing some things and people I’m thankful for in my life.

Today I want to talk about people who have had a huge impact on me professionally.  I’m a pastor now.  I haven’t always been one. I was in the business world for many years before God called me into ministry.  When I think of the process God used to prepare me for ministry, three men immediately come to mind.  There are many people along the way who have helped me, but these three made significant investments in my spiritual maturity and preparation for ministry.

Here are three people who helped me be where I am today professionally:

Dennis Newkirk – Dennis was my pastor during the greatest leap I took in spiritual development.  I once wrote about him in THIS POST.  He challenged me to desire more of Christ and to be like Him.

David Atchison – David was my first official mentor.  David was in ministry after a career in business and met me as a young man while I was in the business world, but wanting to serve Christ.  David’s friendship and counsel prepared me for the days ahead when God would call me out of the business world into ministry.

Larry Riley – Larry was a friend and served on the church staff where I attended as a layperson, before my call to ministry. Larry introduced me to the idea that church could be done differently to reach unchurched people.  I’m in my second church plant now, and it was through Larry’s initial encouragement that the initial seeds were planted in my heart that would eventually become Grace Community Church.

That’s my list (or at least part of the list…there are so many more).  What about you?  Who is someone who, without their investment in your life, you would not be where you are today professionally speaking? You don’t have to share three as I did…but share one person who made the difference.

Pay tribute to them by leaving a comment here. Who knows…they may see this and be encouraged greatly this Thanksgiving season.