12 Ways to Make Yourself A Valuable Team Member

A young man came to me once seeking advice for starting a new position. He wanted to know how he could set himself apart and make himself a valuable team member.

I loved the question. It showed intentionality and purpose on his part. I think that has to be step one – asking good questions and seeking wise answers – and he was already doing it.

I was impressed enough I decided not to give him just a few suggestions, but to give him a dozen.

12 ways to make yourself valuable as a team member:

Be an encourager of others on the team. We all have bad days occasionally, so it’s nice to know someone on the team who always has a smile and finds joy in making others joyful.

Embrace change willingly. Change is coming – whether we like it or not. The one who remains positive when others are negative – even in the midst of change – is golden for creating a healthy team environment.

Speak words of affirmation to others. Recognize things other people do right. Consider the interests of other people ahead of your own personal recognition.

Laugh deep and smile often. It’s hard to frown back, even on the worst days, when someone flashes a genuine smile at you.

Value other people’s opinions. People want to be heard. They appreciate when they believe someone genuinely cares to hear what they have to say.

Remain steadfast to vision and values. Loyalty is a rare and attractive quality. Believe in the place where you work. If you can’t it might be time to consider somewhere else to invest your time and energy.

Be flexible with methods. “Let’s get it done” – whatever it takes – is a great way to set yourself apart from the norm of a team.

Genuinely love people. Love even those who are more difficult to love. (This quality alone will set you apart from most others.)

Give more than required. It’s been said to “under-promise and over-deliver”. Yea, something like that. Certainly do what’s expected with excellence – and, without complaining.

Think critically for improvement. Being cooperative doesn’t mean you are void of opinions. In a respectful way, offer helpful suggestions. Be humble and purposeful in adding value to the team.

Never gossip or talk bad about another team member. Everything you say will come back around to you. If you have a problem with someone talk to them personally, before you talk to anyone else. Here’s a standard – make sure you’d be okay if whatever is repeated from your mouth was hung in the break room bulletin board.

Have a servant’s heart. Jesus said, “the greatest among us must be a servant.” Never let any job or task be beneath you. Value other people and their roles on the team. Regardless of your “rank”, see your job as an opportunity to serve others.

What would you add to my list?

When Only the Senior Leader Fully Understands

I was once talking with a young pastor having to make some hard decisions in his church. He was praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, and allowing input from the church. He felt confident he was making the right decisions for the life of the church at the time. None of the changes were clearly addressed in Scripture. He felt the majority of the people supported him, but still there was a certain group in the church who continually questioned and criticized him for any changes he initiated.

His comment which struck me was, “I feel like every time I take two steps forward we take another step backwards. Why can’t they understand we have to change or we will eventually die?”

His comment and the question which followed reminded me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership. And, I’ve been reminded of it by experience many times.

You can never fully understand all the decisions a leader makes unless you sit where the leader sits.

The leader can explain the why behind the decision – and, he or she should try. The leader can walk people slowly through the process of change – and, he or she should. The leader can listen to people’s objections and be patient with people who don’t understand – and, he or she should.

The leader should consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts people (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead. Leaders should never make decisions in a vacuum- they need to include other people in the decision-making process. The leader should be open to critique and be teachable.

But, there will be times when the leader simply has to make decisions based on the best and most current information available.

And, not everyone will understand.

This is true for pastors, business owners, parents, elected officials, and teachers. Anyone who leads people will experience times of being misunderstood. If you’re a leader, you’ll be second-guessed in some of the decisions you make.

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of leadership. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions – the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

7 Ways to Correct a Team Member in a Healthy Way

All of us make mistakes and occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. This should always be the end goal of correction.

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, however, that we correct correctly. The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team – and a healthy team dynamic. 

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

A pre-established relationship – Corrective actions should ultimately 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.

Granted, there will be times when a leader has to correct someone he or she doesn’t know well. While this isn’t ideal, it should alter the way the conversation takes place and who is in the room at the time. I have, for example, invited someone else the person trusts on the team into the room with us.

