7 Ways I Gain Influence with My Team

Business team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Employee May Have to Go — The Hardest Decision a Leader Makes

Unemployment

One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. I’ve only known a few very callous people who weren’t extremely burdened by having to fire someone. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent.

In working with pastors this issue is one of the hardest they face. The church is often notorious for delaying these type decisions — often in the name of grace. (I’m always equally concerned about being good stewards of the Kingdom investment people make in the church.)

And, it’s an issue few seem to want to talk about. Yet it’s one we all struggle with personally.

I’ve heard great leaders say repeatedly that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast” — and I agree — but that’s much easier to say than it is to do. In fact, it’s painful to follow this principle. The opposite seems more appealing. Most of us would rather rush someone in the door and then be very slow to get rid of them even when we know it’s needed. 

Sometimes the decision is made for us. Or at least is made clearer.

If someone is caught stealing.
If someone continually defies authority.
If someone is blatantly lazy.

Those aren’t easy decisions either, and due process, fairness, and grace should still play a part, but they are often easier to clarify what needs to happen. (And, I’m not saying termination is always the case. The offense is made clearer though.)

One of the harder decisions for me (and other leaders I’ve spoken to), but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t clear-cut, black and white issues.

Years ago, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. One of our best. He could sell anything. Taking a strictly bottom line approach — on paper — he made the company money. But, it was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. He was disrespectful, never attended meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.

It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake. I had to make a hard decision.

And, there are multiple situations where a hard decision needs to be made, but it is from a seemingly gray area. It isn’t always clear when to make the decision.

Here are a few examples I have personally experienced or walked through with other leaders:

The person has lost all credibility with the team. This could be with peers, a team he or she leads, or with volunteers (this is especially true of volunteers). At this point  the energy trying to repair their relationships would be too overwhelming. Everyone else is wondering why you haven’t moved sooner to make a hard decision. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if we simply start with a clean slate.

The person refuses to support the overall vision. They may have the skills to be outstanding, but their attitude causes them to serve as more of a cancer to the team than an asset.

The person’s heart has “left the building”. They are ready to move on to something else, so they no longer give their full heart to the job. And, everyone knows it. It could be bringing down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team. It could just be that the best is not being achieved anymore. Best is never achieved without a heart for the work.

The person’s actions or reputation discredits everything the mission claims to be. Sometimes the integrity of the organization is at stake. Sadly, I’ve seen this with people who go through personal life changes, such as having an affair. They bring their drama to work. Everyone goes through bad seasons — whether self-produced or of no personal cause, and grace should be applied generously, but a healthy team can’t live in high periods of drama for long. Some people simply never recover, they continue making bad decisions, or their heart never returns to the job they were once doing. It may even be that they need a change forced upon them before they can recover.

Again, hard decisions. Not always easy to define. Not clean and simple. This doesn’t mean you fire in each of these scenarios. I’m not advocating that at all. No two situations are alike. It does mean the red flags are drawn. And, as a good leader you don’t ignore the situation or pretend it doesn’t exist. You have to do something or nothing will ever change — and will likely get worse.

But, making the right decision protects the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership. At times, people are wondering why you’ve waited so long to do something.

If you find yourself in one of these situations – – bathe it in prayer, seek wise counsel, whether that’s in the church or outside the church. I almost always consult with a Christian attorney or employment expert. Ask confidential advisors — not many — but people you know are trustworthy and wiser than you in these situations. Never make these type decisions alone. (The hard fact is the problem could be your leadership and you need to be open to that.)

Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback in your leadership. But, your credibility and success as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.

7 Tips for Hiring the Right Person for the Church Staff

racial diversity

We must make good staff hires in the church. 

That’s seems common sense to me , but there’s a definite reason. 

In most churches it is often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending much of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.)
Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision — perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team. That will either be positively or negatively.

In a day where budgets are thinner and the mission remains critical, we must hire the best people we can find.

