7 Commandments of Leadership

gavel

Commandments: A divine rule. A rule to be observed strictly.

The 7 Commandments of Leadership:

Thou shalt protect thy character. Who are you when no one is looking? Is who you claim to be who you really are? In my experience, true character is eventually revealed in leadership. Every time. When stress mounts — when pushed in the corners of life — when power rises — when opportunity creates itself to take advantage of others for the benefit of self — true character is revealed.

Thou shalt empower thy people. Delegation is not only necessary to be effective in leadership, it’s a necessity in order to truly be a leader. You’ll either burnout, control people until they burnout, or simply stall everything — and then a leader is no longer needed.

Thou shalt continue to learn. When a leader ceases to learn he or she ceases to grow. Before long the leader has nowhere new to take anyone. And, nothing anyone would want to follow.

Thou shalt remember thy purpose. Zig Ziglar once told me that if you understand the why, the what or how won’t matter as much. I believe he was right. Our purpose fuels us for excellence. We must cast the vision — for ourselves and others — often. Daily even.

Thou shalt embrace healthy conflict. Ain’t it a shame? You have to have conflict to be healthy in relationships. It seems counter-productive, but conflict is really for the good of everyone. A good leader learns to use it for the betterment of the entire team.

Thou shalt persevere. Through good times and bad times, a leader holds the banner high. Press on!

Thou shalt celebrate. Leaders are for progress — but part of progression is appreciating the achievements of days gone by — accomplishments already made. As much as it is a leader’s job to keep things moving forward, people won’t stay motivated unless we recognize they are currently making a difference and have in the past.

Obviously these are man-made commandments, not God-made, so I appreciate your input.

Any you would add?

A Personal Opinion About Investing in the Community

Mother and daughter shopping in supermarket

This is an opinion post. For that matter — this is an opinion blog.

And, I have an opinion.

I think pastors should support their community.

When I was in business I supported the businesses in my community.

I shopped local — and small, independently owned business — whenever possible. I bought cars locally, for example, even though I might have saved a few hundred dollars down the road. I did the majority of my spending with local businesses.

That didn’t mean we didn’t travel — and purchase goods when we did — but when we shopped, we primarily shopped local. The Chamber of Commerce “shop local” campaigns worked for us. :)

If you own a local business, I think you owe it to support the community that helps to feed you. Even if your products are shipped elsewhere, your labor market is likely fairly local. The emergency services, roads, etc. to support the business. All local. Whenever possible — from cars to dentists, to groceries — the more you invest in the local economy the more it can invest in you.

<h3>And I think the same is true for pastors.</h3>

There’s nothing wrong with occasional online purchases, but for the bulk of shopping, we should support the community that supports us and that we hope to reach.

We should invest in the community — because as it prospers, so will the church. Not only for financial reasons either. It is difficult to engage people in the community in which I live when I’m shopping behind a computer or in a bigger city down the road.

That’s my opinion. Again, this is an opinion post.

And, there’s somewhat of a Biblical encouragement to do so.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:7

What do you think?

Want More Joy in the Journey? — Throw Away the Scripts

Der Film

Are the routines and details of your life getting you down?

Is the direction of your life not turning out as you planned?

Are you stressing so much about things that are happening — out of your control — that you can’t enjoy the good things already in your life?

Here’s one suggestion for more joy in the journey…

Throw away the scripts.

The script you’ve written about how life is “supposed to go”. Throw it away. In the trash.

Any script you could write likely won’t work anyway.

Most of the time.

You can throw away the script in:

Your career
Your relationship life
Your health
Your finances
Your personal walk with God

And, the script you’ve written for what your children will and will not do — throw that script away also.

Throw them away.

I know we like scripts.

It’s easier. Less messy when we can script things out the way they should work. The way we want them to. It’s cleaner. Life is more tidy with scripts.

Most of us have written scripts in our minds about how life supposedly will work for us.

But, scripts just don’t work. Most of the time.

Life doesn’t follow the script we write for it. In fact, it seldom does in my experience.

You’ll seldom be able to script how long you work at one place. Just try.

You’ll seldom be able to script your relationships. Specifically, how others respond to you. Even the way you respond to them. Try as much as you want and you’ll still say the wrong things — be misunderstood — have to keep working on the relationship. I know some great attempts that failed.

