7 Small Changes That Produce Huge Results

Plant Sequence

Sometimes the small changes reap the biggest results.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that I’ve often done things the wrong way. I’ve tried to make huge changes in my life only to quickly fail. I didn’t keep going. I stopped. Overwhelmed. I tried to change too much too soon. It didn’t work.

What I have learned is that when small changes are repeated over time — not only are they easier to implement — they tend to stick longer. I’ve made some good habits in my life simply by starting with small changes.

Here are 7 small changes that produce huge results:

Read one chapter of a book each day.

This is gold. Most people would like to read more but they never seem to find time — or make time. Leaders are readers, right? Establishing a discipline of one chapter per day will get you averaging a couple dozen books a year. That would be an improvement for most of us. And, it usually only takes about 15 minutes per day.

Two glasses of water each morning.

This may sound small, and that’s kind of the point of all of these, but this has proved to be huge. I started this months ago. It’s a great way to wake up in the morning. Apparently we wake up needing hydration. I squeeze a fourth to half of a lemon in mine. I’ve been told that works wonders. I can’t swear by that, but it does improve the flavor. I crave this now. It wakes me up more than coffee — and I love coffee.

Exercise as a part of your daily routine.

You don’t have to run a marathon to maintain health. Just being active when you can will do wonders. Park further from the building. Park on the opposite end of the mall from where you’re going. Take the stairs if possible. Walk while you talk on the phone. I take frequent “mind” breaks and walk around our office or my neighborhood. I’ve even asked people to “walk” with me as we meet about something. I find myself interacting more with our staff because I’m all over the building during the day.

Spend 10-15 minutes in prayer and reflection.

You may wish you could pray for an hour or dissect the book of Romans like the spiritual giants you know. (I’ve learned they aren’t always as “mature” as we think they are. Knowledge does not equal maturity — obedience does.) But, what can you do? When I began a daily discipline of investing in my spiritual growth it was like I put fertilizer on my soul. It’s amazing what God can do with a seed of interest invested in knowing Him.

Take 5 minutes to plan the day.

At the beginning of each day — before you begin your first task — spend some time prioritizing how you will do the work. You’ll be so much more effective in your day if you’re working from a plan.

Routine your week.

Of course, there are no routine weeks. Life happens and it doesn’t happen routinely. I have found, however, when I have some idea of what my week should look like I am more likely to see some semblance of a routine. For example, I know that Mondays and Tuesdays are going to be meeting days. I plan my schedule around it. If someone asks to meet with me I try to steer them towards Monday and Tuesday. This frees up Wednesday as my primary day to write and prepare for Sunday. I keep Thursday fairly open for meetings but more for last minute meetings — depending on how my Wednesday preparation goes. I can push to Monday or Tuesday if needed. Friday I use for a catch-up day. I’m currently re-evaluating my routine, but having one helps me to have a more productive week. I’m certainly more prepared for the things that happen to interrupt my routine because I attempt one.

Make a list.

Feeling overwhelmed? Make a list. I realize the pushback against living by lists. I get it. You can become so scheduled that life is no fun. But, when you learn to manage your lists effectively, it can give you more freedom than you have now. You can even put “fun” on your list. When you have a list you can choose to tackle the hard ones or the easiest ones first — I typically go for the easiest — because it does something powerful to your mind and momentum when you get to check something off your list. You want more.

With several of these I now do far more than what’s listed, but this is where it started. For example, everyone seems to know we need to drink more water, and my small change has made me crave water even more. It actually keeps me more alert during the day – which is been a huge benefit to my productivity.

Another example: I also exercise — a lot — but it starts with a small mindset change of being active throughout the day. My body naturally desires activity, because I’ve planted that into me through a small change.

Small changes repeated over time. Huge results.

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

Job loss concept

How do you know when it’s time to leave an organization?

In a previous post I wrote “Leave Before You Have To”. Sometimes it’s more damaging to stay than to quit.

I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay. Period. No questions asked. If God calls you to it — even when you’re miserable — you stay.

But many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. We stay for a false sense of loyalty. We stay because we are afraid. We stay because we don’t know what we would do if we left.

The following are some times to consider leaving. I think these may apply if you are in a church or business setting.

This decision should never been entered lightly. I believe in loyalty. But, when careful consideration and prayer has been given, there are some common indications it’s time to move on to something else.

