Leadership Development for Dummies

Here's all there is to it.

Sorry if the title is crude. No implication about anyone here. But leadership development may not be as difficult as we often make it out to be. So why not share the oversimplified version?  The dummy version. 

One of the number one questions I get about leadership is how to develop new leaders within an organization. The task can often seem overwhelming. Few organizations or churches I know are viewed as experts in the field. Ours certainly isn’t. 

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Perhaps all of us can figure this out. 

Leadership development begins with an underlying understanding that the success of any organization depends greatly on the leader’s willingness to delegate responsibility to others in the organization. This attitude – especially among top leadership – is vitally important to developing new leaders. 

The more a leader tries to control, the less likely others will be to help him or her accomplish the vision. Of course, without people willing to follow a leader, there is no leadership development.

(For pastors who reject this idea, please read Exodus 18 or Acts 6 – or just follow Jesus through the Gospels.)

Here is my simple formula. I believe the best leadership development is accomplished by allowing others to gain experience by doing. Basically, this means we must find ways to allow others to lead.

In fact, delegation can be simplified into two words.

INVEST and RELEASE

Invest

Personally spend time with and mentor others so they understand the vision of the organization and have the resources, skills and authority to accomplish their assignment. Allow them to ask questions, to take risks, fail, and begin again. 

Release

Let people lead. Allow them to add their strengths, creativity and energy to accomplishing the vision. Give them real responsibility and authority. Don’t micromanage.

I realize this is a very simplified answer to a very complicated process, but perhaps simplifying leadership development is needed to ensure we tackle this necessary part of growing a healthy organization.

And, you can easily monitor whether leadership development is occurring in your church or organization with my simple model. Simply ask yourself – look around – is anyone being invested in on a regular basis. Then, more important, is anyone being released to lead? 

If you have any questions, or need a model to follow, simply pay more attention to Jesus. It’s exactly how He did His leadership development.

Are you holding other potential leaders back because you will not release them to lead?

Understanding The Power of Caged Momentum

This is huge.

In church planting, I learned an important leadership principle. I’m not sure you can learn this one without being forced into it, so learn from my experience.

Let me illustrate it with a practical example:

Launching Grace Community Church was an 18-month process from the time I agreed to obey God’s encouragement to start a new church, we met with a group of interested people in our living room, and actually held a first service. (I had resisted His encouragement to plant a church for 10 years – but that’s another post.)

I met with a dozen or so couples who would eventually serve as our core team, but we first asked them to wrestle in prayer if this was what God was calling them to do. Then we waited months before we had our first meeting or they even officially committed to the vision. After this, we made them wait nine months before we ever met as a church.

It was a difficult season of waiting, but it proved invaluable.

Waiting to implement God’s vision for excited people – people inclined towards progress – was difficult, but the result proved an important principle about human dynamics and organizational development.

That’s a fancy way of saying waiting stunk, but it worked – in an incredible way.

It taught me the principle I like to call:

The Power of Caged Momentum

So we repeated it – often intentionally.

For example, although we knew small groups would be a major part of our mission, we did “test” groups with a few people for months before we allowed the entire church to join a group. We used this time to train leaders, but it also served the purpose to generate enthusiasm among those who had to wait to get in a group.

Telling a person or a group of people to wait for something they really want to do and are excited about builds positive momentum. When we did launch groups officially we had huge numbers sign up the first day.

That’s the power of caged momentum.

Here’s another time we saw this principle work for our favor.

We didn’t launch a student ministry immediately after we launched the church. We had children’s ministries, but nothing for youth other than our weekly service. We knew if we launched something it wouldn’t be very good. (And, my sons were two of those youth.) Some participated in other youth programs. Some did things together on their own. My sons even launched their own service in our living room.

But, when we did launch we had a large, successful gathering. That student ministry today remains highly vibrant – often defying normal percentages of student service attendance compared to Sunday morning church attendance.

That’s the power of caged momentum.