Here are 7 tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring:

Biblical qualities – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. There are standard passages we use for positions such as pastor. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good Biblical standards for hiring even in every position — even in the secular world. And not just using the couple passages we tend to use. I realize this is open for critique, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team — in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church, or in my social network. LinkedIn is a good resource for this. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process for me.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person — whether or not they were placed on their list of references. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone whom I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly. Plus, the spouse always asks better questions. 

Chemistry AND Culture – The ability to get along with others and especially the team often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Culture is equally important. If the person doesn’t like or can’t support the church where it is today (even if the desire is to take the church elsewhere) they will likely make things difficult for the church and you. They may be a great person, you may like them a lot, but they need to be able to love the church (and it’s people) even in its current state, even if they aren’t satisfied with where the church is today.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this principle when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team. So, before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of why they perhaps shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and I have repeated it in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. It has prompted some good, honest conversations as a result of this tactic. I feel people have come better prepared for what they will face once they join our team. It also exposes some issues or concerns we likely would have had to deal with down the road. It is easier on the front end.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework, I’ve prayed for clarity along the way, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut-instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and in church, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I always tell leaders — if you’re gut is grounded with Jesus — you can trust your gut. Overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What tips do you have for hiring the right person?

7 Suggestions When Interviewing for a Church Staff Position

handshake

I serve on the board of a local youth leadership program. These students are the top of their class, so the entry is competitive. Part of qualifying process is an interview with board members — most who are seasoned business and community leaders. I am always reminded in the process how interviewing, as critical as it is to acquiring a position, is not something everyone knows how to do — regardless of their other accomplishments.

I’ve found that to be true in the church also. And, in business when I was in that world. I have hired dozens, maybe hundreds of people in my career — which means I’ve interviewed lots of people. Some people do better at interviewing than others.

I decided to offer some advice from the hiring side of the table. Since my blog is read mostly by church leaders, I am speaking primarily from that perspective.

Here are 7 suggestions for interviewing for a church staff position:

Know the church. Do as much research as you can about the church, it’s history and its culture. Obviously, read all you can online. Ask who will be in the interview and what role they have in the church. Google can be your friend in researching these people. Find out if you have any connections in the church. (LinkedIn can be a great source as it shows you connections to your connections.)

Be honest. This is critical. They need to know you and you need to know them — as openly as possible in a formal setting like this. The worst thing for you personally would be to land a job where you would be miserable — or make them miserable. Plus, in my experience, the more honest and transparent you are — even about your weaknesses or past failures — the more attractive you will be as a candidate — if you’re a fit for the role.

Be upbeat. I’ve learned this is especially difficult if you are nervous — or, like me — an introvert. The main concern in adding staff at most churches is that the person be a good fit for the church and current team. Show you’re easy to get along with, fun and likable. Have a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. But, balance this with also attempting to be yourself. It’s obvious if you’re trying too hard. Especially on a first interview, the key should be to connect with those in your interview.

Be humble. If you’ve had past success, don’t take all the credit. Share the victories with others, knowing that most likely you couldn’t have succeeded without them. It’s a much more appealing approach. Use the word “we” more than “me” or “I”. While you need to demonstrate your ability to perform, keep in mind arrogance is never an attractive quality in a team member. 

Appear competent without appearing controlling. There is a huge difference between being able to lead with confidence and being a bullying leader. Churches are places where people need to be empowered. Your goal should be to demonstrate a care and love for people (which should be genuine), while assuring you have the tenacity and courage to lead boldly. That’s a delicate balance every church needs.

Be forward thinking but celebratory of history – Most churches, even after a difficult period, continue to remain proud of their heritage. (This is where researching the church as much as you can helps.) The worst thing you can do is to bash the church or it’s culture. They may welcome your input to change, but you won’t endear them to you if you make them defensive about their history. Let them know you are willing to build on their past, but also willing to help them go wherever God leads in the future.

