What To Do When You Exceed Your Leadership Capacity

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 7 Comments

What is your leadership capacity?

Have you found it yet?

I use the term leadership capacity to describe a leader’s maximum potential to effectively lead others to accomplish the vision.

A leader exceeds their leadership capacity when they no longer have the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential. Basically, they regularly find themselves on a not being able to handle all the demands placed upon them — and it’s beginning to show in the organization.

The leader has exceeded his or her leadership capacity.

You may not know the term, or even agree with my definition of it, but I suspect if you’ve led very long at all you have felt the sensation of being over your capacity.

Do you ever feel you are in over your head? Are you questioning your abilities to take things forward further than you have? 

I met with a great businessman and leader once who admitted he was overwhelmed with what was happening around him. He felt the weight of leading. His business had grown larger and faster than he ever anticipated. There were increasing demands – not only on his time, but also on the number of decisions he was having to make on a daily basis. He went home everyday feeling he had accomplished so little, even though he was doing a lot, because here felt there was so much that could only be done by him.

He knew he was already beyond his capacity and growing more and more concerned the business could get away from him unless he did something to increase his capacity as a leader.

I know the feeling. I have “been there and done that” – and probably will be there again.

I appreciate any leader who can recognize this about their leadership. That realization is like an insurance policy against leadership failure.

If you feel you have reached your leadership capacity, consider these steps:

Recognize and admit – This is most important. Do not be afraid to admit you are over your head. Humility is actually an attractive leadership quality, but even if you’re not willing to admit it to others – at least admit it to yourself.

Re-evaluate – Are you trying to do too much? Are your standards for yourself too high? Do you need to change your role in the organizational structure? Do you need to lose some of your responsibilities? Have you built too much power or too much dependence on you in the organizational structure? Are there others who need more authority – authority you’re still trying to control?

Ask for help – Seek wisdom from those who have led longer than you. Find a mentor. Take a class. Join a network. One of the values of social media for me has been the insight I have learned from other leaders, but I always have a mentor in my life — usually several. (For pastors and ministry leaders, check out what we are doing at Leadership Network to help.)

Delegate – Ask yourself what responsibility you could give away or what areas others on your team would be better equipped to handle. If you are a one person “team” then seek volunteers or part-time help to help you bridge the gaps between your leadership ability and the demands of the organization. (It may end up being an investment that protects everything else in which you’ve invested.)

Quit if needed – If you value the vision enough then be willing to step aside if you are no longer a good fit to lead it and don’t think you can get there. This is not a sign of failure or an indication that you are a bad leader. Sometimes the organization simply grows in another direction from our passion, skills or strengths as a leader. Some people are better suited to lead at one level than another. It takes an act of bold humility to admit this.

Leaders, is your leadership capacity being stretched? What are you going to do about it?

The Absolute Biggest Mistake I’ve Made in Life

By | Call to Ministry, Children, Church, Encouragement, God, Life Plan | 18 Comments

One of our boys has always been a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon without a ton of hidden meanings, but it was never enough. Even today, he’s the analyzer of life – often the over-analyzer. He asks the deep questions.

Personally, he takes after me. I’m a questioner too and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership. But he’s much deeper than I am.

The best questions get the best answers.

So it was not surprising one day when he was an early teenager – seemingly out of nowhere Nate asked, Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”

I didn’t have to think long.

We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead. We sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did.

Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing and starting over again financially.

I told Nate (I call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying the other business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.

Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.

You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”

As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I remember saying something such as, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.

(It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)

God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday, but there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart – where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times.

(As a side note, these times will always line up with truth from God’s word. God will never contradict Himself.)

Anyway, I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”

I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”

God interrupted again.

“Ron, your biggest mistake was following your will in your life and not mine.”

And then God was silent.

Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions. And God apparently had nothing else to say at the moment.

The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life – including my wife, but I had ignored them continually replying we are all “called to ministry” – which I still believe is true. But I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.

God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failures in my life always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.

Here’s hoping someone learns from my mistakes.

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan

By | Change, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 32 Comments

A number of years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try.

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA. I’ve been a small business owner – with success and failure. God led us to plant two churches and we took on two church revitalizations.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? 🙂

Granted, there are times to play it safe. The night at home may not be a good illustration, because I’d likely do it again. Protecting my wife and my home is part of my life’s ambition also.

But, it did trigger something internally in me about my overall life direction. I want to continue to be a risk-taker. A person who willingly walks by faith – throughout my life. I want to be like Abram who was willing to “go” and trust God even in his old age. I found myself asking if I would take another risk if I knew it was something God called me to do – even though life was very comfortable.

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right? Do I want you to jump out of a plane? No, and I’m not saying God told me to do that either.

But, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

Not long after this incident was when God called Cheryl and I to leave a very successful church plant, which had started in our living room, and go to a considerably smaller, established, historic church in need of revitalization. It didn’t make sense at the time, but following God’s will did. (And always does.)

This latest move for Cheryl and me has stretched me. I’ve been “out of my league” more than I’ve known what to do. I wake up some mornings wondering what I should do today. It doesn’t always feel “safe”.

Here’s my advice. If God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand –

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical. Again, I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane.

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears.

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Here are a few questions I’d challenge you to consider:

  • What is God calling you to do which stretches your “safe zone”?
  • Where is your faith being stretched these days?
  • What are you having to do, which to be successful, God will have to come through for you?
  • Is there any area of you life you know God wants you to move – something He wants you to do – but you’ve not yet been obedient? You’re still playing it “better safe than sorry”.

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Change Your World

By | Christians, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | 16 Comments

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 5

By | Change, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 23 Comments

It’s day 5 of our life planning series. This week we’ve attempted to take it step-by-step, in a simple format, to write a plan that will help us achieve some specific goals for the new year. If you missed any of these posts, be sure to catch up by reading:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Today we have our final step…and it’s a good one…in fact…it’s my favorite….

Read More

Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 4

By | Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 9 Comments

We’ve been writing a life plan this week. I hope you are following along and writing your own plan. I’m looking forward to hearing the goals you have and the success you see in attaining them. I have tried to keep it simple, hoping that will improve your chances of following through to completion. If you’ve missed any of them, be sure and read

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Today we add another step in the process

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Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 3

By | Encouragement, Family, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 11 Comments

This week we are writing life plans for the coming year. If you have missed the first two posts, read them HERE and HERE. My desire is that we realize all the dreams and goals we have this year. I’m convinced many of our resolutions…if we make them…are reachable with a little more intentionality and discipline. Many refuse to make resolutions, because they have repeatedly failed at keeping them. The purpose of these posts is to help you start the year on a good path towards reaching those goals.

Today we add another step.

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Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 2

By | Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 18 Comments

Yesterday I began a series of post to help you develop a life plan for 2010 I hear people talk every year about resolutions…some make them…some don’t…some hate them…some keep them…most don’t. I’m confident the main reason most do not keep them and many refuse to make them is that they never put a plan of action together or applied enough discipline that would ensure success. Why make a resolution if you can’t ever keep it….right? We don’t like continual failure.

The point of this series is to put some feet to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Yesterday you were asked to list three to five goals you have for the new year. If you haven’t done that or didn’t read that post, start HERE.

If you have your goals listed, today we’ll get more specific with them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is step one in writing a simple life plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

7 Excuses for Not Doing What God has Called Us To Do

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 20 Comments

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.

I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I knew I had to provide for my family. Also, I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.

Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near.

And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?

But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.

The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong.

Here are 7 of the most common excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t!

Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)

I don’t know how!

The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)

I don’t have time!

God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)

I’m all alone!

Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid!

And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it!

You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)

I won’t!

This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?