How to Be Invaluable as a Team Member

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One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed.

While I agree with him that we can all be replaced, I was never sure it was a healthy demonstration for building team morale.

And I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Become a cheerleader that offers a positive-mind and is willing to do whatever it takes to build up others and the team.

Encouragers seem rarer these days.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Learn the value of being a team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad.

Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. Be respectful in the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. They respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Respect is another missing element in many work (and life) relationships these days.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else.

Plan your day better. Become an expert at setting goals and objectives. Learn ways to hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Read, observe and learn. Then humbly share what you learn.

Information is king. Be a king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

Announcing a Life and Career Transition for Ron and Cheryl Edmondson

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 15 Comments

A Life Transition for The Edmondsons

I recently resigned my position as CEO of Leadership Network. Although my tenure is much shorter than I had anticipated when I arrived almost 18 months ago, I feel it has been a productive time for me and the organization. Leadership Network has a long, great history of helping the Church accelerate growth and innovation. I spent my time restructuring the organization and the team; hopefully positioning it for the future. At times it felt as though I was back in church revitalization.

As our new leadership team began to plan for 2020, I saw my role shifting from one of building something new to more maintaining and managing. In addition, development would become even more important in my role. Those who know me know I am not a good manager and fundraising doesn’t excite me. Plus, I had less “hands on” time with pastors and the local church than I anticipated the position affording me.  

At 55 years old, I am wise enough to know that life is short, and time is precious. Wisdom and experience tell me these should be some of my most productive years. I want to use them doing something that fuels me every day. Likewise, in fairness, Leadership Network needs someone leading who is fully engaged at what the position requires of them. 

This was not a quick decision. It was a matter of several months of prayer and discussion and gaining counsel from a few wise friends. Cheryl and I used a recent trip to Israel as a deciding time to confirm this was the right decision for us and the organization.

What’s Next

Todd Wilson, with Exponential, once advised me that I’m a “5 chip guy”. He said I must be doing multiple things to feel fulfilled. I probably should have listened closer to him then. 

Currently, unless God intervenes, after the sale of our home, we plan to move to the Nashville area where we have family and friends. This move alone excites us. We lived in the area until seven and a half years ago and have lots of community there. I will launch my own ministry serving churches and organizations in the role of consulting, writing, speaking, and preaching. Several churches have entertained the idea of me doing some intentional interim work. I’ve been doing online ministry since “dial up” days in the mid 90’s. Look for more of this in the future. 

Let me share a few broad thoughts and then I’ll unpack more of this in the days to come.

Consulting

I may be somewhat unique in that I have successful experience in both church revitalization and church planting. It fuels me to help churches (and organizations) figure out how to start, re-start and scale. I think my experience can help with a broad range of leadership issues. 

One area I am particularly interested in helping churches think through is what I’m calling Impressions. The whole guest relations area was a pet peeve of mine as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

After 18 months of visiting lots of different churches, I realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. I’d love to help churches think through and improve this ministry in their context. 

I wrote a post talking more about this HERE.

Adjunct staff member

Would it be of value to you if you could add some “strategic thinking” capacity to your staff team for a day or two – maybe once or maybe once a month for a year? Again, I love brainstorming and thinking through next steps. Whether it is figuring out staffing structure, organizational culture, or strategies for growth, if you’ve got a problem and need an experienced voice in the room, I’m here to help. 

Teaching/Preaching

I’m open for opportunities to guest preach at your church. Also, as invited, I will continue to speak at conferences and workshops. 

I have already agreed to one opportunity. For those of you who pastor, but never had the time (or inclination) to go to seminary, I will be working with Ed Stetzer at the Wheaton Grad School to teach two special cohorts, one for pastors of churches running 1000-2000, and another for pastors of churches over 2000. Stetzer is the dean and has developed these cohorts. (Matt Chandler is in one and he talked about it here.)

The program is not only practical, but also fosters the holistic development of spiritual maturity, theological integration, and skilled leadership. I’m thrilled to be able to be a guest lecturer in the program. The cohort model allows leaders of similar size / stage churches to learn from one another, network, and is always a time of encouragement. In addition to the Wheaton faculty, Will Mancini will also be involved. Since these are for established church leaders, we will meet 1-2 times per year for the week-long classes and the remainder of the courses will be done online with the cohort. If you’d like to participate in this cohort, go to www.wheaton.edu/mml or email MML@wheaton.edu for more information. We’re taking around 20 students, so inquire soon if you’re interested. 