Pray – It should go without saying, but pray before and after the interview and ask others to pray with you. (Although as I’ve seen people do, I wouldn’t necessarily post this on Facebook.) In the end, you want this to be a God-thing — not a man-made thing. You don’t want to take the position if it’s not of God. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude and freedom in choosing our place of service, and we should represent Him with our best appearance, but in the end, we want to be in the center of His will.

What tips would you offer to those interviewing at another church or ministry?

16 Often Unknown Roles of a Pastor

preacher

What is it you have to do when you’re not preaching?

Must be nice to only work one day a week.

I’d like to come see you this afternoon. Since it’s not Sunday I’m assuming you’re free.

Believe it or not, I’ve heard all of those. Most are simple misunderstandings. Sometimes people are just trying to be funny.

I must admit. It’s not always funny — not laugh out loud funny at least, because the jokes have grown stale by now. They are still new to someone I suppose.

But, especially when it’s said as an indictment that pastors have it “easy” it can even hurt. That’s probably true even more for my pastor friends in smaller churches where they carry the weight of multiple staff positions.

What does a pastor do when not preaching?

That is a valid question. This is not meant to seem as a complaining post, but an informational post. You only know what you know. I don’t know what the doctor does when not seeing patients or all the things that teacher does when not in the classroom. Every job has its own responsibilities that are clearly known until you do the job.

The answer for pastors is — lots of things. Lots. A day is seldom the same.

The pastor wears many hats. Some of them of which you may not even be aware.

Here are 16 often unknown roles of a pastor:

Counselor. All pastors do some counseling. Many pastors — I might add most pastors – – are not qualified to do extensive counseling. They can’t commit the required time, nor do they have the expertise. Still, some counseling is a part of nearly every pastor job.

Career Coach. One of the most frequent requests for my ministry help has to do with people’s career steps — from school to employment. And, I’ve heard similar from other pastors. Because work — or lack of work — greatly impacts a person’s life it is a huge part of the pastor’s life. In fact, I keep a file of people in our church who are looking for work or looking for someone to hire

Business Advisor. It may be because I have a business background, but I think it also comes with the role. Business leaders – especially self-employed business owners – want help discerning the right decisions. (I admire that about them.) one place they consistently seeking input from is the pastor.

Custodian. I can’t stand a piece of paper on the floor. If I see a trash can overflowing — I don’t call someone — I do something about it. Most pastors I know want the facility ready when people arrive. So, they do what they have to do. In fairness, I don’t do much of this. Mine is a more supervisory role. We have a large facility and an excellent team. I do know pastors, however, that have to help on a larger role in facility maintenance or custodial care.

Arbitrator. I’ve stood between a few people before trying to work through division and build cooperation. It could be in a marriage or I have even been between business partners in the church. People often want a third-party objective and many times they look to the pastor for that role.

Social worker. I read a definition of social worker recently. Seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching. Yea. That.

Volunteer coordinator. Every pastor must learn how to coordinate the efforts of different people, who communicate uniquely, and have their expectations of volunteer leadership.

Events manager. I need to be honest. I don’t fill this one often, although I do have some responsibilities with events. I am no good at the details of it and thankfully there are people in our church who can fulfill this role better than me. But, most pastors, including me, have responsibility for events at some level.

CEO. Let me be very clear that Jesus is the CEO of the church. (Some may argue Jesus is the owner and He left us to provide everyday leadership — under His direction.) If I get critics on this one criticism it will be because you misunderstand what I’m saying. Maybe on my ability to say it where you can interpret it. But make no mistake about it – the pastor is expected to lead so many aspects of the church. On every major decision of the church most churches want the input of the pastor. Regardless of the structure of the church it can feel very much like a CEO position. (And, I’ve been one in my previous business career.) This is one of the larger uses of my “non-preaching” time. By the way, I have talked with dozens of pastors who don’t feel prepared for this role.

