7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT

I have posted and reposted this for over a decade now. (If you see this list elsewhere, I must offer the reminder this is not the first time I’ve put these in print. I simply bring it forward because it remains such an important topic in leadership and life. 

The fact is, we get confused about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Maybe we don’t really know sometimes.

I would contend forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), there’s a whole lot of forgiveness which has been extended to us.

Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful – perhaps even tolerable. I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.

In the next post I will share elements which are true of forgiveness.

In two posts, I want to share what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.

Here are 7 things forgiveness IS NOT:

Forgetting

When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God can do this – and I’m thankful He can. Honestly, thought, it almost seems forgetting the offense would be the easy way. If we could simply not remember what was done wrong to us by choosing to forgive, who wouldn’t? My suspicion is God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than this.

Regaining automatic trust

You don’t immediately begin to trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. And, if you think about it, that wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and the person who wronged us must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences

Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense

You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing

Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal. Emotions are not something you can simply choose to control.

Restoring the same relationship

The relationship may be closer than before, but it might not be. One thing is fairly certain – most likely the relationship will never be exactly the same.

A leverage of power

This is huge – and you’ll need to read the next post to fully grasp this one. Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

Look for the companion post 7 Things that Forgiveness Is.

Just a note before you get there: This post may have seemed easy, even freeing, but the next one may be more difficult.

Leadership in Marriage: I Now Pronounce You Leader and Co-Leader

A Guest Post by Timothy Paul

At the time of this writing, I have been married for ten months. It’s been an incredible ride with Christie, my wife, and I’m very lucky to have found someone like her — beautiful, affectionate, sophisticated.

I always joked when people ask me how marriage is going – “It’s marital bliss! Everyday is better than the last!” And while I love my wife to death, everyday is not always better than the last. Some days there are arguments, uncomfortable situations, and emotional storms that come with the complexities of sharing every part of your life with another person.
Weirdly single for most of my life, I did not always know what to expect when preparing for a lifelong relationship. Confrontation-averse, I thought the greatest of couples wouldn’t squabble and could really only go as far as kindly disagreeing. Compromise killed arguments like Round-Up on weeds. Or at least I used to think.

In knowing that a marital relationship is not always going to feel like a tropical paradise, I now understand that taking an active leadership role in the relationship is critical to a healthy and successful marriage. Mitigating challenges with finances, occupations, and children are ongoing and need constant attention.

To date, I have learned two valuable leadership lessons that create a healthy relationship.

KINDNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS

As an aspiring cookbook author, naturally my wife loves to cook. And I consider myself the luckiest man on the planet because she cooks dinner for me every single night when I get home. Always a healthy meal, she is relentless in the kitchen. She whips up some of the best meals a man could ask for.

Not only that, she does a hefty amount of chores that I, admittedly, do not like to do. She’s a bathroom cleaning, dish rinsing, dog washing, laundry folding, sheet changing, interior decorating, grocery shopping machine! All she kindly asks is that I take out the garbage and put my dishes in the dishwasher. Full disclosure, I usually bat .500 with that.

It has taken me a while to realize that she doesn’t do these things because she necessarily enjoys them. She does them because they need to be done! And she is sacrificing her time and energy for me! Her self-interest routinely takes a backseat to my occupational needs. This kindness is not weakness, but rather awesome strength.

Even more, her kindness is not a method of surrender. It is an active an strategic process that is rooted in self-sacrifice.

It is not enough for me to simply acknowledge her efforts, although that’s all that she asks for. It is imperative, as a co-leader in this marriage, to thank her for her efforts. Dinner for two, weekend away, or a simple thank-you note is all it takes to let that special person in your life know that you recognize and appreciate everything they do for you.

And don’t be scared to go to town on some greasy dishes, fold some laundry, and spray the dog down with the hose.

