7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Quit Your Organization

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If any organization expects to grow, they need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders.

Any argument with that statement? If so, you just like to argue. And, I get that too.

But, new growth always requires new leaders. Period.

Certainly the church needs good leaders. 

One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. So it’s equally important to know how to keep them. And, to know why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I don’t want to stand in the way of a leader leaving to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something the organization did wrong.

Here are 7 reasons leaders tend to quit an organization:

They couldn’t live out their personal vision. Leaders are internally driven. They have personal visions in addition to the vision of the organization. They need opportunity to explore, find their own way, and feel they are making their own personal contribution to overall success.

They were told no too many times. Leaders have ideas they want to see implemented. If they get their hand slapped too many times they will be frustrated. And, not for long before they respond.

They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities. This goes for all team members. People need to know that what they are offering is valued. Leaders especially want to know their contribution is recognized and valued.

They were given no voice . Leaders want input into the direction of the organization. They want a seat at the table of authority.

They were left clueless as to the future of the organization. Leaders need inside information so they feel ownership in the overall direction of the organization. They don’t like constant surprises or feeling they are always an outsider.

Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization. This is best discovered before the leader joins the team, but when it is discovered a leader will be very uncomfortable. Something must change. And, it will. Trust me.

They were micromanaged . Leaders don’t need managing as much as they need releasing. They more they are controlled the more they rebel.

You can allow leaders to work for the good of the organization or stifle them, discourage them and spend valuable time and effort consistently replacing them. If you want to keep leaders — them lead!

5 Common Objections to Change – And 5 Suggestions to Lead Through Them

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One of the biggest — yet seemingly smallest — changes we have made in church revitalization was switching our service times. It seemed so simple yet I was pulled aside and told several times it would be the last change I made in the church. The word was the seniors — who primarily attended the later service — had made so many changes they weren’t doing this one. And they were extremely serious about it.

(Let me give a side note here to my pastor friends. Your seniors who don’t like change are usually more supportive than you think they are or will be. Granted, there are those few who are difficult, but those people come with all age groups. Good leadership can bring your seniors along — which is the point of this post.)

But, foolish as I can be, we changed the service times.

(Another side note. To all leaders. If you aren’t occasionally doing some things others call foolish — at least initially — you may not be leading.)

Frankly, I don’t believe we would be on any “fast growing church” list had we not made the change in our service times.

But, it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of resistance. We even lost a few families. Not many, but a few.

For the most part, however, it was an enormously successful change.

Part of the reason is we were methodical about addressing objections.

I’ve learned in leading change there are a few common objections to change. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.

Here are 5 common objections to change — each followed by suggestions for addressing them:

Confused -These people just don’t understand the change. They can’t get their minds around it yet. It doesn’t make sense to them. They may lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Or they heard one point about the change and came to their own conclusion about the everything else.

Suggestion: Over communicate. When you think you’ve shared too much — share it again. And again. And in different formats. We created a brochure for a change which seemed to many to be so simple to understand. We held meetings. We placed it in the Sunday bulletin. I talked about it from stage. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, they become supportive or less opposed.

Conflicted – Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. It’s not about you it’s about them. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Maybe even by something which happened to them in the church. But, maybe something in life which has nothing to do with you or the church but your change reminds them of their pain and so they take it out on everyone else. And, you’re leading the change so you’re the target now. Frankly, some of these people can be mean. These type critics can be the most hurtful as a leader.

Suggestion: Attempt to understand them. I have learned many times they are dealing with an injury which never healed. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. Unfortunately they usually influence others with negativity. Sometimes these people will be critics unless they are addressed directly. If you do — the change is necessary — and you can’t get them on your team you may have to simply work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.

Care – These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their opinion or concern. They may feel this way regardless of how much you have communicated. They may feel the changes favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. Whether it’s true or not it’s how they feel.

Suggestion: Spend time with them as you’re able. Or empower others to spend time with them. I have seen many times if these people are included in the decision process, and you acknowledge and attempt to understand their concerns they will come along with you. Good vision casting can alleviate some of their concerns.

Control – This objection comes simply because you stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This is so common in church work. I have found many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. They don’t like feeling they’ve lost their seat at the table of authority. Frankly, this reason for criticism is probably the most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them.

