8 Words of Encouragement for Young Leaders

Elegant leader

I love investing in the next generation of leaders. They are our future. I think we have an obligation to share our experiences and help them learn from our mistakes. This is a huge purpose of this blog.

Most of the ones I invest in these days are younger pastors – or those who want to be some day. I love it. It’s honestly what fuels me most.

With this in mind, I occasionally like to share some principles and practices of leadership I’ve learned along the way. I’ve written more to pastors and ministry leaders in other posts – and more about keeping your relationship with Christ first and foremost – these are more general thoughts.

Here are 8 words of encouragement for young leaders:

Become an early risk taker.

It’s seems more difficult the older we get to take bold moves. I hope I keep doing so. I look at Moses and Abraham as examples, but I know the meaning of “comfort zone” now more than ever. Develop into your personal DNA early you will always be willing to walk by faith.

Learn to enjoy and be content in today.

Don’t concentrate so much on the next level of achievement you miss the lessons of today or never experience joy in the journey. God is doing something now – today – even as you wait for the next great thing. Looking in reverse – today will probably seem more valuable in your development than you can imagine now. And, every season of life is like this.

Manage your time wisely.

It passes quickly and you don’t want to regret too many missed opportunities – or too many avoidable mistakes. Grace is amazing, but there are moments in life you only have access to once. Then there are those really dumb things we do we wish we hadn’t. If your long-term goals and objectives for life scream this will be a decision you will regret – don’t do it!

Be inventive.

We need innovation in leadership. Take us places you see in your dreams, where God is calling you, but we can’t seem to find our way there. It will be hard, there will be resistance, but there’s a value in youth and leadership. We need you and your unique contribution.

Find the right people to influence you.

Don’t allow the negative words in your life to crowd out the positives. Concentrate more on what God is calling you to do than the naysayer’s personal agendas. You’ll struggle with this all your life, so the sooner you discipline yourself the better. Just like Elijah, you probably have more supporters than you think you have. Complainers simply have larger vocal chords. Hang around positive-minded people – people you trust and who trust you – then let them speak into the deepest and darkest places of your life to help you continually mature as a person and leader.

Live in stored up praise.

You’ll seldom know the good you are doing. Keep going even when the cheering crowds are silent. Find your affirmation in God and His truth spoken to you. Know who believes in you! Know your self-worth is not found in your performance, but in your unique design by your Creator. You have value to this world!

Keep growing personally.

Spend as much time on personal development as you do trying to develop others. Read THIS POST for an explanation, but basically you will need all the strength you can muster to lead well. Stand strong. Learn. Read. Develop. Find a mentor. Be a mentor.

Keep pride and arrogance in check.

This is huge. Never believe you’ve finally “arrived”. As soon as you do – you’re living in dangerousness territory. You will always need people to speak into your life. Be wise about whom you listen to, but always be teachable. There will never be a time you don’t have something to learn. I hate to admit it, but I was in my 40’s before I really began to know how much I didn’t know.

By the way, all of this wisdom is just as true for my stage of life, but somehow I feel if we can catch leaders early they may avoid some of the mistakes I have made. I love your generation for its teachable spirit. Keep going! You’re doing great!

What words of wisdom do you have for the younger leader?

10 Ways to Have a Reproducing Culture

growing team

You can’t recruit leaders – at least not effectively – if you never develop a culture to do so.

Reproducing cultures reproduce leaders.

Finding new leaders is critical to the successful growth of any church or organization. Kingdom growth is greatly impacted by the numbers of leaders we can recruit.

Therefore, we must strive to recruit more leaders and we do so by having a culture of reproduction.

How do we develop that type of culture?

Here are 10 ways to have a reproducing culture:

Catch the vision of multiplication

It’s hard to convince people to buy into something you don’t believe in personally. As a leader, you must believe reproducing leaders is a valuable enough process to make it a priority.

Be intentional

Every leader in the organization must be willing to consciously replace themselves.  Multiplication must be a part of the overall strategy. There must be a continual process of leadership recruitment.

Start early 

Reproducing cultures replace leaders before they actually need them.

Invest in personal growth 

You can’t take new leaders where the current leaders haven’t been or aren’t going.

Humble leaders

Leaders must not be afraid new leaders could lead better than them. When leaders allow people to shine under their leadership it advances their ability to lead. The good news is today’s generation likes honesty. They will follow a leader more if they trust their integrity.

