5 Ways to Benefit from Your Organization’s Best Asset

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Do you want to harness the greatest power in your organization? Are you benefiting from your organization’s best asset?

The organization’s best assets – whether a church, business or non-profit – never appear on your balance sheet.

The truth is any organization is only as good as the people within it. Take the greatest idea and put the wrong people behind it and little progress will be realized. With the right people – even average ideas can achieve tremendous results.

The key to success is to learn how to get the best ideas out of the people within the organization. It’s often been called Human Capital. Learning to glean from this valuable resource takes experience and intentionality.

Are you relying on the knowledge, insight and experience of everyone on your team to make the organization better? Do you understand and appreciate the human capital your team brings to the table?

5 ways to realize more potential from the organization’s best asset:

Brainstorm frequently – and let everyone participate.

Have times periodically where everyone on the team – or cross-representatives from different teams across the organization – get to give input into the organization’s future. It’s important to provide ways for even the most introverted on the team to share thoughts. Information shouldn’t be defined to a “chain of command”.

Plus, everyone has something they know better than leadership knows. The people doing the work usually have better input on how things can be done more efficiently and effectively.

Allow mistakes

Create an environment where team members are willing to take risks without fear of repercussion if things go wrong. This atmosphere is created with the leader’s instant reactions to mistakes made and is reinforced by how the organization learns from failure.

When people feel free to explore, take risks, and innovate they will enjoy doing so.

I once read 12 things discovered by making a mistake.

  • The slinky
  • Penicillin
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Potato chips
  • The pacemaker
  • Silly Putty
  • Microwave ovens
  • Fireworks
  • Corn flakes
  • Ink jet printers
  • Post it notes
  • X-rays

Now where would the world be without Silly Putty – right? Seriously, God has given us creative minds. What is your team trying, which could prove to be a mistake – but it could be genius?

Ask lots of questions

The best leaders ask the best questions. Genuinely seek help from those around you. Value the input of others. I like to follow others on the team when they are the expert in a subject.

Plus, sometimes, I ask questions not as much for the answer but to get people’s minds churning. It’s proven to be gold when those questions turn into new ideas and opportunities.

Don’t pre-define solutions

If you want help solving a problem or planning for the future, start with a clean slate, without having a pre-determined outcome when addressing an issue. I love a clean whiteboard at the start of a meeting.

If the leader always has the answer, team members are less likely to share their input. They’ll simply wait – holding out the best solutions at times – knowing the leader will trump them anyway.

Be open to change

New ideas never come in an attitude of control or when the goal is always protecting tradition. The leader must genuinely desire new ways of doing things and must lead others to the same mindset.

Everyone on the team knows if the leader is really considering other people’s opinions. If team member’s suggestions are never implemented, they eventually will stop sharing them.

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Leaders Grow as the Organization Grows

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

Bad leadership is bad leadership. It’s usually easy to recognize.

It’s easier, however, to hide bad leadership in an organization, which isn’t growing. (I wrote recently that it’s easy to keep an organization small. Read that post HERE.)

The larger an organization becomes and the more growth, which occurs, the more bad leadership becomes apparent.

As an organization grows:

Read More

7 Encouragements for Worried Leaders

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

Most leaders will have occasions of worry. Worry is an emotion. You can know all the principles of leadership and still struggle with occasional worry. I would love to offer some encouragements for worried leaders. 

I’ve talked to some who say at least one day a week they are consumed with anxiety and fear. It’s the kind of frustration which, left unchecked, makes them almost want to quit. I talked to a pastor not long ago that was struggling with stomach problems (I won’t get more graphic than that), because of the worry he is dealing with as a leader.

The fact you worry shows you are normal, human, and conscientious as a leader. You want to be successful and the natural reaction is to worry when you feel you may not be.

But emotions play tricks on us. They’re fickle and unreliable. Our desire to do well, causes our emotions to produce worry. Constant worry can destroy a good leader, because it will control how the leader responds to others.

Obviously, Jesus said, “Do not worry!” We probably know this truth, believe it and want to live it. So, what’s the practical side of Jesus’ command in leadership and how do we actually live out the command?

Here’s something you need to know – or may need reminding. Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions – worry – won’t play tricks on you at times.

