7 Ways to Get a Boss to Notice You

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Innovation, Leadership | 15 Comments

I once was asked a genuine question by a young man entering a new job as an entry-level leader. He was ambitious and ready to lead, but his boss didn’t seem to really notice him or his abilities.

His question:

How do I get my boss’s attention?

(First, please know I am not a fan of the word boss. I never enjoy being called that on a team.)

But I thought the question was premature. This young man had been on the job less than a month. I felt his question could come in time, but not one month into a new role. He had so much to learn first. He obviously had attention to get hired. He was referred to me by a friend for advice, though so I wanted to help, but also felt the freedom to be candid with him. I mostly wanted to help him as he began his career.

Not only did I think his question was premature, but I felt he was probably also asking the wrong question. He wanted to do well in his career, wanted to hit the ground running right out of college, but he didn’t feel he had been able yet to get the boss’s full attention. (I use the word boss because that was his word.) I’m not sure at that point in a new job “getting attention” should have been his greatest concern.

Maybe there were other questions of greater value to him long-term that he could have been asking me. Things like, “What are some of the best ways for me to learn this organization?” “What should I try to accomplish in the first 90 days?” “How can I add genuine value as the new person on a team?”

Those seem like better questions.

I did, however, value the fact he was asking a question of any kind. It showed intentionality on his part, which I always appreciate.

I also realize what some of my peers who are my age may be thinking at this point about a young man who comes into a new job and immediately wants attention. They might read what I’ve written so far and think words like arrogance, impatience, or the audacity. And I get that too. But, in candor, I didn’t sense those were this young man’s motivations for the question. I think he really did want to do his best work and prove he was worthy of the hire.

It is true some from younger generations expect to move ahead faster than my generation did. They don’t necessarily understand the term or want to “pay their dues”. They want a seat at the table of leadership today. It is a cultural shift in the workplace. I get that too. I’m not even opposed to it. One of my favorite things to do is to invest in younger leaders and part of that is by giving them a seat at the table. That is how they will best learn.

Plus, in fairness to this guy’s “boss”, it would be hard to judge the system of advancement in such a short time. He may have paid attention to this young leader in time if he did nothing I advised him to do. None of us knew that for sure.

But, again, I appreciated the fact that this young leader wanted to make a difference enough to be noticed, so here was my advice.

If you want your boss to notice you:

Be respectful  – The leader needs to know you recognize and appreciate the position he or she holds. That’s important whether or not you agree with the leader. If he or she doesn’t feel respected you are unlikely to gain any attention.

Be consistent – Do your best work consistency over time. That almost always leads to respect.

Be resourceful – Especially today and in this economy, leaders are having to find ways to do more with less. Help that happen and you are practically guaranteed a seat at the table.

(I love 1 Kings 11:28. “Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done.” Of course, there is so much more to that story, but the point is what gained Solomon’s attention – getting things done.)

Be responsive – Responsiveness is rare these days. Answer emails promptly. Be on time. Follow through on commitments.

Be attentive – Things change fast. If you are aware of the times and can help the organization move forward quicker you become a valuable commodity on the team.

Be resilient – Do you wear your feelings on your sleeves? Are you always questioning another person’s motives? Would you be considered paranoid? Are you afraid of taking a risk? Those are not welcoming attitudes that invite you a position to the table.

Be exceptional – Normal is – well – normal. Exceptional is rare. If you want to truly set yourself apart – if you want to be noticed and advance in leadership – you have to rise above normal. The key is to give your best to a day’s work everyday. Have a good attitude about your work and the team with whom you serve. Serve and love others and the organization with everything you have to give.

Do you catch the “subtleties” in this post?

My best advice to gaining the attention of your boss:

Do great work

And when you do that consistently over time you’ll get lots of attention.

Anything you would add?

10 Inexpensive Ways to Develop People on Your Team

By | Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 15 Comments

When budgets are stretched, development often is pushed to the back burner or cut altogether from the budget. This is dangerous for a team that wishes to remain healthy and continue growing. If a team is not learning and improving, it will soon struggle to maintain any level of success. It’s important to find ways to develop even during times with stressed budgets.