Share responsibilities early 

The easiest way to learn something is to do it and the more ownership given to people the more they will be motivated to participate.

Identify potential

I shared some ways I do this in a previous post. It’s important in a recruitment culture to always be looking for people who may someday be leadership superstars. Look for the good in people. What do they have which attracts people to them?

Create an environment conducive to leaders

Leaders don’t develop well under a dictatorship. If people are afraid to have an answer under the current leadership for fear of being wrong, they are less likely to try to have an answer. The real leaders will disappear quickly in a controlling environment – or where one or a few people get to actually introduce new ideas and make decisions.

Recruit

The “sign up” method seldom works well. The best quality people are almost always personally recruited. Jesus found people – with a personal ask – even at risk they would betray Him. The best recruitment in most organizations will be likewise.

Lead for life change

Some people will experience their greatest life change only when they are leading others or have some sort of responsibility of leadership. Nurture potential leaders knowing part of their spiritual maturity will be developed leading others.

Are you in a leadership reproducing culture? What makes it so?

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

Church

I speak with churches every week who want to grow again, but nothing they do seems to work. I have heard people say it’s often a vision problem. It could be, but I think they are likely other reasons.

In fact, the church – although it may not be living it – actually has the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. We are to “Go and make disciples”.

There are obvious problems in these churches – for example, most aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.

But, honestly, in my opinion, these are not the primary reasons for a lack of growth. 

I have learned if you want to have a culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.
What are some of those paradigms?

Here are 7 paradigms needed for church growth:

Lead with leaders

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

Prioritize your time

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

Never waste energy

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

Embrace change

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

Make hard decisions

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

Build healthy teams

You can’t do it alone. You can probably control a church which is not growing. You can control people who don’t think for themselves. But, if you want to grow, especially grow long-term, you’ll need to surround yourself with healthy people who build a healthy team environment – and let other people share leadership.

Refuel often

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

By no means am I attempting to take God’s presence out of church growth. Ultimately church growth – as is every aspect of spiritual growth – is from the hand of God. But, two things appear clear to me in the Bible. God uses His people to do His work. And, God wants His church to penetrate culture with the hope of the Gospel. I simply believe He uses both of those together. In a day of increasing darkness, we need to be smarter church leaders. We need growing churches.

I don’t know believe this is an exclusive list, but i hope it’s is a good start. Perhaps the right way to process this post is to ask yourself a question – Which of these are we missing?

5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Mature man cupping hand behind ear

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

Wow! Time has proven this repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful! If the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. (Duh!)

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead people who are different from you – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

I’m just being candid here – frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we – but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input.

This probably should have come first, but this is – honestly – more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep soft drinks in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns. I used to keep candy, but then health insurance became tricky.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

7 Times the Speed of Change Can Be Faster than Normal

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Change takes time. There are no “quick fixes” in the world of change leadership. I’ve seen many leaders try to rush change through only to destroy themselves, the organization they are trying to change, or the change they are trying to make.

There are occasions, however, when the speed of change can change. There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. The leader should be careful to strategically plan each change, but taking advantage of these times can help facilitate change faster.

Here are 7 times the speed of change can be faster than normal:

When the leader is new

The honeymoon period is real. Honestly, from my personal experience, I believe the period is becoming shorter than it may have once been. I don’t know how long this period ultimately lasts – perhaps only a few months or up to a year – but some change seems almost expected in the beginning days of a leadership position. Granted, this is not “major” change, but certainly some changes can be made quickly. Use wisdom here.

When the change is imminent

There are times when everyone agrees something must be done. When a needed leader unexpectedly resigns, for example, no one likely questions the change in staffing to hire someone new. When “it is what it is” there is an expectation to make a change. Take advantage of these times to introduce healthy, smart change. Many times people overreact during these periods. Wisdom is still very important. These changes often set precedents for future change.

When the organization is new

In the early days of an organization, time can move quickly. Everything is new and so change may come rapidly. I experienced this in church planting. Change is almost an expected part of the process.

When there is a crisis at hand

I’ve seen this in government, the church and among individuals. When something happens which shakes the core of your being and scares people they’ll be more accepting of any change which seems to protect them. (Warning: Sometimes these changes are regretted once emotions heal.)

When there is overwhelming support

There are times you can move swiftly simply because the support is overwhelming. Momentum for change is often fueled by public opinion. It should be noted, this can be dangerous if the change isn’t good long-term or is emotionally driven, but the point is public opinion does impact change.

