3 Examples of a Leader For a Season

tree at four seasons

I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit.  It’s still one of my most requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.

Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long term success in the place where you lead, you need long-term tenure.

We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.

But, that’s not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in that.

Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post that indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read that last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.

And, that’s why I write this reminder.

Some leaders are only there for a season. A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.

Here are a few examples:

Some leaders get things started – They are great starters, but horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.

Some leaders guide the organization through transition – These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in his career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. He moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.

Some leaders close things out graciously – This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership. (Frankly, for this last example, although this is the subject for another post — and this sentence only opens the can of worms — the church needs some of these leaders.)

Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is that they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.

If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing that and discerning it helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.

Have you ever been the leader for a season?

Better…Not Wrong. A Leadership Principle

hiding mistakes

Part of my job as a leader is helping people I lead get better at what they do. That often involves letting them know about areas I see where they can improve. 

That can be difficult for some people to receive. Granted, much of that has to do with my delivery of the encouragement to improve, but I’ve found some people especially struggle to receive anything with an appearance of correction. They don’t want me to believe they made a mistake or even that there is any room for improvement. Some, especially with perfectionist or prideful personalities, seem to feel that if something needs changing about their performance, then whatever they did wasn’t completely right. And, the opposite of right is — wrong.

For those people, I sometimes have to remind them: 

Just because you can do something better, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

Unless the person was blatantly or intentionality making mistakes or not giving it a good effort…

They did what they’ve been taught to do.

They did the best they knew how to do.

They gave it everything they had — so far.

But, we all have areas where we can improve — get better.

Just because something can be done better, doesn’t mean it was being done wrong.

Leadership is helping people know learn the difference. 

9 Great Ways to Be Extremely Strange

ALIEN LIFE

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents…

(1 Peter 2:11)

9 great ways to be extremely strange:

Love – Loving others even when others may seem unlovable.

Joy – Being joyful, in spite of the circumstances around you.

Peace – Providing a calming peace to those around you.

Patience – Demonstrating patience even in chaos.

Kindness – Being kind to one another, even when others aren’t so kind.

Goodness – Not advocating perfection, but genuinely striving to be a better person and serving as a witness to that endeavor for others.

Faithfulness – Standing firm with loyalty and commitment to Christ, even when others are rejecting what’s true.

Gentleness – Not wimpy, but carefully balancing strength and truth with grace and love.

Self-Control – Disciplining self to live out a strange kind of life, often sacrificing what’s temporary for what is eternal.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:22-23)

Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much

golden leader

Leading is hard, but the principles and practice of leading don’t have to be as difficult as we make them at times.

I talk to leaders every week who are stressed out by the things they know they should be doing but aren’t getting done. They’ve read a blog — maybe even this one — they read a book, they attended a seminar or conference and they feel defeated.

Sometimes I think we complicate leadership too much.

I often tell leaders who want to improve to think of one or two areas in their organization or church, or in their personal leadership style, that they’d like to improve upon and take some small steps to make something positive happen in that area. Don’t start big. Start small. One bite of the elephant at a time. Take one thing you learned and implement it in a small way. Get better at it. Over time, do it more. Simple. (At least simpler in concept.)

If a leader is continually doing that over time they will start to see major improvement. 

For example, a leader who knows he or she isn’t building new leaders, and recognizes the need, could set a goal to help develop one or two leaders this year. Currently no leadership development is being done. Replace that with discovering how and implementing the development of just a couple new leaders.

  • Meet with them regularly.
  • Find out their strengths.
  • Find out their weaknesses.
  • Seek ways to develop their strengths.
  • Help them learn to minimize their weaknesses.
  • Talk with them through your own leadership experience — good and bad.
  • Introduce them to new resources, new opportunities, new challenges, other leaders.

That’s not simple, and it’s not profound, but it is doable and it starts moving things in a more positive direction. With intentionality, discipline and practice, that simple effort can lead to systematizing leadership development in a larger scale in the future.

Sticking with this example, the problem for many of us is that we start at the overwhelming sense that we have nothing. So we try to begin with some complex system of leadership development. It is too big and too fast and so nothing ever gets off the ground.

You may have heard some big, lofty ideas. That’s great. They stretch you, but simplify it in your mind. Place it within your current context.

Start small. Make incremental improvements. Learn from the process. Improve. Increase. Add to. Grow. Systematize. Booyah.

7 “R’s” of Healthy Team Member Correction

iStock_000004292172XSmall

The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team. All of us occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. That should be the end goal of correction. All of us make mistakes.

Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.

It’s important that we correct correctly.

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

Relationship – Corrective actions should start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.

Respect – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. (Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect.)

Reprimand – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong.  Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless that there is a problem.

Refocus – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected.

Restore – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and that you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued.

Reinforce – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader should consider how he or she can improve to help the team member improve.

Replace – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team.  Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship — was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)

Leaders, do you avoid correction? Are you using it for the good of the organization and the people on your team?

What would you add to my list?

7 Reasons Why The Introvert Is Not Talking And The Team Misses Out

Men Holding White Board in Business Presentation

Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They think things through thoroughly. You need to hear from them.

Chances are, if they aren’t sharing, you’re missing out on some good participation.

Here are 7 reasons they may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You don’t give them time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will let others do the talking. Again, they won’t interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Maybe they were late to the meeting and all that was left was an awkward front row seat. Not happening. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention.

They’ve got nothing to say – Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest .

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. Or that they have nothing to say. Not true again. They simply want to be prepared before they share.

Of course, this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts — the true introverts — on your team? They may have thoughts you need to hear. Your challenge is to create an environment conducive for hearing from them.