MARRIAGE, LIKE LEADERSHIP, IS A DECISION

It takes far more than love to keep a marriage alive and well. In fact, love is the easiest part of the entire thing. Relationships get tangled quickly when we fail to recognize that change is a large, non-moveable variable that is always in the equation. And with change, comes the decision to stay committed.

We don’t live life in a vacuum – every year, every day, every moment is unique and varying degrees of different from what we have experienced in the past. It takes a potent combination of wisdom and resiliency to continue to thrive with one another.

To assume a leadership role, it is imperative we make the conscious decision to give your partner, staff, or team the attention they need to feel the love. Take deliberate and direct action to have their best interests at the forefront of your frontal lobe. This purposefully translates into making every decision with them in mind.

Assuming a leadership role in a marriage is tall order. However, in ten months of being legally bound to someone, I have learned that it will take every ounce of effort to allow both people in a relationship to thrive and accomplish everything they want to in life. I sometimes come up short, but every day is a new day to be better by making her better.

Tim Paul is the founder of LeadershipStrikeGroup.com. A Lieutenant in the US Navy and a 2010 Naval Academy graduate, he has been training and performing as an operational leader for more than ten years. He currently lives and serves as the nuclear engineering officer recruiter in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Christie, who is an aspiring cookbook author.

The Work Life Balance Myth

A Guest Post by Shawn Lovejoy

Family and work can’t be balanced. The good news is that it’s not supposed to be. You heard me. It’s not in the Bible. Not one time in Scripture, are you and I encouraged to live “balanced” lives.

You know why? For one reason: life CAN’T be balanced! If it could be balanced, Jesus would’ve at least gotten it done, right? Does it surprise you to know that Jesus didn’t balance family and work well?

Rather, Jesus saw His priorities to family and work as equal “rhythms” that demanded ALL of His attention at a given point, rather than two competing loyalties that must be balanced at a given point. Here are some examples:

• When Jesus was 12 years old, He disappeared from his mom and dad and went to the Temple. When His mother found him and chastised Him, what did He say? “I must be about my Father’s business.” In other words, “Mom, right now, the most important thing I could be doing is learning to do what God has called me to do.”

• Jesus also didn’t have the typical mantra: “God first; family second; and work third.” I don’t know where we got that idea, but it wasn’t from the Bible. Jesus didn’t live this way. Jesus’ family was NOT ALWAYS more important than His ministry. Three Gospels record the true story that tells of a day in Jesus’ life when He is teaching great crowds and his mother and brothers show up and ask him to come home and be with them: “As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to talk with him. Someone told Jesus, “’Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.’” Matthew 12:46-47 (NLT). Upon hearing this request, Jesus refuses to even come to the door! Why? Because He was in the middle of His work!

• If Jesus would have valued family over work or ministry, He never would have died on the cross! Think about it.
Don’t get me wrong: Jesus highly valued relationships!

Here are some examples:

• Jesus picked 12 friends to do His ministry WITH. And He was closer to three of them more than anyone else.

• While on the cross, Jesus was very concerned with the welfare of his mother and his best friend John: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27 (NIV).

• Jesus passionately loved people! So much so that He died for us!

Jesus wasn’t balanced. He lived life in rhythm. When He was supposed to be working, He gave it His all: His very life! When He was supposed to be doing life with God or people, He was fully present physically, emotionally, and mentally. No one has ever been more passionate about people than Jesus. However, He didn’t just live at the whims of people, even his own family!

So what do we learn from Jesus? Wherever you are, be there. When you’re at work, be at work. Don’t be on Facebook. Don’t be on the phone every hour with your family. Be a good steward of your job! That honors God.

When you’re at home, be there! NOT on the phone; NOT on the laptop; NOT on Facebook; Be WITH your family! Be fully present: physically AND mentally! THAT honors God! THAT’S following the way of Jesus! Life in Rhythm!

Does that set you free?

