5 Tips for the Leader When Conflict Develops on a Team

team conflict

As a leader, one of your primary roles is developing and maintaining the health of the team. What do you do when team members aren’t getting along with each other?  How should you handle conflict on a team?

In my post 10 Tips for Handling Conflict, I primarily address team members individually working together to address conflict. The question I receive is: What happens when conflict escalates to the point where a leader’s input is needed?

First, I would say the leader being involved should be rare. Very rare. Most problems need to be handled individually. If it’s occurring frequently you may have the wrong people on the team or a bigger issue to address.

Here are 5 suggestions:

Don’t ignore

Conflict never goes away on it’s own. It usually only gets worse with time. In fact, conflict is a necessary aspect of a healthy team, so to avoid it keeps the team from discovering the best answers to issues and allows unhealthy tension to remain. I like to give conflict some time to work itself out among team members, but not long enough to disrupt the team’s progress or jeopardize the health of the team. When the team starts choosing team member’s sides of an issue and the conflict begins to be disruptive I know it’s time for me to address it as the leader.

Protect the vision

The vision of the organization or team should be the common ground for everyone on the team and it’s my role as leader to protect it. In times of conflict, I want to make sure everyone is still committed to that vision. I realize that some conflict develops naturally, just because of differing goals, objectives, and personalities. The leader must balance the bigger picture objectives. (Read THIS POST for more on that subject.) If the conflict involves a support of the vision or is disruptive to accomplishing the vision then addressing it becomes more serious. If the vision is fully supported, then conflict can be addressed among the individuals involved.

Talk it out

Once it is obvious issue is not resolving, as difficult as it may be, I like to bring the individuals in conflict together to discuss the matter of conflict. Make sure the conflict is clearly identified. Often there were simple misunderstandings that need clarity or viewpoints that a team member feels the need to express. At this point, don’t make the mistake of being too nice as a leader. (Read THIS POST about that subject.) Again, healthy teams and relationships involve healthy conflict and when it isn’t resolved or addressed it remains a stumbling block to the future health of the team. For this step, I like all parties to be in the same room when the conflict is discussed. Addressing an issue separately opens the door for misunderstandings and choosing sides and many times the discussion brings communication to the issue which helps solve the conflict.

Establish mutual respect

Sometimes team members have to agree to disagree if it’s not a disagreement at the vision level. The leader, at times, may have to serve as a third party mediator and should remain neutral in issues of conflict in order to maintain organizational health and keep the organization on track towards attaining it’s vision. The bottom line for me is that team members in conflict must be willing to respect each other and continue to work together, even if there isn’t complete agreement on an issue. Ask the question, “Can we move forward without this affecting the team?”

Move forward

After the issue has been addressed, the vision is secure, and mutual respect is established among team members, the leader needs to make sure the team moves forward from the conflict. There are times, especially in key leadership roles, where people can’t push past an issue and continue to work together, but most of the time conflict can make the team better, as team members learn to work together towards a common vision in spite of disagreements.

Leader, what would you add to my list?

How do you handle conflict on your team?

Have you seen times where conflict produced healthy results?

Have you seen conflict destroy a team?

5 “C” Suggestions for Developing Trust as a Leader

serious executive business woman team leader

Trust is like gold in leadership. Without it a leader will fail to build a healthy following. Change will be difficult to implement. Retention and recruitment of leaders becomes near impossible.

Developing trust takes time. It is seldom granted with position or title. Most people have been injured in relationships which keeps them from trusting blindly or quickly.

Three years into my current position, I recognize with many in the church I pastor I’m still developing levels of trust.

If any leader wants to be successful, much will be determined by the level of trust he or she can attain. One goal of every leader, therefore, should be trust development.

How do we do this?

Here are 5 suggestions for developing trust as a leader:

Compassion. Trusted leaders have shown people by experience they care for others — not just in lip service, but with genuine heartfelt compassion. Trusted leaders love people. Seeing others succeed around them is a high and celebrated value.

