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:
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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."

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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. 

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Articles Worth Reading - For Pastors

Here are three helpful articles that I wanted to pass on for all of the pastors and ministry leaders out there. There's nothing earth-shattering here - just good things to be reminded of. I hope you enjoy, and if you come across helpful links, please drop me a line at
3 Things Every Pastor Should Unlearn - by Pete Wilson
Solid Advice for Young Leaders from Dr. Billy Graham  - by Ron Edmondson

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Learn This Before You Lead

Here's a great article that I came across recently that deals with a subject I've been thinking a lot about lately - followership. We don't talk a lot about it. It's not even a word actually. But as a concept, it's vital for leaders. The basic idea is this: everyone follows someone, and before you can lead effectively, you must learn how to follow. I will let August Turak teach this lesson, he does it far better than I could. 

Click on this link for the whole article:

The 11 Leadership Secrets You've Never Heard About

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

How To Avoid Burn-out

A while ago I listened to an interesting lesson from Wayne Cordeiro, a Pastor and teacher from Hawaii. He was sharing some of his experiences with burnout and how to avoid it. This lesson is particularly helpful for anyone in the people business - teachers, health professionals, pastors, social workers, etc..., but also for anyone in a high-stress job.

Here it is in a nutshell. Each of us have a limited capacity emotionally. While we may think that we are superman or superwoman, life has a way of demonstrating how wrong we are. The landscape is strewn with many from the helping professions who have crashed and burned after pushing it too hard and too long. Each of us have to learn our limits, and ensure that we build in time and activities that refill us.

Wayne uses the analogy of an emotional fuel tank. It's something that we don't often think about, but keeping that tank full is important to our long-term success. None of us wants to become a statistic.

So, here's the question, what are the things that you do that feed you emotionally; that help you feel better about life; that recharge your batteries? For some that may be long walks, sports, reading, traveling, going to the beach, gardening or any number of things. Whatever they are, you need to identify them, and you need to make them a regular part of your routine.

This seems counter-intuitive for many "Type-A"personalities, who tend to feel that they have to always be on the go. The truth is, without recharging, you are likely hurting your long-term productivity. I know, in my experience, sometimes the schedule has gotten away from me and, inevitably, what ends up getting dropped is the "me" time. The tank is then depleted and, if it goes too long, emotional damage is done.

I experienced this a few years ago in my own ministry. The church was growing, I was getting busier; trying to launch new initiatives and keep the ball rolling. I was trying to help others with their problems. I had other stresses in my life that contributed to a mounting sense that I was losing control. It took me longer and used more energy to do what I used to do. All I knew was that I stopped caring - and that's not a good place to be in ministry.

Thankfully, I had an understanding Board and a caring church family that allowed me to take the time I needed to get myself right. I learned some lessons the hard way during that time. Here are some of the bigger ones.

There's only one God, and I'm not Him.
Pastors, in particular, can tend to fall into this trap where they feel that they have to save the world. The truth is that we're all only human, with very real limitations. I've had to learn that there are some situations that are beyond my control. I've preached on this verse for years, but learned through these experiences just how true it is:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) Remember, as well, that none of us are indispensable.

Build margin and stay away from the edge.
What this simply means is that you have to choose carefully where you will spend your time. There are two opposite temptations for pastors: one is to become a workaholic and never take time for themselves; the other is to be lazy and to neglect their ministry. Both are wrong and damaging in their own way. The key is balance. If you are going to take time for yourself you have to build that into your schedule and you have to learn to say no (something I have a hard time with). Learn to prioritize, remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of your activity will provide 80% of the productivity.

Know yourself.
You need to be able to tell when your stress level is rising and you need to know what to do about it. In this case especially, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When you sense the pressure building, offload the stressors if you can and do something to recharge. It's better to take a couple of days sooner, then be forced to take a few weeks or months later. 

Identify what gives you energy and what takes it away.
There are some things in my ministry that I do because I have to - they're part of the job. There are other parts of my job that I love to do. When you find your energy level being depleted, do your best to focus on the parts that you love, where your passions lie. 

