8 Killers of Motivation — and Ultimately Killers of Momentum

Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

But, here’s the greater reason.

Momentum is often a product of motivation.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and – ultimately – momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like — especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation – and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover – at least for all team members.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, has consistently encouraged me over the years I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers – maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Times When It is Not A Good Time To Change

I’ve never been a proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sometimes you need a change and nothing is “broke”. It just isn’t as good as it could be, it’s keeping other things from being better, or it’s soon going to be broke unless you change.

But, there are times not to change – certainly when you are not ready for the change.

Here are 7 times not to change:

When there isn’t a compelling purpose

There should always be a why. It might be as simple as if you don’t change you’re going to be bored out of your mind – but have a reason before you change.

When there are no good leaders behind it

You need people who buy into the change. If a change has value you can usually find supporters. They may be few. They may do nothing more than speak up for the change, but if no one can get excited about the change, you probably need to raise up some supporters before moving forward. (There are rare exceptions to this one, but again, they are rare.)

When you haven’t defined a win

Changing before you know what success looks like will keep you running in a lot of ineffective directions without much progress.

When the loss is more expensive than the win

Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it. You can’t justify the people and resource expense for the potential return.

When the leader isn’t motivated

There are times to wait if senior leadership can’t get excited or at least support the change if push back develops. Eventually, without their support, you’ll be less likely to experience sustaining, successful change.

When too many other things are changing

Any organization or group of people can only handle so much change at a time. This requires great discernment on the part of leaders to know when there is too much change occurring and it is best to wait for something new.

When an organization is in crisis mode

When a ship is sinking, fix the leak or bail some water, before you choose your next destination. When things are in crisis, is not the time to make a ton of changes. There may be needed changes to get things moving again, but catch your breath first, make sure a core of people is solid behind the vision, and take careful steps to plan intentional, helpful and needed change.

This isn’t intended as a checklist. I would never want to stop someone from making needed changes. I love change. But, I do want to encourage better change. I hope this helps.

When Only the Senior Leader Fully Understands

I was once talking with a young pastor having to make some hard decisions in his church. He was praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, and allowing input from the church. He felt confident he was making the right decisions for the life of the church at the time. None of the changes were clearly addressed in Scripture. He felt the majority of the people supported him, but still there was a certain group in the church who continually questioned and criticized him for any changes he initiated.

His comment which struck me was, “I feel like every time I take two steps forward we take another step backwards. Why can’t they understand we have to change or we will eventually die?”

His comment and the question which followed reminded me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership. And, I’ve been reminded of it by experience many times.

You can never fully understand all the decisions a leader makes unless you sit where the leader sits.

The leader can explain the why behind the decision – and, he or she should try. The leader can walk people slowly through the process of change – and, he or she should. The leader can listen to people’s objections and be patient with people who don’t understand – and, he or she should.

The leader should consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts people (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead. Leaders should never make decisions in a vacuum- they need to include other people in the decision-making process. The leader should be open to critique and be teachable.

But, there will be times when the leader simply has to make decisions based on the best and most current information available.

And, not everyone will understand.

This is true for pastors, business owners, parents, elected officials, and teachers. Anyone who leads people will experience times of being misunderstood. If you’re a leader, you’ll be second-guessed in some of the decisions you make.

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of leadership. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions – the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

7 Ways to Correct a Team Member in a Healthy Way

All of us make mistakes and occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. This should always be the end goal of correction.

Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.

It’s important, however, that we correct correctly. The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team – and a healthy team dynamic. 

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

A pre-established relationship – Corrective actions should ultimately start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.

Granted, there will be times when a leader has to correct someone he or she doesn’t know well. While this isn’t ideal, it should alter the way the conversation takes place and who is in the room at the time. I have, for example, invited someone else the person trusts on the team into the room with us.

Respect for the person – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect. If you can’t respect the person’s character you have a completely different issue – and probably need a different blog post.

Be clear about the offense – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong.  Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless there is a problem or what the actual problem is you think needs correcting.

Embrace a development opportunity – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected. Get them additional help or training if needed.