Competence. Trusted leaders have knowledge in a subject matter, and, when they don’t know something, a willingness to yield to those who know more. They aren’t always second guessing themselves or the team. They believe in themselves, in God’s ability to work through them, and in the people with whom they surround themselves.

Consistent. There is an expected approach or methodology upon which people can depend upon with a trusted leader. They have a consistency in character so, whether through good and bad times, the integrity of the leader is above reproach.

Communication. Trusted leaders have a process, which shares in transparency and full disclosure to the teams they lead. You don’t have to continually guess what they are thinking, what they are dreaming, or what’s next on their planning agenda. They include others in the decision-making process and keep them informed along the way.

Courage. Trusted leaders aren’t sitting still while the world passes them. They make decisions. Even hard decisions. They are willing to lead their team into the unknown while they hold their position boldly in front — even willing to take “arrows” for the team when needed.

Those are a few of my suggestions. Let’s be trusted leaders. Let’s get things done.

10 Inexpensive Ways to Develop People on Your Team

safety helmet and engineering plan with drawing instrument on engineer working table against crane construction and beautiful sun set scene use for construction and land development topic

When budgets are stretched, development often is pushed to the back burner or cut altogether from the budget. This is dangerous for a team, which wishes to remain healthy and continue growing. If a team is not learning and improving, it will soon struggle to maintain any level of success.

It’s important, therefore, to find ways to develop even with stressed budgets.

Here are 10 inexpensive, or less expensive, ways to offer development to a team:

Bring in a leader – It may be cheaper to bring the expert to you than it is to attend a conference. Find someone from whom your team can learn and pay his or her expenses to visit the team.

Send a representative – You may have to draw names to decide who, but pay for one person to attend a conference with a catch — they have to bring information back to share with the team.

Read a book together – The number of leadership books easily outnumber the months a team will be together. Find some good ones, read and digest them as a team.

Use local resources – Most likely, there are businesses or universities in your community that have development offices or procedures to develop people, with people already skilled who can inexpensively invest in your team.

Online or teleconference – Technology allows for some great online conferences. Gather the team around a computer and learn without leaving the office. Additionally, if you have a telephone, you have the makings of a great way to connect with other leaders. Arrange for a joint call with one and let the team ask questions and then process the interview together.

Pool Resources – Join forces with another church to accomplish any of these ideas. Learn from each other. Swap responsibilities to lead a development activity. Share the costs of bringing in a speaker and do a combined mini-conference of your own.

Visit other churches – Allow the team to visit other churches in the area, either individually or as a group. Sometimes the quickest ways to promote change is to introduce leaders to other environments. It is a great way to develop new ideas and improve upon what you are doing as you see what others are doing firsthand. Be sure everyone goes expecting to bring something back to the team they have learned.

Learn from each other – Chances are good that everyone on your team has something to offer that can make the team better. Take turns sharing with each other something you already know or are learning.

Scavenger hunt – Assign each team member to find the best development idea and share it with the rest of the team. Whether online, in a book or through networking, seek out new ideas and improvements you can learn from one another and share it with the team. The process of sharing the idea discovered will prove to be development.

Trial and Error – The best development may be putting systems in place that allow the team to take risks, but then evaluate the success or failure in an effort to learn from them and grow. Teams should be doing this anyway, but teams often fail to intentionally learn from the process of doing normal work.

Development isn’t cheap, but it’s a necessary part of continuing to be a healthy and growing team.

Make this post better. Think development with me.

What low cost ideas do you have to offer development to a team?

One Suggestion to Take Stress from the Hiring Process

Handsome business man outdoor

There is so much stress involved in hiring the right person for the team. I am a very strategic person. This is especially true when hiring new people to our team. It’s one of the few areas I have such a strong voice in how it’s done and I am slow to add people.

Still, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

If you get stressed about hiring the right person I have a suggestion which may help.

I have done this with great success in hiring several staff positions for our team.

Build the job description around the person.

It’s that simple.

Set an overall vision for what you’re trying to achieve — hire the best person you can find — then build the job description — with the person’s help — around the person you hire.

