When it doesn’t make sense…

complaint

People complain.

We went to a restaurant in a major city recently. The only parking available was valet parking. The funny thing was that we drove to the parking lot where we would be valeted. We parked our car, got out of the car, handed the keys to the valet, and watched him drive it about ten feet into a parking space. Then we paid for parking and (felt obligated to) tip the valet.

It didn’t make sense. We didn’t complain out loud. (I’m a pastor, you know.) But, we did complain to each other. And, we heard others complaining.

Sure, the restaurant is good enough and is in a location where they are always busy and can “get away” with it, but it still was frustrating to out of town visitors.

It was a reminder to me in leadership. As much as you can:

  • Eliminate confusion
  • Share the vision
  • Give details
  • Allow questions
  • Answer questions
  • Don’t assume people know
  • Keep it simple and understandable

All that said, that doesn’t meant there won’t be times when you’ve done the best you can to explain and it still makes no sense to people. Leaders have to take people to unknown places at times. But, as best as we can, we need to bring people along to better understandings of the why behind what we are doing.

Because…

When it doesn’t make sense…people complain.

How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this email after a recent post:

Ron,

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

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here is my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron

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

5 Alternatives to Gossip

gossip

This is a guest post by Matt Mitchell, a local church pastor and the author of Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue a new book on a topic about which I care deeply.

***

So, you don’t want to gossip, right? If you’re like me, you don’t want to fall into a pattern of sinful gossip because you know how hurtful and harmful it can be and how much God hates it.

But it’s not always that easy to resist, is it? The Bible says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8, 26:22). The choice morsels are those little bits of food that are hard to say “No” to and, once swallowed, have a lasting effect on our hearts.

One of the chief reasons why it’s hard to resist gossip is that we often can’t see any alternatives.

I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone say, “But if we didn’t gossip, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about!” Of course, that is not true. But it often feels as if it is.

Everybody around us is doing it. Talking about others behind their back is fun and exciting. Gossip is juicy and attractive, and it just doesn’t feel like we have a lot of options.

In Resisting Gossip, I dedicate two whole chapters to planning alternative strategies for when we get into potential gossip situations.

Here are five good ones:

1. Say Nothing At All

As the saying goes, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” Silence can be golden. Proverbs 17 says, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (17:27-28).

Abraham Lincoln put it this way: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” This rule of thumb goes not just for face-to-face talking but also for texting, messaging, emailing and every other kind of communication through which gossip could flow.

2. Commend the Commendable

Often we can do even better than silence. We can say something good. Offer encouragement, commendation, affirmation and approving words. If we are tempted to talk about someone, then we should talk about that person’s good points.

Don’t lie. Do not commend something that is not commendable, but in most situations, we can find something positive to share instead. The next time you are tempted to gossip about someone, talk about how good that individual is. That is what Jesus’ Golden Rule implies. Speak about people in the way you would want them to speak about you.

I get this phrase “commend the commendable” from Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation. In one chapter entitled “100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck,” Crabtree offers a terrifically long list of options. We can do this!

3. Talk to People, Not About Them

When there is a problem between us and another person, the overwhelming temptation for us is to run to just about anybody other than the one with whom we have the conflict. The way forward in conflict, however, is not to talk about the other person but to talk to the person in love. Jesus says, “First go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matt. 5:24).

Did someone offend you at church? Talk to him about it. Did a co-worker hurt your feelings in a meeting? Bring it up with her. Did your parents’ recent decision mess up your plans? Take it up with them.

Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, had this rule for managing conflicts at her mission station: “Never about, always to.” Conflicts are fanned into flame when we talk about people, but they can be resolved when we talk directly to the person with whom we have the problem.

4. Offer Words of Mercy

Ephesians 4:29 says that our words should build up others “according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Proverbs says, “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (10:21).

I have a friend who is that kind of person. Dan always has something good to say, even when there is not much good to talk about. He’s not afraid to confront someone in love when they are offensive, but he goes above and beyond the call of duty and encourages the people he’s confronting! He’s the first person I call when I have a problem, not just because he is wise but because he is nourishing. He uses merciful words, and people love to be around him. Dan is what I call “a party waiting to happen,” because he’s so full of grace.

You and I don’t have to say everything we think. In fact, we can be merciful because our heavenly Father is merciful (see Luke 6:36). Often we can do better than just staying quiet or even commending the commendable. We can go the extra mile and speak words of grace.

5. Practice Avoidance

Proverbs says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (20:19). Don’t go near a gossiper. Walk on the other side of the street. Get away from that person. You and I might even need to skip out on some social situations if we know that all we will hear in them is sinful gossip. It might be a sacrifice, but it might also be worth it.