Balance says that we should give equal energy and attention to everything at the same time. However, not only is this idea not possible…it’s not Biblical! Take the Biblical idea of Sabbath. The very word Sabbath means: “to stop or cease” something. God wants us to work 6 days! Work is not a curse! It doesn’t deserve our 2nd best. It’s not a sin to go to bed exhausted every day!

However, every 7th day, God COMMANDED us to rest (in the same list of commands He COMMANDED us not to murder). Every 7th day should be an opportunity to STOP our normal routine and replenish ourselves physically and spiritually! This might challenge you, but think about this: This means that you are NOT supposed to “keep all the plates spinning”! God says to stop spinning them and let them all fall every week! I love that!

The greatest challenge is that most of us agree with the idea of Sabbath and believe it to be a good thing, we just don’t know how to get there! How do we work the idea of Sabbath into our life rhythms?

Here are some ways that we can build Sabbaths into our lives:

• Take your day off. Simple. Do you trust God enough to do life according to His pattern? The answer is either YES or NO.

• Do all your “honey-do” lists, and house-catch-up tasks on Saturdays. Go ahead and work hard around the house of you need to. The Biblical idea is just to have ONE DAY that we stop EVERYTHING.

• Honor the LORD on the Sabbath. Go to church. Worship Him. Serve Him. Give to Him. God knows what’s best for us. God refreshes us through His people, His worship, and His Word. Be faithful to church! Stop making excuses!

• Take your vacation time. All of it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t answer your cell phone. That’s what voicemail is for. Set up your voicemail to say: “I’m on vacation. I need the rest from work, so I will only be returning phone calls this week that have the word ‘emergency’ in them.”

• Tell your kids they can do 1-2 seasonal sports. That’s it. Train them to rest. Train them to do 1-2 things, rather than allowing them to try to do everything!

• Have some YOU and GOD time. Find the quietest part of your day EVERY DAY and BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. Take some time to read God’s Word and pray! No, you won’t get quite as much done if you stop for 30 minutes and do nothing. But, you’ll be reminded again that YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING DONE!

How do YOU rest? What are the steps YOU need to take to rest? Which of these are the toughest for you?

Shawn Lovejoy is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com a coaching ministry for leaders. He loves coaching leaders through what keeps them awake at night. CourageToLead employs multiple coaches all over the U.S to work one-on-one with leaders and ministries. Shawn’s new book for leaders: Be Mean About The Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, released in April 2016. Shawn lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife Tricia, and their three kids Hannah, Madison, and Paul.

22 Things Learned in 42 Years of Ministry

From a Mentor Dennis Newkirk

I saw this on one of my mentor’s Facebook wall and felt it might be helpful to some of my ministry friends, so I asked his permission to share it. These are random thoughts about his time in ministry. They may not be equal for everyone, but I think many will resonate. 

As my pastor, Dr. Dennis Newkirk was the first pastor to speak into my life as a young adult and encourage me to be a leader for the Kingdom of God. I had been leading for several years already in the secular and business world, but never in the church. He was only my pastor a few years, but they were impactful years. I doubt I would be where I am today without his influence.

Dennis is retiring from his church this Sunday, but he is’t retiring from his calling. He is beginning a new ministry ministering to pastors. You can find him at Facebook.com/NewkirkMinistries

Dennis posted:

For those of you in the vocational ministry, let me offer some reflections on 42 years of ministry. For the rest of you friends, you may be a little interested, I don’t know.

