8 Ways Some People Have a Hard Time Fitting on a Team

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Have you ever heard the phrase “odd person out”?

I’ve been odd man out numerous times. Some people assume because I’m a pastor I can’t also be fun. So, there are many social events I don’t get invited to attend.

We’ve all been excluded at some point in life for some reason. 

It’s a bad thing to be “odd person out” by no choice of your own, but some people actually place themselves in the position by decisions they make and how they respond to others on the team.

In fairness, it may or may not be a conscious decision they’ve made, but they simply don’t fit well with the rest of the team.

If unaddressed it can be dangerous for organizational health. Trying to build consensus or form team spirit becomes more difficult. Morale is infected by the intentional “odd person out”. Spotting this as the problem can avoid further issues.

8 ways people don’t fit well on a team:

Resistant to every change – Whenever a new idea is presented, these team members are always the first to say it won’t work.

Negative – about everything – These people see the glass half-empty. Always. They have a hard time seeing anything good about the organization, the leader, an idea – and sometimes life.

Always have an excuse – It’s not their fault. It’s always someone else’s.

Never have the solution – These team members see their job to point out problems, not to help solve them.

Hold opinions until after something isn’t working well – When something doesn’t turn out as hoped, they make sure everyone knows they were opposed to the idea from the start.

Talk behind people’s back – Rather than going to the source, they stir drama by talking about someone rather than to someone.

Refuse to participate in any team social activities – Who needs them, right? Why would they want to hang out with people they work with? They might get to know them – and let others get to know them. 

Don’t buy into the vision – And this often translates into working against the vision.

These people distance themselves from others on the team by the way they respond on the team. Have you ever worked with anyone like this?

It should be noted, this doesn’t mean these are bad people.

Many times, I’ve learned, these people were injured in some way previously. It could have been on the job or in their personal life. They may have social disorders, which need to be addressed. Sometimes they are negative about their own life and bring this attitude into their professional life.

Understanding why they feel as they do can help address their performance on the team. 

I should also note, I’m not advocating always agreeing with a team. It’s okay to have different opinions, challenge the system – and even the leader. Differing viewpoints help make us all better. The key is to do so in a spirit of cooperation, not a spirit of disruption. You don’t have to be the odd person out – even if you’re different from everyone else.

What characteristics would you add to my list?

4 Suggestions for Finding the Right Mentor

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I have had many mentors who have invested deeply in my life. The person I am is in great part because of others pouring into my life. They have made me a better leader, better husband, father, friend, and person.

One of my mentors was a godly businessman who agreed to meet with me periodically. He didn’t even think he had anything to offer me, but as I observed his life and ways I knew he did. He was twenty plus years older than me, had been extremely successful, and his leadership skills were off the charts. So, of course, I could learn from him. And I did.

One of the more frequent questions I receive is how do I find this kind of mentor?

Well, I think they are all around, but if you want to find a mentor, you’ll have to be intentional.

Here are a few things to consider:

Observe people

Who are people already in your life? You go to church with them? You see them in business or social circles? They are in a civic club you attend? You work out at the same gym? Most likely you have potential mentors around you if you are consciously looking for them.

A word to my pastor friends. I do not believe every mentor in your life has to be another pastor. We can learn leadership (or life) principles from those in secular positions. Obviously, we should choose mentors who have high character and integrity, but some of the godliest people I know are in the business world – and I’m glad to learn from them.

Find someone with qualities you aspire to have.

Think of an area where you feel you need to grow and look for people who seem to have excelled in those areas. In my experience, they will often share with you times of difficulty in getting to where they are today. You’ll learn from their challenges.

I once recruited a mentor simply because he was one of the most humble people I had ever met. It was a quality I admired and wanted to emulate in my life. I knew I could become proud if I’m not careful and I had observed him to be both successful and humble. And, that’s what I told him in our initial lunch meeting together. I wanted to hang out with him because I had observed him to be both. Simple. Honest.

Ask them to meet with you.

I usually find a hesitation in people in making the first ask, but equally true has been how receptive people seem to be willing to meet with me when I do. This obviously needs to be reasonable. I probably shouldn’t expect Andy Stanley to mentor me, but there are plenty of pastors (and those who are not pastors) who have much for me to learn if I will make the ask.

If it seems to go well on the “first date”, ask them to meet with you periodically. It doesn’t have to be often. It could be every quarter or every six months. You’ll learn valuable life lessons from them each time you meet.

Know – in a general sense – what you want to learn from this person, but then each time you get together come with questions for the person. You do the work to prepare for meetings unless the person takes this initiative. Most mentors will not feel they know how to mentor you. And, that’s okay, you can take the pressure off of them simply by having good questions, which glean from their experience in whatever area you are trying to grow.