All of us worry, but how you respond when you worry seems to control you as a leader?

7 encouragements for worried leaders:

Pray and Bible study.

You knew I’d say this, didn’t you? Worry is, by definition, a misplaced trust. Ultimately your answer is in God’s ability and His control, not your own. If worry is consistently plaguing your leadership, you need to fill your mind with truth through Bible study and prayer is step one.

Remember your purpose.

You have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. When worry hits you, you need grounding to something more permanent than your worries. You have a life purpose. Likely you believe in a vision. Hopefully you have some goals. You need to remember what fuels your fire and why you are willing to take the risk of leadership. If worry has gotten to the place where you’re not sure of your purpose anymore, stop everything and find it again. You can’t afford not to.

Contact an encouraging friend.

I always find other leaders can speak truth into my life just when I need it most. God uses relationships to strengthen us and make us better. I have to be bold enough to text a friend and say, “I could use some encouragement”, but I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve been that bold. If you don’t have someone like this in your life that’s your assignment. The goal is to find the person and build the relationship before you need them.

Review your track record.

Most likely you’ve had success which led to the position you have now. You can do it again. One reason I keep an encouragement file is so I can read through the positive things I’ve done on days when nothing seems positive.

Count your blessings.

And name them one by one. There are always others who would love to have what you have. Someone is always worse off than you are. Most likely, even outside the position you have as a leader, God has blessed your life. Spend some time remembering the good God has allowed you to experience. The list is probably longer than you think and will help you avoid worry as you recall what God has already given you.

Get some rest – and hydrate.

Worry is more present when you are tired. I’ve learned we are often dehydrated and it makes an impact on us physically and emotionally. You may have to quit for the day so you can prepare for better days. The depth of the worry should determine the length of the period of rest. I’ve also learned part of being fully “rested” also includes making sure you are as healthy as you can be by eating the right foods and exercising, especially during the busiest seasons of life.

Rationalize.

People who most need to rationalize hate this one, but most of the things we worry about never come true. Is your worry based on reality or based on your emotional assumptions? Dismiss the things you can’t control, aren’t certain will go wrong, or the unknown. The more you limit irrational thoughts, the less for which you’ll have to worry.

Let me also say that if you are suffering from serious anxiety – to the point of being depressed, that’s not what I’m addressing in this post. Don’t ever be afraid to get professional help.

Join Nate (or Chandler) and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

7 Indicators You’re Not Leading Anymore

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads. I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader. There are times, for a variety of reasons, when even the best leaders stop leading, but I think we have indicators when we are not leading intentionally.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere.

Even the best leaders have periods when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break. And I encourage that.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. Plus, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

Again, those times should be intentional and they shouldn’t be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? What are the indicators you’re not leading? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? Then ask yourself if those are occurring.

For example,

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed.

Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions.

A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions.

Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining.

This is a hard one, but you can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched.

Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged.

Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal.

Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

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A Major Communication Barrier On Every Team

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There has been a major communication barrier on every team I have led. It is huge, and yet often overlooked.

Most effective teams at some point will do a personality assessment of team members. I work a lot with Myers Briggs, but there are certainly other great ones. At one time have probably taken most of them, All of them can be helpful at some level.

But this major communication barrier, while it can be picked up some by a personality assessment, is still often overlooked (or misunderstood) on most teams.

And, of course, this barrier involves a difference in people. If you’ve lead teams at all you could probably predict that.

A major communication barrier on all teams:

  • Those who speak with and listen for details.
  • Those who speak with and listen for generalities.

You could call it “big-picture oriented” and “detail-oriented” – and a host of other terms. And, again, this concept is certainly picked up in personality types and assessments, but the nuance of this principal is huge. If you don’t understand that people speak and listen differently you will continually be miscommunicating.

This is true in all relationships. It’s true in my marriage. In fact, it is our biggest source of conflict if we allow it to be. I speak and listen more in generalities. My wife speaks and listens more for details.

For illustration purposes, when I lead a team I rarely tell them exactly how I want something done. I paint a big picture vision, have lofty ideas, and a general concept of what things might look like. Sometimes a person on our team who listens in details misunderstands my point. If they don’t understand this about me, (and I have to continually remind people of our differences) they may think I gave them a specific directive, while I was only sharing a very general concept.

