Warning: Don’t Be the Senior Leader Unless…

Warning

Here’s a warning:

Don’t Agree to Be the Senior Leader Unless…

You are ready to lead alone at times…or at least feel like you are.

You aren’t striving for popularity, knowing that every decision you make is unpopular to someone.

You can make the hard decisions, even the ones involving people or conflict.

You will try to see all sides of an issue.

You are comfortable with change and thinking outside the box.

You are okay when others receiving credit; even for something you initiated.

You can delegate leadership…and truly empower others, believing things are better when other people help make decisions.

You don’t let criticism derail you for long, but stay committed to the task before you.

You can think beyond today and help others join you by casting an engaging vision.

You highly value people and their contributions.

And _________?

Senior leaders…share yours.

7 Tips When the Team is Struggling to Succeed

teamwork concept on blackboard

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.

First, I should say, that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few thoughts to shape your current paradigm of thought.

What do you do when your team is struggling?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it – Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem. (I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” That would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Maybe email it to them. :) )

Recast vision – People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first. If you already do…and most teams do…they may have forgotten it, but it exists somewhere…now is the time to tell it. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you…we know it…we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.)

Evaluate – Now is also the time to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change – You need to try something new. Perhaps several somethings new. Now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working. That’s the point of the post…remember. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential – There are usually areas that are working and areas that are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try. (Outside perspectives can sometimes work here too.) Often these are things the team is known for or things that are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is the best place to bring spur more momentum quickly.

Celebrate small wins – When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it. A really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something that people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.

Encourage one another – Remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?

How to Follow My Blog After Google Reader

If you haven’t heard, Google Reader is going away. Quickly. It was announced a couple months ago, but it ends July 1, 2013. I was bummed, because I use Google Reader to follow most of the blogs I follow.

Many people follow this blog through Google Reader.

What to do?

Well, short answer…it’s easy. Case solved.

Sign up to have this blog emailed. Do that at the top right of my home page HERE. Just enter your email address and follow the instructions.

Sign up for Feedly. Do that HERE.

Feedly is a quick, couple minute transfer of your Google Reader blogs to follow them on Feedly. And, it’s free. I actually enjoy the layout better than I did Google Reader. My friend Michael Hyatt, whom you can trust much more than me on things like this, shares 7 reasons he’s using Feedly to replace Google Reader HERE.

Don’t miss the content you’ve relied upon. Act today.

Make Sure Your Marketing Matches Your Market

image

A friend and I went to a Reds game recently. It was a cold night for baseball. It had been raining for several days and thankfully stopped in time for the game. But, it made for a very chilly night.

It didn’t stop the stadium vendors from doing their job though. The only problem…I’m not sure their marketing matched their market.

Especially one guy.

It was almost funny. It was obvious he had a routine. A common cheer. A pitch.

“Ice cold beer….BRRRR….Ice cold beer….BRRRR…”.

It was his trademark. He would shake his head everytime he said “BRRR“…

He was good at it too. Convicting. He had the routine well rehearsed.

I got colder listening to him. Every time he did his cheer, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around my neck. I’m getting colder now, just thinking about his performance.

Now, here’s the problem. I wasn’t in the beer market anyway, but his marketing approach probably wouldn’t have motivated me if I was. I didn’t need anything to make me colder than I already was that night. I needed something to make me warmer. If it had been 90 humid degrees in the shade, he would have had a winning approach with beer drinkers. This would have been your best salesperson of the night.

But, as it appeared, he wasn’t selling much that night. Almost nothing. He even seemed discouraged. (Although now I may be reading into this because it fits the illustration.) Either way…sales were certainly down.

I wondered if it were more than the weather…if in fact part of the reason was his cheer.

Anything “BRRR…ice cold…” doesn’t grab my attention as much when I’m already cold.

I don’t know what the warm beer cheer is, but that would almost seem to have been a better one this night. :) Maybe even a cheer for hot chocolate.

It reminded me though of how we “market” sometimes…even in the church.

Sometimes our marketing doesn’t match our market

Okay, I’ll get pushback that the church shouldn’t market. (I love hearing from those guys.) Call it what you want, but we have a message we are trying to tell. We hopefully think about how we tell it. If you don’t then you can ignore this post and I will catch you next time. Marketing is the process of packaging a story in a way that others become interested in it. I think we attempt that every week.

Jesus seemed to share His message in a way the audience He was speaking to could more easily understand. That’s why He used parables. It seems to be why He used a lot of farming illustrations. (They were plentiful in His audience.)

I wonder if we, as a church, need to get better at telling our story…marketing our message.

So, with that in mind, here’s my advice:

Make sure your marketing matches your market.

Make sure your story-telling matches your audience.

To do that, ask yourself:

Who are the people you are trying to reach?