Suggestion: Recognize the pain. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you — even if they still don’t agree with the change. Then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support. And, yes they are the most difficult people to confront and can be intimidating. But, remember — you’re the leader.

Comfort – These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change will be relative to the size of the change. I hear people say they aren’t change resistant but all of us are at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. That’s what most people are going through when you introduce change. They don’t know how it will feel after the change.

Suggestion: Sympathize. Change can hurt. Every change has an attached emotion. (I’ve posted on these emotions previously.) Understand the emotional response part of change. It’s normal. The only real solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt. Most of these people will come along eventually.

Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that’s leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.

I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of the objections. Even the best ideas will receive some.

5 Reminders When You are the Community’s Pastor

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There are times when a pastor is launched into the role of being a community pastor. At this point, it doesn’t matter the size of the church or the notoriety of the pastor. The community is looking for the pastor to lead.

Here are a few examples:

  • An influential person in the community — or a popular youth dies — and you are asked to do what a very large funeral.
  • Tragedy occurs — the kind which attracts national media attention — and you are sought to provide spiritual insight.
  • Natural disaster devastates the community and the church is heavily recruited in the recovery.
  • You are asked to speak at a public event.
  • Major cultural shifts occur that are newsworthy or impact the church and your opinion is solicited or expected.

For brief moments in time — an hour — a day — a week — all eyes are on the pastor for spiritual insight, guidance, comfort or a sense of direction.

What do you do in those times?

Several times as a pastor I’ve found myself in this position. It can be a humbling and even overwhelming place to be. I’ve learned how I respond in those situations impacts more than this specific incident.

These settings can come regardless of the church or community’s size. When they do the way you respond is of Kingdom importance.

Here are 5 reminders when you are the community’s pastor:

Speak truth in love – Don’t water down truth in these occasions, but don’t beat people up with truth either. Be like Jesus, full of grace and truth. Share God’s Word, but don’t use it as a weapon against the community. You will never be taken serious if they see you as judgmental and uncaring. Win them over with genuine love and helpful truth. These situations may give you a greater opportunity for influence for Christ in the days to come.

Don’t recruit for a church recruit for Jesus – There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than a pastor in a community setting who spends more time trying to recruit for his individual church than he does sharing the love of Christ. In settings where everyone sees you as the pastor, but not everyone is from your “flock”, use it as an opportunity to lift a Christ banner high, not your church banner. If they are impressed with the Jesus you proclaim, they’ll be more likely to find your church. Be mindful of doctrinal divisions that have divided people for years. In public settings, let the main thing be the main thing. Keep your focus upon doctrines which all of mainline Christianity can agree.

Build trust – You do that best by letting Jesus should shine through in all you do. You don’t want people to be impressed with you. You want them impressed with Jesus. People can tell when you are trying to build your own platform or soapbox. This may mean you simply build relationships like Jesus did with the tax collectors. Don’t assume you have to “preach” to take advantage of the opportunity. Your best use may be to build trust for future conversations.

Provide people hope – More than anything in these settings — share the hope of the Gospel. That’s likely why you are invited to this opportunity. This is probably not the time to bring forth condemnation. Don’t back away from truth, but make sure whatever you share is clearly seen in the context of a God who IS LOVE. Make it your intent to be helpful to people who are hurting. 

Be likable and natural – Let people see you as real and approachable. Take time to shake hands, embrace, cry with people who are grieving if necessary. The more they see you as a regular person (just like Elijah — James 5:17) and not like someone above them positionally or superior to them in moral value, the more likely they’ll be to trust the comfort you bring and cling to the God you serve.

It doesn’t happen often, but on the occasions where you have a larger, community audience, allow God to use you for a greater and longer term benefit to the Kingdom.

Have you ever been the community’s pastor? What would you add to my list?

5 Reasons Delegation Fails

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I encounter many leaders who claim to want delegation to be a part of their leadership. They know the value. But they are often frustrated with the results they receive on delegated projects, so they tend to control the project — which isn’t delegation — or they do everything themselves.

Many times I hear two sides to the reason why delegation fails. A leader may feel they have done their job simply by delegating. The blame naturally shifts to the delegate who should have figured out how to do the work.