This doesn’t mean you always make people wait simply to build momentum, but you shouldn’t be afraid to either. The reality is we are often quick to rush decisions. We move quickly when we have an idea. We don’t always take time to prepare for the change, bring people along, and ideally build the momentum we need before launching something new.

Since learning this principle I have intentionally used it to build momentum in our church.

Of course, there is always the balance between waiting too long you lose opportunity (which is called opportunity cost) and moving too fast you don’t build enough momentum. I can’t solve this for you in a simple post. Your situation and experience will be unique to you, but the principle here is important.

The point is this – don’t be afraid to make your church, organization or team (or even your family) wait before they get to experience something great. The power of caged momentum may even make the outcome better than you were expecting.

Have you seen this principle at work?

10 Ways To Create More Margin in Your Time

How do you fit more into an already busy schedule?

Isn’t this a great question?

Because, aren’t you being asked to do so all the time? Isn’t your standard reply to the question “how are you?” – BUSY? Aren’t we all?

HOw do you creat more margin in your schedule – to do the things you want to do and the things you need to do?

Here are a 10 tips to help create more time margin:

Start your day with God.

Of course a pastor would say this, but it is amazing if I start the day talking to God about my day how much better my day flows. If I ask God for margin in my time and to help me complete my “to do” list, He actually seems to listen and help me. (Try it!)

Prioritize your life.

It is important to have a life purpose. What do you value most? Without knowing this we find ourselves chasing after many things that have little value. Have you discovered why you are here and what God has most for you in life and in this season of life? If not, start here.

Make sure your priorities line up with your desires.

This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is not. Many times, we say our purpose is one thing, but what we actually do is something entirely different. This is often because people are going to do what people want to do. We may need to ask God to change our heart and plant in us His desires.

Stop unnecessary time-wasters.

If you “veg” out every night on three plus hours of television or browsing Facebook, don’t be surprised you didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with your children or friends. Most of us form bad habits or have unorganized methods of doing something that waste bulks of our time. Make a list of what you spend the most time doing and see if there are places you can cut. (I suspect there will be.)

Work smarter.

I can’t imagine being successful and leading a team without some system of calendaring your week or keeping a planner, yet I know so many pastors and other ministers who simply handle things as they come up rather than work with a plan. The benefit of organization is that you can do what you need to do more efficiently and faster and be more productive. Give a shoutout to the checklist people! 

Schedule times to organize.

This is so important, but most people don’t do it. Spending an hour or two actually planning the week will make the whole week more productive. Usually for me this is the first part of my week. If I know where I’m headed and my work space is organized for efficiency, it’s much easier to get everything done and still handle distractions, which are sure to come.

Do the most necessary things first.

You may have tried the A/B/C list of scheduling priorities. It doesn’t matter what system you use, but the important thing is you have one and use it to help your rate of completion. (And, this may be rest, it might be family, or it could be the project you have to complete today.)

Don’t say yes to everything.

Be picky with your time allotment based again on your end priorities and goals.

Schedule down time.

Especially when my boys were younger, I would write on my calendar time for them. This may sound mechanical, but it allows you to be there and keeps things and others from filling up your schedule. (I still schedule this time for Cheryl – and, it sounds counterproductive, but we get away even more frequently during busier seasons.)

Evaluate your schedule often.

Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Develop your plan to create margin in your life, then periodically review the plan to see how you are doing and what needs to be changed.

For some people just reading this is laborsome. I especially encourage those of you geared this way to push through the difficult part of this and give it a try. You will be surprised what a positive difference it will have on your life.

6 Steps to Finishing Well in Life and Leadership

Everyone wants to be successful in life, but the truth is many people never really achieve what they set out to accomplish. Many of us fall short of obtaining our dreams and goals. This is true in life and leadership.

After years of observing a lackluster success rate among some of the people to whom I minister and to leaders I coach, I began to examine why some people never seem to succeed.

What is it which keeps people from being achieving what they claim to want most in life?

Are there some steps which can be taken to enhance our chances of winning in this “game” of life?