1. All good has been done by God and has not been my doing (Isa 26:12).
2. My family must come second only to Christ.
3. My wife’s job is harder than mine.
4. My children experienced things that they shouldn’t have because of my job.
5. Preachers must always focus on prayer and study.
6. A pastor’s personal spiritual disciplines and the pursuit of Christ is vital.
7. Criticism cannot be avoided. It will always be part of the calling. Some of it is valid.
8. The example we set is as important as what we say.
9. God is faithful all the time, even when we don’t think so.
10. Disagreement is not disloyalty.
11. Satan is always looking for an opportunity.
12. Success has little to do with numbers and everything to do with faithfulness.
13. Ask God for vision, share the vision, give the vision away to those who see it.
15. Pastoring is a marathon.
16. Never give up on people.
17. God’s timing is never our timing, and His is always perfect.
18. Don’t talk or make important decisions when angry or hurt.
19. All church fights are terrible but some are necessary.
20. Pastoring is a lonely assignment.
21. Don’t talk or make important decisions when angry or hurt. (He must have felt this one was worth repeating. Wisdom.)
22. Members will love you and care for you if you give them a chance.

Your Structure Can Impede Your Progress

It should do the opposite...

Whenever I post about how structure can get in the way of progress I hear from people who remind me we need structure to prevent organizational chaos.

And, I agree. I also learn people are usually opposed to micromanagement (and, many times this is in principle or theory more than practice), but when you push against structure the very structured people come out of their proverbial shell.

When I push against structure am I referring to micromanagement?

Well, yes and no. Micromanagement is an impediment to organizational health, and many times structure is micromanagement, but I when I mention structure I simply mean structure.

So what’s my push against structure?

I agree we need structure. Structure is good for organizational health, but we don’t need structure for structure sake. We need structure for progress sake.

And there is a huge difference.

If I use a spiritual example, I see it as similar to the concept of grace, freedom and the law. We don’t need laws if we are bound by grace. Grace is actually a higher standard than the law. But, we have to have an established order in our world for progress. It is a wicked world and we could never get anything done without some sense of structure.

In an organizational sense, if we all did the right thing we wouldn’t need structure. But structure allows for progress. When structure becomes a problem – when it gets in the way – and the kind of structure which causes me the most concern – is when well-meaning structure impedes progress.

Consider this example:

Imagine a rule which says everyone has to be in the church office from 8 to 5. (I would say this is a fairly common structure.) Now imagine I am someone who greatly respects authority. Perhaps I’m even a rule follower, therefore, I obey the structure and am dutifully at my desk from 8am to 5pm everyday.

The fact is, however, I work at my absolute best from 5am to 9am in the morning – out of the office. I have a room in my house set up for maximum efficiency. I can do what would normally take me most of a day in 4 hours in this setting.

Sticking to the structure in this case would limit my ability to be at my best. The organization (or in my case the church) suffers because of the structure. It impeded my progress.

At the other extreme, because I’m following the structure, I may not go to the emergency hospital visit at midnight. After all, office hours are over by then.

This type example is why I am far less strict on when I see people in the office. I would rather measure people’s contributions to the team based on their overall productivity and performance – are they meeting the goals and objectives for their position. (And, I think the individual should be the primary one to set their own goals and objectives.)

The bottom line is structure should enhance not impede progress.

Good structure should always help you accomplish what God plants in your heart to accomplish. It shouldn’t distract from it or get in the way. The best leaders are always looking to help their teams lead through the things which get in the way of progress or achieving the overall goals and objectives. This includes bad structure.

7 False Beliefs of the Leadership Vacuum

Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead. If a leader refuses to solicit feedback, or doesn’t listen to criticism or stops learning, they can begin to believe everything is under control when in reality things are falling apart around them.

I once watched as a church crumbled apart while the pastor thought everything was wonderful. He always had an excuse for declining numbers and never welcomed input from others. It got bad enough for the church to have to ask him to leave. It was messy. It could have been avoided, in my opinion.

And, sadly, this could be the stories of hundreds of churches and organizations.

The best leaders, however, avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

I have heard the term leadership vacuum used to describe the need for more leaders, but I believe the biggest void may be within leaders themselves.

The leader in a leadership vacuum believes:

Everyone on the team understands me. It can be equally as dangerous if the leader believes they understand everyone on the team. Healthy team dynamics require a constant discovery of others, asking questions, exploring who people are and where they are currently in their thought processes.