We can be healthy, and we need to be healthy if we're going to continue to be of use to others. Ask yourself this, on a scale of 1-10, what would be the level in your emotional tank? If it's dropping down below 5, what can you do to get it back up in the healthy range? If you're running on empty, who do you need to talk to who can help you? Take care of yourself. Life is hard but God is good.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Evidence of a Vision"

Guest blog by Dan Reiland

"We grow by dreams. All big (individuals) are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day, or the red fire on a long winter's evening. Some of us let those dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nourish them through the bad days until they bring them to the sunshine and light -- which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true." ~ Woodrow Wilson

Some people are just "dreamers." Some people work hard and see their dreams come true. Vision starts in the heart of a leader, and like Woodrow Wilson said, it is nurtured until it becomes a reality.

William James said: "A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, until finally it becomes what everybody knows." If you understand vision, you understand what James has said. It's the nature of vision. You see it first. And you were the first to say it and attempt others to help achieve it.

If you are a leader in a local church, you might be tempted to think that there are many leaders who have a vision for a vibrant local church. That's true, but only YOU have a vision for YOUR church. Whether you are the senior pastor, or a department leader or a volunteer who leads a small group, you need a vision to lead. What is your vision for the people God has entrusted you with?

In the previous edition of the Pastor's Coach, I talked about communicating a vision. In this article I'd like to discuss ways in which you can see that your vision has gained true traction. Momentum is the more popular word, but I like traction. It's a more gritty word that aptly reflects the work involved in seeing a dream come true.

I have listed "evidence" of vision that has caught traction here for you. Think about your vision and compare to these thoughts.

• A deep passion that captures people's attention.

Your vision will only burn as bright as you do. This idea is not about you "working up" something or "turning on" the hype. When this passion comes from deep within you, people will sense it. The impact is palpable. It is inescapable. You will have the people's attention. They will be excited. They'll ask questions and want to know what's next. They will be eager for more information. They will be proud of the vision and tell their friends.

• A sense of believability for a better future.
We are in an election year. I listen carefully to what presidential candidates say and I immediately have a sense of what I believe is possible, probable, doable and what I think will never happen. Your church is very similar, just on a smaller scale than our national government. And hopefully much more efficient! Faith is always involved, but the people do need to be able to "see" it with you, at least see enough to believe with you.

• A largeness that creates enthusiasm.
This is not about numbers, though numbers matter. The idea of largeness is more about being bold for the sake of the Kingdom! It's the "go big or go home" idea. The vision needs to be large enough to require God in the mix or it won't work. You can see the need for balance between "believable" and large!!

Leadership is an art and crafting the vision is just as important as communicating it. There is a direct connection between the size of the vision and the level of enthusiasm. Last Christmas 12Stone® Church fed 6,000 families over the Christmas holidays. The number mattered. It is important to feed 6 families, but that would not have generated great enthusiasm. You see the point.

• A dedication that inspires sacrifice.

This is similar to passion. The difference is found in your tenacity. Passion can be big, but short term. Dedication is long term, and requires determination and resolve. Candidly, it's easy to be passionate for a short time, but to be dedicated for years, even decades, takes an uncommon leader. This will result in a dedication found in the people. Much like passion, the people will not be more dedicated than you are to the vision. The outcome is a willingness to sacrifice. The sacrifice can be seen in time, energy, and financial resources.

• Resources flowing toward the vision.
Now we really get practical! Money! Let's be candid, money follows vision. Without financial resources, no matter how godly you behave, the mission can't move forward. Many of us who are pastors don't like admitting that truth, or operating within that reality. But nonetheless, it is the way it is. Candidly, I think it's the way it should be. A worthy vision shouldn't be free, and a vision that is truly worthy will attract financial resources. No church ever has "enough" but God will supply what we need to accomplish the vision.

• An application that is transferable.
On many occasions I have traveled to churches and listened to a vision that seems like it was wrapped up in the pastor, or the pastor and a few key leaders. I don't mean this in a negative way to those pastors, but they simply were not aware. It was the pastor's dream and vision, not something that the entire congregation owned. Again, it wasn't that the pastor didn't want the people to be involved, but it was apparent that the people couldn't do what was involved, or they weren't needed except for a few tasks. One example I remember was a television ministry. There is nothing wrong with that, and I'm sure it was to reach more people for Jesus, but all it required was the pastor and a small tech team. That vision never transferred well into the hearts of the people.