Here are 10 inexpensive, or less expensive, ways to offer development to a team:

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5 Areas I Micromanaged in Church Revitalization

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | 6 Comments

When I was in church revitalization, at least once a week a pastor contacted me about what we were doing. I always told them I was still learning, but we saw God do some pretty amazing things in our church. In all measurable areas we experienced explosive growth in an over 100 year old, extremely established church. Through this blog I’ve tried to share some of the things I learned.

The primary question I received was where I spent my time. What was I doing – what did I do – to lead the church to grow again?

And I understand the question. It’s the question I continually ask other church leaders also.

One of the things I learned is there are some things I had to micromanage – some things of which I needed to retain control.

It’s important to know I’m not a micro-management leader. It goes against everything I stand for in leadership and even how I’m wired personally. I have written extensively about the need for delegation in leadership. I’m not good with details. I have a problem focusing on small issues, so I really do control very little which happens on our team. Plus, I love the team process. I don’t like the word “I” as much as the word “we”. (Even though I’ll use “I” more than “we in this post.)

In church revitalization, I micromanaged a few things a bit closer than I normally would – especially in the first couple of years. We came with an expectation we were leading a church to survive it’s second hundred years. This is an not easy process. It’s not easy for a church to continue to thrive this long. How many vibrant 100 plus year old churches do you know? And, I knew this – not as well as I do now – before I entered this pastoral position.

I began with a keen sense some things were vital to our success long-term. I viewed it as one of my roles to see the bigger picture and make sure all of us were going in the same direction. Therefore, I micromanaged some things. I did not necessarily make the decisions, but I made sure I had a strong voice in the process. (Actually, some of these were just as true in my years of church planting.)

Here are 5 things I micromanaged in church revitalization:

Who we added to our team.

This included even people I didn’t directly supervise. Now, I didn’t always make the final call — I didn’t do all the interviewing — but I did part of recruiting, part of discerning and part of the decision process. And I retained the right to approve or veto all the final decisions. This included nearly every position in with near 100 people on payroll.

Here’s the deal. We were shaping a culture. It was to be one of change and adaptability. It was one where everyone takes ownership. It was one where people enjoy their work and pull together as a team. This required a certain “fit” and staff culture. Who we added to the team would say a lot about who we would be as a staff and how well we would work together. I wanted to make sure everyone we added was on the same page with where we were trying to go.

(I continued to speak into this even into the last year I was there. We hired a key administrative person. I didn’t interview everyone nor recruit them, but I did weigh in on the type person we were seeking and signed off on the final decision.)

How we cast vision.

We knew having a common voice as a staff was vitally important — especially in the earlier days of change — but really always. We purposely developed some common language which would serve as rallying points for the church in the years to come. We had a few key areas of focus. We said the same things repeatedly. I didn’t come up with those exclusively — we developed them as a team, but I led the charge and micromanaged to keep us on track until it began to stick as our common vision.

Where we placed our greatest energies.

Many times in revitalization efforts we can get distracted chasing after too many ideas. We were trying to grow again and often churches (and other organizations) will frantically move from one bad idea to another trying to find one that works. We needed some common goals and ideas and a limited focus. Again, this was especially true in the early days until we could gain trust with the people and gain buy-in for larger changes.

I knew one of my roles would be to say no to some new initiatives. We had to slow the pace of change in other areas, while fueling pace in other areas. We actually stopped some very large – some would say successful – events, because they took a lot of energy, but didn’t fulfill our key mission. (Our mission, by the way, is the advance of the Gospel.)

Organizational structure.

As an established church, we had over 100 years of structure. Bureaucracy and process we knew well. We had rules for everything. Our employees were subjected to counter productive paperwork, for one example, which wasted time and zapped energy for momentum. (We even had a policy on folded chairs. True story.)

Over time, churches don’t stop to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Typically we just add new layers of structure. Some of our structure, quite frankly, had become extremely burdensome and stood in the way of making progress. Some things we had on paper as “rules” we didn’t even follow. (I don’t like this either.) Some rules we follow were simply archaic. They didn’t work or weren’t necessary. They slowed us down filling out paperwork no one was even going to read. We had duplicated processes and systems.

