7 Unwritten Rules which Shape an Organization

In an organization the unwritten rules are just as, if not more, important than the written rules. I wrote about this idea HERE.

If you are considering making changes, implementing something new, adding staff, or any of dozen other decisions in your organization, you need to also consider the these “rules” of the organization.

Here are a 7 examples of unwritten rules:

The culture

How does it responds to change? How does it addresses problems? How does it plans for the future? How trusted is leadership? These are all unique to any organization.

The leader’s accessibility and temperament

Every senior leader is different. If you change the leader you change some of the unwritten rules. Is he or she considered approachable? Does he or she participate with the team normally? Would he or she know if there was a perceived problem in the organization? Do team members trust leadership? These answers shape responses to change.

The relationships of team members to each other

Is there a friendship or just a working relationship among team members? Is conflict acceptable and healthy? Do team members feel freedom to speak freely when in disagreement? Do people respect one another? Is there a silo culture or a common vision everyone is working to achieve? The healthiest organizations have people working together who genuinely like one another. If that isn’t there, change will be more difficult.

The sense of work satisfaction

Are there long-term team members? Are team members generally happy with the organization? Is there any unrest among team members? Are there unspoken concerns within the organization? Many times this has been formed over the years, sometimes even before a leader has been in the position, but it is valuable information for any leader.

The reaction to change

Is the “way it’s always been done” changeable? Has change usually been accepted or resisted? Who has to initiate change? What is the anticipated speed of change? Who needs to know about it? The success of change will be directly related to the answers to these questions and the way a leader responds to them.

The way information flows

How does communication really happen? What are the circles of influence? Who drives discussion? Who has influence with peers? What are the expectations regarding the “need to know”? Communication is key in any organization so, as leaders, we must understand the way it occurs.

The real power structure

Who really makes the decisions? Is it a board? A few key people? A consensus of the largest percentage of people? Power structures are rarely as purely formed as what is written on a piece of paper. Knowing this is critical to navigating change.

As a leader, it’s important that you not only concentrate your attention on what is easily measured, written in a policy manual, or even spoken as a value. Other considerations may be more important, even though they may have never been expressed formally. When change occurs or is to be implemented in an organization, paying attention to these unwritten rules is necessary for success.

By the way leaders, most likely you helped write (or are helping to write) these unwritten rules.

What are some of the unwritten rules of your organization?

5 Situations You May Need to Micromanage

For The People on Your Team

I prefer to be a macro-manager. I like to lead leaders. This means I try to cast the vision for a team and get out of the way, releasing each team member to do his or her work in their own individual way.

There are times, however, where more micro-management may be needed by senior leadership. More coaching, encouraging or correction may be needed for a season.

Here are 5 times to consider some micromanagement:

When a team member is new to the organization.

They need to learn your culture and way of doing things. They don’t know. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow them to invent, dream and discover, but they also need to know how decisions are made, the unwritten rules, and the internal workings of the environment. It will serve everyone well and they’ll last longer on the team if these are learned early in their tenure.

When a team or team leader has been severely crippled by injury or stress.

I’ve had a few times where a member of our team just wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of making the right decisions. It could be what they were dealing with in their personal life or with the stress of their work, but I had to step in and help them more than I normally would for a season to help them succeed.

When in a state of uncertainty, transition or change.

I once had a strong leader quit abruptly from his position. His team was devastated. I quickly realized they had relied too much on his leadership and were now lost without him. It required more of my time initially until we could raise up new leadership and better empower everyone on the team.

When tackling a new objective, critical to the organization.

This is especially true when, as the senior leader, I’m the architect of the idea. They need more of my time to make sure things are going the way I envisioned them to go. That doesn’t mean the outcome will look exactly like I planned, but in the initial start, the team can waste time and resources trying to figure me out without my input, rather than doing productive work.

When a team member is underperforming in relation to others.

As a leader, I feel it is part of my role to help people perform at their highest level possible. Sometimes this requires coaching, sometimes instruction, and sometimes even discipline. Part of being a leader is recognizing potential in people and helping them realize that potential within the organization. For a season, to help someone get on track for success on our team, (or even to discover they aren’t a fit for our team) I have to manage closer than I normally prefer.

I obviously wrote this in the context of an organization and not specific to the church, but these principles equally apply in the church. The important thing is that the end goals and objectives need to be reached, so at certain critical times a leader must step in and ensure the vision is being accomplished.

