Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Key Websites for the Christian Leader

I've been researching resources over the past week or so and have found, what I believe are, some key web-sites for Christian leaders to bookmark and return to often. With the ready availability of leadership resources today, there is no excuse to go under-resourced. The greatest challenge today is narrowing down that ever-growing list to find those that are the most helpful. I hope this blog post helps with that.

Church Planting
Ed Stetzer - The Lifeway Research Blog. Ed Stetzer is an author, speaker, researcher, pastor, church planter, and Christian missiologist. Stetzer is a contributor to the North American discussion on missional church and church planting.

Ministry/Leadership - This great site has resources for ministry leaders from Lead Pastors, to CM, Youth Ministries, Worship Pastors, etc... It also provides a compilation of blog posts relevant to ministry. There's something for everyone and is worth a daily visit.

Coaching For Pastors - Scott Couchenour provides some great encouragement and coaching for pastors who need some help. If you're stressed out or feeling close to burnout, spend some time with Scott. In his own words: "I’m a recovering burnout and depression sufferer." His blogs are short and sweet and helpful.

Pastor's Perspective - Ron is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He is also a consultant to church leaders, a church planter and founder of Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotionals, family resources and leadership materials. Lots of great material to glean from here.

Church Administration - I stumbled on this site which provides an inside look at how one of the most successful churches in America - Northpoint Community - runs the business side of things. You'll find sections on Budgeting, Facilities, Committees, Church Structures, etc... Lots of stuff to keep the admin minded leader occupied.

These are just a few that I have found to be helpful. What sites are you using to help you in your ministry?

Related Articles:
"Want a Mentor?"
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders
Resources: Top Ten Lists For Canadian Christian Leaders - Part II
Prime The Pump


Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Want a Mentor?"

Guest blog by Dan Reiland
My mentor, John Maxwell, has written and spoken about being mentored by the great coach John Wooden among others. I recently received a question by email asking: "How does one go about getting the greatest NCAA coach (John Wooden) as a mentor? Did he (Maxwell) just ask for regular meetings and what does mentorship look like?"

Good questions.

I will admit that getting John Wooden as a coach is an extraordinary circumstance involving an extraordinary leader. But on the other hand, John Maxwell didn't start there. It was only after nearly 30 years of successful leadership that John was able to connect with Coach Wooden. It was John's desire to grow and his great passion to add value to people's lives that made the difference. The fact that John is a tremendous student is also a very significant part of the story.

Over the years I've wondered which is more important -- to have a great mentor or to be a great student? The easy answer is both. But more and more I think the secret is in being a great student. You can have the most brilliant mentor in the world, even a famous one, but if you aren't ready to pay the price, dig in, learn and change, it won't matter.

I love John's early stories about offering to pay $100.00 for an hour of someone's time just to ask questions and learn. Back then $100.00 might as well have been $1,000.00!! But that didn't matter to John. That showed how serious he was, and at age 65 John is still passionate about learning and growing. I think that's one of the reasons his books and talks are so good. They come not only from (now) 40 years of experience, but also from a fresh place of learning and relevancy.

In contrast, I've seen men and women receive an hour or so of someone's time and show up ill-prepared. They had no written questions. They talked more than listened and expressed very little gratitude. It was almost as if they had some time to kill and thought that might be fun. When you do that to a busy person, they will not give you a second meeting.

So, do you want a mentor? Let me offer some good advice.

1. Be good at something first.

This might sound strange, but you need to be good at something before you ask someone to help you be great at something. You can be good at anything! That doesn't matter. You may want to be a great leader and your only claim to fame is that you are really good at golf or giving a talk. Maybe you are brilliant at math or a technological genius type. Here's the point, if you are good at something, you have shown the passion and discipline to create the needed potential to become great at what you really want. I don't want to discourage you, but if you've just been hanging out and you've never worked hard at anything, you're not ready for a mentor. Perhaps you're a young adult and your only claim to fame is that you were an A student in college. Great! That's what I'm talking about. Get good at something first.