Here are 10 scenarios that may indicate it’s time to leave:

When God has freed you from your commitment – I believe God’s call is ultimately to the person of Christ, not to a place, but there are times God has us in a specific place for a specific season. You may only be a leader for a season. If you sense God has released you to pursue other positions, it may soon be time to leave.

When your work is finished – It could be that you’ve accomplished what you were sent to accomplish. I once wrote about leaders needing a challenge to stay motivated. If you have become too comfortable, it may be a time God is preparing you for a change…a new challenge. (Read more of that thought HERE.)

When your heart has left the organization or it’s vision – Sometimes you need to reenergize your heart. If God hasn’t released you from the position, for example, then you have to find a way to make it work. In many cases, however, you are freed to move elsewhere. You shouldn’t harm the organization by staying when you no longer have a heart for the mission. If you’ve quit having fun, don’t keep making life miserable for everyone else.

When you can’t support the leadership – You need to know where the power rests in the organization. It’s nearly impossible to change the organization working against an ingrained power structure. Ask yourself, “If it’s always going to be like this here, would I be content staying?”

When your family or personal life is suffering, because of the demands of the organization – If you have to neglect one of them, your career or your family, in twenty years, which do you hope it will have been?

When your mind starts working against the mission of the organization – If you would rather see the place fail than succeed; it could clearly be time to go.

When your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair – You should try to work out these differences, you certainly should offer grace and forgiveness, but when it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time to move forward with your life.

If the organization or senior leadership is venturing into immoral or unethical practices – Don’t get caught in the next news scandal.

When you find yourself physically ill if work crosses your mind – On the weekend (or when you are off work), if the emotional stress is greater than you can handle, you may need to protect your health over your career.

When you don’t have the energy to pull your own weight – For whatever reason, whether it’s because you’ve given up, you are bored, or just can’t keep up the pace, if you are dragging down productivity and you don’t have the incentive to improve, perhaps it’s time for a change in your workplace.

Please understand. I’m not a quitter. God may leave you in the miserable environment for a season…or even years. He certainly did for some of the men and women in Bible history. I also believe that the times described above are not always to be viewed as negative experiences. Sometimes God uses the difficult experiences of life to draw us to Him and to open our eyes to the next opportunity He has for us. I would have never made some of the moves I’ve made in life…that I know now were of God…had it not been for my miserable situation at the time.

At the same time, I believe there are times a false sense of loyalty, co-dependency or irrational fear keeps us from moving forward even though God is not holding us to the position. In my opinion, protecting our heart is more important than protecting a professional position. I wouldn’t make a decision solely on just one of these scenarios, but if numerous of them apply…

Consider this list as it compares to your situation, then ask God to confirm in your heart:

  • If you are free to leave.
  • If now is the time.

What would you add to my list?

You might also read: Discerning a Change in Ministry Assignment

5 Tips For Leading Strong-Willed People

Stubborn donkey

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led?

The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one. Perhaps you are one.

(I know one personally — me!)

But, have you ever tried to lead one?

It’s not easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.

And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

Here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people. Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions — that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team. Make sure the rules you have — and again there shouldn’t be too many — are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule — make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles.

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?

Every Life On Mission Matters – By Aaron Coe

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

Here’s a truth you can count on: God is on a mission to reconcile people to Himself, and this mission sweeps both history and the globe. More importantly, it includes regular, ordinary people like you and me.

But, if we’re honest, we might say we don’t feel much like we’re a part of God’s grand mission.

Right now you may be navigating a busy airport wondering if you’ll make your next flight because of a late connection.

Or perhaps you’re focused on getting the kids ready for school and just realized you forgot to make their lunches last night. Now you’re trying to hastily make peanut butter sandwiches and figure out what you’re going to tell your boss because you’re going to be late for your meeting!

By the time you get settled in your hotel room or have the kids in bed, you’re ready to kick back and watch some television. Your role as a missionary bearing the hope of the world is not exactly what you’re thinking about or how you’d describe yourself. Maybe in theory, but in practice, your mind is far from it.

WHY DON’T WE EMBRACE GOD’S MISSION?

Frankly, it’s because we have our own mission. We have our own way of calling the shots. We decide what’s meaningful or worthwhile and order our lives accordingly. Some people’s life mission is to pursue entertainment and comfort. For others it might be security and wealth. Still, for others, it is rising up the corporate ladder or being the most respected mom in the neighborhood.