When situations are beyond control

Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop needed change. When government, or other powers, demand change, you can rebel or you can change – often quickly. You may not agree with the change forced upon you, but may have to react faster than you expected.

When you aren’t concerned about the outcome

There are times when the results simply don’t matter much in the scheme of things. We schedule baptisms almost any Sunday, for example. Sometimes we may not have a baptism scheduled, but knowing baptisms help fulfill our key function as a church, we will quickly change our schedule to accommodate. Some changes are so in support of your vision you simply make them as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

There are probably equally good illustrations for refusing to make change quickly. (There are probably even 7 of them.) Feel free to share them with me and my readers.

When have you seen the speed of change change?

3 Inexpensive Ways to Develop as a Leader

power meeting from above

I was meeting with a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church – or at least he not discovered any. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.)

The church looks to him to lead and, wisely, he knows he needs to develop his leadership skills.

His question was simple.

Who invests in me?

He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church is in a recovery mode financially, so he doesn’t feel he can afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

(Side note – when I reached my new church we were in a very difficult financial condition. Budgets had been cut, but in my opinion – we had cut some things we shouldn’t have cut – such as marketing and staff development. But, I understand this is a natural reaction in difficult times – especially in the church. Churches notoriously will keep people on payroll who shouldn’t be and cut funding for items which would actually fuel growth. But, that’s another blog post.)

So, what could my pastor friend do? How can he develop as a leader inexpensively – maybe even free?

Here are 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group

There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 6 might even be a better number.

The group would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. You’ll have to spend time getting to know each other and developing trust, but it will be mutually beneficial. I have had such groups numerous times in my career. These groups are usually comprised of believers – although not professional ministers. In these meetings I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices – not theology.

Start a book club

Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid-level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective.

The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person to lead each session. They guide discussion on what they learned from the book in that chapter or section and open the group for discussion. With a good enough book – people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only – or even dictate a Christian book. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

Ask a community leader to mentor you

There are leaders in every community (usually multiple leaders) who are further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be leaders in the community from whom you can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management – and, I think my presence with them actually influences them for good. I have other spiritual mentors.

You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.

What you’re looking for is people skills – how to handle conflict – how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things hearing from other leaders’ experiences. Leadership development doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is to be intentional.

Do my suggestions trigger others you have?

Making Decisions versus Finding Solutions

easy hard

I once worked with a pastor on a leadership issue, which was causing harm to the church. The pastor wanted me to help him think through how to address the issue. It was a personnel issue – which are always the hardest.

One of the staff members was considered a lousy team player by the rest of the staff. He was lazy, divisive, and disrespectful to the senior pastor. He really didn’t add a lot of value to the team – mostly because he had checked out years earlier. He wasn’t happy, but too comfortable in his position (and pay) to go elsewhere.

I was asked to help the church find a solution to the dilemma. 

Just based on what you know so far it seems like an easy decision to make. If I were simply encouraging them to do the right thing – he needs to go, because of the flippancy he’s shown towards his work and leadership.

But, life and leadership are seldom this easy – are they?

Of course, you could almost see it coming – he was extremely popular with the people in the church. They loved him. They loved his family. They had watched his children grow up and now the children were also very popular in the church. There was hardly a family not connected to them in some way. On Sundays – and Wednesdays – there was not a more well known or more respected staff member. (Churches notoriously struggle with this type personnel issue.) 

The problem was there are 7 days in a week – not just two.

The pastor and key leadership realized a change needs to occur. He had been counseled and threatened with his job numerous times – over a course of years, but he knew he was popular. He knew there could be huge ramifications by dismissing him and, therefore, he refused to change. He was, according to the pastor, even arrogant about his job security at times. The pastor, who had been at the church less time than the other staff member – and very much still gaining the trust of the church – felt he may never recover from letting him go.

It was a reminder of an important principle in leadership.

Making a decision is often easy, but the solution can often be hard to find.

As I analyzed the situation, I saw three options on the table. One, the senior pastor could fire this staff member – and live with the consequences. Two, the pastor could quit – life is short. This situation is making his life misearable and he could simply begin again elsewhere. Or, three, the pastor could simply learn to live with the problem. Perhaps in time he will have enough trust developed to do something about the problem. 

There – easy enough, isn’t it? I had done my job – provided a clear path for a decision to be made. Pastor, choose the one which seems best to you. Make a decision. You could even draw numbers out of a hat for one if you can’t decide. (One for fire, two for quit, and three for live with it.) 