Fundraiser. Ministry takes money. And, most of the church looks to the pastor to be the primary solicitor of contributions. (Honestly, it’s a huge burden to most pastors and one they don’t feel comfortable doing.)

Recruiter. No church can function without volunteers or leaders. Most pastors are consistently looking for new people to get involved and lead ministries of the church. And the search for volunteers is a continuous effort.

Trainer. Pastors consistently help people learn how to do something. Whether it involves life skills or how to function within a ministry of the church, one of a pastor’s primary goals is to help people improve in areas of their life.

Scholar. I’m not the smartest person in our church. But, at the same time, the church has a certain level of expectation regarding my understanding of history, the Bible, and current events — locally and around the world. Most expect the pastor is to be well-spoken and well-read.

Writer. I estimate I average five to seven writing assignments a week beside my message and my blog. Bulletin articles. Church-wide emails. Letters of recommendations.

Manager. Every pastor manages someone — even if they are volunteers. In fact, volunteer management may actually be more difficult.

Public relations. This part of a pastor’s role is increasing daily. The days when a Sunday announcement or bulletin announcement would get the word out to the church are gone. With so many mediums to communicate and people’s divided attention among them — not to mention the frequency of attendance for many in the church — communicating to people has become a huge challenge for pastors.

There’s my list. I’m sure there are others. And, it’s a labor of love — certainly of calling — for most pastors I know, but it requires more than preaching.

And, I didn’t even mention politician. :)

Granted, the size of the church will often determine the amount of time spent on anyone of these. But, except in exceptionally larger churches, the pastor wears multiple hats. Certainly more than a Sunday job. And, many pastors, myself for one, spend up to half or two-thirds of our week preparing for Sunday.

It should also be noted (and this is an edited addition resulting from a comment) — the pastor shouldn’t do ALL of this. I spend much of my energies helping pastors learn to be better leaders which ultimately means learning to delegate. I believe in the Acts 6 and Jethro models of pastoral leadership. 

Thankfully, I serve in a church where most of these tasks are primarily assigned to other staff members for direct oversight. I actually had other pastors in mind when I wrote this more than myself. But, in all of these roles, at some level, in most churches they are under the pastor’s purview. If there is a need for or problem with one of them the pastor will be looked to ensure it is addressed. Therefore, whether or not the pastor does all of these personally, there is a level of responsibility. To ignore this and point to an “ideal” job description of a pastor would be naive, in my opinion. 
One final thought, considering these roles, imagine how that plays out for bi-vocational pastors. Say an extra prayer for those pastors.

Pastors, any other roles we serve?

Five Mistakes Pastors Frequently Make With Finances

us-money-photo

I came into ministry after a long business career, so I’m sometimes considered unique in my involvement or interest in our church finances. I work closely with our Business Administrator and finance committee on the budget and administration of our church finances.

I have been known to negotiate contracts, meet with bankers and I can intelligently analyze financial statements. I understand the business side of the church. It comes natural for me.

Working with different churches over the years, I’ve seen lots of approaches by pastors in this area of finances. Some are completely hands-on, while others run from the issue completely. It’s helped me form some thoughts around the topic; specifically some mistakes I think we can avoid.

Here are the top 5 mistakes pastors make regarding money:

Not knowing anything. The pastor doesn’t have to be business-minded. He can surround himself with wise counsel, but the pastor needs some basic knowledge in order to lead the church effectively. Learn to read the financial documents of the church. Get some basic training in financial terms so you can lead people well. Especially in today’s world of speculation and trust issues, those who give to a church want to know that leadership has a handle on the finances of the church before they are willing to invest in the mission.

Handling too much. The pastor never, ever, ever needs to be the sole person to handle money. I’m careful even when someone hands me a check in the hall. I quickly find someone on our finance committee or our Business Administrator. I would never want to sign checks. As pastors, we have to remain “above reproach” and that’s especially true in this area of finances. For appearances, but also to guard our own heart. Temptation is huge for all of us in the area of money.