Online offerings

I have provided content to pastors and other leaders through my blog, devotionals, and other resources since my first devotional site launched in the mid 90’s. There is more I can offer here, including some online coaching opportunities. Stay tuned. 

A Walk of Faith

Over 17 years ago, when I surrendered to leaving the business world and entering vocational ministry, Cheryl and I both agreed we would always be willing to walk by faith. Cheryl asked recently, “Is it okay to be 100% at peace and still be a little afraid?“ Of course it is. This is a move of faith. I always taught our churches that when we know what God would have us do the time to obey is now. God will handle the details.

Please pray for our house to sell. We would also appreciate prayers for the right opportunities to come about and be made clear.

I’m filling my first quarter calendar. If your church or organization needs my help, please email me now (ron.edmondson@gmail.com) and let’s start talking.

Releasing an Employee For A Less Obvious Offense

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent.

I’ve heard many times that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast”, but that’s much easier to say than it is to do.

When due process has been given and every reasonable attempt to restore has been exhausted as a leader, we must make the right decision for the good of everyone involved. Even as hard as it is to make, when the offense is clear:

  • A person who is caught stealing
  • Someone who lies consistently
  • When an extreme moral failure has occurred

Those still aren’t always easy decisions, but they are often easier to clarify when the offense is clearly defined.

One of the harder decisions for me, but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t clear-cut issues.

Sometimes these decisions are not for a specific offense, as much as it is the best decision for the organization. In my experience, many leaders miss these, because they are more difficult to clarify.

An example:

Years ago in the business world, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. He could sell anything and made the company money. It was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. (He was disrespectful, flippantly avoided mandatory meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.)

It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake I had to consider for the good of the company.

Here are a few other examples of situations I have experienced:

One who never meets agreed upon expectations. This one is so hard for me, because I usually let people help determine what they are going to accomplish. (I like to let people write their job descriptions and set their own goals.) And many times it isn’t a matter of whether they are a good person or not. They simply won’t do the work.

On this one I like to make sure we have provided all the resources the person needs to be successful. I want to give the process plenty of time. But when the person is no longer respected by their peers or with volunteers and everyone else is wondering why I haven’t moved sooner, I know it is time to make a hard decision.

A team member doesn’t support the overall vision or direction. They may have the skills to be outstanding. The problem is their attitude or vision differs from the organization. If left unchecked, however, these people can serve as a cancer to the team more than an asset.

A person who has theoretically “left the building”. In terms of their commitment level, they no longer have any heart for the job. This may have occurred over time and it may even be something in their personal life which has caused them to change some of what they want in life. These type are often just hanging around for a paycheck.

All of these left unattended will likely bring down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team.

Again, employment issues are always hard decisions. The harder ones for me have always been the ones without clear easy to define lines, often involving good people who are not longer a good fit. And I only shared a few. There are plenty of others I could have shared.

Leader, if I can be a voice to you here – making the right decision protects the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership.

Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback for the team. But your credibility as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.

5 Ways to Listen to Different Voices as a Leader

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One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like them. I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

And time has proven this to me repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently, have different desires and, thankfully have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are often different from the leader.

This can be frustrating if we allow it to be, but with intentionality it can also be extremely helpful. As a leader, I limit the organization when I limit it to my ideas or abilities.

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead with people who are different from you, you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Make sense?

I’m just being candid here, but frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – that people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term, because I think better leadership is a “we”, but I want you to see how I try to be intentional in this area.)

Welcoming input.

This has to come first and is more about a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. Personally, I want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. Granted, I want to receive respect, and I also expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me.

On any church staff where I have led, I found some different personalities to compliment mine. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it.

Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Personally, I ask lots of questions. If you come to me with a question I am likely to answer with a question, such as, “What do you think we should do?” I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. Periodically, I like to set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible.

Most important, I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. It is important to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA and culture for the entire team. There has to be an environment where all leaders are encouraged to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

Communicating Personal Vision – A Huge Challenge for Senior Leaders

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 3 Comments

The Challenge

One of the greatest challenges I have felt as a senior leader is to regularly communicate the big picture vision I own in my head.

Of course, this is the idea behind vision and mission statements, but those are very broad statements. I am referring to the dreams I am currently dreaming. There are often specific goals and objectives I think we should currently be attempting as an organization.  

The importance:

I know I need to share what I’m thinking for people who can’t read my mind.  It is hard for those we lead to get inside our head, but so important if we want to lead well. If we want to earn and keep trust and credibility in our leadership, then we must make sure people understand our broad visions.

In fairness, they are thinking about their own individual responsibilities. Their role may not be to think for the entire organization. That’s usually the role of senior leaders.