Sometimes we cannot avoid a person who gossips, simply because of our relationship to them. They are our mothers, sisters, brothers, co-workers, and fellow church members. In cases like these, we need to avoid not the person but the topic. We need to redirect conversations, if we can, to avoid the gossip in them. It’s not wrong to push a conversation in a new direction.

That may sound a bit sneaky, but it is really just shepherding a conversation and acting as a leader. The Bible says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:20). Just removing the gossip can change the temperature in a room.

Of course, these five strategies are impossible for us to successfully follow without the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s make it our prayer today that He would navigate us through the treacherous waters of everyday gossip with godly alternatives.

7 Reasons I’m Dumping Delegation

large dumper in action

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

I’m dumping delegation for good.

Here’s what I discovered…

7 problems with delegation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone else might get credit – My credit!

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

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

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

10 Times You Don’t Need Leadership

leadership

You don’t need leadership if there is no risk involved.

You don’t need leadership to maintain status quo.

You don’t need leadership if it doesn’t involve change.

You don’t need leadership if you already have all the answers.

You don’t need leadership if every outcome is predetermined.

You don’t need leadership to manage current systems.

You don’t need leadership to keep things the way they’ve always been done.

You don’t need leadership if only one person is making decisions.

You don’t need leadership to give everyone what they want.

You don’t need leadership if “safe” is what you’re looking to achieve.

What would you add to my list?

7 Suggestions for Navigating Change When Standing in Muddy Water

20130902-215722.jpg

Have you ever navigated change through muddy water?

Have you ever had to lead change when no one knew for sure what change was needed? Or when there wasn’t clear agreement on where the organization needs to go? Or when some players on the team were uncommitted or complacent? Or when the leadership pipeline…who is supposed to be leading…wasn’t clearly defined? Or when the season of decline has been so long no one remembers what success looks like? Or when…you get the idea.

It’s like navigating through muddy water. Ever been there?

Continuing with the muddy water metaphor, what do you do during those times?

Here are 7 suggestions when you are leading change through muddy water:

Analyze the water – How muddy is it? You need to know the work you have before you. How desorate is it? You’ll get very discouraged if you try to lead through semi-cloudy water and find out it really wasn’t muddy at all, but in fact, you were standing in quicksand. This process can take a day, a week or a year depending on the depth of the water and how long it’s been muddy. Give it time. Learn the issues. Learn the players. Hire a professional water analyzer for perspective if needed. But, know your mud first.

Be honest – “The change is going to impact you and it’s going to be hard.” How is that for transparency? It may sound too forward, but people know something new has to happen. They may not yet be able to admit it. They may not want change. They may even resist it, but they know change has to occur. Go ahead and admit the obvious. You can and should encourage people that things will improve, but they already know there is a problem. The water is muddy. They can see that. Maybe even taste it in their lemonade. Admit it. People will trust you more when you are honest.

Cast a clear vision – Where are you going? How clear must the water be for you to be satisfied? How do you propose to get there? What’s the timetable for doing so? As much as you know today…share it. People need to be assured that good things are being planned and on the horizon and clearer water is on the way.

Communicate well – Communication is always important, but especially during times of unrest, confusion or chaos. When the water is muddy, people become frustrated. They need to know what’s happening and what is being done to clear the muddy water. Remember, effective communication is speaking and listening. Do both. Do them often. Do them well.

Stand strong – Muddy currents can pull you under quickly. You will heed to be firmly anchored as a leader. Make sure you are keeping yourself healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually so you can navigate the muddy waters.

Challenge when needed – During difficult times…in especially muddy conditions…there will be some who try to disrupt any positive change that occurs. You’ll have to challenge those who want to add more mud to the water. If you have to remove some who prefer to stay muddy…do so. Instead, lead with those who grab a shovel and help clear the mud.

Keep casting clearer water – You’ll have to encourage with a healthy vision of where you are going over and over again. This is the time for leaders to be very visible and very approachable. People will want to know someone is guiding the ship though the improving waters.

Have you ever navigated through muddy water? Any suggestions you’d add?

5 Tips to Write Better Informational Emails

typing laptop

Can I be candid with you? I don’t read every email I receive. I’m not even talking about forwards of cute stories that get massed emailed…I almost never read those…I’m talking about informational emails. The emails that have information in them I probably need…I don’t often absorb all of it.

I know. That sounds awful. Hopefully, someone in the comments will let me off the hook of seeming cruel or weird and admit they are the same way. But, here’s the fact. I’m not detail oriented. At all. If you send me a “book email”…one that appears exceptionally long and full of details…you often lose me before I really get started. (Again, just being honest.)