2. Seek someone just a little ahead of you.

A common mistake is to think: "If I'm going for a mentor, I'm going right to the top and getting the best." I appreciate the sentiment, but you are likely making a mistake. For example, if a pastor who serves in a church of 500 seeks a mentor who pastors a church of 5,000, the two of them clearly live in two different worlds and they barely speak the same language. Yes, leadership principles are leadership principles. That's true, but trust me on this, and this is the key, you are much better off being mentored by someone who understands where you are because they were there at one time, and maybe even not so long ago! If you lead a church of 500 try to get a mentor who leads a church of 800 to 1,200. This is not a legalistic thing. Don't get hung up on the numbers, just go with the idea. And of course, make the ask.

3. Think intentionally organic.

Don't ask for lots of regularly scheduled meetings. You will likely lose a potential mentor that way. Don't ask for monthly or even quarterly connects. Go for a more intentionally organic approach. Here's what I mean. If you can hang with a couple meetings (phone or in person) a year plus a few short emails, you might be surprised by how quickly you get a yes. Intentional refers to staying strategic and on purpose and the organic simply means to catch the meetings when it works out naturally in both your schedules.

You don't need lots of meetings, not if you really want to change and grow. Information requires lots of meetings -- transformation requires only a few. If you connect with a good mentor two or three times in a year, that is plenty. It will take you at least that much time between conversations to really put to practice what was given to you. Now let's do the math, if you have two or three mentors, you can see that would be six to nine meetings a year – basically way too much.

Note #1: When it's a boss/employee relationship, of course you meet much more often, but much of that is just "doing business." That's natural and normal. It is unrealistic to think that's all mentoring. In fact, if it is, you are likely into something closer to a counseling relationship than coaching and mentoring.

Note #2: When it's a crisis situation, everything changes. If it's a true crisis, your mentor will get that and quickly respond, and that requires more time. Sometimes in those situations I encourage the one I'm coaching to hire a consultant who can devote the needed time, and I remain as chief encourager during that crisis time.

4. Work harder than your mentor.

Don't waste your mentor's time. Show up with well thought through and relevant questions. Take notes. Work hard to practice what was discussed, and the next time you talk, tell him or her what you have done.

A good mentor will always have some questions, a resource or two, and good advice, but the mentoring is more your job than his/hers. You set the agenda and come with it in writing. If your mentor asks you to do something, make the necessary adjustments, but do it. This does not prevent healthy disagreements and intense conversations, but you either want their advice or you don't. If you don't, that's ok, but then stop taking their time and end the mentoring relationship with respect and gratitude.

I've been blessed with five mentors over the course of my life and I'm grateful! I'm sure that's part of the reason I'm eager to coach as many as I can. I trust that you will also pass on what is given to you. 


Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

As a communicator, Dan has a down-to-earth style that combines humor and strategic thinking. Each year he "coaches" many pastors and speaks to several thousand people, impacting lives and strengthening the local church.

Dan and his wife Patti live in Dacula, Georgia with their two children Mackenzie and John-Peter.

Related Articles:
"Team Morale"
"Evidence of a Vision"
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
Where's A Good Mentor?
Iron Sharpens Iron


Book Review: "Switch - How to Change Things When Change is Hard"

Chip and Dan Heath's book "Change" was one of the books recommended at a Leadership Summit I attended a couple of years ago. They are a couple of sharp young guys who wrote this book after doing extensive research in psychology, sociology and other fields on how to bring about transformative change.

I found this book appealing as a pastor because a large part of what I do is try to help people bring about positive change in their lives. This book is written to help leaders understand why and how people change, what keeps us from changing, and how to overcome obstacles to change.

For instance, in each of us we find that there tends to be a conflict whenever even a positive change is suggested. As psychologists have discovered, our rational mind (the rider) understands the need to change, but our emotional mind (the elephant) resists change because change involves action and disturbing existing routine. However, if we can find a way to overcome that tension, change can happen quickly.

They begin by highlighting three surprises regarding change which were discovered through studies. The first is that What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. In other words, we ought not to assume that people don't want to change. Often, they are in situations that make it difficult for them to change.

The second surprise is that What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. This is because often people are trying to change through the power of self-control, which can be emotionally exhausting. Self-control is an exhaustible resource. The bigger the change, the harder it is for someone to force themselves to make.

