7 Ways a Leader Can Invite Constructive Feedback

Portrait of an attractive young man talking about himself during a job interview

I remember an especially hard year as a leader. It was so bad several members of our staff had told me where I was letting them down. So much for having an “open door policy”. The next year I closed the door. 🙂

Not really, but this was a year where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear – I can be an idiot at times. There were significant areas where I needed to improve. Thankfully I haven’t had many of those years, but I’m glad now I had the ones I have. 

There is room for improvement with any leader and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

I realize some would question me for allowing such correction, but most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserved it. Plus, anytime an associate is brave enough to rebuke an employer, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything.
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care.
  • Feels welcome to do so.

In my opinion, good leaders work to live within the third option. I hope this was the case in my situation.

I should say – because I know some are thinking – criticism comes easily to leaders. Do anything at all in leadership and someone will have a problem with it – and they won’t always be kind in how they voice their complaint. But, I’m not talking about this type criticism. I am referring to constructive feedback from people I care about and who respect me. We all need that at times.

Here are 7 ways I welcome correction from the people I lead:

An open door.

This is more than keeping the door to my office open. I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. The person who keeps my calendar always knows people on staff get in first if something needs to be scheduled. And, if I’m in the office, my door is “open” – they can walk in anytime. In addition, my team knows I consider responsiveness to be of the highest value.

Include others in decision making.

If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made. In fact, I seldom make decisions alone.

Ask for it.

Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. I ask lots of questions. I solicit opinions on almost every major decision I make. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. And, the more you ask, the more freedom people feel in sharing.

Admit mistakes.

It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault. People feel more comfortable approaching a leader who doesn’t feel they are always right.

Take personal responsibility.

In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner. When they are criticized I own the criticism with them. I have their back. (By the way – this is only learned by experience.)

Model it.

It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it. If I chooser retribution, I’ve shut further feedback off before it comes.

Trade it.

The best way to get your team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with your team where there is mutual constructive feedback. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

I should also say all these are still not enough. Constructive criticism from people who care about you and want your best – especially from people you lead – only develops over time as trust is developed. They have to trust you and you have to trust them. 

Receiving correction – or constructive feedback – is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, when a leader is open to correction from his or her team, the team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction? Is your leader open to correction?

7 Core Disciplines Needed for a Spiritual Leader

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A spiritual leader, in my opinion, is called to lead well.

All leaders should lead well, but when one claims to be a follower of Christ their leadership reflects on his or her walk with Christ.

I have learned personally that leading well requires discipline. It doesn’t happen naturally.

Here are 7 disciplines needed for a spiritual leader:

Dreaming

You will never dream bigger than God. Imagine 1 Corinthians 2:9, as it relates to dreaming. (“No eye has seen no ear has heard”). It’s almost a challenge to plan bigger than God has in mind. God gave the creative mind to be used. Spiritual leaders must dream huge!

Praying

Oh, the neglected discipline of prayer! I’ve never met a spiritual leader who felt they prayed enough. Ask yourself, “What isn’t moving forward simply because I haven’t prayed?” The prayer of the righteous accomplishes much! (James 4:2-3, James 5:16)

Working

A Christian leader should be a diligent worker. God honors hard work. Spiritual leadership is not only a Sunday event. There is no excuse for laziness when Kingdom work is at stake. (Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 21:5, Matthew 25:14-30)

Waiting

Waiting is a part of walking with God – a part of the faith journey. God does not give us every answer, nor commit to us the immediate outcome. He commands us to go sometimes before He tells us where. As followers of Christ, we must learn the fruit of patience and be willing to wait for God to move. (Isaiah 40:31, Hebrews 6:15, Psalm 25:21)

Listening

The Spiritual leader must learn to discern the voice of God and listen carefully for instruction. (John 10:27) Additionally, because the body is made of different people, spiritual leaders must be willing to listen to others – even when they have a differing opinion.

Studying

A spiritual leader, who desires to be like and lead like Christ, must discipline to be a student of God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15) Moses said “these words are your life.”

