Questions for Brainstorming

Businesspeople

Brainstorming often leads a team to the answers you can’t seem to find any other way. The best brainstorming begins with great questions. For example, what if the team is trying to discern what went wrong on a project? Perhaps there has been some major fall out and the team has suffered damage, either financially, in reputation or in morale. The questions you ask could determine how well you recover.

Using that as our example, consider the questions in this post, some will apply and some won’t. Add some of your own, and see if they will lead you through a helpful brainstorming session. By the way, I talk almost weekly to churches in some crisis mode. This process may help with that scenario also.

Below are 4 words and sets of questions to lead your team in brainstorming. If I were leading you through this process, we would take time on each section, stopping to summarize our findings along the way. Depending on the size of the group, we may break into sub-groups to brainstorm, then come back together to summarize.

The words and questions are simply a strategy to get the group talking. Depending on what you are trying to discover, you would change the words and the questions.

Words and questions:

Reflect – What went wrong? How did it happen? What’s the damage? Who is impacted? How much did it cost us…in capital, momentum, morale and reputation? What are the long-term and the short-term ramifications?

Recalculate – How can we improve? How can we keep it from happening again? What’s the best way to recover? Who are the right players in our recovery? What are the immediate, mid-range and long-term decisions we need to make, as a result of this?

Recharge – Why are we doing what we do? Why are we needed? What’s our motivation to begin again? What are some of our examples of success? What can we do to spur new momentum?

(Don’t skip this set of questions. Regardless of the issue, this type thinking is needed every time. You’ll be tempted to ignore them, because you assume you know these, but you always need the energy this type dialogue produces. Depending on the issue, you can’t usually do this immediately as well, because the previous issues are usually clouding people’s minds.)

Reignite – How soon can we begin again? Do we need a relaunch or do a complete overhaul? What’s our strategy moving forward? Who does needs to do what? Who is our spokesperson? Who are the teams assigned to each task? When is our target date for celebration?

Asking the right questions may determine the success or failure in the days ahead.

What questions are you currently asking your team?

What Does “Healthy” Mean in Church Leadership?

silhouette of friends jumping in sunset

I was talking with a young hurting pastor recently. He resigned after several years of trying to turn around a dying church into a healthy church. The church brought him in with definite goals. He felt he had a mandate. The church began to grow. Things were exciting…or so it seemed. But, with every change there was growing resistance. Eventually, only a few people with power still supported him. when they refused to back him with changes they had agreed were needed. He was continually reminded this was not “his church”. He felt it was best that he leave rather than divide the church. (This church has a long history of short-termed pastorates.)

In the course of the conversation he asked some sobering, and honest questions.

He asked, “Is there really such a thing as a healthy church? Are there any healthy church staffs? And, what does healthy mean, anyway?”

Great questions. I understand. Sadly, I hear from pastors continually asking the same questions. There are many unhealthy environments in churches.

But, yes! There is such a thing as a healthy church. There are some healthy church staffs.

I don’t know if I know completely what “healthy” means, but I’ve given the issue some thought.

The reality is that the church is the Body of Christ. In the purest form, the church is always “healthy”, because it represents Christ. We are promised that nothing will ever destroy what Christ has established. But, local churches are made of people. And, some of those people, even well-meaning as they may be sometimes, work together to form unhealthy environments. Some work together…for the common good of honoring Christ…and form healthy environments.

So, with that in mind…

A healthy church culture…

  • Doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days
  • Doesn’t mean you won’t have tension or stress.
  • Doesn’t mean everyone always agrees.
  • Doesn’t mean there aren’t relationship struggles.
  • Doesn’t mean you have all the answers.
  • Doesn’t mean the pastor is always right.
  • Doesn’t mean problems or issues are ignored.

A healthy church culture…

  • Does mean you can disagree and still be friends.
  • Does mean tension is used to build teamwork..when one is weak another is strong.
  • Does mean meetings are productive and purposeful…not ritualistic or boring, and certainly not hurtful.
  • Does mean rules add healthy boundaries, rather than stifling creativity or controlling actions.
  • Does mean you work as a team to find solutions.
  • Does mean the pastor (and his family) is never attacked publicly or continually stabbed in the back.
  • Does mean the rumor mill is never allowed to form the dominant opinion.

I’m praying for my new pastor friend that he finds a healthy church, in which to serve out his calling. They do exist.

Have you been in an unhealthy church or organizational environment?

Have you been in a healthy one?

What do you think it means to have a healthy?

A Sign You’re On a Healthy Team

power meeting from above

I’ve often said that good leaders never assume silence means that everyone is in agreement.

I still believe that. Leaders and situations can be intimidating. Some team members simply choose not to participate.

There is one caveat to this principle, however.

When a team is healthy, the leader is approachable, and team members are encouraged to participate in discussion:

Silence can be interpreted as agreement.