But, I know it’s probably vital information. You wouldn’t send it to me unless you wanted me to read it…right?

So, what can we do about it? I could tell you I’ll change…I’ll bite the bullet and read your longer than necessary email (see, I’m trying to be lighthearted about this subject…so you can laugh now), but the truth is…I probably won’t. History proves otherwise. Show me more than a few paragraphs and I’m probably out of here.

Let me give you a few suggestions. I’ve given these to staff members who write really long…packed with detail…emails. Some have taken my advice and learned that it actually increased their communication results. People seemed to more closely read their emails. They actually appeared to know more of the details the person emailing was trying to communicate. And, isn’t that the goal?

With that in mind, here are 5 suggestions for better emails:

Personalize the email – Mass emails get read less by me. If I see there are many people on the list of recipients, I figure I’m not that necessary as a reader. Someone else will respond. (I know…to some that seems arrogant of me…but at least I’m truthful. And, I suspect I’m not alone.) An email written just to me is far more likely to grab my attention. Thankfully there are programs now that do a mail merge type function for you.

Make the main point early – What is the point of the email? What do you want to communicate if I get nothing else. Say that immediately. If it’s multiple pieces of information, say that up front too. It might be helpful to bold or underline the main ideas, (but don’t use weird colors or oversized font.) Highlight the most pertinent facts you want to convey, dates or locations, especially if the email is very long. Here’s the bottom line, if you don’t capture my attention soon in a longer email, I’m probably less likely to absorb the key points you want to make sure I get. I realize that’s my fault, not yours, but if you want the information absorbed…you’d want to know your audience, right? And again, I suspect I’m not alone. If you write long emails, I suspect you are losing more readers than you think.

Use bullet points for main ideas – People can often read lists easier than paragraphs when dissecting detailed information. The points you want to make will seem more streamlined and easier to follow if you number them or bullet point them in some way. (I hear frequently that people like how I do that with blog posts like this one. Some wired like me may only read the points in bold. I already know that. If that’s you, you’re not reading this right now…are you?)

Consider an opening summary – On especially longer emails, or emails with lots of details, consider opening with the main highlights for quick and busy readers, listing only the points you’ll expand upon later. They can scan down if they want or need more details, but this way your main ideas get attention and hopefully you capture the reader’s interest enough so they read what you have to say before they disappear.

Proofread – Before hitting the send button, read over it as if you were reading it aloud for the first time. Does it sound like you? Is it complete in thought? Are there obvious grammatical or spelling errors? Are there any lines or words you could cut and the point still be made? (If so, cut them.) You’ll lose some readers if it is not a tightly written email.

That’s it. There might be more I could add, but this post is getting kind of long. And, I’ve already lost some of you.

Here’s to writing better emails.

What suggestions do you have?

7 Ways to Remain an Authentic Leader

Handshake - extraversio

It has been well documented that today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest way for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.

I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is the pastor isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. I get that. I think all of us struggle with that one…both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.

How do we remain authentic as leaders?

Here are 7 thoughts on remaining an authentic leader:

Yes is yes and no is no – That means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.

Not calling it awesome if it was mediocre at best – Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is, rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate success. We pretend our church is bigger than it really is. We pretend we are more awesome than we really are and our life is more perfect than it really is. People usually can spot a pretender.

Not claiming to know everything – We don’t. And, people know when we don’t. Better to admit it on our own.

Refusing credit when not deserved – Taking credit for other people’s work is not only wrong, it causes people to mistrust leadership. Authentic leaders seek recognition for others equal or more than their own.

Asking for help - Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it.

Remaining accessible and accountable – The fastest way for a leader to get in trouble is to isolate him or herself from others. Authentic leaders live transparent lives in front of all people and completely open to a few. You don’t have to confess every sin (that’d be all my time), but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession and raw transparency or repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge where necessary.

Admitting failures and confessing fears – You make them. We all do. Everyone trying to follow a leader knows this about the leader. Authentic leaders readily own up to them. Leadership is scary. Authentic leaders push through fear but don’t pretend the fear is not real.

What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?

7 Criteria to be a Change Agent Leader

image

In my observation, many leaders want change and know they need to lead change, but they haven’t been able to actually produce change. I think there are reasons for this. The process of change isn’t easy. Not every church, business or non-profit will tolerate change…or at least to the level prescribed by a leader. Some leaders simply don’t know how. (That’s not a slam. It’s a reality statement.)

I believe change is necessary for growth. I don’t think everything has to change. Some things never should. But, change, even the hardest kind of change, has to occur if progress towards worthy visions is going to continue to occur.