Being Controlling. When the pastor is the only one who decides how the budget of the church is going to be spent a few problems occurs. First, great ideas are left off the table. Collaboration is the best approach to most decisions, but especially spending someone else’s (God’s) money. Second, the pastor becomes too powerful. Money is power. In the business world and the church world. The pastor doesn’t need that load of responsibility on his own. Finally, eventually people begin to mistrust the system, the pastor, and even the church. The pastor will make some decision no one agrees with and the troubles begin. Beware. Invite trusted people into the process.

Not asking for money. If the church is going to disciple people, it can’t avoid the subject of money. This isn’t even as much about funding the ministry. God can take care of that. If you’re following His will on what you do, He can fund it. But, this is about leading people to be disciples. And as we know, God doesn’t fully have a person’s heart until He has control of their finances. Pastors, we have to teach this to our people.

Not being transparent. Tell everything. You don’t have to share details that people don’t care about, but there shouldn’t be any secrets when people ask. And, keeping people abreast of the general financial welfare of the church is critical. I heard from a church recently that is in serious financial difficulty, but no one in the church except the pastor and bookkeeper even knew. When it was found out, there was obvious repercussions—anger, frustration, hurt. Those emotions can usually be avoided if people know in advance where you stand.

Money is a big issue for all churches—for all of us. Which is surely why the Bible addresses it so often. As pastors, we must diligently lead our churches wisely in this important matter of Kingdom ministry.

(I previously wrote this post for Lifeway.com Pastors Today blog.)

51 Things I’ve Learned in 51 Years

Old books on the table

I continue to learn. I hit 51 years of age this year and one thing that’s become apparent over the last couple years is how much more I still have to learn.

And, yet, along the way, I have moved into a unique opportunity. It’s almost scary at times. People are looking to me for advice. They think I have something to share. Wow! Just when I realize I don’t really know anything, people think I know some things.

So, I culled together some of my learnings.

Here are 51 things I’ve learned in 51 years:

  1. There is no substitute for experience.
  2. You can’t lead people where they don’t want to go.
  3. No one will be as concerned about protecting your time as much as you.
  4. A “lesson in humility” teaches far more than an “ego boost”.
  5. Often what I don’t want to do is the very thing I need to do most.
  6. The best friends sometimes say the hardest — but most needed — things to hear.
  7. People are more honest with you if they can predict your reaction.
  8. We hurt most the ones we love the most.
  9. Very few people can really comply with “don’t tell anyone”.
  10. If someone goes to bed angry they wake up angrier.
  11. You never get a second chance at a first impression.
  12. God could not and would not ever send you beyond His abilities.
  13. Rebuilding trust is more difficult than keeping established trust.
  14. If you have to impress a friend they aren’t much of a friend.
  15. “Just once” is almost always a bigger deal than led to believe.
  16. Don’t be defined by a past you don’t intend to repeat.
  17. Never let an inability to understand keep you from an ability to respond in obedience to God by faith.
  18. Hard times come naturally in life. We must determine early to use them for God’s glory, to develop personally and to help others.
  19. You can pray. You can worry. You can’t do both at the same time.
  20. When you quit trying to be like someone else you have a better chance of being who God designed you to be.
  21. There is wisdom with age. Always be willing to learn from those who have lived and experienced more of life.
  22. The longer you wait to forgive someone the longer it takes to heal your heart.
  23. Don’t miss what matters most by worrying about what doesn’t.
  24. More success in the world does not automatically bring more happiness, but more success with the things that matter most does.
  25. Having wisdom doesn’t mean you made all the right choices. It just means you learned from the choices you made.
  26. Just because your momma laughs, doesn’t mean it’s funny.
  27. Never waste an idea. Always have something nearby to write it down.
  28. You can’t ignore one life principle by trying to live another
  29. Don’t stop doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is receiving more celebration. That party won’t last.
  30. A sweater may be old and ugly now, but one day everyone will want one just like it.
  31. Often one’s perception is determined by his or her experiences — good or bad.
  32. Habits form quickly.
  33. You can have tons of “friends” until there is trouble in your life — then you’ll discover some real friends.
  34. Big dreams rarely make it past our mind unless someone risks the chance that they could fail.
  35. The little things we do often have more value than the big things.
  36. Character is shaped by how we respond to life’s difficulties and life’s victories.
  37. Genuine love is far more choice than it is emotion.
  38. Recovery is often just on the other side of surrender.
  39. People are the greatest investments.
  40. Emotions should never be the sole indicator of decision-making.
  41. Your reaction determines their reaction.
  42. Never mistake the silence of God as the absence of God.
  43. Everyone receives motivation through affirmation.
  44. Seldom will you be 100% certain of a decision.
  45. Solicited applause are seldom genuine.
  46. The best opportunities seldom come wrapped neatly in a package with a bow on top. They usually come with work. Get your hands dirty work.
  47. The best leaders are often the ones smart enough to get out of the way of smarter people.
  48. Integrity does the right thing, regardless of whether it brings popularity.
  49. Some of your greatest achievements will be what you inspired others to do.
  50. If God is stretching you, it may be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps even hurt, but eventually you’ll love the new shape.
  51. Always learning something new keeps your mind young and you’ll have less resistance to change.

