3 Reasons a Leader Should Never Respond to Criticism in Anger

What do you mean?!

Over the years in leadership, I have experienced my fair amount of criticism. When I was in business, it could come from employees, former employee, customer, supplier, or the public. When I served in political office, every vote seemed to bring critics from the opposing side. Now, after being in ministry for over a decade, I have learned that criticism comes from outside and inside the church. 

And, with an added bonus, we now get to receive criticism through online and social media — making it so much easier to deliver. (Please read my sarcastic, poor attempt at humor in that last sentence.)

I suppose criticism is a part of culture — a part of our nature. And, because I work with lots of leaders who receive criticism, I’ve addressed it a number of times on this blog.

Here’s the reality. With every decision a leader makes some people will agree. And, some won’t. Now I spend most of my time on this blog thinking through how we can be better leaders. And, we should spend most of our energies there, in my opinion. But, learning to navigate through criticism is a part of leading. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve watched as the way a leader receives criticism begins to shape the leader. I know young pastors, for example, who give up on a church because of a few very vocal critics. I know some politicians who grew so tired of the criticism that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. In fact, in my opinion, some of the best people never run because they don’t want to face the critics.

Our first reaction to criticism is to lash out in anger towards it. 

That’s natural. As, natural as it is for some to criticize, it is normal to want to defend ourselves. Especially when we feel the need to correct inaccuracies and promote the truth. 

While I believe we should always speak truth in love and correcting false statements against us may have a place, I do not believe responding to criticism with immediate anger is ever appropriate.

Here are 3 reasons why:

It’s not right.

I always hear the example of Jesus in the temple, but Jesus wasn’t dealing with their criticism of Him, but their misuse of the temple. (And He apparently took time to think through His response according to John 2:15. He made a whip. How long does that take?) I view Jesus’ response as a very calculated, righteous anger. That’s much different than the spur of the moment rise of emotion anger.

It may be true.

That’s a hard reality, but the fact is that as difficult to receive as criticism may be, maybe even based on faulty information at times, often there are things in the criticism for us to learn. I have found that even in the most unfair type of criticism, and from people who don’t have a clue how to be nice when giving it, there is sometimes something I can learn. Even if it’s nothing more than how to handle mean people. (Because often mean people have a story that has made them so mean — and the answer to dealing with them might be grace, and truth, delivered in love.) We have to be willing to humble ourselves to examine where we might be wrong. It takes time to analyze the criticism before we know how to respond with the appropriate emotion. And, sometimes, the right response will be anger — but I’ve found those cases to be rare. (See Psalm 139:24, or Matthew 7:1-5)

It doesn’t work.

That’s the bottom line leadership principle. Responding to an emotional person with another emotion backs people into a corner and ultimately produces even more criticism. The leader who wants to lead well through criticism will take a more calculated approach.

Jesus offers a great remedy for handling criticism. Consider Luke 6:27-28. Jesus said we should bless those who curse us. What if the next time you receive criticism you stopped and prayed for them? And, while you were at it, prayed for your response. That may take a few minutes, an hour, or a day.

The way to navigate through criticism in leadership greatly depends on our response — especially our initial response — to it.

I realize that’s often an unnatural response, but with discipline, and practice, a leader can learn to better handle the critics — and — hopefully — keep leading.

10 Permissions a Great Leader Grants

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Does your team have permission?

To dream – Give your team permission to dream the seemingly impossible. The lid of possibilities will often be when your sense of realism trumps your sense of imagination.

To fail – People need to know they can mess up and still have another chance on your team. Do they?

To have fun – Let’s get this party started! Work hard, but take time to laugh along the way.

To experiment – It might work. It might not. Let’s give it a try.

To ask questions – People only know what they know. Let them ask about that of which they are unsure?

To collaborate– Build a team. That’s the healthy view of leadership. Isolation can lead to destruction.

To gain recognition – Those who own all the acknowledgement limit people who will ever attempt to achieve it.

To be challenged – People perform up to the expectation. Seldom beyond.

To own – Ownership leads to stewardship. The more you give people a seat at the table the more responsibility they will assume for overall results.

To create – Original thoughts are welcome here. Are they? Make sure your team knows it. And, believe me, they will.

Where do you need to permit?