What I attempt to do:

Sharing my heart for the personal vision I have requires more intentionality in communication. Many leaders assume others are following. It isn’t until people don’t accomplish what the leader hopes they will that they realize the people trying to follow never fully understood what a leader was expecting.

This is always a work in progress for me, and more difficult in a new position, but here are some things I try to to communicate my personal vision as a senior leader:

  • Communicate regularly
  • Keep notes to myself of what needs communicating (and I do that in categories of the people that need to hear it)
  • Utilize different communication styles for different listening types
  • Use understandable language – and explain when it is not (I like to draw a lot of diagrams to flesh out my ideas in front of people.)
  • Do not assume others know what I am talking about – they may not
  • Speak openly and transparently
  • Allow people the freedom to ask me anything they want

And the greatest suggestion I have – Ask lots of questions of others! Make sure people understand what you are saying.

What about you?

Does anyone else struggle with this challenge?  What suggestions do you have for a leader sharing their heart with those around them?

How I Blog about Current Leadership Issues

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All the leadership examples I post on my blog come from real life situations – either mine or yours, collected through years of leadership experience. 

I get asked frequently, “How do you post about people you know? Don’t they figure out you’re talking about them?”

And, truthfully, sometimes they ask, “Is that post about me?

The reality is, however, that every situation seems to repeat itself – many times. (There is nothing new under the sun.) In fact, I will seldom post specific details of a specific situation. I wait until I observe it more than once and I keep posts as broad and general as I can.

Many of the situations from which I draw principles come from readers of this blog sharing their stories with me. And I have received lots of them over the years. Some come from other churches with whom I’ve worked. Many of the situations from which I develop leadership principles happened years ago when I was in secular business and management. Sometimes the details are cloudy, but the principles are still quite clear.

I do have a system (informal that is), however, of how I post about current leadership issues, especially those real life to me, where I know the people involved.

Here is my “system”:

I wait until some time has passed – The principles learned will still be good. It could be a month or several years, depending on how easy to discern the details would be. (Evernote is where I mostly keep my notes.)

I also try to make sure I have removed my emotions before I post about a situation. I’ve been burned a few times (and burned others) by posting in anger, so I’ve learned to never post until I’m back on even ground emotionally.

I consider all parties involved – I want to make sure I’m telling the story correctly. The point is trying to capture the facts as they happened, not as someone felt (or I felt) as they were happening. If it’s a personal issue for me, I never share any situation I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with the people involved.

I especially don’t want people I lead feeling slammed through my blog, so I make sure to address leadership problems outside this blog. Frequently, I mention upcoming posts so they know in advance I’m writing about a certain topic.

Examine what was learned – I always want to learn from experiences; good or bad, so I ask myself how the teams involved are better and how things could improve because of this situation. Again, I try never to post out of personal frustration, but I do try to share that which can benefit others from my experience or the experience of others.

Change details – I never share names, unless I have permission and it’s necessary for the story. Also, I change enough details to keep people guessing as to the characters in the situation.

Post – Eventually I use the story or situation to write about a leadership problem or principle. My theory is that all leadership principles develop somewhere – and there is always a story behind them.

Where did you learn some of your best leadership principles?

Life Cycles of an Organization: And the Team That Leads Them

By | Innovation, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | No Comments

Every organization has a life cycle. In fact, over time an organization will likely be many separate cycles. I have written about organizational life cycles before.

But I have observed another dynamic within these life cycles. In each life cycle the most successful organizations I have been a part of had a team skilled at three separate functions.

The three functions are:

Starters

Starting involves those who can dream, vision-cast, and recruit people to follow a new idea or initiative. These are the people who embrace change and are always ready for something new. (BTW, this is the group where I typically fit.)

Maintainers

Maintaining involves setting up and managing systems in an effort to continue the progress usually begun by others. These people may be slower to embrace change; valuing things which are organized, structured, and understandable. (BTW, every team needs these people to be successful.)

Finishers

Finishing is different from starting or maintaining, because it’s not beginning new, nor is it staying the same, but it involves taking an established idea and carrying it to the next destination. It could be to improve things or to close them gracefully. These are people who have the ability and desire to make existing things better and to finish things well.

Here’s why this matters in an organization:

In my observation, people tend to lean towards one of the three, and may be comfortable in two of them. I have found it rare for someone to be gifted in all three. But on successful teams, all three are operating together within a life cycle.

