The Number One Reason People Resist Change

After years of leading change I’ve discovered some things about the process. One of those discoveries is change will face resistance. All change.

Surprised by this revelation? Not if you’ve actually ever led change.

If the change has any value someone will not agree – at least initially. It’s almost human nature at work. 

There is something in all of us, which initially resists change we didn’t initiate.

And, in addition to this, I’ve discovered the most common reason change is resisted. I mean the biggest – number one reason people rebel against change. 

If there were one big reason, would it be helpful to know?

Understanding this can help a leader navigate through change. Ignoring it makes the process of change miserable for everyone – and often keeps the change process from being effective. 

What’s the most common reason change is resisted?

It’s an emotion people feel. An emotion.

They may not even be able to describe what they are feeling, but the emotion is more powerful at the time than the excitement the change may bring.

And, it may not even be the emotions we naturally think. We assume anger, confusion, or fear. And, while those are often true emotions of change, in my observation those aren’t the most common or at least initial emotions. 

There is one which comes first and impacts all the others. 

What is the most common emotion which causes resistance to change?

A sense of loss

There you have it – and must understand it. People emotionally feel a sense of loss in the process of change.

Have you ever felt like you were losing or had lost something?

How did you react? Didn’t you try to hold on to whatever you were losing? Did your blood pressure rise a bit? Did you “feel” something? 

That’s what people feel in the initial days of change. It’s not usually a good feeling emotion. 

And, translate that sense of loss into the organizational context. 

Loss of power
Loss of comfort
Loss of control
Loss of information
Loss of familiarity
Loss of tradition
Loss of stability

These aren’t always rational emotions. They are often perceived as bigger than they really are.

But, they are real emotions to the person experiencing the emotion of loss.

It doesn’t even matter if people know the change is needed. Emotions are not dictated by reality. But, because change is change – their emotions are based on some truth. Things are changing.

So, they feel they are losing something in the change and it causes them to resist the change. 

I have found, as a leader, if I understand what people are struggling with I’m better prepared to lead them through it. Some people are never going to get on board with the change, but many times people just need someone to at least acknowledge their sense of loss. It doesn’t eliminate the emotion, but genuine empathy allows me to keep leading.

The great news from my pastor/leader friends is you already know how to assist people deal with a sense of loss.  

When a leader discounts or ignores a person’s emotions the resistance becomes more intense, because the emotions become more intense. This is actually when some of those other emotions – like anger – are often added. The process of change is then stalled and sometimes even derailed.

Leader, are you paying attention to the emotions of change?

7 Ways I Regain Focus For My Work

I’m fairly productive as a person, but the truth is, I get distracted easily and have a hard time staying focused at times. If I didn’t have notes when I was preaching, I would totally get off track. My mind wanders way too much.

Thankfully, there are a few things which help me gain focus again. Or, at least, they help prepare the conditions to keep me focused. It’s still a discipline on my part, but these things help.

7 things that help me help me regain focus:

Rest

Being well rested when I start my day helps me face the day with a clearer mind, so I can begin with focus. Getting a proper amount of sleep is crucial for me. I recently had some surgery which interrupted a healthy sleep pattern, so this one is even more important to me now. It could be a 10 minute walk or a 10 minute nap, but taking a break from what I’m doing during the day helps me better focus when I return to the work. The more tired I am the more restless my thoughts become.

Deadlines

I work better under pressure. It may seem strange, but it’s true. And, many people do. I sometimes set my own deadlines. If I put a task on my calendar or if I schedule the steps to completion, I’m more likely to discipline myself enough to meet the deadline. Checklists and calendar reminders are my friend.

Passion

If I’m passionate about a project – I mean really passionate – I’ll invest the energy and stayed focused to complete the task. This is true about most things which grab our passion. Without passion for something I give up quickly. So, if it’s something I know I have to do I often ask God to give me passion and enthusiasm. I also return to the roots of where my passion began. I review the purpose of my calling. I remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. (If you can’t remember there are probably bigger issues which need to be addressed in your life.)

