7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to build upon what exists.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but, if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – be respectful. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. People respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

7 Tensions Every Leader Faces – Everyday

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Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. And, one often misunderstood reason leadership is challenging is the tension every leader feels when making decisions.

And, every leader experiences some of this tension – every single day.

In fact, learning to balance the tensions of leadership may determine the level of success a leader can sustain. If a leader leans too far one direction – their leadership effectiveness suffers.

Let me share some examples of these everyday type leadership tensions.

Here are 7 everyday tensions of every leader:

Displaying confidence without being arrogant.

People want to follow a confident leader, but pride is a repulsive trait. I feel this tension especially when I’m leading on a new team or with new people on the team. I’ve had some experience. I’ve learned a few things. I need them to understand there are reasons for them to follow my leadership, but, I can’t unpack my resume for them immediate either.

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

I personally experience this one most every meeting we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. And, many times I realize we won’t move forward until I weigh in to the matter. But, good leadership involves collaboration. I’m not the only voice – and many times not the smartest voice in the process. If I have the only answer no one will participate, but if I never have any answers no one will want to follow my leadership.

Showing strength while displaying compassion.

People want to follow leadership who generally care for them as individuals. Compassion for those who can’t help themselves is an attractive leadership quality. The best leaders I know have a concern for others. But, no one wants compassion to be translated as weakness. There are times a leader has to stand strong for they know is right thing – even when everyone can’t fully understand yet what they are doing or why.

Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.

Good leaders create healthy structure which can be managed for effectiveness, but, at the same time, the best discoveries often come when people are allowed the freedom to create, explore, and “break the rules”.

Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.

Another way to say this one would be: Honoring history while pushing towards the future. And, this one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next”. I like to keep moving. Sitting still is one of my hardest disciplines. I know, however, there are those on our team who can’t adequately move forward until we’ve recognized our current success. They need to celebrate. They need to reflect. And, continually balancing this tension is good for the team.

Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.

I’m a huge proponent of wisdom-seeking. I think we should always have a mentor. And, usually more than one. I read. I attend conferences. I want to learn best practices and from the experiences of others. But, there’s a tension of attempting to duplicate another person’s success and being exactly who God has called me to be. God has not called me to preach like Andy Stanley – He’s called me to preach like me. He’s not called me to lead like John Maxwell – but, to lead like I would lead. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn from both of these – and can and have – but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me – and he has uniquely wired you.

Spending time with people versus completing tasks.

This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership is people. Without people – without getting to know them, earning their trust, investing in them and showing them we care – leadership will never be effective. But, I have work to do also. Sunday keeps coming, there are outside demands on my time, I have emails, phone calls, texts and visits with people who I’m not necessarily leading. I have paperwork to do. (I hate paperwork by the way!) The real work of a leader is people – and, yet the work must get done.

Tension. Leaders, do you feel it? At some level, don’t you feel it everyday.

I realize I’ve only exposed the problem, without a lot of solutions. And, honestly, your solution will be different from mine. But, I think the answer isn’t necessarily an easy to define solution for each of these tensions. It is recognizing they exist and continually seeking to live within them. And, when one side of the tension is getting more attention than the other – fighting to get back to a better balance of tensions.

Do you have another to add?

10 Prayers for Great Parenting

african sick little boy lying in bed with his mother praying on background

Dear Lord, 

Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. 

Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion.

Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. 

Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly.

Grant me teachable moments and prompt me to use them to impart uncompromising truth into their life. 

Allow me to see my children as the individuals you created them to be and help me encourage them to thrive in your purpose for their life.

Let them see our home as a safe, fun, welcoming environment. 

Continually remind me time paces quickly and to embrace and enjoy each season. 

Keep building my character so my children have a model to follow. 

Above all – let my children know and experience unconditional love.