The third surprise is that What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. Sometimes we really don't know how to get to the other side, we just know that we want to change. We can find ourselves spinning our wheels because we just don't know what to do.

In the book, the Heaths provide a three-part framework for helping to facilitate change and to overcome these three problems.
  1. Direct the Rider (Rational Mind) 
  2. Motivate the Elephant (Emotional Mind)
  3. Shape the Path
Using real life examples and case studies, we can see how even entrenched behaviors can be changed when the right information is provided clearly. We may assume that people simply don't want to follow our advice when, in fact, they don't understand the situation in the same way that we do. Ask yourself how you can demonstrate it more clearly.

They also demonstrate why it is important to engage people's emotional side in order to build momentum. If a person doesn't feel that change will have a worthwhile benefit they will resist. It's human nature. But when the emotional side of us is engaged, a great deal can be accomplished.

Finally they talk about one of the greatest ways to facilitate change - shaping the path. This speaks of environmental changes. This may be as simple as hiding the large plates and using only the smaller ones if your goal is to lose weight. Or it may mean using a two-step switch that requires two hands to activate for dangerous equipment in order to keep hands clear.

There are great examples in this book of ordinary people who were able to bring about radical change.
  • Medical interns who defeated an entrenched medical practice that was endangering lives.
  • A home-organizing specialist who developed a simple technique to overcome the dread of housekeeping.
  • The manager who reversed the reputation of a customer-support team from failures into standard-bearers.
This book is well worth the read for anyone who leads people, because leadership is all about facilitating change. If you have some changes that you need to make in your life, this may be helpful to you as well. For those who know me, do you think it's a coincidence that my desk and office are now clean for the first time in recent memory? I think not!

Related Articles:
Creating Positive Change
Key Leadership Qualities - Adaptability
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
Are You Teachable?


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prime The Pump

There's an old story about a traveler who hiked for many miles across the Desert Mountains. His water supply was gone, and he knew that if he didn't find water soon, he would surely die. In the distance, he noticed an abandoned cabin and hoped to find some water there. Once he made it to the cabin, he discovered an old well. Then he noticed a tin can tied to the pump, with a note inside.

The note said:
Dear stranger: This water pump is in working condition, but the pump needs to be primed in order for the water to come out. Under the white rock, I buried a jar of water, out of the sun. There’s enough water in the jar to prime the pump, but not if you drink any first. When you are finished, please fill the jar and put it back as you found it for the next stranger who comes this way.

This parable is really about giving back, or paying it forward, if you like. What kind of a leader are you?

Are you the kind of leader who thinks only in the short term, or does your vision extend beyond perhaps even your lifetime? What can we learn from this parable?
  1. There are risks to take in leadership. It's not easy investing precious resources in something that can potentially give you a return. It's very tempting to look at that water and think about all of the "what ifs." What if I use this water to prime the pump and the pump still doesn't work - then I'm stuck with no water? What if this is just some cruel joke?
  2. Real leadership takes faith. It takes a lot of faith to pour out water that could save your life. Sometimes leadership requires stepping out and doing something that risks our very survival, simply because it's the right thing to do.
  3. Real leadership cares about those who follow after. The easiest thing to do here would be to drink deeply from the bottle, slake your thirst and then go happily on your way. But there will be another weary traveler crossing those mountains someday. Without your conscientious effort, they will more than likely perish. Someone cared enough to make provision for you; will you return the favor?
It's believed that Isaac Newton was the first to popularize the phrase: "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." It speaks well to the subject of leadership. Each of us in leadership have learned what we know from leaders who have gone before, whether in person, by recording or in written form. And each of us then decide what kind of leader we will become.

Many years ago I attended a conference in which John Maxwell spoke of his desire to add value to everyone he met. That thought has stuck with me through the years. Will you leave people better off than when they first met you, or will you simply take advantage of what they have to offer and move on to the next client (victim)? What difference could you make if you made a commitment to add value to every person with whom you come in contact? It seems to me a better option than leaving a legacy of very thirsty people. Don't neglect to prime the pump!