How a Young Leader Develops as a Leader

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This is a guest post by Tyler Crosson. Tyler is student pastor where I serve. He’s an excellent communicator and has a passionate heart for Jesus and for ministry. He knows God is preparing him to a more lead role in a church and it’s been fun to watch him in this journey. Part of our development time together led to me asking Tyler to write this post.

I am a young leader. The kind that desires to not only improve my own leadership capacity, but one day grow into a great leader in a great position. I recognize that I have a long way to go in developing my own leadership skills, and I recognize that I have plenty to learn about leadership in general. There are many excellent resources out on the topic of leadership, and I definitely try to be the kind of leader that is a reader. There are books, articles and blogs, the one you’re reading is the best (Ron is my boss, so I figure a little plug for him serves us both :) ). If you’re anything like me, the vastness of it all seems a little overwhelming and a little impersonal.

One day, through a discussion about leadership with Ron, I stumbled into what has served as a gold mine of wisdom and has changed the way I pursue learning about leadership. I wish I could call it a secret, but I’m willing to guess that this method is also staring you in the face. Want to know what the “secret” is? Here it is: leaders. Yep, leaders. All over my city, and I’m guessing leaders are all over your area, too. Good leaders. Some are even great leaders!

I decided to tap into this gold mine of leadership wisdom that is in action right here in my community. People that are busy making the community I’m invested in better every day. Here’s what I did: I asked if I could meet with some of these leaders. Earth shattering, huh? Yeah, not really. I just began to seek out people that I (and others I trusted) appreciated as leaders, and I asked for an hour of their valuable time. I let them know that I respected their leadership and I simply wanted an opportunity to ask them a few questions about their leadership in an effort to learn for myself.

I take 7 questions into the meeting (which seems fitting, since Ron is a 7 points kind of guy), and I have yet to struggle to quickly fill an hour of time in discussion.

Here are my questions:

1. What are some of the biggest learning curves you have had as a leader?
2. If you were me, planning for a lead role one day, what words of caution would you give me?
3. What are some words of challenge or encouragement you would give to a young leader?
4. What’s the biggest stress you deal with as a leader?
5. How do you navigate change?
6. How do you handle criticism?
7. Who do you think I should meet with next? (this one keeps the gold mine available)

I ask those in no particular order. Rarely do I even get through all the questions, and I have yet to find someone that wasn’t willing to share. In fact, what I’ve found so far, is that the leaders I’ve spoken with genuinely want to see young leaders in their community succeed, too. And remember how reading books seemed impersonal? Well it would hard for these meetings to be less personal. They are face to face! I get to hear their successes and their failures. I’m grateful they are willing to allow me to grow with them, even through their mistakes. I’ve learned to not fear failure because of how much you can grow from it. Every one of them has reminded me of the priority of leading my family first. Many encourage me to network well, which is awesome because that is taking place at every meeting! I’ve been reminded of the importance of listening, developing trust and relationships in order to move people along a vision. They have taught me the importance of being a lifelong learner and seeker, and are helpful in providing more resources or leaders to seek.

I honor them by communicating my appreciation for their time, their work and effort in our community and their wisdom. In turn, they seem to genuinely want to invest in me. And invest in me they do (some even bought my lunch…bonus!). The wisdom they share is valuable. If I’m being honest, this is a strategy I will probably try to use the rest of my life. Wherever I end up, there will be leaders. I’m guessing there are leaders where you are, too!

That’s my secret. I hope it serves your journey in leadership, too.

What question would you ask a leader if you sat down with them? Or what piece of leadership advice would you offer to a young leader?

What You Can Do To Be Productive On A Snow Day

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We had a snow day this week. As I type this, actually two snow days. Who knows if there will be more?

If you’re wired like me, a snow day can be very disruptive to what you hoped would be a productive week. My weeks are full and if I don’t go into the office on a day I had planned to be in the office, everything I had planned on that day backs up to a future day. I feel so trapped and unproductive.

I’m not sure it has to be that way. I’ve discovered if I can give a few hours to work on a snowy day at home I will feel incredibly productive, and keep from feeling miserably behind when I can get back to work.

Here are some ideas to be productive on a snow day:

Special projects. What is a new project you’ve wanted to think about and haven’t had time? Spend some time putting a strategic plan together for implementation.

Life planning. Work on your life plan. Here’s my easy version. (There are better ones.)

Encouragement. Say a prayer — ask God to lay some names on your heart — send an encouraging note or email to them. Spend some time crafting a life-giving note.

Read. Find a challenging and instructive book. Take notes as you read.

