5 Ways to Increase Productivity

Hint: They involve you!

Coworkers discussing a file

I see part of my role as a senior leader as a developer of other leaders. In church terms, as much as I am called to make disciples, I am called to disciple disciple-makers.

I take this role seriously. I am consistently thinking how I can encourage people around me to be better at what they do. Several years ago, with another staff, someone who once worked with me mentioned my intentionality in developing leaders on his blog. (Read his post HERE.) Thanks, Adam – miss you, buddy!

Here’s my theory on the subject.

Many leaders limit their capacity as a leader, because they try to do too much on their own. Rather than develop people, they control people. Rather than growing the organization, they only grow their personal workload. In the end, under this type scenario, everyone loses. The leader burns out, potential leaders are never developed, and the organization fails to be all it could be.

If you want to increase productivity as a leader, you have to think bigger than what you can do. In fact, I would say, you have to change your title roles.

To increase productivity and get better as a leader:

Change from being a manager of people to being a leader of people.

Don’t just manage current systems. Lead people to greater realities than they can imagine today. Don’t rule by policies. Free people to explore, create, and imagine. (And, in turn perhaps even make a ton of mistakes.)

Change from being a doer of tasks to being an encourager of doers.

Make it your ambition to encourage people everyday. Be a people builder. I find my best energies are spent away from my desk and in the halls or other offices. When I invest in others everything grows around me.

Change from being a list keeper to being a chief supporter of list keepers.

I love lists! I live by them. But, you can’t be a great senior leader and only manage your own. This would be the easy way – but the least productive way. Instead, you should help people develop their own lists – their dreams – the things they want to accomplish. Encourage. Empower. Celebrate.

Change from completer of tasks to being an investor in people who complete tasks.

Again, my best time is away from my desk. Like anyone I can get very tied to my desk, my email, and my own tasks. I have learned I can spend a little more time investing in people and the results return exponentially.

Change from being an implementer to being an enabler for people to implement.

The less “hands on” I am the more our team seems to get done. When I try to help I often get in the way. This doesn’t mean I do nothing. I often take orders from people on our team as to what I should do. It does mean, though, I try very hard not to get in their way.

These are not a play on words. They are intended to be a change in perspective. And, again, please understand, these are also not an excuse to do nothing. The attempt is working smarter. It’s making an intentional decision to develop others.

It boils down to believing in the purpose and power of delegating, learning how to delegate properly, and actually letting go. For more on delegating, see HERE and the related posts.

If you are struggling to complete all required of you as a leader, in my experience, it will almost always have more to do with how well you do in this area of your leadership. And, for those who are wondering, this is regardless of whether your team is paid or volunteer.

The Unwritten Rules

The real rules...

Smart nerd teacher substitute lecturing class with text book in classroom space for print

The unwritten rules – are the real rules.

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most – become a part of tradition. This is the way people do things – the way decisions are made – the way people respond to leadership and potential.

This is what is real.

This is the DNA of the organization.

People may not even realize they are what they are. They may have never been written down, voted on or “put in the minutes”, but they are assumed true by the majority of people.

They are considered law. These are the rules people will defend and protect the most. They’ll fight to keep them from being changed or bended.

If you are a new leader or a veteran, understanding this principle will increase your effectiveness.

When we entered an established church I realized quickly there were some things I didn’t need to attempt to change the first couple years – or if we did these unwritten rules would alter how we approached, introduced or implemented change. There were ingrained cultural understandings I needed to know. 

How do you know the unwritten rules? First, be aware they exist in every organization. Second, ask good questions of people who have been there longer than you. Third, you’ll discover them mostly as you approach any kind of change which goes against one of them – by experience. (Which is why you don’t build change in a vacuum. You collaborate with others.)  

Trust me in this. You may be a genuius with creating new and exciting ideas, but first you must understand this principle. Learn the unwritten rules first.

5 Ways to Help Young Leaders Succeed

Leader Development

Financial adviser or business mentor help team partner up to profit growth

I love working with young leaders. I consistently look for ways to invest in and recruit those who are currently entering the field of leadership or who will be in the future. In doing so, I see part of my role in working with younger leaders as helping them succeed.

I’ve been practicing this for years with incredible results finding new leaders – for non-profits where I serve on the board, to businesses I’ve owned, to churches where I’ve served as pastor.

It is often easier to get a more seasoned or experienced leader. You do not have to invest time and resources in training. You have a more tested and proven person. I have found, however, in certain positions the younger leader is a good – sometimes better – option.

