7 Attributes of a Maturing Leader

I frequently say to our church that 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.)

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

Here are 7 attributes of a maturing leader:

  • Able to think strategically in the moment (I wrote a post about that HERE.)
  • Is an encourager and guards the tongue from reckless and hurtful words and expressions
  • Recognizes the contributions of others and willingly cheers other’s success
  • Doesn’t act in anger, but carefully plans a response
  • Thinks beyond today personally and for the organization
  • Is concerned about, but doesn’t stress over the small stuff
  • Forgives easily and receives correction without becoming defensive

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?

How to Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Ministry Team

This is a guest post by Dr. Paul White is a business consultant and psychologist, and is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. For more information, go to www.appreciationatwork.com. Here is Dr. White’s guest post:

How to Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Ministry Team

“The Christmas Rush” is something everyone experiences at some degree during the holidays, but it takes on a whole new meaning for church leaders and volunteers.

Ministry workers have the same holiday activities that others have—buying gifts, attending Christmas parties and events, and visiting out-of-town relatives—in addition to ministry demands that can deplete a church team’s time and energy. For pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers, there are extra Christmas programs, such as the Christmas Eve service or a special holiday concert, which require additional weeknight practices, time-intensive preparation, and the coordination of many different people. There are decorations that need to be put up in the sanctuary, Christmas trees that need ornaments in the foyer for a gift-giving ministry, and there are gifts that need to be bought for the Sunday School class or cookies to be made for small group study.

This is the perfect recipe for stressed, uptight, and frantic people. Are you excited and ready to worship yet?

So as a church leader, what you do? Take high blood pressure medication? Check out and reappear in January? I’ve written recently on general ways to reduce stress and avoid holiday burnout, but here are two steps you can take to support your ministry team and reduce the stress level for you both:

Reduce the “Should’s”

The holidays become crazy because we have so many “should’s” – and they are coming at us from everywhere: past positive memories, family traditions, the church’s traditions, personal expectations, Martha Stewart, TV commercials and those magazine articles on “How to Make Baby Jesus Manger Cookies.”

Help your staff by reducing the sense of obligation you place on them. You can also help them evaluate opportunities by saying, “We could do that, but we don’t have to for this to be a success,” Or, “It’ll be fine without having to go the extra mile.” Many times people just need the permission to say no, or to say when enough is enough.

Actively Appreciate Your Team Members

Statistics show that the majority of people don’t feel truly valued in their jobs or volunteer work, with 70% of employees who say they receive no or little appreciation at work, and one third of volunteers do not return after one year of service. And when people don’t feel appreciated, they start to feel used—becoming discouraged, irritable, and edgy. They’re not fun to be around and this attitude can spread and affect the entire team.

One challenge in effectively appreciating your team members is that not everyone’s “language of appreciation” is the same, and therefore, some attempts at appreciation may miss the mark. Most people think of appreciation as being verbal—saying thanks, a written note, or a public award—but in reality 25-30% people don’t like to receive recognition in front of a large group. For another 25%, a gift card to Starbucks or the local Christian bookstore will not convey the intended appreciation. Some people feel appreciated in spending personal time with you; others just want help cleaning up.

In my business consulting with leaders, I have found that for people to truly feel valued, appreciation needs to be communicated individually (rather than a blanket thank-you to all involved), in the language that they value (see our online inventory to identify each person’s preferred appreciation language), and in a manner that they perceive as being genuine.

To be honest, it takes some time and effort to communicate appreciation effectively. But it is worth it when you hit the mark with a team member, and you watch as they start to glow (or become teary-eyed) and their commitment to you and the ministry deepens dramatically. When your ministry team starts to feel appreciated for what they do, you won’t be able to get rid of them even if you want to! And you will have melted away any holiday stress they were feeling previously.

Dr. White’s book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace applies the “love language” concept of New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, to the workplace. This book helps supervisors and managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships between managers and employees, and decreased cases of burnout. Ideal for both the profit and non-profit sectors, the principles presented in this book have a proven history of success in businesses, schools, medical offices, churches, and industry. Each book contains an access code for the reader to take a comprehensive online MBA Inventory (Motivating By Appreciation) – a $20 value.

7 Popular Myths about Leadership

One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is that defining leadership is difficult. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” I love that simple definition. Still, I have observed that there are many myths when it comes to even what that means.

Here are some 7 of my favorite myths about leadership:

A position makes one a leader – Some believe that simply having a big or fancy title makes one a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with a position whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead.

If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy – The fact is that 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.

I can lead everyone the same way - Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. (Read a post I wrote about that subject HERE.)

