8 Ways to be “Odd Man Out” on a Team

Army Boots Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “odd man out”? It means you didn’t fit. You don’t measure up for some reason. You were excluded. It hurts.

I’ve been that person numerous times. I get it because I’m pastor sometimes. People assume I can’t also be fun. So they don’t invite me to the party. I experienced it some in business circles. There are haves and have nots in many business circles. I was mostly in the have nots. I’ve even been excluded though for having too much. People assume because I’m not struggling like they are that I probably never have.

We’ve all been excluded at some point in life.

It’s one thing to be “odd man out” by no choice of your own, but it’s another to be that way by choice.

Some people choose to be ” odd man out”. Have you ever thought about that concept? I’ve led or worked with many teams and whether its a few people or many, there can easily be at least one who chooses to be “odd man out”. It may or may not be a conscious decision they’ve made, but they simply don’t fit well with the rest of the team and they got that way by their own decisions.

And it’s a problem. In fact, if unaddressed, it can be dangerous for organizational health. Trying to build consensus or form team spirit becomes more difficult. Morale is infected by the intentional “odd man out”. Spotting this as the problem early can avoid further issues down the road.

In this post, I’ll address some ways this occurs or symptoms of the issue. I will do it in a satirical fashion, but it should help spot the “odd man out” on your team. In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts on how to address it as a leader.

Here are 8 ways to be the “odd man out” on a team:

Be resistant to every change – Whenever a new idea is presented, always be the first to say it won’t work. You don’t have to have a reason. Just oppose it.

Always be negative…about everything – See the glass half-empty. Always. There’s nothing good about this…place…leader…idea…day…life.

Always have an excuse – It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Of course it is.

Never have a solution – It’s your job to point out problems, not to help solve them. You don’t care to build…you’re here to tear down. And, you intend to do your job well.

Hold opinions until after the decision has been made – That way, no one can blame you. But, you can clearly see and say how things should have been done. Make sure you tell everyone.

Talk behind people’s back – Never go to the source. It stirs more drama if you talk about someone rather than to someone. Make sure you talk behind the leader’s back too. Negativity spreads even faster that way.

Refuse to participate in any team social activities – Who needs them, right? You’re here to work…I mean complain…why would you want to hang out with people when you have plenty of time to make life miserable for others during work hours.

Don’t buy into the vision – Actually, for best results, work against the vision. Maybe even have a vision of your own. And, you can keep it to yourself, too, as long as you work against the vision of the team.

Of course, these are written with sarcasm, but you get the idea. Have you ever worked with anyone like this? Did you spot the “odd man out” on the team? You may want to share with them 12 Ways to Make Yourself a Valuable Team Member. To be clear (and I edited this post to add this last statement), I’m not advocating always agreeing with a team. I’m often “odd man out” on my team, because I love big ideas, but hopefully I will do so in a spirit of cooperation, not a spirit of disruption.

What tips would you add for a person to be “odd man out”?

10 Traits to Identify Potential New Leaders

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to identify potential new leaders. If a church or organization is to grow, finding new leaders is critical. Equally vital is the quality of leaders being discovered. Good leaders learn to look for qualities in people that are conducive to good leadership. If you want to have a culture that reproduces leaders, read THIS POST first.

But, where do you find these people who can be future leaders? I find it helps to look for certain qualities, which all good leaders need or qualities that, consistently over time, seem to make good leaders.

Here are 10 attributes I consider valuable traits when looking for new leaders:

Concern/Love for others – You can’t lead people effectively if you don’t genuinely love people. I’ve seen people in positions who have great power, but they don’t appear to love others. These leaders often produce followers well, but they fall short of reproducing leaders.

Not a complainer – Candidly speaking, leadership encounters complainers regardless of what we do. I certainly don’t want to add complainers to my team of leaders. A positive attitude will get my attention every time.

Teachable and open to suggestions – A person who thinks they have all the answers will repel other leaders. People with no desire to keep learning rarely find their place on my team of leaders.

Excellence in following – This is a biggie for me. I try to follow people I lead, because there are times they know more than I do. Many times. Someone who isn’t willing to follow is seldom ready to lead.

Reliability – Leadership is about trust, and trust is developed over time and consistency by doing what you said you would do. I look for people with that quality.

Interest – The people with a burning passion for the church or organization often make great leaders. You can train someone to lead others, but you can’t easily train them to have interest.

Good character – Character counts. Not perfection. Not flawless. But, good character is necessary to be trusted on a team. Integrity. Honesty. A humble desire to always be improving as a person. That kind of character.

Potential – God always saw potential in others they themselves couldn’t see. I try to have eyes to see that in others.

Confidence – Leaders have to move forward when others are ready to retreat. That takes confidence. Not prideful, but a genuine willingness to lead through the hard times; to do what others aren’t willing to do.

People skills – This goes without saying, but you can’t lead people if you can’t communicate with people. You don’t have to be the life of the party (I’m a strong Introvert), but you do have to be able to engage people and make them feel a part of things.

Well, those are some traits I look for in potential leaders.

Do you have other traits you look for in recruiting leaders?

(This is an expanded version of an older post.)

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?

7 Thoughts on Managing Conflict as a Leader

team conflict

As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision.

