7 Simple Leadership Tips Which Could Help Every Pastor and Leader

abc cubes

I have a heart for leaders. Especially church leaders. I’d love to help others learn from my mistakes. In fact, this is a huge motivation for this blog and a lot of my ministry.

With this in mind, I want to share a few things I’ve learned over the years. I hope it proves helpful.

Here are 7 simple leadership tips:

Fight fewer battles where the win doesn’t matter as much

Okay, honestly, this is hard, because usually people are bringing the battle to you. The petty complaints. The constant grumbling. But, it’s nothing new. Read the Old Testament. The key is to remember the over all vision. What’s the end goal. Go for that and don’t be distracted by the things that won’t matter in eternity.

Don’t try to duplicate as much as you emulate 

The connotation of duplicate is to be just like. With emulate, you’re trying to match the level of success, in your individual context – but not necessarily achieve it in the same way. This is so important. You are not someone else. You’ll stress less about your progress if you drop the comparison game. Trust me.

Lead with leaders

The more you surround yourself with people capable of leading others, the greater the impact your leadership can have. It means you’ll have to delegate. You can’t control everything. You must empower – but you’ll be so blessed when you see the church and its leadership capacity grow.

Your downtime is gold

More than you ever imagined. Wow, I wish pastors would learn this one. Don’t neglect your Sabbath. It’s not simply Biblical – it’s highly practical. Discipline yourself to build sufficient rest into your schedule. When you’re tired you will never lead at your best level.

Think marathon not sprint

You will have bad days. There will be critics. You will send a dumb email. You will say the wrong thing. You will plan a project which bombs. On those days, remind yourself of the bigger vision. Regroup. Rest. Recharge. Go at it again tomorrow.

Stop trying to control every outcome

You’ll seldom be able to anyway. When you do, people will either rebel or never live up to their potential. Control the vision, but almost everything else, you can release to the people around you.

Be authentic

Not partially authentic. Be totally authentic. People will trust you more if you are who you claim to be – always. Don’t try to make yourself bigger than you are. People can easily spot the margin between the portrayed you and the real you. And, the greater the margin the less you’ll build trust in those you hope will follow.

Any simple tips you would add?

7 Things Pastor Tell Me Kept Them from Leading Well

Around a barrier business concept as a red dart solving an obstacle problem by averting a wall and hitting the target as a success metaphor for agility and dexterity in achieving your goal.

In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is they have a story of a failed leadership experience. Their first church. The church experience that went bad. Or, many times their current ministry and the reason for our conversation.

When they have recovered from the experience, looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You’ve probably got some of those learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in a particular ministry, but there were critical errors which kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you. There were errors in their leadership.

Here’s my question. Why don’t we do a better job as pastors and leaders at learning from each other?

I’ve reflected back on some of those conversations and there are literal words I have heard consistently over time. I want to share them in hopes we can learn from others.

Here are 7 things I’ve repeatedly heard, which kept a pastor from leading well:

“I failed to delegate”

Many pastors try to be a solo leader. They know the expectation placed upon them and they know what they want to achieve, and they begin to think if it is going to be done right they must do it. They begin to try to control every outcome. Sadly, it can even limit the leader’s willingness to walk by faith. It doesn’t take long until a pastor burns out, potential leaders disappear and people are never developed and discipled. It’s a recipe for eventual disaster in leadership.

“We couldn’t see beyond today”

Many pastors get a tunnel vision in leading people. They only see what they see. They don’t consider the unseen – the yet to be imagined – the hidden gems of opportunity. Again, often this is a matter of faith, or laziness, sometimes a personality wiring, or maybe just falling into a rut of routine. In the sameness of today, things become stale and eventually people become bored…and someday they disappear.

“I ignored the real problems”

The real problems aren’t always the spoken problems. They aren’t the obvious problems. The real problems are the underlying reasons behind a problem. They usually deal with heart problems. What people are really thinking, but aren’t saying. The real problems always involve people and often involve perceptions, which may or may not be reality.

“We resisted change too long”

Change is coming. One way or another. Better to be on the side of change where you are the change agent – helping to craft the direction of change – rather than being the agent when change is no longer an option. Over time, if change is ignored, change will be thrust upon you. And, this is never welcomed change.

