7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision

No keyboard key finger

Have you ever made a bad decision in leadership?

Of course, we all have. It is actually part of the way we grow as leaders. I’ve made many bad decisions in my leadership.

Thankfully, the longer I lead, the more I have developed some warning signs I’m about to make another. There are certain clues which help me pinpoint a potential bad move – even before I pull the trigger of decision.

Please understand, these aren’t full proof. They don’t mean you are definitely making a bad decision. But, they are hints you might and they are worth considering before you make your next decision – especially major decisions.

Here are 7 hints you’re about to make the wrong decision as a leader:

The decision makes everyone happy.

Chances are you’re settling for less than best if everyone is happy. The best decisions almost never please everyone. They involve change and sacrifice. Change is uncomfortable for someone – always – and seldom universally accepted.

This doesn’t mean you don’t attempt to bring the most people into agreement with the change. If you don’t you won’t have followers for long. But, you should base the final decision not as much on what is popular as much as what is right. This requires the hard work of leadership. 

It’s an easy decision.

Some decisions are. Most aren’t. Especially major decisions. The hard decisions require prayer, wrestling through the options, and collaborating with others.  Making hard decisions is actually where we need leadership most. If everything is easy – you don’t really need a leader.

You are making the decision alone.

Plans fail for the lack of counsel. With many counselors plans succeed. (Proverbs 15:22) I’ve seldom regretted my decision – even when it doesn’t turn out as I might have wished – if I know I have invited others into the decision-making process. There is a certain comfort in shared ownership. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to stand alone at times, but not without first consulting people I trust. (For a great example of these, see how David allowed his men to speak into a decision in 1 Samuel 23:1-5) 

I’m going against my closest advisors .

Not only do I need to invite others into the decision-making process – I need to heed the people’s advice I invite. This is another I’ve learned the hard way. It is rare I will make a decision where the group of advisors I have recruited have advised otherwise. In fact, I look for unanimous consensus. Again, as a leader, there have been a few times I had to make decisions no one else could see at the time – but, those were always times I was confident God was calling me to do something. (Such as in the conclusion to the David story I mentioned previously.) Short of this confirmation – I depend on the wisdom of collective voices.

I am making the decision too quickly.

Some decisions – especially the major ones – need time to gel in your mind and heart. Most major decisions need a good nights sleep – or several. If you’re being rushed into the decision, you’ll likely make some mistakes. Of course, there are times you have to move swiftly. Whenever possible, though, give the process adequate time.

I am making the decision too slowly.

The opposite is true also. When you’ve wrestled with it long enough – and you know the right thing to do – some decisions just need to be made – even without having all the answers. I’ve been guilty of missing opportunities because I got locked in decision paralysis and didn’t make the call I already knew I should make – and, honestly, it’s many times because I know the reaction to the decision will not necessarily be popular. 

My gut tells me otherwise.

You have a gut for a reason. Most likely it was developed over years of experience. It’s usually dangerous to ignore it.

Of course, the key is actually being self aware enough to consider these hints. But, next time you’re about to make a major decision, put your potential actions through this grid. I’m speaking from experience of many bad leadership decisions. It might help you avoid some of my mistakes – and make better ones.

What are some ways you diagnose a potential bad decision?

10 of the Greatest Leadership Questions Ever Asked

what is the answer

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no bad questions”?

In leadership, this might be true.

I have learned in my years of leadership – I only know what I know. And, many times I don’t know much. There are often things among the people I am trying to lead which I need to know – and, for whatever reason – I won’t know unless I ask. Which means I must continually ask lots of questions.

One of the best skills a leader can develop is the art of asking the right questions – and, even better – at the right times.

Here are 10 of the greatest leadership questions ever asked:

How can I help you?

What is the biggest challenge you have to being successful here?

Do you understand what I’ve asked you to do?

What am I missing or what would you do differently if you were me?

What do you see I can’t see?

How can I improve as your leader?

If we had authority to do anything – and money was no barrier – what would you like to see us do as a team/organization?

Where do you see yourself someday and how can I assist you in getting there?

What are you currently learning which can help all of us?

How are you doing in your personal life and is there any way I can help you?