I knew in the early days I would be a fresh set of eyes on our structure and would need to micromanage quickly before I “settled in” and became just another participant in the established process. (After we do something long enough it becomes habit and we can’t even see it needs to be changed.)

New expenditures.

As with most churches in need of revitalization, our finances had been struggling for several years. Thankfully, we had good people in charge of our finances and they had held the church together through very difficult times. But I knew to be successful long-term we had to be in the best financial condition possible. And I knew, as the senior staff leader, I had to be the primary voice for this on a day-to-day basis. Even though changes were needed which would be expensive, we were extremely careful to make sure our basic financial condition was stabilized first. I don’t make economic decisions alone — and shouldn’t — but I was the key driver in the process. We had done remarkably well financially (again thanks to tremendous finance committee and staff efforts). We reversed our decline, built a healthy reserve, and began doing some of the changes we needed to grow again.

I didn’t worry about a lot of things in church revitalization. Some may have thought they were important items I should have been involved in deciding. What color carpets or wall coverings didn’t excite me very much though. I may have given a few song suggestions, but I was not too involved in the process of planning our worship (although I did micromanage who led the process). Apart from my normal responsibilities of preaching and being a pastor, I concerned myself with things I felt mattered most and needed to receive my best energies.

Praise God, He greatly blessed the micromanagement!

5 Suggestions For Adding Structure to a Growing Organization

By | Change, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 9 Comments

I think there is value in unstructured growth. We shouldn’t be afraid of growth we cannot understand. It’s messier, harder to contain, even uncomfortable at times, but it also keeps leaders energized, maintains momentum, and helps spur exponential growth.

As the organization grows – and as strategy changes – additions in structure have to be added. Even entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of healthy structure.

Adding structure, however, can be a painful and disruptive process if not handled carefully. We must add structure strategically.

Too many churches and organizations are stalled, because when things got messy due to growth they simply added a new rule.

The fact is structure should never be too inflexible. It should change with the organization. It should even change at times with the people who are in the organization.

How do you add good, helpful structure in a growing organization?

Here are 5 suggestions to add good structure to an organization:

The change should make sense with the organizational DNA.

We have to be careful altering something in a way which could disrupt the fiber, core, or root foundation of the organization. DNA is formed fast, but changed slowly – and sometimes never. It’s who an organization is and who people have come to expect it to be. It’s hard to disrupt this without disrupting future potential for growth.

For example, the structure we tried to add or change in church revitalization looked different from the structure we had in church planting.

And every church and organization is unique.

The structure added should not impede progress.

This seems common sense to me, but I’ve learned this is not always the case. Structure should further enable the completion of the vision, not detract from it.

Notice I said progress not grow with this suggestion. It could be you need some temporary structure which slows growth for a season. When I was in city leadership there was a time we needed to slow the pace of growth so we could catch up with infrastructure in the city. We actually saw that as progress. If it slowed growth forever it would no longer be progress.

An organization which never grows will eventually die (hence the following suggestion.) The key is structure should consider the future potential for long-term sustainability of the organization.

It should accommodate or encourage continued future growth.

Again, this should make sense. The problem is we don’t always ask the right questions to see if this is true.

Structure’s purpose should be to help the organization continue to grow over time. Structure should make things more efficient — not less efficient. Healthy structure enables growth. It does not control growth (except in rare cases as noted previously).

It should hit the center of acceptance.

This is a hard one to balance. Not everyone will agree with any change, but if the structure is universally opposed then it may need to be considered more closely before being implemented.

This goes back to the suggestion about DNA. You shouldn’t make change based solely upon popularity – it needs a better thought process than simply what people like. Leadership is never about making people happy.

But, at the same time, if you want the structure to be sustainable and helpful it must meet general acceptance, which leads to the last suggestion.

People should understand the why.

This may be the most important one of all of these. People are more likely to accept structure when they can identify the value to them and their area of responsibility, but at least the value to the overall organization.

I once interviewed Zig Ziglar. He continually said, “If people understand the why they will be less opposed to the what.” I’ve learned how true this principle is over the years.