Teaching

Investing in others – the ultimate call of the Christian’s life. Following the example of Jesus, delegation is not an option for the spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders must always be kingdom-minded and disciple other Christ-followers and leaders.

Be honest, which of these do you most need to improve upon as a spiritual leader?

7 Words of Encouragement for Leaders Who Tend to Worry

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The title is confusing, isn’t it? It assumes some leaders worry and some don’t. The truth is, however, most leaders will have occasions of worry. Worry is an emotion – and, often far more powerful than principles of leadership are the emotions of leadership.

I’ve talked to some who say at least one day a week they are consumed with anxiety and fear. It’s the kind of frustration which, left unchecked, makes them almost want to quit. I talked to a pastor recently who is struggling with stomach problems (I won’t get more graphic than that), because of the worry he is dealing with as a leader.

The fact that you worry shows you are normal, human, and conscientious as a leader. You want to be successful and the natural reaction is to worry when you feel you may not be.

But, emotions play tricks on us. They’re fickle. They’re unreliable. Our desire to do well, causes our emotions to produce worry. And, constant worry can destroy a good leader, because it will control how the leader responds to others.

Obviously, Jesus said, “Do not worry!” We know this truth. We believe it. We want to live it. So, what’s the practical side of Jesus’ command in leadership and how do we actually live out the command?

And, here’s something you need to know – or may need reminding – Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions – worry – won’t play tricks on you at times.

All of us worry, but how you respond when you worry seems to control you as a leader?

Here are 7 words encouragements for leaders who worry in leadership:

Pray and study.

You knew I’d say this, didn’t you? Worry is, by definition, a misplaced trust. Ultimately your answer is in God’s ability and His control, not your own. If worry is consistently plaguing your leadership, improving your relationship with Christ through Bible study and prayer is step one.

Remember your purpose.

You have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. When worry hits you, you need grounding to something more permanent than your worries. You have a purpose. You believe in a vision. You have goals. You need to remember what fuels your fire and why you are willing to take the risk of leadership. If worry has gotten to the place where you’re not sure of your purpose anymore, stop everything and find it again. You can’t afford not to.

Contact an encouraging friend.

I always find other leaders can speak truth into my life just when I need it most. God uses relationships to strengthen us and make us better. I have to be bold enough to text a friend and say, “I could use some encouragement”, but I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve been that bold. If you don’t have someone like this in your life that’s your assignment. The goal is to find the person and build the relationship before you need them.

Review your track record.

Most likely you’ve had success which led to the position you have now. You can do it again. One reason I keep an encouragement file is so I can read through the positive things I’ve done on days when nothing seems positive.

Count your blessings.

And, name them one by one. There are always others who would love to have what you have. Someone is always worse off than you are. Most likely, even outside the position you have as a leader, God has blessed your life. Spend some time remembering the good God has allowed you to experience. The list is probably longer than you think and will help you avoid worry as you recall what God has already given you.

Get some rest – and hydrate.

Worry is more present when you are tired. And, I’ve learned we are often dehydrated and it makes an impact on us physically and emotionally. You may have to quit for the day so you can prepare for better days. The depth of the worry should determine the length of the period of rest. I’ve also learned part of being fully “rested” also includes making sure you are as healthy as you can be by eating the right foods and exercising, especially during the busiest seasons of life.

Rationalize.

People who most need to rationalize hate this one, but most of the things we worry about never come true. Is your worry based on reality or based on your emotional assumptions? Dismiss the things you can’t control, aren’t certain will go wrong, or the unknown. The more you limit irrational thoughts, the less for which you’ll have to worry.

How do you battle the moments of worry as a leader?

5 Ways for a Christian to Rebuke or Correct a Friend

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A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Wounds from a friend can be trusted… Proverbs 27:6

rebuke |riˈbyoōk|verb express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.

Years ago in high school, I had a friend tell me I was hanging out with the wrong people. It was hard to hear, but I listened to the advice and switched my sphere of influence. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, considering the different path my life took and the life of my former friends.