It’s okay to move on when it’s time.

This doesn’t have to be a lifetime arrangement. It could be. I have a few mentors who have been in my life for 25 years or more. I don’t speak to them often, but they remain available to me and still periodically invest in my life.

I also have had some mentors who were there for a season of my life. When I began to enter the world of adult parenting I had a mentor who walked through how things would be different. I have even been mentored through a change I was leading and we only met one time.

I think we over-complicate the subject when we put too many parameters around what a mentoring relationship looks like. It can be a fairly simple process. There is something you want to learn, find people who seem to have already learned it, meet with them and soak in their experiences, and then repeat often.

If you are serious about being mentored simply allow people to speak into your life. You will have many mentors. And your life will be richer.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

5 Unique Coaching and Consulting Offerings from Ron Edmondson

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One way my coaching and consulting is unique in that I don’t come to you with a script. I can create a script, but have never found that as helpful when someone does that for me. Therefore, I coach like I lead, which means I let you write the script. 

But I have a few unique offerings.

I’m especially interested in helping you with:

Pastor/Minister Search Teams 

I love the work several friends of mine do at search firms. Still, I know a number of churches prefer to do their own search. This is where I might be able to help. I have worked with several churches now through this process and saved them money as well as time. I know the questions to ask and the right way to conduct a search. (Plus, with my network, I can likely improve the quality and quantity of your candidates.) 

Revitalization Coach 

I have had the honor of leading two successful church revitalization initiatives. Additionally, through my consulting and coaching I have worked with dozens of other churches through the process. Along the way I’ve learned a few things.  

Transitions Coach 

I’ve begun a lot of new positions and hired a lot of people. The way a person begins often determines their success long-term. 

First Impressions 

I have experience looking for churches. And it is hard! If you mess up a first impression you will have a hard time getting people to connect with the church.

Second-Wind Coaching 

People my age (56) – and even younger and older – are trying to figure out how to finish well in ministry. You’re not looking for a succession plan. Instead, you are wondering how best to “ramp up” in your last years. I can help you figure out how to leave your best legacy. 

I’m told often that the best way I help people is to cause them to ask bigger and better questions. Let me know if I can help you. 

Of course, I offer general coaching and consulting in church planting and church revitalization. Again, I don’t come with a script. I base my work around you. If my 35 plus years of leadership experience can help you, your church or organization, I would be honored. 

Send me an email to Ron.Edmondson@gmail.com to start the conversation. 

7 Ways to Help a New Staff Member Begin Well

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This post originated after I received the following message from a pastor friend:

“I have a new full-time associate pastor starting next week. What suggestions would you give for getting such a person off to a great start?”

What a great question!

Through the years I have hired hundreds of people. I don’t do a lot of things right, but finding good people seems to be one of my strengths.

Getting a new person started in a good way is probably equal to finding the right people – especially if we hope to keep them. I can’t say I’m the best at this. I tend to be less hands-on than needed some times.

But I have learned from some bad experiences too!

Here are 7 ways to help a new staff member succeed:

Lower initial expectations.

Lighten their initial work load. I like to tell new staff members not to attempt too much the first 90 days. Give them a chance to acclimate to the church, learn the people and some of the unwritten rules and culture. Also, most likely they also have home responsibilities to get settled and need to feel free to take care of those things also. 

Help the new team member’s family acclimate.

As much as it is important the staff member feel welcomed, it is equally important for the family. This includes spouse and children. Don’t overwhelm them with expectations either. Give them space, but make sure they have support if they need it. In my experience, the transition can be harder on the family than the person joining your team.

Help them understand the current vision, direction and culture.

Where are you hoping to go as a church? What are people getting excited about these days? Where is there momentum and where does there need to be more? Answer as many questions as you can for the person. Information is powerful. They will learn much of it on their own, but the more you can share with them the faster they will feel a part of the team. 

Stay close.

You want to give them space to explore, but don’t ignore them either. Give them plenty of access to you and others on the team. This should always be true of a healthy culture, but especially during the initial days. 

Help them understand what a win for their job looks like.

They will likely hit the ground excited about accomplishing something. Make sure they know, in your mind, how they will be considered successful. Don’t make them guess what you are looking for them to accomplish. 

Introduce them to key stakeholders.

Don’t make him or her find out on their own who the influencers are – good or bad. Every church has people who everyone listens to – and many have people everyone has a bit of fear of how they will react. Don’t let the new person step on a land mine here. Also, introduce them to people who will be their biggest supporters. They will likely need these in the days ahead. 