Respect for the person – 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. If you can’t respect the person’s character you have a completely different issue – and probably need a different blog post.

Be clear about the offense – 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 there is a problem or what the actual problem is you think needs correcting.

Embrace a development opportunity – 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. Get them additional help or training if needed.

Restore them to a place of trust – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and 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. Trust may take some time and you will need to see improvement, but if you can never fully trust the person – again – you have harder decisions to make than correcting them. And, there’s another blog post needed.

Build health into the DNA – 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 may need to consider how he or she (the leader) needs to improve to help the team member and the team improve.

Make hard decisions when needed – 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?)

Many leaders avoid correction of any kind. Either they don’t like conflict or they simply don’t want to lose favor with the team member. But, correction can be valuable for the team and its members if used correctly.

(And, it really is a Biblical principe. See Hebrews 12:11)

7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

Leadership should be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it should cost us something. Leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

Questions To Help Discern If You Are Ready to be a Leader

I had a young man ask me recently, “Do you think I’m ready to be a leader?”

I said:

Great question. Glad you’re asking. But, honestly, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer your question. Actually, it might help if I ask you some questions.

Here are a few questions – to discern if you’re ready to be a leader?

Are you ready to stand alone at times?

Are you ready to push through fear?

Are you ready to do the right thing even when it’s the unpopular thing?

Are you ready to be misunderstood sometimes – actually, many times?

Are you ready to sacrifice for your team?

Are you ready to see things others may not yet be able to see?

Are you ready to enter the unknown – and are you ready to enter first?

Are you ready to keep confidences?

Are you ready to be looked at for a decision even when you have no idea what to do?

Are you ready to delegate?

Are you ready to lead change – even when it’s uncomfortable?

Are you ready to be overwhelmed at times?

Are you ready to be talked about when you leave the room – in good and bad ways?

Are you ready – and willing – to allow others to receive recognition?

Are you ready for people to befriend you simply for your position?

Are you ready to see all sides of an issue?

Are you ready to sometimes feel like the weight of a vision is on your shoulders?

Are you ready to face conflict?

Are you ready to always have your integrity closely observed by others?

Are you ready to receive criticism?

Are you ready to defend your team?

Are you ready to be a leader?

7 Common Tensions During Fast Growth or Overwhelming Change

I have been part of several organizations experiencing either exponential growth or tremendous change. In business and with a few churches, we had times of explosive growth, but also times where the speed of change was overwhelming – some of that planned, but much of it unexpected.

Most of us love growth.

I have learned either times of fast growth or change both have common tensions associated with them.

Here are 7 common tensions you might experience:

Miscommunication. Growth or change brings so much activity it is often difficult to keep everyone informed about everything. This bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during the immediate season you can expect mishaps in communication. Systems will need to improve, but for today people must ask questions when they don’t know, avoid assumptions and often give others the benefit of the doubt when they don’t understand.

Changing roles. Job requirements will change. People will be asked do things they never expected to do – and may not feel comfortable or qualified to do them. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. Silos will get in the way of progress. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth or overwhelming change. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. Positions and lines of authority may need to change.

This feels uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles – as you know them – can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some people simply may not like the new size or shape of the organization — and may decide they are no longer a fit for the team long-term. This is one of the harder realities.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth or change. It may be fun for a while – or tremendously scary- but, it begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed. Old leaders must be continually encouraged and rejuvenated. It’s important to mix it celebrations along the way.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear the phrase a lot during times of fast growth and change. And, many times the person saying it will be a leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. This is also a matter to continually work to improve upon over time, but you can’t eliminate completely- and, I’m not sure we should try. If everything has clarity we probably aren’t walking by faith and things will soon become stale again.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — or are uncertain the right path to take – they often default into doing nothing. This is where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth and change there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers. It might not even be that people don’t care, even though they almost appear as if they don’t. It may simply be because they don’t know what to do.