That’s only one example. Thankfully there have been many other times a friend loved me enough to help me see the mistakes I was making. Usually I knew, but the rebuke challenged me to alter my ways. I’ve had to “return the favor” many times.

There are times when you have to rebuke a friend in order to be a true friend. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell another what he or she is doing wrong. You may be the only one who cares enough to point out what everyone else sees, but refuses to address.

If you choose to accept the assignment of rebuking or correcting a friend, you should be sure you are accurate in your assessment – as much as you can be without a conversation, you should pray through the proper timing of your approach, and you should address the person and not others to keep from spreading gossip. And, this should go without saying, but you should make sure they are actually a friend. If the relationship isn’t a close one – you may not be the right person to approach them. 

I’ve titled this post ways for a “Christian” to rebuke a friend. I believe these could apply to believers or non-believers. But, I did so because part of being in the family of God comes with certain expectations, such as love and forgiveness – which we are to extend to all our friends – whether or not they share our faith. 

When the time comes, here are 5 ways to rebuke or correct a friend:

Be purposeful.

A rebuke should not be vindictive in nature or driven by jealousy or selfish interests. The betterment of your friend should be your sole objective. If this is not the case, you may only be acting from your emotions – and things will not go well. You will likely not be received well by your friend. Check your motive first. This is where prayer beforehand comes in handy. 

Be loving.

As we should do with everything, correction of any kind should come in the context of a loving relationship. In fact, one standard might be to not rebuke people you don’t love. If done correctly a rebuke is a part of love. (If you don’t know how, THIS POST was written for a different purpose, but may offer some suggestions.) Part of maturing as a person is learning how to say hard things and still be kind doing so. 

Be truthful.

Don’t dance around or use subtleties when addressing the issue. State the problem as you see it. Keep in mind you may be wrong on some of your assumptions, so be prepared to listen as much as talk, but don’t leave them guessing what you mean either. 

Be helpful.

In addition to pointing out the problems you see, a loving response comes with some offers for resolution and a willingness to walk through any necessary recovery with the friend. Help them process where they are in life. Recommit your friendship to them. Follow up with them afterwards to make sure they know you care. 

Be redemptive.

Be willing to extend grace and forgive the friend for any wrong they have done – towards you, others, or themselves. Make sure he or she knows you are still in their corner. Don’t offer a rebuke or correct someone if you aren’t also willing to forgive or if you don’t ultimately want the best for them – regardless of how they respond.

Do you have a friend you can count on to rebuke or correct you if needed?

10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve as a Leader

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Most leaders want to improve. I hear from leaders weekly who want to get better in their role. They want to improve so the organization they lead can improve.

As much as leaders desire improvement, many leaders wonder where they should go to grow.

Here are 10 things you can do today to improve as leader:

Read the Bible

I know you’d expect this from a pastor, but seriously, this is not a clever attempt to get you to read your Bible. (Although, you should, you know.) The Bible is a tremendous resource for leadership development. Jesus is the Master Leader. And there are plenty of other examples of men and women who, unlike Jesus, were sinful people like you and me. Of course, for me it’s THE source of my foundation, but even if you aren’t a follower of Christ you can learn from the leaders in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the flaws within every leader either, so you can learn from people who recover from failure.

Read a leadership book

There are many good leadership books to choose from, but if you aren’t sure where to start, choose a John Maxwell book. Or a Patrick Leoncini book. Or a Chip and Dan Heath book. Any of them. Safe choice every time. You might read THIS POST for some specific books I recommend. I wrote this post several years ago and there are many I would add to the list now. The key is to read. Leaders are readers. One frequent question I ask successful leaders is, “what are you currently reading?” It just takes one fresh idea to launch you into something golden.

Find a mentor

The best mentors in my life have been people I admire whom I have invited to speak into my life. This has included pastors, business leaders and politicians. I look for character first and then competency in an area in which I want to grow personally. (And, yes, there are politicians who qualify.)