You can rephrase these for your context and within the relationships you have with people with whom you serve. You can certainly add your own questions. But, if you are attempting to lead people, may I suggest you start asking questions.

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post.

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. It’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success

Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner personal struggle

I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ

Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself

The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences where God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord – Here am I – send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call

After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences?

What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

7 Reminders for Pastors and Ministry Leaders who use Social Media

The way you use it matters...

Social media on Smartphone

Can I be honest? I’m not always the biggest fan of social media.

I know you have a hard time believing this if you follow me on Facebook (either my profile or one of my pages – I have several), Twitter (and I have a couple of those), LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest. How could I not love social media. I wouldn’t have a blog without social media – and, I do love my blog. Well, at least, I love the potential impact of my blog.

What I don’t like are some of the negative impacts of social media. It seems people lose their filter when they are online. They must feel a certain anonymity – even though their name is on their account. As I’ve posted before, some people show their mean side on line – saying things they never would say without this medium making it so easy to do.

But, I would assume social media is here for a while. And, it’s certainly a part of our lives. And, wherever people are I want to be as much as I can. Because I’ve been called to reach people.

So, if it’s here, and an almost necessity these days in ministry, it seems to reason we should keep in mind it’s impact and how this should influence our use of social media. That’s the purpose of this post.

Here are 7 reminders for pastors and ministry leaders on social media:

You represent the Christ and the church. Even when you’re on your personal page – what you post tells people something about the church. If you’re angry online – you are demonstrating to people how they expect Christ to respond to them.

You influence people. If you are in a ministry leadership position you have positional influence. People look to you for answers and how they should live their life as believers.

This is a gray area for sure, and strictly my opinion, but as an example, one thing which drives me crazy is to see pastors post how they are enjoying not having to go to church on vacation. (“Having a great time at the beach – I needed this today”) at almost rather see a post which says “loved worshiping with Beach Community Church today.” It seems more helpful for the role we serve. Yes, we need to lead people to honor their Sabbath, but we also have to be careful not to convince people they need a break from church. They can figure that one out on their own. Plus, Bibilically speaking, the opposite seems more true – I would argue culturally speaking, people need a lot more church. People who don’t work at church aren’t able to reconcile the amount of time you spend at church with the amount of time they do.

What you post sticks. It’s there once it’s there. You can’t delete a “status” completely. Someone will grab a screenshot. There will be a re-tweet. This makes it so much more important we think before we post, we strive to be helpful, and we never vent on social media.

May I add another pet peeve? This is especially true when talking about the community in which you live and are trying to reach. Going off on a restaurant, a store or any aspect about the community devalues your talk of loving the city.

Humor isn’t always easily translated. I’m guilty of this one sometimes. I’ve shared so many things on Facebook I thought were funny, but incited disappointment in people who didn’t catch my sarcasm. They thought I was serious. I was joking.

There’s potential for incredible good. I can’t relay all the positive stories I’ve received of sharing something “at just the right time” or when someone “really needed this today”. People are hurting. There will be as many hurts as there will be tweets today. You can be a voice of hope.

People are making opinions about you based on your social media. It’s true. They are discerning whether they like you personally. They make decisions about your church based on things you say online also, because you are your church to them. They may even judge your faith by your words on social media. It might not be truly representative – and, it may not even be fair – but, it’s reality.

This is true whether you are talking about the local college football program or politics. Yes, you have opinions, but because of your position what you say has a greater Kingdom implication.

Followers expect you to be social. If you are going to be on social media people assume you will be social. I probably have almost as much interaction with our church through Facebook as I have through email. People expect you to reply.

These are simply a few reminders, which come to mind quickly. Some of these are from my own mistakes – others are observations watching other pastors and ministry leaders online. The key, in my opinion, is to be strategic with your use of social media – really with your life.

5 Ways Ministry Has Changed in 20 Years

It's gotten harder...

Pastor praying for congregation

I began this blog a number of years ago for one primary reason of encouraging other ministry leaders. I came into ministry later in life – after a long business career – and, so I’ve always seen the role differently from some who have been spent their career in ministry.