• A soundness that stands up to scrutiny and the test of time.
You know the difference between fluff and something of substance. Last summer I was shopping for a new grill. Some were thin and wobbly and others were solid and stable. It was obvious which ones would last for several years and which ones would barely make it through the summer. Your vision is the same. It needs to have a biblical soundness and a solid nature that stands up to examination over time. It needs to make sense and have obvious evidence that it was well thought through. This does not suggest that you should make it complicated. In fact, sometimes making something simple, which is in reality complicated, is far more work than the reverse!

• You cannot be silenced!
When my kids were younger and they really wanted a certain toy for Christmas, there was no silencing them! Those "toys" have grown into things like an iPhone! They dream big and never give up! I love this thought. It's simple but powerful. If God has breathed a vision in you, you simply cannot and will not be silenced. That's it! Compare this to the things we want silenced like negative talk and gossip. Wow, what a difference. Don't let anyone shut you down. Keep talking your vision!

So as you reflect on these eight thoughts, how are you doing? Where are you strong? Where can you improve?

"This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter, "The Pastor's Coach," available at"

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.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recommended Link

church relevanceHere's a blog I ran across that I thought would interest many of you. It's called Church Relevance and deals with topics to help to create relevant, effective ministries. It was started in 2006 by Kent Shaffer who helped with for a time (Another great site, by the way). "It is not about copying what works for other ministries. It is about gaining a clearer understanding of both the spiritual and scientific laws God put in to place and how they can be leveraged to help you best fulfill your calling."

I hope that you find it helpful.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wet Cement

Guest post by Mark Collins

On a small corner of a sidewalk, on a non-descript street in the west end of Brantford my name is immortalized. mark collins 67. With fear, fondness and a small twig I carefully carved each letter in wet cement. It was so easy, the twig glided through the impressionable gravelly paste. To change it now would require a diamond tipped high speed grinder and three city employees.
I was reminded of this cement incident last summer while parked on the QEW waiting for a cement truck to fill a 36 inch round wooden form that would become the support pillar of a new four lane bridge. The weeks long preparation before the cement was poured became tedious. Daily, at the legal limit, I drove past as a cement footing was placed deep in the ground to prevent any shifting due to weight, freezing or ground conditions. Days later, iron workers came and cut, bent and welded reinforcement rod to create a metal inner support cage that eventually would be hidden by the cement. Time passed, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent as they dug, welded and then created the exterior forms. Now I was watching fresh wet cement being shaped into pillars that will stand long after I am gone.
Conversely, at the Guelph Line exit, just off the QEW, there are the remains of a cement truck spill. It is an oddly shaped clump of cement. It serves absolutely no purpose, other than to remind me each morning of the importance of preparation, reinforcement and formation of wet cement.
A lead pastor recently emailed me to say that the staff person that he had so much hope for was taking a lot more time, effort and resources than he had originally thought would be necessary. As I read his email I became dismayed thinking that soon this staff person would be sensing a call somewhere else. Shocked, I read the next line. The lead pastor said, “But I am totally committed to him.  I have NO desire for a crash landing.  I have ALL the interest to see him be everything Jesus wants him to be.”
If we leave this next generation to simply be poured into meaningless forms they will be ignored, useless and non-productive for Christ’s Kingdom.      

The challenge is for all leaders to engage in shaping Godly leaders for the future. This will require skilled workmanship and resources. One cannot merely assemble some rough structures to temporarily navigate some tough patches, thinking that it will be a long term solution. Building people and leaders into pillars who are the upholders of Holy Living, Biblical Standards and Christ’s Love should be our key priority. It will require effort, support, resources and accountability.   
DID YOU KNOW?  The Temple in Jerusalem had two main support pillars. The name engraved in one of those pillars was Boaz. Psalm 144 “Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.”
  • This post was written by Mark Collins. He is a leadership consultant and a part of the Leadership Team for the Western Ontario District of the PAOC.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Don't You Like Me?

A lot of people go through life asking this question - why don't they like me? They look at others who are surrounded by friends and who seem to be people magnets and wonder - why can't that be me?