We like to be the boss of our own lives.

In 21st century North America, we don’t exactly use the kingdom language we find throughout the Bible. Nor do we like to think of ourselves as living in someone’s kingdom and being subject to his rule. This is because we know the history of injustices at the hands of human kings.

In fact, when you think about earthly kings and queens, odds are you may think about some faraway, inaccessible royalty who is not even able to relate to the everyday needs and feelings of his subjects.

But what if we lived under a perfectly good and wise king whose every decision was for our benefit and eternal good?

Jesus is an altogether different kind of king. He took on the very plight of His subjects to provide a way out of the mess they had made for themselves. He is far from aloof, uncaring or inaccessible. Jesus is a king who got down into the mess of humanity and went to ultimate lengths to seek and save the lost and restore people back into His kingdom.

Jesus is the best king imaginable, because He is that perfectly wise and good king who always works everything for the best for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

TRUE FREEDOM IS FOUND ON GOD’S MISSION

As believers, this is our reality. We live not only as the subjects of the King, but also as His adopted children. Every decision He makes—from our salvation to our call to His mission—is for our own good and for the good of the world.

There is nothing more freeing than abandoning your own mission and joining the everyday mission of God.

EVERY LIFE ON MISSION REALLY DOES MATTER

Recently I was reading Urban Apologetics by Christopher W. Brooks and came across this paragraph:

“The gospel should meet people at the point of their deepest confusion
and at the height of their loftiest ideals. What matters most is that we
bring Christ into every moment of human history and every point of
human concern.”

It stood out to me as describing the Great Commission at its most essential. As believers we are called into the unreached places of the world and into the deepest struggles and needs of people’s lives. Each and every one of us is called to this most noble of ambitions of making Christ and His gospel known.

Unfortunately there is a tendency for most Christians to see this as a job for church professionals and to see their 9-to-5 job, their circle of friends or their work as a stay-at-home parent as somehow outside the realm of where God seeks to make disciples of all nations.

Christians seeing themselves and their daily lives as integral to God’s mission is really the only way the Church in this generation can faithfully proclaim the gospel at the point of people’s “deepest confusion” and within “every point of human concern.”

When we choose to to join God on His mission through His church, we dare to be the everyday missionaries we are called to be. Your life has a mission. Your life on mission matters!

This is a guest post by my friend Aaron B. Coe. Aaron is a strategy and mobilization consultant and co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Moody Publishers, 2014), available at Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronbcoe.

7 Suggestions for Challenging a Controlling Leader

Business People having conversation with colleague during break

After one of my posts about controlling leadership, I received this question:

Any chance there is an upcoming post or two on how/when/where to confront a controlling leader? Especially for those of us who have had it drilled into our heads from childhood to not question authority? Some practical, nitty gritty tips would be really helpful.

That’s a pretty big request and I’m not sure I can speak into specific situations with a general response, but I think it’s a topic worth considering.

I wrote previously. In my previous post I wrote about the 3 options with a controlling leader. They are Quit, Compromise or Collaborate. In order to get to collaboration — which most of us would want — there almost always has to be a challenge to the controlling leadership. This would be an expansion of the “challenge” thought.

I should point out that while I believe the Bible teaches to respect authority, I don’t believe it says we must ignore the abuse of authority. All children should honor their parents, for example, but respect is never an excuse for abuse. There are times when it is appropriate to confront authority. Jesus certainly did during His earthly ministry.

Here are 7 suggestions with how to challenge a controlling leader:

Discern the need – Pray about it. Talk it through with a select few you can trust with their confidence — emphasis on select few. You should make sure your perception of this leader is correct. Is it them…or is it you? Then ask this question: Is this my responsibility? Do I sense the burden to do this? Will it make a difference, and if not, do I feel compelled to do it anyway?

Consider the timing – When addressing any conflict, timing is everything. Pick a day when things appear to be going well — from the leader’s perspective. Find the least stressful, calmest time you can find. You want to catch the leader in the best mood possible. If necessary, schedule an appointment with the leader.