Go to lunch with fellow leaders

I usually have 2 or 3 different groups of leaders I meet with periodically. These are peers. They are at similar places in their career of leadership. Some pastors. Some not. We learn from each other. And, often I have to be the one to take the initiative first. I’m game for it, because I know the value.

Join a civic club

I am not in one, but have attended and spoken to them many times. It’s a great option to put you with other leaders in the community. I have, however, always been active in the community. Most communities have formal leadership programs, often through the chamber of commerce. Ask around. There are leadership principles nearby if we are intentional to seek them.

Ask for input from those you lead

I promise the people you are trying to lead have suggestions. They won’t often share them unless they are given permission. You have to be bold – and humble – enough to ask.

Analyze current conditions

Few leaders stop to see where they are currently. What’s working? What’s not? What needs tweaking? What needs killing? The best leaders don’t have all the answers, but they have great questions. You usually won’t know the answer to the question you don’t ask.

Reflect on past mistakes

The best teacher is experience. Most likely you’ve had situations in the past God can use to prepare you for what you are currently facing. Or you’ve watched others make mistakes. Take time to reflect and learn. I keep a record of mistakes I’ve made. I blog about many of them.

Write some goals

It amazes me when I hear leaders who don’t have written goals and objectives they are currently trying to achieve. Writing something puts it in your schema. You are more likely to have the goals at the front of your mind. When this happens you’ll be a walking sponge of new ideas to accomplish them. You will learn as you go because you are living with your current objectives closer to your mind. I keep an Evernote file so as ideas hit me I can quickly record them.

Subscribe to a few leadership blogs

People are talking leadership these days. Have you noticed? Participate. Listen. Contribute to the discussion. You’ll learn along the way.

Growing as a leader isn’t difficult. It does require an intentional effort on your part.

What are some ideas you have to improve as a leader…today?

7 Casualties of Being a People Pleaser in Leadership

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Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions.

Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others.

At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. We all like to be liked. This leads many leaders, however, into becoming victims of people-pleasing. When pleasing people becomes a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinions of others than by vision.

Every pastor and leader I know agrees people-pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. This is obviously dangerous. Hopefully, I don’t have to build the case here.

But what are the casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties? How does it ultimately play out among people in the church or organization we are attempting to lead? Knowing these answers may help us be more determined not to allow people-pleasing to be our motivation in leadership.

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied.

When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is no one on the team finds fulfillment in their work. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win – no one really does.

Tension mounts among the team.

People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.

Disloyalty is rampant.

One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. The people-pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said. Consequently, people don’t trust a people-pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular.

Burnout is common.

I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.

Frustration abounds.

People-pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions. Frustrating.

Mediocrity reigns.

Second best under a people-pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone, the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)

Visions stall.

Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. This involves change. Always. And, change is hard. Always. People don’t like change. People-pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?

Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?

What results did you see?

7 Ways to Help the Introverts on Your Team Better Engage in Meetings

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I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how. I try to remind them other people are different from me, even other introverts.

Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me authority, I’ll lead the meeting. No problem. That would never be comfortable for some introverts.

So, my best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would not be to consider the introverts, but to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins. If it’s “your” team this is done over time – getting to know the team. If the meeting involves people you don’t know or know well, it’s more difficult, but good leaders learn to study people – things such as the way they respond before the meeting, when they are introducing themselves, or their posture during the meeting.

But, I do understand the introvert question. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion – or it’s a meeting full of extreme extroverts.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Again, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics.

And, by the way, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond

This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to share some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions – ahead of time

Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing

When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot

If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted

If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. Then, prepare to be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control

Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert. Before you have the meeting, if they are willing, give introverts an assignment where they are responsible for sharing.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas

Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

7 Of My Biggest Frustrations as a Leader

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Spmeone once asked me what my “biggest frustration” is as a leader. As I thought about it, I had to be honest – I have lots. That may point to another area of struggle for me personally – and a character flaw – I’m seldom satisfied with me or where we are as a team. In many ways, I am still learning the secret of being content, but I like continual improvement and think there is usually room to get better in all areas of our life. I think it is true in leadership too.