7 Ways to Lose Favor with Senior Leadership

I can be pretty hard on senior leadership. Having been in such a position for over 25 years, I know the bad side of senior leadership. I’ve witnessed it and, in full candor, I’ve been it.

My goal is always to improve senior leadership for all of us, which has been a chief goal of this blog. When I’m coaching other leaders, predominately I’m coaching senior leadership.

But, what about those who are supporting senior leadership?

Any good senior leader knows he or she is nothing without the people on their team. Without people to lead there is no need for leadership. And, a huge part of good leadership is having confidence in the people on is trying to lead.

So, a good leadership question might be: What causes senior leadership to lose confidence in people they are trying to lead?

How do you lose favor with senior leadership?

Here are 7 common ways I have observed in my own leadership:

Give half-hearted devotion to the vision.

Speaking for someone in senior leadership, who feels the weight of completing the vision before us, there’s little time to waste on people who don’t share the same vision. It’s one thing not to understand it, to have questions about it, or need development. Everyone has bad days and bad seasons, but, it’s a completely different story when the person has lost passion – or never had passion – for the vision. Especially when they demonstrate it by their work.

Sometimes the best thing for the rest of the team – and the person – is for them to find a vision they can support. These are tough decisions leaders often have to encourage.

Work for a competing vision.

This one is slightly different. In the previous one, the person has lost heart. This person has plenty of heart – but, for a completely different vision. Any team will crumble under competing visions. When a team member starts competing, it’s hard to maintain the support of senior leadership.

Eventually, competing visions cause others on the team to choose sides. The division results in ineffectiveness and poor morale. Again, hard decisions may have to be made.

Always bringing surprises.

As a senior leader, there’s a surprise everyday. Something is always coming we didn’t see coming. It’s part of the job – and honestly – it keeps most leader-types energized, even when the surprise presents a new challenge. But, because they are so frequent, a healthy team helps limit them.

If someone on the team, for example, knows there is a problem brewing, and doesn’t share it with senior leadership in a timely manner, there is the potential for a bigger, more complicated challenge. It might have been avoided with prior information.

Whether in the person’s area of work or in their personal life, if there are frequent “surprises” the senior leader begins to lose confidence in the team member. The key here is good team members practice good communication. It’s paramount to a healthy team. It’s much easier to address an issue with advance knowledge. We can get through almost anything if we handle it together.

Never learning from mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. Good leaders actually expect them as a part of the development process. It’s easy to lose the confidence of senior leadership, however, when mistakes made never produce improvement – or when there is an attitude of indifference towards them.

Failing to follow through.

Work has to be done. And, every great idea is just an idea until someone follows through with a plan of accomplishment. This is what separates great teams from mediocre teams. When team members never complete the tasks assigned, they lose the confidence of senior leadership.

(This one deserves a sidebar. If there are more tasks assigned than possible to complete, there could be a problem on the senior leaders side. This is another post, but sometimes you have to “lead up” to help senior leadership understand this, but make sure the problem is too many tasks and not a need to develop as a task master. Make sure you’re doing all you can to get better at time-management, for example.)

Causing your loyalty or respect to be questioned.

This one will raise eyebrows, but it’s true. Obviously, this requires a vision worth following, but loyalty towards senior leadership is necessary to complete the vision. I posted recently on some of my most repeated leadership nuggets. One of them is “Don’t trip over your own humility”. Basically, I described it as don’t refuse to do the right thing because it seems self-serving. And, this is certainly the case when you expect loyalty of followers. But, mutual loyalty and respect – from leaders and team members – is necessary to carry a team forward in a healthy way.

Say one thing. Do another.

There’s no place where letting our “yes be yes and our no be no” is more important than on a healthy team. And, every good leader knows this. People-pleasers don’t earn respect on a team once they are exposed. And, yes, this does start with senior leadership, but it must be carried through at every level of the team.

These are meant to be helpful. I work with a lot of ministry leaders who report to a senior pastor. I have never met one who didn’t want the support of the senior pastor, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with everything the pastor did. They want to be supported. When you’ve supposedly bought into the senior leadership, you want to be a team player, this is simply a gut honest look at some common ways to lose their support.

And, the same goes for senior leadership. We want people we can support, believe in, and want to work with on our team. And, every senior leader I know is trying to build such a team.

