Fast or Slow – Making Decisions as a Leader

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

As a leader, or even as a team member, we constantly have to make decisions. Great leaders understand the power of decision-making and learn to use this power wisely.

In simple terms, leaders should consider two methods of decision-making. Some decisions can be arbitrary decisions and others need to be calculated decisions. Knowing which type of decision making to use at a given time will help you be a better leader.

I know leaders who make very quick, instant decisions only to grow to regret them. (This leader being one.)

Here are 7 characteristics of each type decision-making process:

Read More

7 Dangerous Leadership Practices

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

I’ve seen it so many times. Most likely you have also. Dangerous leadership practices. 

A leader can be doing everything else right and one flawed practice overshadows and jeopardizes all the good leadership principles we know.

One constantly repeated action, trait, habit, mindset – one practice.

Sadly, many times it’s not even the person isn’t a good leader – it’s one continued practice gets them off track. So, I believe leaders should constantly be working on bad practices, which keep them from being as successful as they can be.

Here are 7 dangerous leadership practices I’ve observed:

(In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership practice. I can even know better and yet I allowed it to continue too long.)

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled. Yet, the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead.

I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate.

Ironically, I have found that when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which do need my attention.

Always seeing the glass as half-empty.

A consistently negative leader will seldom find success long-term, simply because people will not care to follow.

Some people have a negative view all the time and about everything (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing). Practicing this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments.

If we aren’t careful – we can let a practice develop where we constantly have a negative mindset. That begins to carry over into every other area of our life – and we start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership.

High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life.

I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. Also, I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential.

The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale.

People need disciplined plateaus where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

I once worked for a leader like this. He had high expectations for everyone, not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself.

He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was.

People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit or all the blame.

This is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves all the credit or all the blame.

There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. That’s true of the mistakes a team makes as well.

It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own. Shared success and failure is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down or turning everything off.

You can’t do it. Don’t think you can. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but, you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try.

(Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.)

For me, this poor practice usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (For me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating from other people.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people, accountability and community. All leaders need those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

An Elementary Approach to Facing Conflict

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

I’ve seen a lot of conflict in my life. From parents and couples in my office for counseling to employment situations where two people can’t get along. I’ve even seen a fight in the grocery store because someone thought someone else cut line. And I’ve been to more than one church business meeting gone bad. Along the way, I’ve often thought there must be better ways to approach conflict. 

I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed the way one person responds often determines the way the other person responds. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

When you are backed into a corner and facing potential conflict you have a choice. You can come out fighting or you can be smart, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.

I have concluded, therefore, that the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.

3 elementary ways to approach conflict:

Stop

Stop and think.

  • What is the best approach?
  • What do you really want to accomplish?
  • Based on your time to reflect – how should you respond?

The opening moments are always critical in any conflict. You can quickly back someone or yourself into a corner. Cornered people move into a self-protection mode, fail to react rationally, and the sense of what’s best is lost.

It requires practice, but take adequate time to plan the best way to approach the other party. It may require you being silent when your prone to speak, but this one step often avoids much of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict. (As an example, Jesus took time to make a whip before driving the money changers out of the temple. John 2. I shared how I do this in my book The Mythical Leader.)

Drop

Drop the right to win. That’s hard, but if you want the conflict to be resolved you have to start with the attitude that you want the best resolution – even if you don’t get everything you want in the outcome.

When you come into a potential fiery situation with a have-to-win attitude you cloud your ability to work for the best results. Self-centeredness always gets in the way of healthy conflict. Be humble and agree you are going to do what is best, even if that means you don’t get your way.

This doesn’t mean you give in to the other party, but the goal in conflict should not be to win personally, but to reach the best solution for everyone.

Roll

Roll out the best approach to the conflict. Use the appropriate strategy, skills and temperament to resolve the conflict. This means you hold your temper, watch your words, and value the other person’s viewpoint.

I realize it takes two or more people to make this happen, but when one party is willing to do the first two it makes accomplishing the best so much more likely.

Go into every potential conflict with a humble desire for the best solution to be accomplished. I believe this will help in family relationship, work environments, and even on social media. 

Stop, drop and roll.

Try it next time you are facing conflict. 