We took a year to make one structural change, so people could clearly understood why we were making it. Some people still didn’t understand but most people did. And it was a widely accepted change in our structure.

What would you add to my list?

The Structured Removal of Faith

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 8 Comments

This is an opinion post.

In fact, this is an opinion blog. Unless I’m quoting Scripture you can dismiss everything I write as one person’s opinion. Mine.

But this is an opinion post about a problem I’ve seen. 

It’s a problem I see in churches.

It’s a problem I could see us having in the churches I have pastored – if we weren’t careful.

It’s a problem I see in families, in individuals, and in myself. 

If we aren’t careful we can depend more on the structure of our life than on an utter dependence on God. 

Let me explain.

Most recently I pastored a church more than 100 years old. The church knew structure well. Real well. In my experience with established churches, for every issue they experience in 100 years they probably have addressed it with some sort of policy. This church had a committee that could  handle everything when I arrived. This was a structured church. 

Don’t misunderstand. I appreciate structure – to a degree. I once planted a church that ran from structure, but we discovered soon that without it not much got accomplished. We had lots of enthusiasm and growth, but we couldn’t sustain it for long. We needed more structure.

Structure helps build systems and processes that help us meet the demands of a growing church. 

So I appreciate structure. 

Also, don’t misunderstand and think that I run to structure either. I don’t. My basic DNA is to resist it more than embrace it. A “wet paint” sign usually makes me want to touch it and see. I’m more a big picture, risk taking, defy establishment type person in my temperament.

I have simply learned by experience the need for structure.

Structure, at least healthy structure, helps organizations and churches maintain excellence. It’s designed to be an asset not a hindrance. I’m reminded of the structure Jethro shared with Moses. This was gold. I used it to this day. Joseph created great structure to carry out the work of God that would ultimately save Joseph’s family. And the Israelite nation. Invaluable.

The problem with structure is when we begin to rely on structure as the answer, more than the vision God has called us to attain. Ultimately, if we aren’t careful, we can begin to rely on man-made structure more than we rely on the King of kings to guide us into the unknown.

Let me say that again. 

If we aren’t careful, we can depend more on our structure than on an utter dependence on God.

If you’ve been in church very long you know this is true. In some churches, if God were to call us to move in some new area, even if we were certain we had direction from God, it would take us months to get the idea beyond the committees of the church and to a church vote. We have often allowed systems and policies to navigate us more than relying on the Spirit of God. We can do it in budgeting, in planning, and in carrying out the traditions and work of the church.

Of course, this can happen in any church, regardless of the age or structure, but the longer we’ve been doing something the more comfortable we seem to get at doing it. The longer we rely on our structured way of doing something, the easier it becomes to continue that structure and the more challenging it becomes when we are called to new levels of walking by faith. (This is true in our personal life also.)

Am I wrong? Have you seen this?

It’s a conviction I consistently lived with as a pastor of a very highly structured church with a rich history of seeing God do incredible things. I was keenly aware that generations before us had walked by faith to get us where we were at the time. But again, in an established organization I lead now, I feel the same tension. We have a history of doing good things. We can quickly begin to rely on the “structure” we have built.

When you lead in this context it’s a constant balance between the practical issue of the structure in place and the calling to walk by faith God has placed on your life. And, just being honest, it is sometimes a tightrope walk between the two.

As a pastor I was haunted by the question, “What is the church I pastor doing now that is totally dependent on God?” 

Frankly, it was often a tough answer. 

If we aren’t careful, we can depend more on the structure than on an utter dependence on God.

Thankfully, for that balance, the scales are already tipped in my personal life and calling. When God called me to ultimate surrender do Him He called me to say, “As for me and my household, we will serve The Lord.” We will walk by faith. We will not rest on what we have achieved.

So, my consistent prayer is that God will show us His will – so we can continue to walk by faith.

Pastors, weigh in to this discussion.

Have you felt the tension between structure and faith? How do you deal with it personally?

What is your church currently doing that is totally dependent on God?

21 Ways to Keep a Church from Growing

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership | 20 Comments

I was once asked to help a church process how to get younger people to attend. After we discussed some change recommendations a man pulled me aside and said, “Son, we don’t need no fancy ideas around here. We like being a small church.