If I am asked to coach someone to be a winner, these are some of the steps I will start.

Here are six steps I suggest to win in life and leadership:

Step One: Get in the right race.

Many people never achieve the success they wanted, because they entered the wrong competition. They are aiming for the wrong targets. We should ask ourselves “where do I want to go in life and what do I eventually want to accomplish?” Until we know how we want our life to end we will never know the steps to take to succeed. This is true for leaders. If you don’t have a vision for your leadership – where you’re leading people – you’re failing before you get started. Of course, I believe in life this starts with a decision to allow Christ to set your path. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Step Two: Discipline for the race.

Winning happens over time – not in an instant. The greatest athletes work hours outside the game in order to perhaps win even a single game. Victory doesn’t often happen without hard, painful work to get there. It takes diligence and consistency to be a winner. Many times victory was just around the corner, but the people gave up too soon. The best leaders I know also learn their individual skills and continue to develop them and they surround themselves with people who complement them – and cover for them in their weaknesses.

Step Three: Develop character first.

People who truly win in life spend a great amount of time on the development of themselves and others around them. Most of the successful business people and church leaders I know set aside time each week for personal development. They are frequently in the gym, reading a good book, and attending church on Sunday. They develop their mind, body and spirit. They recognize that they must be relationally, physically and spiritually healthy if they want to have success in life.

Step Four: Accept Failure

Most winners are built through brokenness. The greatest leaders have failed many times. Before inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison failed a thousand times. Babe Ruth had 714 home runs and 1,330 strikeouts. Abraham Lincoln was said to have failed so many times, in business, in his love life, in politics but finally became one of the greatest President of the United States. People who finish well in life and leadership allow failure to be their friend not their enemy.

Step Five: Ignore unnecessary distractions.

Winners don’t give up when obstacles get in the way of achieving their goals. They find a way to work around them. They don’t waste a lot of time and energy on the wrong things. They build upon the strength of others. Life is full of disappointments and set backs, but those who finish well learn to keep pushing forward – even through the darkest days.

Step Six: Stay in the race.

If a person wants to win he or she has to stay in the race. One cannot be a quitter and still win. Many times the winner is the one with the most heart. I know some leaders who need this encouragement – and, they will need it many times in their career as a leader. Often we see the underdog team come from behind to win simply because they have more passion. If you want to be a winner – if you want to finish well – stay in the game!

Choose today to be a winner! Finish well! Don’t let your “hope to do’s” become your “wish you had’s”.

7 Common Excuses for Not Doing What We Know God has Called Us To Do

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.

I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I had to provide for my family. I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.

Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. 

And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?

But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.

The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong. 

Here are 7 of the most common excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t!

Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)

I don’t know how!

The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)

I don’t have time!

God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)

I’m all alone!

Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid!

And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it!

You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)

I won’t!

This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

4 Ways I Know When to Say No to Seemingly Good Things

Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier. 

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.

What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

I love and encourage dreaming.

I think dreaming is healthy for our emotional well-being. It’s a process that helps us accomplish great things personally and for God.

We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours. We are to walk by faith. We are to trust God into the unknown. Dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.

The reality is –‘however — that more people have dreams than attain them.

Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable. If your dream is to create a new moon you may be disappointed, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be realistic to write the next Purpose Driven Life.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important.) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability – Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load – Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed.

Take a risk – If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

Identity Always Precedes Activity

This is a guest post from Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Jeff has also become a friend and I’ve enjoyed the times to hang out with him. He’s a sharp young mind you should get to know. Check out his new eBook, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

Here are some thoughts from Jeff:

I’ve spent too much time trying to prove something to myself instead of living into the reality of my identity.

I’ve labored and toiled, desperately trying to affirm in myself what I hope is true about me. That I’m good enough. That the world needs to hear my message. That what I have to say counts.

I’ve wasted years on this pursue and not spent nearly enough time grasping my identity as a child of God. A son. An heir.