Related Articles:
The Pareto Principle
Why Don't You Like Me?
Creating Positive Change
The Power of Words


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Team Morale"

Guest blog by Dan Reiland

When I walk through the offices in any church, it doesn't take long for me to have gained an accurate sense of the staff's morale. Volume is usually my first clue. Ok, I'm kidding, but only a little! Teams with high morale don't behave as if they are in a library or museum! When I walk through the halls at 12Stone® Church where I serve as Executive Pastor, some days you'd think there's a party going on! And in some ways there is! I love it that way. Don't get me wrong, the 12Stone team works hard. But there is no reason it can't also be fun.

Warning signs of low morale:

(If you check three or more, even if "mild" circumstances, you need to work on improving the morale of your team. If you check either of the last two, please take action immediately.)

[ ] The team develops a critical spirit.
Faultfinding, complaining and negativism in general find their way into day-to-day work life.

[ ] The team exhibits an uncooperative attitude.
There is a lack of a servant's heart. Some are territorial and protect their own turf, and even have a political edge.

[ ] The team loses sight of the vision.
The big picture has been lost to individual agendas.

[ ] The team displays a lack of enthusiasm.
There is little passion and low energy. The teams are comfortable. For a few, it's "just a job."

[ ] The team reveals a lack of commitment.
Initiative is not strong. There is little risk in play. Meeting only the minimums and cutting corners is noticeable.

[ ] The team lacks spiritual fervor.
It seems more about work and less about prayer and God's favor. Momentum is probably lacking.

[ ] The team begins to cause more problems than they solve.
They function the opposite of the reason they are there! Most churches explode from the inside and this is how it happens.

[ ] The team shows a disregard and lack of respect for top leadership.
This is one of the most dangerous. Trust is in jeopardy and trouble is brewing. Ignore this and potentially lose your church.

[ ] The team uses low morale as a rally point.
This is a lethal warning sign! When the team uses low morale as a point to discuss, rather than specific issues to solve, it's past time to take action!! Jump on it. Confront the issue. Call a consultant. Do something!

Let's continue in the diagnostic mode. The next list includes a number of the top things that will lower your team's morale. Which ones do you need to work on?

Morale Busters
• Unclear responsibilities and expectations.
Even well-written job descriptions are often unclear. Wordy paragraphs filled with philosophical and theological overtones leave the staff member wondering what they are being asked to accomplish. It's better to have a short and very "net" bullet list of measurable expectations. Review that list at least twice a year.

• Inconsistent or unavailable leadership.
There is nothing worse than a moody leader and one that is hard to get to. Even the best of staff need leadership! This doesn't mean you need to provide an "open door" policy, but being available and quick to respond is important.

• Top leadership not willing to confront problems.
From end-runs to gossip to poor performance, many church staff teams suffer from some level of dysfunction including immaturity. While it may not be pervasive, it can begin to erode good morale. Facing problems quickly, honestly and with integrity goes a long way to improve morale.

• Under-staffing and over-staffing.
Prolonged under-staffing causes stress and frustration. Over-staffing allows a team to get comfortable and lazy and doesn't help to attract eagles to your team. Lean staffing is best. Lean staffing means hiring the best, but running the team a little light because the leaders can handle more.

• Poor Communication.
This is the most common on the list. In fact, I've never been to a church that didn't struggle to achieve good communication. This isn't meant to excuse the issue. In fact, it's more to acknowledge that we all have to work on it, and the better the communication the better the morale.

• The absence of professional evaluation and constructive feedback.
People want to know if they are doing a good job or not. They really do! Regular and written evaluations are vital to a healthy and growing organization. For a sample system, go to my blog at and click on Resources. Check out MAPs and "7" Coaching Conversation.

• Lack of initiative for leadership development.
Simple and consistent investments of leadership development are essential for a healthy and happy team. If the staff are not growing and getting better at what they do, the church can't achieve the Great Commission success it desires. I'll give an idea of what you can do in "Morale Builders" under "Invest in your leaders."

• Absence of a clear vision.
You know I couldn't leave this off the list! It's obvious I know, but without vision, and without clear direction and a strategy of how to get there, the morale of your team will decline.