The delegate often feels overwhelmed, like they didn’t have the freedom, resources or knowledge to complete the project to the leader’s expectations.

Both sides are frustrating.

Many times the problem rests with the way a project was delegated from the beginning. There are certainly times when the delegate drops the ball and doesn’t follow through with the task, but in my experience, the failure of delegation most often rests with the leader.

Here are 5 reasons delegation fails:

A predetermined win was never clear or understood. Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what is trying to be accomplished. Further, there should be accountability in place prior to delegation. When someone receives a project, they need to be given a timeline for completion. They need a system of follow up, measures of accomplishment or benchmarks towards completion.

The leader dumped or controlled instead of delegated. I have written about this previously, but the leader retains a level of responsibility to check in periodically with the delegate’s progress. At the same time, it’s delegation. There’s a release of direct oversight which needs to take place. The delegate should feel freedom to accomplish the predetermined objective in their own way. There’s a balance and partnership in a healthy delegation process, where the leader remains close enough to assure completion, but distant enough to let people do their work.

The delegate was not properly prepared. Assuming someone knows how to do a task and can figure out their way on their own isn’t only naive it’s unfair. Questions need to be asked and information given on the front end to make sure the person has the ability to complete the task or the ability to learn along the way. This may involve the leader spending more time in the beginning phases of a task to ensure completion is attainable by the delegate. Specialized training may be needed. In fact, a failed delegation may be just the experience someone needs to do a better job next time.

Adequate resources were not in place. It’s difficult to expect someone to complete a task when the leader hasn’t given the proper tools for the job. Sometimes anxious leaders delegate a project too soon, before the team is ready, either in structure, people power or resources.

The wrong person was chosen for the task. Let’s face it. Not everyone is up to every task. Many times delegation fails because the leader picked the wrong person for the job. Selecting the best person on the front end or reassigning when an improper fit is discovered is critical to assure completion of a task.

Do you have delegated projects that didn’t get completed this past year?

Could one of these be the reason? If so, who needs to take responsibility for the failure?

5 Things To Do AFTER the Crisis

Determined businessman gets out of the tunnel

I have been writing about the times of crisis — especially from the viewpoint of leadership. My hope is that if you are in crisis-mode right now you are beginning to see the end of the tunnel. I pray God brings you through this time quickly.

You’ll want to read the first two posts HERE and HERE.

It’s important to know what to do AFTER the time of crisis has passed. Many of us miss these important steps.

Here are 5 things to do AFTER a time of crisis:

Rejoice. Be thankful the crisis is over and a time of peace has come. I have many times prayed fervently during the hard times, but forsaken my “God-time” when everything is going well. Don’t follow my example in this.

Share. The Bible is clear that we are to use our struggles to help others in theirs. Often because of fear or embarrassment we don’t allow people to see our past hurts. This denies God the opportunity to use the experiences He has given us for His glory. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Prepare. If you have lived long enough you know that seasons of crisis come many times in life. During the quiet times — when all is going reasonably well — is when we should be preparing for harder times.

Rest. To borrow from the Cheers theme song, “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.” Many people never enjoy the peaceful times because they are too paranoid about the next crisis that may or may not even occur. We should prepare for times of trouble, but we should never live in a state of worry. Worry is a sin. And, it’s never helpful. After a crisis, rest. Recover. Rejuvenate.

Grow. I have grown spiritually more during the hard times than in the easy times of my life. Crisis-mode teaches us valuable insight into the character and heart of God. Use the down times to evaluate your relationship with God, your life, and see how the two connect. Work on the places you are out of sync with God’s will for your life. Work on your skills as a leader. Become a better person. Some of the strongest character is developed only through times of crisis.

It would be nice if you never needed these posts. My sense is, if your life is anything like mine, that some of you will. Maybe even today. I’m praying for you if this is your current situation.

5 Things TO DO In Times of Crisis

Strategy crisis concept as a businessman standing on a three dimensional maze or labyrinth with confusing direction road signs as a metaphor for facing difficulties in business and the stress of daily life.

In my last post I shared 5 things not to do in times of crisis. I am writing this with the leader in mind, but I suspect they may be life applicable regardless of the crisis.