I love being a starter. Since I was in high school, I’ve wanted to start clubs or initiatives, alter the direction of something, or stir up some intentional change. It is one reason I’m consistently tossing out new ideas to our team. (It’s also how I frustrate them most.) I can live in the finisher role for a time if it involves development or innovation, but I always drift back to starting something new. And I burn out very quickly in the maintaining position.

One goal of a team could be to balance the strengths of the team members around each of these, so the team is always starting, maintaining, and finishing. The most important thing is that the team and leaders recognize that each of these functions of a life cycle are equally important.

Every healthy life cycle requires all three.

Which one are you wired for best?

(If you say all three, you might want to ask people around you to help you evaluate your answer.)

7 Ways a Leader Can Invite Constructive Feedback

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

I remember an especially hard year as a leader. It was so bad several members of our staff had told me where I was letting them down. So much for having an “open door policy”. The next year I closed the door. 🙂

Not really, but this was a year where staff members said to me, “I have a problem with you.” They may not have used those exact words, but the point was clear – I can be an idiot at times. There were significant areas where I needed to improve. Thankfully, I haven’t had many of those years, but I’m glad now I had the ones I have, because they have taught me a lot about my leadership.

There is room for improvement with any leader and maturing leaders welcome instruction from the people they are trying to lead.

Most of the time when I’ve been corrected by someone I’m supposed to lead, I deserved it. Plus, anytime someone on a team is brave enough to rebuke their leader, you can be assured he or she is either:

  • Desperate and willing to do anything.
  • Ignorant or doesn’t care.
  • Feels welcome to do so.

In my opinion, good leaders try to create environments to live within the third option. I hope this was the case in my situation.

I should also say, especially on behalf of my fellow senior leaders, that criticism comes easily to leaders. We don’t have to ask for it. Do anything at all in leadership and someone will have a problem with it – and they won’t always be kind in how they voice their complaint. I like to say “you can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit”. Leading is hard and I am not suggesting we make it harder.

But I’m not talking about the negative type of criticism. I am referring to constructive feedback from people I care about and who respect me. We all need that at times.

Here are 7 ways to welcome correction from the people we lead:

An open door.

My work environment is somewhat different now, because we have a very remote working environment. As pastor of a large staff, it was even more important to keep the door to my office open. But it was more than than simply the door. As a leader, I try to make my schedule available to the people I lead. And, if I’m in the office, my door is “open” and I want people to know they can walk in anytime. In addition, I try to help teams I lead know that I consider responsiveness to be of highest value to me. If they contact me, I will attempt to answer in a timely manner.

Include others in decision making.

If a decision affects more people than me, then I want more people helping to make the decision. This is true even if it’s a natural decision for me to make. The more I include people in the decision-making, the more likely they are to want to follow the decisions made. In fact, I seldom make decisions alone.

Ask for it.

Consistently, throughout the year, I ask people to tell me what they think. I ask lots of questions. I solicit opinions on almost every major decision I make. It’s a risky move, because many will, but it’s invaluable insight. And, the more you ask, the more freedom people feel in sharing.

Admit mistakes.

It’s important that I recognize when decisions made are my fault. People feel more comfortable approaching a leader who doesn’t feel they are always right.

Take personal responsibility.

In addition to admitting fault, I must own my share of projects and responsibility. The team needs to know that I’m on their side and in their corner. When they are criticized I own the criticism with them. I have their back. (By the way, this is only learned by experience.)

Model it.

It’s one thing to say I welcome correction, but when correction comes, I must model receiving it well. If I overreact when correction comes, I’ll limit the times I receive it. If I chooser retribution, I’ve shut further feedback off before it comes.

Trade it.

The best way to get a team to offer healthy correction of the leader is to create a relationship with the team where there is mutual constructive feedback. The goal is not for the leader to receive all the correction. The goal is for correction to be applied where correction is needed.

I should also say all these are still not enough. Constructive criticism from people who care about you and want your best, especially from people you lead, only develops over time as trust is developed. They have to trust you and you have to trust them.

Receiving correction – or constructive feedback – is difficult for anyone, perhaps seemingly unnatural for most leaders. I believe, however, when a leader is open to healthy correction from his or her team, the team will be more willing to follow the leader wherever he or she goes.

Leader, are you open to correction? Is your leader open to correction?

7 Things Which Drive Me Crazy in Leadership

By | Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 11 Comments

There are some things in leadership I could almost say I despise. Those things are almost always the ways people misuse or even abuse their leadership power – or the way other people respond to any attempt at good leadership.

And I have probably been guilty of many of these in my career. But, mostly looking backwards at the results, I hate when I did them as well.

Perhaps you have your own list, but this is mine.