Leadership and management are the same thing – Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. (Read a post I wrote about one difference HERE.)

Being the leader makes you popular – The truth is, many times the opposite is true. Leaders can be very lonely people. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Leaders must be extroverted charismatics – Not true. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. Leadership is about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable and going somewhere, others will follow.

Leaders accomplish by controlling others - Absolutely not. That’s not leadership, that’s dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead, be creative, and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. (Read the difference in leading people and controlling people HERE.)

What other myths about leadership have you observed?

7 Ways to Respond to a Lazy Co-Worker

I’ve always valued hard work and usually resented lazy workers.

I started working when I was 12 years old in a grocery store. I worked hard, gained the recognition of my managers, and was rewarded with all the hours I wanted to work. The store was a revolving door of workers it seemed. I worked with some guys who didn’t last long, because they really didn’t want to work. They wanted to sneak into the break room and have a coke or take an extraordinary amount of time taking the trash out each night.

Please understand, I’m not talking about people who protect their family time (I do that) or people who work smart so they can enjoy life. (I do that too.) I’m talking about people who are lazy. People who don’t want to work. They want a paycheck, but they don’t really want to earn their pay. They want it given to them. (I told you I’ve usually resented people like this. Can you tell? :) )

If you are in a equal position to a lazy person, and not their leader, it is frustrating. You feel taken advantage of because of your hard work.

Recently I was stopped at a conference and asked if I saw this on church staffs. He is in a large church where most of the staff work extremely hard, but a few barely get their work done. They are, in his opinion, lazy. He wanted to know if this was unusual. Of course, I assured this frustrated person. Wherever you find people you’ll encounter problems with people. Churches are places where people work, so some of the same problems that exist outside the church exist inside the church.

His real question, however, was “What should he do?”

Here are 7 ways to treat lazy people:

Make sure it’s not a perception problem – Make sure you aren’t confusing a different work style with laziness. Make sure you aren’t lumping your overachiever mindset on them. People approach work differently. That’s not always laziness. It could be they’ve found a way to work smarter and more efficiently. Look at the person’s performance based on results, not based on style.

Model hard work for them – This is your best offense. Some lazy people are encouraged by watching what they should be doing. Some will adapt to the environment if the environment is working hard. Certainly though, over time the lazy worker will be exposed. Then it is up to leadership to address the issue. (I know the question here…what happens if they don’t? But, that would be the subject of another post. This was is about co-workers.)

Pray for them to step up or leave – That sounds harsh, but if they are impacting your morale they are most likely impacting it for others. They are damaging the credibility and momentum of the organization for the rest of the team. Laziness is a sin. They need a heart change more than anything.

Don’t let them take advantage of you – You only enable them if you cover for them or do the work they were assigned to do. Lazy people seem to seek those out who will pick up their slack.

Challenge when necessary – If it’s clear a person is lazy and taking advantage of the situation, there comes a time when it’s right to challenge them. You should do so in love, but use the Matthew 18 approach; going to them first, then bringing along another if it continues; working through the chain of command. It’s better to challenge lovingly than to let the resentment in your heart destroy your witness as you develop bitterness towards the other person.

Make sure it’s not personal to you or the organization – Could laziness be the result of something else? Could they be reacting to issues within their own life, or with a vision disagreement? That doesn’t mean they should stay or go, but it should impact the way you respond.

Help them with specific tasks – Sometimes you can help a lazy person, even if they don’t report to you, by helping them find things to do. Lazy people typically aren’t looking. If there is work to do they can do, ask them to help you or to assume responsibility for it.

Have you ever worked with a lazy person? What did you do?

A Reminder About Future Thinking

The larger role of responsibility or the higher position you hold in an organization, the more you must discipline and free yourself for future-tense thinking. Recently I was explaining this concept to a senior pastor. His church has stalled, but it wasn’t surprising to me as I learned more about the church. They are doing things the same way they’ve done them for many years. Nothing has changed. The pastor is busy; some would say too busy, but, in my observation, while he’s working hard, he’s not working smart.

The real problem? This leader is so caught up in putting out current fires, that he doesn’t have time…or hasn’t taken time…to plan for new and better fire extinguishers.  He’s not thinking “What’s next?” for the church and because he’s not, neither is anyone else. I took a minute to draw it out like this diagram. The ratios aren’t important, but what is important is that you understand the concept. The more the organization looks to you for leadership, the more you must be thinking future-tense.

Think of it this way. The now that was when you started reading this post is now the then. If you aren’t thinking forward, you’re always thinking behind. Also, some will ask about “past thinking”. It is important to consider where the organization has been, but thinking about the past should be part of reviewing for improvement and growth in the future.