But, again, finding the solution to a problem is much more difficult than picking numbers out of a hat. Answers may appear easy, but finding a solution is a more delicate process.

Finding the solution involves making hard decisions and dealing with hard consequences. It could be either of the three easy answers, but a solution is bigger than making a decision. To be a solution it would involve the follow through, clean-up, and the working of the situation for the ultimate good of the church. This is the hard, messy, difficult work of leadership. Sometimes we hope if we talk to enough people there will be some easy answer out there, which is also the solution. This is seldom the case.

There really were only three options, in my opinion, towards finding a solution – the three I mentioned. Oh, there are tons of scenarios within each one, but ultimately it will come to one of these three. And, I didn’t feel I could make the decision for this pastor. He would have to live with the consequences. So the solution would have to be his to own.

And, I think the pastor already knew what he had to do. The question was – would he make a decision (and doing nothing is making a decision) – or would he solve the problem.

Making decisions – Easy
Finding solutions – Much more difficult.

Great leaders don’t simply make decisions – they find solutions.


10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

Young couple unpacking cardboard boxes at new home.Moving house.

In a previous post, I wrote about the emotions of a pastor or leader’s spouse during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read the post HERE for this post to make complete sense.

The post resonated with several who are dealing with this issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how – how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what they are doing

Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate this fact.

Help them explore and pace themselves

Eventually, the spouse needs to find their own identity. It will take time. Allow them the freedom to do so, even if this means you have to keep the children or do other responsibilities some so they can.

Don’t lock them into your world

Don’t dictate their ministry. My wife and I are partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. And, it’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to your spouse

This is always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But your spouse will need you – more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let them grieve

They may mourn over the separation from friends. Especially if it was your job for which you moved, they may be more likely to miss the old house. They may complain at times the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate or the conveniences of the city are not as good. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious

It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Each of your roles will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home

When you finally get home 1 be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area

Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep your spouse informed

They will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t promote this emotion because you’ve excluded them from it. Make them feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize requires more patience, but during transition the spouse needs to be even more a part of your day they missed.

Be patient

It may take longer for your spouse to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. This is okay. Your spouse is not you. Don’t expect them to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself – be intentional!

Have you transitioned a position recently? What recommendations do you have for dealing with your spouse’s response?

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

man woman talking 2

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I might hear, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

I like to encourage pastors and other leader to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The person who moved to a new opportunity has found their center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. It takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging them daily. Even on days things aren’t going well – they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do – but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or, at least, seem to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition. 

In a future post, I’ll share some specific thoughts on helping your spouse find their center of gravity in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

7 Suggestions When the Team is Stalled and Struggling for a Win

A man calling for help to repair a stalled car

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. It could be a pastor, a ministry or non-profit leader, or a businessperson.

I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like this many times. Every team experiences times of decline. They are often seasons.

What you do next – when these seasons come – almost always determines how long they last and how well you recover.

First, I should say, every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Don’t take principles or suggestions – even these I’m sharing here – and think they are like a magic pill.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

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

What do you do when your team is stalled or struggling for a win?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it

Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem.

(I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” This would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Perhaps you should email it to them.)

Recast vision

People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You would think they know – and they might – but, all of us need reminding periodically. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first.

If you already do – and most teams do – now is the time to tell it. Again. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you – we know it – we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.) The why behind what you’re doing should always be the fuel for what we do.

Evaluate

Times we’ve stalled are also good opportunities to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working out on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. But, I have learned often the answers are in the room if we ask the right questions. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change

You need to try something new. Growth never happens without change. Perhaps you need several somethings new. We tend to hold on even more to our traditions and what has worked in the past in times of stalling, but now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working – which is the point of the post.

Take another risk – as scary as it is. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential

There are usually areas which are working and areas which are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try.

Again, outside perspectives can sometimes work here too. You don’t even always have to pay for this. We’ve often asked people to come in and evaluate our Sunday services, for example. They attend other churches. They are friends. They don’t charge us.

Often these are things the team is known for or things which are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is usually the best place to spur more momentum quickly. Maybe you need to build upon something you’ve taken for granted. In church revitalization I use the term “rediscover – don’t reinvent”. Therefore, build upon the things which are working currently.

Celebrate small wins

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

Encourage one another

As a final thought, remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Consequently, allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

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