During especially stressful seasons, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. Don’t ignore all existing structures — especially in times of fast growth or change. I’ve seen people, for example, stop using calendar programs or scheduling systems, simply because they don’t feel they have the time to keep up with them anymore. You may need better structures going forward, but some structure is needed to keep people moving forward.

Stretched structures. As stated previously, current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth or change. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development, as much as it does the growth and maintenance, of the organization. This may be some of the learning curves after this current season. This is why it is important to take notes along the way and continually be learning.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth – and often you cannot avoid overwhelming change, but awareness is the first step to addressing most problems.

3 Ways for Christians to Respond to Tragedies

I wrote this in response to the shootings in Oregon a couple years ago – almost two years exactly. Some thought it was helpful, so I share it here in light of the shootings in Las Vegas, which has been called “the worst mass shooting in U.S. recorded history.”

3 ways for Christians to respond to tragedies.

These are three, which come to my mind this morning. Certainly we can assist where we have resources and there is need, but we can always do these three.

Pray sincerely.

Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the people who live in the area. Tragedies like this always shake a community even more than the broader world. Pray for the response of government and law officials. Pray for our world.

These are desperate times. Pray for the Gospel to have opportunities to shine through darkness. “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Remember our position.

This world is not our home. It’s what we preach every week in our churches. We who believe are here on temporary assignment. We are pilgrims on a journey – passing through as we head towards our eternal home.

Our God is on His throne. He is not surprised. He is not unprepared. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

Overcome evil with good.

What if with every tragedy and every negative news report believers decided to do something good for others? Not requested. Unexpected. Just random acts of goodness in the name of Jesus Christ.

What if we displayed peace and joy in the midst of sorrow? What if others who have no faith saw us who believe responding in faith? “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

It is natural for children to respond with fear when they see these type tragedies. I wrote an article in hopes it is helpful dealing with children during tragedies.

The Ineffectiveness of A Team Without a Leader

I’ve seen many leaders make a common mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge the teams with carrying out a specific mission or an assigned task. The team is part of a accomplishing the greater vision.

And, it’s a great concept. I believe in teams.

I even love the word – TEAM! It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.

I think we should always strive to create great teams.

But, here’s what often happens. The team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There may be a lot of meetings, but there is no real forward movement.

The team flounders.

Why? They had a great team. The team was full of great people. They were part of a great vision and everyone may have known exactly what they hoped to accomplish.

But, this is where the common mistake exists among many teams.

They never had a leader.

When I arrived at our current church we had a committee structure in place. Committees were well-defined in their tasks. They had rotating terms and an appointed chairman. The problem was they were too structured for effectiveness. Plus, you had to be in the church at least a year before you could serve on them – which, in practice often means you have to be there for many years before you were ever “known” enough to be placed on a committee.

This process worked well for certain committees – such as finance committee, which we still have, but it didn’t seem to work at well for others, such as the garden committee or the usher committee. We needed lots of people in those areas and needed to be able to plug new people in quickly and let them get to work. We needed more of a team concept than a committee structure.

But, even with teams – the mistake comes when no one is ever appointed a leader.

Teams are great, but at some point in time, a leader will need to stand up – and lead.

An organizational team without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach. Would you recommend that for your favorite sports team?

I love leading through teams, but in addition to making sure people know what’s expected of them, we have to make sure every team has a leader.

I try to never appoint or release a team to do work until we make sure a leader is chosen. They can choose their own leader, we can apppoint one for them, or they may even have co-leadership, but there needs to be someone who has the assigned task of steering, motivating and leading the team to accomplish it’s mission.

Love teams – but, make sure every team has a leader.

Have you seen a leaderless team flounder?

3 Reasons I Wrote The Mythical Leader

I have been asked why I wrote The Mythical Leader

I have toyed with the idea of writing a book for years. I have an Evernote file of book ideas – some which I’ve held on to for close to a decade. I have entertained suggestions from publishers and had more than one agent approach me about writing a book.

And, it’s not because I’m a super writer – and, certainly not because I’m an expert leader. It’s because I’ve been a consistent, diligent writer.

