7 Traits Needed to Effectively Lead Change

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

If you want to be in leadership get comfortable with change. The best leaders have the traits to effectively lead change.

Every leader deals with change, but in my experience, some handle it better than others. There are change agent leaders who seem to have an innate gifting at leading through change.

I’ve observed some common traits needed to effectively lead change.

7 traits for effectively lead change:

Flexibility

It doesn’t have to be your design. You simply want progress towards the overall vision. You are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. Instead, you navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.

Courage

Effectively leading change means you are willing to receive criticism and still move forward. You know how to filter through what is valid criticism – worth hearing – and what’s simply a venting of personal interest. Because of this you unwaveringly push through the junk which clouds progress.

Relational

You value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain their trust. Knowing that ultimate change can’t happen without human capital, you are constantly investing in relationships. Networking is one of a change agents greatest tools.

Strategic

You realize there are steps to take and carefully choose the timing of when to take them. It is like you have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.

Creative

You are able to see paths to success others can’t yet see. Change often happens because someone chose to be creative – even when it might not mesh with current structures. Effective change is one of the best forms of art in the field of leadership. This takes creativity.

Intentional

You make change for a specific purpose and never waste a change. Since you know that every change has the potential to make or break a team, you work diligently to bring the best results.

Thorough

You follow through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. You don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Think about your experience. Who are some of the best leaders who could effectively lead change?

Check out our new podcast where we unpack many of these issues – and add real stories to illustrate them.

7 Ways to Encourage a Team to Be More Innovative

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

Most leaders want to lead an innovative organization.

If you are like me, you don’t necessarily have to be the first to do something new, but you don’t want to be years behind either. We want to be “cutting edge” to some degree. Certainly, we don’t want to be stuck in the last decade.

But as leaders, we can’t force innovation.

We can’t mandate our people to be innovative. And the longer people haven’t been innovative, the the more difficult it is to get them innovating again.

Innovation, in its purest form means change. Change can be forced upon people, but the best changes come from the heart of a person.

Great innovation comes from the gut.

There are things leaders can do to encourage team members to be more innovative.

Here are a 7 easy ways to encourage innovation:

Get away from the office as a team.

There is something about a change in surroundings which encourages changes in thought. Creative thoughts are often fueled better outside your normal environment.

We have held brainstorming retreats at other churches in our area and local businesses. Again, the change of place often fuels a change of thought.

Have a brainstorming session with open-ended questions.

Questions can be gold for fueling ideas and creativity. Ask questions such as, “What are we doing well?” “Where could we improve?” “What should we stop doing?”

Be sure to welcome diversity of thought. Create an environment where innovation and outside-the-box thinking is acceptable.

Reward new ideas.

Recognize new thoughts and celebrate the success of innovation and people will want more of it. Make it a part of the DNA to elevate the value of innovation.

Make sure to build time to dream into your schedule as a leader. Teams I lead learn soon that when I travel I return with some fresh perspective – even some wild ideas.

Have times together as a team that are simply fun.

Something magical happens when you get people who work together out of the work zone and into a fun zone. They often still talk work – it’s what they share in common – but they share work in a more innovative and productive way.

Remove obstacles to innovative thought.

There are always communication barriers between team members and senior leadership. Discovering and eliminating them could be an innovation waterfall.

One way is to get in the room and have a real problem which needs to be solved and not already have the answers. Let the answers emerge. People love to solve a problem.

Invite new (different) people to the table.

It could be different people on the team or people from the community, but new people equals new ideas. And make sure they are people who may not look like the rest of the team. We’ve often brought staff spouses to the table to fuel our thoughts. The idea here is to glean from other voices.

Set innovation timeline goals.

If you want to eventually build a new website, for example, put a date on the calendar for when it MUST be completed. It’s amazing how creative we often become under a deadline.

What are some ideas you have to encourage innovation?

How Ideas Are Received On A Healthy Team

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Healthy teams allow every idea a chance to live. Initially, there are no bad ideas.

The healthiest teams don’t contain a built in idea killer or a system that shuts them down before their time.

That’s because good leaders know ideas need a chance to breathe. They need to be stretched and prodded and examined. The best ideas sometimes often come from what started as a seemingly bad idea.

Genius ideas may often be killed before they have a chance to develop into their greatness.

I once had a serial entrepreneur (with over 200 successful startups he was a part of at some level) tell me he never met a bad idea. He just keeps tweaking the idea until it works.

That’s why healthy teams have freedom and regularly:

  • Brainstorm
  • Analyze
  • Test drive
  • Push back
  • Critique
  • Debate
  • Challenge
  • Collaborate 
  • Dialogue 
  • Listen
  • Discuss 

Every. Single. Idea. 