Everyone on the team thinks like I think. This would often be easier, wouldn’t it? The fact is, especially if it is a healthy team, everyone thinks differently. Remembering this and using it to the advantage of the team is a key to good leadership.

Everyone on the team likes me. And, if this is the case they probably also think everyone is glad they are the leader. Being the leader is not a guarantee of popularity. There is a level of respect which a position of leadership brings, but likability is based on the person – not the job title.

My team is completely healthy. We all like to think so, and we like to think we are healthy as leaders. The truth is health is often a relative term. Teams and leaders go through seasons of good and bad and a constant awareness of where we are at any given time is critical to maintain health long-term.

They couldn’t do it without me. And, pride goes before the fall also. Humility is not only an attractive character trait in leadership – it’s necessary for sustainability.

We don’t need any changes. Change is a part of life and a part of every organization. Where there is no change there will soon be decline – and gradual death. Good leaders are good change agents.

Nothing can stop us now. The very moment we think we’ve “made it” we are set up for failure.

When the leader is clueless to the real problems and needs in the organization, he or she is living in the leadership vacuum. The best leaders are aware of the vacuum trap and guard against it in their leadership.

Leaders, have you ever lived in the leadership vacuum? Are you there now?

Have you followed a leader in the vacuum?

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

What you do matters more than what you say.

One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership, so I normally write about leadership issues.

In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization – or a church – there are principles for being effective, which work with leadership or management,

These I call the “Be” principle. Who you say you are and what you actually do often are two different things in the eyes of people who report to you. Effective leaders and managers learn to manage their “BE”.

Here are 7:

Be aware

To be effective you have to know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open

It’s not enough for you to know them. Let them know you – as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Integrity is earned by experience. Be transparent enough they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive

Responsiveness should be a high value to leaders and managers. People left in the dark – or wondering how you respond – will never be the best team players they can be. Information is powerful. Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do – and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable

You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem – or a concern – you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems – and even more so a culture – which allows you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent

Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow. This doesn’t mean you never change. That would equally be wrong for your team, but it does mean your character and the way you respond to life (change, success and disappointment) should be fairly predictable by the people you lead or manage.

Be trustworthy

Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise – keep it. If you can’t support something – say it. If you’re not going to do it – say no. And, say it on the front end, in clearly understood words, not in a passive way. Don’t say “we will consider it”, for example, if you know you never will. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative

Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate well. Love and care for others genuinely and display it by the way you treat them.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

A Key Component of Easter – Post-Easter Evaluation

Don't Miss It!

Easter is one of a few times a year churches have a unique opportunity to reach people who do not normally attend their church. Most churches spend weeks and – hopefully – months planning for the weekend.

In addition to the normal celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, I love the energy that Easter brings to a church. This energy, if channeled correctly, can fuel a church beyond one weekend per year.

The problem I see with many churches, however, is they stop the work put into Easter services a few days too early. Many churches close the church doors on Easter Sunday, “high-five and give God the glory” celebrate all God did and take a much deserved rest. Nothing wrong with any of this, but if we aren’t careful we leave some of the best work of Easter’s momentum undone.

One of the most important parts of effective Easter services -which help them to last beyond one day – is to spend time evaluating after Easter Sunday.  Make sure you evaluate all areas, from the planning, to the launch, to the publicity, to the recruitment of volunteers, to the actual weekend – and all things in between.

And, while you could do this anytime, as soon as you can evaluate after Easter services the better. We like to do it the week following Easter services. (In fact, I like to start making notes immediately after the services. I tend to forget if I wait to long.)

Most of the time we will meet on Tuesday after Easter to evaluate. Sometimes we are too tired to think on Monday and Wednesday is further removed.