Who are the people with whom you want to share your message?

Who are the people needing to know what you know?

Who are the people needing to believe what you believe?

What do they think like? What are they interested in? What motivates them? What inspires them?

What do they need most? What are their greatest fears? With what do they struggle most?

How can you tell the story in a way that they hear and are motivated to respond?

Again…

Does your “marketing” match your market?

5 Steps When You’ve Offended Someone

foot-in-mouth

All of us say things we wish we hadn’t said. We all offend people at times. Everyone knows what it is like to put foot in mouth.

Doing so is common, but what do we do afterwards?

Here are 5 Steps When You’ve Offended Someone:

Recognize that you will offend some people. – Actually, that should come before the incident. Even the most gentile-minded, peace-pursuing people are occasionally offensive. Sometimes the person on the other side of the offense has issues that make them easily offended. Sometimes we just say or do the wrong thing. It’s working to do so less often and never intentionally that should be our goal.

Pursue peace – Our goal should be to be at peace with others, as much as it depends on us. This too should be set, as a goal, before it’s needed, so you’ll respond accordingly when it is needed. Strive not to say or do things which are offensive. This often means learning to think before you speak.

Ask forgiveness and seek to rebuild trust. – Sometimes the best thing a person can do is to say they are sorry. Many times people want to pass blame, make excuses, or wait for the other person to make the first move towards reconciliation. If you know a perceived offense has occurred, put your “big boy pants” on and break the ice of forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to take the blame if it will bring peace in the end. Remember though that trust is built over time, so don’t be “offended” if it is not given to you instantly. You can release your own guilt once you’ve sought forgiveness.

Examine your life. – If you seem to consistently find yourself in situations where others feel offended by you; maybe the problem is you. Don’t be afraid to look at the “speck” in your own eye. Examine areas of your life where you are consistently offending others.

Stay true to God’s plan for your life. – While we should attempt to live at peace with everyone, we should never avoid offending people at the sacrifice of God’s plan for our life. Jesus’ best work was offensive to many. If you are being obedient to God, you will find it offends some (maybe many.) Don’t let that distract you from doing God’s will. And, don’t hide in the offense you made. Move forward.

What do you do when you’ve offended someone?

7 Ways to Help an Introvert Engage in Meetings

power meeting from above

I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how to engage someone completely different from me, but who also happens to be an introvert. We aren’t all alike…you know. :) Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. My best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would be to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins.

But, I understand. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Keep in mind, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics. And, just to be clear, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond – This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to be some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions…ahead of time – Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing – When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot – If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted – If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. You may be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control – Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas – Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

You might read THIS POST and THIS POST for more posts on introversion.

7 Ways to Offer Criticism that Actually Gets Heard

CRITICISM. Magnifying glass over different association terms.

I’ve written numerous posts on criticism previously. Two of the more popular are 5 Right Ways to Respond to Criticism and 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism. All of these have been written from the perspective of the leader receiving criticism.

There are times, however, where someone needs to offer criticism. In fact, the best leaders and the best organizations are made better by learning to receive, process and respond to criticism. No one particularly likes criticism, but when it is offered properly it can actually improve life for everyone. You see things others don’t see. You have experiences others don’t have. As a leader, I personally value healthy criticism, even when it is initially hard to hear.

The problem is often getting that needed criticism heard. Working with dozens of leaders each year, I can testify that much of the criticism received is never taken as seriously as it probably should be. We all know there are times someone shares criticism simply to “blow off steam”. They are angry and want to express their displeasure. Some people are only known for their criticism. Some people share criticism simply out of selfishness; considering no one else in their complaint. In my experience, when it is determined that one of these is the case, the criticism received is rarely considered as useful or valued by leaders.

How do you keep criticism that may be helpful from being drowned out by a perception that it is non-helpful criticism? That’s what this post is about. You can have the best advice for someone, but if it’s delivered poorly, it will almost never be heard.

Here are 7 ways to offer criticism that actually gets heard:

Recognize and compliment the good – My mother used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Make sure you take a bigger picture approach when offering criticism. Most likely you are criticizing something small in the overall scheme of the organization, so think of the good things that are happening or have happened in the organization. Think of the good qualities of the leader. Start there. Compliment first. Some even recommend the “sandwich approach”. You start with praise and end with praise with a little criticism in the middle.

Be specific – If you are going to criticize, at least make sure the recipient knows exactly what you are talking about. Guessing almost always leads to misunderstandings. Don’t hint at your problem or cover it over with ambiguities.

Offer suggestions for improvement – If you are thinking there is a better way, share it. If you haven’t thought of how to improve the area of your criticism, spend some time thinking about it before you criticize. When you think, do so from the perspective of the organization’s vision and the individual vision of the leader. It’s going to be hard for a leader to accept criticism that doesn’t mesh with the vision he or she feels called to achieve.