(And if you are wired for more details you’re still waiting for a clearer definition of this principle. But that only further illustrates my point.)

Think about your team for a minute. There will be huge variations of this principle among them. No two people are just alike. But if you had to assess – who are the people who speak and listen for generalities? And who listen and speak for more details?

There might lie a major communication barrier on your team.

Closing note: I have worked with a lot of churches (and several businesses) through mergers, conflict, and team dynamics. If you’d like me to help your team know each other and collaborate better together – and ultimately be healthier – please let me know.

Perception is Reality for a Leader

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Perception is often reality for a leader. Over the years, I have learned how a team sees you as a leader is often more important than who you really are as a leader.

Obviously, character is most important. Integrity matters even more than perception. You’ll often be misunderstood and you can’t please everyone. In fact, somedays, as a leader – it seems – you can’t please anyone.

So, as a leader, I’d rather know my character is genuine. I want to be loved most by those who know me best. 

That matters most. 

The reality of the success of a leader, however, may depend more on how you are viewed by the people you lead than it does on what you do as a leader.

Perception is often reality for a leader. 

I’ve learned, often the hard way, that the two are not always the same. You can have the greatest integrity, know all the right leadership techniques, and have a track record of success, but the way people you are trying to lead perceive you will determine the quality of your leadership – almost more than anything else. 

  • Do  people perceive you as an agent of empowerment or an agent of control?
  • Are you perceived as more a champion for their ideas or a killer of their dreams?
  • Do they perceive you more as a proponent of change or a protector of tradition?
  • Are you perceived as a friend of progress or the enemy of success?
  • Do they believe you will protect them when their back is turned?
  • Are you perceived as having their best interest ahead of your  own?
  • Do they genuinely perceive that your heart is fully committed to the team – or are you seeking your next best opportunity?
  • Are you perceived as likely to get angry when mistakes are made – or be grace-giving?
  • Do people perceive you as approachable more than you are harsh? 

These are all perceptions. And perceptions are often reality for a leader. 

Much of your success as a leader will depend on the perception you create among the people you attempt to lead. People will follow closer when their perception of you is that you are for them more than against them.

Perception is ultimately created by how you lead, but sometimes – just as vision does – perception leaks. So, people form perceptions regardless of whether or not you do anything. Perceptions may or may not be reality, but as a leader, I must be keenly aware of this principle. 

Candidly. I’ve seen this go in seasons in my leadership. I’ve often had to reinforce the perception in people’s minds about my leadership. Often this is after a busy or stressful time, when their is tension on the team, or during times of change. The team needs to perceive I’m still the leader they want to follow.

Sometimes, I need to ask pointed questions – (I’ve even done anonymous surveys) – to gauge people’s current perceptions of my leadership. 

But I must be aware that my perception is often reality as a leader. 

If you’re still trying to get your mind around my thoughts, here is an example: 

Once we had make some rather significant changes to our organizational structure. It meant fewer people reported directly to me. When we announced the changes I reiterated my open door policy and availability to our staff would continue. People who work with me long have learned this is how I lead.

But human nature kicks in for all of us. And change evokes an emotional response, which helps shape people’s perceptions. I knew I needed to take intentional actions in the weeks following to make sure the perception of my leadership is as strong as my actual leadership.

Guard how people perceive you as a leader. 

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

7 Markers of Great Leadership

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There are some markers of great leadership. When all of them are present, stellar leaders are set apart from mediocre leaders.

Great leaders are multidimensional. While continuing to improve, great leaders have achieved certain characteristics – markers if you will, which help them attract loyal followers, while continuing to achieve success.

When you see these markers combined, you’ve probably found an amazing leader.

7 markers of great leadership:

Humility. Great leaders are willing to surrender “their” way when it’s not the best way. They realize and appreciate the strength of a team. Also, great leaders are willing to let others on the team receive equal (or more) recognition for achievement.

Intentionality. Great leaders continue to learn. They have mentors. Great leaders read. They continue their education through conferences or school. Great leaders know they can’t help others grow if they aren’t growing personally.

