5 Step Process to Write a Simple, but Achievable Life Plan

By | Change, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 8 Comments

As we head into a new year, I want to help you think through life planning. I believe in purposeful living and that means you have to be intentional in where you spend your time. We are told in Ephesians 5:16 to “make the most of our time.”

Here is a reality I have experienced personally and in observation of so many others. Most likely, the degree of success you experience this next year will be directly proportional to the direction you head your life and how intentional you are with the decisions you make. If you have an idea or goal of where you want to go, and a plan of action coupled with discipline, you are more likely to achieve your desired results. You can’t control many of the things life brings you, but you will have a better chance of achieving what you want in life if you create some organization in your life to help you reach them.

I also believe simple is good, so for the next few posts, I want to offer segments of developing a one-year life plan. I’ll break it down a little each day to keep it from seeming overwhelming. At the end of the series, if you follow along, you’ll at least have some plan of action. The key is you are doing it far more than how you do.

This is NOT a complex life plan. If you don’t know me, you wouldn’t know I prefer simple. If it’s complicated or too involved, I’ll opt out quickly. My goal here is to keep it simple. I think with something simple you feel you can and will actually do you have a better chance of achieving success than with something complex you are never going to do.

I should be transparent here. I’ve posted this series several times over the years. There are far better “models” out there than the one I’m sharing with you, but I keep bringing this forward, because I hear from people who have incorporated it and found it helpful. But, you’ll notice some of the comments are from years past.

I’m praying God allows many of us to realize dreams and goals we never thought possible.

Here is step one in writing a simple life plan:

Step one, List three or four goals you want to achieve next year.

Think through several areas of your life where you would like to see improvement. Areas such as:

  • Spiritual
  • Personal
  • Marriage or relationships
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Professional

Include a stretch goal, such as run a marathon, read through the Bible. learn to fly a plane, get out of debt, start a side business, or write a book, but limit yourself to three or four. In my opinion, if you have too many goals you’ll burnout trying to reach them and too few will keep you from achieving all that’s possible. You can add more goals later if you have initial success in these first goals.

At this point, the goals can be very general. They shouldn’t all be “stretch goals” – limit those to one or two, but they all should be goals designed to take you somewhere you want to go in life – somewhere you hope to improve.

Spend some time today and list your goals. Remember, no more than four. No less than three.

Here are some examples:

  1. Lose 10 pounds. (I went specific here, because most have an idea of a number on this particular goal. You can simply put “lose weight” at this point if that’s one of your goals.)
  2. Improve my marriage communication.
  3. Pay off my credit card.
  4. Read through the Bible.
  5. Write a book.

In the next post we will take this a step further.

Are you up for the challenge? Do you need something like this? Have you ever written out a plan for the New Year?

(Side note for those who are thinking.God is in control of my destiny ,so I’ll just let Him direct my paths. I don’t need a plan. I couldn’t agree with you more about God being in control – as He should be. All our plans and goals are futile without His input, but read through the Bible and you’ll see countless illustrations of how God allows men and women who seek Him to create a plan of action; sometimes for good and sometimes not. There are times God gives us clear and direct instructions and other times – and I would even say most times – God allows us to figure out the best course of action based on the wisdom and experiences He has allowed us to have.)

Of course, all of this should be done by committing your plans to God first. For help and an example of that, you might read this post: 7 Ways to Make Your Prayers More Effective

10 Suggestions to Welcome a New Pastor

By | Change, Church | 31 Comments

As a pastor and through my online ministry, I would frequently receive questions from churches who wanted to welcome a new pastor and do it well. I’m revising a post I’ve written and shared before, but it’s timely now. As I type this, I’m preaching this weekend for a church that will soon be getting a new pastor. The church I recently left as pastor is voting on a new pastor – this weekend.

I have some advice to give a congregations on how to best help the pastor and pastor’s family feel welcome and acclimate.

10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for the pastor daily – It’s something I’m almost expected to say, but there is truly no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for them by name. As a pastor, I could literally feel people praying for me at times. On an especially stressful day, I would sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people. I believed in prayer so much I always had a personal prayer team. (I’m in the process of organizing one now in my new role with Leadership Network.)

Love and honor the pastor’s family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed – out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let the pastor have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as their time at church.

Tell the pastor and family your name each time you meet – And, then tell them again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give them ample time to learn yours and, please, never trick them or ask them, “Do you remember my name?” That may be one of the hardest questions I received as pastor, because I always wanted to and couldn’t always. (Frankly, sometimes on Sunday mornings I couldn’t remember my own name.)

Don’t gossip about the pastor or family – There will almost always be changes when a new pastor comes to a church. If you don’t understand something simply ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. And, stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, things like, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it. Find positive things with which to encourage the pastor and family. Send a personal, hand-written note. And, don’t write, “I’m thankful for you, but…”. Just say thank you. Those notes are kept forever.

Introduce the pastor to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom they will likely encounter during their ministry. The earlier they can know them the better.