“I tried to please everyone”

When you do this you really please no one. Your time management isn’t under control. You are pulled in so many directions you do nothing effectively. Instead of leadership there is chaos. The loudest voices win and the silent ones you actually have a chance of leading somewhere disappear. And, you end up one very tired, skittish, ineffective pastor.

“The momentum was allowed to die.”

Momentum is extremely difficult to get back if you ever lose it. It’s easier to shift momentum to something new through change than it is to rebirth it when momentum is completely absent.

“I neglected my family”

Many pastors tell me they started to have problems at home when the ministry received more focus than the family. Three times in the past month, I’ve talked with a pastor who walked away from ministry – for how long I don’t know – because they realized they were going to lose their family if they didn’t. Sadly, too many pastors stay until it’s too late to repair the damage. Very sad.

Obviously, the main – and most damaging – reasons a pastor doesn’t lead well are spiritual more than practical. We are to listen and obey the voice of God – first and foremost. But, we must not ignore the practical aspects of good leadership. Again, let’s learn from each other.

Are any of these keeping you from leading well?

The Best Routes in Life Find You Dodging Geese Poop

older couple enjoying life

Some of my favorite trips or vacations are where I get to take a long run. Through parks, subdivisions, and back roads. But, my favorite runs always involve water – along a river, lake or ocean. I have run in some incredible places.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC., Madison, Wisconsin, Dallas. Just a few which come to mind.

On those runs one word can usually capture the time.

Glorious.

I worship. I talk to God. I dream.

Long runs along a body of water are awesome. Love it.

I have come to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

The best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:

A body of water.

A path beside the body of water.

The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the body of water.

The chance to connect with nature and God along the body of water.

But, here’s the other thing I learned – and the point of this post.

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(Sorry if you don’t think a nice blog like this, written by a mostly nice pastor like me, about leadership and life, should use an analogy – or a word = like “poop” in a post. I guess I could call them geese droppings, but that doesn’t seem to capture what they drop.)

But, it is true. If you want to run in the best places –

You’ve got to dodge the geese poop.

And, right about now, you’re wondering why you’re even still reading this post. I understand.

Well, it’s because – once as I was dodging the geese poop – it occurred to me.

The same principle is true in life and leadership.

You can settle for mediocre.

You can choose to go for second best.

You can compromise before the right decision is made.

You can refuse the risk you might get dirty.

But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.

If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.

You have to dodge the geese poop of life.

The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.

(By the way, for my pastor friends, this principle has been true for me in church planting and church revitalization. We’ve dodged a lot of geese droppings.)

Following your dream – achieving God’s plan for your life – maximizing your goals and ambitions – those aren’t easy. They never are. They require a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of prayer and patience.

It’s messy, filled with setbacks, conflict and obstacles. There will be times we are tempted to give up, choose an easier route, or quit before the end is in sight.

It’s a choice. You can choose where you want to run. You can stay on the boring and safe treadmill of life if you want, but, as for me, no doubt about it, whenever I get the chance, I’m choosing to run by the body of water.

I’ll just watch out for and endure the geese poop, because I know it’s a part of the path.

Are you on one of those body of water paths of life right now?

Are there a lot of “droppings” in your way?

Don’t give up – the Glorious part comes to those who endure!

10 Strong Opinions I Have About Meetings

Office life: business team during a meeting

I have lots of meetings in my world. Over the years of business, non-profit leadership, elected office, and ministry, I’ve probably attended several thousand meetings. Along the way, I’ve developed some strong opinions.

I thought I’d share a few.

Here are 10 strong opinions I have about meetings:

If all the decisions are already determined – don’t call a meeting – send me an email. Don’t waste my time.

If you’re meeting at a time when people are naturally hungry – feed us. And, pay for it.

If we don’t have an agenda – if it’s simply on the calenda, but there is really nothing to discuss – well, I don’t mean to seem rude, but what are we doing here?

If every new idea is going to be shot down – would skeet-shooting be a better use of our time?

If we keep doing this the same way every time, won’t someone  – someone like me – eventually get bored.