Believe it or not, many studies have been done to determine just exactly what it is that causes us to like someone. You may be surprised by the results. In his book, The Me I Want To Be, John Ortberg shares that "Out of all the causes - physical attractiveness, IQ, ability, personality type - the number one factor that determines whether or not you will like another person is whether or not they like us. If they like you, you will like them. If they don't like you, you will not like them." Of course there are exceptions, but in general this is true. So what are the implications of this?

For one thing, it appears that how we interact with people has a great deal to do with how they treat us. It seems that what Dale Carnegie taught years ago is true. He wrote a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People that was a bestseller for a long time. Here's a quote from that book: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." In light of the studies Ortberg talks about, this seems to be borne out in real life.

The question, then, would seem to be, how can we develop a genuine interest in people? I'm not talking about learning sales techniques in order to fool someone into thinking that you like them. I'm talking about learning how to genuinely be a people person. I think the greatest example of this in history is Jesus Christ.

As we read the Gospels we find that people were drawn to him, and no wonder. He welcomed every encounter with anyone who was genuine. Even with those with whom He disagreed, His goal was to point them towards the truth. He crossed social and cultural boundaries to add value to people who were outcasts. He made world-changers out of people to whom no-one else paid attention. What did He see that others didn't?

Jesus knew that every person He laid eyes on was created in the image of God, and as such, had innate value. It was this principle that the U.S. founding fathers seized on as they stated in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In the context of Jesus' life and actions, He treated each person who came to Him with respect, recognizing their intrinsic value. As Bill Hybels said, “We have never locked eyes with someone that did not matter to God.” Christians, in particular, need to grasp this truth. We may disagree with people, but we don't have to be disagreeable.

It's about your attitude.

You can either see people as assets or enemies. If you view them with suspicion, they will sense that and not be drawn to you. If, however, you're one of those who believes that every stranger is simply a friend you haven't met yet, you will have no shortage of friends. Treat people as you wish to be treated (the Golden Rule). As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great."

Let's look at some good habits to develop if you want to be a people person.
  • Smile.
This is so easy to do and makes such a big difference. Have you noticed that a smile is infectious? Try it on the next person you meet. Smile and greet them warmly. First impressions are important and a smile gives a good first impression. Most of the time it is reciprocated. When it's not, let it go.
  • Show genuine interest.
Don't pry - that can be creepy. But allow the other person to tell you something about themselves. Engage in the conversation. One thing I've learned is that everyone has a story, everyone has dreams, and everyone wants to be heard. The problem with many of us is that we're often too busy talking about ourselves to listen. Good listeners are never lonely.
  • Remember names.
This is something I have to work on. I remember when I first came to my current congregation. I met a man in the foyer before the service and we talked for a few minutes. As he left I said, "Goodbye Fred, it was nice meeting you." Now sixteen years later he has still not forgotten that I remembered his name. (I wish I could do that all the time). One method to try is to use the person's name three times in a conversation before you say goodbye. That helps to match the name with the face in your memory bank. There's no sweeter sound to people than their own name.
  • Add value to people.
What can you do to make a difference in the life of the people you meet? Can you connect them with someone? Can you share information with them? Can you buy them a coffee? This afternoon I was in the drive-thru at the coffee shop when I noticed a friend of mine was in the truck behind me. I decided to be nice and buy his coffee. When I pulled up to the window I was surprised to find that the vehicle in front of me had already purchased mine! None of us spent a lot of money, but the kindness brought a smile to all of our faces.

Let me conclude with some helpful quotes on the subject:
  • "This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him." - William Lyon Phelps
  • "To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be." - Fyodor Dostoyevski
  • "The most useful person in the world today is the man or woman who knows how to get along with other people. Human relations is the most important science in living." - Stanley C. Allyn
  • "You have two choices: You can act as though you tolerate people, or you can appreciate people. Those who appreciate people are going to make others more comfortable." - Roger Ailes
  • "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." - Mother Teresa
Related Articles:
The Power of Encouragement
When Confrontation is Necessary
Are You Teachable?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Creating Positive Change

