7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team – so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations, but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge.

Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t be done. Or what no one has figured out yet how to do. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go, but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them.

Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore – especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop. This may even be outside their direct job description. Give them permission to do something new.

Invest in them.

Mentor them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it, but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience and exposing them to other good leaders.

Give them more creative time to dream.

This is a stretch for some structures, but it’s needed to retain leaders. It doesn’t mean people aren’t held accountable, but I prefer to do so with goals and objectives rather than with a time clock. You might keep someone from feeling stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t burden them with your fears.

I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. It makes the leader nervous, so they revert to controlling and micromanagement. They don’t give them a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is what is discerned by others. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them. It doesn’t mean you are absent from the process. It is hard to release responsibility to someone unproven, but you must stifle your fears and let them learn to lead. Stay close enough to jump in when requested or when it is absolutely required.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization.

Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Reward them.

If they are doing well – let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly. What is celebrated gets repeated.

Keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

12 Hard Things a Leader May Need to Say – And 5 Ways to Say Them

In any relationship, there comes a time where it’s necessary to say things, which are difficult to say, but needed to keep the relationship strong. And, to hopefully make it better. This is also true in a healthy team environment. All leaders have things they need to say, which are hard sometimes.

For me personally, this often involves having a challenging conversation with a team member – someone I love being on the team, but know they need correction in an area, which is affecting the team. These are always discussions I’d rather not have, but I know are necessary for the continued health of the relationship, the team, and the individual.

Over the years, I have had many of these issues which required “tough love” to address them. I began my business leadership experience in retail management. At certain times of the year there could be 100’s of associates on the sales floor. It provided ample opportunity for problems I had to address with individuals.

But, those opportunities have continued throughout my career in leadership. And, dealing with problems has included me having to say things such as:

  • You’re too controlling as a leader.
  • You can be perceived as a real jerk to people.
  • Your laziness is dragging down the team.
  • You have body odor.
  • You’re making making too many mistakes and don’t seem to be learning from them.
  • You are non-responsive to your team members or others. It’s slowing down progress and it’s unfair to everyone else.
  • Your personal life is impacting your work. How can I help?
  • You don’t know how to take constructive criticism.
  • You are too critical of new ideas.
  • You are moving too fast.
  • You are moving too slow.
  • You are uncooperative.

I should note – most of these have not been said with my current team – thankfully.

Through my years in leadership, however, I have had to say each one of these statements to someone I was supposed to be leading. And, there are probably many others you as a leader have either had to say, think you need to say, or chose not to say and, looking back, now wish you had. Those conversations, as awkward and uncomfortable as they are, always prove to be good for the team and the team member.

In full disclosure, there have been times when someone needed to have similar “tough love” conversations with me. They weren’t easy for me at the time, but those discussions always made me better as a person and leader.

If you have to have one of those conversations, I have learned some principles to make them more palatable.

Here are 5 suggestions to have hard conversations:

Handle the conversation as quickly as possible

If the problem is clear in your mind (and usually everyone else’s mind), and you’ve witnessed the problem long enough to know it’s a pattern, don’t delay long in addressing the issue. Now, timing is everything. You shouldn’t blast someone in public and you should look for the “best” time to talk with them privately. These aren’t usually the kind of things done by email or text. They are best done in person. But, the longer you wait the more awkward it will be and the person is left feeling more hurt because you did wait.

Be honest

This is not the time to shift blame, make excuses or dance around the issue. Be clear about the problem as you perceive it. Keep in mind there may be things you don’t understand, but be honest with what you think you do. Don’t leave the person wondering what the real problem is or what you are trying to say to them. 

Be kind and helpful

You may want to read my post 5 Ways to Rebuke a Friend. Although this post deals more with a subordinate than simply with a friend, the previous post suggestions may be helpful here also – especially if you are close to the person with whom you are having to say hard things. Your end goal should be to make the team member and the team better after the conversation. This also means you don’t simply correct a person. Use the “sandwich approach” when possible. Place the hard words in the midst of things which are good about the person and your continued commitment as a part of the team. And, if you’re past the point where you think you can move forward with them you probably have had or should have had other conversations about the problems you perceive prior to this one. 

Have a two-way conversation

You should be willing to listen as much as you speak. You may not have all the facts exactly right – or you may have – but give the person a chance to respond to the criticism you are addressing. This also means you should have a two-way conversation, and not a multiple-party conversation. (And, again, in person if at all possible. You can document it in writing if you need to, but these issues deserve a face-to-face conversation.) You should address the issue with the person you have a problem with, not with others on the team behind his or her back. If you need someone in the room with you for perception issues or as a witness, make sure they are committed to privacy.