Encouragement

It may seem petty, but sometimes one well-worded email can break a period of distraction and push me to focus on the task. It reminds me why I need to discipline myself to move forward. This is why I keep an “encouragement file”. Basically, anytime someone emails me an encouraging email I set it aside. When I need to focus better, especially when doing things I don’t enjoy as much, nothing redirects my energy any quicker than reviewing this file.

Success

Following a big “win” I’m motivated to work for another. Honestly, it’s usually a short-lived window of opportunity, but if I strike “while the iron is hot” I can better “seize the day”. This is one reason celebrating success is so important. It motivates you to focus on another moment like this one.

Exercise

I’m less disciplined, less motivated, and less content when I’m out of my exercise routine. Actually, I’m less happy overall. I recently had some health issues keeping me from exercising as much as I usually do. I could feel the drain of focus. I am having to figure out some new exercises to do. Exercise gives me the stamina to do the things I need to do.

Systems

I’m not a rule follower. I don’t like a lot of structure. However, if there is a system in place, I’m more likely to stay focused to completion. The old saying goes “if you want something repeated systematize it.” The same is true for completion. You’ll be more focused for progress if you develop a system to get you from start to finish. In fact, if someone tells me focus is a problem for them, I almost always encourage them to first look at their system of doing work first.

Do you have a problem with focus? What helps you gain focus again?

5 Reasons Your Dream Life Never Came True

Many of us start out with better dreams than we are currently living.

The fact is I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet people frequently who are always chasing after something – trying to realize their dream – yet they never seem to catch what they are chasing.

Many times – and we are all prone to doing this occasionally – we make excuses better than we make progress.

I think there may be simple reasons some people never realize their dreams.

Here are 5 of the real reasons many dreams never come true:

People quit trying.

They gave up. They may have tried before and it didn’t work, so now they don’t try at all. Seldom is a dream – a worthy, God-given dream – realized on the first attempt or without a lot of effort. The greatest discoveries are seldom found along the path of least resistance. Dreams are realized with prayer, persistence and perseverance. The best dreams are usually achieved just past the point where average effort stops.

People aren’t willing to work hard enough.

I think sometimes we expect dreams “just to happen”, because we had the dream. But, dreams don’t happen by chance. Being lucky isn’t usually a required skill in achieving dreams. You might occasionally be “in the right place at the right time”, but those opportunities are rare. If you have a dream it will be difficult to achieve. Should I say it again? It will be difficult. There will likely be lots of long days, sleepless nights and sweat equity. Otherwise it’s not much of a dream.

People put too much hope in others and not enough confidence in themselves.

Others don’t put as much energy or thought into your dream as you do. Many people never realize a dream because they expected something from others they never agreed to do. If you want your dream to come true you will have to go for it even when others aren’t as supportive as you would like them to be.

I should not here – this doesn’t mean we discount the voices of others completely. For example, I don’t believe God calls a married couple to competing dreams. He may lay a dream on one heart before he does the other – and one person may be more adventurous than the other – but, in the end God will bring the two together on the same dream if it is His will for the couple. Sometimes we need others to help us discern what God is calling us to do and what he is not.

People have unrealistic dreams.

This may be where other people help us discern our dreams. Some dreams simply aren’t realistic. If the dream is for a trouble-free, perfect life – that’s probably not going to become a reality. Winning the lottery as a retirement plan – statistically speaking – may not be a realistic dream. Expecting your family to always be “drama free” – well, best wishes on that dream. Learning to navigate an excellent dream in the midst of a world full of sorrow is a key to discovering the greatest and most achievable dreams in life.

People devalue the dreams already realized.

This is a biggie. What if you are already “living the dream”? Right now you may not have all you want, but considering the fallen world around us many of us have pretty good lives comparatively. Sometimes contentment is our problem more than not achieving the next great dream. If we always live thinking the “grass is greener” with the “next big thing” we never fully appreciate the dreams God has already given us. In fact, I believe God may often wait to give us what’s next until we learn how to be satisfied (in Him) where He currently has allowed us to be.

I am a proponent of dreaming! I think it can be healthy for us personally and even for couples. I am more of a dreamer than my wife, but dreaming together has been a part of keeping our marriage strong over the years. We’ve loved dreaming ahead, watching, waiting, and working for what is next. Here’s to better dreaming in your world!

7 Ways to Be a Community Building Pastor

I have a theory of pastoring successfully today.

