Don’t Hire Yourself When Adding to the Team

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In my experience, people typically tend to hire someone they can easily get along with, relate to and with whom they will enjoy working. That often translates into hiring people who think like them, make decisions like them, and even have similar life interests.

While hiring for cultural fit and chemistry on the team is certainly something I agree with and try to practice, I encourage senior leaders not to add another “of them” to the team.

The challenge:

If we are not careful, simply because of the chemistry between us, we will be attracted towards candidates that are a lot like us. It often translates into hiring clones of the person doing the hiring. Before long, as the organization grows, it is full of people with similar interests attempting to reach the vision.

Again, while a team of “like-minded” people may sound good in principle, it can actually become a very limiting system. Variety on a team is what stretches the team to reach new heights.

You can hire people who can get along, but are still different from you.

The more I have grown as a leader the more I have concentrated on my weaknesses.  I know my strengths well. I now need to know what is holding our team back from all we could be. In recent years I have strived to surround myself with people that stretch me and have skills – and even personalities and temperaments – different from me.

Leaders, as you are building your team, I suggest you look for people that are not like you. Don’t hire yourself – hire someone who completes you. Hire people that take you out of your comfort zone, maybe even conflict with your style a little. In the end, it will make your organization better.

How I Blog about Current Leadership Issues

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership | No Comments

All the leadership examples I post on my blog come from real life situations – either mine or yours, collected through years of leadership experience. 

I get asked frequently, “How do you post about people you know? Don’t they figure out you’re talking about them?”

And, truthfully, sometimes they ask, “Is that post about me?

The reality is, however, that every situation seems to repeat itself – many times. (There is nothing new under the sun.) In fact, I will seldom post specific details of a specific situation. I wait until I observe it more than once and I keep posts as broad and general as I can.

Many of the situations from which I draw principles come from readers of this blog sharing their stories with me. And I have received lots of them over the years. Some come from other churches with whom I’ve worked. Many of the situations from which I develop leadership principles happened years ago when I was in secular business and management. Sometimes the details are cloudy, but the principles are still quite clear.

I do have a system (informal that is), however, of how I post about current leadership issues, especially those real life to me, where I know the people involved.

Here is my “system”:

I wait until some time has passed – The principles learned will still be good. It could be a month or several years, depending on how easy to discern the details would be. (Evernote is where I mostly keep my notes.)

I also try to make sure I have removed my emotions before I post about a situation. I’ve been burned a few times (and burned others) by posting in anger, so I’ve learned to never post until I’m back on even ground emotionally.

I consider all parties involved – I want to make sure I’m telling the story correctly. The point is trying to capture the facts as they happened, not as someone felt (or I felt) as they were happening. If it’s a personal issue for me, I never share any situation I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with the people involved.

I especially don’t want people I lead feeling slammed through my blog, so I make sure to address leadership problems outside this blog. Frequently, I mention upcoming posts so they know in advance I’m writing about a certain topic.

Examine what was learned – I always want to learn from experiences; good or bad, so I ask myself how the teams involved are better and how things could improve because of this situation. Again, I try never to post out of personal frustration, but I do try to share that which can benefit others from my experience or the experience of others.

Change details – I never share names, unless I have permission and it’s necessary for the story. Also, I change enough details to keep people guessing as to the characters in the situation.

Post – Eventually I use the story or situation to write about a leadership problem or principle. My theory is that all leadership principles develop somewhere – and there is always a story behind them.

Where did you learn some of your best leadership principles?

Life Cycles of an Organization: And the Team That Leads Them

By | Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | No Comments

Every organization has a life cycle. In fact, over time an organization will likely be many separate cycles. I have written about organizational life cycles before.

But I have observed another dynamic within these life cycles. In each life cycle the most successful organizations I have been a part of had a team skilled at three separate functions.

The three functions are:

Starters

Starting involves those who can dream, vision-cast, and recruit people to follow a new idea or initiative. These are the people who embrace change and are always ready for something new. (BTW, this is the group where I typically fit.)

Maintainers

Maintaining involves setting up and managing systems in an effort to continue the progress usually begun by others. These people may be slower to embrace change; valuing things which are organized, structured, and understandable. (BTW, every team needs these people to be successful.)

Finishers

Finishing is different from starting or maintaining, because it’s not beginning new, nor is it staying the same, but it involves taking an established idea and carrying it to the next destination. It could be to improve things or to close them gracefully. These are people who have the ability and desire to make existing things better and to finish things well.

Here’s why this matters in an organization:

In my observation, people tend to lean towards one of the three, and may be comfortable in two of them. I have found it rare for someone to be gifted in all three. But on successful teams, all three are operating together within a life cycle.

I love being a starter. Since I was in high school, I’ve wanted to start clubs or initiatives, alter the direction of something, or stir up some intentional change. It is one reason I’m consistently tossing out new ideas to our team. (It’s also how I frustrate them most.) I can live in the finisher role for a time if it involves development or innovation, but I always drift back to starting something new. And I burn out very quickly in the maintaining position.