But, the question was my “biggest frustration”, so I opened an Evernote file, titled it “Biggest Frustrations” (since I knew I had more than one) and decided to record some of my actual frustrations over the next few weeks, as they actually occurred. Some of these are mine from observing people directly and some are from the stories my readers share with me each day. When I reached seven, based on my obvious past love of the number seven, I figured it was time to share my findings.

Here are 7 of my biggest frustrations as a leader:

Pettiness

It bothers me in leadership to argue about things which really, in the large scheme of things, just don’t matter. Arguing about things like personal preferences or different ways of acccomplishing the same agreed upon vision only takes time from getting actual work done. I can almost always find issues of bigger significance. 

Selfishness

I get frustrated when people have to have things “their way”. It destroys any hope of a healthy team when people are only thinking of their personal wishes. (Doesn’t sound very Biblical to me either.)

Rudeness

The way you talk to someone always determines the way they respond. To me, there is no place for disrespect in an organization or on a team or in any relationship, for that matter. This should be especially true in churches. And, it applies to how we respond to the world on social media also. Even when we don’t agree with one another, we can address one another in kindness. (Remember, kindness is a fruit of the spirit.)

Narrow-mindedness

When someone can’t think beyond the way it’s always been done, it limits the organization from achieving all it could achieve. There are issues – Biblical, foundational, value-driven issues – where narrow-mindedness is a positive. But, in the mode of operation of the way we get things done, or how we accomplish our God-given vision, I think change is not only good – it’s vital for continued growth.

Stubbornness

Equally frustrating is when people are unwilling to embrace change – simply because they are being stubborn. It wasn’t their idea, or it threatens their power, or they just don’t want to be uncomfortable – so they lock their arms and refuse to participate. When a person ignores what’s best for the good of everyone, and it’s not a Biblical issue, their stubbornness only hurts the organization (and frustrates the leader.)

Unforgiveness

When someone has been injured they have a choice. They can choose to hold a grudge or they can choose to forgive. Holding a grudge keeps the injury alive. Forgiving opens the door for healing. (Doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.)

Recklessness

It is frustrating to observe people who seemingly have no regard for other people. They make decisions without the consideration of others. They say things without thinking how they hurt. They use their influence to disrupt an organization’s progress – rather than enhance it. They derail progress with a disregard for what’s best in favor of what’s personal to them. It’s frustrating.

There is my list. I feel better just sharing it with  you. I can now get on with my day towards more positive things. But, if I kept the Evernote file open, I might find some more, so I’ll close it for now. 

What are your biggest frustrations in leadership?

7 Benchmarks Towards Success in an Organization

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Great organizations don’t just appear. There is a method to the madness. I wonder sometimes, however, if we make it seem more difficult than it is to create success in an organization. While nothing worth doing well is ever easy, there are certain benchmarks we can aim for which seem to exist in successful organizations I’ve observed.

In the church where I lead, I would say we have experienced some “success” relative to our mission in the last few years. I think there is much room for continual improvement – we aren’t fully “there” yet – but we’ve made tremendous progress.

Looking back at some of our benchmarks, there are things I knew in the beginning we needed to achieve for us to gain traction, grow and improve in accomplishing what God has called us to do.

And, having led in business, government, and now ministry worlds – these appear to be shared attributes of achieving any level of success.

Here are 7 benchmarks towards success in an organization:

There is a clear vision and strategy. Everyone knows the objective we want to achieve in the end. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? It’s clearly and succinctly communicated in a memorable, easy to embrace way. Obviously, in my world, this vision comes from God’s leading, not man’s invention, but “without a vision the people perish”. Good organizations (and churches) do also.

There are clear goals in place. People are operating with reasonable, attainable, measurable and worthy goals. They have the resources in place to complete them. These are update regularly to meet the demands at the time and to encourage continual improvement.

A great team has been recruited. This is critical. You’ll spin your wheels and never have good traction otherwise. And, because someone was a good fit yesterday doesn’t mean they always will be. As organizations (and churches) change, so do the needs of people who sit on the team. People are always the greatest asset – and frankly – can be the greatest hindrance to achieving success. Continually asking who are the right players is critical to progress.