It is true though if you recruit someone who has never led – or never led at the capacity you are seeking them to do – there will be some learning curves. And, part of your job as a leader will be not only to recruit them, but to help them succeed. This may include special training, coaching or mentoring, but definitely requires intentionality.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the process.

5 ways to help a young leader succeed:

Eliminate the fear of failing

If a young leader knows failure is welcome, and a certain amount of mistakes are even expected in the early days, they’ll feel more willing to take risks. They’ll more quickly begin to add value to the team.

Understand he or she may be afraid to ask

They may assume asking would be perceived as a sign of weakness. Younger leaders sometimes want to make the best impression and often this means they will refrain from seeking help. They may have 100 questions, but they don’t want to keep asking.

Release the tension of asking. In fact, approach them first with “What questions do you have?” Recognize their need for help acclimating to a new environment and new responsibility.

Give consistent, constructive, encouraging feedback

Young leaders, even more from this current generation entering the workforce, need to know how they are doing and how they can succeed. They may have an idea in their own mind. It may or may not be correct. They need to know what you think. They won’t know unless you tell them.

Tell them what they need to know, but don’t know to ask.

There are always things in any organization a person needs to know to be successful – the unwritten rules, the hidden culture. These things aren’t written in a handbook or in a employee orientation, but you can help young leaders acclimate faster by letting them in on “secrets” they’ll learn anyway sooner or later. It will be easier to learn them from you.

(And, keep in mind, they may disagree with and even defy some of the unwritten rules. They may change your culture. And, this may be why you need them most.)

Give them a seat at the table of influence

They probably haven’t earned it, but it will make them a better leader. It will stretch them. They won’t always feel prepared, but you already gave them the freedom to fail, right? Let them have some insight. Give them an early voice. They will more quickly feel like an insider and a part of the team and you’re more likely to discover a potential superstar leader.

Those are a suggestions. Any you would you add?

5 Characteristics of an Antiquated Leader

Are you becoming antique?

television

What’s important in leadership has changed from when I entered the field of leadership.

Have you noticed?

Leadership principles and practices have had to change because organizations and people have changed.

The fact is many leaders who are in senior positions these days developed their leadership style in another generation. This has produced a plethora of what I call antiquated leaders.

Antiquated leaders create tension in many organizations, including many churches today.

Perhaps you’ve worked for (or even been – or even are) an antiquated leader.

Here are some characteristics:

Keeps people in a box.

People won’t stick around in a box these days. They demand opportunities for growth. There was once a day when you could pay a decent wage and, through policies and rules, control an employee’s actions. This is not true anymore.

Controls information.

Information is king, and these days people have information available to them in the palm of their hands — literally. Today’s leaders must be free with transparent and current information — including what’s stirring in the leader’s mind and where the organization is going.

Enforces a waiting period on young leaders.

Young leaders today want an opportunity to explore, take risks, and make an impact in the world — NOW — TODAY. Successful leaders learn to tap into this energy. Keeping young leaders at a distance won’t work anymore.

Assumes a paycheck is enough motivation.

That may have been enough at some point, but today’s workforce demands to know they are doing good work. They want to know what they are doing is making a difference and is valued on the team. The annual company picnic won’t cut it anymore.

Makes the work environment strictly business. The generation entering the new organizational world mixes business with pleasure. They want to enjoy their workplace environment. Today’s leaders must learn to celebrate along the way to success.

Now, take a minute and improve this post with your thoughts.

What would you add to my list?

5 Ways to Fight Insecurity

as a Pastor or Leader

Closeup portrait of a nerdy guy with glasses biting his nails

I was talking with a young pastor overwhelmed with the responsibility he’s been given. His church expects a lot from him – leading the church, preaching great messages, visiting the sick (and the well), managing a budget, and seeing the baptistry consistently in use – just to name a few things. He realizes the weight of his position, but much of it he doesn’t feel qualified to deliver. He accepted the position knowing there would be challenges – and he would have to walk by faith, which he wanted to do – but now he’s wondering if he’s in over his head.

I realized he was dealing with a huge dose of insecurity. I previously wrote “7 Traits of an Insecure Leader“.

It caused me to ask myself, so I could counsel him:

What’s the best way to deal with insecurity in leadership?

Here are 5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons

Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.

Concentrate on your abilities

What are you good at doing? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. In times of feeling insecure we often forget who we are and how God has shaped us through experiences of life. We would never tell a church member they aren’t gifted – why would we believe this about ourself? Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on your positives than your negatives.

Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses

Part of having a healthy church or organization is the strength, which comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And it’s the more Biblical model of the church.)

Keep learning

Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like those of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)

Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure

You have a relationship with Christ. Remember, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”. You can do all He calls you to do, because He will equip you for His call – and strengthen you when you need strength most. If you are facing insecurity in leadership you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Insecurity will weigh you down and hold you back as a pastor or leader. It will keep you from doing all you were called to do. Don’t let it!

5 Areas I Micromanaged in Church Revitalization

Sometimes we have to manage closely

Rural chapel

At least once a week a pastor contacts me about church revitalization. I always tell them I’m still learning, but we have seen God do some pretty amazing things in our church. In all measurable areas we have experienced explosive growth in an over 100 year old, extremely established church. Through this blog I’ve tried to share some of the things I’m learning.

The primary question I receive is where I spend my time. What am I doing – what did I do – to lead the church to grow again?

And, I understand the question. It’s the question I continually ask other church leaders also.

One of the things I’ve learned is there are some things I have to micromanage – some things of which I need to retain control.

It’s important to know I’m not a micro-management leader. It goes against everything I stand for in leadership and even how I’m wired personally. I have written extensively about the need for delegation in leadership. I’m not good with details. I have a problem focusing on small issues, so I really do control very little which happens on our team. Plus, I love the team process. I don’t like the word “I” as much as the word “we”. (Even though I’ll use “I” more than “we in this post.)

In church revitalization, I micromanaged a few things a bit closer than I normally would – especially in the first couple of years. We came with an expectation we were leading a church to survive it’s second hundred years. This is an not easy process. It’s not easy for a church to continue to thrive this long. How many vibrant 100 plus year old churches do you know? And, I knew this – not as well as I do now – before I entered this pastoral position.

I began with a keen sense some things were vital to our success long-term. I viewed it as one of my roles to see the bigger picture and make sure all of us were going in the same direction. Therefore, I micromanaged some things. I did not necessarily make the decisions, but I made sure I had a strong voice in the process. (Actually, some of these were just as true in my years of church planting.)

Here are 5 things I micromanaged in church revitalization:

Who we added to our team.

This included even people I don’t directly supervise. Now, I didn’t always make the final call — I didn’t do all the interviewing — but I did part of recruiting, part of discerning and part of the decision process. And, I retained the right to approve or veto all the final decisions. This included nearly every position in with near 100 people on payroll.

Here’s the deal. We were shaping a culture. It’s one of change and adaptability. It’s one where everyone takes ownership. It’s one where people enjoy their work and pull together as a team. This requires a certain “fit” and staff culture. Who we added to the team would say a lot about who we would be as a staff and how well we would work together. I wanted to make sure everyone we added was on the same page with where we were trying to go.

(I continue to speak into this even four years later. We recently hired a key administrative person. I didn’t interview the person nor recruit them, but I did weigh in on the type person we were seeking and signed off on the final decision.)

How we cast vision.

We knew having a common voice as a staff was vitally important — especially in the earlier days of change — but really always. We purposely developed some common language which would serve as rallying points for the church in the years to come. We had a few key areas of focus. We said the same things repeatedly. I didn’t come up with those exclusively — we developed them as a team — but I led the charge and micromanaged to keep us on track until it began to stick as our common vision.

Where we placed our greatest energies.

Many times in revitalization efforts we can get distracted chasing after too many ideas. We were trying to grow again and often churches (and other organizations) will frantically move from one bad idea to another trying to find one that works. We needed some common goals and ideas and a limited focus. Again, this was especially true in the early days until we could gain trust with the people and gain buy-in for larger changes.

I knew one of my roles would be to say no to some new initiatives. We had to slow the pace of change in other areas, while fueling pace in other areas. We actually stopped some very large – some would say successful – events, because they took a lot of energy, but didn’t fulfill our key mission. (Our mission, by the way, is the advance of the Gospel.)

Organizational structure.

As an established church, we had over 100 years of structure. Bureaucracy and process we know well. We had rules for everything. Our employees were subjected to counter productive paperwork, for one example, which wasted time and zapped energy for momentum. (We even had a policy on folded chairs. True story.)