I’m not afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions were hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled. I’ve written previously on managing conflict HERE and HERE.

When faced with conflict on my team, I realize the way I handle it will go a long way towards allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good. In fact, I must learn to better manage the conflicts rather than attempt to kill them.

Here are 7 thoughts for managing conflict on a team:

Interfere sparingly – I try not to take sides in conflict anymore than I have to, even when I have my own opinion. If the conflict isn’t a vision issue, and it seems to be resolving on it’s own, I’ve found it is best if I allow the process to take it’s course. When the leader gets involved in conflict it takes on a new life; often unnecessarily.

Listen carefully – I try to hear both sides of the conflict. Normally there are valid points on both sides. It’s important that I hear not only what is said, but also what is unspoken. That takes asking questions, getting to know the members of my team, and not assuming I know what people are thinking simply by what they say. Understanding the basis of conflict and the opposing viewpoints is critical to understanding the conflict.

Communicate – During times of conflict, it’s even more important that communication be clear and consistent. Many times, conflict is simply due to a lack of clarity or miscommunication. Information often makes conflict easier to resolve. As leader, part of my responsibility is making sure the team communicates effectively.

Discern the real issue – Conflict develops for a number of reasons; not all of them good. Beyond miscommunication, conflict also develops over power struggles, weak leadership, or simply personality differences. Discerning the nature of the conflict and if there is a root issue (often unspoken or undefined) helps me avoid trying to solve the perceived conflict, when the real issue is something completely different.

Monitor impact – As I said, conflict in and of itself is not bad, but part of my job is making sure conflict on a team doesn’t begin to harm rather than promote health of the team and it’s members. When individuals begin to attack each other personally, act in anger, form sides within the team, or distract from progress, it’s time for the leader to interfere.

Vision – Ultimately, my job as a leader is to maintain the integrity of the vision. Conflict can enhance or interfere with attaining the vision. My job is to continually direct the team’s attention back to our purpose.

Don’t be afraid of conflict on a team. Good leaders learn to manage it for the overall good of the team.

Leader, how do you manage conflict on 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?

4 Suggestions for Developing Trust as a Leader

Elegant leader

Trust is like gold in leadership. Without it a leader will fail to build a healthy following. Developing trust takes time. It is seldom granted with position alone. Most people have been injured in relationships that keeps them from trusting blindly. But, developing trust is critical for leaders to pursue and maintain.

In full disclosure, I’m 7 months into a new leadership position as this post is written. I recognize that with many in the church I pastor I’m still developing levels of trust.

How does a leader develop trust?

Here are four suggestions:

A Compassion for others that is personal and goes beyond what they bring to the team.

A Competence in a subject matter, or a willingness to yield to those who know more than the leader knows about a subject.

A Consistent approach or methodology, as well as consistency in character, that can be depended on through good and bad times.

A clear and frequent Communication process that shares in transparency and full disclosure.

Those are some of my suggestions.

What can you offer?

7 Issues that Distract a Leader from Success

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I recently wrote 7 ideas which will help you attain more success. It seems a counter post is merited.

Here are 7 issues that will distract you from success as a leader:

Trying to plan every detail – Ecclesiastes says you won’t plant if you watch the wind. Risk is always necessary for meaningful success.

Lack of flexibility – Things change. Have a great vision, but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way.

Shunning or controlling other people – You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the corner on ideas. You need help.

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even – The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement.

Worrying more than you pray – The unknown brings doubt but faith goes without seeing. Take your pick. Only one answer allowed.

Being stingy with your time, money or influence – The more you try to control what you hold in your hand, the stingier your heart becomes. Stingy hearts are burdened by unnecessary distractions. (The one who loved money is never satisfied with his wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Having to do things “your way” – When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising.

What would you add?

Are one of these keeping you from accomplishing all you could?

One Suggestion to Take Stress from the Hiring Process

Handshake and teamwork

There is so much stress involved in hiring the right person for the team. I have a suggestion with may help.

We recently did this with several new staff positions on our team.

Build the job description around the person.

Set the vision for the job, hire the best person you can find (and/or afford as the case may be)…then build the job description…with the person’s help…around that person.

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

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

Find the right people and you can shape a team around them. This is true whether they are paid or volunteer.

This approach allows you to hire for character, competence, experience and fit with the team, but 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.

And, I best of all…it makes for a much happier, more productive team.

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

Do you have any hiring tips you could share?

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 Leadership Default Zones

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There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. Having a default zone when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” to in common situations that occur most frequently in leadership may prove to be helpful.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way has over time proven to be best. That becomes your default zone.

Here are some of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring…default to no over yes – If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I vote no. It’s not worth taking a chance when adding to the team and when I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it…don’t – I often don’t follow my own advice here, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader.

If it’s between empower or control…choose empower – Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen that the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way.

My preference or the team’s preference…go with the team – There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong.

In person or by email…choose in person – By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But, when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times.

If there’s doubt…ask for clarification – If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking…if it doesn’t appear they understand you…rather than assume…ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams.

Grace or dismissal…choose grace – There are times when you simply have to make the difficult decision. But, when you can….extend grace. Some of my best, more loyal team members became that way only by grace.

Learning some of your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?