I soon learned he represented the feelings of the church as a whole. They thought they wanted to reach younger people, but the truth was — when faced with change — they were really satisfied with the church as it had been for many years.

There’s nothing wrong with being a small church.

Let me say that again — There is nothing wrong with being a small church.

In fact, in some communities, what is considered small is actually large by comparison to churches in larger cities. We are seeing trends where small churches are actually being preferred by some younger generations. So, I’m not at all opposed to small churches, but I do have a problem with some small church mentalities.

And I think there is a difference.

As long as there are lost people nearby, I believe the church has much work to do. And any organization, Christian or secular, that refuses to accept some changes will stop growing and eventually die. They will therefore fail to continue achieving our God-given mission to “Go and make disciples”.

The fact is that growing a church is hard work. It’s relatively easy to keep things small or stop growth. We could almost do nothing and achieve it.

In fact, I can come up with lots of ways I’ve seen that keep a church from growing.

Here are a 21 ways to keep a church from growing:

  • Make the entry to serving in the church lengthy or complicated (Serving is often the new front door)
  • Develop followers not leaders
  • Squelch any dream except the pastor’s own dreams
  • Refuse new people a voice at the table (and don’t greet them in the parking lot either)
  • Make sure everyone knows who is in charge (and, hint, especially when it is not Jesus)
  • Cast your vision — but only once and get bored with sharing it
  • Only do “church” inside the building – don’t attempt to reach your community
  • Demand that “it” be done the way it’s always been done – protect tradition at all costs.
  • Give up when change is resisted – don’t push through towards doing the right thing
  • Make excuses when things go wrong – pretend it is never your fault
  • Quit dreaming – or allowing others to do so
  • Resist any organized system, strategy or plans to grow the church
  • Stop praying – pretend you’ve “got this”
  • Insist you have all answers before you attempt to “walk by faith”
  • Never challenge people – let them chill on the sidelines
  • Treat new people like outsiders and let them wonder if they’ll ever fit in
  • Always refer to the past as the good times and fail to recognize the ideas of the next generation
  • Put more energy and resources into maintaining structures and programs than into loving and serving others
  • Let gossip be more attractive than truth
  • Make sure the ministerial staff does everything and “normal” people are never empowered or given permission to live on mission
  • Be stingy investing in the next generation favoring those who write the “bigger checks”

Whenever I do a post like this I get a common and expected question.

Well, if these are ways not to grow a church, then what are some ways to grow a church?

And that is one of the main topics I write about in other posts. But for simplicity sake try doing the opposite of some of these I’ve listed and see how they help the church to grow.

What am I missing? What else will keep a church from growing?

10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve as a Leader

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership | 13 Comments

Most leaders want to improve. I hear from leaders weekly who want to get better in their role. They want to improve so the organization they lead can improve.

As much as leaders desire improvement, many leaders wonder where they should go to grow.

Here are 10 things you can do today to improve as leader:

Read the Bible

I know you’d expect this from someone who has been a pastor, but seriously, this is not a clever attempt to get you to read your Bible. (Although you should, you know.) The Bible is a tremendous resource for leadership development. Jesus is the Master Leader. And there are plenty of other examples of men and women who, unlike Jesus, were sinful people like you and me. Of course, for me it’s THE source of my foundation, but even if you aren’t a follower of Christ you can learn from the leaders in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the flaws within every leader either, so you can learn from people who recover from failure.

Read a leadership book

There are many good leadership books to choose from, but if you aren’t sure where to start, choose a John Maxwell book to start. Or a Patrick Leoncini book. Or a Chip and Dan Heath book. Any of them. Safe choice every time. (You could even read my book.) The key is to read. Leaders are readers. One frequent question I ask successful leaders is, “What are you currently reading?” It just takes one fresh idea to launch you into something golden.

Find a mentor

The best mentors in my life have been people I admire and invited to speak into my life. This has included pastors, business leaders and politicians. I look for character first and then competency in an area in which I want to grow personally.

Hang out with fellow leaders

Leadership Network was founded under this principle. The answers are usually in the room if you put the right people in the room.