Let the pastor set the pace – It will take a while for a new pastor to figure out their stride. Give them your understanding during this time. They may not make every visit you want them to make. And, depending on the size of the church they may not ever make every visit you think they should. There’s only so much time in a day. They may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. They may not introduce change as fast as you want them to or change may seem too fast fo you. This is all part of the newness in a time of transition. Let them set the pace – especially in the early days.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but the new pastor needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things – some good and maybe some not so good. Let them learn who you are as a church, before you fill their head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge their performance – A new pastor will make their own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against them. Don’t assume, based on their history or your expectations of them, that they will perform a certain way. They may. They may not. When I went to my last church I had come out of the church planting world and into an established church. I think some people assumed I’d wear sandals my first Sunday. I didn’t. The whole time I was there. (And, I regret that. Just kidding.)

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in them. A new pastor needs time to acclimate. They need time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting them, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought the pastor to your church, God wants to use them there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. Of course, this is a general post. It is one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. Most likely, for those reading this, I won’t know your church or your new pastor. I do hope these can help a few churches.

Pastors, anything you would add?

5 Common Objections to Change – And 5 Ways to Lead Through Them

By | Change, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 15 Comments

One of the biggest, yet seemingly smallest, changes we have made in church revitalization was switching our service times. It seemed so simple, yet I was pulled aside and told several times it would be the last change I made in the church. The word was some of the seniors, who primarily attended the later service, had made so many changes they weren’t doing this one. And they were apparently extremely serious about it – at least some of them.

(Let me give a side note here to my pastor friends. Your seniors who don’t like change are usually more supportive than you think they are or will be. Granted, there are those few who are difficult, but those people come with all age groups. Good leadership can bring your seniors along, which is the point of this post.)

But, foolish as I can be, we changed the service times.

(Another side note. To all leaders. If you aren’t occasionally doing some things others call foolish – at least initially – you may not be leading.)

Frankly, I don’t believe we would have ever appeared on any “fast growing church” list had we not made the change in our service times. It was that critical to moving the church forward.

And, it wasn’t about style of music. The church had made a decision, before I arrived, to begin a contemporary service. It would happen before the established worship time, which had a more blended style of worship. That, in and of itself was probably the best they felt they could do. And, that’s just my opinion. (I don’t think anyone chooses to start a contemporary service early morning with a goal to reach young adults and college students, because it’s the ideal time.) They knew they needed to do something to reach younger crowds, but this was the best they could accomplish in their current context, or so they thought.

The problem was it took young families out of the room of the largest worship service. No matter how many younger visitors I could get to attend that service, which was the natural time visitors came, they would look around and see few people in their demographic. And, it wasn’t that they didn’t like people with grayer hair. They just couldn’t find people in their season of life. So, they left and never returned.

So, this was my first major leadership hurdle. And, it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of resistance. We even lost a few families. Not many, but a few.

For the most part, however, it was an enormously successful change.

Part of the reason is we were methodical in our process and about addressing objections.

I’ve learned in leading change there are a few common objections to change. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.

Here are 5 common objections to change, followed by ways for addressing them:

People are confused -These people just don’t understand the why behind the change. They can’t get their minds around it yet. It doesn’t make sense to them. They may lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Or they heard one point about the change and came to their own conclusion about the everything else. Their resistance is based more on a lack of understanding than even what they like or don’t like.

Suggestion: Over communicate. When you think you’ve shared too much – share it again. And again. And, share in different formats. We created a brochure for a change, which seemed to many to be so simple to understand. We held multiple meetings – with large and small groups of people. We placed it in the Sunday bulletin. I talked about it from stage. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, people become supportive or less opposed. Understanding the why, what, how, and when makes gives people a level of comfort in the change.

People are personally conflicted – Some people object to change,, because they are objecting to life. It’s not as much about you as it is about them. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Maybe even by something, which happened to them in the church. Maybe something in took place in their life, which has nothing to do with you or the church, but your change reminds them of their pain. So, they take their pain out on everyone else. And, the fact you’re leading the change, which is stirring the emotion, makes you the target now. Frankly, some of these people can even appear mean – they may or may not be under other circumstances. These type critics can be the most hurtful as a leader.

Suggestion: Attempt to understand them. I have learned many times people are dealing with an injury, which never healed. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. Unfortunately they usually influence others with negativity also. Sometimes these people will be critics unless they are addressed directly. If you know the change is necessary, and you can’t get them on your team, you may have to simply work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader. But, as a leader who cares about people, and all good leaders do, you should at first attempt to understand them and help them process their pain from life. Get them help if they need it.

Believing you don’t care. – These people simply don’t think you care for them or their uncomfortableness with the change. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their opinion or concern. They may feel this way regardless of how much you have communicated. They may feel the changes favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. Whether it’s true or not it’s how they feel.

I’ve learned, such as in the example of changing worship services, this can be more true the further you are demographically from the people. If they are older or younger than you, have differences in gender, ethnicity, etc., they may think you don’t understand them – and, again, that you don’t care for them. (Again, that’s likely not true, but it’s how they feel.)