That’s because:

  • The freedom to challenge is present
  • The fear of retribution is absent
  • The power of unity is prominent
  • The spirit of cooperation is elevated
  • The synergy of differences is celebrated

When you are on a healthy team, people feel freedom to speak up when needed, so if they don’t, you can often safely assume they are in agreement.

I’ll be candid, as i write this, I’m six months into leading a new team. I’m not sure we are there yet, but in the months to come, I’ll be looking to measure progress in this way.

Ask yourself this question: What does silence on the team indicate?

In that answer, if you’re honest, you may find the answer.

Are you serving on a healthy team?

7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

Alert

Almost on a weekly basis I hear from a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He feels the pressure placed upon him and knows that others are looking to him to steer the church on a healthy course. Most of these leaders are humble, knowing that ultimately Christ is the head of the church. What they also know is that there are expectations of their position, decisions that have to be made which are not clearly defined in Scripture, and that seminary didn’t train them to make.

Sometimes it seems I’ve given the same advice many times; either reminding myself or to another pastor. The more times I share the same concept, the more it becomes a short, paradigm shaping idea that summarizes the basic issue the leader is facing. What isn’t always clear is that I’ve learned these concepts mostly by living these concepts. I’ve made more mistakes in leadership than I’ve had success. That’s what this post is about. These are some warnings I’ve observed first hand in leadership positions I’ve held. I’m trying not to continue to live them and I’d love to help other leaders avoid them.

Here are 7 warnings for aspiring leaders:

What you “settle for” becomes the culture.

Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted.

Your actions determine their reactions.

Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything.

You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”.

If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead.

What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, not your words, no matter how well spoken they might be.

What warnings would you share to aspiring leaders?

If you want to attract leaders for your team

Give them a problem to solve

If the answer is already found, you can hire a manager for that job…and you’ll need a good one. You’ll have other problems to solve and a good manager can free you up to lead.

But, to attract a leader…

Help them see a need…give them some freedom to find a solution…give them support…get out of the way…and let them go.

Leaders seek opportunities to lead

Challenge…opportunity…problems…something everyone says cant be done….

That’s an environment that fuels a leader’s energy. It’s what attracts a leader to your team.

Are you in an environment that attracts leaders? What makes it so?

A Leader in Time of Crisis, Uncertainty or Change

After the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-41)

How did Paul respond?

Read it for yourself:

After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia. And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length, he came to Greece. Acts 20:1-2

That’s the role of a leader in times of crisis. In times of uncertainty. In times of change.

The people following you are looking for assurance that everything is going to be okay. They want to know there is a plan. They want to hear things are moving forward with confidence.

Help people process the pain of their circumstances.

Give them hope. Encourage. Challenge them to continue.

Lead.

A Key to Successful Delegation

What is a key to successful delegation?

  • Don’t just delegate responsibility.

  • Delegate authority.

Give people the authority to determine how the work gets completed. In healthy delegation, you have already helped them determine what a win looks like. You helped shape the vision. Now, let them set the tasks to complete the job. Let them determine timing and the players on their team. It’s so much better than simply holding them responsible. When people have authority they take ownership. They assume (partial) liability. They become personally attached to the outcome.

Responsibility without authority only puts pressure on people. When a person is responsible for completion, but has no authority of how to make it happen, it becomes a job more than a mission. It’s frustrating.

Granted, letting go of authority is hard. It won’t always work. The truth is people will disappoint you…they won’t do the job the way you were expecting. Simply releasing responsibility seems freeing. Releasing authority seems risky.

Oh, but when it does work…when delegation takes hold completely…effectively…you, the organization and the entire team benefits. And, the reward is far greater than a project not properly delegated.

Great leaders push through the fear of letting go by trusting people to make decisions, so that ultimately more decisions can be made, leadership development occurs, and the organization grows.

Not to sound contradictory, but this doesn’t mean you are off the hook as the delegating leader. I wrote about that in THIS POST. Successful delegation requires releasing responsibility, and authority over the delegated project, while maintaining a healthy, though distant, oversight until the project is completed. I know, that’s difficult, but it’s part of what makes leading so much fun 🙂 …and so much better.

Be honest, how are you at releasing authority?

When You Don’t Communicate…

Recently I was talking with a staff member of a larger church. She consistently fears the stability of her job. She never knows what her pastor is thinking. She’s considering looking for a new position, not because she doesn’t like her work, but because she isn’t sure about the future of her work. She claims that living with uncertainty is the standard when working on this church staff.

I’ve learned over the years that communication is one of the most important aspects of the field of leadership. In fact, it may be the thing that makes or breaks a leader’s success.

When a leader fails to communicate, it actually communicates a great deal to the organization. Unfortunately, it’s not always an encouraging message. The unknown invites people to create their own scenarios, which rarely turns out well for the leader, the team, or the organization.

Failing to communicate says to the people on your team:

You don’t care – You are apathetic towards the emotional and practical needs of people on your team.

You don’t know -You may not be brave enough to say so, but, don’t worry, others are probably saying it for you.

You can’t decide – Your team thinks that you’re incapable of making a decision, either because you’re afraid of people’s reactions or you’re not a strong enough leader to make a decision.