I usually have 2 or 3 different groups of leaders I meet with periodically. These are peers. They are at similar places in their career of leadership. When I served actively as a pastor some were obviously pastors. But some were not. We learn from each other. And often I have to be the one to take the initiative first. I’m game for it, because I know the value.

Join a civic club

I am not in one currently, but have attended and spoken to them many times. It’s a great option to put you with other leaders in the community. I have, however, always been active in the community. Most communities have formal leadership programs, often through the chamber of commerce. Ask around. There are leadership principles nearby if we are intentional to seek them.

Ask for input from those you lead

This can be a humbling option, but I promise the people you are trying to lead have suggestions. They won’t often share them unless they are given permission. You have to be bold enough to ask.

Analyze current conditions

Few leaders stop to see where they are currently. What’s working? What’s not? What needs tweaking? What needs killing? The best leaders don’t have all the answers, but they have great questions.

You usually won’t know the answer to the question you don’t ask.

Reflect on past mistakes

The best teacher is experience. Most likely you’ve had situations in the past God can use to prepare you for what you are currently facing. Or you’ve watched others make mistakes. Take time to reflect and learn.

I keep a record of mistakes I’ve made. Many of the things I write about here I learned from them.

Write some goals

It amazes me when I hear leaders who don’t have written goals and objectives they are currently trying to achieve. Writing something puts it in your schema. You are more likely to have the goals at the front of your mind. When this happens you’ll be a walking sponge of new ideas to accomplish them. You will learn as you go because you are living with your current objectives closer to your mind. I constantly have something on which to jot down notes with me so as ideas hit me I can quickly record them.

Subscribe to a few leadership blogs and podcasts

People are talking leadership these days. Have you noticed? Participate. Listen. Contribute to the discussion. You’ll learn along the way.

Growing as a leader isn’t difficult. It does require an intentional effort on your part.

What are some ideas you have to improve as a leader…today?

7 Criteria to Realize Genuine Organizational Change

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

In my observation, many leaders want change and know they need to lead for change, but they haven’t been able to actually produce change.

I think there are reasons for this.

The process of change isn’t easy. And, it doesn’t happen overnight. Some leaders move too fast. Others move too slow. Plus, not every church, business or non-profit will tolerate change – or at least to the level prescribed by a leader. The leader needs to know when to push and when to leave things alone for a while.

It’s a delicate process leading change. And, the simple fact is, some leaders simply don’t know how to introduce healthy change. (This is not intended as a slam. It’s a reality statement.)

I believe change is necessary for growth. I don’t think everything has to change. Some things never should. But, change, even the hardest kind of change, has to occur if progress towards worthy visions is going to continue to occur.

This post is sort of a gut check for those who want to lead change – attempting to reconcile some of the criteria to be a good change agent leader.

Please understand, I’m not an expert on change, nor am I claiming to be. I have led lots of change – some successfully and some not so much – but I’ve worked with dozens of leaders in leading change. And I’ve there are some things we do which work better than others.

7 criteria to realize genuine change:

Have a willingness to fail.

Not all change will work. You can strategize and plan, but change at some level involves the risk it may not work. Good change agent leaders know this in advance and are willing to accept the challenge – and not defeated if it doesn’t. They try again in another way.

Be able to withstand strong criticism.

Change invites pushback. Change changes things. (That’s deep, isn’t it?) Change is uncomfortable and people will tell you the degree of discomfort they are feeling. Sometimes in passionate – even mean ways. If they don’t tell you they will – with passive aggression – tell others who will eventually tell you. You’ll feel unpopular at times. Rumors may spread about you. Good change agent leaders keep the vision ever before them and are motivated more towards the accomplishment of it than making sure everyone is pleased with them personally.

Constantly evaluate and be willing to adjust plans accordingly.

You can’t be a good change agent and equally be a control freak. You are leading people through sometimes muddy waters. You’ll need to solicit buy-in from others. You will need to collaborate. You’ll need to process the success rate of the change and recalibrate as needed. You’ll have to delegate – and this means release the right to determine the exact way something is done. Progress towards the goal must be more important than the exact actions taken towards achievement of them.