7 Ways to Lead Younger People

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.

Here are 7 ways to lead younger people:

Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned. 

Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.

Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time. 

Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder. 
Anything you would add?

7 Ways to Respond to an Overly-Negative, Complaining Bully

Grumpy, pissed off, unhappy old man

How’s that for a title?

After I finished talking to a group of pastors recently, a pastor approached me and asked a question. He asked, “What do you do when there is one person who is always trying to disrupt what you are doing? He is never satisfied with anything I do and he incites people against me. I know he’s going to complain about something every time I see him or his name comes up in my inbox. Honesty, I think he’s the one obstacle in us being all we could be as a church. He’s like an 8th grade bully who never grew out of it.”

Wow!

That’s a paraphrase– but it’s a true story.

And you’re shocked. You’ve never heard anything like it before – right?

It’s certainly never happened to you. Correct?

Of course it has!

In my experience, most churches have one of these type people – – or more.

They remind me of reading 1 Samuel 17 and the introduction of the giant Goliath. These people are intimidating, disruptive, and, if we’re honest, frightening at times.

I need to say that I don’t believe these type people are as big an obstacle as we make them out to be in our mind. We allow them to intimidate us that way. And, they usually know it which is often part of their objective. 

Thankfully, the ruddy shepherd boy David was willing to call the bluff. 

But, how should we respond?

Here are 7 ways to respond to an overly negative complaining bully:

Understand their pain. I have usually found there is a story behind most of these type people. They have been injured at some point. Perhaps they feel the church let them down when they needed it most. Maybe they have had a hard time forgiving. They may have an injury in their personal life that hasn’t healed. They unfairly hold that injury against everyone else. Get to know them. Hear their story. Attempt to place yourself in their shoes. Sometimes God may use you to help the healing process. Understanding always helps you be better prepared to respond.

Pray for them. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). I find I see people in a different way when I pray for them. When I worry about approaching them, what they’re saying about me, or the impact they are having I never seem to impact the situation in a positive way. Prayer works. If it doesn’t change them — it always changes me.

Love them. Smother them with love. Genuine love. They likely need it. (And, aren’t we commanded to do so?) You don’t have to love their actions, but we are called to love. And, the only way I know to do this is to love God first. If I can’t love the unloveable I always know it’s an indication of the quality of my love of God. Always.

Speak truth. Don’t say what they want to hear if it’s not true. Be honest with them. Chances are good that half-truths were a part of their history — causing them to be the way they are today. Be transparent and authentic with them. Be kind always — but don’t sugarcoat. I have learned that some of these type people are waiting until you push back. They’ll likely push you with bully tactics until you do. Stand firm.