Granted, some are better at this than others. And, frankly, there are lots of senior leaders who aren’t worthy of much of the items on this list. They are difficult to follow, because they are difficult to trust. They may be incompetent, lack drive and be very controlling. Those are subjects of other posts – subjects I write about frequently. I realize if you’re in one of these situations there may be a natural push-back to a post like this. This post assumes at some point you believed in the senior leadership.

(And, if not, this too is a subject of another post, but maybe this post serves as another reminder to you it’s time for a change.)

Senior leaders, anything else you would add?

7 Indicators It’s Time for Change in Organizational Structure

I’ve been a leader in an almost 200 year old company and a new business. I’ve led in a church plant and now in an over 100 years old established church. One thing I’ve learned is there are many similarities in organizations – especially when it comes to the need for changing structure.

Healthy organizations maintain an unchanging vision long-term. One way they do so is with a willingness to change their organizational structure as needed.

When it comes to organizational structure not everything needs changing. If the structure works. Keep it. It’s comfortable. People understand it. Progress is happening.

But progress is happening is important. So is effectiveness and efficiency.

In my current context of the church, I’m always reminded how important our vision is and how people sacrifice personally to fund it. If the organizational structure is impeding the accomplishment of the vision (mission) it is prudent we make changes. Anything less is failing to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted and called to do.

There are times to change. It’s important leaders realize those times.

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed?

Here are 7 considerations to discern it is time:

When you continually encounter obstacles trying to move forward.

If every decision you are trying to make hits roadblocks or dead ends, it may be time to build a new road – or at least repair the potholes. When it takes layers of people and weeks or months to make a decision it may be time to change the structure of how decisions are made. People may need to be empowered more. Rules may need to be eliminated or rewritten.

When the steps to make the change is more exhausting than the value the change provides.

Change should be exhilarating. Change brings momentum. When the process to get there is so long or difficult it wears you out and you’ve got no excitement left – it may be time for some structure change.

When you can no longer attract leaders.

When people are controlled more than empowered you will attract doers but you won’t attract visionary leaders. Creative leadership will die, because genuine leaders rebel against controlling environments.

When you spend more time discussing than doing.

Granted we need to meet about some things. We need to plan, strategize and organize. I suggest we have better meetings, but even more we need action. Our visions are hungry for progress towards them. Meetings should create action. The best structures help you get busy doing not attending yet another meeting. When people feel drained by meetings it probably means you need some change in how, when and why you meet.

When the structure you have now isn’t sustainable long term.

Structure based upon people, for example, rather than progress, will eventually need changing as people change. Ask yourself will this structure work 10 years from now? If not, the time to change is now.

A perfect example of this is in my current established church context. We recognized our system of business meetings was not sustainable. Younger generations weren’t coming. As an older generation slowly grows smaller there were fewer people making decisions for the church, and some of those didn’t want change of any kind. We went from monthly meetings where 2% of the Sunday crowd attended to quarterly meetings (and we improved the quality of the meetings) where some 20% attend.

When all creativity is structured out of the system.

Sometimes the process can become so clearly defined nothing new is needed. There is no room for different ideas or opinions. No one needs them anymore. Every question is answered. When people fall into routines, they get bored, and complacency becomes the norm. Development stops. It’s time for some structural change which allows more freedom and creative expression.

One example where we’ve done this is empowering our staff to create their own goals and objectives. We let new people write their own job descriptions. We sign-off on what they say they want to accmplish – to make sure it lines up with overall goals – and we hold people accountable by what they say they wanted to accomplish.

When there is no longer any confusion.

This one can be harder to understand. Most peopel tend to like clarity. The problem is if everything is so carefully scripted the organization has probably become stale. It may be time for some structure change. Some of the best discoveries are found amidst chaos. I love what Andy Stanley says about “a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved”. Good organizations have some of those.

We recently decided to take one of our largest events of the year and break it down into dozens of smaller events. Our goal was to take the energy invested in a big event and hopefully spread the energy throughout our church to better live our vision of getting more people involved. There were a lot of unanswered questions. It’s harder to manage many events than it is one. We certainly made some mistakes and learned from them, but the unanimous decision afterward is it was a good change.

Those are some of my thoughts based on experience.

Does your organization need to make some changes?

3 Examples of Being a Leader For a Season

I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit. It’s still one of my more requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.

Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long-term success in the place where you lead, you need longer-term tenure.