Over time, churches don’t stop to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Typically we just add new layers of structure. Some of our structure, quite frankly, had become extremely burdensome and stood in the way of making progress. Some things we had on paper as “rules” we didn’t even follow. (I don’t like this either.) Some rules we follow were simply archaic. They didn’t work or weren’t necessary. They slowed us down filling out paperwork no one was even going to read. We had duplicated processes and systems.

I knew in the early days I would be a fresh set of eyes on our structure and would need to micromanage quickly before I “settled in” and became just another participant in the established process. (After we do something long enough it becomes habit and we can’t even see it needs to be changed.)

New expenditures.

As with most churches in need of revitalization, our finances had been struggling for several years. Thankfully we had good people in charges of our finances and they had held the church together through very difficult times. But, I knew to be successful long-term we had to be in the best financial condition possible. And, I knew, as the senior staff leader, I had to be the primary voice for this on a day-to-day basis. Even though changes were needed which would be expensive, we were extremely careful to make sure our basic financial condition was stabilized first. I don’t make economic decisions alone — and shouldn’t — but I was the key driver in the process. We have done remarkably well financially (again thanks to tremendous finance committee and staff efforts). We have reversed our declined, built a healthy reserve, and begun doing some of the changes we needed to grow again.

I’ve not worried over a lot of things in church revitalization. What color carpets or wall coverings don’t excite me very much. I’ve given a few song suggestions, but I’ve not been too involved in the process of planning our worship (although I did mircromange who led the process). Apart from my normal responsibilities of preaching and being a pastor, these are the things I concerned myself with most and have received my best energies.

So far, God has blessed the micromanagement!

5 Suggestions When Firing Someone in Ministry

Unemployment

Whenever I talk about firing people in ministry I create a great deal of interest. Some feel it makes the church seem too much like a business. I get it, but the other fact, and many understand through difficult experiences, if we don’t address this very serious issue, Kingdom dollars are often misused. And, if we are honest, this has been allowed in ministry far more often than it should be. Our command to love or even to be kind shouldn’t cause us to waste Kingdom dollars.

Please read THE PREVIOUS POST before reading this one.

The fact is, in nearly every situation I’m aware of where this type decision is made, it’s not an issue of likability. It’s not we don’t love the person or their family. If this was the case, all this would be easy. It doesn’t even always mean the person did something wrong. At times, it is a simple issue of chemistry or fit and often the person proves later to be a great fit elsewhere.

Making this difficult decision has many times proven best for all parties involved, but admittedly, getting to the point of release is sometimes a most difficult process. As hard and delicate an issue as this is, it is poor stewardship, in my opinion, not to address the issue.

With this in mind, I always have people ask for suggestions when having to release someone from a ministry position. They want to know some best practices to protect the church and person?

Here are 5 suggestions when you have to fire someone in ministry:

Be certain

Not as much from a legal sense, but from a moral sense, we need to be sure this is the right move. (You need to be legal too and if you aren’t sure – ask. I have always consulted an attorney before anyone is released. Always.) The fact is it will be difficult. It may even be messy. There is usually some damage done to the body. You shouldn’t hide from the right decision because of it, but you should make sure you’re making the right decision.

Be generous

This will differ depending on the person’s tenure with the church and the reason for dismissal, but be as generous as you reasonably can be. This could be financial, but it could also be in the way you allow an exit to take place. I’ve had some unique situations to accommodate. Knowing how hard this is going to be for the affected party, as much as possible, be overly generous.

Be graceful

I’ve been involved in a few messy situations involving the release of a staff member. Many times the most gracious thing to the departing staffer is the information that’s not shared. There is always more to the story and everyone wants to know the “more” – sadly many times for the wrong reasons. Keeping information as confidential as possible extends grace to the person, the person’s family and the church. Grace should also be extended in creating an exit strategy which protects the person’s future employment possibilities, as much as possible. There may be moral or legal issues you feel obligated or legally have to share, but as much as possible, extend grace.

Be honest

Here, I am talking about what you communicate to the person being released. Don’t sugarcoat. Now is not the time. What’s the real reason? Hopefully, by this point, there has been sufficient due process and fair warning, except in cases where an immediate exit is the only option. Either way, tell the truth. I’ve seen churches disguise the real issues in an effort to land a “softer blow”. Many times this only creates more tension, because of the ambiguity and uncertainty of the dismissal.

Be helpful

How can the person improve for their next position? What are the areas they do well? In what ways can you help them land better into their next role? The person won’t always be open to your “help”, but you should be available to help them wherever and however they might be.