Get ahead. Work on routine projects that you know you’ll eventually have to do. It’s a great time to catch up on the routine so you can be more effective on return.

Maintain. Keep up as much as possible. The computer makes us so much more connected. One good smart phone almost brings our office home. Returning emails and phone calls when possible help you go back to the office with less stress and feeling more on top of things.

Relax. Have some fun. Rest. Prepare for a more productive day in the future. Even build a snowman. (That’s the hardest one for some of us.)

What ideas do you have?

And, if you’re wired opposite of me — enjoy the couch — or whatever it is you do. No pressure from me.

4 Reasons Every Pastor Needs a Good Pastor Friend

men sitting on sofa at home and talking

Every pastor needs at least one good pastor friend.

I’m thankful to serve and have served in churches with a good number of staff members I consider not only co-laborers, but friends. It’s a blessing to do ministry with people you actually enjoy being with each week. But, I also have several good friends who are pastors in other churches. And, it’s like gold in my pocket for me.

Just like only a police officer can fully understand the work of another police officer; or only a nurse can fully understand the work of another nurse — only a pastor can fully understand the work of another pastor.

That’s not to say a pastor shouldn’t have friends who aren’t pastors. Absolutely. I have many.

But, every pastor needs at least one pastor friend.

A part of my online presence affords me the tremendous opportunity to interact with dozens of pastors every month. One thing I’ve observed in recent years is that many of the pastors I encounter aren’t really looking for advice on how to lead a church. They are looking for a friend.

Sadly, many pastors don’t have any friends — not the kind who know them well enough to speak into their life. Perhaps even sadder is that some don’t seem to want one until they really need one.

And, I don’t know all the reasons pastors avoid close friendships. (I know some and maybe that’s the subject of another post.) But, so many pastors — in large churches and small churches — feel isolated in ministry.

I know some large church pastors who don’t even socialize or know their church staff. I know some smaller church pastors who don’t have anyone else serving with them during the week and haven’t made friendships with other pastors.

It simply isn’t healthy. And, it’s probably not sustainable. Isolation almost always leads to something undesirable, whether ineffectiveness or total destruction.

Here are 7 reasons every pastor needs a good pastor friend:

Accountability – Here’s the fact. Many pastors could hide if we wanted. We have flexible schedules. And, that’s just one example of where we need accountability. We need people in our life — who know our life and the demands of ministry — and can hold us accountable to our calling and work and speak into the deepest places of our life and work. The pastor is usually not absent of people who can offer criticism, but every pastor needs a friend who can correct them in a healthy way when needed. “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Protection – I did some professional counseling for a few years. (I wasn’t very good at it.) But, one helpful thing in counseling was the ability to glean from one another in, for example, potentially perceived ethical situations. Pastors encounter issues routinely that don’t need to be handled alone. (The push back of my zealot friends will be that we have prayer — Holy Spirit guidance. And, I say true, but even Jesus asked the disciples to pray with Him.) “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Companionship – Shall I quote the same verse again? “Two are better than one.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Let me be clear that my wife is my closest companion. She should be. But, I need pastor friends who can just be my friend. They understand the uniqueness of my role. They laugh at the same things I laugh at — and some days all you can do is laugh, right? They understand the unique burden of being a pastor. And, on days when I simply don’t feel like being anyone’s pastor — they understand that too and are not offended by me saying it. I’m not trying to be cute with words — but I need a buddy in ministry. (And, I’m thankful I have several.)

Iron sharpening. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Biblical insight. Idea critiques. Brainstorming. Best practice sharing. Those and so many more. We can learn best from those who are attempting to do what we are attempting to do.

Pastor, you need a pastor friend. And, as much as I love connecting via Internet, certainly I am limited in my ability to “friend” everyone I encounter. You need one, two or three friends who you can get in a car or jump on a plane and actually spend some time with frequently.

And, to find one, for many pastors, it will take an intentional effort. It won’t happen just because you want it to happen. To make a friend you’ll have to be a friend. Take some positive steps. Ask a pastor to join you with coffee. Go through several pastors if you have to until you find the right one.

And, certainly, here’s a great place for prayer, ask God to guide you, help you discern, and give you the encouragement to seek out a friendship with another pastor.

I’m pulling from you.