Edited note: I always receive push back from introverts about brainstorming. (Remember, I am one. Fairly extreme one.) I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. We don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of these posts.

Go to my 7 suggestions post for ideas for each of these to get the introverts sharing.

What other reasons do you know that keep introverts from sharing in a meeting?

7 Examples of Unwritten Rules that Shape an Organization

Know The Rules

In an organization the unwritten rules are just as, if not more, important than the written rules. I wrote about that idea HERE.

If you are considering making changes, implementing something new, adding staff, or any of dozen other decisions in your organization, you need to also consider the these “rules” of the organization.

Here are a 7 examples:

The culture – How does it responds to change? How does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? How trusted is leadership? These are all unique to this organization.

The leader’s accessibility and temperament – Every senior leader is different. If you change the leader you change some of the unwritten rules. Is he or she considered approachable? Does he or she participate with the team normally? Would he or she know if there was a perceived problem in the organization? Do team members trust leadership? These answers shape responses to change.

The relationships of team members to each other – Is there a friendship or just a working relationship among team members? Is conflict acceptable and healthy? Do team members feel freedom to speak freely when in disagreement? Do people respect one another? Is there a silo culture or a common vision everyone is working to achieve? The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. If that isn’t there, change will be more difficult.

The sense of work satisfaction – Are there long-term team members? Are team members generally happy with the organization? Is there any unrest among team members? Are there unspoken concerns within the organization? Many times this has been formed over the years, sometimes even before a leader has been in the position, but it is valuable information for any leader.

The reaction to change Is the “way it’s always been done” changeable? Has change usually been accepted or resisted? Who has to initiate change? What is the anticipated speed of change? Who needs to know about it? The success of change will be directly related to the answers to these questions and the way a leader responds to them.

The way information flows – How does communication really happen? What are the circles of influence? Who drives discussion? Who has influence with peers? What are the expectations regarding the “need to know”? Communication is key in any organization so, as leaders, we must understand the way it occurs.

The real power structure – Who really makes the decisions? Is it a board? A few key people? A consensus of the largest percentage of people? Power structures are rarely as purely formed as what is written on a piece of paper. Knowing this is critical to navigating change.

As a leader, it’s important that you not only concentrate your attention on what is easily measured, written in a policy manual, or even spoken as a value. Other considerations may be more important, even though they may have never been expressed formally. When change occurs or is to be implemented in an organization, paying attention to these unwritten rules is necessary for success.

By the way leaders, most likely you helped write (or are helping to write) these unwritten rules.

What are some of the unwritten rules of your organization?

Where Does a Struggling Leader Go for Help? Here are 7 Suggestions

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

This is written to the struggling leader. I frequently hear from you. Email appears to be a safe place to reach out to someone — and for that I’m thankful. Some of my pastor friends are lonely or about to collapse. There are some business leaders crashing.

Recently, someone emailed me for help and I told them email alone was not enough. As much as I appreciated the opportunity, this pastor needed more. Which prompted a great question.

Where does the Christian leader go for help?

It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult to be transparent. You have an image — a reputation — you want to protect. You’re not sure they will follow you as closely if they know you struggle too. And, the reality is some will even more — and some do have an unrealistic expectation for you to be above the normal struggles of life. It’s tough to know who to trust or who will use the information against you. So, that puts it back in your court.

You know you need help. Where do you go?

Here are 7 suggestions:

God – He’s the obvious answer, isn’t He? But, seriously, have you taken the issue you’re dealing with to God specifically? Maybe you’ve prayed general prayers, but have you been specific with God your needs? It’s not that He doesn’t know — but He longs to hear from His children. Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. Spend some extended, non-sermon writing time in God’s Word and talking to your Father.

Counselor – There is nothing wrong with a pastor or any leader (or anyone) seeing a professional counselor. In fact, there is everything right about it if you have need. They are professional. Confidentiality is always the objection I hear, but in my experience these are professionals. It is the extremely rare exception — just as it is hopefully for pastors — that confidence would ever be broken. The value of the help outweighs the few stories you may have heard or fears you may have.

Coach – There are paid professionals who aren’t counselors necessarily, but their job is to help you think through life — where you’re at and where you’re going. As for the counselor and the coach — there are often associations, denominations and non-profits who will help pay for these services. A dream of mine is to develop a collective resource site with this information. But, it’s worth the time to look for good help. And, if you know some, share them in the comments for others.

Couch - This word seemed to fit, since the last two started with a “C”. You may need rest. Forced if necessary. Sometimes that makes all the difference. It might be an afternoon nap or an extended Sabbatical, but it can be a life saving discipline to stop everything and physically and mentally recover.

For best results, the next three usually require preparation before the crash is eminent, but they are wonderful resources for every leader. I often find, however, that leaders have these in their lives — God often does the preparing for us — but we’ve failed to reach out for help.

Mentor – I have consistently surrounded myself with people wiser than me about an issue. It could be in ministry, finances or family, but I want a human resource of wisdom when I need one. And, when I get to know those who seem like they’ve figured something out with which I’m struggling, I find they once struggled just like me — which is why they make a good mentor.

Friends – “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” The original “phone a friend” option was God-ordained. Use it.

Family – I offer this one with caution. There are times when family is the best place to turn and times when they aren’t. I’m not suggesting hiding from family but sometimes families are too emotionally attached to be objective. But, with that caution, I’d rather see a leader run to family than crash and burn alone.

Struggling leader, be vulnerable. You can recover better and faster if you raise the flag of distress than it you keep the mask covering the suffering.