To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.

I admit “must” is a strong word – and there are few things I’m emphatic about unless they are Biblical, but I do believe in order for us to reach people today we have to get outside the walls of our church buildings. And, this means we MUST do something intentional to make it happen. The community has to know – and believe – we really do care for them.

For me, being a community builder makes sense and seems effective in pastoring a church today.

Jeremiah 29:7 greatly impacting my philosophy of ministry years ago. The people were in captivity. The government was not favorable to God. Yet, how did God command His people to respond?

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

The community’s success is tied to ours. We have the hope for the world as our central teaching. The Gospel is not to be a hidden truth, but the light in the city on the highest hill. This means we must take our light into the world. And, the best way to do this is to be actively trying to make our commnities a better place to life.

So a fair question is how? How can a pastor – or ministry leader – be a community builder?

I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions.

Here are 7 ways to be a community-minded pastor:

Know key leaders

I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible. You may not be able to know the mayor of your city, depending on the city’s size, but could you know your local council representative? Could you know a school board member? You’ll be surprised how receptive many politicians are when constituents contact them – especially a leader who has an audience with a significant number of people. (And, if your church has a dozen people or more you have more influence than you think.)

Let me be clear, I never endorse candidates in my official capacity, but I do vote and it’s amazing when you’re active in the community how many people in your church want to know who you support.

Listen to concerns

Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community – whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop – listen to hear the things people are talking about around you. If you hear repeated themes you can almost guess that’s an issue on people’s minds. And, if you aren’t hearing anything simply ask. Actually, ask anyway. And, don’t hear for what you want to do or where your church is already serving. Listen with an open mind to the real concerns of people. You may have different answers than they’ve thought of before. You know how to organize people. You represent people you can organize. That’s a powerful combination when addressing community needs.

Love what they love

I’ll get disagreement to this one, but I think it’s one of the more effective ways to be a community builder. I’m specifically talking about loving the culture of the city. I’ve seen pastors bash their community online. That’s foolish in my opinion. You can talk against community concerns in a way to rally support for a cause without bashing the community.

People often feel about where they live – especially if they grew up there – the way they feel about their family. They can say bad things about them, but you better not.

And, here’s where I’ll get the most disagreement – to me, this also includes loving the traditions they love – including their local sports teams. I was visiting a church recently and the pastor joked about the local college team. He referred to the fans as “sinners”. The crowd gave a rousing disapproval – and they laughed. It was funny. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how much more effective he could have been endearing people to his leadership if he was “on their side” rather than always blatantly rooting for an opponent. It must be genuine of course, and I’m not suggesting you drop loyalties to other teams, but ask what cause are you more loyal to supporting and how supporting it will be most effective.

I’m in the heart of the University of Kentucky Big Blue tradition. I get criticized repeatedly by my Tennessee fans as a “traitor”, but I’m telling you people like me better – and listen more – when I’m wearing Kentucky blue. God has called me to reach people in this community and I’ve discovered they love when I’m learning and embracing their unique culture and exploring and enjoying the uniqueness which is Kentucky.

When I was in a military town, the more knowledge and support I could demonstrate about military service the more our soldiers and their families seemed to endear themselves to my leadership. And, don’t misunderstand, it is absolutely genuine for me. I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister – and part of this – as I would do for any family member – is learning to love the things they love.

Learn the community

One of the best things I did when I moved to Lexington two years ago is go through the Leadership Lexington program. The following year I went through Leadership Central Kentucky. I quickly learned things I might never have known about the community. It’s amazing now how I can answer questions about things we offer in the community that people can’t answer who have lived here for years. Most communities have something like this. Often they are found connected somehow to the local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent.

You can also sign up for any local tours that the community offers. If the town is too small for anything like this, make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community. Go prepared with questions and pick their brains about the community.

Cheryl and I volunteer at the city’s visitor center. We are doing this to give back, but also to get even more familiar with the city and what it has to offer.

Build your community network

You never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, there will always be people you may not know but people in your network will know them. I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community.

And, this is in all sectors of the community. Don’t limit your network to those society considers influential. I recently had one homeless person tell me of another homeless person I needed to know, because he is an influence in that segment of the community.