We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.

But, it is not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in this.

Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post which indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read the last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.

And, this is why I write this reminder.

Here is the reality. Some leaders are only there for a season.

A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.

Here are a few examples:

Some leaders get things started

They are great starters, but often horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He is great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.

Some leaders guide the organization through transition.

These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in her career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. She moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.

Some leaders close things out graciously.

This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership.

(Frankly, although this is the subject for another post – some churches needs one of these leaders.)

Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.

If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing and discerning this helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.

Have you ever been the leader for a season?

The Most Successful Organizations Empower People to Think

Without worrying about the rules...

Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company; all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realize as a pastor my community reputation is on the line and so I try to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public – even when I’m frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)

And, I was frustrated. This adventure went on for weeks with each phone call and visit ending with no solution to my problem. I was simply given another step I needed to make. One more phone call. One more visit. No solutions. 

And, yet, the most frustrating part of all – each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way – with the service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asking me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get it. Give them a script. Help ensure uniform customer service. 

As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent the customer service people had not freedom of what to say in their responses. They were trained what to say for certain situations, but couldn’t alter how they ended the conversation. How was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help. NONE. 

In fact, it seem I was being delayed from getting help. How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried – successfully for the most part – to control.)

This was a minor incident, and honestly not a deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

The most successful organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves.

They allow individuals to make the best decision – say the right things – at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing the best person to make a decision or determine what to say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my situation, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time. We will continue to work to resolve your problem.”

Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook which really didn’t even apply to my situation. 

If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, train them in vision, mission, overall philosophy. Teach them good customer service skills and how to ask the right questions to determine the real problem. Help them understand how to gauge customer attitudes and emotions. Then give them the right to think for themselves!

I have heard the motto of Nordstroms Department Store is to instruct employees to always make a decision which favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer – they are more likely criticized for doing too little. Love it. 

When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church – then empower them think!

Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company I knew personally. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion to try for myself. We went with this and the trouble was solved – in a matter of a few minutes. (And, since it was a conversation among friends, he didn’t even ask me if he could help me with anything else.) 

Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time? Have you freed your people to think?

7 Non-Negotiable Values for Teams I Lead

Leader, what do you look for when you bring a person on to your team?

More importantly perhaps, what expectations do you have for people who serve on your team?

Over the years, both of these questions have been important for me to answer. I think it’s valuable to know yourself well enough you understand the qualities in people with whom you work best. You don’t want everyone to be like you – in fact, you need people who balance you as a leader. Here I’m not talking about personality traits, opinions or ways a person prefers to complete a job. These aren’t skills. These are values – the principles we use to interact with one another on a team on a regular basis. 

Several years ago I took time to put together my own list of non-negotiables. I know the title may seem offensive – non-negotiables. Sounds harsh. But, I don’t mean it to me. It’s simply I have learned these are characteristics I almost have to have in people if we are going to work well together long-term. 

I would assume a few of these, maybe even most of them, might be non-negotiables on any healthy team. Some of them are things we may have to instill in people over time, but I’ve learned my leadership well enough to know that I’ll struggle with a team member who doesn’t equally value – or at least strive to display – each of these.

Here are 7 non negotiable values for a team I lead:

Responsiveness

It is a personal value, maybe even a pet peeve of mine, but I believe it is imperative to respond to people in a timely manner. Of course, this is a subjective value of what timely means, but it’s one the entire team soon recognizes – and not with good results – if it is absent. 

As an example, a person doesn’t have to return emails the same day (which is what I personally prefer to do), but they should return emails. When I hear from someone in our church, “I’ve sent several emails, but they never responded to me”, that’s a problem. People deserve an answer even if the answer is “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to get someone else to answer you.” 

Honesty and Openness

Teams are built on trust. You can’t have trust without honesty. And, therefore, in my opinion, without honesty it’s just a group of people, but not a team. It’s been said honesty isn’t saying everything you think. It’s being honest in everything you say. I agree with this. We can work through almost any issue if we approach it honestly. 

The fact is, I don’t like hidden issues or supressed opinions. If you feel strongly about it – if its bothering you greatly – let’s talk about it. Here’s why: Drama destroys a team and gossip is a sign of immaturity. And, frankly, I’ve got little time for either of them. If it’s important to you or the team, let’s talk about it. Let’s certainly not talk about it behind each other’s back. 