If we are only going to talk about it – but never really do anything about it – isn’t this really just a social event?

If one person dominates all the conversation – let’s skip the meeting and schedule a speech.

If everyone is invited – nothing is getting accomplished today – let’s have a party.

If it’s past time for most people to go home – let’s postpone – you’ve lost our full attention.

If no one is taking notes – will we even remember any of this tomorrow?

Just a few of my thoughts about meetings. I’m not opposed to them at all. I think they are vital to healthy  organizations. Let’s just keep getting better at them. 

Do you have yours?

What Happens When I’m tired – and 7 Remedies

Lazy person

I have learned over the years – many times when I’m not up to par in my leadership or life – it’s simply because I’m tired. Recognizing this is paramount to maintaining productivity and for preventing burnout.

When I’m tired:

I can be irritable and harder to please

I become irrational about the flaws in others

I have difficulty concentrating

I display less patience and get frustrated easily

I’m less effective

My leadership suffers

Our team suffers

Here are 7 remedies I’ve discovered:

Take a nap (Some think you should take one everyday.)

Exercise (My adrenaline and energy grows when I sweat.)

Change perspective by reading a book, watching or listening to something other than where I’m currently working. (It may simply be entertaining.)

Engage with motivating people. (There are people who naturally fuel others by their presence.)

Take extended time away from my work. (The busier the season the more I need to discipline myself to rest.)

Evaluate my priorities, freeing myself for what’s most important. (We can easily get captivated by things of lesser importance which drain our energy.)

Call it a day and prepare for another day. (There have been days it’s just best to go home and start over the next day.)

Sometimes things, which at the time seem unproductive, actually end up being among the most productive. I’ve learned I’m not very helpful to the team when I’m extremely tired. Addressing it quickly makes me a better leader. Things aren’t likely to improve until I improve. Many leaders try to operate from an exhausted position and never realize they are the problem on the team.

Leader, be aware when you are the problem.

Don’t be afraid to admit you’re tired, leader. Most likely the team already knows it.

What happens when you’re tired…and what do you do about it?

4 Actions For When You Put Your Foot In Your Mouth

foot-in-mouth

What do you do after putting your foot in your mouth?

I was meeting with a couple for the first time and in the middle of the meeting I forgot their name. I tried to remember it but I went blank. It wouldn’t come to me. I muddled my way through the meeting. As I went to pray for them I was certain I had remembered their names. I thought it was a Holy Spirit moment. It wasn’t. As I called them the wrong name in prayer they politely corrected me – during the prayer. (I’ve often wondered if God must have giggled a bit at the moment.)

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. It happens to leaders, pastors and friends. No one is immune from the foot-in-mouth epidemic. We say the wrong thing. To the wrong person. At the wrong time. You hurt someone’s feelings. You offend them. You put them in an awkward position.

And, many times it is far worse than simply forgetting someone’s name.

What do you do?

Here are 4 suggestions for when you put your foot in your mouth:

Apologize

Admit the error, say your sorry and ask for forgiveness. In the situation above, I quickly told them what had happened. They laughed and understood. Many people have such a hard time saying they are sorry, but it is critical to healthy relationships. Admitting your errors is a sign of maturity – and the right thing to do.

Don’t make excuses

You said it. It hurt. Don’t make it worse by pretending it didn’t or defending yourself. I couldn’t disguise my error, but it would have made it worse had I tried. Making excuses only deepens the injury or awkwardness. If you said the wrong thing – own the error!

Try to do better

Learn the discipline of thinking before you speak. I should have simply admitted to the couple I went blank. They ended up learning it anyway. I’m human. I meet with lots of people throughout the day and the meetings sometimes seem to run together, but I need to do better at committing names to memory – especially with people in my office. 🙂 Of course, in more serious situations, this is even more important. Saying the thing you wish you’d never said, which hurt someone deeply – we should continually strive to never do it intentionally. And, even if it’s unintentional we should discipline ourselves to think before we speak. Scripture is clear (James) – as we mature we are to get a tighter reign on our tongues. Practice asking yourself – before you say something – “how will the other person receive what I’m about to say?”