9 Things You May Not Know About Introverts

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I’ve been an introvert all of my life. I was born that way — or at least I’ve been that way as far as my memory carries me. As a child, I remember at social gatherings people asking me if there was something wrong with me. Because to some people it’s “wrong” to not be talkative. I had to force myself to engage others all through high school. And, I wasn’t a recluse. I was elected student body president of my high school.

And, if you’re really an introvert. I just said some things you understand.

The major problem with introversion — which, by the way, is not a disease — and not a problem — is the misunderstanding of it. People act like it’s a personality flaw. But, it’s nothing like that. Introversion is a preference in how we respond to life. Nothing more. It’s a wiring. But, there’s no flaw in the wiring.

So, I’ve attempted to change the misunderstanding to understanding. Helping you understand introverts.

That’s the point of this post.

Here are 9 things you may not know about introverts:

We can be very social. You should see me on Sunday. We can even be the life of the party if we choose to be.

We have humor. We may even be very funny. It might be a dry wit. You may have to “wait for it” — and pay careful attention. We usually have time to think about it before we project our humor on the world. And, when we do be prepared to laugh. Laugh hard.

We love people. Seriously. We do. Deeply. Just because you may talk more than us doesn’t mean we don’t love as much as you do. Introverts are often very loyal to the ones we love. Just like extroverts may be.

We are unique. We are unique from other introverts. We aren’t all alike. And, we are somewhat offended with a stereotype. (Just as any other stereotyped person is.) Introverts have a realm of introversion. Some appear more extroverted than others. Some more introverted.

We aren’t afraid of people. We usually don’t need you to speak on our behalf to remove our fears. Fear is not the reason we are introverted. It’s a personality.

We don’t need help formulating thoughts. I realize it seems at times that we don’t know what to say — but usually it’s because we are processing, taking our time, or simply don’t want to interrupt everyone else who seems to be talking incessantly. Believe me — thinking is not a problem for most introverts. We do it quite well.

We don’t always want to be left alone. Yes, we may like our time alone – or at least our quiet time — but we don’t have to be alone. Personally, I don’t enjoy life as much when Cheryl isn’t around. Even if we aren’t talking non-stop, I like her in my company.

We can have fun. Some extroverts think we can’t. Because to them more fun is more conversation. But, we can have fun. Lots of it. And, there doesn’t have to be constant noise to do that. And, sometimes there does. And, my definition of fun may not be yours. And, that’s okay. But, let’s hang sometime and I’ll show you how it’s done my way!

We aren’t weird. Well, maybe. But, it’s not because we are introverts. Something tells me at least one of my readers of this post will be weird. (I’ve got some weird tendencies — I guess we all do.) You may or my not be introverted.

So,there are a few things you may not know about introverts. Anything else you could share?

8 Questions about Church Revitalization

Historic Church

I recently was interviewed by someone who is considering church revitalization for his next ministry assignment. My answers are not formalized — it was a casual conversation — but I figured someone else might have the same questions.

There were 8 questions — I was sure there would be 7 — but 8 was the number. :)

And, that’s just a little humor to get us started in the discussion of church revitalization. After experience in church planting and church revitalization, let me say neither should be attempted without some ability to laugh — at times — other than pray of course –that’s all you can do. And, so here’s another smiley face to brighten your day. :)

8 questions about church revitalization:

1. What motivated you to move into revitalization vs church planting?

It’s a calling. I wouldn’t attempt church planting or church revitalization — or any ministry for that matter — without a clear one. But, the need is huge. We have more Kingdom dollars invested in non-productive, non-growing churches than in church plants. Obviously we need lots of church plants, but we also need to revive some of the older churches.

2. What questions did you specifically ask your current church before taking the position?

Here’s the bottom line: There’s not a question that will answer everything you want to know. You’ll have to take a risk. Just like in church planting and you don’t know if anyone will show up. In church revitalization, you’re going to find things out when you get there.

You are dealing with a very complex structure. The older the church the more complex. The search committee can tell you lots of things — all that they believe to be true — and still some of it won’t be true. It won’t be that they misled you, but that the culture hadn’t been fully tested until you arrived and tried to change some things that haven’t been tried previously. That’s part of the process.

But, a key I wanted to understand the best I could was my freedom to lead. Obviously, Jesus is the leader, but did they want to rely on my leadership as I yielded to God’s leadership? Was the church ready? Could I hire my staff — and release staff if needed? How are decisions made? I looked at the budget and bylaws and every policy I could find. (And, they found more after I arrived — but the policies you won’t know are the unwritten ones.)