7 things which drive me crazy in leadership:

Responsibility without authority – If you ask someone to lead something – let them lead. Don’t make them jump through humps, constantly come back to you for approval, or second-guess everything they do.

Small-mindedness – I like big dreams and those who dream them. It wears me out to be around people calling themselves leaders, but limiting themselves or their organization to mediocrity. I know I’ve never once out-dreamed God. Nor has any of us.

Naysayers – There is always someone who says it can’t be done, it hasn’t been done this way before, or no one will support your idea. It could be the result of their own misfortunes or it could be the way they are wired in general. Listen to wisdom, even constructive criticism, but don’t fall victim to people who resist every change.

Power protectors – Leaders who are easily threatened by others, always try to control people, or only say what they think people want to hear in order to be liked limit people and the organization.

Caution motivated only by fear – Some leaders refuse to take any risk if there is a chance it might not work. They take the safe route – especially when any outside pressure rises against them or the idea. Many times this is seasonal and based on circumstances, but sometimes it is a personal wiring of the leader. (By the way, I can be guilty of a number of these, but this one can impact me the most. I personally prefer a bold move of faith, but many times I let fear get the best of me.)

Bully management – Some leaders attempt to get results by force. They beat people into submission, never appear to be satisfied, or badger people to perform. This has always seemed like cowardly leadership to me.

Passion squelchers – I’ve known leaders who never liked an idea – unless it the idea originated with them. These leaders tend to say no to people more than they say yes. They don’t encourage growth in those around them unless it directly benefits them. Good leaders energize others to realize their individual dreams, even if there is no immediate benefit received to the leader or the organization.

What are some things you despise in leadership?

7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement NOW!

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 16 Comments

There are a lot of gray issues in leadership. So many times I simply don’t know what to do. I try to lead by consensus building, but even with the strongest teams there will always be decisions about which we just aren’t certain what is the best decision.

This is why I like to have some default zones in leadership. When I can’t make a decision – I know where to default.

Having a default action when things on both sides appear equal or you are uncertain about a decision may help you make better decisions. These aren’t foolproof, as many things in leadership are not, but having a general idea which way you would “default” in common situations, which occur frequently in leadership, may prove to be helpful.

Based on the team you lead, where you lead, and your past experiences as a leader, your defaults may be different from mine.

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way over time has proven to be best. This becomes your default zone.

Here are 7 of my leadership default zones:

In matters of hiring – default to no over yes.

If in doubt over whether the person is a good fit, I default to no. It is not worth taking a chance when adding to the team. When I haven’t followed this one it has usually turned out to be a mistake.

If you think you shouldn’t say it – Choose not to say it.

I don’t follow my own advice here often enough, but I’ve learned if my gut is telling me to “keep a tight rein on my tongue”, it’s likely to be a Biblical conviction. The more I discipline myself in this area the more respect I garner as a leader – or the less respect I lose.

If it’s between empower or control – choose empower.

Except in cases such as vision or a moral issue, letting go of control and empowering others almost always works out better than expected. Even if the person isn’t successful, I have seen the learning curve for them and the team is huge and often some of the best discoveries for the team are made when I get out of the way. The area I control always limit us in this area.

Choosing my preference or the team’s preference – go with the team.

There are times I have to make the hard decision to stand alone, but I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. If I am clearly outnumbered, I tend to lean on the wisdom of the team. You won’t keep respect as a leader if you continually stand opposite your team and keep being proved wrong. And if you believe in your team – prove it.

To do something in person or by email – Choose in person

By far, email is my most frequent communication tool. It has to be, just because of the sheer number of communications I have in a given week. But when I can, especially with our staff, I choose the personal touch. Get up from the desk and walk down the hall when it is an available option. Email and text are misunderstood far too many times. And we need personal connections to build strong teams.

If you have to assume or ask – ASK for clarification.

If you aren’t sure you understand what someone is thinking – if it doesn’t appear they understand you – rather than assume – ask. I’m continually asking my team something such as, “When you said _____, can you help me understand what you meant by that?” Misunderstanding leads to strained relationships and unhealthy teams. The best leaders I know ask the best questions. And they ask lots of them.

Commit or don’t commit – Choose don’t commit.

Leaders usually have more opportunities than time can allow. I’ve learned – the hard way – no one will protect my calendar as well as me. I’ve also learned when I over commit – I become less effective, I burnout easily, and, over time, eventually I’m useless. I disappoint less people when I don’t commit on the front end.

These may not be the ones you need – you may have your own, but learning your leadership default zones may make you a better leader.

Do you have any you would add?