I am continually asked to participate in events in the community, because I’ve gained the connections and the credibility to be invited.

Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church

I think this is critical in community building, but also simply the right thing to do. As pastors, we expect people from the community to serve in the church. It’s only fair for us to give back to the community that is giving to us.

Plus, we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also. It’s the best way to meet people who need the hope that we have to share.

I serve on several local boards – both secular and in other Christian organizations. Obviously we all have only so much time, but I have discovered these commitments are gold when it comes to gaining influence in the community.

Lead your church to be community builders

This begins with a general desire to see the people of the church investing in the community. But it won’t happen by accident. It takes the intentionality of teaching and serving by example. And, most of all it takes consistency.

This isn’t something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle – getting the church into the community – being community builders – so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.

As our community prospers, so will we, and, eventually, so will the Gospel.

What other suggestions do you have to be a community builder?

5 Ways I Expand My Leadership Potential

It takes an intentional effort to improve as a leader. I think the best leaders expand their influence and leadership potential by continuing to learn and grow in experience. You can read books, follow blogs and Tweets, attend conferences, and hang out with other leaders. These are all good practices to improve as a leader.

In my experience, however, my leadership influence grows the fastest when it grows through the people I’m supposed to be leading.

Let me expand that thought. 

Here are 5 ways I expand my leadership potential?

Invest in other people.

It’s amazing, but when I invest in others – they invest in me. I have had several mentoring groups or relationships where I am supposed to be the mentor, but I feel I learned as much as they did. The more I try to help others grow the more I grow.

The leader who sees him or herself as more of an instigator of growth rather than a provider of it is more likely to see the organization’s leadership expand. Invest in others and watch your leadership potential expand.

Allow someone you lead to lead.

When I get out of the way of my team amazing things happen. Now, first, I surround myself with people smarter than me about their area of expertise, but they make my leadership better. I may even get credit for the overall success of the team, but I’m quick to admit I couldn’t have done it without them. And, that is because I couldn’t.

Great organizations have a plurality of leadership. 

Recruit other ideas.

I’ve learned people have better ideas than me – a lot better ideas. Actually, I’m an idea guy. I have lots of them. But, if the team is bigger than one – there’s always one more idea to consider. I’m a better leader – with more potential – when I open the important task of idea generation to more people than me.

Brainstorming should be a regular and promoted part of every leader’s agenda. 

Celebrate another team member’s success.

When I hog the stage – or the recognition – I limit other people’s willingness to contribute to the success of our team. When I share the lime-light I expand my own capacity as a leader – and everyone wins.

Every leader should be a cheerleader. 

Embrace other people’s decisions.

This is more than allowing ideas. It’s giving people a voice in your vision. One of the most dangerous things I’ve seen a leader do is to build an atmosphere of elitism, where no one else is welcome at the table of decision-making. When a leader values a range of thoughts and opinions it makes people feel valued and expands the leadership base of the senior leader and the entire team.

Don’t hold too closely to how your vision is implemented. You can hold on to vision, without mandating the way it gets realized. 

As a team improves, so improves the leader.

The best leaders I know understand when the people they lead are growing in their leadership, it spills over into their personal leadership potential.
When others who are following a leader grow in their leadership capacity and influence, the senior leader’s capacity and influence increases. It truly is one of the win/win scenarios of leadership.

5 Really Bad Reasons to Plant a Church

I love church planters. When I moved into church revitalization part of the concern I had in doing so was I might not have a foot into church planting. That would be tough for me. After two successful plants and having worked with literally hundreds of planters, I think it’s in my blood. (Interestingly, I learned a few years after my first plant that my mom served on the core of a church plant during her years before marriage. It’s truly in my blood.)

Thankfully, I still have lots of avenues to be a part of church planting from an established church. We are a lead church in the planting of churches in Chicago through the North American Mission Board. We have several planters who still connect closely with our church. I’m still involved with Exponential – the largest church planting conference. And, planters still ask for my help on a regular basis.

But, for years I’ve been concerned about one thing I see in the church planting movement. And, I am simply being transparent here.

I seem to find some planters – or want-to-be planters – who are in it for the wrong reasons. The fact is we need people called to ministry in the established church. We need them in church revitalization. Not everyone needs to be a church planter. 