Plan your approach – What are you going to say? How will you say it? Will you do this alone or with someone else? You may want to write your response first and rehearse it. In stressful situations, I think it is okay to bring notes. It shows you came prepared and have thought about the issue. Make sure you show as much respect for the leader as you can. Balance your critique with ample and genuine compliments. (There are even times, depending on the expected response of the leader or your expected ability to keep your composure where I would recommend writing a letter. I wrote about how to do that HERE.)

Bite the bullet – You can keep putting it off, but at some point you’ll have to approach the controlling leader if you hope to see a change. It will never be easy, but who knows that you were not put in this place for “such a time as this” — and by this point you’ve already discerned the need to do this.

Couch in love and respect – This can’t be over-emphasized. People don’t listen to people who don’t show genuine love for them or at least the respect the things or people they love. Most controlling leaders are hungry for respect…it’s part of their problem…so if you want to gain their attention, be respectful. (Again, because I know this is difficult for some people, but being respectful does not mean being silent, just as being meek or gentle does not mean being weak.)

Be clear and direct – Know what you offer to the leader that can add value to the team — and to the leader. Have some specific areas where you can collaborate with the leader. This is very important. Vagueness accomplishes nothing. Don’t make the leader wonder what you are talking about when you confront him or her. Talking around the problem will not be clear to a controlling leader. Most controlling leaders think their control is a sign of good leadership. They don’t realize they are the problem. You will not want to take this step to confront more than once, so make sure you are clear with the issues as you see them and how you want to help. If you’re going through the stress and preparation to confront, make sure you address the real problem.

Live with your consequences – You’ve prayed and prepared. This is not something you will do very often in your career. But, if you know you are doing the right thing, you confronted the leader with love and respect, you were clear about the problems, then the response of the leader is out of your hands. You can’t control the leader’s response, but you can control your response to the leader’s response. Be willing to live with the consequences of your actions. That may be the one thing you end up modeling for the controlling leader.

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

One,Two or Three list written on a blackboard

I have written a good deal recently about controlling leadership.

Read ways people respond to controlling leadership and some warning signs you may be a controlling leader.

Most of my posts stem from current or past experience in leadership. Since I’ve been blogging on leadership, I have talked with dozens individuals in ministry or business who experience this type of leader. It impacts their personal leadership, as well as the health of their organization — and honestly, even their own personal health. Many younger leaders have told me they feel a controlling leader not only controls their work — but their career and their life.

And, the issue of controlling leadership seems to be more in discussion now than ever in my leadership career. And, that’s true in the church also. I hear almost weekly about a senior pastor who controls every decision in the church — and most of the time the staff culture is very unhealthy — even toxic.

One theory I have is that younger leaders want a voice at the table early in their leadership. They are intersecting with seasoned leaders who are trying to hold on to power. I get that. But, how should a younger leader respond?

I previously wrote a post about “leading up“. Please read that post first. Although it addresses a more senior leader who may not be giving a younger leader a seat at the table — not one who is necessarily a controlling leader. But, some of those principles apply here also. For example, I do think it’s important to respect a leadership position — even controlling leadership — especially if you intend to continue in the position.

Controlling leadership appears to be a more difficult issue, however. A leader who attempts to control everything within his or her realm is much harder to influence.

So, here is my answer when I’m asked how to respond — long-term at least — to a controlling leader. You basically have three options, in my opinion. These three are summaries — and there are probably multiple points under each one — but three and no more.

Here are 3 ways you can respond to a controlling leader:

Quit

I have had people challenge me that winners never quit, but I disagree. If you were placed in a position by a call of God, this may not be an option until God releases you — and I personally would consider the other two options before considering this option — but sometimes the best thing for the individual and the organization is to make a fresh start. And, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that if that is indeed the only option. It should not be a rash or a vindictive decision, you should attempt to leave on the best terms possible, but you simply may not mesh with this particular leadership style. And, to be true to yourself and have integrity in your loyalty you may have to seek another environment that allows you to better grow as a leader and person. I have seen too many people stay too long. And, sometimes they stay for all the wrong reasons. It could be fear, a false sense of loyalty or just because they think they have no other options. It injures them, the rest of the team, and interrupts the progress towards a vision that hopefully is bigger than any one person.

(You might read my post on 10 ways to know it’s time to quit.)