Recently I was reflecting on how ministry has changed in the 15 years I’ve been in vocational ministry. This reflections was a result of two conversations. One was with a man who wondered with me why things can’t be like they used to be. Specifically such as why many ministers (like me) don’t preach three times a week anymore – and why the pastor doesn’t make all the hospital visits. The other was during the interview with Pete Wilson, who recently resigned from his church after recognizing the signs of burnout. During our conversation I remember saying, “Pete, ministry has surely changed in the 20 plus years since you entered?” He agreed.

But, how? How has ministry changed? What’s so different about being a pastor today versus 20 years ago?

I’m certain this is a list under development, but I decided to jot down some thoughts.

Here are 5 ways ministry is different over the last 20 years:

Access to the pastor has dramatically increased.

The volume of communication has to have dramatically increased for ministers as it has for all of society. I get hundreds of emails every week. My church interacts with me on Facebook dozens of times a week. A large number of our church has my cell number – and are free to text or call me regularly. I get Twitter DM’s daily. I am even contacted through LinkedIn by people who attend our church. I can’t imagine people handwriting that many notecards in days past or even typing out that many letters. It means I get more suggestions, questions, and complaints. And, honestly, it probably means I get more encouragement. But, certainly with social media and technology improvements the pastor is easier to find than ever before – and all of this communication takes time for the pastor to respond.

The type of ministry we do has dramatically changed.

I’ve read numerous articles – and talked to educators – about how the teachers role has changed from the 50’s until today. God bless those who choose to serve in public schools. The classroom has certainly gotten more difficult to manage in recent decades. It has become more difficult, because society has become more difficult. Running in the hall and chewing gum being some of the biggest discipline problems of the past. Now they deal with drugs and guns in the school. And, the same is true for ministry. Who would’ve thought pastors would be dealing with guns in the church. Or abductions of children from preschool. Security has become a major issue for pastors. And, this is just one of many examples of how societal changes have impacted the role of a pastor’s work.

(And, frankly, hasn’t every career changed in the last 20 years?)

Family needs have changed.

Pastors have to deal with children who are facing pressures every other child faces. And those pressures are bigger today than they were 20 years ago. According to one Time magazine article I read, anxiety among children has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Nine of ten children ages 8 to 16 have accessed pornography, many wile supposedly doing homework, according to another study. Time management is much more of an issue for families today than it was when my kids were at home. All of those impact the ministries of the church and the interactions a pastor has with families. 

People are less committed and the message is less received.

It takes far more energy to get someone in the doors of the church then it would have 20 years ago. The competition for time is so much more severe. Travel ball, dance competitions, and community activities which used to never occur on Sunday are drawing people’s attention. And, keeping people engaged during a sermon is so much different. People can now watch a message – great messages – 24 hours a day. And, they can follow the world on their phone while we preach. 

Leading people is harder.

It just is. I’ve been in leadership for over 30 years. Leading people used to involve loyalty and commitment simply because of position – or paycheck. This was true whether someone had a paid or volunteer position. This isn’t always the case anymore. It’s made us lead better, but it takes far more time than it used to take.

Bottom line. The world has changed. And, so have the expectations and demands of ministry.

Please understand, I’m not complaining. I work for God – if I’m going to complain it will be to Him. (I’ll be like the grumbling Israelites.) I’m simply pointing out an observation. Working with 100’s of pastors every year – seeing the stress they face – watching many churches treat them horribly because they don’t meet all their expectations of time and commitment – I simply want to speak into something I see.

During pastor appreciation month – pray for those in ministry. Support them as you can.

Pastors, what other ways has ministry changed for you since you’ve been in ministry?

An Interview with Pete Wilson

Following up on his recent resignation as pastor

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I was delighted to talk with my friend Pete Wilson recently for some insight into his recent resignation from Cross Point Church in Nashville where he served as senior pastor. Pete planted Cross Point 14 years ago and it quickly became one of the fastest growing and now one of the largest churches in the country.

Not only was Pete pastoring a great church, he is a sought after speaker at conferences and other events. He has written several books – which have been helpful to me and others. He is a great husband, father, and friend. (Imagine continuing to be great at all of these!)