If they excel in administrative tasks then the job description may have more administrative tasks.

If they excel in creative tasks then the job description may have more inventive tasks.

Find people around whom you believe you can shape a team.

This is true whether they are paid or volunteer.

This approach allows you to hire for character, competence, experience and fit with the team. In fact, I think the culture fit may be most important. But, this approach doesn’t limit you to finding an exact replica of a clearly defined, narrowly focused job description.

Here’s the deal. I ultimately just want a strong team. I want people who share an overall vision with me. But, I don’t want to script how they accomplish their specific part of the vision.

This way of hiring allows me to be a leader instead of a manager. It frees people to be leaders instead of employees. It helps us achieve more than a rigid structured environment ever could.

And, I best of all — it makes for a much happier team.

Find the right people and you can build the right team.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

follow leader

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, consistently encourages me that I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers — maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Characteristics of the Bottleneck Leader

bottleneck traffic

Leaders should aim to never be a bottleneck in the process of building a healthy and growing organization.

When I owned a small manufacturing company I had to learn the language of the field. I obviously knew the term bottleneck, but I never really understood it until it became the difference in being profitable or not. When the bottom line depends on productivity being at its highest, as the one ultimately in control, you learn what the term means first hand.

A bottleneck is defined as “A point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them.” (Investopedica.com)

In an organization, the bottleneck is many times the leader. When this happens, progress stalls, growth is limited and people are frustrated.

Here are 7 characteristics of the bottleneck leader:

Every decision ultimately goes through the leader. People are annoyed because they feel devalued — like their ability to make a good decision is in question. When everyone has to wait for the leader to make a decision things become awkward and valuable time is wasted. Productivity slows. Frustration rises.

New ideas or opinions are discouraged. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves — and they want to play a part in helping it become a reality. When their input isn’t welcomed they feel stifled, unfulfilled and unnecessary.

The leader is change-resistant. I know I just typed this sentence, but I’m not even sure I believe those two can go together. Leadership in its very definition involves change. Leaders are taking people somewhere new. You can’t get to new without change. The leader should be among the least afraid of change on the team.

There is no clear vision or information isn’t readily available. People flounder because they don’t know what to do next. They don’t know how things are going or what is important to the leader. This bottleneck encourages laziness in some and discouragement in others. Leaders who spur movement in an organization are quick with information. They are transparent and continually sharing what they see as the future — as far as they can see.

The leader never delegates. When people feel empowered they think like “owners”. When the leader takes on unnecessary assignments the leader is overburdened and the team is underutilized. Both suffer in the long-term.

Potential leaders aren’t recruited — they are controlled. Leaders are built through a recruit, invest and release process. Consider Jesus. He recruited the disciples, invested in them and then sent them out to do the work. When people are controlled they never develop. And, they learn to resent the leader.

Only the leader can launch a new initiative. The best leaders I know encourage people to take a risk. They create a “go for it” environment. When only the leader is allowed to “pull the trigger” or “push the first button” the organization faces a huge opportunity cost.

Leaders, ask yourself this question: In what ways am I a bottleneck in this organization?

If you aren’t certain, perhaps you should ask your team — even doing so anonymously.

What would you add to my list? What bottlenecks of leadership have you seen?

7 Popular Myths about Leadership

Palomino Unicorn - Turning

One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is defining leadership is difficult.

John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”

I love a simple definition. Simple works. Its effective and communicates.

Still, I have observed leadership is often not easy to define as a few simple words. In fact, there are many myths when it comes to even what leadership means — certainly how its practiced. I encounter people who don’t have a clue what real leadership is and what it isn’t.

Let me share a few myths I’ve observed.

Here are some 7 of my favorite myths about leadership:

A position makes one a leader

Really? I don’t think so. Some believe simply have a big or fancy title makes them a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with huge positions whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead. They may be a boss, but I wouldn’t call them a leader.