You’ll seldom be able to script your health. Some of the healthiest people I know got cancer.

You’ll seldom be able to script your bank account. One tragedy and everything could be gone. I have seen it many times. I’ve lived it. Script and all.

And, you’re walk with God. You’ll seldom be able to understand all the ways of God. Strive the hardest to please God, follow Him closely, and you’ll still have unanswered questions about why God allows some of the things He allows in your life. Testimony after testimony proves this.

And, just when you said your kid would never — your kid will — or so the story goes for so many.

I’m not saying to not have a plan.

I’m not saying not to set an end goal or destination. That would be dumb. Really dumb.

You’ll seldom hit a target you didn’t aim to hit.

I’m talking about the script. The “dialogue” along the way. The exact setting and all the characters and the special effects. The journey to accomplish the vision. The details. The way things get done or accomplished. Don’t be afraid when your story sometimes colors outside the lines. Or goes off script.

Sometimes it’s good just to throw away the script.

I watch so many people stress about the details of life — the things outside their ability to control — that they miss the joy in the journey.

When people completely rely on a script — the one they have written for their life — they sometimes fall apart when things don’t go exactly as written. They have a hard time getting back into character. And, they have a hard time adjusting to the other characters in their life who went off script.

And, yet, the show must go on…

Things will seldom turn out just as planned.

Granted, having a plan helps you adjust accordingly and more easily, so I say have one — I even write posts telling you how — but the script will seldom live up completely to the paper upon which it’s written. Certainly not in every scene.

Throw away the script. You’ll stress less when you can’t remember the lines.

“In his heart a man plans his steps, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” – Ecclesiastes 11:5

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORD’s declaration.” – Isaiah 55:8

Great Organizations Empower People to Think

Solving a problem

Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company; all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realize my community reputation is on the line and so I try to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public — even when I’m frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded that it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)

Each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way; with the service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asking me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious that the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get that. As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent that customer service people were scripted in all their responses. They are trained what to say for certain situations, but how was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help.

How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize the scripted question was intended to ensure good customer service and without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried — successfully for the most part — to control.)

This was a minor incident, and honestly not that big of a deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

Great organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves.

[tweetthis]Great organizations empower people the freedom to think for themselves.[/tweetthis]

They allow individuals to make the best decision at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing that the best person to make a decision as to what they should say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my situation, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time.  We will continue to work to resolve your problem.” Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook that really didn’t even apply to my situation. If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, give them the right to think for themselves!

When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

I love the motto of Nordstroms Department Store. I’ve read their philosophy is to instruct employees to always make a decision that favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer; they are criticized for doing too little.

By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church — then empower them think!

Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company that I knew. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion. We went with that. Trouble solved.

Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time?  Have you freed your people to think?

10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor

no

I encounter so many struggling pastors. And unfortunately, I know so many who used to be pastors but no longer hold the position.

It may be through a blatant sin or a casual drifting from doing what they knew to be right, but it landed them in disaster. A pastor friend of mine said recently, “We need healthy churches and we need healthy pastors.”

Amen. Agreed. We must stand guard.

What are we guarding against?

No single post would be perfect. Obviously sin, but I can’t address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.

Here are 10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:

Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminded me recently. “Ron, don’t forget to feed your own soul.” It was subtle. Almost given as a sidebar to our discussion. But it was gold. One of the biggest dangers for a pastor is when we begin to operate out of stored up knowledge of and experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.

Sacrificing family. Families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps the family. Ministry families get accustomed to interruptions. They are part of the job as they are part of many vocations. But the family will hopefully be there when no one else is around. Ministry locations change but the family does not — so we must not neglect them. I’ve sat with men who lost the respect of their family. I know countless pastors who’s adult children no longer want anything to do with the church. Apparently, there’s not much that hurts anymore than that.

Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We are in charge of what He has put us in charge of — but it’s not the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples and the numbers will take care of themselves.

Comparing ministries. There will always be a “bigger” ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet — or a better book — or a better blog post — preach a better sermon. When we begin to compare it distracts us from the ministry we’ve been God-appointed to lead.