Tasks are divided equitably – I’ve learned this one the hard way. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old. It’s all I know. I was naive early in my leadership to believe everyone shared my work ethic. They don’t. Can you believe it? (For those wondering – I believe in working hard and playing hard. I strive to honor the Sabbath. Rest is important too.) But, if an organization is to succeed everyone must pull their weight. There can be no stragglers. And, there is much hard work to be done. Everyone goes through seasons where they aren’t as productive, but if someone lingers there for a career they injure everyone else – and the vision. (I’ve learned churches can be slow in making people changes everyone know needs to be made – and they do in the names of love and grace – but sometimes it’s called poor stewardship. )

Communication is fluent – This is a tough one, because as the organization grows people know less and less about everything. People only know what they know. Over time, people become specialists rather than generalists. Communication becomes more critical, but it never seems to be enough. There’s a danger of silos developing. The challenge for any successful organization is communicating throughout the organization.

There’s a resolve to endure. Wow, this is big! I never knew how big this one was until I was in a struggling company and discovered – the hard way – some of the people I thought were most dedicated weren’t. And, it hurt everyone. If an organization (or church) wants to be successful there must be a strong, committed core of people who are in it for the long-haul – regardless of the setbacks and disappointments, which will naturally come. (Side note to my church revitalizer friends – if you don’t have some of these people, I wouldn’t think of attempting to turn around the church.)

There’s a communal atmosphere. People need to have fun! There should be a joy in the journey. They need to know they are valued, a part of something bigger than today, and they can laugh, cry, and do life together as a family would. If people think it’s only about the money – or the numbers – or the progress – they will bore quickly and never really own or try to accomplish the vision. It will be a job – not a calling or a passion.

I’m not trying to be overly simplistic if your organization is struggling, because it’s much more complicated than this in practice, but look over the list again. Upon which of these attributes does your organization most need to improve?

Perhaps spending time on this area will bring you some progress.

What would you add to my list?

Balancing the Big Deals Within an Organization – A Senior Leader Challenge

balance

I’ll never forget the first time I found out a staff member was disappointed because he didn’t think I supported his ministry. I had said no to a budget item for his ministry, because we needed to do something in another ministry. I felt horrible. I knew personally I valued his ministry – and him – but my actions had led him to believe otherwise.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. First, I needed to communicate the “why” behind my decisions better. Second, there are some things we do as senior leaders others on the team can’t understand – and we shouldn’t expect them to.

As a leader, I have to consistently remind myself one person’s big deal may not be another person’s big deal.

Those in finance naturally believe their ministry is critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to finances above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in small group ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to small group ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in worship planning naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to worship planning above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in children’s ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to children’s ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

You get the point. 

Of course, the ultimate “big deal” is the vision of the organization. As a church, our big deal – our vision – is to “lead people to Jesus and nurture them in their faith“. While everyone on our team agrees with this vision, they are also rightfully passionate about – and actively involved in – their specific role in accomplishing the vision. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want them owning their individual ministry and doing everything they can to see it prosper. But, at times this specially focused passion for their role can cloud their ability to see the needs of other ministries.

Of course, all ministries have equal importance in accomplishing the vision – therefore, part of a leader’s job is balancing all the “big deals” towards one combined BIG DEAL – the shared vision. We can’t spend all our energy, time, and resources in one particular ministry, as important as it is to the success of the church.

Frankly, finding balance between these competing big deals has always been difficult for me, and at times one ministry does require greater attention than others. The key learning for me is I must continually recognize the individual contribution each ministry brings to our overall success, while always keeping the big picture in my mind of what we are trying to accomplish. I can’t allow one ministry to cloud my perspective of other ministries.

It’s a unique role of senior leaders others on the team may not always understand – or even appreciate. And, we shouldn’t expect them to.

Leaders, do you share this dilemma? How do you balance the big deals within your organization?