But, the bigger issue is without the right reasons, if we are not careful, a church plant could become just a part of a growing fad and no ultimate good will come from it. People will waste valuable time, energy and resources when they simply were never called to plant. And, that’s not good for the planter or the Kingdom.

So, we must be careful to plant for the right reason. And, more importantly, not the wrong reasons.

Let me give some examples of wrong reasons. There are surely others. 

Here are 5 bad reasons to plant a church:

You’re running from authority.

I’ve worked with some people who didn’t want to follow the rules. In fact, I am that person sometimes. While this may be a good mindset for an entrepreneurial type, and church planters certainly are, it is not a good reason to start a church. When this is the reason – just offering this as a heart-check – it is often out of pride and arrogance. God can never honor that. 

You’ll have authority in a church plant – or at least you should. One of the quickest ways to burnout and flame out is to refuse it. If you’re smart you’ll give away authority and not be a power-broker. All of us need some authority and accountability in our lives.
You want to do things your way.

I understand. Really. Especially if you worked for a controlling leader or for someone who had no passion or vision. You have energy and momentum around a dream and need to explore it. I get it. Bravo! I applaud seeking after something which grabs your heart. 

But be careful. Sometimes a desire birthed in good can quickly become something birthed in rebellion. And, when this happens, many times you close yourself to ideas other than your own. You then become the controlling leader you resented. And, you will limit the vision you are seeking to you. You limit what you control. Make sure you’re not planting just so you can exclusively do things YOUR way. 

You want to be close to momma.

Or momma-in-law. This one sometimes hits too close to home. And, I get it too. You love your family. There is free babysitting. Loving a family is a good thing. 

 But our callings are bigger – and stronger – than the comfort of home – or the cool city where we can find the best coffee shops. Sometimes God gives us huge latitude in location. 

Certainly we need planters all over the place. And, home may be exactly where God wants you to plant. God may allow you to plant exactly where you “want” to plant. I hope He does. 

Sometimes, however, God’s plan sends us where we don’t necessarily want to go. Sometimes He calls us to leave our comfort zone. But, make sure in whatever you do the decision is always His – and not yours alone. 

Your buddy is doing it.

It’s popular to plant a church these days. As I said, I still attend church planting conferences. There are actually lots these days. And, that’s a good thing. We need lots of new churches. Tons. And, church planting attracts a lot of people. 

Some of your friends may be desiring to plant a church too. It seems to be the buzz these days. 

It’s just never a good reason to plant a church because everyone else is doing it. It needs to be your calling – not anyone else’s.

You’ve got the cool factor.

I meet some really cool people planting churches. I needed to clarify this because I was almost 40 when I planted my first church and I had long passed the day I could wear skinny jeans. 

Church plants – anything new – attracts cool. (It’s funny, when I attend church planting conferences there are lots of similar looks. Styles change but church planters keep up with the styles.) 

But, cool does not make a good church planter. It doesn’t hurt – I should be honest – but it isn’t a reason to plant a church. And the fact is we need cool people in the established church also. Church revitalization needs cool too – perhaps even more.

So why plant a church?

There is really only one reason to plant a church.

You are fully convinced God has called you to plant a church.

7 Easy Ways to Encourage Innovation on Your Team

Most leaders want to lead an innovative organization.

If you are like me, you don’t necessarily have to be the first to do something new, but you don’t want to be years behind either. As conservative as we might be, as long as we remain true to our core values, we still want to be “cutting edge” to some degree. We certainly don’t want to be stuck in the last decade.

But, here’s the problem.

As leaders, we can’t force innovation. We can’t mandate innovative people. And, if our people haven’t been innovative in a while, then there may not be much innovation going on in our world.

Innovation, in its purest form, means change, and while change can be forced upon people, the best changes, the kind that make an organization excellent, come from the heart of a person. Great innovation comes from the gut. You cannot legislate those kinds of changes.

There are things leaders can do, however, to encourage team members to be more innovative. I don’t even believe they have to be difficult.

Here are a 7 easy ideas to encourage innovation:

Get away from the office as a team.