Choose words carefully – Kindness goes a long way. If the person you are offering criticism to feels you don’t even like them or support them, they are not likely to hear what you have to say. Be nice. That’s a good standard anytime, but becomes a strategic move when offering criticism. Also, don’t criticize people or make the criticism personal. Criticism will almost always be rejected if the person receiving it feels they (or the team they lead) are being attacked. Talk less about the who and more about the what.

Have a vested interest – It’s hard to receive criticism from people who really aren’t interested in the overall vision. For example, if you tell me you’d “never attend a church like the one I pastor in a million years”, I’m less likely to value your criticism about the music we sing. (And, that’s happened…more than once.) If it’s obvious you love the vision, you’ll be more welcomed to critique the methods by which people are trying to attain it.

Be humble enough to admit you may be wrong – You might be, right? Unless it’s a clearly spelled out Biblical principle, then it is subject to interpretation. Yours might be right or it might be wrong. The willingness to admit that fact will go a long way towards your criticism being considered and valued.

Take the personal preference test – Check your heart for why you are sharing the criticism in the first place. Before you offer the criticism, ask yourself if you are really offering this criticism for the good of everyone or if this is simply a personal preference. It’s okay either way, but be honest with yourself and others enough to admit it. In fact, if you do this test appropriately, some of the criticism you think you need to offer…you may decide you don’t need to offer after all. The less you are seen as offering criticism that only benefits you, the better the criticism you do offer will be received.

Do you want criticism to be heard? Here are 7 suggestions.

What would you add?

Do You Lead or Control People?

controlling leader

In my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.

In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites:

Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:

  • Creativity is encouraged and mistakes are seen as part of the process
  • People are developed more than programs
  • Healthy relationships and teams are part of the DNA
  • Delegation thrives and people are empowered
  • Everyone has value on a team
  • People follow willingly, because they feel respected and valued
  • Leadership development is part of the DNA

Here are some characteristics of controlling people:

  • Personal growth is stifled
  • Creativity and independent thought is discouraged
  • Followers are kept as a distance from leaders
  • Leaders insist on their way and are never wrong
  • People are taken for granted
  • Positions and policies rule more than relationships
  • People are employees more than team members

Apparently, to some leaders, it appears easier to simply make people do what the leader wants them to do. By force. I’ve had bosses like that. Making people carry out your agenda simplifies things…it seems. But, that’s not really leadership.

Leadership is more of an art than that. Leading people effectively means helping people with different skills, talents and interests, even ideas and temperaments in a way that makes them feel valued and yet accomplishes the established vision and goals.

That’s not easy. That’s not even always fun. But, it certainly is truer of leadership. The fact is you can’t truly lead people and control people. The two don’t work well together.

Have you ever worked for a controller?

Be honest with yourself, are you leading people, or do you claim to be a leader, but you are really a controlling people?

3 Challenges for the Church Planter

Challenge Defined

When I’ve answered the same questions numerous times, I feel there may be a need for a post. Recently, I’ve spoken with a dozen or so church planters, or those wrestling the call, several each week, and the same issues come up every time. I want to share some thoughts based on my personal experiences planting two churches. These are usually transferable to all church pastorates, but especially planters.

Here are 3 challenges for the church planter:

Finances – I get asked if my established church will be a “strategic partner” in a church plant about once every couple of weeks. I get it. I really do. We don’t have any extra money right now, but church planting takes money. It is great if your mother church can support your budget or you get numerous churches to contribute. Don’t turn down cash. You’ll need it. Lots of it.

But, I always offer a reality check here. The money will always be tight. There will never be enough. It’s in very rare circumstances this is not true.

My strong word of encouragement is to strive to rely less on outside help and more on those God has called you to minister with in the church plant.

When we planted, both times, we challenged the people building the ministry to fund the ministry. And, it is a challenge. It means you’ll often be discipling people to give who aren’t accustomed to giving. But, you’ll need disciplined and fully invested people. If they have their money on the line they’ll do almost anything to make the plant work. As much as possible, build your ministry around the people in the room. Their generosity will often determine your ability to grow a healthy church. Plus, it’s good discipleship to build into the church’s DNA.

I know. That’s a hard word, isn’t it? But, look at it this way, the time you spend jumping through hoops for a few dollars from a denomination that often come with multiple strings attached, you can spend building maturity in your people who will support you financially.

Marriage – Men and women are different and will react differently to the move and to the stress of planting. I’ve found it can be an excellent balance if the two are in sync with each other and communicating well. You should both be equally called, but your initial enthusiasm may not be the same.