Pete and Cross Point were great ministry companions when I was a planter in the area. We did some staff retreats together. Some of our staff stayed in touch with some of their staff. They were a few years ahead of us in age, so we learned from them. Cheryl and I frequently attended their Sunday night service, since we didn’t have a service on Sunday night.

I was shocked and surprised as many others when I heard Pete’s announcement. Then I was shocked and surprised again when I heard Pete was starting a new role as president of the A Group – a Nashville based nonprofit/church marketing agency, geared towards partnering with churches, nonprofits, ministries and faith based organizations to increase their impact. You can read about his new role HERE.

I reached out to Pete and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions. I’ll share our conversation then offer some closing comments.

Did you anticipate the growth you experienced at Cross Point?

No one plants a church not to reach people and we planted to reach people. Not in a million years, however, did we think we would grow that fast. Sometimes it just felt like we were along for the ride things were moving so fast.

How did you personally allocate your time? What took most of your time as a pastor of a large church?

Message preparation. Leadership and vision casting – and this was a constant need. And, then, just putting out fires. And, it seems there was always a fire to put out.

Over the years my role changed a lot. I’ve said many times – Biblically speaking there is no number which is the perfect church size. In my mind, though I’ve always thought 700 would be a great number. The church would be large enough to have some great ministries, but small enough where people knew each other.

I remember one of our elders telling me in year two – when we were growing so fast – “If this thing continues to grow at this extent you’re not going to be here in 5 years.” As it turns out, we were here 14 years, and he wasn’t being cruel. Reflecting on that now he was looking into my life and saying I was wired a certain way. I was probably perfectly wired for a 700 person church.

How did you know it was time to make the decision? What was going on at the time?

I’ve been struggling with it for some time. It’s hard and it’s still hard. I was 21 years old when I started my first church. This is the only thing I’ve ever really done. And, I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

I also know this is a season. I’m not going to say at some point I won’t be back in full-time vocational ministry.

I think you just know though when you’re out of season. Things which used to bring me a lot of joy were no longer bringing me joy. If you stay out of season too long the wise thing to do may be to step aside. Church leadership takes a lot of energy.  I just got to the place I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t feel I had the energy the church needed. I got to the place I knew decisions needed to be made, but like every decision a pastor makes, you have to weigh the need for the decision against the acceptance of the people. I couldn’t seem to pull the trigger anymore. I just knew eventually that was going to hurt the church.

Who knew first – you or your wife?

I think she knew long before I did. She also has always been the one who wants to be supportive and give me the space to make the decision I think God wants me to make, but she also wasn’t surprised at all when I shared what God was doing.

How have the demands of ministry changed since you first became a pastor?

For me, and this might not be true of everyone, but the demands were coming from lots of different places. I had demands from Cross Point, book publishers, and conferences.

Of course, these were all my choices. I agreed to all of it. I simply got really good at saying yes and horrible at saying no. I found myself asking, “how do I get out of this?”, which obviously isn’t a healthy place to be for long.

I think one of my bigger mistakes was not developing a larger teaching team. I was preaching 6 times a weekend. It was usually Tuesday before I felt normal and then Sunday was coming again.

How will Cross Point be moving forward? Does this concern you?

It doesn’t. Of course, you always have a little bit of fear, but we’ve said from the beginning Cross Point was not about Pete Wilson. People don’t realize the incredible team of staff and volunteers we had in place. I talked to one of the elders today and they think things are going very well. I haven’t seen anything to indicate they aren’t going to continue to do well.

It’s going to be different. And, that’s okay. Senior leader’s DNA settles into the organization, but I think it’s really going to be good in the long run for Cross Point to experience this change.

Will you still attend the church?

I’m not right now. We just made a decision during the transition that it would be best for them if we didn’t. And, that’s hard, because it’s where our friends and our children’s friends are – and we think it’s the best church for them. But, we just really believe the wise and healthy thing is to step aside so they can move forward and heal in whatever ways they need to.

Some might question the timing. You moved pretty quickly into a new role. Can you give me some insight into that? Did you know about this other opportunity?