There is something about a change in surroundings which encourages a change in thought. Take a trip to another church – or if nothing else – go somewhere different in your own city. Creative thoughts are fueled better outside your normal routine and environment. It’s a large investment, but we annually take our staff to visit with another church staff in a nearby city – far enough where must spend the night. Ideas comes from every time we do this. We have also held brainstorming retreats at other churches in our area and local businesses. Again, the change of place often fuels a change of thought.

Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions.

Questions can be gold for fueling ideas and creativity. Ask questions such as, “What are we doing well?” “Where could we improve?” “What should we stop doing?” You could bring someone in to guide this discussion if needed. Be sure to welcome diversity of thought. And, people know if they’re not welcome by the way you respond when they are shared. Create an environment where innovation and outside-the-box thinking is acceptable.

Reward new ideas.

If you recognize new thoughts and celebrate the success of innovation, people will want to be a part of it more. Make it a part of the DNA to elevate the value of innovation. Encourage thinking time. Don’t be afraid of “unproductive time” just to think. Teach the staff to discipline themselves to dream and plan. Make sure to build time to dream into your schedule as a leader. It helps if people know you do this – and if you actually share new ideas periodically – even often. Our team knows when I travel to expect me to return with some fresh perspective – even some wild ideas.

Have times together as a team that are simply fun.

Something magical happens when you get people who work together out of their work zone and into their fun zone. They often still talk work – it’s what they share in common – but they share work in a more innovative and productive way. And, really in a more honest way. Take a day and go bowling. A college near us has a ropes course we did together as a team. Simply having an intentional, but fun lunch together frequently can fuel new thoughts.

Remove obstacles to innovative thought.

There are always communication barriers between team members and senior leadership. Discovering and eliminating them could be an innovation waterfall. One way is to get in the room and have a real problem which needs to be solved – and not already have the answers. In fact, have few answers. Let the answers emerge. People love to solve a problem. Innovation will start to happen.

Invite new people to the table.

It could be people on the team or people in the community, but new people equals new ideas. We’ve often brought staff spouses to the table to fuel our thoughts. And, it could be through a book you read together as a team. Discuss the author’s perspectives together. Periodically meet with community leaders and ask them their impressions of the church. Glean ideas from them of what they are doing to promote innovation in their organizations.

Set innovation timeline goals.

If you want to eventually build a new website, for example, put a date on the calendar for when it MUST be completed. It’s amazing how creative we often become under a deadline.

What are some ideas you have to encourage innovation?

7 Hidden Costs of Attempting to Eliminate Risk

Every leader I know attempts to limit a certain amount of risk when making decisions or leading change. We should attempt to have good systems, adequate resources, and even contingency or emergency plans. We don’t want to jeopardize the organization – ultimately the people – we are trying to lead.

The problem for some leaders, however, is they confuse limiting risk with attempting to eliminate risk. I’m not sure we can ever fail-proof anything completely, so it’s a futile attempt at best. The bigger problem, however, is what we end up missing out on in the process of attempting to eliminate risk. There are hidden costs involved in a leader who is overly cautious.

Here are 7 hidden costs of attempting to eliminate risk:

Limited growth. Personally and corporately, without a certain amount of risk there is no potential for growth. Growth happens in environments where the potential to fail is prevalent, accepted, and not scorned.

Unfulfilled dreams. Dreams are made of the seemingly impossible. The bigger the dream the greater the risk. Healthy teams and organizations have big, lofty dreams pulling them forward.

False reality. Life is a constant risk. If a leader has as a goal an attempt to eliminate it they are essentially playing tricks with mirrors and fancy lights. They’ve created an unacheivable expectation for people who follow.

Underutilized resources. “Playing it safe” may make more sense on paper. It may even feel comfortable, but often when resources are stretched is when the greatest growth potential occurs. Ask the question – “What would we do if we were forced to change and there was no money available?” It’s amazing how creative people can become.

Wasted time. The time you invest trying to eliminate risk could be used to leverage risk for a greater gain. All of us only have so much time, so leaders must be diligent stewards of it.

Expensive opportunity loss. Whenever you choose not to do something because of the risk involved, there is always a loss associated. The organization will miss out somewhere on something by not moving forward soon enough. The greatest discoveries often involve people who are willing to assume the greatest risks.