Move forward after the conversation

The person being corrected should leave with the assurance you are moving forward, and, provided improvements are made, do not plan to hold the issue against them. It will be important they see you responding likewise in the days ahead by the way you interact with them. They shouldn’t continue to feel awkward around you – at least not by the way you respond to them. You can’t control their actions, but you can control yours. 

Know when enough is enough

You shouldn’t have to have these type conversations too frequently. Talk becomes cheap if there’s no backing to what’s agreed upon. If there seems to be no improvement over time, harder decisions or more intensive help may be needed. If you have done the other steps here, there is a time when tough love says “that’s enough – no more”. You are not doing your job as a leader if you continue to ignore the issues everyone else sees as critical to the health of a team.

One of the most difficult times for me is addressing issues like this with a team member I genuinely care about, but I know it’s one of my roles as a leader to address these most difficult issues. But, that’s what we do as leaders – hard things (with grace and truth). 

The Way I Respond as a Leader of Leaders

I often get asked about the difference between leading leaders and leading followers. It’s a great question. The question ultimately points to a paradigm of leading people.

I certainly know I want to attract and retain leaders on our team. I don’t want a bunch of people waiting for me to make a decision or who fail to take initiative. I ultimately want people who will lead me. 

I also realize I am not a perfect leader. I have so much room to personally grow as a leader. One thing I have discovered, however, is the difference in how I lead if I want to lead leaders. And, the difference is huge.

I could choose to be a boss – and simply require people to perform for pay. To lead leaders requires a different skill set. It challenges the way I lead. 

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot. I can’t have all the answers. I need to be leading people – encouraging them to lead – more than I’m instructing people.

I often “didn’t know about that” – whatever “that” is – until after a decision has been made. And, if I’m leading well you won’t hear me say anything negative about what I don’t know, because I support my team’s ability to make decisions.

I encourage learning from someone besides me. After all, I don’t have all the answers. Some days, without my team, I don’t have any.

I let people make mistakes. And, I’m glad they let me make some too. It’s one of the best ways we learn from life and each other.

I try to steer discussion more than have solutions. And, I find meetings become more productive. Work becomes more efficient.

I believe in dreams other than my own. People have opinions and ideas. The best ones aren’t always mine.

I say “we” more than I say “me”. (Except in this post) A team is more powerful than an individual effort.

I strive to empower more than I control. Leadership stalls when we try to determine the outcome. It thrives when we learn and practice good delegation.

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on our team. I’m not saying it “feels good” to be critiqued, but I know it’s a part of making us better.

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision. In fact, I never script it alone. I try to always include those who have to implement the plan into the creation of the plan. And, by experience, it seems to be a more effective way to do things.

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

5 Ways to Take Back an Already Delegated Project

I’m a fan of delegation. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a professional delegator, if there is such a thing. I certainly love to delegate. I think it makes the team stronger.

As a leader, have you ever given away a project and wished you could take it back?

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be one of the more difficult and awkward parts of leadership.

Maybe it was the wrong fit for the person. Perhaps the person was overloaded with other responsibilities. You may have misjudged their potential, so you gave them the delegation. Now you wish you hadn’t.

What do you do?

How do you take back a delegated project without causing hurt feelings, injuring a valued team member, or causing disruption in the organization? Many times the person has assumed a certain sense of ownership and pride in the assignment, even if they haven’t done a good job with it. Taking the project away from them may feel like personal rejection.

What do you do? How do you do it?

Here are 5 ways to take back a delegated project:

Set up the right to remove on the front end

The process should really be clear from the beginning. The culture of a healthy organization has everyone operating as a team. It’s easier to do the right thing on a healthy team – even reassign an project. You may not be able to do it this time, but certainly work towards establishing that kind of environment for the future.

Make sure you delegate well

Effective delegation will eliminate much of the need to take back a project. You can read more about healthy delegation HERE and HERE, but basically, try to help. This can happen at any stage in the project, but ideally should come before and during the process of completing a delegated project. It could be the person doesn’t have all the answers or all the resources to complete what’s been assigned. They may be afraid to ask for help.

Do it quickly

As soon as you realize the person is not going to be able to complete the task, if you’ve tried working with them, but it hasn’t helped, address and re-assign as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it will be for everyone.