One thing I’ve noticed, and cautioned many planters, is that the wife’s emotions may (probably will) respond differently. I’ve always found Cheryl to be slower to acclimate emotionally to the new place of service. She can know it is where we are supposed to be. Her faith is often even stronger than mine. But, her heart is more likely to be tender longer towards the place we left. I have to be careful not to assume she’s as excited everyday as I am.

I’ve observed many planters, especially those with young children, while they are experiencing the thrill of a new calling, their spouse is changing diapers during the day. If the planter isn’t careful, totally unintentionally, he will appear to over-emphasize his role and diminish the wife’s role. (That could be vice-versa depending on the roles in the plant.) This can happen just in language or the things you celebrate each day. Don’t get so distracted by the plant that you aren’t equally excited when your 18 month old learns a new trick.

It is important to remember each spouse’s role is equal in importance and value in the process of planting.

Location – I talk with so many who feel they are called to church planting, but can’t discern where they are supposed to plant. Many are looking for a location. A specific address. The exact right building, in a certain city, on the right side of town. I get that too. You want to know where God wants you to be.

Unless you have clear direction or clear indication not to go somewhere, my advise is simply to plant where you land. Seek opportunities that appear to be open doors, pray for clarity, but if God doesn’t intervene or interrupt, plant. Plant where you land, where you see a great need, where your heart seems to take you. You can follow your gut if you’re following Jesus.

I learned this principle in a very practical way. At one point, I felt my “calling” was to plant a church in New York City. Cheryl and I love the city. We had heard the great need. (The need is great.) We visited the city to pray. I walked the streets of the upper West Side of Manhattan and talked with God. I said, “God, if you want me to plant a church here, give me an overwhelming love for these people.” In a rare time of hearing clearly from God, I sensed God say, “Ron, (I love that He knows my name) as long as you have a heart for me you will have a heart for people; wherever you are.” I believe God released me to plant…plant where there are people who need to be reached.

I think God may call you to an exact location. He may even give you a clear address. He may have one exact building in mind. But, many times, He may give you some latitude in your selection. Certainly in the precise location within your city. People seem to need Jesus everywhere I go.

We actually switched sides of town this way. In both plants. An opportunity for meeting space came available that we didn’t expect. With this previous “New York” encouragement from God, as a planter, I felt freed to follow opportunities as they came rather than wait for God to write something in the sky. We moved quickly. It changed our focus area, some of the church demographics, but both have proved to be definite wise moves in the years that followed.

Are these helpful?

What challenges would you offer in church planting?

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

7

I speak with churches everyday who want to grow again, but nothing they do seems to work. Many say it’s a vision problem, but I disagree. The church may not be living it, but we have the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. (We are to make disciples.) The obvious problem to me of these church is they aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.

But, honestly, that’s not the primary reason for a lack of growth, in my opinion. I have learned that if you want to have an culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.

What are some of those paradigms?

Here are 7 paradigms needed for church growth:

Lead with leaders – Of course you need followers too, but most people are looking for leadership, especially about things about which they don’t know. In any group you’ll have a few who are ready to move forward with the changes needed and a few who are opposed to any change you bring. The rest of the people are looking for leadership. Lead with those who are ready to move in a positive direction.

Prioritize your time – You can’t do everything or be everywhere. Let me say that again. You can’t do everything or be everywhere. That doesn’t ignore the expectation placed on you as a leader, but it does recognize your limitations. By the way, the quickest way to burnout and ineffectiveness is to ignore this one.

Never waste energy – When something is working, put fuel into it. All cylinders go. That makes sense, right? Momentum feeds momentum. Yes, in keeping the previous one that means you’ll have to ignore a few things to do the very best things. But, usually the most energy will be in a few key places at a time. Never fail to capitalize on those important moments in time.

Embrace change – You have to live in the tension of change if you want to experience growth. Change is never popular with everyone, but when you resist it, you are resisting the opportunity to grow. More of the same may be comfortable, but it seldom produces the excitement necessary for growth.

Make hard decisions – Don’t be naive. Growth brings change. Change brings momentum. And as exciting as that can be not everyone will be excited about it. If you are going to achieve the vision you’ll have to be willing to stand the test of time. That won’t be easy. With some decisions you make you’ll be choosing who buys into the vision and who doesn’t. Be willing to make the hard decisions and you’ll keep the church open to idea of growth.

Build healthy teams – You can’t do it alone. You can probably control a church that’s not growing. You can control people who don’t think for themselves. But, if you want to grow, especially grow long-term, you’ll need to surround yourself with healthy people who build a healthy team environment.

Refuel often – I find the more we are growing and the more change is occurring, the more I have to get away and gain perspective. Renew. Recharge. Sometimes even re-engage. I can’t lead for growth if I’m drowning in the demands of the present.

I don’t know that this is an exclusive list, but this is a good start. Which are you missing?

What would you add?