3. If you could change anything about your transition into your current role as Senior Pastor of a historically established church what would it be and why?

I would have asked for some of the harder decisions to have already been done. Specifically dealing with structure and staffing.

4. How did you prepare your family for your role change?

It was just my wife and me. That’s a huge difference, but I read everything I could about the church. I asked lots of questions. I interviewed the staff. I asked for list of key leaders and interviewed them. Then I shared everything I was learning with my wife. We were very open and transparent throughout the process.

But, it’s important to know that while my wife is faster to move by faith — she has the gift of faith — she’s slower to let her heart change. She can know it’s what we are supposed to do, but her heart stays longer where we once lived. She hangs on to the past harder than I do. Navigating through that and giving her time to acclimate was huge.

5. What are the biggest mistakes to avoid in your first year as the Senior Pastor in an existing church that needs the work of revitalization?

Moving too fast to change major things.
Not bringing people along and establishing trust.
Not celebrating the past.
Standing still too long. (People need some quick wins.)

6. What leadership areas did you focus on first once you arrived in your new role?

Primarily staff structure, strategy verbiage, website, communication and vision-casting.

We also had 7 key initiatives: Prayer, Stewardship, Intergenerational ministry, College, Discipleship, First Impressions and Missions.

7. What books or resources would you recommend for a Senior Pastor who is moving into the work of revitalizing a local church?

For my people who can’t assume the unmentioned, let me say the Bible. Of course. And, honestly, that’s huge. People want and need sound, clear, Biblical teachings. That will revive a church.

Here are a few books I found helpful. And, there are probably many others.

Switch – Chip and Dan Heath
Steering through Chaos – Scott Wilson
Change Your Church for Good – Brad Powell

8. What one thing would you want to tell me about the work of revitalizing the local church that I have not already asked?

Be ready to embrace conflict, love people and love the vision of a healthy church. Each love will be tested.

What questions do you have? Any of these I should expand upon?

7 Reasons I Hate Email Criticism and Encourage You Not to Use It

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I have grown to hate email criticism.

Is hate too strong a word?

I don’t think so.

I hate email criticism.

I was talking to a young and new leader recently  he had received a scathing email from someone  it was one of his first. And it was a doozy. Hard hitting. No grace. No value recognized for anything the leader has accomplished. Just the blasting.

Please understand, I’m not opposed to criticism. And, I think critical thinking is NOT always criticism. I’ve posted about it before and talked about how we as leaders should process criticism.

I even read — and actually consider — anonymous criticism. I always feel there’s a reason someone remains anonymous. Granted, most of the time it’s because the person is a coward. (Did I just say that?) But, sometimes there are valid reasons for anonymity.

So, I’m not anti criticism.

I am, however, anti email criticism. Or, at least how I often see it being used these days.

Enough so that I use the word hate. (Sorry to those who “hate” that word.)

Here are 7 reasons I hate email criticism:

It’s impossible to communicate emotion properly. Criticism always has an emotion attached. Always. And, it can be so easily misconstrued what that emotion actually is when it’s written and not verbal. It can sting more than it should. It can emphasize — or de-emphasize more than it’s intended. Facial expression is ignored. It’s impossible to correctly display emotion in written form. I hate that.

It’s too easy to fire back a response. With little thought, the send button is too easy to find. Before a person thinks. Before they have time to pray. Before anyone can strategically plan out their response, email is too easily at a critics disposal.

It leaves people hanging in suspicion. Ever get an email criticism, you email them back a response, and then you wait? And, you wait. And, you wait. You may have answered their concern, they are fully satisfied, but you are still wondering if your email was even received. You don’t know. It creates fear and suspicion and it’s unfair. I hate that.

It’s easy to hide. Take a slam, hit the send button and run. It’s really that easy. A critic doesn’t even have to sign their name. A computer screen makes for one of the easiest hiding places on earth.

It’s never completely private. It’s too easy to forward an email. Or, the famous blind copy email. Ever the recipient of one of those? Email starts a paper trail for something where usually no trail is needed. It never goes away and can be brought back months and years later and be used against someone. That’s very non-grace-giving.

It invites misunderstanding. Email removes the person being able to sit and ask questions. Can you tell me what you meant by that statement? Impossible with email. So, what I hear you saying is… That’s one of the best tricks of a good listener. Impossible with email. Email easily pours and stirs muddy water.