Morale Builders
• Generous amounts of encouragement and gratitude.
Nothing lifts the human spirit quite like sincere encouragement. You really can't over encourage someone! Consistently expressing gratitude to each individual on your team goes a long way to increase morale. It's amazing what a simple thank you can do!

• Maintain high receptivity to change.
Growing organizations are changing organizations. Your church is no exception. If you have been doing the same things over and over, I can promise this causes an ebbing away at the morale of your team. Ask the hard questions about what needs to change, not for the sake of change, but to get better at what you do.

• Embrace risk and creativity in order to realize the vision.
Leaders take risks. Yes, it can raise your blood pressure but it also increases your faith and keeps the team alive! Prayerfully ask God where He wants you to be pressing against the edge. Experimentation is also needed to achieve the vision. This kind of creativity lets you try new things in an environment where it is hopefully ok to make mistakes.

• Cultivate positive and faith oriented attitudes.
It is surprising, but nonetheless true, that church staff teams can "sour" quickly. When the culture of the team goes toxic, you have a mess to clean up. Cultivating a positive spirit and sustaining strong faith doesn't happen automatically. You have to work at it. It requires intentionality. It requires honesty and confronting the issues. It's not a pie-in-the-sky attitude, it's a choice to see even the difficult things with a positive solution-oriented bias.

• Insist on results.
The team needs to know that results matter to God. It's not just about what the "boss" wants. The Kingdom is at stake. Teams get fired-up when they know everyone is kicking in on all cylinders and making things happen. When everyone is digging in and working hard to achieve success there is a wonderful kind of chemistry that gives a big boost to the morale.

• Invest in your leaders.
Leadership development is near and dear to my heart, and I hope it is to yours too. There are so many things you can do to help your leaders grow, but it's important to keep it simple and consistent. You can start by simply taking a group through a good leadership book asking two questions. 1. What are you learning? 2. How are you applying what you are learning?

• Lean into trust and the benefit of the doubt.
When your team has a high degree of trust in each other the morale gains an automatic boost. One of the best ways to cultivate trust is to establish within your culture a commitment to grant each other the benefit of the doubt. This includes in everything from email to group meetings. Assume the best! And if you are not sure, ask!

• Promote a sense of community.
Even in the midst of hard work, the team needs to play and take time to care about each other. Above all the job descriptions rides the truth that each one on your staff is a human being with their own hurts, struggles, joys and questions in life. It's so important to acknowledge and embrace this truth. Take time to talk, pray and play together!!

This article has been kind of a "lists on steroids" edition of the Pastor's Coach. I encourage you to take some time with your team and look at the lists. Talk honestly through them. Share some fist-bumps about what you are doing well, and work on the areas that needs improvement!


Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

As a communicator, Dan has a down-to-earth style that combines humor and strategic thinking. Each year he "coaches" many pastors and speaks to several thousand people, impacting lives and strengthening the local church.

Dan and his wife Patti live in Dacula, Georgia with their two children Mackenzie and John-Peter.

Related Articles:
"Evidence of a Vision"
Wet Cement
Are You Teachable?
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First Follow - Then Lead

Some people have the mistaken idea that leadership is simply mastering a group of skills. It's much more than that. True leadership, at least Biblical leadership, is about helping people become what they were intended to become, and accomplishing together what we couldn't do by ourselves; it's about fulfilling potential. In other words, Biblical leadership is other-centered. It's not about tasks, but relationship. While it is about results, those results aren't necessarily numbers.

For all of these reasons, one of the most important things a leader can do is to learn how to follow. Jesus didn't say "obey these rules," He said, "Follow Me." It is in the following, not just in the lesson, that the relationship is developed. Let's look at this lesson from the perspective of a follower: what do followers expect from leaders?

Followers expect leaders to have their best interests at heart.
If I'm going to follow someone, I want to know that they care about me. I want to know that what happens to me, matters to them. As some wise person once said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Followers expect that leaders can get them safely to the right destination.
When a leader is confused, it spreads quickly. When a leader knows where they're going and how to get there, it inspires confidence. If and when the journey gets challenging, followers want to know what's going on. When problems arise, they want to see the leader dealing with them; not running from them.