As stated, I began with the negative, because in my experience that’s where most people begin when crisis occurs. (Read: 5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis) We often tend to run in the opposite direction from where we should run. Some of the worst decisions I have observed people make (including me) are during the crisis-mode times of life.

Obviously knowing what to do in these times is equally important. How you respond and what you do will greatly determine future realities after the crisis has subsided.

Here are 5 things TO DO in times of crisis:

Stay. I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come. At the beginning of the crisis is not the time. Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course. Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times. Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. I share this from very hard personal experience. We sold a business — walking away simply to start over — and looking back we may have recovered had we suffered through it a little longer.

Stand. Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life. Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if those choices seem to be the quickest solutions. Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. You’ll be glad you did when the crisis is no longer a crisis.

Glean. Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be. Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently. And, most leaders who have led for any significant period of time have either endured through a crisis or, even if they failed miserably, learned valuable lessons they would do for the next crisis.

Examine. I said in my last post not to do this immediately. We tend as leaders to quickly want to blame someone — mostly ourselves. This is never a helpful process initially, but at some point you’ll need to ascertain how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again? If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something? Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world or things were out of our control. Don’t be afraid of that answer, but don’t default to it either. We all make mistakes and we have to own them.

Learn. Allow every crisis to teach you something about God, yourself and others. If you have this ambition and mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to suffering through it and dealing with it emotionally will be. God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and ultimately about Him.

I’ve got one more list to come about the times of crisis. And, It’s the one all of us in crisis want to get to eventually. Next post I will share 5 things to do after a crisis.

5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis

Business Man sitting on Office Chair on Street in stress asking for help

In my profession, I encounter a lot of people in crisis. Since this is mostly a leadership blog, I tend to think of leaders I know who are currently or have been in crisis. They may be a personal crisis or within a group or organization in which you lead, but the way you respond will almost always determine the quality of recovery from the crisis.

For the next few posts, I want to address this issue with some thoughts on how to respond during these times of crisis in life.

If you don’t need them now, store them away for future reference. In a fallen world, working with people, times of crisis are sure to come.

I will start with the negative, because typically we begin there when crisis comes. This post will be followed by some ideas of what you should do and then finally, I’ll share some thoughts on what to do after the crisis period has subsided.

Here are 5 things NOT to do in times of crisis:

Panic. The word panic means “a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior” (Dictionary.com) If you panic when crisis occurs you’ll almost always make bad decisions and cause yourself more pain. Calm down, come to your senses, and
think and pray so you can make wise decisions.

Quit. When I was in a business that was struggling the worst reaction to my situation, which was the one I chose most often, was to run from the problem. I would disappear for hours. Looking back, it never solved anything. Reflecting on those days I wish I had stayed the course, because when I gave up, so did those I was supposed to be leading.

Blame. This includes kicking yourself for being in the crisis. Figuring out who is at fault when you are in crisis-mode is probably not as important as figuring out what to do next. There will be time to analyze later — and that should happen — but don’t become paralyzed with it now.

Refuse Help. I have learned by experience — sometimes when God is allowing a crisis to occur He is also stirring people to intercede on behalf of the suffering. It’s amazing how it happens. He may have prepared someone else, through their own season of crisis, intentionally so they can help others — people like you. Don’t deny someone their opportunity to be obedient to what God calls them to do, even if it means swallowing your pride, raising the white flag of surrender and letting them help.

Deny God. People (including pastors and leaders) either run towards God or away from God in times of crisis. You can probably figure out which option works best. This is a time to pray like never before and learn to fully rely on God. He’s never taken off guard or by surprise. He always has a plan. It’s always good. Lean into Him.

In my next post I’ll share 5 things TO DO in times of crisis.

7 Characteristics of the Backside of Leadership

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One critical part of leadership is what I like to call the “backside of leadership.”

It’s the part that is unseen. Or unknown at the time. It’s the unspoken, unclear, has-to-be-tested side of leadership.

So critical.

Years ago I had a leader I could never predict. One day everything was wonderful and the next day nothing was right. It was frustrating. I could never read this leader and whether or not he was happy.

Some have probably accused me of this at times. Probably all of us.

Leading well means sometimes what a leader does when the team’s back is turned is more important than what they do in the team’s presence. When they don’t know what the leader is thinking or how he or she will respond — they can still trust the leader.