If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy

Yea, right? Have you ever heard of passive aggression? The fact is sometimes the leader is the last to know about a problem. Some people are intimidated by leadership. Other times, they don’t know how to approach the leader, so they complain to others, but not the leader. And, sometimes, the way I’m leading dictates who tells me what I really need to know.

I can lead everyone the same way

I have learned this one is so not true. It simply doesn’t work. Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to be effective you will learn your people and alter your style to fit their personalities.

Leadership and management are the same thing

Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. Simply put — Leadership is more about empowerment and guiding people to a common vision — often into the unknown. Management is more about maintaining efficiency within a predetermined destination.

Being the leader makes you popular

Well, if only this myth were true — my file of criticism would be so much smaller — when in reality, in some seasons, it’s larger than my encouragement file. The truth is leaders can be very lonely people. (It’s why leaders must surround themselves with encouragers and comtinually seek renewal.) The only way to avoid criticism and be “liked” as a leader is to make no decisions, do nothing different, never challenge status quo — in other words — don’t lead.

Leaders must be extroverted charismatics

So not true. Thankfully. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. And, honestly, they are leading some of the biggest churches and organizations. Leadership IS about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable, has integrity and is going somewhere of value — others will follow.

Leaders accomplish by controlling others

Absolutely not. This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead. They challenge people to be creative and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. They learn to delegate through empowerment.

What other myths about leadership have you observed?

8 Dangerous Leadership Traits – These Will Wreck Your Ability to Lead

wrecking ball

There are no perfect leaders — except for Jesus.

For the rest of us, we each have room for improvement. Most of us live with flaws in our leadership and the more we mature the more aware we become of them. Good leaders learn to surround themselves with people who can supplement their weaknesses.

There are, however, some leadership traits, which a leader can never delegate away. If the leader can’t work through them, in my opinion, their leadership will be crippled. With these traits, the best the leader has to offer will never fully materialize.

These leadership traits will eventually wreck a leader’s success.

Here are 8 dangerous leadership traits:

Immoral character

If the leader’s character is flawed, the leadership will be flawed. A leader can never escape the quality of his or her heart.

Assuming everyone’s support

Leaders seldom hear the complete story unless they pursue it. Environments have to be created that produce transparency and honesty. Even in the healthiest organizations there will always be things a leader doesn’t know.

Assuming everyone understands

In my experience, most leaders think they are communicating effectively. What’s clear to them they assume is clear to others. It’s usually not as clear as the leader thinks. Good leaders ask lots of questions to identify the level of clarity.

Continually avoiding conflict

Conflict never, ever, ever, goes away. Ever. Unresolved conflict damages the strength and integrity of organizational health. It may get ignored, overlooked, or stifled, but until conflict is dealt with it continues to stir strife in an organization.

Pretending to have all the answers

The less a leader listens to others, the less willing others will desire to help the leader succeed. Arrogant leaders never attract the best from people. Great leaders invite input, knowing that with more people involved, decisions will be stronger and more buy-in will be achieved.

Allowing friendship to derail progress

The best leaders I know value relationships and recognize friendships with others as an important part of their personal well-being. At the same time, some leaders fail to separate their friendships from their callings as leaders. They confuse loyalty as a friend from their responsibility as a leader. A leader cannot allow personal friendships to negatively alter the course to success.

Refusing to let go of control

When the leader doesn’t delegate, he or she stifles the growth of the organization. Healthy delegation involves releasing authority over a project. If a leader continually maintains the right to control, the organization will be limited to his or her abilities, rather than the strength of the team.

Living in the past

Unless you’re a teacher of history, the leader’s primary focus needs to be on the future. Leadership is about moving things forward. That requires progressive thinking, welcoming change, and refusing to let past failures determine future success.

Be honest, of which of these are you most guilty? As difficult as it may be, until you push through them and improve in that area, you’ll never experience the leadership success you desire.

What examples would you add to my list of things you can change and things you can’t?

7 Things Healthy Teams Check at the Door


I think healthy teams are intentionally created, so wherever I serve I’m consistently trying to make our environment better.