Restore them to a place of trust – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued. Trust may take some time and you will need to see improvement, but if you can never fully trust the person – again – you have harder decisions to make than correcting them. And, there’s another blog post needed.

Build health into the DNA – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader may need to consider how he or she (the leader) needs to improve to help the team member and the team improve.

Make hard decisions when needed – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team. Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship – was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)

Many leaders avoid correction of any kind. Either they don’t like conflict or they simply don’t want to lose favor with the team member. But, correction can be valuable for the team and its members if used correctly.

(And, it really is a Biblical principe. See Hebrews 12:11)

7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

Leadership should be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it should cost us something. Leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Cheap leadership is never good leadership.

Here are 7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization.

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership goes into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But, there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change…when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

We follow worthy visions. We create measurable goals and objectives. We discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for good leadership. It’s not cheap!

7 Phrases to Ban When Trying to Discover New Ideas

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come by getting a group together and searching for new ideas or ways of doing things. My mindset is you can usually come up with better solutions if you put the right people in a room and let them throw lots of ideas on the table – even seemingly bad ideas (at least at first).

The reality is change spurs momentum, so if you want to create some excitement around you, get a variety of people in a room and let the ideas flow freely. If you are in a stuck or stale position – and want to see new growth – one recommendation I’d give is to organize a session of ideation.

But, you’ve got to be intentional to be successful. You need enough people. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people. And, inviting outside people is often a good idea even with large staffs.) You need the right people – people who will voice their own opinions, but will also be positive-minded, cooperative and supportive of other people’s thoughts.

It’s usually good to begin with some open ended questions or problems to solve in order to spur discussion. You need plenty of time, because ideas often come slowly. You need a relaxed environment – people need the freedom to get up and walk around the room, for example.

And, then you need to establish some rules up front. This is the part we sometimes fail to do and where the process gets off track.

Specifically, there are certain phrases, which cannot be heard in an effective meeting intended solely to generate ideas. They should be off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

There are probably others, but let me share some which come to my mind.

7 phrases to eliminate when generating ideas:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • Let’s get serious – so only throw out ideas that make sense.
  • We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.
  • The problem with that is…(before the idea has a chance to even breathe)
  • That’s ridiculous – always translated you’re ridiculous.

Additionally, long sighs, shrugged shoulders, or any animation which displays a sense of disgust or lack of initial support should also be discouraged.

There should be plenty of time to critique ideas before they are implemented, but when looking for new ideas you want EVERY idea on the table. There are no bad ideas at this point – capture all of them. In fact, the one, which may seem the worst idea of all, may be the trigger for someone else’s spark of genius.

This is a great time to encourage randomness. I’ve even led us to play games prior to starting such a meeting.

New ideas are usually out there – they just need to be brought to the table. That’s the main benefit of this type process.

What ideas can you add for productive idea generation?

7 Common Tensions During Fast Growth or Overwhelming Change

I have been part of several organizations experiencing either exponential growth or tremendous change. In business and with a few churches, we had times of explosive growth, but also times where the speed of change was overwhelming – some of that planned, but much of it unexpected.

Most of us love growth.

I have learned either times of fast growth or change both have common tensions associated with them.

Here are 7 common tensions you might experience:

Miscommunication. Growth or change brings so much activity it is often difficult to keep everyone informed about everything. This bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during the immediate season you can expect mishaps in communication. Systems will need to improve, but for today people must ask questions when they don’t know, avoid assumptions and often give others the benefit of the doubt when they don’t understand.

Changing roles. Job requirements will change. People will be asked do things they never expected to do – and may not feel comfortable or qualified to do them. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. Silos will get in the way of progress. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth or overwhelming change. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. Positions and lines of authority may need to change.

