Experiment: The Little Things Matter

In making a first impression…

The little things matter…

A number of years ago, while I was pastoring another church, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people, passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things that had to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed doing. (To be candid, the women did most of the work, so it was the men who needed the most encouragement.)

I conducted an experiment with the male church leaders. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom, right in front of the urinal. It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” Actually it looked vaguely familiar to most of the men. :)

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them that when making a first impression, the little things matter. This was a church plant. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized that every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen that bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal…and we had very good coffee. :) Although it was a minor thing…just a bulletin on the floor…it had the potential to leave a larger impression; especially if that same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week we’ll even plug you in to pick up bulletins off the bathroom floor. :) )

From that point, some of the men became more observant about the little things that needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church. It turned out to be a very helpful illustration.

Question: Would this same demonstration have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up? (Just curious)

Any other ideas? How could you help your team learn the principle that the little things matter?

7 Traits that Separate a Leader of Courage

Leadership requires guts. (I wrote about that HERE.)

You can’t lead if you aren’t willing to be courageous. I wrote about that HERE and HERE.

I continue, however, to observe people who claim to be leaders, yet seem to have no courage at all. Have you seen this trait?

I believe we need great followers. My son Nate writes that we need to teach “followership”. (Read his thoughts HERE.) If someone wants to lead, however, let them lead! Will the real leader, please stand up?

In my opinion…

Here are 7 Traits that Separate a Leader of Courage:

  • Takes risks others are unwilling to attempt…
  • Invest in people others are willing to dismiss…
  • Empowers people while other wait for them to completely prove themselves…
  • Faces conflicts other avoid…
  • Challenges the status quo with which others have grown contented…
  • Embraces changes others ignore…
  • Remains steadfast when others are departing…

I’ll be honest, as a leader, I can become timid towards each of the traits on this list…(other than maybe the embracing change one :) )  It’s not a matter of having no fear or being over confident in one’s abilities. For the courageous leader, it’s an issue of pushing through the adversity and obstacles that get in the way of achieving a worthy goal. It’s continually going back to the vision and doing whatever it takes to accomplish the vision. It’s embracing faith over fear and refusing to let past failures dictate future success. That’s what separates a leader of courage from the norm.

What would you add to my list?

7 Signs of a Dysfunctional Team

Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, that you’ve served on one that is dysfunctional. It appears to me that we have many to choose from in the organizational world. :) A dysfunctional team in simple terms is one that cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance because of a combination of negative characteristics.

If you have been on a dysfunctional team, then you’ve probably seen one or more of of the common traits found among a dysfunctional team. They do have commonalities.

Here are 7 signs of a dysfunctional team:

Team members don’t talk to each other…as much as they talk about each other…

Problems are never addressed; conflict is avoided…the real issues are continually ignored or excused…

No one takes responsibility…and everyone passes blame…

Communication usually brings more tension than progress…and no one is truly honest with each other…

The mention of change makes everyone nervous…and real progress has to be forced or controlled…

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions…and team members never feel valued or appreciated…

There are competing visions, goals or objectives….and it’s every team member for his or herself…

Have you served on a dysfunctional team?

(How many of these can you currently see on your team? If there are at least two or three and I’d say you may need to evaluate the team’s health…)

What other signs would you add to my list?

A Huge Thought from: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

I’m reading John Maxwell’s book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently”. I’m three-fourths finished and I’ve been reminded and learned some great stuff so far, but one thing hit me huge today. I see so much truth here from personal experience.

Maxwell claims, “Connectors live what they communicate”. The people who learn to connect with others best live the life they talk about when they communicate. Then Maxwell writes:

Credibility! Here’s how this works in any kind of relationship:

The first six months – communication overrides credibility.

After six months – credibility overrides communication. 

Then he closes that thought by writing, “Credibility is currency for leaders and communicators. With it, they are solvent; without it, they are bankrupt.” 

Wow! I love that! It’s so true. In the beginning of a relationship, you hang on what people say, but as the relationship matures, it doesn’t matter as much what they say…it matters what they do.