Do it graciously

If done correctly, it could be a relief for them, as well as the organization. You may be able to refocus the person’s attention on other things, but certainly you should try to encourage their overall potential in the process.

Help them learn

They may not have been able to do this particular project, but, if handled correctly, it could end up being beneficial for their personal development. Help them see what they did wrong, why the delegated task is being reassigned, and how they could do things differently in the future.

The bottom line is the organization must move forward. Sometimes this means tasks have to be reassigned. Good leaders are willing to make hard decisions, even if it means taking back a delegated project.

Have you ever had to take back a delegated project? How did you do it?

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

A Guest Post by my son, Jeremy Chandler

There will come a point in time in every Millennial’s career when we move from being primarily executioners to leading teams and managing others. Whether you’re a young pastor moving from a youth ministry role into a more administrative role, or you’re account manager moving into a supervisor role, there will be a day when our primary responsibility shifts from doing the work ourselves to accomplishing the work through other people. However, as I’ve started making that transition in my own personal career, I’ve definitely learned the truth behind the idea that “everyone thinks leadership is easy until you become one.”

I’ve had to face some challenging questions for the first time…

How do I move from a “doer” role to a “manager” role? How do I change my mindset to effectively move from “hands on” role to one of directing and overseeing a team?

The short answer is… it’s not easy. The paradox I’m learning is that answering those questions begins by asking another set of questions.

The Higher You Go, The Harder it is to Define “Success”

When we start our careers in more of an execution type of role, it’s easy to earn our stripes by what we can do. As we grow and get promoted, we start to get paid less for what we can do and more for what we know. The higher we go, the less defined our job description becomes. Our success depends on our ability to make other people feel powerful to get things done.

However, we still need something we can measure our work and effort by at the end of the day. That can be a challenge when our entire lives have been measured by meeting deadlines, cranking out projects. There’s definitely a mental shift that needs to take place.

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

How can Millennials know if we’re being successful as we make the transition from doers to leaders? Here are 5 questions we can use to measure our efforts to determine, “Did I do what a leader should have done today?”

  1. Am I asking the right questions? Successful leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about being able to find them by asking better questions.
  2. Am I listening for the best answers? We all know what it’s like to work for “know it all leaders.” The only way to avoid this is by disciplining ourselves to listen to the ideas of others.
  3. Am I taking time to think about our biggest problems and opportunities? This can feel weird, especially if we’ve been primarily in a “doer” role. It can feel lazy. However, this is an essential part of leadership. It’s the leader’s responsibility to look up and ask, “Are we even on the right road?”
  4. Am I effectively communicating the plan to our team and setting expectations? Successful teams are built on clear communication and direction. If we don’t communicate the plan or set expectations, we force the team to make assumptions.
  5. Am I stepping back to evaluate the strategy and observe the impact? Evaluation and experimentation are two words that are an essential part of leadership vocabulary. Are the things we’re doing working? Is our hypothesis right? Are the things we’re doing moving us closer toward achieving our goals? These are the types of questions leaders ask.

A Word of Encouragement Before You Step into Leadership

Stepping into a leadership role for the first time isn’t easy. It’s a big shift from where we’ve been.

  • Do your best.
  • Be Yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

You’re not in leadership because you have all the answers; you’re in leadership because you’re going to help solve problems. My hope is that after a couple of years of doing it, leading others will feel as natural for us as putting our clothes on in the morning.

What questions do you ask to ensure you are becoming an effective leader?

This is a guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler. Currently, Jeremy serves as a Marketing Manager at Pursuant, a fundraising agency serving the nation’s leading nonprofits, faith-based ministries, and churches. He and his wife Mary live in Nashville, TN. If you’re in the area, he jumps at any opportunity to connect with people over coffee.

When I Allow Someone to Fail and When I Come to the Rescue

It's a delicate balance in leadership

I have often commented that part of my leadership is to create a culture where failure is considered a part of the learning process. It’s okay to fail. As a leader, while it may seem unproductive to some, many times I have watched someone on my team fail. I probably could have stepped in earlier, took control of the project or delegated to someone else more experienced, and saved a failure from happening. I let the failure happen.

Recently, I said something like this at a conference and was questioned afterward. It was a valid question, which went something like this:

I am in the middle of this now and it is tough. Many times I wonder if I should just step in. I am trying to exercise patience. Is there a time you save them from failing?

Great question and that’s a delicate balance. When do you step in and rescue someone and when do you allow the person to possibly fail?