Finding affirmation among the rebels. This is the one that gets me in trouble among the rebels when I point it out to pastors. But we must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. Yes, it stings the way some people talk to a pastor. And, it’s certainly not always godly how some people express themselves in the church. But, what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? What if Nehemiah had? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people who are willing to follow? Okay, he probably was willing to give up a couple of times but he held the course. If you are leading there will always be someone that is not happy with the decisions you made. People bent on pleasing others — more even than pleasing God — have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.

Sacrificing truth for popularity. It’s easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And, we need them. Where sin increases — grace should increase all the more. But, we need truth. Even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one — truth or grace.

Stealing glory. My mama used to say “that boy got too big for his britches”. Sadly that can happen in ministry also. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored in that. Pastors are in a God-glorifying position. Actually, everyone yes, but it is written into our job description.

Poor boundaries. In an effort to “minister” to people, I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn’t have proper boundaries in place. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity.

Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle knowing who to trust, but because of that they have few people really get to know them. Therefore they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. And, pastors have them too. So, they put on a good front — but inside, they struggle alone. It’s dangerous.

Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just because of position. It has been said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That’s coming from a church planter’s heart — and one who is prone to lead strong.) BTW, I’m not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability — and I haven’t discovered the perfect system here — but there needs to be one that balances truth and grace equally. Again, I don’t know how to systematize that, but it is a dangerous distraction. My challenge would be to the pastor or ministry leader to build this system into his or her own life absent a system within the ministry.

Those are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways — and all of them are not fatal thankfully — but all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.

 

 

5 Real Reasons Most Dreams Never Come True.

Aspirations

I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet a lot of people chasing after something — yet never seeming to find what they are seeking. I think many times — and most of us are prone to doing this — we make excuses rather better than we make progress. And there are reasons that is the case.

Here are 5 of the real reasons most dreams never come true:

People quit trying. They give up. They may have tried before and it didn’t work, so now they don’t try at all. Seldom is a dream — a worthy dream — realized on the first attempt. The greatest discoveries are seldom found along the path of least resistance.

People aren’t willing to work hard enough. If you have a dream — it will be difficult to achieve. Might I say that it again. It will be difficult. Otherwise it’s not much of a dream. I think sometimes we expect it “just to happen”. But, dreams don’t happen by chance. Lucky isn’t a skill in achieving dreams. You might be “in the right place at the right time”, but those opportunities are rare.

People put too much hope in others and not enough confidence in themselves. Others don’t put as much energy or thought into your dream as you do. Many people never realize a dream because they expected something from others they never agreed to do.

People have unrealistic dreams. Seriously, if the dream is for a trouble-free, perfect life — that’s probably not going to become a reality. Learning to navigate an excellent dream in the midst of a world full of sorrow is a key to discovering the greatest — and most achievable — dreams in life.

People devalue the dreams already realized. This is a biggie. Sometimes we really are “living the dream”. If we always live thinking the “grass is greener” with the “next big thing” we never fully appreciate the dreams God has already given us.

Are you in a funk, because you think your dreams are passing you by? Could there be a reason for that?

7 Ways Leading Is Like Driving a Car

Driving Car

Leading an organization is like driving a car.

Okay, it’s not exactly like that, but it is similar.

Leading an organization is hard work and that’s regardless of the size of the organization — or even the strength of a team. It’s true of leading it the church also.

It is often difficult to think through all the issues that the leader should be considering. I have found it helpful at times to compare organizational health and success to other things I may understand even more; things I do everyday. For example, I can consider the health of the team in an organization by comparing it to the dynamics of family relationships. This type exercise helps me clarify principles of organizations I might not otherwise think about and create a paradigm of leadership that hopefully makes leading easier. It’s simply a tool to help you brainstorm.

Recently, when I was facing a difficult leadership season, and was also driving somewhere for a meeting, I thought about how organizations have a great deal in common with the road system most of us use everyday. I began thinking how leading an organization can at times be like driving a car and it helped me process some issues relative to our organizational health.

Here are 7 ways leading is like driving a car:

Freeways - Sometimes the organization can proceed quickly, with limited interruption. (We like those times.) they don’t come very often.

Potholes - Small things often slow the organization down, but progress still continues. (Good leaders take time to address potholes before they become major road damage.)

Detours - Often the organization is still heading for the same end goal, but may be forced to go at it from a different direction. (Too many times, instead of detouring we change our destination. We give up too quickly.)

