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.

7 Guaranteed Ways to Grow as a Leader

By | Church, Leadership | 4 Comments

Do you want to grow as a leader? Do you want to keep growing?

One reason I write this blog is I want to help others grow. At the same time, I have to keep growing as a leader. The people who look to me for leadership need me to continually strive to improve.

So, how do we keep growing?

Here are 7 guaranteed ways to grow as a leader:

Desire growth

Sounds simple, but we tend to seek what we desire most. If you truly want to grow as a leader you will continually find ways to do so. You’ll read books, attend conferences, or get a mentor – simply because you want to grow. Check your heart.

So, do you really desire to grow as a leader – enough you’re willing to do something about it?

Accept correction

No one enjoys hearing they did something wrong, but many leaders view all correction as criticism rather than an opportunity to grow. Growing leaders realize correction helps them improve, so they can do better the next time. (Proverbs 12:1) Sometimes people aren’t the best at sharing truth in love, but even in some of those occasions there is something worth hearing. Of course, we only know what we know, so sometimes people have to point out what we can’t see about ourselves.

For this one, ask yourself a question. Can you receive correction, even when it stings a little to hear and turn it into something to help you improve as a leader?

Listen to wiser voices

Experience is the best teachers. And all of us are surrounded by people who have grown wise through their experiences. Growing leaders glean all they can from other people. They surround themselves with smarter people. They ask great questions.

Consider this question. Would others consider you a wisdom seeker? Can you specifically name the voices you are learning from these days?

Invest in others

Growing leaders learn or reinforce leadership principles, while helping others learn them. Sometimes it is not until we talk through an issue with others we find clarity in the issue ourselves. When you invest in others it fuels you as a leader. (“Give and it will be given back to you”, Jesus said. We reap what we so.)

So, ask yourself – Am I helping to grow other leaders? Am I allowing others to learn from my experience? Could you name those people you are investing in currently?

Recognize weaknesses

And recognize your strengths. When you become more aware of what you do well and what you don’t, you are better prepared to grow as a leader. You can start investing more energy in your strengths and seek to minimize your weaknesses. You can find people who better compliment you as you build a team.

For example, can you admit there are some things you simply aren’t good at doing? Are you confident enough to humbly recognize and maximize things you do really well?

Refuse mediocrity

Growing leaders push themselves beyond the limits of normalcy. Average is common, but exceptional takes hard work.

Here are a couple questions to consider. Are you seeking to go beyond what’s expected? Are you holding yourself to standards nothing short of your very best? (Isn’t this even Biblical? “Whatever you d0 – do as if unto the Lord”.)

Embrace failure

We develop by falling down and getting back up and then falling down and getting back up again. Growing leaders have learned this is a part of maturing as a leader.

In honest evaluation, would you say you have allowed failure to shape you as a leader, or hold you back from all you could be?

I am certainly not suggesting this is an exhaustive list. I am advocating growing as a leader requires intentionality on the part of the leader. It doesn’t automatically happen.

What are you doing to grow as a leader these days?

7 Ways a Leader Avoids Criticism

By | Leadership | 14 Comments

The title is a little misleading. The only way I know of to avoid criticism as a leader –

Is to not be a leader.

Many in leadership positions default to what I call “The Safe Zone” to attempt avoiding criticism. (But it’s not really that safe.)

Here are 7 ways they attempt to avoid criticism:

  • Make excuses for their shortcomings
  • Dodge bullets by hiding behind others
  • Pass blame and never own a mistake
  • Stop taking risks
  • Stifle their dreams and the dreams of others
  • Limit their leadership exposure to other people
  • Control information and don’t allow anyone else to make decisions

Some leaders have figured out how to avoid criticism.

But seriously,

Are they really even leading?

(And make no mistake, for this too they will eventually invite criticism. We might as well give people a legitimate reason.)

7 Ways a Leader Can Invite Constructive Feedback

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

I remember an especially hard year as a leader. It was so bad several members of our staff had told me where I was letting them down. So much for having an “open door policy”. The next year I closed the door. 🙂

Not really, but this was a year where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear – I can be an idiot at times. There were significant areas where I needed to improve. Thankfully, I haven’t had many of those years, but I’m glad now I had the ones I have, because they have taught me a lot about my leadership.

There is room for improvement with any leader and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

Most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserved it. Plus, anytime someone on a team is brave enough to rebuke their leader, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything.
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care.
  • Feels welcome to do so.

In my opinion, good leaders try to create environments to live within the third option. I hope this was the case in my situation.

I should also say, especially on behalf of my fellow senior leaders, that criticism comes easily to leaders. We don’t have to ask for it. Do anything at all in leadership and someone will have a problem with it – and they won’t always be kind in how they voice their complaint. I like to say “you can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit”. Leading is hard and I am not suggesting we make it harder.

But I’m not talking about the negative type of criticism. I am referring to constructive feedback from people I care about and who respect me. We all need that at times.

Here are 7 ways to welcome correction from the people we lead:

An open door.

My work environment is somewhat different now, because we have a very remote working environment. As pastor of a large staff, it was even more important to keep the door to my office open. But it was more than than simply the door. As a leader, I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. And, if I’m in the office, my door is “open” and I want people to know they can walk in anytime. In addition, I try to help teams I lead know that I consider responsiveness to be of highest value to me. If they contact me, I will attempt to answer in a timely manner.

Include others in decision making.

If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made. In fact, I seldom make decisions alone.

Ask for it.

Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. I ask lots of questions. I solicit opinions on almost every major decision I make. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. And, the more you ask, the more freedom people feel in sharing.

Admit mistakes.