In Jesus name,

Amen

7 Actions Which Limit Leadership Success

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My heart is for leaders. I have been in leadership roles for over three decades now. I’ve led large and small teams. Through my ministry I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders. A mentor of mine always reminds me the success of whatever is being led always reflects back to leadership.

I guess this is why I continue to share what I believer are simple principles – but often a simple idea is powerful in practice. And, it’s easier for me to think logically in lists.

Do you want to be successful as a leader? Of course, anyone who leads has this as a goal. There are some actions which can limit you.

Here are 7 issues which limit your 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. Is there something you feel certain you need to do – or there is a passion on your heart – but, for whatever reason you’ve not taken the risk? Leadership by definition involves guiding people into an unknown.

Lack of flexibility – Things change. People change. Times change. Have a great worthy, God-honoring vision – make sure it’s grounded in truth and don’t steer from it – but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way. And, changing the method – admitting the way you always led things – to be more successful is not a bad reflection on leadership. In fact, it’s a characteristic of good leadership. What changes do you currently need to encourage?

Shunning or controlling other people – You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the corner on ideas. You need help. One of the default actions of leaders is to isolate themselves and/or to control the actions of others. Many times this is out of fear, lack of trust, or sometimes even pride. But, leadership involves knowing people. It involves utilizing the knowledge, skills and talents of others – actually people better equipped to do some things than you are. Who on your team is just waiting for you to get to know them, believe in them and let them go?

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even – There’s no time for it. The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement. When people feel you are placing them in the proverbial corner because of something they did or didn’t do they become defensive, bitter, or checkout from trying again. Does this sound like a healthy plan for a team? I’ve learned over the years – leaders should be willing to go first in extending grace if they want to have a healthy team atmosphere.

Worrying more than trusting by faith – The unknown brings doubt. And, leadership is full of it. There will rarely be a major decision where you a hundred percent certain it’s the right decision. When God appears silent as to the next course of action you have to go with your experience, your gut, and the wisdom of others. Faith goes without seeing. Take your pick between worry or faith – but you can’t pick both. In my journey it seems many times God has given me freedom to move and it’s my own fear which keeps me from going forward. Peace often comes through obedience.

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) Why is this in a leadership post? Because leadership at it’s heart should be improving the lives of others – not just the leader’s life. The real success in leadership will ultimately be measured by how you blessed others with how you led.

Having to do things “your way” – You got into the leadership position – most likely – because you knew how to do some things. But, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to depend on the input of others. When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising. Success flourishes in collaboration.

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

7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

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I love pastors. I haven’t been a pastor throughout my career. In fact, I spent most of my career to this point in the business world. (I realize this makes me an odd duck in many pastor circles, but it’s actually served me well in my ministry roles.) But, even before I was in ministry – I loved pastors.

Coming into ministry later in life, after being a church member, deacon and Sunday school teacher, has given me a unique perspective. I’ve seen ways the church interacts with the pastor I simply had no idea of before I was a pastor. A few surprises have occurred, probably especially when interacting with other pastors who are now my peers.

Thankfully, I’ve been in churches that mostly support me as pastor, but I interact with pastors in caustic church environments everyday. Even so, they are some similarities it seems with all pastors. And some of these, or at least the degree to which they exist, has been surprising.

Here are 7 of the biggest surprises in being a pastor:

People don’t understand the role.

The old adage that the pastor only works on Sunday – I’m surprised how many think something similar. They may not think Sunday is the only day the pastor works – some can catch on the message actually has to be written – but they don’t realize the weight of other responsibilities the pastor deals with on a weekly basis. It really is simply an innocent misunderstanding of what’s involved in the position of pastor. (It may seem a contradiction and yet this next one is equally true.)

The various opinions of how a pastor should pastor.

Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE.

People often lose their filter when talking to a pastor.