And frankly, I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting and pointless. I’ve given up on proving things (to me or you) and started surrendering to who I am. In the process, I’ve learned two lessons:

Lesson #1: You are not what you do.

Your identity comes from some place deeper than your resume or list of accomplishments.

This is important, because in a culture of competition, it’s easy to get lost in the rat race. To chase the horizon and never catch it.

So many people live out of their false selves, constantly performing for an invisible audience and never feeling satisfied.

This will leave you dissatisfied and disillusioned. The way out is to trust what God says about you is true:

  • You are accepted.
  • You are righteous.
  • You are forgiven.
  • You are loved.

Lesson #2: What you do comes from who you are.

This is related to the first, but still worth stating, because so many people aren’t doing this. They’re living out of some fake place of pretense — a facade, a front. And everyone can see it, but them.

The way out of this is to stop lying to yourself. To admit you are who you already know you are:

  • A writer.
  • A dreamer.
  • A plumber.
  • A dancer.

Whatever it is that you were made to do, it’s time to stop hiding and start believing. And then, once you believe, it’s time to do it.

So many people are waiting for God to tell them what to do with their lives, but I believe God is waiting for those people to be who he’s made them to be.

Are you still living life with a performance mentality? Or have you finally given yourself to be who you are? If so, what are you?

4 Things I Need from a Mentor

I am a fan of the term mentoring. I have been and had a mentor for over 25 years and can honestly say mentors have helped make my life better.

I’ve written several posts on mentoring previously:

The Mentor Recruiter

5 Types of Mentors

How do I find a mentor?

Why I (You) Need a Mentor

5 Questions to Help You Know What to do with a Mentor

One question about mentoring I am consistently asked is, “What should a mentor do?” That’s an obvious question. What do you do when you have been asked to be a mentor or you decide to intentionally recruit someone to mentor you? What role should the mentor play in the mentee’s life?

Well, I don’t believe the point of a mentor is to script another person’s life. That’s not what I’ve ever wanted from my mentors or what I’ve attempted to do with those I mentor. I can’t share everything you may need in a mentor, but I can share what I have sought in one.

Here are 4 things I want in a mentor:

Help shape my path – Mentors have been used to help me make life altering decisions. Whether it was with career choices, marriage issues or character development, I need a mentor to help me make the major decisions in my life.

Allow me to learn from their experiences – Mentors have shared the good and bad elements of their life which has helped protect me from needless pain and guide me to better results. This is why I generally prefer mentors a generation ahead of me.

Help me me meet my goals – In business and in ministry, mentors have taught me valuable insights, discover paradigms, built principles into my life, which have helped me to be more successful in the things I hope to achieve.

Challenge me – Mentors have been there to encourage me to improve my life in areas of struggle, moments of fear, or in a resistance towards needed change. Mentors give an objective, but caring outside perspective that often gives me the nudge to do what I need to do.

My life wouldn’t be the same without the mentors in my life. Who have been some of the mentors in your life?

What else would you want from a mentor?

The Danger of Vision Casting

Vision casting can be dangerous…

It can destroy the health of a team…

Cast your stones if you want, but it’s true.

The most prolific vision-casters can ruin a good team.

Let me explain…

Casting a vision is one part of success…an important part…

Completing the vision is another…equally important part…

And if the team doesn’t understand the vision…

Or how to complete it…

It won’t matter how well the vision was cast…

In fact, it can even do more harm than good.

Visions can appear bigger than life…

People left without the “how” may feel discouraged, defeated; like failures.

They may give up and the vision dies…

Vision-casters, by nature, thrive on casting…so they are continually throwing out the big idea…

It’s fun, exciting, motivating…visionary…

Great leaders continually work to ensure people not only catch the vision…

But also understand the how and have the resources to accomplish the vision…

It takes both…

Great leaders:

  • Ask questions to make sure everyone understands…
  • Ensure there are plans, strategies, and systems in place…
  • Never leave the process during implementation…
  • Break the vision down into measurable steps or goals…

Have you been on the bad side of vision casting?