Compromise

You can learn to live with what you’ve got in a leader. There are seasons where you have no choice. You can’t find anything new and you need the work. (Sometimes we call those seasons — life.) There are also times God has placed you where you are for a reason. You’ll learn a lot from the situation — even with a controlling leader. If nothing more, you can use the time to reinforce how you will someday lead differently. If you compromise — if you stay — you should remain respectful, even loyal. You should do your best work, have a positive attitude towards others, and attempt to make life better for those around you. That’s the right thing to do. We don’t get an excuse from Biblical principles because we don’t agree with the leadership. If you can’t, one of the other options should be your choice, in my opinion.

Collaborate

This is almost always the best option. Most leaders — even controlling leaders — have areas in which they are willing to admit they need help. Much of their willingness to do so will be based on the degree of trust placed in others or how important an issue is to them personally. Working to build a relationship of trust and seeking common ground on issues allows some people to excel under a controlling leader. If the leader sees you not as a threat, but as a compliment to their leadership, they may be more willing to invite your input.

To get there will require a risk on your part. You’ll have to gracefully challenge the controlling leadership. Like it or not, most complex issues do not disappear on their own. A good question to ask yourself: “Will I be content if this environment continues for the next year or longer?” Also, “Do I think it’s time to move on to something else?” If the answer to both questions is no, then the best option may be to challenge the controlling leadership — attempting to get to some collaborative work — where you can do meaningful work for which you feel valued — and less controlled. It should be noted that you can’t challenge anyone daily, so a challenge like this should be planned, considerate, and infrequent, but it may be this is the best option or the only one with which you can live. And, it may take one person to introduce change to the rest of the organization. (In my next post, I’ll get more specific with how to do this type challenge.)

Let me offer this closing reminder:

Every situation is unique and so no post can answer your specific situation. These are very broad, general responses. Your response may fit someone between one of them (probably between the second and third.) One thing that all situations share, however, is that regardless of how one responds, each of us have an obligation to be humble, kind, gracious people. In either of these three steps we should behave likewise. Also, remember that your response to a controlling leader often determines his or her response. Momma always said “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The Bible says it another way…”A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

3 Team-Killing Church Cultures by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird

growing team

Folks often preach the value of teams and try to instill teams in their churches, all the while cheerleading and propagating organizational cultural dynamics that squelch any possibility for those teams to thrive. If you want to improve your team (especially your leadership team), don’t ignore these three cultures that will kill your team’s ability to thrive.

1. A CULTURE THAT UNDERMINES THE LEADERSHIP TEAM’S IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION

Even though many churches have a leadership team that leads the church on paper, it’s not uncommon for many churches to truly be led by the benevolent dictator lead pastor, or the lead pastor’s kitchen cabinet—a few confidants who run the show.

When this happens, the leadership team is not given the most important work to do, time is not allocated for the team to do its work, diversity is often squashed, and the team is reduced to mere information exchange. Talented leaders move on, because they want to be keenly involved in developing what’s next for the church. And the church suffers from a lack of quality leadership.

2. A CULTURE OF SPONTANEITY THAT LIMITS PLANNING AND STRUCTURE

No matter how much we talk about wanting teams to thrive in our churches, they won’t if teams don’t have the organizational environment that offers fertile soil for teams to thrive in. In particular, teams thrive in organizational contexts that privilege thoughtful, deliberative action and provide structures that allow for planning. As researchers Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson note in their book When Teams Work Best, fertile organizational soil typically exists when:

1. Leaders set crystal-clear mission, goals and priorities that guide team efforts and establish clear operating principles.
2. Organizational structures and systems foster effective group decision making.
3. Teams enjoy ample, planned time to stay connected and work jointly on problems.
4. Teams possess all the information they need to solve problems and make decisions.

These structures offer the support a leadership team—and all teams in an organization—needs to be able to truly lead the church. Without them, teams spin their wheels and don’t make progress. Before your team will be successful, you may need to engage some cultural change to enable the team to thrive.

At one less-than-exemplary church where we did interviews, the senior team’s culture fought hard against any sort of planning. One pastor stated, we are more comfortable “fighting fires than building safe houses.” As such, the team constantly deferred to the lead pastor rather than seek God together and work together to develop direction and strategy for the church. Church cultures that prefer to fight fires rather than do the proactive work to avoid and protect against those fires are infertile ground for thriving teams. In such cases, addressing cultural challenges might be the first step in enabling a team to truly lead the church.