This is admittedly hard. No one enjoys this discussion or this process. I don’t even enjoy writing this blog post. We should be Biblical in our approach always, but it’s not Biblical to avoid hard issues hiding behind a label of ministry.

What other suggestions would you have when you have to release a person in ministry?

Thoughts on Firing People in Ministry – And Some Objections to Doing So

Dejected just fired an office worker with personal belongings in a box

This is a difficult post – about a difficult issue. It is one we don’t necessarily like to talk about in the church, but sometimes we must.

I came out of a business background, so some things which are done in ministry are different for me. And, frankly, many should be. Ministry isn’t business – it’s ministry. Let me say it again. Ministry isn’t business – it’s ministry.

Some of the people who think I don’t understand this need to read it one more time. Ministry isn’t business – it’s ministry.

At the same time, we should never hide in the label of ministry or us it as an excuse to waste Kingdom dollars. We need good practices of financial and people accountability. Just as the business world has to have healthy employment practices in place simply to stay in business – we need them in ministry. What we do is too important not to consider every dollar.

And, also frankly speaking, this hasn’t always been my experience in ministry.

I struggle being the bad guy, for example, about our utility bills. Some people are terrible about wasting electricity – especially not turning out lights. But, when your utility bill is larger than any one ministry budget you have to consider how you spend it.

Another example is in the area of staffing – people paid by the church. I’ve seen and encountered numerous times where staff people were allowed to continue drawing salaries from a church when their effectiveness is in serious question – or they aren’t even doing their job anymore. Everyone may know something needs to be done, but no one is willing to make the hard decision.

One of the hardest decisions any leader ever makes is to release someone from their employment. It should never be taken lightly. It always hurts. It wasn’t easy in business and it isn’t in ministry. But, sometimes it’s the right thing to do. And, it seems in ministry we are often much slower – if ever – to get there.

I was talking with a pastor who knows he needs to make a hard decision regarding a member of his staff, but he simply hasn’t been able to garner the support or gumption to do it. This person isn’t productive and isn’t trying to be. Though the person is hugely popular with the right crowd on Sunday, he has a damaging personality on the team during the week. He continually works against the pastor’s leadership – undermining him to other staff and lay leadership. The pastor has counseled with the person, has agreement from elders something needs to be done, but no one has been willing to make the hard decision. And, this has been the case for years – not months – years; and with more than one pastor. In the meantime, Kingdom dollars are admittedly being wasted. (I have had this same conversation numerous times with other pastors.)

Many times, in my experience, churches haven’t made the decision because of fear of how others will respond and they use “ministry” simply as an excuse. Again, many times the business world would have already made the obvious decision. After having this discussion countless times with church leaders, I often feel the need to address it. (Please know, I’m talking strictly about poor performance, not about those who lose their jobs because of tightening budgets. This, too, is a growing issue, but not one I’m addressing here.)

Here are some of the objections I’ve encountered and a few counter thoughts to consider:

We love the person – Of course. We love everyone. It’s what we are called to do. But, is this a good reason to empower bad behavior or to waste Kingdom dollars?

We don’t want to hurt their family – Of course not, again. And we should be gracious and generous in the exit strategy, and be willing to walk with the person through the recovery process as much as is reasonable and welcomed by the released person. But are we not also hurting other families who sacrifice and give to the church by misusing their resources on an ineffective staff member?

We are afraid we haven’t extended enough grace – I understand. We are to extend grace, but hasn’t there been a lot of grace given to allow the person to stay this long? When does truth come into play?

We are afraid of the ripple effects – And it’s understandable you would be. You should always consider how decisions will impact others. Yet the reality is you probably have ripple effects now anyway. You are injuring other ministries and jeopardizing future progress by delaying what you know you need to do. It will only get more difficult with time. At some point you may have to cut your losses.

Leaders have to make hard decisions. We should first do everything within our power to redeem the person’s job. (We did in business too. It’s much more efficient to retain an existing employee than to hire a new one.) But, protecting the vision for all may involve tough love for others.

Many times when we delay decisions like this we delay the healing which needs to occur and the benefits of making the right (and difficult) decision. Also, we send a dangerous message it’s acceptable to do whatever this person isn’t doing or is doing which merits being let go.

Notice I didn’t say this was easy. But genuine leadership never is easy. Don’t use ministry as an excuse. Pray about the matter diligently. Do everything in your power to redeem the person. Work through due process. Get wise advice from others before you make the decision – even from an attorney if needed. But, when the answer is clear what you need to do – do it.