It makes minor issues major issues. The issue may be small, but the fact that someone took the time to place it in writing often elevates it in a leader’s mind. Granted, that may be what the critic wants, but is that even fair? If we aren’t careful, emailed issues may become weightier than the attention they deserve. I’ve even know email bullies out there who use email to unfairly elevate their own personal agenda. I hate when that happens.

Those are just a few reasons.

But, here is my advice. If it’s going to cause suspicion — if it’s likely to be misunderstood — if people are involved in the criticism (which is pretty common in my experience), before you send the email think critically. Ask yourself if email really is the right method to offer the criticism.

If we all work together we may actually have better, healthier, and more helpful criticism.

(Now, please understand, there are times when email is the only way you can reach someone. I get that. But, maybe if that’s the case you should read THIS POST.)

Join Me at the World Leaders Conference

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I have been invited to blog at the World Leaders Conference next month and I am pumped for the opportunity.

Join me! 

This is unlike any other conference I have been a part of in the past. This conference attracts church leaders and business leaders — alike. And, it’s all about servant leadership. What a wonderful concept to combine the church with the business world for this powerful Biblical principle!

Here’s a brief description from the website:

Designed to provide participants with a uniquely personal experience in an intimate setting, the World LEADERS Conference (WLC) brings together top executives in business and ministry with prominent leadership experts from around the world. The two-day conference provides opportunities for interacting and networking with other business and church leaders, and focuses on the critical issues and trends that are shaping business and the church today.

The speaker list is incredible. The location — wow!  Best of all, the Kingdom-building opportunities are off the charts! I have heard some incredible behind-the-scene stories of transformations that have occurred as  a direct result of this conference.

Join me in Florida next month! I look forward to meeting you.

BONUS: If you’d like a 20% discount, use this code: wlcadvocate

7 Suggestions to Encourage Innovation on a Team

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Most leaders want to lead an innovative organization. We don’t necessarily have to be the first to do something new, but we don’t want to be years behind either. As conservative as we might be — as long as we remain true to our core values — we still want to be “cutting edge” to some degree. We certainly don’t want to be stuck in the last decade.

But, here’s the problem.

As leaders, we can’t force innovation. We can’t mandate innovative people. And, if our people haven’t been innovative in a while, then there may not be much innovation going on in our world.

Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person. Great innovation comes from the gut. You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

There are things leaders can do, however, to encourage team members to be more innovative.

Here are a 7 ideas to encourage innovation:

Get away from the office as a team. There is something about a change in surroundings that encourages a change in thought. Take a trip to another church — or if nothing else — around the city. Creative thoughts are fueled better outside your normal routine and environment. It’s a large investment, but we annually take our staff to visit with another church staff in a nearby city — far enough where must spend the night. Something huge comes from every time we do this.

Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions. Ask questions such as, “What are we doing well?” “Where could we improve?” “What should we stop doing?” Bring someone in to guide this discussion if needed. Be sure to welcome diversity of thought. And, people know if they’re not welcome by the way you respond when they are shared.

Reward new ideas. If you recognize new thoughts and celebrate the success of innovation, people will want to be a part of it more. Make it a part of the DNA to elevate the value of innovation. Encourage thinking time. Don’t be afraid of “unproductive time” just to think. Teach the staff to discipline themselves to dream and plan. Make sure to build time to dream into your schedule as a leader. It helps if people know you do this — and if you actually share new ideas periodically — even often.

Have times together as a team that are simply fun. Something magical happens when you get people who work together out of their work zone and into their fun zone. They often still talk work — it’s what they share in common — but they share work in a more innovative and productive way. And, really in a more honest way. Take a day and go bowling. A college near us has a ropes course that we did together.

Remove obstacles to innovative thought. There are always communication barriers between team members and senior leadership. Discovering and eliminating them could be an innovation waterfall. One way is to get in the room, have a problem to be solved, and not always have the answers. In fact, have few answers. Let the answers emerge. Innovation will start to happen.

Invite new people to the table. It could be people on the team or people in the community, but new people equals new ideas. We’ve often brought staff spouses to the table to fuel our thoughts. And, it could be through a book you read together as a team. Discuss the author’s perspectives.

Set innovation timeline goals. If you want to eventually build a new website, for example, put a date on the calendar for when it MUST be completed. It’s amazing how creative we often become under deadline.

What are some ideas you have to encourage innovation?