3 Ways to Develop as a Leader…Without a Budget

power meeting from above

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

His question. Who invests in him? He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church can’t afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

What should he do?

Here were 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group – There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 4-6 6 might be a better number. I would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. It will be mutual beneficial. I have such a group currently…and have had many times before. These groups are usually comprised of believers, but not professional ministers. I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices…not theology…in these groups.

Start a book club – Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective. The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person each session to guide discussion on what they learned from the book and open for discussion. With a large enough book…people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

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

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

What you’re looking for is people skills…how to handle conflict…how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things from hearing other leaders’ experiences.

What suggestions do you have?

The number one step in good delegation…

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…Trust the one to whom you delegate.

I hear from leaders continually who say they don’t delegate, because they don’t trust that the work will be done to their expectations. I get that. But, even if you don’t trust the people to whom you should be delegating…don’t avoid delegation. You’ll be very ineffective as a leader if you do that.

You just have some bigger work to do, so you can effectively delegate.

Your work first:

  • You’ll have to develop the people to whom you need to delegate.
  • You have to take a risk on people who haven’t been tested.
  • If the other two won’t work…and you’re fully convinced of that…you’ll have to get new people.

You simply can’t afford to lead without delegation. In fact, I’m not sure it’s leading if you’re doing all the work.

5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication

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In my career, I work with a lot of people in a lot of settings. You might say my job involves a lot of relationships. And, in the process, I have learned the key to healthy relationships is communication. Communication is an art of sorts. Some are better at it than others.

I have seen relationships destroyed because of poor communication. I know marriages that could improve if we improved the communication in the marriage. I’ve seen people avoid other people, because they know how the communication will go when they encounter them. I’ve known people who are short on quality relationships, and, honestly, many times it is because they never learned or don’t practice healthy communication.

So, sincerely, this post is intended to help. We are all guilty or some of these at times. This blogger/pastor included. So, this is a reminder to me also.

Here are 5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication:

Don’t always have a bigger story. This is the one I’ve been guilty of the most of these five. Someone is telling you their story and their experience reminds you of your experience. So, naturally, you interrupt their story, or don’t appear to be listening closely, because you want to share your story. But, remember, right now they are sharing “their” experience. It is important enough to them to share it with you. Don’t try to trump their story. It is rude and it shuts them down. Discipline yourself to wait for the right opportunity…and be okay if it doesn’t come…sometimes your only role is to listen.

Don’t talk more than you listen. This will address the person you’re thinking of in the first point that is always sharing their story. They never listen. They don’t give you a chance to share yours. If this is you…stop talking and listen. Ask questions. Show genuine concern. Be interested in what others have to say too. You’ll find people more interested in what you have to share when it’s your turn.

Don’t always be negative. All of us are negative at times. Life is hard and it impacts us. That’s partly what friendships are for…to share our burdens with one another. But every conversation and every comment we make shouldn’t be negative. That makes it difficult to build a sustainable, healthy relationship, because sometimes the other person needs you to be positive on the day they are especially negative.

Don’t consistently have the last word. Sure you’ve got one more word to share. We get that. You’ve already proven that point. But, sometime let them say the final word. It’s humbling for you. And, good. For you and them. And, the conversation. And, the relationship.

Don’t speak before you think. This is so important. Maybe the most important. It includes the saying, “If you can’t say something good…don’t say anything…or nothing if you want to be like Thumper…at all.” If we could catch our words before they exit our mouths, filter them through the power of love and grace, then release them, we could keep from injuring those with whom we are trying to communicate. And, relationships could thrive apart from the injury of inappropriate or awkward…often even mean-spirited words.

Okay, be honest, upon which of these do you need to improve? What others would you share? Remeber, I shared mine. Now your turn.

7 High Costs of Good Leadership

Cost increase concept.

Leadership is expensive. Costly. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of good leadership:

Personal agenda – Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control – What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity – Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular.

Comfort – If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear – Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness – I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns…this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcome – We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

I’ve identified 7 costs of leadership. Help me identify a few more.

What costs of leadership have you discovered?

How long do I spend editing a blog post?

typing laptop

On my recent post “How a blog post becomes reality…” I shared ways I’m able to blog almost daily and keep bringing new topics to the blog.

One of the comments asked a great question in blogging today.

Could you give insight into how long you spend editing a post on average? 

Probably not long enough.

  • I normally edit as I go,…
  • Do a quick edit after it’s written…
  • Then right before it goes out in the morning I read over it again (sometimes this is as I walk the dog)…
  • and then often the best “catch” edit is just after it’s gone live. (Wish that was different, but it’s true.)

That’s my total process.

I am not a great editor, because I naturally read for content more than detail, but my total editing time is fairly minimal. I have actually caught errors in a post that has been live for months…even more than a year…when someone brings an old post back to my attention.