Some of the questions we should be asking:

  • What worked? Where did we hit home runs?
  • What didn’t work? What did we miss?
  • Did our times of services work?
  • How should we adjust our times? Are there places to add services or services we no longer need to do?
  • What was a first-time visitor experience like? Could it be improved?
  • What follow-up with visitors do we need to do now? (This should be planned in advance, but now you review your plan.)
  • What changes would we make next year in things we offered those who attended? (Could be programs for age-graded ministries, special brochures, better maps of the church, etc.)
  • What did we do, which seemed to have the greatest impact?
  • What did we do, which took a lot of work, but seemed to have little or no impact?
  • What groups of people did God bring to the church? (Many times, you’ll see patterns – lots of single moms, young couples, young professionals, etc.)
  • What cool stories did we hear?
  • Are there any random ideas of things we could do to improve the Easter celebration next year?

Don’t close the books on this year’s Easter services until you evaluate.This time next year, you will forget the answers to many of these questions.  This should be one of the best brainstorming sessions you do all year. (If you are a single-staff church or smaller staff, bring key volunteers into this discussion. This is just as important – if not more – in the smaller church.)

Ask the questions, record the answers, then use them to make your church better all year and save that information to improve even more next Easter.

Also, and equally important, you need someone who is good at record-keeping and will be organized to remind you of these things next year. If only the “big picture” people participate you may never seen any improvements implemented. (In transparency, this means I need people not like me. I have great ideas, but I’m not an implementer. Big picture people need to complement themselves with detail people.)

How does your church evaluate Easter services?

7 Statements Every Leader Needs To Use Regularly 

One of the goals of a leader should be to encourage, strengthen and challenge a team to continually improve. Almost as a cheerleader rousing the crowd at a game, the leader uses his or her influence to bring out the best in others.

Much of this is done by the things we say as leaders. The vocabulary of a leader helps shape the culture and atmosphere of the team. The statements we make as leaders carry great weight with the people we are leading.

I even think we should intentionally include certain statements regularly in our language.

Here are 7 statements leaders should memorize and use often:

I believe in you.

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. That’s not helpful. But, hopefully as a leader you are surrounding yourself with people in whom you do believe. Tell them. Everyone needs to know this, but in my experience, this is even more important the newer the person is on the team.

You are an asset to this team.

Let them know they make a difference. One of the best ways to do this is by bragging on people when they do something well in front of the rest of the team. Even the most introverted person enjoys this kind of recognition.

I’ve got your back.

If you are an empowering leader – and you should be – then people are stepping out on their own, taking risks for the benefit of the organization. They need to know you support them – even when mistakes are made.

You did a great job.

If they did tell them. Never miss an opportunity to give post-project encouragement. Celebrating wins encourages the team and more wins.

I want to help you reach your personal goals.

This could even mean the person would no longer be on your team if they did, but it protects their loyalty while they are and this type environment welcomes the highest caliber of leaders. They are willing to work with you because they know you won’t attempt to hold them back from their own goals – in fact, you will encourage them.

I respect you for _______.

Be specific. What is it that impresses you about this team member? What do they uniquely add to the team? Tell them. The power of this one is exponential.

I trust you.

This one requires more than words. You’ll have to prove it with your actions. But, when a team member feels trusted by the leader they are more willing to take risks. They will have more loyalty to the leader — trusting the leader in return. They will be more likely to overlook the days you aren’t leading quite as well.

You may not be able to use these phrases every day. You shouldn’t overuse them. They need to be genuine, heartfelt and honest. These aren’t even intended to be used every week. But, as often as you can, slip a few of these into your memory bank and pull them out where appropriate. They will help you build a better team.

Any phrases you would add?

7 Seemingly Unproductive Actions Which Are Valuable in Leadership

Much of what a leader does can seem unproductive at times – and that is a good thing.

For someone wired for production and progress – a checklist type person – unproductive time may even seem like wasted time.

I’ll admit, even though this is in my leadership knowledge, I have to discipline myself to practice them sometimes.