This post is sort of a gut check for those who want to lead change.

If you want to be a change agent leader:

You have to be willing to fail - Not all change will work. You can strategize and plan, but change at some level involves the risk that it may not work. Are you prepared for that?

You need to be able to withstand criticism – Change invites pushback. Change changes things. (That’s deep, isn’t it?) Change is uncomfortable and people will tell you the degree of discomfort they are feeling. Sometimes in passionate…even mean ways. You’ll feel unpopular at times.

You must evaluate and be willing to adjust accordingly - You can’t be a change agent and equally be a control freak. You are leading people through sometimes muddy waters. You’ll need to solicit buy-in from others. You will need to collaborate. You’ll need to process the success rate of the change and recalibrate as needed.

You have to outlast the opponents of change – When the naysayers show up you’ll have to stand strong to the vision of change for which you believe is worth fighting. It will take longer than you hope it will at times and you’ll have to stand the test of time.

You must think bigger than today – Change is always going somewhere new. Always. So you have to be able to think about the options that aren’t currently on the table. You’ve got to think beyond now and even beyond the most immediate future. You have to look for what others can’t see, choose not to or are afraid to see (or admit).

You have to challenge status quo - That’s the kicker, isn’t it? You have to go against the way things are being done and the way things have always been done. We are talking about change. Get it? Change. That means something is changing. (Oh, such a deep post.) You have to move people from the center on which they’ve grounded themselves.

You have to have a DNA in which to work that is conducive to change – And here’s another kicker. Every church and every organization in which you are called to bring change isn’t wired for change. The fact is that some of those said churches and organizations are going to die…they’ll stall…perhaps for long periods…but they’ll eventually just fade away…and nothing you can say or do will encourage otherwise. In the end, you can’t lead people where they don’t want to go. The sooner you can learn that fact the quicker you can try to be a change agent where change will actually occur.

Well, those are some hard realizations. I’ve studied and observed them by working with dozens of churches, businesses and non-profits and in the organizations and churches in which I have led.

What have you seen as necessary criteria to be a change agent?

4 Steps to Rebuild Trust

couple in distress

I wrote a blog post on winning back the heart of a wife several years ago. (Read it HERE.) The post was written in reponse to the dozens of times I had given the same advice to men who had hurt their wives in some severe way…mostly affair type situations…where it seems the wives heart has left the relationship.

When men find themselves in this type situation they feel hopeless. When the marriage begins to unravel around them…when the wife is ready to quit…even when it was the man’s fault…he often is finally broken and willing to do whatever it takes, but doesn’t know what to do.

That post has been Googled thousands of times. It is obviously a needed subject. As a result of that post, I have heard from dozens of other men and women (mostly men) who have done something dumb and want to win back their spouse’s trust. (Some of them even still comment on the previous post.)

Building on that original post, I want to address how to regain trust in general. This is advice I would give to any relational setting. It could be a marriage, a family, friend or even a business relationship. Regaining trust is difficult…just being candid…but the process usually follows a similar path.

Here are 4 steps to rebuild trust in a relationship:

Ask forgiveness – If you did wrong…apologize. If your aren’t sure…apologize. Even if you don’t think you were completely in the wrong, the other person may…a sincere apology is a great place to start. Being humble enough to admit fault is a trust-building characteristic. (Some are experts at saying “I’m sorry”, but it stops at that. That’s not enough to rebuild trust…keep reading.)

Do the right things – Whatever you did to offend the relationship. Stop. Stop now. Quit. Never again. Get help if you need to, but you have to do the right thing to counteract the wrong things. You may need to learn how and don’t be afraid to ask the person you offended or get professional help. Relationships are too important not to take them this seriously. Do the right things.

Keep doing the right things – Over and over again. Trust builds over time and experience of doing things which are trustworthy. This will require discipline on your part, and may not even be received well at first, but doing the right things is still the right thing to do. A mature response to life is to do the right thing even when wrong is easier or even expected.

Be patient – Trust always takes longer than the one seeking to rebuild trust thinks it should. Always. Trust has to work through emotions that have been severely injured. That doesn’t happen in an instant unless God intervenes. Most of the time He seems to let them heal naturally. Be patient with that process. It’s worth it. (By the way, this appears to be the hardest step for people from whom I hear.)

Now I realize the obvious next question. What happens if the offended party doesn’t reciprocate? That’s probably the subject of another post, such as 7 Things Forgiveness is Not, but know this: You are not responsible for the actions of another. You are responsible for your actions. And, attempting to rebuild trust is the right thing to do.

Any testimonies of how long it took someone to rebuild trust? Share and help others.