Respect

Another personal value for me is mutual respect on the team. Everyon, regardless of position, deserves respect. When making a hiring decision, because I try to find leaders, I ask myself if I would respect the person enough to follow them as my leader. If I wouldn’t, it will be hard for me to respect them as a team member. Consequently, I hope they wouldn’t join our team unless they believe they could respect my leadership. I want to respect people I lead and, therefore, I believe it’s only fair they want to respect me.

Resolved Conflict

Unresolved conflict is a cancer to the health of any team. When two people have an issue between them and they don’t work to resolve it, people begin to choose sides, grudges are developed, and a timebomb starts clicking. Passive aggression drives me nuts! Just as any family needs to do, healthy teams address issues of concern between people, they work towards resolution if possible and an attempt at mutual understanding and collaboration if not. Healthy team members extend grace and forgiveness freely to others on the team. We go home at the end of the day and start the next day at peace with one another. 

Work ethic

This one is pretty simple. To the best of your ability, realizing the best plans sometimes fail, do what you say you will do when you said you will do it. I extend lots of grace in leadership. We all make mistakes and we learn from them, but a value of mine is each person does their best efforts and pulls their share of the load. It’s one reason I need clear goals and objectives for myself and everyone on our team. Ambiguity in what’s expected leads to frustration for all of us. I protect my family time and try to create an environment which allows this to be a value for everyone on the team, but when we know where we are going and who is responsible for what – when we are at work – let’s get it done. Our mission is too important to do otherwise. 

Limited need for oversight

I can’t stand micro-management. I don’t want to do it nor do I want it done to me. I believe in setting some goals, assigning tasks, and celebrating at the finish line. I’ll even come back and hold your hand across the line if needed, but if you don’t ask, I assume you’re still running on your own. Yes, this is frustrating for some people at times who need lots of detailed directions, and we have to work through the frustration, but one of the previous values is honesty and openness. Ask if you don’t know or understand and tell me when I’m moving too fast. I take a big picture look at everything. I want to be generally aware and interested in all we are doing as a team. I try to ask lots of questions, but don’t surprised if I am not as clued in to the details of your job as I am to mine. I’m trusting you with those. 

Participation

A personal value for me is everyone on the team feel they play a vital role in completing our vision. (I even think it’s Biblical.) We provide ownership of responsibilities, regardless of titles. I don’t want anyone sitting on the bench on a team I lead. There are plenty of innings ahead – let’s play ball. In fact, if I feel someone is hiding out in the dugout, afraid to get up to bat, I’m probably going to help them find a better position – and more coaching if needed.

So what do you think? Fair? Harsh? Reasonable? As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve simply learned these are necessary for me in leading a team. When these are in place, most people find I’m pretty easy going, and would hopefully say I am supportive of their work. This is certainly my goal. 

Leader, have you thought through the values important for teams you lead?

I believe it will help you be a better leader, help you find people you can better work with to add to your team, and reduce frustration for everyone if they know what it takes in your eyes to create a healthy team. 

5 Step Process to Take a Dream to Reality

How we took an idea to multi-site to reality.

I like to see dreams and goals become reality. In my personal experience, however, and from viewing the experiences of others, most of us have more ideas than we have reality. Figuring out how to implement our ideas is the hardest part of the process it seems.

I hope this post helps.

Allow me to share an example of how an idea can become reality in my world. I could share multiple examples of using these steps, but I decided to share one still dear to my heart and fresh in my mind. I’m sharing a real-life example of how we made an idea become reality in the church plant where I served as pastor. We went from a single campus, meeting in one high school, to a multi-site church by adding our second campus.

It started as a dream. It became a reality.

Here were the 5 steps we used.

Idea

The first step is always the idea and ideas are many for me, so at this stage I try to filter through which ones are worth pursuing. The idea for us going multi-site, at least this time, came after Easter one year. Easter Sunday was huge – bigger than we planned or expected. (God still does things like this when we leave things in His hands!) It prompted an idea in my mind. If we continued to grow towards our Easter number in the new year, which had been our trend in the church’s short history, then we would be out of room in our current high school by next Easter. This thought led to another idea. We needed to do something sooner than we would be able to build a building. This led to the idea of multi-siting our church. This was an idea we had previously explored, but decided the timing was not right. Perhaps it was this time.

But, this idea – this dream – led to the next, very necessary step.