Here is my bottom line response:

The balance for me is in how much the failure will injure them (or the team) versus how much it will teach them (or us).

At times I step in to rescue

Sometimes I can save someone from unneeded heartache. I’m likely to step in an try to help if it wouldn’t teach them as much as it would simply hurt. This includes for them and for the team.

There are failures we can learn without the need to repeat them. When I was in business, I had people give me fair warning about doing business with certain individuals. I was thankful to avoid the pain of those associations. There would be others I couldn’t see coming and would learn on my own and help others avoid the pain.

Also, in business, I learned the secret of making your banker your friend – not your enemy. Unfortunately I learned it the hard way. I have given that piece of advice to dozens of young business owners over the years. That’s a “failure” which impacts the business and everyone in the business.

If the failure is going to derail the progress of everyone on the team, or the recovery is going to be greater than the teaching experience, I’m likely to rescue them.

At times I allow them to fail.

I will admit, this is the harder one, but if I would be stunting the individual’s personal growth by stepping in to rescue them, I may let them fail. Failure is one of life’s greatest educators, so most people grow through trial and error.

If, for example, someone on my team wants to try something new. I may feel it isn’t the best decision, or it isn’t the way I would choose to do it, but I usually can’t guarantee it won’t be a success. Instead of going with my gut, I may let the team member follow his or her gut and take a chance. We may discover a home run and I would happily admit my hunch was wrong. And, either way, it didn’t hurt too much overall, but the individual team member learns something far more valuable which will help them and the team in the future.

Again, the bottom line for me is to discern the greater value –

Growth of a team member by allowing failure, which ultimately helps the overall team.

Or, protecting a team member from needless injury, which could ultimately injure the overall team.

I hope this is helpful in addressing the dilemma. Keep in mind, there are no clear cut lines on leadership issues like this. Every situation is unique. We keep learning and developing in these areas.

Wow, leadership is hard, isn’t it?

How do you decide when to allow someone fail and when to save them the agony?

Leading with Control Versus Leading with Influence

Let me be honest. I can be a controlling person. It’s part of my character. I know that. I test that way with StrengthsFinders. If no one is taking charge, I’ll take over the room. (And, not because I’m extroverted. I’m not.) If we both come to a four-way stop at the same time – as nice as I try to be and as much as I love others – I won’t stall long for you to decide if you’re going. It’s just how I’m wired. If the leader isn’t in the room, I’ll lead. 

I think my team, however – or at least I hope – would tell you I don’t perform as a controlling leader. Some may even wish I controlled more. It’s been a long process to discipline myself not to respond how I am naturally inclined to do.

Leaders, if you want to to have a healthy team environment, you must learn to control less and influence more. The differences are measured in the results of creating a healthy team.

I have learned thought that successful leaders understands the difference in leading with influence and leading with control.

Here’s what I mean by the results of controlling versus influence:

In an organization where control is dominant:

  • The leader’s ideas win over the team’s ideas – every time.
  • The team follows, but only out of necessity (for a paycheck) – not willingly.
  • Change happens through fear and intimidation – not motivation.
  • People are managed closely – rather than led.
  • Team members feel unappreciated and often under-utilized – rather than empowered.
  • The organization is limited to the skills and ability of the controlling leader – not the strength of a team.
  • Passion is weak – burnout is common.

But,

In an organization where influence is dominant:

  • The ultimate goal is what’s best for the organization, not an individual.
  • Team spirit develops as relationships and trust grow.
  • Willing followers, and other leaders, are attracted to the team. 
  • Leadership recruitment and development is a continued endeavor.
  • Change is promoted through desire and motivation, not obligation.
  • The organization has the expanded resources of a team of unique individuals.
  • People feel empowered and appreciated.

Leaders, take your pick – control or influence. You can’t have it both ways. One will always be more dominant. Granted, I could write a whole blog post (and, I have) on the messiness of leading by influence. There will often be confusion, lack of clarity, and misunderstandings. It comes when all the rules aren’t clearly defined. This, however, is a tension to be managed not a problem to be solved. (I think Andy Stanley said that first.) 

When it comes to creating organizational health – influence will always trump control. Every time. 

Have you ever been or worked for a controlling leader?

Have you been in an environment where influence is dominant?

Which did you prefer?

The More Important Question: The One Behind the Question

You’re familiar with the common scenario where someone half-jokingly asks for advise for a “friend”. Everyone knows the “friend” is actually the person asking the question.

Well, that scenario happens in leadership also. All the time.

I call it:

The question behind the question.