This feels uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles – as you know them – can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some people simply may not like the new size or shape of the organization — and may decide they are no longer a fit for the team long-term. This is one of the harder realities.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth or change. It may be fun for a while – or tremendously scary- but, it begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed. Old leaders must be continually encouraged and rejuvenated. It’s important to mix it celebrations along the way.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear the phrase a lot during times of fast growth and change. And, many times the person saying it will be a leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. This is also a matter to continually work to improve upon over time, but you can’t eliminate completely- and, I’m not sure we should try. If everything has clarity we probably aren’t walking by faith and things will soon become stale again.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — or are uncertain the right path to take – they often default into doing nothing. This is where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth and change there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers. It might not even be that people don’t care, even though they almost appear as if they don’t. It may simply be because they don’t know what to do.

During especially stressful seasons, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. Don’t ignore all existing structures — especially in times of fast growth or change. I’ve seen people, for example, stop using calendar programs or scheduling systems, simply because they don’t feel they have the time to keep up with them anymore. You may need better structures going forward, but some structure is needed to keep people moving forward.

Stretched structures. As stated previously, current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth or change. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development, as much as it does the growth and maintenance, of the organization. This may be some of the learning curves after this current season. This is why it is important to take notes along the way and continually be learning.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth – and often you cannot avoid overwhelming change, but awareness is the first step to addressing most problems.

4 Risks of Attempting Risk-Free Change

As leaders, we all want to limit the risk in the hard decisions we make. Personally, whenever we are about to make a major change or launch some new initiative, I want our team to think through things which could go wrong. I want to know who is going to be upset with the change. We try to figure out some of the worse-case scenarios which could keep us from being successful. And, then we build into our plan some natural reactors to things we know could go wrong. A good portion of time is dedicated to risk management. I think it’s important.

But, I have seen some leaders who want to get to 100% risk elimination before they move forward with any change. And, if that’s your goal, I have a few thoughts to consider.

Here are 4 risks of attempting risk-free change

You’re risking how expensive it will be – It’s not cheap to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. You have to determine how much you’re putting into attempting to eliminate risk is being taken from actually implementing change – especially change which has direct impact on people. And, context matters here. Attempting to eliminate risk in equipment to perform surgery or in building airplanes is different than trying to eliminate risk in organizational planning.

You’re risking precious time while attempting to eliminate risk – Time is incredibly valuable in implementing change. If you do eliminate a genuine risk that may be time well spent. The time, however, spent researching all the scenarios and answering all questions may be time taken from actually making the change. And, again, if you’re change is attempting to make life better for the organization or others, the faster you get started the better.

You’re risking simply being impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience. I’ve seen pastors, for example, refuse to move forward with a project because they aren’t sure how groups of people might respond. But, you can ask and answer every question in people’s minds, but when change is actually implemented some people may still complain. All change invokes an emotion. And, sometimes people can’t discern the emotion until they experience the change.

You may risk being unrealistic– Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more probable than having no risk at all. I’m not encouraging any leader to ignore risk. That would he irresponsible. I’m just questioning whether or not it is even leadership if we could get to zero risk. Leadership by application involves risk.

As much as practical, address risk before it occurs. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those.

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may risk losing opportunity. While trying to eliminate risk the world and the best ideas it has to offer may pass you by.

In fact, eliminating risk doesn’t mesh with my understanding of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery – and risk. I’d much rather be an advocate of taking a risk than attempting to eliminate every risk out there.

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

10 Commonalities of Healthy Teams

I am happy to serve on what I believe to be a healthy team. It’s amazing how many church leaders I know who say their team is not healthy. 

I have often been asked, however, why I claim our team is healthy. This is simply my opinion, but I can share some things I think healthy teams have in common.

Here are 10 commonalities of healthy teams:

  • A shared vision is embraced by everyone on the team.
  • Team member’s individual ideas are equally valued.
  • The organization readily embraces change.
  • Risk taking is encouraged.
  • Encouragement flows freely.
  • People enjoy their work and relationships are deeper than just the professional environment.
  • Mistakes are used to make the team stronger
  • The structure doesn’t limit growth, but provides healthy boundaries.
  • There is freedom to offer constructive criticism, even of top leadership, without fear of retribution.
  • Conflict is not discouraged, but handled in a healthy way.

There’s my list. Are we perfect in all of them – all the time? No. Do we see them consistently and value all of them? Thankfully, yes.

What would you add to the list?