Do you see “credibility” and application here? 

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

How do you know when it’s time to leave an organization?

I recently wrote “Leave Before You Have To”. Sometimes it’s more damaging to stay than to quit.

I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay, but many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. The following are some times to consider leaving. I think these may apply if you are in a church or business setting. This post is expanded from a post I wrote a few years ago. It developed from a conversation with a church staff member suffering under tremendously poor leadership and other questionable activities. I’ve continued to encounter situations where a person is wrestling with whether it’s time to leave their position.

Here are 10 scenarios that may indicate it’s time to leave:

When God has freed you from your commitment - I believe God’s call is ultimately to the person of Christ, not to a place, but there are times God has us in a specific place for a specific season. You may only be a leader for a season. If you sense God has released you to pursue other positions, it may soon be time to leave.

When your work is finished - It could be that you’ve accomplished what you were sent to accomplish. I once wrote about leaders needing a challenge to stay motivated. If you have become too comfortable, it may be a time God is preparing you for a change…a new challenge. (Read more of that thought HERE.)

When your heart has left the organization or it’s vision – Sometimes you need to reenergize your heart. If God hasn’t released you from the position, for example, then you have to find a way to make it work. In many cases, however, you are freed to move elsewhere. You shouldn’t harm the organization by staying when you no longer have a heart for the mission. If you’ve quit having fun, don’t keep making life miserable for everyone else.

When you can’t support the leadership - You need to know where the power rests in the organization. It’s nearly impossible to change the organization working against an ingrained power structure. Ask yourself, “If it’s always going to be like this here, would I be content staying?”

When your family or personal life is suffering, because of the demands of the organization - If you have to neglect one of them, your career or your family, in twenty years, which do you hope it will have been?

When your mind starts working against the mission of the organization – If you would rather see the place fail than succeed; it could clearly be time to go.

When your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair - You should try to work out these differences, you certainly should offer grace and forgiveness, but when it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time to move forward with your life.

If the organization or senior leadership is venturing into immoral or unethical practices – Don’t get caught in the next news scandal.

When you find yourself physically ill if work crosses your mind – On the weekend (or when you are off work), if the emotional stress is greater than you can handle, you may need to protect your health over your career.

When you don’t have the energy to pull your own weight - For whatever reason, whether it’s because you’ve given up, you are bored, or just can’t keep up the pace, if you are dragging down productivity and you don’t have the incentive to improve, perhaps it’s time for a change in your workplace.

Please understand. I’m not a quitter. God may leave you in the miserable environment for a season…or even years. He certainly did for some of the men and women in Bible history. I also believe that the times described above are not always to be viewed as negative experiences. Sometimes God uses the difficult experiences of life to draw us to Him and to open our eyes to the next opportunity He has for us. I would have never made some of the moves I’ve made in life…that I know now were of God…had it not been for my miserable situation at the time.

At the same time, I believe there are times a false sense of loyalty, co-dependency or irrational fear keeps us from moving forward even though God is not holding us to the position. In my opinion, protecting our heart is more important than protecting a professional position. I wouldn’t make a decision solely on just one of these scenarios, but if numerous of them apply…

Consider this list as it compares to your situation, then ask God to confirm in your heart:

  • If you are free to leave.
  • If now is the time.

What would you add to my list?

You might also read: Discerning a Change in Ministry Assignment

Simplified 7-Step Roadmap to Success

In an organizational sense…

Here is a 7 step roadmap to success for a team:

Have a big God-given dream…

Get a clear vision of what success would look like…

Organize a great team…

Formulate a strategic plan of action steps to create a win…

Assign specific tasks to everyone on the team…

Keep pushing forward, even during difficult days, encouraging one another…

Celebrate along the way…

Have you served on a successful team? 

Are You a Leader or Manager?

Are you a leader or a manager?

Every organization needs both, so don’t be ashamed to answer either way, but it’s important that you know the difference, which one you do best, and then try to arrange your career where you can realize your best potential.

