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.

7 Indicators You are Serving on a Dysfunctional Team

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

Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, you’ve served on one which is dysfunctional. It appears to me we have many to choose from in the organizational world. There are no perfect teams. And we are all dysfunctional at some level and during some seasons.

In case you’re wondering- my definition of a dysfunctional team – in simple terms – is one which cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance, because it is impacted by too many negative characteristics. There’s more going wrong than right more days than not.

In my experience, there are commonalities of dysfunction. If you have been on dysfunctional teams before you’ve probably seen one or more of the common traits.

See if any of these seem familiar.

7 indicators of dysfunctional teams:

Team members talk about each other more than to each other.

The atmosphere is passive aggressive. Problems are never really addressed, because conflict is avoided. The real problems are continually ignored or excused.

Mediocrity is celebrated.

Everything may even be labeled “amazing”. Nothing ever really develops or improves because no one has or inspires a vision bigger than what the team is currently experiencing.

It’s never “our” fault.

It’s the completion or the culture or the times in which we live. No one takes responsibility. And everyone passes blame. Will the real leader please stand up?

Communication usually brings more tension than progress.

There may be lots of information, but it’s not packaged in a way which brings clarity. No one knows or recognizes a win.

The mention of change makes everyone nervous.

Either change is rare, or it’s been instituted wrong in the past. Any real progress must be forced or controlled.

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions.

Team members never feel valued or appreciated. No one feels empowered. The leader uses words like “I” or “my” more than “we” or “us”.

There are competing visions, goals or objectives.

It’s every team member for his or herself. The strategy or future direction isn’t clear.

According to my observations have you served on dysfunctional teams?

Granted, every team goes through each of these during certain seasons. And, again, there are no perfect teams. But if there are at least two or three of these at work current I’d say it’s a good time to evaluate the team’s health and work to make things healthier.

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.

What Happens When the Leader Doesn’t Communicate

By | Leadership, Team Leadership | One Comment

When the leader doesn’t communicate it creates havoc on the team.

I remember talking with a staff member of a large church. She consistently feared the stability of her job. The reality is she never knew what the senior pastor was thinking. She was considering looking for a new position, not because she didn’t like her work, but because she wasn’t sure about her future. According to her, living with uncertainty was the standard when working on this church staff and it was too much for her.

I’ve learned over the years that communication is one of the most important aspects of the field of leadership. In fact, it may be the thing that makes or breaks a leader’s success.

When a leader fails to communicate, it actually communicates a great deal to the organization. Unfortunately, it’s not always an encouraging message. The unknown invites people to create their own scenarios – they make up their own stories – which rarely turns out well for the leader, the team, or the organization.

Failing to communicate says to the people on your team:

You don’t care about your team.  The team thinks you are apathetic towards the emotional and practical needs of people on your team and their need to be informed.

You don’t know. They think you simply aren’t savvy enough to see what’s ahead. You have no vision to share.

You can’t decide. Your team thinks you’re incapable of making a decision, either because you’re afraid of people’s reactions or you’re not a strong enough leader to make a decision.

You don’t value your team. Perhaps the most dangerous scenario your silence produces is when people believe you don’t think they are worthy of knowing. (Put yourself in their shoes and see how that one feels.)

What’s the bottom line?

Communicate.

Keep people informed what you’re thinking, doing, and where you are going next.

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 to Hear Different People as a Leader

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

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader. To lead well, I need to hear from different people. 

I have personally made the mistake of assuming what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Time has proven this to be wrong repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful, because if the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. 

So, if you recognize the need and want to hear from different people – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this and hear from different people:

(I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we. But I want you to see how I am being intentional in this area, so I provide a few practical examples.)

Welcome input.

This is more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office and challenge my decisions.

Granted, I want to receive respect too, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Intentionally surround yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. One of my closest friends is a different race from me. I learn so much from him.

Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Ask great questions.

And ask lots of them. Personally, I love to ask questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I invite different people to staff meetings to hear from different voices. Periodically, I set up focus groups of people for input on various issues.

I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible and try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. A personal value is hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me.

I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings, I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Structure for expression of thought.

This refers to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality.

As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

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.