How Ideas Are Received On A Healthy Team

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

Healthy teams allow every idea a chance to live. Initially, there are no bad ideas.

The healthiest teams don’t contain a built in idea killer or a system that shuts them down before their time.

That’s because good leaders know ideas need a chance to breathe. They need to be stretched and prodded and examined. The best ideas sometimes often come from what started as a seemingly bad idea.

Genius ideas may often be killed before they have a chance to develop into their greatness.

I once had a serial entrepreneur (with over 200 successful startups he was a part of at some level) tell me he never met a bad idea. He just keeps tweaking the idea until it works.

That’s why healthy teams have freedom and regularly:

  • Brainstorm
  • Analyze
  • Test drive
  • Push back
  • Critique
  • Debate
  • Challenge
  • Collaborate 
  • Dialogue 
  • Listen
  • Discuss 

Every. Single. Idea. 

Healthy teams remain open-minded about an idea until it’s proven to be a bad idea or there’s no way to make it a good idea. And never before.

It doesn’t have to be a long process. It could be a short process. Some ideas don’t take long to discern.

AN EXAMPLE

One time we were trying to find ways to get new people to our new church plant. In a brainstorming session, an extremely creative, often off the wall idea guy blurted out, “Let’s give free monkeys to the first 100 people on a Sunday!” He was serious. And he meant live monkeys; the kind you find at the zoo.

It didn’t take long to get through that idea, but the point is he felt free sharing his most random idea. And we landed that while monkeys may not be the gift, perhaps there was some gift we could give our visitors. I think we landed on coffee mugs. (Even now I wish we had at least painted a monkey on the side of them.)

The point is healthy teams give every idea a chance to live.

That is because healthy teams know there is value in the collection of ideas on a team. And they are willing to flesh them out to the best ideas.

Leader, next time your team gets together open the floor of discussion to ideas, let everyone put ALL their ideas on the table. Make sure there is no fear of embarrassment or retribution. Watch for collective brilliance to develop .

5 Personal Reflection Questions to End a Year and Start Another

By | Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise. 

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends.

Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed).

I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Perhaps you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. It could be you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to.

Perhaps you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Most of us need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream?

Could this be the year you mend the broken relationship? What would the year be like if you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Maybe this is the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Perhaps getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. 

When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise. 

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!

5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

I love having creative people on teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier. Leading creatives can be difficult.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creative minds are always wandering. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others. It makes leading a team meeting harder.

And, before you creatives get too defensive, just so you know…

I’m a creative.

Not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. But I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination. I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

The main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others, add energy and challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

We don’t like boundaries, rules or policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. Creatives need to know what a win looks like. We need structure. I’m not suggesting you give us needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes.

As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

But it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.

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.)

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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One Tip to Help You Meet Your Goals

By | Business, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership | 3 Comments

Do you ever struggle to complete a project?

You have a goal, you may even know what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality, but you never seem to accomplish the necessary tasks that will bring you success. Your dreams remain simply dreams and you remain frustrated with yourself.

Sound familiar?

Let me share a quick tip to help you avoid this scenario.

Many of us, perhaps even most of us, work better under a little pressure.

Earlier this year I wrote about writing a life plan. (You can read that series of posts HERE.) I’ve found that setting a deadline for the specific action steps in a plan like this helps me be more productive…

If I have a major project I need or want to complete I will:

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4 Benefits of Empowering People in an Organization

By | Business, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership | 13 Comments

I recently posted on the need for leaders to delegate and some steps to doing so. (Read those posts HERE and HERE) Following this post, I asked a supposed leader in an organization for a decision from his organization. It appeared to be a minor decision. It certainly would be in our organization. I have held leadership positions in larger organizations, and it would have been a minor decision in either of those places. This leader, however, had to pass the decision up a chain of command. We eventually received a yes answer, but it took a great deal of time through several layers of people to get there. By the time we got the answer, I didn’t need it anymore. (True story.)

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Great Customer Service Empowers People to Think

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

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

But I was frustrated. This adventure went on for weeks with each phone call and visit ending with no solution to my problem. I was simply given another step I needed to take. One more phone call. One more visit. No solutions. 

And, yet, the most frustrating part of all – each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way. The service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asked me the same question.Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get it. Give people a script and you perhaps help ensure uniform customer service.

As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent the customer service people did not have freedom of what to say in their responses. They were trained what to say for certain situations, but couldn’t alter how they ended the conversation. How was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help. I had received absolutely NONE. 

In fact, it seem I was being delayed from getting help. How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried – successfully for the most part – to control.)

Then recently I was traveling on a major airline (Okay, it was American. This is a good story, so I’ll share the name.) My flight was delayed – again. And again. The “rules” of my flight would not have allowed me to change flights, yet the ticket agent saw my dilemma. In fact, she picked up on the fact that I had been on several delayed flights over the last couple days of travel. She offered to try and help. She went away for a few minutes and when she came back she had us on a new flight.

Honestly, I would have been pleased even had she not been able to shift my flight. At least she would have tried. And I don’t know if she had authority to do this or took initiative outside the rules, but it appeared at the time she “broke the rules” to accommodate a weary traveler. What great service!

These were both minor incidents, and honestly not a big deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

The best customer service a company can offer empowers employees the freedom to think for themselves.

They allow individuals to make the best decision – say the right things – at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing the best person to make a decision or determine what to say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my cable situation, for example, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time. We will continue to work to resolve your problem.”

I would have at least felt I had been heard. Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook which really didn’t even apply to my situation.

There are organizational lessons here. 

If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, train them in vision, mission, overall philosophy. Teach them good customer service skills and how to ask the right questions to determine the real problem. Help them understand how to gauge customer attitudes and emotions.

Then give them the right to think for themselves!

I have heard the motto of Nordstroms Department Store is to instruct employees to always make a decision which favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer – they are more likely criticized for doing too little. Love it.

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

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

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

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company I knew personally. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion to try for myself. We went with this and the trouble was solved – in a matter of a few minutes. (And, since it was a conversation among friends, he didn’t even ask me if he could help me with anything else.)

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