3. A CULTURE THAT IGNORES BIBLICAL ACCOUNTABILITY

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:6). Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and mutual accountability is the not-so-secret success ingredient of exceptional teams. But too often, for a variety of reasons, team members avoid lovingly wounding a teammate, neglect offering feedback and refuse to hold one another accountable for their contributions to the team. That behavior is often learned in the larger church culture, where biblical accountability and confrontation is not pursued.

If your church avoids confrontation and biblical accountability, chances are that your team will never gel or perform at its peak. Your team as a whole needs feedback on its collective performance, and individual team members need feedback about what they contribute to the team. Your team needs faithful friends who will tell the truth, even when it stings. Without confronting the (sometimes painful) truth, your team doesn’t have the insight to improve nor the fuel to do its job of effectively leading your church.

For more team-killing cultures and a host of other tips to help your teams thrive, see Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership.

Because I participated in the book project by writing an expert commentary, InterVarsity Press is offering my readers a 30% discount on the book. To access the discount, order online at ivpress.com or call 800-843-9487 and use coupon code 506-447. But don’t wait to do it. This offer expires April 30.

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Excerpted with permission from chapter 13 of Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird, InterVarsity Press, 2015. Visit www.TeamsThatThriveBook.com for the book itself, exercises, and other tools to help your team.

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

Warning

I regularly talk to young leaders through my blog and many of them feel they are working for a controlling leader.

In a recent post I talked about the 3 results of controlling leadership.

In full disclosure, one of my top strengths on the StrengthsFinder assessment is COMMAND. I’ll take over if no one else in the room will — so some of the young leaders on my team may have felt that way about me at times. I have to discipline myself not to be a controlling leader.

But, it’s a value for me personally not to be one, so I consistently try to evaluate. (And, I’ve let teams I lead evaluate me.) And, also granted, as I’ve posted previously, I believe there are some things a leader needs to control — especially early in their leadership. For example, I have controlled (or micro-managed) the hiring of key staff members during my beginning years of church revitalization. We are changing a culture. I am building a team — one I don’t have to control. And, that’s worked well so far.

The odd thing I find is that many controlling leaders never really know they are one. They may actually even believe they are being good leaders — making sure things go well for the organization.

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts about this issue, controlling leaders are ever present in the church.

So, maybe if you’re reading this, you are still wondering if you might be a controlling leader. Or, if you work for one.

Here are 7 warning signs that you may be a controlling leader:

Your team struggles to share new ideas. Are people sheepish around you when they have an idea that may be different from yours? Do they start apologizing prior to approaching you with a new idea? Do they appear timid, fearful, even reluctant to share a thought? This may be on them — it might be on you, leader.

You think you’re wonderful. I don’t mean this to be funny. When a leader is in the control position, because of their own confidence, they can often feel everyone approves of all they are doing. A controlling leader may not really know how people feel about them. They assume everyone approve of their leadership.

You always know you’re right. Because you are — right? Seriously, if you never question your own judgment — if you never even think you need to get other’s opinions on your ideas — you might be a controlling leader.

You control information. Do you enjoy keeping others with less information than you have? Do you like to be in the power position — if information is power? (And it is.)  If you control the information you’ll almost always control what is done with the information. And, you just might be a controlling leader.

You are part of every decision. Do you think you should be involved in making all the decisions your church or organization makes? Seriously. Be honest. A controlling leader can’t stand when they weren’t part of making the decision — especially if it proves to be a good one — or if people start getting credit for something in which they had no part. If you still can’t decide if you’re a controlling leader, use that as a scenario and judge for yourself how you would feel: The decision is made. It’s genius. Everyone applauds. You’re on the sidelines.

You can’t let go of the reins. Do you fear others being in control of a project? Does it make you nervous? Do you feel the need to continually step back in and check on things? I’m not suggesting a leader delegates and disappears. That’s not good leadership either. But, if you can never let someone truly be the primary leader of  a task, you might be a controlling leader.

You ARE the final authority — on every decision. Think for just a minute about the decisions made in the organization in the last year — or even the last month. Did you have to sign-off on all of them? Were there any significant decisions made that you weren’t a part of making? Again, be honest.

Have you ever worked for a controlling leader? Are you one?  How would your team answer these questions about you?