Be able to outlast the opponents of change.

When the naysayers show up good change agents are willing to stand strong for that which they believe is worth fighting. It will likely take longer than you hoped it would. At times you’ll feel like quitting, but good change agent leaders stand the test of time.

Think bigger than today.

Change is always going somewhere new. Always. So change agent leaders have to be able to think about the options which aren’t currently on the table. You’ve got to think beyond now and even beyond the most immediate future. You have to look for what others can’t see, choose not to or are afraid to see (or admit).

Be willing to challenge status quo.

This the kicker, isn’t it? Change agent leaders have to go against the way things are being done and the way things have always been done. We are talking about change. Get it? Change. This means something is changing. (Oh, such a deep post.) You have to move people from the center on which they’ve grounded themselves. This is never comfortable. But, good change agent leaders are willing the challenge what has become standard or traditional in people’s minds.

Work within a DNA conducive to change.

Here’s another kicker – and this one has more to do with the organization or people receiving the change than the leader implementing change. Every church and every organization in which you are called to bring change isn’t wired for change. The fact is some of those said churches and organizations are going to die – they’ll stall – perhaps for long periods, but they’ll eventually just fade away. And nothing you can say or do will encourage otherwise. In the end, you can’t lead people where they don’t want to go. The sooner you can learn this fact the quicker you can try to be a good change agent where change may actually occur.

Well, those are some hard realizations. I’ve studied and observed them by working with dozens of churches, businesses and non-profits and in the organizations and churches in which I have led. And, most of all, I’ve seen them true in my personal journey as a leader.

I should note, I believe we can grow as leaders in these characteristics. Of course, the last one we can’t do a lot about – but, even there, I’ve learned some places where others have said change couldn’t or wouldn’t occur haven’t always proven to be true. Sometimes the answer to making better changes is simply we must become better leaders.

What have you seen as necessary criteria to be a good change agent?

Protectors and Advancers – Two Necessary Team Members

By | Church, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership | 3 Comments

I was meeting with a successful entrepreneur recently. He said something I found interesting and it caused me to further reflect. (Side note: These kind of comments are why I always have something with me with which to take notes when I meet with people.) 

The business leader told me in his business all their employees are either protectors or advancers. 

He said protectors are usually found in HR, legal or accounting departments. They “protect” the organization. There needs to be an adequate number of protectors in every organization. 

Advancers, on the other hand, grow the business. Regardless of their job title these people help the organization do more towards accomplishing their mission. They produce a product. The are “revenue positive”. They add income to the bottom line.

Then he went on to say he always wants more advancers than protectors. Far more. In fact, nearly everyone in his company (and it is a very large company) needs to be an advancer.

After the meeting I kept pondering his words. I see relevance here in business and in ministry. I see how this logic could work in the for profit world and the non-profit. It could even apply in the church. 

In simple terms the goal in business is to make a profit. The goal in ministry or nonprofits is to advance a cause. In both types of organizations we need to protect and advance.

If we don’t have protectors we will eventually get into trouble. If we don’t have advancers we will eventually not exist.  

There are a few other things I landed on in my pondering of this concept:  

In my experience, people naturally become protectors. They get accustomed to the way things are done. They become comfortable with a system or strategy. They begin to love tradition and the way things have “always been done” – and soon even those who should be advancers begin to protect at all costs.

People will seldom “self-select” to become advancers – at least in my experience. Most advancers have to be continually encouraged to advance. (Even protectors can help with advancing when encouraged to do so.)

Generally speaking, protectors manage programs. Advancers want to consistently tweak or change them.

Protectors build systems. Advancers challenge them. 

Protectors often frustrate advancers. Simply doing their role – as they should – they “hold the line”, enforce the rules, and ensure the budget is followed.

Advancers often frustrate protectors. They challenge the status quo. They introduce change. They stretch paradigms. (And budgets.)

We need both protectors and advancers. Part of leadership is balancing the need for protectors and advancers, so we can better realize the goal for the organization.

Think about your organization. How many protectors do you have? How many advancers? 

More importantly, will you achieve the goals you’ve set for your organization this year with the balance you currently have on your team?