Suggestion: Spend time with them as you’re able. Or empower others to spend time with them. I have seen many times if these people are included in the decision process, and you acknowledge and attempt to understand their concerns they will come along with you. Good vision casting can alleviate some of their concerns.

You’re taking control – This objection comes simply because you stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This is so common in church work. I have found many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. They don’t like feeling they’ve lost their seat at the table of authority. Frankly, this reason for criticism is probably the most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them.

Suggestion: Recognize the pain. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you, even if they still don’t agree with the change. Then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support. And, yes these can be the most difficult people to confront and can be intimidating, but, remember, you’re the leader and you can’t stall leading, because it’s uncomfortable or difficult.

Its uncomfortable. – These critics, who are the most common group, in my experience, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change will be relative to the size of the change. I hear people say they aren’t change resistant, but all of us are at some level.

Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change?

Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. That’s what most people are going through when you introduce change. They don’t know how it will feel after the change.

Suggestion: Sympathize with them. Change can hurt. Every change has an attached emotion. (I’ve posted on these emotions previously.) Understand the emotional response part of change. It’s normal. The only real solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt. Most of these people will come along eventually.

Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that would even be leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs, and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.

I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of many objections. Even the best ideas will receive some.

7 Ways to Make Strategic Decisions Quickly

By | Business, Change, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 29 Comments

Recently I posted “Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut”. The title was startling perhaps, but the principle is important. I wrote the post to encourage leaders to think strategically, especially when making quick decisions. Many times a leader says something or does something in a quick response which can negatively impact other people or the organization. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until the best answer can be decided. This often requires the work of more than just the leader answering the questions. One reader asked me to expand on the phrase “thinking strategic in the moment”; specifically how I do that.

Again, it should be understood that this post addressed decisions which should require some thought. Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question where an answer has already been clearly defined then the leader can answer quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined answer, especially if the answer could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment. That may result in saying nothing at the time.

With that in mind, how does a leader think strategically in the moment? Here are 5 thoughts of how I do this:

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12 Challenges for the New Year To Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | No Comments

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? But, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It is healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But, at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it from them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

(I posted this in a similar form a few years ago.)

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Innovation, Missions | No Comments

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matters most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market  Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family  Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

7 Indicators That You’re Not Leading Anymore

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.

I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods – even if ever so briefly – even if intentional – when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything, yet I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter – next year? How/what did I lead last quarter – last year?

If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership – if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame – if we are in maintenance mode for too long – I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.

For example…

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched. Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But, when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

4 Risks of Attempting Risk-Free Change

By | Change, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 10 Comments

As leaders, we all want to limit the risk in the hard decisions we make. Personally, whenever we are about to make a major change or launch some new initiative, I want our team to think through things which could go wrong. I want to know who is going to be upset with the change. We try to figure out some of the worse-case scenarios which could keep us from being successful. And, then we build into our plan some natural reactors to things we know could go wrong. A good portion of time is dedicated to risk management. I think it’s important.

But, I have seen some leaders who want to get to 100% risk elimination before they move forward with any change. And, if that’s your goal, I have a few thoughts to consider.

Here are 4 risks of attempting risk-free change

You’re risking how expensive it will be – It’s not cheap to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. You have to determine how much you’re putting into attempting to eliminate risk is being taken from actually implementing change – especially change which has direct impact on people. And, context matters here. Attempting to eliminate risk in equipment to perform surgery or in building airplanes is different than trying to eliminate risk in organizational planning.

You’re risking precious time while attempting to eliminate risk – Time is incredibly valuable in implementing change. If you do eliminate a genuine risk that may be time well spent. The time, however, spent researching all the scenarios and answering all questions may be time taken from actually making the change. And, again, if you’re change is attempting to make life better for the organization or others, the faster you get started the better.

You’re risking simply being impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience. I’ve seen pastors, for example, refuse to move forward with a project because they aren’t sure how groups of people might respond. But, you can ask and answer every question in people’s minds, but when change is actually implemented some people may still complain. All change invokes an emotion. And, sometimes people can’t discern the emotion until they experience the change.

You may risk being unrealistic– Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more probable than having no risk at all. I’m not encouraging any leader to ignore risk. That would he irresponsible. I’m just questioning whether or not it is even leadership if we could get to zero risk. Leadership by application involves risk.

As much as practical, address risk before it occurs. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those.

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may risk losing opportunity. While trying to eliminate risk the world and the best ideas it has to offer may pass you by.

In fact, eliminating risk doesn’t mesh with my understanding of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery – and risk. I’d much rather be an advocate of taking a risk than attempting to eliminate every risk out there.

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

Leaders Must Grow as the Organization Grows

By | Change, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 9 Comments

Bad leadership is bad leadership. It’s usually easy to recognize.

It’s easier, however, to hide bad leadership in an organization, which isn’t growing. (I wrote recently that it’s easy to keep an organization small. Read that post HERE.)

The larger an organization becomes and the more growth, which occurs, the more bad leadership becomes apparent.

As an organization grows:

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