Brainstorming

The next step is to begin thinking through this decision with others. This step is critical, in my opinion, for success. I am capable of loving my idea so much I assume (often wrongly) it has to be a word from God. If the idea has merit, in my experience, God is already raising up others with similar thoughts. In the multi-site example, this is where we organized a group of people to pray through this idea, explore the options, and look at the demographics, costs, etc. This process took several months and numerous meetings. Ideas may or may not make it out of this step, but if they survive, the chance of success is much greater.

All the brainstorming – and mostly prayer – led us to believe this was a viable option. Then step three.

Experiment

At this step, you want to try out your idea before attempting to launch it. My co-pastor suggested we do this Christmas Eve. We decided to have our Christmas Eve service at the possible new location, which was another high school on the other side of town.

As it turned out, the crowd at the second location was far more than we expected, which was another good indication our idea was a good one.

On to step four.

Practice

Some people miss this step, but I think it can be a valuable one. You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” I’m not sure about pefection, but it certainly makes the idea better. For us, this meant we had a practice service at the new location, just for the people who had committed to be part of the launch team. We knew we were moving forward, but we wanted to be at our best when we actually launched. It helped us work out the kinks, we learned some valuable things we hadn’t thought about, and we were able to test out our idea before we invited the general public.

And, praise God from whom all blessings flow – on to the final step!

Product

This is the fun part! The launch! This is the part we all were waiting for and wanted to see come to fruition. We launched our second campus at another school. It was a long, difficult process of taking an idea to the product stage, but the deliberate steps made us better in the process.

Too many times we rush from idea to reality – or we never move from idea because reality seems too daunting. I realize this is a specific example and may not exactly work the same for your individual project, but I believe the process will help more of your dreams come true.

Vision Slayers: 2 Big Culprits

What’s keeping you from multiplying?

Recently, my friends at Exponential released their new FREE eBook, Dream Big: Finding Your Pathway to Level 5 Multiplication. This new title is the third in the series of books focusing on Exponential’s annual themes—all focused on seeing the local church multiply. This year, Exponential is talking about the critical need to identify a vision for multiplication and make a workable plan for actually becoming a multiplying church.

I love this focus. As leaders, we all need vision for the future—a specific, shareable picture of what all of us as a church are moving toward. But as we all know, carrying out that vision can be difficult. In this guest post, Exponential Director Todd Wilson and vision expert Will Mancini show us how to identify two of our biggest vision slayers:

Imagine getting a group of venture capitalists fired up about a new restaurant concept that’s going be the next phenomenon across the dining landscape of America. As the drum roll begins, you enthusiastically announce, “We are going to serve … food!” You can almost feel the disappointment and sense of “underwhelmed-ness.”

There’s nothing compelling or share-worthy about bland, non-descript generic vision. It doesn’t change anybody or anything.

So, I invited my friends Todd Wilson and Will Mancini to share a few thoughts with us.

Big Dreams Get Replaced With Lesser Visions

Although many leaders start out with a big dream for multiplication, they can quickly realize that the dream is difficult to keep alive. But it really doesn’t go away completely as much as it drifts toward generic kinds of vision.

Despite the fact that most leaders in ministry are truly visionaries, they fall prey to generic forms of ministry vision all of the time. How many times have you heard a church say its vision is to, “to reach more people for Christ,” or, “to change the world?”

At that point, we miss the opportunity to engage people in a specific dream. On the flip side, think about what it looks like when someone awakens to the idea that they play a significant role in multiplying the Kingdom.

I (Will) remember reading this statement somewhere in my research for God Dreams: “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” When you lead with generic vision, you’re leading toward a lesser goal. It’s not the real dream that God has for you and your church. It doesn’t possess any of the impact a clear vision is supposed to have. Proverbs 28:19 tells us: “When people can’t see what God is up to, they stumble all over themselves” (The Message).

Think of generic vision another way: It’s actually robbing you of progress. You won’t even get close to realizing your church’s full multiplication potential with a generic sense of your church’s future. I (Todd) like what pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren says about vision: A vision is only dynamic when it’s specific. You need a specific and actionable vision.

Discuss with your team:

  • Does our vision reflect, “what God is up to”?
  • Is our vision for multiplying disciples and our church specific?
  • Is it actionable? Can we start to create a plan for carrying it through?
  • After reading this, would we say we have a “generic” vision
  • When we share our vision, do we see or sense people getting excited about it and wanting to engage in it?

