Phrases to Ban When Developing Ideas

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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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How to Encourage Cooperation on the Team You Lead

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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.

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.

7 Statements Leaders Should Say Frequently

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One of the goals of a leader should be to encourage, strengthen and challenge a team to continually improve. Almost as a cheerleader rousing the crowd at a game, the leader uses their influence to bring out the best in others. Consequently, there are some things leaders should say frequently.

Much of the culture of the organization is set by the things we say as leaders. The vocabulary of a leader helps shape the culture and atmosphere of the team. The statements we make as leaders carry great weight with the people we are leading.

I even think we should intentionally include certain statements regularly in our language.

7 statements leaders should say frequently:

I believe in you.

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. That’s not helpful. But, hopefully as a leader you are surrounding yourself with people in whom you do believe. Tell them. Everyone needs to know this, but in my experience, this is even more important the newer the person is on the team.

You are an asset to this team.

Let them know they make a difference. One of the best ways to do this is by bragging on people when they do something well in front of the rest of the team. Even the most introverted person enjoys this kind of recognition.

I’ve got your back.

If you are an empowering leader – and you should be – then people are stepping out on their own, taking risks for the benefit of the organization. They need to know you support them – even when mistakes are made.

You did a great job.

If they did tell them. Never miss an opportunity to give post-project encouragement. Celebrating wins encourages the team and more wins.

I want to help you reach your personal goals.

This could even mean the person would no longer be on your team if they did, but it protects their loyalty while they are and this type environment welcomes the highest caliber of leaders. They are willing to work with you because they know you won’t attempt to hold them back from their own goals – in fact, you will encourage them.

I respect you for _______.

Be specific. What is it that impresses you about this team member? What do they uniquely add to the team? Tell them. The power of this one is exponential.

I trust you.

This one requires more than words. You’ll have to prove it with your actions. When a team member feels trusted by the leader they are more willing to take risks. They will have more loyalty to the leader — trusting the leader in return. And they will be more likely to overlook the days you aren’t leading quite as well.

You may not be able to use these phrases every day. You shouldn’t overuse them. They need to be genuine, heartfelt and honest. These aren’t even intended to be used every week. But, as often as you can, slip a few of these into your memory bank and pull them out where appropriate. They will help you build a better team.

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.

3 Areas of Fuzziness on a Healthy Team

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

Clarity is often king in organizational dynamics. Words do matter and clear communication is vital for healthy teams. As hard as it is for me to zero in on one idea, I know a huge part of my job as a leader is to help people understand our vision and where we are going next to try to realize it (as well as I know at the time). At the same time, there will be a certain fuzziness on a healthy team. 

This is a paradox when it comes to clarity and organizational health.

Some things are actually what I refer to as “fuzzy” on a healthy team. Indistinct. Muddled. Unclear. I’ve been talking about this principle for years, but 2020 has only served to confirm it.

And, as strange as that seems, fuzziness can be healthy. 

Let me give some examples.

3 areas of fuzziness on a healthy team:

The lines of authority are often blurred

In some of the healthiest organizations I know, the organizational chart doesn’t matter as much in accomplishing the vision. It’s often “fuzzy” in regards to who is in charge at any given time. One person doesn’t have all the ideas or all the answers. Everyone has an equally important role to play, and while everyone knows what is expected of them, who is “in charge” is determined by what is being attempted at the time.

Leadership often depends on the task being performed. People lead based on their passions and gifting, more than because of their position, title or job description. In fact, those may change as needed to fit the current organizational challenges and opportunities.

(I often tell members on our teams that when they have a really big project or ministry – I work for them. Tell me what to do.)

There aren’t a lot of burdensome rules

Obviously we need structure. Rules have a place. But on healthy teams, rules are designed to enhance, not limit growth. The best rules empower people not control them – and likely there are fewer of them. Bureaucracy diminishes progress and frustrates the team.

Granted, this fuzziness can produce a lot of gray areas, which can even be messy at times. But removing hard lines around people promotes their individual creativity and encourages innovation for the team.

Some things are subject to change quickly

Certain things like vision and values are concrete. They aren’t changeable. In a healthy environment, however, methods of accomplishing the vision are always held loosely. There is no sense of ownership or entitlement to a way of doing things. As needs change, the team can quickly adapt without a ton of push back and resistance.

Admittedly, this can cause some uneasiness for those who favor structure. This is where fuzziness can get uncomfortable, but the team has an attitude of unity, so even people more resistant to change can embrace it.

I am certainly not promoting fuzziness. I would still aim for clarity – whenever possible. Even in times of uncertainty some things, such as the values which drive the team should be clear. But just as life is often full of unknowns – even messy – so is life on a healthy team. Figuring out how to navigate through these times and keep the team moving forward together is a part of 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.

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

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

I have a simple leadership principle. Don’t address HOW you are going to do something until you decide WHAT you are going to do. Or if you’re even going to do it.

I’ve seen it many times.

You have an idea – it’s not a bad idea – it may even be a great idea. You just don’t know yet. As soon as you present the idea the team instantly starts to ask tons of question, begin implementing the plan, and gets bogged down in details.

And then, after time of discussion – sometimes hours – the team decides its not a good idea after all.

Here’s my advice. I use this with the teams I lead.

Spend your energies at first on deciding whether it’s an idea worth pursuing.

The WHAT.

The what is “what” you are going to do. The current dream you have moving forward. The overall objective. The big picture of what’s next.

Decide the what – what are you doing or not doing – before you spend a lot of energy on the mechanics of the idea.

The HOW.

The how is how you are going to do the what. These are the details. The nuts and bolts working plan. You may have to talk about some of the how to decide the what, but spend your first, best and most energy on the what.

For example, let’s say you have an idea to add a third church service to allow for more growth – or maybe you are thinking of going multi-site – or the idea could be to launch an online campus. Don’t spend too much time on the how, until you decide the what.

Ask hard questions such as:

Is this an idea worth pursuing? Are we willing to give it a try? Has this been birthed in prayer? Do we believe this is something we are supposed to do?

Yes or no?

Spending too much time on the how before you address the what:

  • Gets you bogged down in details you may never need.
  • Wastes energy which could be used elsewhere if you aren’t going to do the what.
  • Solves problems you don’t yet and may never have.
  • Creates division about change prematurely.
  • Builds momentum before it’s time. (And, it’s harder to build momentum a second time.

When you know you’re going to do the what – you have to, you’re called to, it’s what or bust – you’ll figure out the how. You’ll find a way to make it happen. You’ll have more passion, clarity and energy to address the how.

Try that next time an idea surfaces and is discussed by your team.

Note: This is assuming, of course, you already know your “why” as an organization. You know why you are doing whatever you are doing. This post addresses a more specific aspect of realizing the vision. If you don’t yet have the why – start there.

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