Move forward

Everyone says something they regret occasionally. My mistake was a small part of a much longer meeting. It wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like in the moment. I felt horrible, but I didn’t let it make things awkward when I saw them later at church. Even when you make the big awkward comment, you should not let it keep you from moving forward. Part of the maturing process is moving on from your mistakes.

Mine may be a silly example, but it’s one I felt freedom to share. Other times are more awkward. Even more damaging to the relationship. The actions are the same.

Apologize. Don’t make excuses. Try to do better. Move forward.

Got any stories of when you put your foot in your mouth?

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

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The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things which happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out His standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader who stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

5 Ways to Show People You Really Are Authentic

fashion grandpa

We were at a department store looking at some shirts in the men’s department on sale. After over 10 years in retail, including as a buyer, I love nice clothes, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. When I can find a good bargain I’m excited. I saw a shirt I really liked, but I quickly knew it wasn’t for me. A decade ago, it might have been an okay style for me, but today, someone would think I should be acting my age.

The dilemma for me these days, as I shop for clothes, is to find clothes which are stylish, but age appropriate. One method I use is to consider what my boys would say is “cool”, but what would not embarrass them. It is usually a good indicator.

It got me thinking, however, about a more important issue. I was reminded the image a person portrays can be huge in determining people’s perception of the leader. In a day when authenticity is valued by all, but especially the younger generation, I want to be “perceived” as being authentic. I want people I’m attempting to lead to take me serious as a leader.

Here are 5 ways to help people perceive you as authentic:

Dress your age

This may not sound like a leadership principle, but it is. It is a biggie for me and my goal these days. I’m 52 years old. There are some “cool” styles which aren’t cool for 52 year olds. Knowing the difference is huge. Each season of life seems to have it’s own style. Dress within yours. If you aren’t sure, ask some people around you whom you trust. (Again, my boys help me.)

Admit your mistakes

Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong or when a project goes wrong and it was your idea. Own up to your bad decisions. If you pass blame or refuse to own up to a problem you’ll be perceived as a weak and pretend leader.

Be honest

Don’t exaggerate who you are, your position, influence, or knowledge. Don’t pretend your church or organization is bigger than it really is. Tell the truth about you and the organization you lead. People can usually spot a phony and dismiss your influence in their life.

Don’t try to impress others

The harder you try the less they seem to be impressed. Be yourself – not who you wish you were. No one does a better you than you do. Simply strive to be the best you you can be.

Be a good listener

Be slower to speak. Don’t always have the answer. Even when you do, sometimes back off and let someone else take the lead. You show people you’re real if you act like they are – and it is worth hearing what they have to say.

What else would you add?

10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments in Life

Disappointment

Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.

Have you lost a job recently? If you’re not careful, you will falsely assume that you could never get as good of a job again.

Have you had a business failure? If you’re not careful, you’ll keep yourself from ever taking a rid again.

Did you suffer from divorce? If you’re not careful, you’ll believe you can never recover or receive God’s grace.

Did your spouse have an affair? If you’re not careful, you’ll never risk intimate love again.

The Devil loves when you doubt yourself.

What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?

Here are 10 tips to consider during the recovery process:

Reconnect with God. This is always a wise idea, but it becomes a necessity at times like this. Times of disappointment can cause us to emotionally pull away from God. Our faith may still be in tact, but our daily trust waivers. We may know God is able, but we have a harder time trusting Him to do what needs to be done. (I preached about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate your life. Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.

Create some new dreams. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along. Give yourself permission to believe the impossible. God does.

Call in the advisors. Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life…and the freedom to speak into your life.

Don’t take your pain and anger out on others. It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) to hurt others because you are hurting. Innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to the wrath of your pain.

Take a break. Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your situation and the emotions and struggles because of them, probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal.

When it’s time, be willing to risk again. Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there or against a future that hasn’t come.

Don’t let failure or disappointment define you. Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life.

Do something. Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone. If nothing else, start journaling as a way to release your thoughts. Do something.

Get back in the game. Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.

What steps do you have for receiving from disappointment?

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to build upon what exists.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but, if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – be respectful. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. People respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?