The backside of good leadership means a leader does what is best for the team and the organization — not for his or her personal gain — regardless of who gets credit. 

Even if no one saw it coming.

That’s the backside of leadership.

Still trying to understand what I mean?

Here are 7 characteristics of the backside of good leadership:

Protects you.

When critics rise against you or your work a great leader stands behind you. Better yet, they stand in front of you to take the first bullet. They are predictable and consistent with their support. 

Won’t back you in a corner.

Good leaders don’t hold you accountable for unreasonable expectations, especially when you didn’t know what the expectations were. They make sure you have the resources you need. They never put you on the spot. They make sure the team operates with a plan.

Forgives easily.

You gain good favor quickly after you make a mistake under a good leader. They extend grace knowing the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. And, the investment made in people when they fall often yields the greatest return.

Empowers you.

The leader doesn’t have to know everything you do and every decision you make — before you make it. They are okay with the unknown. They invest trust in you. They empower you to make decisions without their direct oversight.

Invests in others.

The team receives more from the leader than the leader takes. No one feels used or like they’re building an empire for the leader. Rewards are shared and celebrated together.

Never stabs you in the back.

People don’t feel threatened in their position. They know the leader can hold a confidence and will never say one thing to one person and something else to another.

Responsiveness.

Everyone has been in a situation waiting for a leader to make a decision. It can be a frustrating experience. Impatience can rise. Good leaders are responsive. They don’t make people come to their own conclusions. They communicate in a timely manner. 

The backside of leadership. Have you thought about how you lead on the backside — when no one knows what to expect. 

A Day No Leader Wants to Face But Every Leader Must

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There is a day every leader has to face. But, no leader necessarily wants to.

I have walked through this with dozens of leaders over the year sand it’s never a fun process.

It’s the day when it’s time to no longer be the leader.

That hurts.

Just seeing it in print may sting a little if you know the time has come for you — but you haven’t yet said it aloud.

It could be for a variety of reasons. Still hurts.

Could be retirement. A season has ended. Or, you’re no longer the best fit to be the leader.

Either way — wrestling to this point is a difficult, sometimes grueling decision.

It’s one I’ve faced in my own career. In our last church plant, I knew God was releasing us to something new. That didn’t make it easy. I couldn’t even see what would happen next. I just knew my season there was ending.

Some handle this well. Some resist it and don’t. Some kick and scream and it has to be forced upon them. Never pretty.

A pastor friend of mine Shawn Lovejoy seems to be doing a brilliant job of leaving the church he planted. I loved the message where he shared it with his church.

My friend and co-worker Dan Russell, our senior adults pastor, got to a point at his church where he sensed they needed someone different to carry them to the next level as a church. It was in his season of wrestling God brought him to my attention. He was still young, with (hopefully) years ahead of him in his career, but he sensed it was time to step aside. And, God rewards obedience. As hard as it must have been for him to come to his realization, his addition to our team has been one of the best things to happen in my tenure. I can’t imagine the last few years without him here.

Recently I learned of two other mega churches where the senior pastor stepped aside — sensing it was time for a change. Both seem to be handling the transition well. I’m going to follow them to see how it goes.

Yet, we all know stories of when it didn’t go so well.

They stayed too long. They became ineffective. They made the transition more difficult than it had to be. And, I’m convinced it makes things hurt even more.

There’s a day every leader must face, but no leader really wants to face it.

The day when it’s time to no longer be the leader.

Listen, leader, here’s some advance caution for you — before that day approaches. That’s my only purpose of this post.

When you no longer have the passion.

When you just don’t care anymore.

When things are plateaued beyond your ability to move them forward.

And, when you simply can’t seem to get motivated again.

I’m not saying it’s time. I’m not saying there are not answer or solutions or help for you to stay in the position. I’m not even suggesting any of these are indicators you should leave now. That would totally be out of line and inappropriate for me.

I’m simply saying — there comes a day — for every leader. Discerning and determining the day before the day is determined for us protects everyone. The organization. The church. And, the leader.

(This is not a paid endorsement, but I recommend my friends William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have written a great book on pastoral succession called NEXT when the time comes.)