Followers expect honesty and integrity.
When a follower sets out on a journey with a leader, implicit in that commitment is trust. People generally want to believe the best of their leader. The cynicism of our age has largely come about as a result of leaders who say one thing to assume the role of leader and then do another. A leader with integrity will see to it that their actions match their words; that they are, in fact, what they say they are.

It is in the process of learning how to follow that a leader can appreciate the qualities necessary to lead effectively. This walking with and observing ought not to be rushed nor short-circuited, it's a necessary part of leadership development. I believe that's what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22 - "Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader." (NLT)

Some of the best leaders that I've ever seen were those who were servants first. They simply did what needed to be done, regardless of how menial the task may be. As a Lead Pastor I've cleaned my fair share of toilets. If someone is not willing to do those kinds of things, when necessary, how can they expect others to do them? Conversely, when a follower sees his leader rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty once in a while, it makes their own work more meaningful.

When leaders remember what it's like to be a follower, indeed, when we continue to be followers, we are much better leaders. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

Related Articles:
Key Leadership Qualities - Servanthood
Creating Positive Change
Authentic Leadership
"Young Leaders – Start Smart"
Are You Teachable?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Managing Expectations

I've learned over the years that a lot of the problems that leaders deal with are the result of unmet expectations. This is true of the leader - as sometimes things don't go the way they should. But it's especially true of followers, when reality doesn't quite match up with what had been envisioned.

Some of us leaders have a particular penchant for being overly optimistic. When all is well, this is not a problem, but when things go south... that's another story. The reality is that in every organization, be it a business, a church or a non-prof, there will be ups and downs. How we interpret those ups and downs is often dependent upon the expectations the leader has created.

Let's use some sports teams as an example. As a longsuffering Toronto sports fan, the beginning of every season brings with it the dawn of great expectations. The Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967 -  I was 5 at the time. When Brian Burke was hired as the General Manager in the Fall of 2008 he made it clear that winning was paramount and laid out a strategy to get back to the playoffs.

Regardless of what was said, the expectation was that it would take place sooner, rather than later. The knives are now out for the Leafs GM after yet another disappointing season. You'd be hard pressed to find too many people who honestly believe that the Leafs are any closer to the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup, than they were four years ago. Yet we hope...

Then you have the Toronto Blue Jays. They won the World Series in 1993 but, since then, have been perennial also-rans in the toughest division in baseball. Alex Anthopolous was hired to be the Blue Jays new General Manager late in 2009 as a relative unknown. Expectations were limited, and a conservative strategy for a long-term building plan was clearly articulated by the new boss.

Now 3 years later the Blue Jays are still hovering around the .500 mark, winning half and losing half. The difference between them and the Leafs is that Alex has done a far better job of managing expectations, I suspect partly because he has a better relationship with the media. In a recent trade, for example, Anthopolous was clear that it wouldn't put the team "over the top." It would help, but the Jays are still a few pieces away from contention.

Rather than putting off most fans, it rather has had the opposite affect.The average fan seems willing to give Alex more time, sensing that he does know what he's doing. Expectations are that the team is only a couple of years away from contending for a long time. These expectations are also being moderated by a friendly media, who have been an ally to Anthopolous from a PR perspective.

Compare that to Burke, whose prickly personality seems to have rubbed many members of the media the wrong way. While still reporting "fairly" they are not inclined to do Brian any favours or give him the benefit of the doubt. The Leafs may not be much different as far as their performance but, because of expectations, they seem to be light years apart.

How does this relate to your organization? Who are the people who help shape expectations for you? Most of us don't have to deal with the media, but we all have influencers around us. If they're favourable they can help greatly; if they're not, look out. As a strategy, identify the influencers in your organization. Win them over. If you can't, you'd better be more influential that they are.

Finally, learn how to manage expectations through whatever means you have at your disposal. When you overpromise, people will eventually stop believing in you. It's preferable to overdeliver - to have results that exceed expectations. Be sure that when you are projecting into the future that you are realistic. And take a lesson from Anthopolous - be likeable. Work on your people skills. People will be much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. 

Related Articles:
Are You Teachable?
Why Don't You Like Me?
Creating Positive Change
Are You a People Person?
The Pareto Principle