It amazes me what people feel comfortable telling a pastor. It is beyond the expected confidentiality issues one expects. It could be criticism of the pastor or gossip about someone else, but many don’t hold back their opinion no matter how harsh it may be. And they don’t often clean it up before they present it. I have had pastors tell me they have people in their congregation who blast themm every Sunday about something – always in a very hurtful way. And, crazy, some of these same people will claim to be one of pastor’s biggest supporters to their face. The pastor should be a “safe place” to be real – even with your emotions. Unfortunately however, I think some people believe the pastor has no feelings or is expected to be “tough enough” to handle the jabs and process the rumors.

The job is never finished.

I guess I knew this, but not to the degree I do now. And, there are many jobs like this. There is always one more thing I could’ve done when I go home at night. Lives keep falling apart. People keep sinning. Marriages are in trouble. It could be overwhelming, and I could refuse to rest and neglect my family if I wasn’t disciplined, and if I didn’t have a keen awareness that Jesus is ultimately in control. My heart goes out to (and it is part of the motivation of this blog) pastors who haven’t learned or aren’t practicing this discipline or this truth.

Everything isn’t always as it seems.

People are hurting. Many of those hurts are hidden. You can’t “judge a book by the cover” when it comes to people. There are always two sides to an issue. Everyone has a story and it isn’t always the story you are thinking. Being a pastor has taught me it is unfair to judge people by what you think you know until you know the whole story. I’ve better realized the importance of extending grace before I know, and even if I never know, the full story.

Sunday is coming.

Every. Single. Week. I never realized how fast the weekend comes around until I became a pastor. Don’t misunderstand – I’m glad it does – it’s my favorite day of the week, but I just never realized how fast it does so until now. My first thought when I walk away from church on Sunday morning is – Sunday’s coming!

Some people truly love their pastor.

They do. There are some of the best pastor-supporters in the church. Most churches have someone who truly loves the pastor and wants the best for them. (These are Kingdom-building people!) And, I’m so thankful. It’s amazing how supportive and encouraging some people can be. I honestly believe they would do anything for Cheryl and me. I know, especially from some of my pastor friends in especially difficult situations, that these type people keep a pastor going some days. If you’re one of those pastor supporting types – on behalf of all pastors – THANK YOU!

Those are a few things I didn’t know, at least as well as I do now, before entering the pastorate.

Pastors, any you would share?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership Which Can Derail a Leader

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We all know the stories of the once successful pastor or leader who flamed out too soon. It could be a moral failure or burnout, but they somewhere they got off track and had a hard time regaining traction. So sad.

In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps which get in the way of a leader’s long-term success. I call them pitfalls.

Often, also in my experience, if we know the potential dangers we have a better chance of addressing them – and, hopefully even avoiding them.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride

When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers – watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness

I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days – okay, most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails – and eventually it will bite them. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation

A leader who removes his or herself too much from people doing the actual work, who aren’t visible to their team, or who don’t bond well with them never gains significant influence. Even worse, they are more vulnerable to failing personally, as well. The enemy loves busyness, but also isolation – sin festers in absence of accountability. Plus, at every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness

Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom

I have often said boredom is one of the leading causes of marital failure. It’s true in leadership also. Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored – and boredom can be dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success

Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! These leaders are soon fighting for the success “fix” again – and often make tremendous errors in the process. Great leaders are always cognizant the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow – so they keep working on developing themselves, their team, and the organization.

Elitism

When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow – they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable. There are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader – and, the reason they feel this way is because it’s probably true in some situations where they have more expertise. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead. In fact, the best leaders I know purposefully surround themselves with smarter people.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

My 7 Part Strategy for a New Leadership Position

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Whenever I enter a new position, I want to be strategic. The first couple years in my new position were challenging and fun at the same time. I met so many wonderful people, but there were more opportunities than time it seemed.

It has proven to be a great ministry assignment. I thank God for the opportunity.

Since beginning, I have been asked repeatedly what my strategy was for the opening days. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty strategic.