Occasionally, if I think a post has special implications…will be popular or could be misinterpreted…I’ll have my wife edit before it goes live.

Bottom line for me. I’m not editing at the level some would expect me to be. A single post on average has less than 15 minutes editing on average.

One thing I have observed is that blogging seems to have played a part in changing the demand for editing. So has all online writing. The fast environment…the desire to get an idea to “print” seems to overrule the need for perfection.

I realize this is a real problem for some people who are especially close readers, but it appears to impact book publishing also. Again, I am not a close reader, yet even I have found typos in a few books I’ve read in the last few years. I found one in a newer Bible I received. I have seen typos in some of the better blogs I read. And, some of the better bloggers have found typos in my blog. I’ve had others tell me they’ve discovered the same in books. Certainly, to me, it seems the modern digital era…texting for example…has lowered the demand for good editing.

I’m not sure the right balance. Being perfectly edited or getting an idea expressed. For me, I want to be edited enough to not be obnoxious to the average reader. I don’t want to consistently make the same mistakes. I want to do some editing. But, I want my time mostly spent on writing…not editing.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Have you seen a decline in good editing? Does it bother you?  Is it more important to get an idea online or make sure what’s online is perfect first?

Weigh in and…feel free to edit this post.

3 Seemingly Non-Productive Activities that are Always Productive

Green extra mile sign

Here’s a secret about my life you may not know.

Some of the most productive activities in my life can seem non-productive.

When I consider the fullness of my calendar…as a busy pastor and leader, every moment counts. I live by a schedule and a mound of checklists.

But, I’ve learned there are some things, which may take time from other things, which make the other things even more productive…and life more meaningful.

Here are seemingly non productive activities that are always productive:

Quiet time – If I start my day quietly reflecting on something (really Someone) bigger than the world I’m about to face, I feel better prepared to meet that world. I’d love to say every morning is an earth-shattering, Jesus rock my world experience. It’s not. But, when I discipline myself to slow down before I hit a fast pace, the balance of my life seems in place.

Exercise – I know, by experience, that the way I feel physically impacts the way I feel emotionally and spiritually. I can’t imagine being able to separate one from another. I don’t always feel like exercising. Even though I love running, sometimes my body doesn’t want to cooperate, but when I do, I always…I mean always…have a more productive day. (Because of this, sometimes I exercise twice in one day.)

Nap – I know. Talk about unproductive. Imagine taking a break from a crowded calendar to sleep. One might even say I’m lazy. Actually, anyone who knows me would never say I was lazy. They’d more likely use phrases like workaholic or, at least, very productive. What they don’t know perhaps is that one secret to that is when I feel the afternoon blahs coming…no amount of caffeine seems to help. I’m not afraid to stop everything, close my eyes for 15 or 20 minutes, and recharge my batteries. It works wonders for a tired brain. I’m always ready to go at the calendar again after a quick shuteye.

So there. You have some of my secrets to being productive. These help me go the extra miles in life.

Do you have any secrets you would share with me?

12 Random Tweetable Leadership Principles

Here are 12 random leadership axioms in less than 140 characters each.

Some have been previous tweets.

  • Some people will only support you after it’s proven to be a success. They are the same people who will say I told you so if it doesn’t work.
  • Sometimes the strongest thing to do is to turn the other cheek. Sometimes it’s to stand your ground.
  • The applause we solicit are seldom genuine.
  • The best opportunities seldom come wrapped neatly in a package with a bow on top. They usually come with work. Get your hands dirty work.
  • The best leaders are often the ones smart enough to get out of the way of smarter people.
  • Part of leadership is the willingness to make hard decisions no one else on the team wants to make,
  • Sometimes a leader’s worst day is the organization’s best day.
  • The leader has a responsibility to do the right thing for the organization, regardless of whether it brings instant popularity.
  • Don’t stop doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is receiving more celebration. That party won’t last.
  • Some of a leader’s best work is not what the leader does but what he or she inspires others to do.
  • Without the right systems in place, the best visions will eventually suffer. Systematize what you want and need repeated.
  • The resistance to change comes more out of desire for personal comfort.

Feel free to tweet a few.

Do you have any to add to the list? Which of these should I expand into a future blog post?

Hiding in Arrogance…A sobering word to captains of sinking ships

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I’ve seen it many times.

The leader at the helm of a sinking ship.

It’s almost historically comical it it wasn’t such a serious issue. 

Everyone around the leader may know there is a problem, seemingly except the leader. And, yet, many times the leader knows…they know all too well…but arrogance…or dare I say stupidity…keeps the leader from admitting…and certainly not owning a problem. 

And the water keeps getting higher inside the boat. 

In fact, in my observation, one huge reason the ship goes under is because the captain wouldn’t admit to the sinking ship or didn’t know how to stop it, but never asked for help guiding the process. It takes humility to confess the boat is soon subject to evacuation. No leader wants to be that captain. 