One goal of a team could be to balance the strengths of the team members around each of these, so the team is always starting, maintaining, and finishing. The most important thing is that the team and leaders recognize that each of these functions of a life cycle are equally important.

Every healthy life cycle requires all three.

Which one are you wired for best?

(If you say all three, you might want to ask people around you to help you evaluate your answer.)

7 Everyday Tensions Every Leader Faces

By | Leadership | One Comment

Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. 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. With several decades of being a senior leader, I’ve learned a few things. I need them to understand there are reasons for them to follow my leadership, but I shouldn’t unpack my resume for them immediately either.

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

This one I experience most every meeting we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. 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. This one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next” and 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. Plus, I try to always be reading, attending conferences, and learning 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 also has 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, because I have, but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me. By the way, He has uniquely wired you also.

Spending time with people versus completing tasks. 

This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership always involves 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 with people I’m not necessarily leading. Also, I have paperwork to do. The real work of a leader is people – and yet the “other” work must get done.

Tension. 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?

7 Dangerous Mindsets for a Leader

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I’ve seen it so many times. Most likely you have also. It is tragic.

A leader can be doing everything else right and yet one flawed mindset overshadows and jeopardizes all the good leadership principles he or she knows.

One constantly repeated action. One trait. One habit. One mindset.

Sadly, many times it’s not even that the person isn’t a good leader – it’s the one mindset that gets them off track. So, I believe leaders should constantly be working on the bad mindsets which will keep them from being as successful as they can be.

(In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership mindset.)

Here are 7 of the dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed:

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled, but the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead. I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate.

Interestingly, I have personally found, when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which greatly need my attention.

Constantly seeing the glass as half-empty.

A negative leader will almost never be successful long-term, simply because people will not care to follow. Some people have this mindset all the time (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing), but this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments.

If we aren’t careful – we can let negative mindsets carry over into every other area of our life – and start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership. High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life. I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. Also, I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential. The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale.

All leaders need to discipline themselves towards plateaus where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

One leader I worked for had high expectations for everyone, not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself. He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And, because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was.

People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit.

This is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves it. There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own.

Shared success is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down.

You can’t do it all. Don’t think you can. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try. (Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.) For me, this usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (For me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating yourself from others.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people, accountability and community.

All leaders need those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Those are a few dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed. Any you would care to add?

5 Qualities in Joseph’s Heart Every Leader Should Seek

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 6 Comments

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

I submit his heart we see in Joseph is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment in Others

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The ultimate hope of this post is you (and I) would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

Where Many New Ideas Come From

By | Change, Innovation, Leadership | 6 Comments

In my experience, many of the new ideas for our organization…and for my life…have come while I was doing something else.

Usually when we are working on planning a service it’s when the best ideas for a service develop…

Often when I’m working on a blog post, I get several new ideas for a blog post…

Look at most great inventions and they were discovered while doing something…many times while doing something totally unrelated to what was discovered…

That’s because…

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You Feel Led to Plant a Church. What Do You Do Now?

By | Church, Church Planting, Leadership | 11 Comments

About once a week, or sometimes more frequently, I get an email from someone who says they feel led to plant a church. They almost always have the same questions.

What do I do now? What’s my first step?

After answering dozens of times, I decided to put my thoughts in a post.

Step one: Run as fast as you can!

Just kidding. Although that does give you a testimony like Jonah. And just kidding again.

Here are 5 immediate steps I would recommend:

Check your heart

Are you sure planting is what you are being called to do or is it a desire because everyone else is doing it? We need lots of church planters, but we also need people willing to help established churches thrive.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into is actually what God’s drawing you into.

Check your spouse’s heart

Church planting is not a sole venture. No ministry is for that matter. If you are married, you will need to be on the same page with your spouse.

Trying to do this without complete buy in from both parties will destroy one or the other – the church plant or the marriage.

Determine where you feel called to plant

Much of your future steps will depend on this one. I think God gives tremendous latitude in this. We need churches in lots of places – small towns and big towns. But this will be one of the most difficult decisions you make if you don’t know.

I once thought I wanted to plant in New York City. But when I spent time talking to God about this, I sensed Him pointing me in another direction.

Find others interested

If you tell me you can’t find anyone – and I hear it often – I’d question how successful you are going to be. As in 1 Kings 19, in my experience, God is always “reserving” (1 Kings 19:18) people who He plans to use in the vision He is shaping in you.

To build a body you need those who are part of the body to start.

Find experienced help

It can be a denomination, another church, or an experienced pastor or mentor, but don’t do church planting alone. Let me say that a little clearer. DON’T DO IT ALONE.

Too much has been learned about church planting to miss out on someone else’s experience.