Extend the honeymoon period.

New people will make mistakes. They want always know the “right” way to do things according to the culture of your team. (And this can be a good thing. Let them bring something new to the culture.) You went out on a limb to bring this person in now give them ample time and grace to prove themselves.

Someone reading this has another great suggestion to help a new staff member succeed. You’ll make this post better by sharing it in the comments.

7 Ways For Believers to be Foreigners and Strangers

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The Scriptures are clear that as believers we are to be different. 

Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. 1 Peter 2:11

Pretty clear, right? Fellow Christian, uniqueness should be our goal. 

But how? Are we to be weird? I don’t think we are to be weird in a “I don’t want to be around you” kind of way, but I do think we are to stand out in a crowd for our differences. 

Let me ask you, what is different about you than some of your friends on Facebook – or the people in the supermarket? Or where you work? Where do you stand apart? 

I think the Bible can help us here. 

7 ways to be foreigners and strangers in this world: 

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Always be joyful. 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble. Proverbs 21:23

Do everything without complaining and arguing Philippians 2:14

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Matthew 5:44

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 

Does that look different from what you are seeing in the world today?

How would it change the world (or your individual world) if you treated everyone in your life with these truths?

The Language of Leadership: When I Say WE and I Say I

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I was talking with someone about the early days of church planting. We had not yet officially formed a core group and the initial staff members had not committed. As I told my story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”. Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”

The fact is I was talking about me most of the time. But I confused him with my verbiage by using inclusive words. I wasn’t trying to be confusing. It’s simply a habit I’ve formed. Team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams. 

I love team-building so much I’ve disciplined myself to talk in a collective sense whenever possible.

It always sounds so controlling, prideful, and even arrogant when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, church or organization.

As an example, take a worship pastor. I have worked with some of the most talented people. When I refer to them, I don’t say “He/she is my worship leader”. They are “our worship leaders”. I don’t want to portray to them or others that they work for me. We work together as a team.

Semantics?

This may seem to just be semantics, but to me it’s an important issue for leaders to think through. If we truly want to create a team environment we must develop team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use words referring to me, such as:

  • When making a specific request – “I am asking you to do this for the team.”
  • When offering a personal opinion, which may or may not be shared by others – “I think we should…”
  • When asking a question or stirring discussion – “I wonder if we could…”
  • When giving a specific, personal compliment – “I want to thank you for the incredible work you did.”

When I am speaking on behalf of the team or referring to team members, however, I try to use a collective term.

  • There are so many opportunities. Let me check with our team.
  • We have been stretched as a staff recently. We need to pace ourselves.
  • I am so proud of our team.
  • What do you think we should do? I really want to hear your opinion.
  • Our family ministries have had an exceptional summer.

Those are inclusive phrases. My advice is to default to words like “we” and “our” whenever possible – even if people have to ask you who the “we” is to whom you are referring.

The more we talk like a team the more our culture will feel like a team.

Have you had a leader who abused team vocabulary?  

(You may want to read my post on a leader’s vocabulary.)

3 Things That Are Often Unclear On a Healthy Team

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Clarity is often king in organizational dynamics. Words do matter and clear communication is vital for healthy teams. As hard as it is for me to zero in on one idea, I know a huge part of my job as a leader is to help people understand our vision and where we are going next to try to realize it (as well as I know at the time).

While this is true, there is a paradox when it comes to clarity and organizational health.

In fact, in my experience, some things are even “fuzzy” on a healthy team. Indistinct. Muddled. Unclear.

As strange as that seems, in an age of instant and constant information, it’s even healthy.

Let me give some examples.

Here are 3 areas of fuzziness on a healthy team:

The lines of authority are often blurred

In some of the healthiest organizations I know, the organizational chart doesn’t matter as much in accomplishing the vision. It’s often unclear who is in charge at any given time. One person doesn’t have all the ideas or all the answers. The one “in charge” is determined by what is being attempted at the time.

Everything isn’t clearly defined by a written policy

Obviously an organization needs structure. Rules have to be in place. But on healthy teams, rules are designed to enhance, not limit growth. Rules help keep people empowered not controlled – and likely there are fewer of them. Bureaucracy diminishes progress and frustrates the team.

Granted, when everything isn’t clearly spelled out it can produce a lot of gray areas, which can even be messy at times – even frustrating. But removing all the hard lines around people promotes their individual creativity and encourages innovation for the team.

Things are subject to change quickly

Things like vision and values are concrete. They aren’t changeable. In a healthy environment, however, methods of accomplishing the vision are held loosely. There is no sense of ownership or entitlement to a way of doing things. As needs change, the team can quickly adapt without a ton of push back and resistance.

