12 Suggestions to Challenge the New Year And Make Your Life Better

By | Change, Christians, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | One Comment

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And I understand. Many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”. But I believe we should all think of ways we can challenge ourselves to improve in each new year.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable and sustainable? Do you have accountability in place?

Plus, I wonder if the term itself is a problem for some people. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal, almost intimidating, doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

However, I strongly believe we should work towards continual improvement in our life, whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I like to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

How does that word resonate? Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge, but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples, some which may be challenges for you want to consider. I guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them, just the ones most “challenging” to you. But you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

12 ways to challenge the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life improves – that this would happen or that would happen. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” When you begin to find contentment TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell.

If grief is holding you back by all means grieve. It is healthy to mourn a loss. (Get help if needed.) But at some point you will need to move forward. If it’s regret then reconcile the loss. When guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt. It stinks. You probably wish it hadn’t happened, but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation?

Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. The reality is it is hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People, even the best people, will never perform to all of your standards. Honestly, is it even fair to expect it from them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year, admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us, though we have less, to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life.

Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which challenge for the new year are you willing to accept?

10 Ways to Deal with the Emotions of Loss at Christmas

By | Christians, Encouragement, Family, Jesus | No Comments

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“. But Christmas can be a time of loss – where people face the reality of what they do not have – or have any more. Losing a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, or even a loss of income or health, can be another reminder of what someone no longer has.

If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.

Several years ago, I consulted two professional Christian counselors in our church. With the help of Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis I put together some practical ways to deal with a sense of Christmas loss and shared them in a sermon.

Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of truth, but to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.

10 ways to deal with the emotions of Christmas loss:

List your losses.

Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. It can be therapeutic to admit where you are hurting.

Share your pain with others.

Certainly you should share with God, but maybe also with a close friend or with people who have experience dealing with your specific loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.

Grieve the loss. 

Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some people falsely believe they can just pick up the pieces and move on without really grieving. It’s okay to be human. (I share some tips on grieving HERE.)

Resist falling into a sense of total despair.

This is where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring the hurts.

Take care of yourself physically.

Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It is more important during a sense of loss.

Be aware of negative thinking.

Catch negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.

Do something for someone else. 

There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.

Force yourself to participate in social activities. 

Obviously, that is more difficult in 2020 – and you may not even feel like it. But social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. Be safe and wise, but find ways to interact with others. Even a phone call to a friend is better than falling further into despair.

Avoid the comparison game. 

Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And it’s dangerous.

Honor your losses with new traditions. 

Begin new rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced prior to your loss or will help you remember happier days to come.

In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion –

I believe this might be the most powerful of all.

We have to learn to worship in tears.

We must learn to worship even in pain. Many Psalms were written during someone’s painful story. When we realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem that life is good – we are better equipped to face uncertainty and loss.

Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

5 Suggestions for Experiencing Great Joy at Christmas

By | Christians, Church, Encouragement, Jesus | No Comments

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been left out when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Christmas?

Here are five suggestions to great joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or think we would. It could be the way they do not react the way we expect of them to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. Or, we sent a card – they didn’t. Maybe we worked hard to to be nice – and still they weren’t so nice.

We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them.

People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. Instead, we are only responsible for our actions. We’ve been called to love others – and, that call doesn’t come with a list of stipulations for others to meet before we love them.

Increase your investment in others

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others.

Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way.

By the way, I believe this includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us.

Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times. And Jesus said we give with one hand without the other hand knowing we gave. (paraphrase). So, we give expecting nothing in return. We give simply to be a blessing – and in turn we receive the blessing.

Examine your life and address known sin

We can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if we are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life?

Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate our life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in pity or resentment and we will see the world in bitterness and disappointment. But stand in faith and we will see the world from a more positive viewpoint. We will see hope and possibilities.

The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8)

The fact is – joy is a gift – not based on what we have done or could do, but on God’s amazing grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment.

Because of who God is and our relationship with Him we can choose joy, even in the midst of life’s struggles. And then choose joy again. Then gain. And then again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:18)

God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

7 Common Tensions In Times of Overwhelming Change

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | One Comment

I have been part of several organizations experiencing either exponential growth or tremendous change. In business and with a few churches, we had times of explosive growth, but 2020 taught us there are times where the speed of change is overwhelming. It was hard to keep up. I have learned there are common tensions during overwhelming change. 

7 common tensions during overwhelming change:

Miscommunication.

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

Changing roles.

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

Power struggles.

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

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

Burnout.

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

Confusion.

“I don’t know.” You can expect to hear the phrase a lot during times of fast growth and change. And, many times the person saying it will be a leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process.

This is also a matter to continually work to improve upon over time, but you can’t eliminate completely- and, I’m not sure we should try. If everything has clarity we probably aren’t walking by faith and things will soon become stale again.

Complacency.

When people don’t know what to do — or are uncertain the right path to take – they often default into doing nothing. This is where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth and change there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases.

If you’re not careful, excellence suffers. It might not even be that people don’t care, even though they almost appear as if they don’t. It may simply be because they don’t know what to do.

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

Stretched structures.

As stated previously, current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth or change. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development, as much as it does the growth and maintenance, of the organization.

This may be some of the learning curves after this current season. This is why it is important to take notes along the way and continually be learning.

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

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

Phrases to Ban When Developing Ideas

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come by getting a group together and throw out random new ideas or ways of doing things. You can usually come up with better solutions if you put the right people in a room and let them throw lots of ideas on the table – or on a white board – even seemingly bad ideas (at least at first). But there are some phrases you must ban when developing ideas.  