Here were 7 elements of my strategy for the beginning days:

Got to know key leaders

I tried to get to know the staff and key influencers in the church. I believe God uses the influence of others to build His church, so I wanted to know who I would be working with in the days to come. Think of it this way – if Moses was implementing the “Jethro method”, his primary energy would need to be communicating and investing in those leaders he enlisted to lead others. I used this approach. If I hoped to make any substantial changes I knew I would need these influencers support.

Let people get to know me

For an introvert it was exhausting, but I was very visible in the early days. In fact, in my ministry I’m usually always very accessible, just as I am online. I have written before (HERE) I may not always be available but I can always be accessible. I wanted people to feel comfortable with me and trust my leadership, so I think they needed to see me frequently – even more so in the beginning days of my pastorate.

Set my initial vision

People wanted to know where I was going with my leadership. I set an initial 7 part vision for the people. I really wanted 3 or 4 initial initiatives, but I landed on 7 – because all these seemed important. They were all things I was passionate about implementing. Some got started faster than others – we are really just seeing a couple of them come to fruition – but the church seemed anxious to get behind all of them. And, just to be clear, I didn’t lead all of these initiatives, but I was the chief vision-caster for them.

Identified quick wins

I looked for some things I could immediately impact and change for good. These were things I believed everyone could agree with, didn’t require a lot of resources or long debates. There were a few minor paperwork nuisances which impacted staff morale I changed immediately, for example. I invested energy in some areas of ministry which never received a lot of attention, but motivated people. I re-energized some areas the church had previously been excited about, but weren’t seeing much excitement about currently.

Did the unexpected

It seemed like such a small deal, but I roamed the balcony on Sunday mornings. It took a little more time, but it proved to be a big deal. I talked to the person who would be changing my slides on the screen prior to the service. This was a surprise to them. They said it had never happened before, but it proved to be a big deal. I roamed the halls of the offices during the day, walking into people’s offices, and allowing drop-ins to my office when I was available. All unexpected, but it brought very positive feedback.

Paced myself

I realized I’m only one person and although everyone wanted some of my time and there were more ideas than we could ever accomplish, I knew I would burnout if I didn’t pace myself. This meant I said no to some things – really many things. It wasn’t easy to say no to such eager people, for me or them, but I knew it would prove best in the end if I was able to last for the long run.

Moved slowly on the biggies

Being honest, there were some big items I knew I’d like to change immediately. I had enough prior experience, however, to know some changes are too big to launch quickly. I could have. I was in a honeymoon period. I could probably have “gotten away with them”, but the people didn’t really know me yet. I might have won a battle, but I would have lost the war. (To be clear, there wasn’t a battle – just using a cliche.)

Ever been the new leader or the new pastor? What advice do you have for me?

20 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife this Weekend

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Men, want to show you’re wife she’s loved this weekend?

Let me offer a few suggestions:

Give her the best time of your weekend.

Do something with her you know she enjoys – even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.

Share a dessert with her. (Ouch! This one hurts me personally. I don’t usually share desserts.)

Take a long walk together and hold her hand.

Fix the bed, take out the trash, or pick up your clothes – without being asked. (Or whatever it is you know she would love if you did.)

Genuinely listen to her without trying to fix anything.

Give her a few hours with no responsibility – none. (Even the kids.)

Brag on her to your friends. Make sure it’s genuine and make sure she hears.

Go to a coffee shop and play 15 questions. I have a list of them HERE.

Tell her your deepest fears and greatest dreams.

Leave her notes around the house.

Write down 10 reasons she’s the woman of your dreams.

Leave a sweet voicemail on her phone telling how much you love her. (You can leave one at work, too, for her to get when she returns.)

Cook dinner. And, then do the dishes.

Book a date night for later this week. Take care of ALL the arrangements.

Pray for her out loud.

Ask her advice.

Say, “I love you”. Unsolicited.

Make her belly laugh.

Dream with her about your future together.

Any ideas you would share?