I am not promoting fuzziness. I still aim for clarity – whenever possible. Even in times of uncertainty some things, such as the values which drive the team should be clear. But, just as life is often full of unknowns – even messy – so is life on a healthy team.

Figuring out how to navigate through these times and keep the team moving forward together is a part of good leadership.

12 Bible Verses to Encourage Christian Leaders

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 3 Comments

The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart so I might not sin against you.” God’s Word can be a protection for our heart and soul. It can teach us, convict us, and challenge us.

The same is true for Christian leaders. The best leadership book is the Bible.

Here are 12 great Bible verses for Christian leaders:

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

How much more successful would our organizations be if all of us approached each other in this way? Leaders, the culture of teams we lead will be greatly shaped by the example we set for them.

Philippians 2:3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

I’m convinced humility might be the most attractive leadership quality there is these days.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Leadership is ultimately a product of the heart we have for others and the vision we’ve been called to lead. The heart impacts passion, motivation and tenacity.

Exodus 18:21 You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of 10, 50, 100, and 1,000.

Don’t try to do it all. Surround yourself with capable people of integrity – empower, delegate – and get out of their way and let them lead.

Psalm 78:72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

I love the imagery of a shepherd as leader. My friend, Larry Osborne, wrote a great book about the subject.

Matthew 20:26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.

Great leaders see it as their main ambition to help others achieve worthy goals they might not achieve on their own. “When you win, I win, and we all win!”

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

It can’t only be “my way”. Leaders must be open to listening to the desires of others and incorporating them into the overall goals and objectives of the organization.

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Genuine honesty and transparency in leadership is rare, but so, so valuable – and effective.

John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.

Biblical leaders recognize the ultimately glory belongs to God.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I have seen many leaders give up on something just before there would have been a turnaround – whether on a project, a passion or a person. Looking back on my leadership career I’ve done this many times.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

On days you are discouraged, overwhelmed, or feel everything is a loss – remember God is with you. He is walking beside you. Nothing is impossible with God.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Leadership is hard. Don’t attempt it alone.

Challenge:

Perhaps you should choose one or two of these – write them down somewhere you’ll see them often, and commit them to memory.

What other verses would you recommend to leaders?

7 Misunderstandings of the Leadership Vacuum

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead.

The best leaders avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

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. Eventually the church asked him to leave. It was messy and could have been avoided, in my opinion.

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

I call that 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 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. 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. 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. Pride goes before the fall. 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.

7 Dangers for the Isolated Leader

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

I was coaching a pastor trying to help a church grow again. The previous pastor left town after a series of bad decisions – some decisions the church is still finding out about each new day.

I was happy to help the new pastor, but I also had concern was for the pastor who flamed out too early. He didn’t finish well, left the church in a state of disarray and is now struggling to recover. 

Sadly, I see it all the time. From the stories I heard, I suspect this former pastor suffered from the same temptation any pastor faces. His number one problem, in my opinion wasn’t a lack of leadership ability. He was leading in isolation.

He had no one on the inside of his life who knew him well enough to know when something was wrong and could confront him when necessary.

There are so many clear dangers in leading in isolation.

7 dangers of leading in isolation:

Moral failure

Without accountability in place, many of us will make bad decisions, because no one appears to be looking. We are more susceptible to temptation when we are alone.

Burnout

We are made for community. There is an energy we gain from sharing life with other people. When the leader feels he or she is alone the likelihood of burning out, emotional stress and even depression increases. (If this is you, read THIS POST.)

Leadership Vacuum

The leader is clueless to the real problems in the organization and is fooled into believing everything (including the leader) is wonderful.

Control Freak

The leader panics when others question him or her. He or she tries to control every decision. They don’t want to be found out for not knowing all the answers.

Limits other people 

The leader in isolation fails to communicate, invest, and release, which keeps other leaders from developing on the team. And, therefore, the organization isn’t prepared when the leader does exit. 

Limits leader

The isolated leader never reaches his or her full potential as a leader, because they shut out influences, which would actually help them grow.

Limits the organization

In the end, the leader who leads in isolation keeps the organization from being all it can be. The leader sets the bar of how far an organization can go. If the leader is in isolation the organization will stifle.

Leader, are you living in isolation? Be honest.

Do you need to get out of the protective shell you’ve made for yourself?

The health and future success of your organization depends on it.

(I realize many pastors of smaller or rural churches feel they have no option, but to lead in isolation. But as hard as it may seem, and as great as the risk may appear, you must find a few people to share your struggles. I also have a reasonably-priced coaching offer. Let me know if you want more details.)