Let me close with a word to those who have lost or may some day lose your job because of poor performance. I am not insensitive to your plight. In fact, I’ve helped numerous people pick up the pieces and begin again. I’ve hired people who were fired from a job and some of them made the best team members.

Sometimes being let go allows God an opportunity to do something new in your life – even something better. If you made mistakes, own them and learn from them. There is grace to begin again. Sometimes it was a matter of fit more than anything else, but whatever the reason, grow from it and let God restore the broken pieces. He specializes in restoration.

Okay, I’ve opened a can of worms. Please know I’m not trying to add insult to injury. These are difficult issues and should be prayerfully considered. They certainly, however, shouldn’t be ignored.

In my next post I will share some thoughts on how to do this gracefully.

7 Guarantees in Leadership

Closeup of businessman or salesman pointing to a white card with a Guaranteed sign on it. Conceptual of business marketing and quality trade.

I once had a leader who was an emphatic talker. He made statements with no reservation in them about things – honestly – I simply didn’t believe. He would say stuff such as, “There is no way this would ever work.” Really? No way? Maybe the chance is limited, but no way?

He impressed upon me enough I’ve always been hesitant about emphatic statements – unless they are Biblical truths, of course. 

But, I have some emphatic statements to make. I’m calling them guarantees. And, since I talk a great deal about leadership on this blog – these are leadership guarantees.

Here are 7 guarantees of leadership:

Every decision you make will produce a multiple of responses.

Some will agree. Some will not. And, some will not care either way. 

Change is inevitable. 

You can deny it. You can attempt to avoid it. You can be afraid of how people will react to it. But, change is coming either way. It’s best to be on the side of change where you at least have some chance of helping the change be for the best overall good of the people you lead. 

You will many times feel under appreciated. 

This is especially true if you are looking for appreciation. Of course, we all want to be appreciated, but great leaders are not as concerned about what other people think as they are about doing the right thing. And, because of this, they aren’t necessarily seeking personal recognition or applause. These leaders are methodical in their pursuit of progress, but not usually aware of how much good they actually are doing. 

You can never adequately predict how people will respond.  

Even the people you felt were your best supporters will sometimes turn on you if the decision you make does not go in their favor. And, then there will be some people who will rise to your support you didn’t even know were in your corner. 

You will seldom be 100% certain.  

There is always a level of risk with every decision you make. If you wait for perfect conditions you will seldom do anything. You should ask good questions, get plenty of input, and certainly pray for wisdom. Sometimes, however, you simply have to pull the trigger and get started. 

Some days it won’t seem you’ve accomplished anything.  

And, sometimes, looking back, these will be your best days. It might be because you spent all day investing in others – while other “work” goes undone. But, remember, if you are leading you are in a people business. People will always be your best efforts. 

You will make mistakes.  

And, you will make lots of them. But, you will learn from them even more than the things you do right. The best leaders I know do not hide the mistakes they make. They use them as life lessons and help others grow through them. 

I guarantee these to be true. Emphatically. 

Or, at least I’m 97.9% sure. 🙂

Freedom Passes – The New Math of Leadership

Student studying math on the blackboard full of formulas

When I was in school I had a love-hate relationship with math.

I loved doing math – working to find an answer to a problem. In fact, I was pretty good at it. I even served on the math team for a while.

But I hated having to solve the problem with the teacher’s methods.

On tests I would do poorly if the teacher made us show our work. I could get the right answers, but I wanted to use my own methods. The years I was on the math team and did best were when I had teachers who allowed me the freedom to find answers my way.

I realize the teacher needed to make sure I wasn’t cheating and I knew how to think through a specified process, but I wanted to invent my own process.

I think there is a leadership principle here. I have seen it so many times. 

If you want to empower people – give them a freedom pass.

In fact, if your team is currently stalled – maybe you need to hand out some freedom passes.

What’s a freedom pass? It is giving your people the freedom to complete their assignments in the way which works best for them. 

Successful leaders understand organizational success involves letting people figure out their own way. If you want team members to be energized towards progress they must be empowered to develop their own strategies for attaining the goals and objectives.

You still hold team members accountable for progress, but you allow them freedom to choose the process of completion. In practical terms this could be the hours they choose to work, where they do their work, and often who they include on their individual team. 

When you allow people to script the “how” they are more motivated to complete the “what”. People need space to create. They need to have input into the process of completing the vision of the team or organization.

Give people a Freedom Pass. It’s the new math of leadership.