Healthy teams remain open-minded about an idea until it’s proven to be a bad idea or there’s no way to make it a good idea. And never before.

It doesn’t have to be a long process. It could be a short process. Some ideas don’t take long to discern.

AN EXAMPLE

One time we were trying to find ways to get new people to our new church plant. In a brainstorming session, an extremely creative, often off the wall idea guy blurted out, “Let’s give free monkeys to the first 100 people on a Sunday!” He was serious. And he meant live monkeys; the kind you find at the zoo.

It didn’t take long to get through that idea, but the point is he felt free sharing his most random idea. And we landed that while monkeys may not be the gift, perhaps there was some gift we could give our visitors. I think we landed on coffee mugs. (Even now I wish we had at least painted a monkey on the side of them.)

The point is healthy teams give every idea a chance to live.

That is because healthy teams know there is value in the collection of ideas on a team. And they are willing to flesh them out to the best ideas.

Leader, next time your team gets together open the floor of discussion to ideas, let everyone put ALL their ideas on the table. Make sure there is no fear of embarrassment or retribution. Watch for collective brilliance to develop .

5 Personal Reflection Questions to End a Year and Start Another

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I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise. 

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends.

Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed).

I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Perhaps you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. It could be you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to.

Perhaps you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Most of us need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream?

Could this be the year you mend the broken relationship? What would the year be like if you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Maybe this is the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Perhaps getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. 

When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise. 

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!

5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

I love having creative people on teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier. Leading creatives can be difficult.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creative minds are always wandering. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others. It makes leading a team meeting harder.

And, before you creatives get too defensive, just so you know…

I’m a creative.

Not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. But I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination. I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

The main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others, add energy and challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

We don’t like boundaries, rules or policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. Creatives need to know what a win looks like. We need structure. I’m not suggesting you give us needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes.

As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

But it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.

Life Cycles of an Organization: And the Team That Leads Them

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Every organization has a life cycle. In fact, over time an organization will likely be many separate cycles. I have written about organizational life cycles before.

But I have observed another dynamic within these life cycles. In each life cycle the most successful organizations I have been a part of had a team skilled at three separate functions.

The three functions are:

Starters

Starting involves those who can dream, vision-cast, and recruit people to follow a new idea or initiative. These are the people who embrace change and are always ready for something new. (BTW, this is the group where I typically fit.)

Maintainers

Maintaining involves setting up and managing systems in an effort to continue the progress usually begun by others. These people may be slower to embrace change; valuing things which are organized, structured, and understandable. (BTW, every team needs these people to be successful.)

Finishers

Finishing is different from starting or maintaining, because it’s not beginning new, nor is it staying the same, but it involves taking an established idea and carrying it to the next destination. It could be to improve things or to close them gracefully. These are people who have the ability and desire to make existing things better and to finish things well.

Here’s why this matters in an organization:

In my observation, people tend to lean towards one of the three, and may be comfortable in two of them. I have found it rare for someone to be gifted in all three. But on successful teams, all three are operating together within a life cycle.

I love being a starter. Since I was in high school, I’ve wanted to start clubs or initiatives, alter the direction of something, or stir up some intentional change. It is one reason I’m consistently tossing out new ideas to our team. (It’s also how I frustrate them most.) I can live in the finisher role for a time if it involves development or innovation, but I always drift back to starting something new. And I burn out very quickly in the maintaining position.

One goal of a team could be to balance the strengths of the team members around each of these, so the team is always starting, maintaining, and finishing. The most important thing is that the team and leaders recognize that each of these functions of a life cycle are equally important.

Every healthy life cycle requires all three.

Which one are you wired for best?

(If you say all three, you might want to ask people around you to help you evaluate your answer.)

Where Many New Ideas Come From

By | Change, Innovation, Leadership | 6 Comments

In my experience, many of the new ideas for our organization…and for my life…have come while I was doing something else.

Usually when we are working on planning a service it’s when the best ideas for a service develop…

Often when I’m working on a blog post, I get several new ideas for a blog post…

Look at most great inventions and they were discovered while doing something…many times while doing something totally unrelated to what was discovered…

That’s because…

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One Tip to Help You Meet Your Goals

By | Business, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership | 3 Comments

Do you ever struggle to complete a project?

You have a goal, you may even know what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality, but you never seem to accomplish the necessary tasks that will bring you success. Your dreams remain simply dreams and you remain frustrated with yourself.

Sound familiar?

Let me share a quick tip to help you avoid this scenario.

Many of us, perhaps even most of us, work better under a little pressure.

Earlier this year I wrote about writing a life plan. (You can read that series of posts HERE.) I’ve found that setting a deadline for the specific action steps in a plan like this helps me be more productive…

If I have a major project I need or want to complete I will:

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