In the book “Reviewing Leadership”, the authors Banks and Ledbetter write, “Leadership and management are two distinct yet related systems of action….They are similar in that each involves influence as a way to move ideas forward, and both involve working with people. Both are also concerned with end results. Yet the overriding functions of leadership and management are distinct. Management is about coping with complexity – it is responsive. Leadership is about coping with change – it too is responsive, but mostly it is proactive. More chaos demands more management, and more change always demands more leadership. In general, the purpose of management is to provide order and consistency to organizations, while the primary function of leadershp is to produce change and movement.”

I think that’s a great summary of the differences between leadership and management for organizations and individuals to consider. Too many times we ask good managers to be great leaders or good leaders to be great managers. The problem with being in the wrong fit is that we tend to burn out more quickly when we are not able to live out our giftedness. In addition, we frustrate the people we are supposed to be leading or managing and ultimately we keep the organization from being the best it can be.

Do a self-evaluation of which you are more skilled at doing. Are you a better leader or a better manager?

Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Through experience I’ve learned I identify with one of these roles more than the other. One description fires me up…the other bums me out. (Can you guess which one fires me up?) One comes more naturally for me and the other I struggle to learn…and attempt to delegate when possible.

What about you? Are you in your proper fit? Do you see the difference?

You might also read:

Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

One Contrast Between a Leader and a Manager

(This is a revised post)

20 Words Associated with Leadership

Here are twenty random words associated with leadership…

  • Purpose
  • Integrity
  • Values
  • Strategy
  • Principles
  • Humility
  • Passion
  • Delegation
  • Empowerment
  • Sincerity
  • Risk
  • Confidence
  • Commitment
  • Wisdom
  • People
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Sensitivity
  • Determination
  • Courage

Plus yours…

What would you add to my list?

Bonus round:

If you had to choose only 5 as being most important…

Which would you choose?

7 Critical Abilities Senior Leaders Must Have

I want to address some critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective. The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader? :) ) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses…of which I have many…but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty-nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization. All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor or CEO and I’ll show you someone who carries…in an organizational leadership sense…a heavy burden. I’ve learned from observation that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not.

A limiting factor in one being qualified for a senior level position in an organization appears to me to be when they lack some of the abilities required of that position. It doesn’t mean all senior leaders excel in each of these…I certainly don’t…but to be effective they must be aware of the need to have these abilities and working towards them.

Here are 7 critical abilities every senior leader must have:

Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture – The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization at all times. He or she must learn to “think strategically in the moment“, realizing that the future of the organization is always at stake.

Ability to remain steadfast during adversity – The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problems. In times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around it look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles surround the organization. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence – The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t yet ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to fully release control and delegate – The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust and take risks on others to free the organization to continue to grow. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to see all sides to an issue – The senior leader can’t always side with his or her area of personal interest, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each individual part of the organization. (I wrote about that HERE)

Ability to make unpopular decisions – The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible for the organization, even when that means the decision will not be popular. This often produces a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position. (I wrote about being unpopular as a leader HERE.)

Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization – The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader recognizes the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization. (I wrote about ways to address healthy conflict HERE and HERE.)

If you don’t have these abilities, don’t quit leading, but recognize an area of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

What is missing from my list? What would you add?

Make this post better: Share examples of ineffective senior level leaders you’ve known and which of these were lacking from his or her abilities.

The Leader’s Private Life

The leader’s private life…

The leader’s marriage…

The leader’s family life…

The leader’s physical health…

The leader’s emotional health…

The leader’s spiritual health…

Impacts the leader…which naturally impacts the people he or she leads…

The leader’s private life matters to the health of the team…

You may want to read THIS POST next.

Leader, how is your private life impacting the people or organization you lead?

Not sure…ask them…

I always tell the teams I lead…and remind myself…

We must get better to get bigger…

(BTW, I help “brave” leaders do this…read more HERE.)