Big Dreams Get Buried Under the Tensions of Multiplication

Despite what we read in Scripture and despite how we spring into ministry, certain external tensions of multiplication become reality:

  • The leadership team can’t understand why you want to give resources to a church planter when the church doesn’t even have a building.
  • The idea of planting when your church still has unfilled seats seems counter-intuitive to people.
  • People continue to ask, “Why would we send out some of our best leaders to plant another church when our attendance is just starting to increase?”
  • Some people grasp the vision of multiplication, but others don’t and continue to be naysayers.
  • The lack of a physical building is a constant stressor.

Any of these tensions can keep you from following through on multiplication. Remember that throughout Scripture God has called His Church to multiply. Jesus’ dream (expressed in Acts 1:8) is about a movement of multiplying disciples who will be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” When you work through the tensions and remain committed to your vision to see your church multiply disciples and churches, rest assured that you’re aligned with God’s heart.

Discuss with your team:

  • What tensions are we experiencing as we purpose to multiply
  • What are three specific reasons why everyone isn’t on the same page?
  • How are we praying about our vision?
  • Do we really believe that Jesus has called us to multiply?
  • Do we need to cast this vision in a different way?

At Exponential, we’re passionate about coming alongside church leaders to help them multiply! To that end, we have numerous FREE, downloadable resources you can easily access at our website. We also have five opportunities this year to be part of an Exponential live gathering, including two national conferences (the upcoming Exponential East in Orlando and Exponential West in Los Angeles) and three smaller regional events in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Houston. We hope you’ll consider joining us as we dream big for multiplication and learn what it takes to actually become a multiplying church.

7 Things Which Weaken Good Leadership

There are times I’m a better leader than other times.

Sometimes this is my fault. Other times the cause is unavoidable.

If we can begin to identify what interrupts the effectiveness of our leadership, we can become better leaders. I have personally experienced some things in my own life whigh weaken my leadership. One of my goals is to consistently find ways to guard against them.

Here are 7 things whigh weaken good leadership:

Distractions

As leaders, we do our best work when we are pointing people toward worthy visions. Some would say this is precisely what leadership does. It’s easy to get distracted with things which, while they may be good, don’t help move the organization towards the vision. In fact, they delay progress towards the vision. I’ve also learned I need to be leading in my strengths and if I ever get weak in my courage to say no to some things, the quality of my yes will be far less valuable.

Lack of discipline

It matters not if there is a great vision if we don’t discipline ourselves to reach it. This includes having good plans and good goals. Good objectives. Good systems and strategies.

Ceasing to learn something new

Leading others to grow requires leaders who are growing. When I stop the creativity I feed my mind, I cease to have anything new to offer the team I’m trying to lead. Life becomes rather stale – quickly. Whether through books, other leaders or conferences, I must find ways to continue learning.

Negative influences

It’s hard to be the only positive in a room full of negatives. Sometimes as a leader I’ve felt like more cheerleader than coach. It’s one reason I surround myself with people who have a good outlook on life. I don’t want all “yes” people, but if everything is always an immediate “no” – or “I don’t like it but I have nothing better to offer” – it is draining and is only going to bring down the strength of my leadership and ultimately the rest of the team.

Fear

Risk is involved in every leadership decision. And, I meant every. Leadership is taking people to an unknown. This always involves risk. Every time. And every risk involves a certain level of fear. This is completely natural. Fear keeps leaders from moving forward when they allow the fear to dominate the decision more than the opportunity of the risk.

Pride

Pride goes before the fall. Pride destroys. Absolute pride destroys absolutely. Okay, I embellished this popular saying, but you get the point. Prideful leaders are always weakened by their pride. No one truly follows a prideful leader. They may obey. They may even be infatuated for a season. But, they don’t follow.

Complacency and contentment

Leadership involves a sense of urgency. When we lose this we lose the inner drive to lead well. We become weakened by our own loss of personal momentum.

Success

All of us love to succeed. I think attempting to is a pretty good goal. We might even plan for it – what a novel idea. Sadly, though, sometimes a little success can usher in complacency. We can begin to think we’ve figured out a system to success. Before long, we don’t think we have to be intentional anymore – maybe not even have to try as hard as we used to try. We can become weak quickly by our own delusions of grandeur.

Those are a few things which have weakened my leadership. Let’s guard against them!