The question behind the question may be the more important question. 

Sometimes it’s just a simple question and nothing is hidden in it. But, sometimes, whether because of fear, insecurity or intimidation, people are hesitant to share what’s really on their mind. They ask questions or make statements which are really innuendos of a bigger issue.

Let me give you a simple example. Someone on your team asks, “Are we going to evaluate the Easter services?” That’s a fair question. And, you could simply say “yes” or a “no” and the question is answered. But, there’s likely a bigger question behind that question – or some statement, some input or feedback, maybe even a critique, which prompted the person to ask the original question. And, that’s what you really want or need to know. 

It’s may or may not be the fault of the leader which causes the “real” question not to be asked, but good leaders look beyond what’s being verbalized. They attempt to discern the motive and intent of the question or statement someone makes. They ask follow up questions to make sure they understand the concern or input being given.

When someone is asking the leader a question (or makes a statement to the leader), the leader needs to consider if the question is the real question or if a disguised bigger question exists. They need to ultimately get to the unspoken questions and statements.

In fact, the health of the organization may depend on uncovering what’s really not being communicated.

Next time someone asks you a question – or makes a statement – consider whether there is a question beyond the question.

It could make all the difference.

7 Markers of a Great Leader

There are some characteristics which set a great leader apart from mediocre leaders. Markers, if you will.

Great leaders are multidimensional. While continuing to improve, great leaders have achieved certain characteristics which help them achieve success.

If you see these qualities combined, you’ve probably found an amazing leader.

Here are 7 marks of a great leader:

Humility. Great leaders are willing to surrender “their” way when it’s not the best way. They realize and appreciate the strength of a team.

Intentionality. Great leaders continue to learn. They have mentors. They read. They continue their education through conferences or school. They know they can’t help others grow if they aren’t personally growing.

Compassion. Great leaders consider the needs of others ahead of their own. They care about people beyond what people can do for them personally.

Integrity. Great leaders never separate character from their definition of quality or success. They know there can be nothing of real value if those who are trying to follow can’t give their respect to the leader.

Passion. Great leaders have the ability to rally a team and articulate the path to victory. They can communicate to spur momentum and garner support.

Vision. Great leaders see things others can’t see or, for whatever reason failed to pursue. They take people where they need to go, but may be afraid to go on their own.

Strength. Great leaders have the discipline to follow through on commitments. They weather the storms of time. They are still standing firm when others are dropping out of the race.

I’m not claiming all great leaders excel in each of these areas. And, I am certainly not saying I have these markers, but I do believe there should be a certain level of accomplishment, a progression towards each of these in a leader’s life. At the very least, a desire to achieve these markers should be a goal of great leaders.

10 Ways to Add Value to People (and Organizations) as a Leader

If you are going to lead – wouldn’t you want to lead in a way which creates value in the lives of others and the organizations you lead? I think this would be true for all of us.

The older I get and the longer I lead the less I care about personal recognition and ther more important it is to me that what I’m doing as a leader really matters. Of course, I want to first and foremost honor Christ with my life, but I believe doing so means I would desire to add genuine value to others in my leadership.

How do we do that?

Here are 10 ways to add value as a leader:

Be open to challenge. Everyone has an opinion and they aren’t usually afraid to share it if given an opportunity. Granted, sometimes they do so in less than gracious ways – and that can sting a little. Actually, it can sting a lot. But, you demonstrate humility when you open yourself to correction. Humility is an attractive trait for leaders.

Quickly share credit. You didn’t get where you are without the help of others. Leaders do well to recognize this regularly.

Notice what is missing. The leader should consistently be in a development mindset for the organization. No one else will dream bigger dreams for the organization than you. This shouldn’t translate into never being satisfied or failing to celebrate current success, but leaders should consistently help people see future potential.

Generously offer praise. People appreciate being appreciated.

Remain accessible to people. You may not always be available – there is only so much time in a day, but you can be accessible to people, especially those closest to your leadership. It shows you value them.

Embrace change. I am not sure there is leadership without change. When the leader fails to allow things stall for the organization, but also for individuals within it.

Condemn slowly. There are plenty of critics in the world. Leaders do best when they are cheerleading more than fault-finding.

Diligently protect your character. The character of the leader impacts the character of the organization – which impacts everyone in the organization.

Serve others. Jesus said the greatest must be a servant. So it goes for leaders who add value to others.

Take risks. People will be willing to take risks only when leadership is out front, leading with faith, vision and courage.

Any you would add to my list?