No, I had no idea. It’s crazy how this happened. I’ve been friends with Maurilio for many years. He was part of the launch team at Cross Point. After I resigned, he asked me what I was going to do. When I told him I had no idea he invited me to lunch to discuss some ideas. It all fell together in about 3 weeks. And, it was great timing, because I knew during this season I needed to heal. I’ve spent 21 years pouring into the local church and I just needed to be poured into for a season. I didn’t want to simply go into the business world. So, the idea I could work behind the scenes and help pastors fired me up! I look forward to being a cheerleader for pastors.

Some people questioned the timing of going back to work so soon,  but people don’t understand the pressure and weight of a senior pastor versus what I’m doing now. I’m not trying to say the new job is a cake walk, but the differences in weight of responsibilities are huge when you compare them.

What would your advice be to those who are sensing the need for a change?

It’s hard for pastors who sense a season of change. I think we probably put some unnecessary guilt on ourselves – that if we step away from the pastorate for a while we are disappointing God or disappointing the church. And, I wrestled with that fear a lot, but I’ve preached it for years and now I had to live it. God cares a lot more about who I’m becoming than what I’m doing. My identity in Christ isn’t being a pastor. It’s being who He wants me to be. And, if I kept doing this, who I was becoming was less than He wanted me to be. I would encourage pastors to live the same advice they would preach to their people.

Thanks, Pete!

I was humbled by some of Pete’s responses. I think the honesty in the size church he felt best equipped to lead was huge. And, he stung me with his comment about getting “good at saying yes and horrible at saying no”. Wow! I’m in a season I certainly need to hear that.  (In fact, he challenged and encouraged me in several places in my current life during the interview.)

I appreciated his response about the timing of this new job. I, too, had wondered about the quickness of the decision. I completely understand his point about the weight of responsibilities. When I consider the amount of decisions I have to make in a day, the number of people looking to me for answers and support – and realize his church was more than twice the size of ours – I totally get it. The A Group appears to be a great place for Pete to heal, yet also continue to make a Kingdom difference, which is what he feels called to do.

I’m pulling for you, Pete – and, for all pastors out there.

Remember Where You Came From

A Key to Leading Organizational Change

History

There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often – I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

And, if you were one of my relatives – talking to me – you might have said it with emphasis.

“Don’t forget where you came from – boy!”

I think there’s a good leadership principle here too.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.

But, it should never forget where it came from.

The church where I pastor has over 100 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)

We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the four years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.

I’m convinced, however, one of the reasons we’ve grown is we’ve tried not to forget this principle.

We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me. I tell stories from the past.

If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.

Celebrate the past.

Celebrate the past leadership.

Celebrate the triumphs.

Celebrate the pain.

Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times – and, there may have been leaders you would rather not celebrate, but the past is the past. It’s important to remember where the church has been, even if only what the church was able to overcome. These were likely significant days in somone’s life. 

I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all which happened in the past. This seems especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, it’s the healthiest or best way.

Leadership may be able to move quickly in a new direction, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember – and for their leaders to remember – from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.

If you’re leading in an established environment, recognize, honor, and remember the past. It’s what got you where you are today – good or bad. Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership – it’s been effective – I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.

Remember where you came from, boy. (Or girl)

The 4th “C” of Adding Healthy Team Members

Handshake and teamwork

I believe there is a fourth “C” to finding good team members. Unfortunately, I had to discover it the hard way.

You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them.

Chemistry
Competence
Character

Bill Hybels appears to be a genius leader. I agree with all of them. They are each important. People need the chemistry to mesh with others well on the team. They need competence to do the job well. And, of course, they need character to keep from injuring the quality and integrity of the team. All vital attributes of finding healthy team members.

But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.

It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in one of others – maybe chemistry. I think it’s unique.

The fourth “C for me is Culture.”

That’s right.

Culture

Culture involves things like what people wear, office hour expectations, the unwritten rules, and the way things have always been done.

I’ve hired people I like personally – we had good chemistry – they had competence and character- they were even friends – but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.

One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture than one I would create.

I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different.

Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.

This goes without mentioning the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.