Compassion. Great leaders consider the needs of others ahead of their own. They care about people beyond what the people do. And that compassion is sometimes tested when mistakes are made.

Integrity. Great leaders never separate character from their definition of success. They know there can be nothing of real value if those who are trying to follow can’t respect the leader.

Passion. Great leaders have the ability to rally a team and clearly articulate a potential path to victory. They spur momentum and garner support for the cause; even when the journey is risky and unknown.

Vision. Great leaders see things others can’t see or have failed to pursue. They take people where they need to go, but may be afraid to go on their own.

Strength. Great leaders have the discipline to follow through on commitments. They weather the storms of time; standing firm when others are dropping out of the race.

I’m not claiming all great leaders excel in each of these areas – all the time. I am certainly not saying I have these markers, but I do believe there should be a certain level of accomplishment, a progression towards each of these in a leader’s life. At the very least, a desire to achieve these should be a goal of great leaders.

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Effective Questions Promote Effective Brainstorming

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Brainstorming often leads a team to the answers you can’t seem to find any other way. And effective questions promote effective brainstorming. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right responses.

The most effective brainstorming begins with great questions.

For example, what if the team is trying to discern what went wrong on a project?

Perhaps there has been some major fall out and the team has suffered damage, either financially, in reputation or in morale. The questions you ask could determine how well you recover. (By the way, I talk almost weekly to churches in some form crisis mode. This process may help with that scenario also.)

Using that as our example, consider the questions in this post. Some questions will apply to a similar circumstance with your team and some won’t. You’ll need to add some of your own. But see if the principle of asking effective questions can help lead you through an effective and helpful brainstorming session.

Below are 4 words and sets of questions to lead your team in brainstorming. This is simply for illustration purposes, but if I were leading you through this process, (and I’m happy to come help you do that) we would take time on each section, stopping to summarize our findings along the way. Depending on the size of the group, we may break into sub-groups to brainstorm, then come back together to summarize.

The words and questions aren’t “magic”. They are simply a strategy for getting some effective brainstorming questions in front of the group to draw out the conversation.

Again, depending on what you are trying to discover, you would change the words and the questions in each section.

Effective questions for effective brainstorming:

Reflect on the current circumstances.

  • What went wrong?
  • How did it happen?
  • What’s the damage?
  • Who is impacted?
  • How much did it cost us – in capital, momentum, morale and reputation?
  • What are the long-term and the short-term ramifications?

Recalculate based on our current scenario.

  • How can we improve?
  • How do we keep it from happening again?
  • What’s the best way to recover?
  • Who are the right players in our recovery?
  • What are the immediate, mid-range and long-term decisions we need to make, as a result of this?

Recharge ourselves from our loss.

  • Why are we doing what we do? (Our vision should drive us.)
  • What’s our motivation to begin again?
  • Why are we needed? (If we weren’t here, who would miss us – and why?)
  • What are some of our examples of success? (We can build from those.)
  • What can we do to spur new momentum?

(Don’t skip this set of questions. Regardless of the issue, this type thinking is needed every time. You’ll be tempted to ignore them, because you assume you know these, but you always need the energy this type dialogue produces. Depending on the issue, you can’t usually do this immediately as well, because the previous issues are usually clouding people’s minds.)

Reignite the team to move forward.

  • How soon can we begin again?
  • Do we need a relaunch or do a complete overhaul?
  • What’s our strategy moving forward?
  • Who is our spokesperson?
  • What are some short-term, “low hanging fruit” wins we can have?
  • Who needs to do what to get things going?
  • Where are we healthy enough to build upon?

Asking the right questions may determine the success or failure in the days ahead. But don’t miss asking effective questions for effective brainstorming. The time you spend preparing for a session like this is just as important as what happens during the session. 

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7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

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

Leadership can be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it will likely cost us something – maybe even something we value greatly. There are high costs of leadership that every leader should be willing to pay. 

The reality is that leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Therefore, cheap leadership is never good leadership.

What high costs are you paying for leadership? 

Let me give you a few examples.

7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization. 

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership leads into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change – when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

People follow worthy visions. Of course, we should create measurable goals and objectives. We should discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for the high costs of leadership. Good leadership is not cheap!

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