Diminished momentum. The fact is risk fuels momentum. There is something inside of most of us – especially the entrepreneurial or leader types – who thrive on achieving those things which seem impossible. When the chance of failure is high so are the components which fuels momentum.

Leader, you can never fully eliminate risk – and this is one of the hard parts of leading. The time you spend attempting to do so will take precious time from doing other things, which probably can reap higher reward. Risk is a reality to be managed not a problem to be avoided.

(This is absolutely true when leading in the church – perhaps more so, because we are to always be faith-driven. Faith always, by definition, deals with a level of the unknown.)

5 Ways Leaders Can’t Be “Normal” Today

Leading outside the norm

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading almost 35 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside some things once considered normal in leadership.

And, hopefully “normal” is a play on words for most leaders now. 

When I was first in leadership as a retail manager, I could set the schedule for people, tell them what to do, hold them accountable for routine tasks with high expectations, and then evaluate them by whether or not they did the job. This was called a job – and, if you wanted a paycheck you worked for it.

It doesn’t work quiet like that anymore. It hasn’t for some time, and, to be honest, I tried to do more with leadership even then, but some of those still in leadership still haven’t caught on that “normal” leadership isn’t normal anymore. 

For example, in today’s leadership, the informal aspects of leadership are as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to systems and structures – for a leader to be successful today – leaders must engage a team on personal levels. 

We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, they have always been important, but in today’s leadership it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapt leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

Cookie-cutter leadership doesn’t work as well among today’s workforce. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, culture and individualism of team members. It makes really getting to know the people you lead even more important. Leaders must ask lots of questions to understand personal values of others. It helps us lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities and helps them perform at their greatest effectiveness.

Raise up new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. This is no longer an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team. Those entering the field of leadership today – or desiring to – will want a seat at the table of decision. They want to make a difference. This can be a great things for our churches and organizations if we will welcome it. 

Balance kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian or controlling leadership is not well received by today’s workforce. Following orders from the “boss” has been replaced with a desire for servant leaders.

Give others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stakeholders – knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do this means they must have ownership in the creation of vision. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission. Letting people help write their job description gets people in places where they can bring their best contributions to a team.

Create what’s “next” for a community’s greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves – even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play one part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The world around us is watching – as are the people we have on our team. The way an organization treats it’s employees, supports the community and how it interacts with the people the organization encounters daily is important. We can’t sit back, make a profit or fulfill our individual goals (even as churches) and ignore the myriad of social needs all around us. If it’s not done well the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership – where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow with a carefully created structure – and an informal style – where a team helps to shape the course of action – is critical to an organization’s success.

With my 35 plus years of leadership experience, I realize I’m from an “old school”, but I’m still learning – and re-learning.

I have learned this: Leaders today must continually strive to find the balance between formal and informal structures.

10 Problems with Doing the Best You Know How To Do

Years ago in a company we owned, there was a young man who worked for me who had tremendous potential. I believed in him so much I personally invested in him and paid special attention to him. I thought his future with our company was worth the extra time. Sadly, he never measured up to my expectations and we ended up having to part ways.

Every time I would meet with him to “encourage” him, he would say the same thing.

I’m doing the best I know how to do.

At the time, I really thought it was a fair answer. I have come to realize, however, that this response was actually his primary problem. He was doing the best he KNEW HOW to do.

But, here’s the reality I know:

The best you know how to do is never the best you can do!

It’s not. I wish it was, because it would make things much easier. But, there’s so much more. In fact, the line is really just an excuse. And excuses never get you where you say you want to go.

Here are 10 problems when you do the best you know how to do:

You leave out a critical thinking.

You quit learning new things.

You fail to be stretched.

You never develop personally.

You stop asking questions.

You resist change.

You dismiss new ideas.

You stop growing in your field of expertise.

You can’t as easily help others grow when you aren’t growing.

You stop walking by faith.

There is a huge difference in doing the best you know how to do and doing the best YOU CAN DO. The best you can do is to continue to get better. The times you are being stretched beyond what you know how to do may prove to be the best times of your personal development.

Never settle for the best you know how to do. It seldom will take you to the places you really want to go!

Here’s a challenge question: What are you currently doing to produce future personal growth?