Not long ago there was a person I desperately wanted on our team. He had chemistry, competence and character. But, the more we processed together it simply wasn’t the right culture. As much as we would have loved working together, he would have been very unhappy in the days ahead.

And, so what’s the purpose of this post?

Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.

When you hire – consider character, competence and chemistry. Those are important.

But also consider culture. Is your culture a good fit for the person?

When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

Culture matters.

5 Suggestions When You Find Yourself in a Miserable Work Environment

frustration

About once a week I talk with a minister – usually a younger minister – who is miserable in their current context. It isn’t always because the workplace is miserable. Sometimes it’s a misfit for them personally. Sometimes it is an unhealthy culture or a controlling leader.

Many times, even if they’ve only been there a short time, they seem ready to quit. Most of us have been there at some point in our career.

There are many things I love about the youngest generation in the workplace. They are intent on making a difference. They are family-oriented. They want to do meaningful work. I love all that.

One difference, in my observation, is how they respond when they find themselves in one of these miserable situations. Many seem to check out too quickly. They are ready to quit – give up – even before something else comes along, as soon as they discover they are miserable.

I’m sure this is true of other generations, but there were generations who endured an entire career in less than ideal situations. They saw work as – well – work.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising this either. Why spend 40 years in a miserable environment? Life is too short. Work doesn’t have to be miserable. And, there are healthy places that understand and appreciate the change in workplace attitude, especially being introduced by younger generations. That’s a positive.

But, what should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?

Here are 5 suggestions when a work environment is miserable:

Soak up all you can. 

You’re learning valuable lessons, even when you don’t enjoy the place where you’re working. I’m not sure you can see them at the time, but it’s true. It won’t be a wasted experience if you learn from it. Some of my best leadership skills came from watching leaders do leadership the wrong way. I once had a boss throw a huge sales book at my head because of disappointing numbers. I learned from that. Throwing things doesn’t work. 🙂 (And, many other principles were learned from that leader.)

Dream your next big dream.

Don’t quit dreaming. Invest your energies somewhere you enjoy outside of work. Create something inside or outside the place where you work that you can get excited about. Start your own ministry or company in a garage on your days off. Some of the best we know started this way. These extra energies will keep your heart filled, which is critical. (Above all else guard the heart. Proverbs 4:23)

Work to make life better.

You may be the one positive voice encouraging others on your team. Chances are others are miserable too. Some people have better game faces. Even if this is your only purpose in being there, it’s a worthy cause.

Strengthen your patience muscle.

Sometimes the staying power takes more strength than leaving. It builds character. It builds tenacity. You may be the senior leader someday and find yourself miserable again. Leading at the top level brings that sometimes. The captain of a sinking ship isn’t supposed to jump ship. 

Pray and watch.

Pray for discernment. For change. For delivery. For relief. For small moments of encouragement. And watch. For doors to open or things to change. God is doing something – working a plan – even when you can’t see His hand.

Are you miserable?

I’m not suggesting you stay forever. That doesn’t seem wise to me. I’m also not suggesting you quit — at least not immediately.

I am strongly suggesting you not waste the opportunities this time is presenting. Begin to see every moment of your life – good and bad – as character-building, life-shaping opportunities. 

5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

And, a few thoughts which could help

ideas spinning

Leading creatives can be difficult. In fact, I love having creatives on the teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative:relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creatives’ minds are always wandering. It makes leading a team meeting harder. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others.

And, before you creatives get too defensive – just so you know…

I’m a creative.

I’m not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. And this always confused me and kept me from considering myself one.

But, I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination.

I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, yea, creatives.

But, when I began to understand these things about myself it helped me understand the minds of other creatives on our team.

And, the main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others. They add energy. They challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

1. We don’t like boundaries, rules, policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. We need to know what a win looks like. We need – dare I say it – structure. We don’t need needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but, we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

2. Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

3. We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes. As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

4. Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

5. We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Have you noticed these quandaries? Any others?

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

These quandaries of creatives can actually produce the challenge in leadership – the quandary of leading creatives. Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

It can be difficult. A friend of mine said recently, “The most difficult person to lead is myself.” I agree. It’s sometimes a quandary.

But, it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.