Several years ago I self-published a year’s worth of devotionals I had written through my first online site – MustardSeedMinistry.com. I’ve blogged or written online literally since the dial-up days – over 20 years. For some reason, the first book-length work just wouldn’t seem to come together. Either the publisher thought it wasn’t a good first book for me or I wasn’t passionate about it.

Then, Mark Sweeney, who had helped me think on the agent side of things, came to the table on the publishers side of things. He had read my blog post about seven myths of leadership. He felt there would be enough there for a book. It clicked.

But, why did I write it?

Here are 3 reasons I wrote The Mythical Leader:

I have a heart for the local church. I have only been in vocational ministry about 16 years, coming out of a long career in business. But, even before ministry I loved the local church. If done well, I believe the local church can be a catalyst for good in the community. I love the way churches were once centers of positive influence in the community. I think that’s possible again.

I believe the quality of leadership in the church matters. At the expense of something good – doctrine and theology – we’ve sacrificed good leadership practices in the local church over the years. Some of the things we would never do or allow in the business world, churches are notorious for doing. Take, for example, a long-term church staffer who “checked out” years ago, but is still on the payroll. The business world would have to dealt with it much quicker than the church would – if the church ever would. But, the mission of the church is no less important (even more important) than the profit margin of the business. This takes leadership.

Repetition led me to believe there was something here. After years of experiencing the same issues in leadership, and after working through the same problems with other pastors and leaders, I realized there must be some common things we all face at times as leaders. This is what the book is really about – addressing leadership issues we all face.

It’s really been interesting to hear from people who are not in ministry – or even in leadership – who have read the book and said it was helpful. I certainly hope it helps a few church leaders – and churches.

If you’re interested in the book, pick up a copy HERE.

Thanks to all who have bought, read and supported it. My blog readers were much of the inspiration throughout the book. I would love to get a few more 5-Star reviews on Amazon. (You can give other numbers too. Give it what it deserves, but 5-Star is best.)

What To Do With Information Overload

One struggle I’ve witnessed consistently with leaders – including this one – is we drown in information overload. There are more good ideas than we can ever implement.

We are constantly fed new information we can’t effectively analyze and implement. Whether from books, podcasts, conferences or what we come up with in the shower we just don’t know what to do with all the stuff in our heads. In fact, many times we fail to accomplish as much as we could simply because we have more information than we can adequately process.

Does this sound like your world?

  • You have a million ideas
  • You have so many opportunities before you
  • You don’t lack for information
  • Your desk is covered with tiny notes or stacks of notes to yourself
  • You have various notebooks full of ideas

But,

  • You are struggling to remember things
  • You can’t keep up with all the ideas coming at you
  • You see the note again and wish you’d seen it earlier – too late now
  • You sometimes forget what the note means when you see it again
  • You fail to act more than you cease the opportunity

Here’s a quick tip:

Process the information.

Get a system now. The more organized the information – the less stress you’ll feel – and the more useful the information will be to you later.

Here are a few ideas: 

Make a checklist of information in Excel

Go “old school” with a paper folder system

Learn Evernote

Find the best iPad app for information processing

Get training in Google docs

Those are just a few suggestions. There are so many others. I am by no means an expert on which system to use. I personally use the Notes app on my phone, iPad and laptop, because it quickly syncs with iCloud and then I transfer the information (if it’s worth keeping) into a more permanent Evernote system.

It really doesn’t matter as much what system you use as long as you find something which works for you. Developing and learning a system for processing information is a key to being effective in a world of mass information.

Here’s my suggestion. If you implement it then it will be worth your time reading this post. Invest some time setting up your method of handling information. If you’re like me that’s a laborsome process. It seems so unproductive for people wired to get things done. Get some help if you need it. But, the better the system the better you’ll be as a leader. The right system to process information can dramatically improve your leadership capacity.

Don’t let information overwhelm you. Become excellent at handling large loads of information.

The better you learn to process information, the better you’ll be at making information work for you.

There are certainly people reading this post who are better wired to process information than I am.

How do you process information?