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

controlling leader

One of my pet peeves in leadership is the controlling leader. Because of that, I have written extensively on the subject on this blog.

Controlling leaders are in every type of organization — including the church. Some of my ministerial friends who have encountered this would say especially in the church. It could be a pastor, a committee chairperson, or a deacon who glories in their own power.

And, sometimes, just being fair, leaders control because they believe they are doing what’s best for the organization. Not every controlling leader, in my opinion, is controlling from a power trip. Granted, some are, but many just naively believe if they don’t control things will fall apart in the organization.

I recently worked with a church where I witnessed a controlling leader firsthand. Talking to members of the staff it reminded me of the main reason I’m so opposed to controlling leaders — because it is counter-productive to creating organizational health. And I love healthy organizations.

But, I would even go so far as to say controlling leadership violates some important Biblical principles — especially in the church. The Body is not comprised of one — but many ones — who work together to build the ONE local church. To do it any other way tramples on a lot of truth.

In terms of organizational health, there are some common disruptions from controlling leadership.

Here are 3 results of controlling leadership:

Leaders leave – You can’t keep a real leader when you control them — at least not for long. I find that especially true among the younger set of leaders entering the work world. Leaders need room to breathe, explore and take risks. Controlling leadership stifles creativity. A genuine leader will soon look for a place they can grow.

Followers stay – The flip side is equally true. You can keep those who follow the rules many times under controlling leadership. They will stay because of loyalty, or a sense of responsibility, or just because they don’t realize there is any other kind of leadership. But their fear of venturing out on their own keeps them under the leader’s control. And, most often their work life is unfulfilled and they are often miserable.

Organizations stall – The real detriment of controlling leadership is that it always limits the organization to the strengths, dreams and abilities of the controlling leader. One person — one leader — can only control so much — so many people or tasks. It’s one reason we see churches plateau and a business’s growth stagnate.

Dear leader, take it from a leader who has to discipline himself not to control — controlling leadership simply doesn’t work.

Have you learned that principle, perhaps the hard way?

Have you worked for a controlling leader?

Discerning Your Seasons of Life

Four seasons collage

As I write this, we are approaching spring on the calendar, but today is a cold day that follows two warm, very nice days. A couple weeks ago we had 17 inches of snow on the ground. A couple days ago I was able to run outside in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Warmer days are predicted later this week.

Like the saying goes in my part of the world, “If you don’t like the weather now — stick around — it will change.”

Seasons. They come and they go. Sometimes quickly.

Life is like that.

Life happens in seasons.

Ecclesiastes says there’s a time for everything. Everything has a season.

Good seasons. Bad seasons.

Productive seasons. Growth seasons. And, seasons of decline.

Seasons of mourning. Grief. Seasons of laughter. Jubilee.

Seasons where there are more obstacles than opportunities. Often followed by seasons where we can’t seem to find time for all the opportunities.

There are seasons of stretching, where God seems to shape something new in our hearts. And, we often don’t know what that new is until we enter another season.

Seasons of passionate, growing love. And, tough seasons, where love is tested.

Seasons you’re more the leader and seasons where you’re more being led.

Seasons of blessings. And, seasons of wondering where are all those blessings others seem to be experiencing.

There are seasons of discovery and seasons where we get to invest what we have discovered in others — while we keep discovering something new.

As parents we have lots of seasons. The seasons where we never seem to have a break and you can’t get everything done and the kids are driving you crazy some days and you just need one good night’s rest. And, then seasons where the house seems empty and you long for a cluttered floor of toys again.

Seasons. Life happens in seasons.

What’s your current season?

It’s important to understand that seasons occur and to know what season in which you are currently living.

When we don’t understand this concept of seasons — especially in the bad seasons — we can begin to believe that seasons never change. We may stop trusting. Stop dreaming. Stop taking risks.

But, life comes in seasons. Seasons do change. Sometimes quickly. And, sometimes seasons overlap each other.

When we find ourselves in a good season — especially an extended good season — we can start to take the season for granted. We may even forget that seasons change. Sometimes quickly. And, so we aren’t prepared.

Take a minute and reflect: What season of life you are currently experiencing?

Review your life by how the seasons have molded you. God never wastes a season. Ask God to place in your heart what He wants you to learn during this specific season of your life. Invite God to speak into your seasons.

Life happens in seasons.