It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault. People feel more comfortable approaching a leader who doesn’t feel they are always right.

Take personal responsibility.

In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner. When they are criticized I own the criticism with them. I have their back. (By the way, this is only learned by experience.)

Model it.

It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it. If I chooser retribution, I’ve shut further feedback off before it comes.

Trade it.

The best way to get a team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with the team where there is mutual constructive feedback. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

I should also say all these are still not enough. Constructive criticism from people who care about you and want your best, especially from people you lead, only develops over time as trust is developed. They have to trust you and you have to trust them.

Receiving correction – or constructive feedback – is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, when a leader is open to healthy correction from his or her team, the team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction? Is your leader open to correction?

7 Things Which Drive Me Crazy in Leadership

By | Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 11 Comments

There are some things in leadership I could almost say I despise. Those things are almost always the ways people misuse or even abuse their leadership power – or the way other people respond to any attempt at good leadership.

And I have probably been guilty of many of these in my career. But, mostly looking backwards at the results, I hate when I did them as well.

Perhaps you have your own list, but this is mine.

7 things which drive me crazy in leadership:

Responsibility without authority – If you ask someone to lead something – let them lead. Don’t make them jump through humps, constantly come back to you for approval, or second-guess everything they do.

Small-mindedness – I like big dreams and those who dream them. It wears me out to be around people calling themselves leaders, but limiting themselves or their organization to mediocrity. I know I’ve never once out-dreamed God. Nor has any of us.

Naysayers – There is always someone who says it can’t be done, it hasn’t been done this way before, or no one will support your idea. It could be the result of their own misfortunes or it could be the way they are wired in general. Listen to wisdom, even constructive criticism, but don’t fall victim to people who resist every change.

Power protectors – Leaders who are easily threatened by others, always try to control people, or only say what they think people want to hear in order to be liked limit people and the organization.

Caution motivated only by fear – Some leaders refuse to take any risk if there is a chance it might not work. They take the safe route – especially when any outside pressure rises against them or the idea. Many times this is seasonal and based on circumstances, but sometimes it is a personal wiring of the leader. (By the way, I can be guilty of a number of these, but this one can impact me the most. I personally prefer a bold move of faith, but many times I let fear get the best of me.)

Bully management – Some leaders attempt to get results by force. They beat people into submission, never appear to be satisfied, or badger people to perform. This has always seemed like cowardly leadership to me.

Passion squelchers – I’ve known leaders who never liked an idea – unless it the idea originated with them. These leaders tend to say no to people more than they say yes. They don’t encourage growth in those around them unless it directly benefits them. Good leaders energize others to realize their individual dreams, even if there is no immediate benefit received to the leader or the organization.

What are some things you despise in leadership?

A Leadership Experiment – The Little Things Matter

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership, Team Leadership | 16 Comments

In making a first impression the little things matter.

When a visitor shows up on one of our church campuses for the first time the little things matter. When a parent decides to trust us with the care of their children the little things matter. In the way we follow up with guests the little things matter.

Most leaders and pastors believe this, but we often don’t pay attention to the little things. As a pastor, over the years, even as a very non-detailed, extremely big picture person, I started to notice the little things.

In one of of the first churches where I served as pastor, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people who were passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed to be done.

I conducted an experiment. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom right in front of the urinal. You couldn’t “go” without stepping on it or over it.

It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up or threw it away. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” (It was before I was a big a germaphobe as I am today.) Apparently, by the look on some faces, most of the men had seen it previously.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them about making a first impression – the little things matter – and, more importantly, each leader plays a role in this. We were a small church. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen the bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal – and we had very good coffee. Although it was a minor thing, just a bulletin on the floor, it had the potential to leave a larger impression. Imagine if the same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week you may be plugged in enough to be picking bulletins off the bathroom floor.)

I’m not saying it was brilliant. It may not even have been nice. But the experiment made some impact. 

From this point, some of the men became more observant about the little things which needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church.

The point of this post is we must find ways to illustrate the importance of this principle – Little things matter.

By the way, I have always been curious if this same experiment would have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up?

Pastor, feel free to try this experiment at your own church. Or not, but little things do matter.

7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement NOW!

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 16 Comments

There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. So many times I simply don’t know what to do. I try to lead by consensus building, but even with the strongest teams there will always be decisions about which we just aren’t certain what is the best decision.

This is why I like to have some default zones in leadership. When I can’t make a decision – I know where to default.

Having a default action when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” in common situations, which occur frequently in leadership, may prove to be helpful.

Based on the team you lead, where you lead, and your past experiences as a leader, your defaults may be different from mine.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way over time has proven to be best. This becomes your default zone.

Here are 7 of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring – default to no over yes.

If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I default to no. It is not worth taking a chance when adding to the team. When I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it – Choose not to say it.

I don’t follow my own advice here often enough, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader – or the less respect I lose.

If it’s between empower or control – choose empower.

Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way. The area I control always limit us in this area.

Choosing my preference or the team’s preference – go with the team.

There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong. And if you believe in your team – prove it.

To do something in person or by email – Choose in person

By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times. And we need personal connections to build strong teams.

If you have to assume or ask – ASK for clarification.

If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking – if it doesn’t appear they understand you – rather than assume – ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams. The best leaders I know ask the best questions. And they ask lots of them.

Commit or don’t commit – Choose don’t commit.

Leaders usually have more opportunities than time can allow. I’ve learned – the hard way – no one will protect my calendar as well as me. I’ve also learned when I over commit – I become less effective, I burnout easily, and, over time, eventually I’m useless. I disappoint less people when I don’t commit on the front end.

These may not be the ones you need – you may have your own, but learning your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?