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

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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?

7 Qualities of an Easy to Follow Leader

follow leader

Are you easy to follow as a leader?

I might ask — are you followable?

Followable may not be a Scrabble approved word — or even a word — but the application and the intent of the word is huge.

A followable leader has people who want to follow. See how elementary I can be?

Seriously, leaders who are easy to follow inspire people to join them on a journey and they develop loyalty from their team.

A couple of good questions to ask yourself: Do people want to follow my lead? Why would they want to follow me?

The best example I know of a followable leader is Jesus. Consider some of the reasons He was able to develop such loyalty among the people He led — why He was easy to follow.

Here are 7 qualities of an easy to follow leader:

Have a vision worth following – A leader needs a vision which lasts beyond today. There needs to be an element of faith and risk to motivate followers. The vision needs to take people somewhere they want to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. It needs to be a “bigger” reality than people are experiencing today. (Do I have to make that point for Jesus?)

Willing to lead the way – A leader who is easy to follow is willing to go first. They pave the way. (Jesus went first. He suffered first. He challenged the tired, worn out system first. Others could follow, because He led by example.)

Remain steadfast – Even through difficult days, a followable leader stays the course. Followers know they can depend on the, resolve, strength and fortitude of the leader during the darkest hours. (Jesus went all the way to the Cross!)

Display patience – A followable leader extends grace and forgiveness when mistakes are made. They pace the team until the team is ready for greater challenges. They equip the team with the proper training and resources to complete assignments. (Jesus gave His disciples — and everyone He met — much grace.)

Challenge followers with high expectations – People want to follow someone who sets the bar for achievement high. There’s no intrinsic value in following easy-to-attain goals. (Jesus pushed the disciples beyond what they thought they could do. Recall Peter walking on water?)

Practice humble servanthood – To be followable, a leader should display humility and be a servant of others — especially those he or she is supposed to be leading. (Jesus washed the disciples feet.)

Place energy into others – Followable leaders consistently invest in other people. They give real authority and responsibility as they encourage and develop other leaders. They even replace themselves in key positions. (Jesus sent the disciples out — and He’s left His church in our hands.)

Would you follow a leader with such qualities?

Which of these do you most need to improve upon?

7 Traits of Courageous Leadership

leaping

There are many courageous leaders in our world today. Certainly coming to mind are the military and emergency personnel who serve faithfully everyday.

It takes courage to be an organizational leader also. And, I see many courageous leaders, as evidenced by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.

But, what does it mean when we talk about courage and leadership? Every leader I know wants to be considered brave, strong, courageous.

Who are the truly courageous organizational leaders among us?

I have a few thoughts. I wish I always lived up to all of them.

Here are 7 traits of a courageous leader:

Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult. Courageous leaders remain steadfast when others are departing.

Not afraid to make big requests of others. They make big asks of people, but are willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them.

Willing to take the first move into unproven territory. Courageous leaders are pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks.

Moves forward by faith. Even when the outcome is unclear, courage helps these leaders face conflicts others tend to avoid. Uncharted waters are the courageous leader’s playground.

Makes hard decisions regarding people. Leaders with courage entrust others with genuine responsibilities. They empower people even before they completely prove themselves. They invest in people others are willing to dismiss — But they are also willing to acknowledge when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team and — as graciously as possible — move forward without them.

Protects the God-given vision. In the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks courageous leaders stay the course. They know God has called them to something bigger than today and they hold fast to His plans for their life and the people they lead.

Implements needed changes. Change is never easy. It’s why most of us avoid it, but even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular, leaders with courage push forward to lead change with diligence. They challenge the status-quo with which others have grown contented.

Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!

Anything you’d add to my list?