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

My Basic Staff Meeting Structure

By | Church, Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

I am frequently asked about how I conduct staff meetings with teams I lead. They are looking for some sort of basic meeting structure to incorporate with their team. 

But I have always had a difficult time answering the question for two reasons: 

1. I don’t always lead staff meetings for the teams I lead. Typically, I let other staff members lead them. In previous churches, I usually let the bulk of staff meetings be led by the executive or associate pastor. I even like to float some leadership in meetings between different team members. It adds a fresh perspective and gives other people experience. 

2. I don’t like doing the same thing every time. Just as I like to see variety in our worship services, I like to see changes in the way we conduct meetings. I get bored easily. (I suspect others do also.) It could be that we move rooms. We might change up the setting and go off campus. Sometimes we start with prayer/devotion and sometimes we close with that time. We eat together at times and other times we get right to business. I never want to keep the same pattern long or things get stale. 

So, I want to change things up frequently. Different locations. Even different people in the room. 

But, as I have been asked the question so many times I reflected on an answer. Regardless of the size of the room – whether it is leadership team meeting or an entire staff, there are some things I’m trying to accomplish every time we meet.

Here is a basic meeting structure for teams I am trying to lead:

Hear from me. I want there to be a time where people on the team know what’s going on in my mind. What am I currently thinking about/dealing with? Where do I see things going? I have learned people will often wait for the leader to share before they will proceed. 

It should be noted, I want an empowered team. I love when people take their own initiatives without being asked. And I will often do this later in the meeting to keep from squelching other ideas. But experience tells me most won’t until they know what the senior leader is thinking. 

Hear from others. Everyone gets a chance or at least could share what is on their mind. What are the current struggles or obstacles people are dealing with? We only know what we know, right? So, I want people to have a place to vent if needed. But also, their own current ideas, hopes and dreams. Healthy teams empower everyone with a voice. 

I have shared this before, but I am sensitive to the introverts in the room. (My kind of people.) So, I will even allow people to text or email in their answers. In the Zoom world, that is taking advantage of the chat feature. 

Celebrate Wins. Whenever we get together we should encourage one another. That’s what keeps a team a team – when we get to realize what we are accomplishing as a team. So, every time we meet there should be an element of talking about the places the team is achieving our mission. 

The celebration should be representative of the effort to accomplish the win. For example, you may applaud and congratulate an individual who accomplished a small project over the weekend, but if a whole team completed a major event successfully a party might be in order. 

Consider Next. This is for everyone to participate, but what are the next exciting things ahead for us as a team? What could we accomplish together? How could we address some of the current opportunities and challenges? 

I don’t care for meetings that are simply informational. Meetings are a use of valuable time and can easily be a waste of time. So, every time we get people together we should be using that time to drive the mission of the organization forward somewhere new. 

Delegate details. Who is responsible for what? What does a win look like when we leave here? 

The worst thing you can do is to leave a meeting with no assignments of what was discussed or people wondering who is going to do what next. Again, it is a waste of precious time. 

I like to have someone document the events of the meeting – not in a formal minutes kind of way, but in a format that’s easy to see, in a document shared by everyone, where people can see a timeline of who is responsible and by when. Then we can follow up on those items at the next meeting. 

Answer questions. I can be very big picture and leave a lot of unanswered questions. I may not have an answer, but at least the question gets on the table, because someone likely does. Of course, there are many times, such as during a pandemic, when the answer is we will simply have to wait and see. But as much as possible I try to answer questions. 

Therefore, I love to ask questions. Great leaders ask great questions. And in every meeting I want to provide a couple of questions to draw out of people what they are thinking. 

Fellowship. This varies based on the frequency of the meeting. Of course, there are emergency meetings where it wouldn’t make sense to discuss what you did over the weekend for fun. For most meetings, there is a time just to catch up and build relationships with the team. The best meetings I have experienced have time simply set aside for fellowship. 

Frankly, as one wired to be more task-oriented, this part of the meeting takes discipline for me. But I’ve observed over the years that this time of fellowship among the team builds the team. It is so important that sometimes we build opportunities just for this. 

So, there’s my “basic meeting structure”. And I realize these may be elements more than an actual plug-and-play structure, but for me everything else is on the table to move around, rearrange, cancel or adjust in how we conduct the meeting – or where. Change it up! 

Nate and I have launch a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast soon. 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.

Read More

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.

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.