Yet sinking ships do what sinking ships do. They keep sinking unless something is done to drastically curtail the flood of new water. 

By the way, I know all this this not by second hand observation. I’m not trying to be cruel with this post. If you’re that captain it hurts. It doesn’t feel good. It’s scary. 

But, I know it by experience. I know it by being the captain of a sinking ship. And, some of the best life and leadership lessons I learned were from that experience. (Read one thing I learned HERE.) And frankly, looking back, we evacuated too soon. I still believe we could have saved the ship. I wish I had known then some things I know now. 

But, if I had one thing to share from that time it would be this. Don’t pretend the problem isn’t real. Don’t act as if the ship isn’t sinking. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Listen to others. Signal for help now. Raise the flag of distress. 

I wouldn’t go public on social media that you’re ship is sinking. That’s not a good idea either. But, there are probably people who already know. They can help. Drop your pride and ask for it. 

Here’s a prayer on your behalf: 

Dear God, give us humility as leaders. And, as we make outselves awkwardly vulnerable, save the ship…and receive the honor! In Jesus Name. Amen.

How a blog post becomes reality…

Blog word.

People ask me frequently…How do you write so much? How do you blog almost everyday?

Well, I’ve addressed this before, but it takes discipline and intentionality, but it really is simple when you uncover the process. In fact, so simple you may be surprised…maybe even disappointed there isn’t a more complex formula.

Here’s how most blog posts become reality:

Idea hits me – I especially write about leadership…and that’s a large part of my life…so the canvas is large. Plus, I have the privilege of living life vicariously through others as I interact with their leadership situations. Everything has potential to be a blog post someday. Something I read…something I hear…something I encounter…something I do…can trigger a thought. It’s often a small idea at first, but it strikes me as something that could be developed. The key is I’m always looking.

Write it down – The important thing here is to record thoughts as they occur, before the moment is gone forever. We forget far more than we retain. That’s why its important that I always have something nearby on which to record ideas. It is why I use Evernote a lot. This post started there. (I am still trying to find the best way to record shower thoughts.) I then dwell on the idea for a while…let it resonate with me. Whenever I go by the small thought again, if another idea hits me about it, I add those ideas to the file. It’s important that I periodically review the files I’m saving. I can almost always find a potential post I’ve had around for a while. (Right now there are over 200 new ideas developing. Some will never see the light of day…some you may see later.)

Write it – This is bottom line. I have to take ideas, as small as they may seem, and develop them. It may be a day, a month, or several months in the making, but at some point I have to expand the thought into something blog worthy. I have to write. I do this almost daily with one post.

Something tells me you have more potential blogs in you also. You simply need to be intentional enough to capture the ideas as they occur…and the discipline to write about the ideas.

This post provides a great opportunity for you to share your blog with me. Add a comment and tell me your blog address. I’ll check it out.

I feel led to plant a church…What do I do now?

Rural chapel

About once a week…or sometimes more frequently…I get an email or Tweet from someone who says they feel led to plant a church. They almost always have the same question.

What do I do now? What’s my first step?

After answering dozens of times, I decided to put my thoughts in a post.

Step one: Run as fast as you can!

Just kidding. Although that does give you a testimony like Jonah. Just kidding.

Here are 5 immediate steps I would recommend:

Check your heart – Are you sure planting is what you are being called to do…or is it a desire because everyone else is doing it? It’s fine if you are. We need church planters. But, we also need people willing to help established churches thrive. It’s hard work to change what’s established already…but so is church planting. Make sure you know what you’re getting into is what God’s drawing you into.

Check your spouse’s heart – Church planting is not a sole venture. No ministry is for that matter. If you are married, you will need to be on the same page with your spouse. No. Doubt. About. It. Trying to do this without complete buy in from both parties will destroy one or the other…the plant or the marriage.

Determine where you feel called to plant – That’s an important beginning step. Much of your future steps will depend on this one. Many times you already know this and I think God gives tremendous latitude in this. We need churches lots of places. But, this will be one of the most difficult decisions you make if you don’t know. I once thought I wanted to plant in New York City. I still might someday. But, when I spent time talking to God about this, I sensed Him releasing me from the desire and pointing me in another direction.

Find others interested – This is critical. If you tell me you can’t find anyone…and I hear it often…I’d seriously question how successful you are going to be. Just as with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, in my experience, God is always “reserving” (1 Kings 19:18) people who He plans to use in the vision He is shaping in you. To build a body you need those who are part of the body to start.

Find experienced help – It can be a denomination, another church, or an experienced pastor or mentor, but don’t do it alone. Let me say that a little clearer. DON’T DO IT ALONE. Too much has been learned about church planting to miss out on someone else’s experience.

Those are my first 5 initial suggestions. What would you suggest?