Speed bumps - There are times we need to slow down, reflect on where we are, adjust our speed, and continue forward. (We can’t always keep the pace of the freeway, so we consider when a speed bump is in order. I’m guilty of this one. If I’m not careful we are constantly in the freeway mode. It can be dangerous for the health of the team.)

Exits - These provide a safe way off the freeway to refuel, relax, and readjust the direction. (We shouldn’t wait too long to find the needed exit, even if it’s for a short bathroom break! I learned that one from my wife :) seriously, it’s important that we pause long enough to reflect on where we are and where we are going. Reviewing progress and organizational health is an important part of healthy leadership.)

Accidents - Accidents can be our fault or the fault of another, but they often set us back for a period of time. (when mistakes happen, see what needs repairing, what needs replacing, and when to call it a “total loss”.)

Flat tires – At times, team members can be injured by simply wearing out, a serious puncture wound, or damage caused by another. (Leaders should always be watching the health of the tires. One flat tire on the team can derail the entire trip.)

Road signs - In every organization, there are signs which the leader needs to learn to recognize — when momentum slows, when people are stressed, or when the vision needs refueling. (First, good leaders learn to recognize these signs directional or the warning signs, but then they don’t ignore them. Signs are for an intentional purpose.)

The list of these imageries could continue much longer. You could attach ideas to things such as stop lights, reverse, neutral, intersections, road rage, etc…anything that helps you think, but by now you should have the idea I’m working with in this post.

What other road illustrations could you make as they relate to organizational success?

You can carry these thoughts even further than I have, with how to address each issue, how addressing them with your travel would relate to how you address them in the organization, and how each one impacts you safely reaching your destination. Again, this is just a framework by which to help you think through more complex organizational issues about which you may not otherwise think. It might even be a helpful brainstorming tool to use as a team.

For example, ask your team what “speed” they think you’re currently moving as an organization. See how many differing responses you receive.

Can you see how an exercise like this can be helpful in thinking through organizational health and success?

8 Ways to Deal With the Emotions of Change

Grumpy, pissed off, unhappy old man

In previous posts I shared about the way people respond to change. One post share the “Absolute Most Common Objection to Change“. Another post shared “7 Common Emotions to Change“. And, there were actually 8 emotions. :) No one seemed to catch that.

With each post I was asked for some feedback on how to address those reactions. Emotions are unpredictable and unique so there’s probably not one answer here — or an easy answer. But, there are some things you can do — much as you would when dealing with emotional issues in any relationships for any reason.

Here are 8 ways to react to the emotions of change:

Fear. Give information. People usually fear what they don’t know more than what they do. During seasons of change it’s important to increase the level of communication.

Grief. Allow time to adjust — even to heal. There’s been a loss. You don’t get over that immediately. Obviously, if a person can never get over it you may have to move forward without them. But, make sure you don’t move without them because you stepped on their season of grief.

Enthusiasm. Temper celebration when change is still hurting some people. Don’t slap those opposed in the face immediately. Of course, never say “I told you so”. That screams arrogance. Celebrate yes, but do it with taste when feelings are involved.

Anger. Give it time to see if it calms. Extend forgiveness where necessary. Allow people to express their anger without retribution. Anger is usually the result of unmet expectations. Don’t agitate even further by not following through on commitments made. Some people can’t move forward once they’ve gotten angry. They don’t know to move forward. But allow time to see if it’s just an initial, reactionary outburst.

Confusion. During times of change attempt to be the king of clarity. Use various methods of communication. People hear things in different ways. Make sure everyone hears you or has an opportunity to it they are listening. (And some won’t)

Loneliness. To address this one you have to somehow replace the loneliness people feel with something they can enjoy even more. It will take time. Again, some won’t get there, but if the change is worthwhile, most people will eventual see some value in the change — especially as it relates to their personal values. Bottom line here: Make good changes.

Sadness. Recognize and acknowledge that some people will have a genuine lack of happiness about the change. That’s okay. Don’t force it. Don’t expect it. Give it time. Sometimes giving them new roles within the change gives them relief from the sadness. But the best response here is to be patient with people. Sadness doesn’t heal under pressure.

Numbness. Energize them with the vision. Let the vision drive their enthusiasm. That means you have to repeat the vision often. Sometimes daily. And you celebrate vision accomplishment more than anything else you celebrate.

Any ideas you would care to share?