Any questions?

Have you seen an organization stall because the leader stalls?

If this is your situations, let me suggest you read 8 Ways to Keep a Leader Looking Forward or 3 Critical Aspects of Planning for the Future.

3 Essentials for Long-Term Success

Do you want your organization to succeed? Do you want to personally succeed in your career? Do you want your marriage to thrive?

For long-term success in any area of life you must be:

Driven by vision

Vision sets the direction you will move. It’s the aim…the mission…the goal of what needs to be done to determine success as you’ve defined it. It’s your overall purpose. Vision is necessary with anything in which you care to succeed. I’ve written much about vision, mostly from an organizational sense, but it’s important to have a vision for every area of your life. You can read:

4 Tasks of the Senior Leader
Bad Culture Eats Good Vision
Communicating My Personal Vision
Don’t Quit Your God-Given Vision

How secure is your vision today?

Grounded in values

Values protect your pursuit of the vision from chasing paths that do not fit the heart, history, reputation and DNA of the organization or individuals involved. It’s what grounds you and keeps you from running blindly. An organization’s values or your personal values may be different from my personal values, perhaps, but for an example of what I mean by values, see THIS POST. Determining what you value as an organization or for you personally is critical to continuing to succeed.

Do you know your values?

Fueled with passion

Let me be honest here. You can have a great vision and be grounded in the best values, but never succeed. Your organization will stall. Your marriage will fail. You will never personally achieve all you desire to achieve. You also need passion. You need motivation. You need momentum. Passion encourages you to discipline for the hard work of accomplishment. It’s what prompts you to do the tedious tasks of developing systems and strategies. It’s what fuels you on days you are ready to quit. When you lose your passion you lose your guts to weather the storms of life and the vision remains a dream.

For more on this subject, read:

8 Killers of Momentum and Motivation
The Power of Caged Momentum
Andy Stanley on Momentum

How passionate are you today for your vision?

Great organizations, great people, and even great relationships are driven by vision, grounded by values and driven by passion.

Does this describe your organization? Is it representative of your marriage or your life? If not, which is missing?

7 Characteristics of the Bottleneck Leader

Leaders should aim not to be a bottleneck in the process of building a healthy and growing organization. In manufacturing, 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 can be the leader. When this happens, progress stalls and growth is limited.

Here are 7 characteristics of the bottleneck leader:

  • Every decision ultimately goes through the leader…
  • Dreaming is limited to the pre-determined boundaries of the leader…
  • Waiting for the leader to make a decision becomes awkward and wastes time…
  • There is no clear vision or direction for the organization…
  • The leader never delegates…
  • Potential leaders aren’t recruited…they are controlled…
  • Everyone waits on the leader to make the first move…

Leaders, ask yourself this question: Are you a bottleneck in your organization?

If you aren’t certain, perhaps you should ask your team.

(If you’re really serious about finding the answer to this question, consider my consulting offering HERE.)

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

7 Personal Values as a Leader

I write about leadership. I try to keep it personal. I don’t always accomplish everything perfectly that I write about, but my goal is to be a growing leader.

One critical aspect of leadership, in my experience, is to be aware of the values one holds. As in life, each leader has certain values that are especially and even uniquely important to him or her. Without thinking about it, we typically will favor those values in the way we lead others…when we make policies, in the way that we manage and the issues which get our greatest attention. Because we make decisions based on what we value, it’s important that a leader understand what he or she values in leadership and to recognize also that others may hold values which are different from ours.

Have you ever considered your personal values as a leader?

I’ve spent time over the years realizing the things I tend to value most in leadership. Those whom I lead can probably clearly see these displayed in my leadership. This doesn’t mean other values aren’t important…perhaps even more important…but that these are the ones most important to me.

Here are my top 7 values as a leader and why I hold them:

Responsiveness – I believe leaders are required to be responsive to those they wish to lead. If people don’t hear from you they make up their own scenarios, become afraid, and lose interest and motivation. (I’ve written about that before HERE.)

Accountability – Leaders are extremely vulnerable individuals. Sometimes the leader is the last to know there is a problem. Power in leadership can lead to problems with pride and corruption. (I believe and practice this personally and have written about it numerous times. You can read one HERE. I even offer specific consulting to help leaders in this area.)

Grace – No leader ever gets to the top without a tremendous amount of grace along the way. Isn’t it only fair that a leader reciprocates the grace received into grace given? (I write about grace and forgiveness frequently. You can find several HERE.)