Don’t let them dictate your actions. When you give into a strong-minded, complainer-type person it never goes away. You’ll lock yourself in to being dictated by their negativity and complaints. You’ll only find more complainers. Or, they’ll find you. Because they know you’ll yield with the right (or wrong) amount of pressure.

Remember your calling. Really negative people can sometimes make you feel like you are doing no good. It’s almost never true. This is a good reason to keep an encouragement file from past notes or emails you receive from people who appreciate your work. Go back and review some of them. Think about your past success — and how God has and is using you. You were called to something. Seek your affirmation among the people God called you to minister to. Your calling probably wasn’t to the select agenda of a negative few. When complaints are at their highest — remember why are doing what you’re doing. You have a purpose. You have a passion. Renew it.

Confront when necessary. It should be rare, but there are times you need to confront the one who is continually responding in an unbiblical way — in a very direct and firm, but still loving way. You need to call them on their sin. My Bible says to do everything without complaining. There are healthy ways to do conflict. We are to be kind to one another. Some people need help learning these truths just as others need help learning to tithe. It’s part of discipleship. Practice the Matthew 18 model of confrontation. Don’t talk about them. Talk to them. Confront them about the way they are responding to you and ultimately to life. The crazy thing is they may not even know the damage they are causing. 

Do you have any people like this in your church? Amy suggestions?

7 Habits of a Successful Leader

Senior leader

I’m a student of leadership. I am consistently talking to, interviewing, and learning from leaders I believe have been successful — regardless of their vocational field. If they have honorable intentions (which I believe is necessary to be considered successful anyway), then I can learn from them.

I’ve observed a few common habits that successful leaders have that may, in my opinion, separate them from less successful leaders. I’m not sure you can eliminate any of them completely. Just a theory — I don’t know if I know any leaders I’d consider successful — or who I’d want to learn from — who would have at least 5 or more, of these habits.

Here are 7 habits of successful leaders:

Prioritizing each day – Everyday we are flooded with opportunities. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are best. You often won’t know until you try on some of them, but successful leaders strive everyday to identify and do that which is the best use of their time. That means they learn to say “no” often.

Yielding to experience – Successful leaders know they must seek the input from others for continued success. There will always be someone with more experience in a subject. Many times that person will be someone the leader is supposed to be leading. Successful leaders surround themselves with people smarter they they are — especially in areas of their weaknesses. They are never afraid to ask, “Can you help me?” Pretending to have all the answers can destroy a leader. When a leader is willing to humble him or herself and solicit input, the team feels validated and the best answer is discovered.

Networking – Iron sharpens iron. The most successful leaders I know have a network of other successful leaders around them. They glean from each other, share war stories and help each other when needed. The sheltered leader will seldom reach his or her full potential. I’ve observed the best leaders I know having people they trust to whom they can call quickly and seek input.

Continuous learning – Successful leaders are sponges for new information. They are continually reading, taking notes, and exploring different ways of doing things. They aren’t afraid to take a risk on something new.

Maintaining health – Successful leaders learn to balance the demands on them by remaining healthy physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally — as much as it depends on them. No one can escape sudden tragedy or the trials of life, but successful leaders weather those storms by being as prepared as possible before they arrive. That requires discipline. To eat — at least — moderately well. To exercise. To rest. To pray.

Willing to make hard decisions – Successful leaders don’t allow fear, intimidation or friendship to keep them from making the right decisions for the organization they lead. Leading doesn’t always make a person popular, but successful leaders care more about the greater purpose than their personal advancement. They have courage.

Commitment to a higher purpose – Successful leaders are striving for something bigger than themselves — bigger than the reality of today. For me personally, this is my passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but successful leaders are willing to endure the loneliness of leadership, the stress of leading, and the pressure to perform at higher levels, because they believe in something worth the fight.

Those are my observations.

What would you add?