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

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

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

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

Specifically, there are certain phrases, which you must ban in an effective meeting intended solely to generate ideas. They should be off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

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

Phrases to ban when developing ideas:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • Let’s get serious – so only throw out ideas that make sense.
  • We tried that and it didn’t work.
  • The problem with that is ________ (before the idea has a chance to even breathe)
  • That’s ridiculous – (always translated you’re ridiculous).
  • Tell me how we would even do that.
  • There’s not enough time for that idea. 
  • Let’s wait a while before we try to go there.

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

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

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

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

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

7 Ways to Keep Leaders on Your Team

By | Business, Church Planting, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders. Yesterday I posted 7 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. 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.

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7 Reasons Leaders Tend to Leave Your Team

By | Business, Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 2 Comments

If your organization expects to grow, you’ll need to attract, develop and retain quality leaders. One of the highest costs an organization has is replacing leaders, so ideally once a leader is hired, you’ll want to keep them. I was reflecting recently on why leaders tend to leave an organization, apart from finding a better opportunity. I never mind losing a leader to an opportunity I can’t match, but I don’t want to lose them because of something I did wrong.

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How to Encourage Cooperation on the Team You Lead

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

Leader, do you want to encourage cooperation on the team you lead? Do you want people to get along, support one another, and join forces to achieve the vision?

Of course. All leaders want their teams to cooperate. It builds stronger teams when people aren’t on islands to themselves.

How do great leaders encourage cooperation?

I can help you encourage cooperation on your team with one quick tip. Let people collaborate. It’s that easy – and powerful. 

Collaboration leads to Cooperation

Cooperation rocks in organizational health!

Cooperation brings:

  • Collective buy-in
  • A sense of ownership and empowerment
  • Less petty arguments
  • Lower resistance to change
  • More passion towards the vision
  • Shared workload
  • Fewer cases of burnout

What leader doesn’t appreciate those things?

When you are leading a team, the more you collaborate with your team, and let them collaborate with others – during the planning process and before the final decisions are made. The more collaboration you have the cooperation you’ll receive from your team during the implementation process. 

Let people participate in brainstorming. Give them a voice in the way things will be done. Allow them to ask questions and even offer pushback.

Of course, you can’t collaborate on every decision. One of the reasons you are leader is to make big picture, strategic decisions. You often have a vision other people can’t immediately see until you lead them there. 

Whenever a decision, however, impacts other people, especially if it:

  • Impacts how they do their work.
  • Changes the basic nature of what they do.
  • Significantly impacts the future of the team or organization.

In those type situations, I suggest you allow collaboration, because it always brings better cooperation from the team. (By the way, in the church, this is true of paid staff or volunteers.)

In fact, the opposite can be equally true. A lack of collaboration naturally brings a lack of cooperation. People will resist the change. They will be less enthusiastic about the outcome. They will wait for instruction rather than take initiative on their own.

As leaders, we must learn to collaborate better –  so our teams can learn to cooperate better.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

5 Ways Leadership Can’t Be “Normal” Anymore

By | Business, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership | One Comment

If an organization wishes to be successful today, it must learn to think outside the once considered normal lines of leadership. Research after research has been done and book after book has been written on the subject of leadership being as much these days about the informal aspects of leadership as it is the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to a set of rules, policies and procedures, for a leader to be successful today, he or she must engage a team to help accomplish the vision of the organization. In an informal leadership environment, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. That may have always been important, but now it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

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7 Things 2020 Has NOT Changed About Leadership

By | Change, Church, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

This has been a frustrating year in leadership. 2020 has been challenging for all of us. It has been especially challenging for leaders trying to navigate their organizations through it. That includes pastors and the church. Yet, as I reflect on some of the decisions I have personally had to make this year, I realize some things 2020 didn’t change about leadership.

Some things have always been a part of leadership.

7 things 2020 didn’t change about leadership:

Uncertainty. This isn’t the first time leaders have faced uncertain times. Sure, this year has caused us to make decisions we’ve never made before, but that is not a new leadership phenomenon. In fact, leadership by definition is leading into uncertain futures.

Necessity of risk. Honestly, I feel like some of us may have gotten too comfortable prior to COVID-19. It became easy to work our systems and programs, and even if growth had plateaued, budgets were being met and people were satisfied. But status quo will never realize new growth. Risk is always a part of the getting to the next level of progress.

Need for innovation. One of the funniest quotes I ever read is something Andy Andrews has written. “Think about this: we put men on the moon before we thought to put wheels on luggage.” Leadership by definition has always required that we be innovating as we discover what’s around the corner for our teams.

Diverse reactions to decisions made. Every decision ever made by a leader has made some people really happy and some people not. Again, that’s Leadership 101.

New opportunities for growth. Growth seldom comes without an intentional effort. It requires strategy planning, goal-setting, and diligent efforts on behalf of a team working together. 2020 has given us plenty of chances for that.

Greater success comes from collaboration. “With many advisors plans succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) The pandemic forced many of us leaders to reach out for help, form teams, and work together – things great leaders have always done.

Need for healthier rhythms. Whew. Are you as tired as I am at the end of 2020? If anything resonates with leaders today it is that they are challenged more than any other year in leadership. I am not sure this will ever completely disappear – or that it’s ever not been the case. One thing is certain, however, even when things return to whatever normal looks like in the future we will need healthy rhythms to keep leading well.

What else has NOT changed about leadership in 2020?

I am not pretending this hasn’t been an unusual year. It is (at least one of) the most difficult I’ve experienced in leadership. But one thing it has done is expose to us what we’ve always known. We need good leaders – and good leadership.

Nate and I have finished our fall semester at the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. New episodes will begin in early 2021. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.