Over the years, I’ve learned some things will not develop healthy teams. Many times it’s as much about what we don’t have on our team as what we do have. 

The team I now serve with works well together – most of the time. We get along well with each other. My theory is it may have to do as much with what we don’t bring to the time we spend together as it does what we bring to the that time.

Let me explain. 

Here are 7 things healthy teams check at the door:

Egos. There is no place for them. A team requires everyone pulling equal weight. That means everyone should get equal recognition. No one thinks they are “better” or more important to the team. 

Closed minds. Healthy teams need every opinion on the team. The synergy of differences makes the team better. No idea is too crazy or wild to at least talk about together — maybe even experiment. 

Domination. No one is in “control” on a healthy team. There are times when all team members are in “charge” because of their responsibilities.

Selfishness. Teams can’t be healthy when everyone is looking out for themselves. Healthy teams work together and support one another. They share time and resources. 

Negativity. No one benefits from a poor attitude. Encouragement fuels health and production. Healthy teams encourage one another. 

Personal criticism. Healthy teams support one another personally. They become like family — loving each other. They build each other up — not tear each other down. There may be teasing in fun, but a healthy team learns when even teasing goes too far. (I’ve personally had to go back and apologize for teasing.) 

Stubbornness. When any team member holds out for “their” way — including the leader — it keeps the organization from achieving health.

What would you add to my list?

7 Attributes of a Maturing Leader

maturing plant

I frequently say to our church I’m less interested in where a person has been and more interested in where they are going. I would make that statement about leadership also.

The best leaders I know don’t have all the answers. They haven’t got everything figured out yet. Most wouldn’t even consider themselves “experts” in the field of leadership. (I certainly don’t consider myself to be one.) They are humbled why people would ask for their input. They realize they have much to learn.

What they have done and are doing is to continue maturing as a leader. The best leaders I know are consistently getting better.

In fact, you can often spot a maturing leader. They share common attributes.

Here are 7 attributes of a maturing leader:

Able to think strategically in the moment.

They don’t just spout off the first thing that comes to their mind and worry about cleaning it up later.All of us have done that at times, but maturing leaders have learned their words carry great weight and so they choose them carefully. (I wrote a post about that HERE.) They are encouraging and guard their tongue from reckless and hurtful words. It’s not a matter of being politically correct — it’s caring for people. It’s valuing others. It’s being intentional to use the power of words to bless others rather than tear them down.

Recognizes the contributions of others and willingly cheers other’s success.

It’s natural, especially early in a person’s leadership to seek to “build a resume”, but a maturing leader doesn’t have to get all the glory. In fact, they may get none, because the attention is shifted to the team — often to those who did the real work. This leader has learned when others succeed the leader succeeds.

Doesn’t act in anger.

They carefully plans a response. They take time to “cool down” before addressing a heated issue. Possibly they have been burned by their own quickness to react and so now they are becoming more careful and methodical in their approach.

Releases more control.

Maturing leaders place trust in others. They empower people to do work and take ownership. They know, often by painful experience, the more they control the less things can grow and be healthy.

Thinks beyond today.

Personally and for the organization, the maturing leader is guiding a path towards a better reality. They strive to see what’s coming and prepare for it. They likely experienced not being prepared and want to protect the vision for the long-term.

Concerned about, but doesn’t stress over small things.

Some things just don’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things. Leaders should be concerned about the details — even the smallest things can make a huge difference, but maturing leaders look to the big picture and dismiss issues which have little impact on the overall vision. A maturing leader has learned they cannot make everything matter or nothing really will.

Receives correction without becoming defensive.

This is huge. Maturing leaders don’t hold a grudge. They forgive easily. They see feedback — even that which is hard to hear — as valuable information which can make them better. Leadership can be painful, so it takes time for a leader to get here, but maturing leaders have learned life is too short and there is no value in lingering in the past.

You may not have all of these as attributes yet, but my encouragement is to keep improving.

Brag on yourself: Which of these are you doing well?

Be honest: Upon which of these attributes do you most need to improve?