Yet, every good leader I know specializes in intangible actions which don’t always produce visible, immediate results. In fact, some of these actions are often the most productive part of their work.

In order for teams to thrive, there are things which, while they may seem unproductive to some, the leader must spend time doing.

Let me share some examples from my own leadership.

Here are 7 intangible things I try to do each day:

Praying.

Did I need to share that one? And, yet I do. For my reminder and most leaders I know. Yes, even pastors need this reminder. We can get so busy making decisions, putting out fires and handling routines we fail to do the more important work – pray. What could be happening in our leadership if we spent more time praying for the work before we do the work? (That’s a sobering question.)

Disciplined thinking.

Leader, how much time do you spend just thinking? I’m not talking about daydreaming on mindless things. I’m talking about disciplined thinking about where you and your team are, where you are going, what’s working, and what’s not working. I need those times every single day. Often new ideas hit me in the shower or driving in my car, but many times new ideas are only shaped and realized when I set aside quantity time to brainstorm. Every leader at every level needs this time, but the higher a position is in the organization the more disciplined the leader must be to think.

Reading.

I don’t know why – even as I teach these principles – it has always made me feel uncomfortable when someone who works with me finds me reading a magazine or a book. I feel so unproductive. But I know the more responsibility a leader assumes the more important it is he or she be exposed to new ideas and thoughts. Leaders are readers. I don’t always get something I can immediately put into practice, but my mind is stretched and my thoughts are energized. Valuable. Gold in many cases. (I read the Bible everyday, but as a practice, I try to read one chapter a day from some book – other than the Bible.)

Investing.

Helping others succeed is what leaders do best. Sometimes leadership is as simple as believing in others more than they believe in themselves. I have to remember also, I’m into Kingdom-building, not only church building, so investing in other pastors – even those not on our team – is a part of what I have been called to do. And, it should be noted, investing is not just talking. Leaders, in my opinion, do too much of that at times. It’s also listening to others and learning from them. Whenever I meet to “invest” in some other leader I always grow personally as well.

Networking.

Some of the greatest doors of opportunity as a church have opened because of my personal networking. Honestly, this is one thing which has made Twitter valuable in leadership. It gives me quick connections with my peers. But, this is why community involvement is important to me. I build a vital network I can glean and learn from. A leader’s overall success is often directly related to the strength and size of their network.

Walking.

Several times daily, if I’m in the office, I walk through our building. I see people. They have a chance to ask me questions, interact with me, and even share a concern. It’s amazing how this action – which many times may not produce anything tangible immediately – seems to endure people to my leadership. Leaders need to be present. Visible. Even accessible to the point they can be. As an added value, the physical movement refuels my body and mind for continued productivity throughout the day.

Planning.

I saved this one for last and I almost said meeting, but meetings are very tangible actions. But, let’s be honest, meetings can also seem unproductive. I read the books and blogs about eliminating meetings – and I’m all about it when possible – but the fact is most teams have to meet occasionally and regularly to stay on pace together. The problem in my opinion isn’t the meeting as much as the meetings where nothing is accomplished. Planning may seem unproductive – even wasted – for those who are most wired for production. Many would rather do than plan to do. But, preparation, while it may seem unnecessary in the process, makes success more attainable. Some of the best leaders I know personally are military leaders. Ask them how much preparation and planning they want their teams to have before encountering the enemy. As an example of this one, rather than getting started answering emails or heading into meetings, I try to spend a few minutes every day, before the day begins, planning how I will approach the day. (This is where I build my checklist.) I leave feeling far more productive when I’ve attempted to plan my day. Interruptions will naturally come, but I’m more prepared for them when I start with a plan.

Depending on your wiring, some of these may seem unproductive. That’s especially true for me when I do take the walk or put down the book and dozens of unanswered emails staring me in the face, but successful leadership demands we spend time investing in the intangible things which make our teams better.

In which of these areas do you most need to improve as a leader?