You don’t value – Your silence produces perhaps the most dangerous scenario when people believe you don’t think they are worthy of knowing. Put yourself in their shoes and see how that one feels.

What’s the bottom line?

Communicate through a decision.

Keep people informed along the way.

Any questions?

Where’s the Loyalty? How to get the most out of your team even in the most trying times

This is a guest post by Jeremy Kingsley. Jeremy is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and the President of OneLife Leadership. Since 1995 he has spoken to over 500,000 people at live events around the world. He has given over 2000 keynote speeches and his messages have reached millions through radio, television, and the internet. Jeremy holds bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia International University. He is the author of four books, his latest: Inspired People Produce Results – (McGraw Hill 2013). Jeremy lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife and two sons. Learn more at www.JeremyKingsley.com

Lack of loyalty is a serious problem in organizations everywhere today.

No longer do people join a company and devote the rest of their working lives to it. Companies are, of course, not exactly known for offering up thirty or forty years of employment, a gold watch and pension plan.

Organizations preoccupied with short-term, bottom line thinking often view their employees as little more than resources to be hired, fired, and manipulated as the need arises.

Both sides pay a price for this lack of loyalty. Workers are naturally less happy on the job when they sense little or no loyalty from their employer. I agree with Carmine Coyote about how the negative impacts on productivity are truly alarming:

People expect to be continually under threat of layoff, so they keep their resumes permanently on the market, changing jobs without concern for anything save their own short-term advantage.

Top level emphasis on quick, short-term returns (especially to themselves), permeates the organization as a whole, leading to everyone focusing on what will give them the biggest, quickest return—even if that means elbowing colleagues out of the way, playing the dirty politics, or hyping resumes to leverage a quick move somewhere else that is paying a few bucks more.
Loyalty to colleagues can turn into an us-versus-them attitude toward those higher up.

Worst of all, people feel devalued and see their work as less and less worthwhile. This creates emotional and psychological stresses and problems that go beyond the workplace and may last for some time.

What can you do to avoid this terrifying outcome? Learn from others.

A century ago, Ernest Shackleton was one of the most renowned explorers of his time. Today, however, Shackleton is best known for a failed mission. In January 1915, while trying to be the first to journey across the Antarctica, he and his men aboard the Endurance were trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea and forced to abandon the ship. They floated on icebergs and paddled three small lifeboats to reach a remote, deserted island. From there, Shackleton and five men embarked in one of the lifeboats on an eight-hundred-mile voyage through some of the planet’s stormiest waters, landing more than two weeks later at South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. After a rest, Shackleton and two of his men hiked and climbed across treacherous mountains to a whaling station, where Shackleton procured a ship and sailed to rescue his comrades. Every member of the twenty-eight-man crew returned home safely.

Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capprell, in their book Shackleton’s Way, list eight principles Shackleton applied to forge unity and loyalty among his team. As a leader, Shackleton was ahead of his time. His principles are just as important in today’s modern workplace as they were in the Antarctic a hundred years ago:

  • Take the time to observe before acting, especially if you are new to the scene. All changes should be aimed at improvements. Don’t make changes just for the sake of leaving your mark.
  • Always keep the door open to your staff members, and be generous with information that affects them. Well-informed employees are more eager and better prepared to participate.
  • Establish order and routine on the job so all workers know where they stand and what is expected of them. The discipline makes the staff feel they’re in capable hands.
  • Break down traditional hierarchies and cliques by training workers to do a number of jobs, from the menial to the challenging.
  • Where possible, have employees work together on certain tasks. It builds trust and respect and even friendship.
  • Be fair and impartial in meting out compensations, workloads, and punishments. Imbalances make everyone feel uncomfortable, even the favored.
  • Lead by example. Chip in sometimes to help with the work you’re having others do. It gives you the opportunity to set a high standard and shows your respect for the job.
  • Have regular gatherings to build esprit de corps. These could be informal lunches that allow workers to speak freely outside the office. Or they could be special holiday or anniversary celebrations that let employees relate to each other as people rather than only as colleagues.

If you demonstrate a strong measure of loyalty to your team, you’ll find that same measure of loyalty being returned to you. In these trying times – inspiring loyalty will help you get the most out of your team and lay the foundation for lasting success.

What do you think?

12 Ways to Make Yourself A Valuable Team Member

Recently someone came to me for advice in starting a new position. He wanted to know how he could set himself apart and make himself a valuable team member. I loved the question. It shows intentionality and purpose. I decided not to give him just a few suggestions, but to give him a dozen.

Here are 12 ways to make yourself valuable as a team member:

Be an encourager of others on the team

Embrace change willingly

Remain positive when others are negative

Laugh deep and smile often

Value other people’s opinions

Remain steadfast to vision and values

Be flexible with methods

Genuinely love people

Give more than required

Think critically for improvement

Have a servant’s heart

Never gossip or talk bad about another team member

What would you add to my list?