Authenticity – If a leader wants people to follow, he or she must be trustable. That requires realness and transparency. (I wrote specifically about that HERE.)

Integrity – Leaders are taking people places where they may not be completely comfortable going. If a leader has been granted trust, he or she should honor that trust with honest and moral leadership. (I’ve frequently written about this value. You can find one instance HERE.)

Change – Organizations that stand still die. Change brings momentum and creates opportunities for growth. Leadership development happens best during change. (I’ve written about this in my personal life HERE and numerous times organizationally, such as HERE.)

Intentionality – Nothing happens without action. You can have the greatest dreams and they will remain only a dream without a plan, a strategy, a system and genuine effort. (Intentional is a word I use frequently with our staff and challenge it in our church. You can read a post example HERE.)

What are your personal values as a leader (or person)? I’d love to hear your top 7. They will most likely be different from mine, but that’s what makes the world of leadership so interesting. Different leaders…different values.

(I previously wrote 7 non-negotiable traits to work on my team. Those are different from values in that I can require them. I can’t always require everyone hold the same values I have…although I’m confident I subconsciously look for them in the people we hire.)

Solving a Problem: A Matter of Perspective

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective….

Some days leaders feel as though all we do is address problems other people have. It could be a personal problem, a problem with a program, someone on our team, or it could be a problem no one can even identify…just a problem. Leaders often serve the role of problem solvers.

It’s frustrating, as a leader, when we do our best to address a problem, but people still have a problem.

Ever been there?

That’s because fixing a problem…addressing the problem…doesn’t always solve the problem…at least in the mind of others. You see…solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

I remember the time my family ate at a very popular chain restaurant in Chicago. I won’t tell you the name, but if I did you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a wonderful restaurant and people often stand in line for hours to eat there. We continue to patronize the restaurant today.

Anyway, my son ordered milk. I don’t know why…who orders milk at a restaurant? :) When they set the milk down on the table, my son, who is somewhat picky about certain things, noticed a huge fly floating in his glass of milk. He wouldn’t drink it! :)

We called the waiter over and showed him the fly. The waiter simply grabbed a spoon off the table, scooped the fly out of the glass of milk, and tossed the fly onto an empty plate on the table. With that he walked away…problem solved.

It was solved, right?

Seriously, this story remains funny to us today. In no way did we feel this problem was solved. It may have been fixed…there was no longer a fly in the milk, but the problem wasn’t solved. My son wanted a new glass of milk. I know…he’s picky. :) We decided we weren’t up for an argument and had made a funny memory together, so we simply ignored it, my son drank his water, and we left feeling as though we had an unresolved problem at our table.

Our server, on the other hand, felt he had fixed our problem, so everything was good…no fly…no problem. He never apologized or addressed it again, but continued serving us.

That story…as silly as it is…is a good reminder as a leader. Just because you fix a problem from your perspective, doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem in the eyes of those you lead.

Solving a problem is often a matter of perspective.

Understanding this principle means a few things for me:

  • As a leader, whether or not you’ve solved a problem…or even addressed it in some people’s eyes…may be based more on a person’s perspective, their personal interests or desires, and even their emotional investment at times, than it is on some measurable reality.
  • I should keep trying to fix the problems I agree need fixing…just knowing I may not solve everyone’s concern with the problem. I can’t make everyone happy…as hard as I may try to solve their problems.
  • More importantly, I should attempt to understand the real problem from other’s perspective and what solving that problem would even look like. At that point, I can determine whether I can truly solve the problem to their satisfaction. Sometimes I’ll be able to and sometimes not, but everyone should at least know what’s considered resolution to the problem. That keeps me from spending time and resources attempting to fix a problem I can never solve.

In the case of the milk, if the waiter had asked, “Do you want a new glass or should I just scoop the fly out?“…he would have learned how to move from fixing the problem to solving the problem from our perspective.

Have you ever tried to fix a problem but still experienced upset people? Please share your story to help others.

8 Killers of Motivation and Momentum

Recently I wrote 7 Ways to Motivate a Leader. Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team, but I believe leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

Perhaps even more important, a leader needs to recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation so he or she can work to keep momentum from declining beyond repair. When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss.

With that in mind…

Here are 8 killers of motivation and momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward. (You may want to read 7 ways to implement change successfully.)

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like…especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do. You may want to read THIS POST for more help with this one.

Failure- Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation and momentum stalls. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling unvalued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouragers and champions of the people they lead.

If you see these at work in your organization, address them now!

Which is these is hardest for you to recognize or address?

Which have you experienced firsthand as a killer of motivation or momentum?