Change - one of the most feared words in some organizations and the defining ethos of others. As we lead, it's also one of the prerequisite skill sets: the ability to navigate change successfully. That being said, I find the following quote from Lyle Schaller particularly insightful.
"Anyone seriously interested in planning social change would be well advised to recognize two facts of life. First, despite the claims of any, relatively little is known about change. Second, much of what is known will not work."
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let's look at some keys to bringing about successful change in an organization.
  • Be willing to change yourself.
If we are going to lead change, we must first model the adaptability required for change. There are some leaders who resist change in their own lives, yet expect others to be enthusiastic about it. Here's the how-to on personal change.
  1. Admit the need to change.
  2. Assume responsibility for that change.
  3. Evaluate - why am I the way I am?
  4. What can I do about it? Set personal goals. Find a mentor.
  5. Start today.
  6. Celebrate when you get there.
If you are comfortable with change, your people will be much more likely to follow.
  • Lead for the benefit of the people.
People know when they matter and when they don't. In order to be a change agent that lasts, you must first win the hearts of your people. See The Levels of Leadership and remember, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." If people don't believe that you have their best interests at heart, they will not follow and will resist change.

John Maxwell uses an illustration where coins represent influence. When you are brought in to your new position you are given a certain amount of coins, which represent influence. When you make a good decision, an people recognize it, they give you more coins. When you blow it, you give some back. The wise leader recognizes whether they have enough coin to attempt a specific change. The more coin they have collected, the greater risk they can take. But be careful, when you run out of coin it's time to call U-haul.
  • Create an environment where change is normal.
Begin small, but make positive changes. It's generally best, at least at first, to add rather than subtract. Give more options. This can demonstrate why the change you propose is better than its predecessor. Get some wins under your belt. As seen in the example above, this allows you to move to more substantive changes that will move your organization forward. You will find that as the organization moves forward, change becomes easier. It's much easier to steer a ship when it is moving; it's impossible when it's standing still. John Maxwell gives some very helpful tips for creating a climate for change in his book Developing The Leader Within You.
  1. The leader must develop a trust with people.
  2. The leader must make personal changes before asking others to change.
  3. Good leaders understand the history of the organization.
  4. Place influencers in leadership positions.
  5. Check the "change in your pocket."
  6. Good leadsers solicit the support of influencers before the change is made public.
  7. Develop a meeting agenda that will assist change.
  8. Encourage the influencers to influence others informally.
  9. Show the people how the change will benefit them.
  10. Give the people ownership of the change. 
  • Be a vision caster.
People want to know why a change is taking place. They want to be convinced that this is a good thing and will benefit them and the organization before they commit. A skilled vision caster will paint a picture of a preferable future. Remember the Pareto Principle (20/80). Invest your time in influencing the 20% of your people who can help you influence the rest. If your top 20% aren't with you, wait, or be prepared for a long battle and likely failure.

So share your vision. Why is this a good idea? Remember that the goal is to move the organization forward and to improve the lives of your people. As Max Depree said, "In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."
  • Make incremental changes when necessary.
Sometimes major changes are necessary; and sometimes major changes in direction will result in many people being thrown overboard. The more established the organization, generally speaking, the more gradula th changes need to be made. In a quote from the church world, Pastor Ron Stewart says that "Every church will turn 180 degrees in 10 degree increments."
  • Celebrate the victories.
Find creative ways to have a party when a change has been successful. This will help to create an environment where change is seen in a more favorable light and will likely make the next one easier. Make heroes of the successful change agents in your organization if that is a value you want duplicated. Remember that "what gets rewarded gets done."

Quotes on change:
  • "The leaders in any organization must be the environmental change agents." - John Maxwell
  • "Great change dominates the world, and unless we move with change we will become its victims." - Robert F. Kennedy
  • "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." - Woodrow Wilson  
  • "The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions." - James Russell Lowell
  • "If your horse is dead, for goodness sake - dismount." - Eddy Ketchursid
  • "It's the most unhappy people who most fear change." - Mignon Mclaughlin
Related Articles:
The Power of Encouragement
Turning the Corner - How to Regain Momentum
The Power of Words
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
Are You Teachable?
Repacking the baggage of our lives

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Power of Encouragement

We can probably all list a few people in our lives who have that great quality of being encouragers. They are the ones who we are always glad to see when they walk in the door. On the other hand are the discouragers - those who can suck the life right out of a room. We would all like to be encouragers, but just how is that done?

Start with a positive attitude.
Attitude is a choice. Many people don't believe it, but it's true. You can be a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person. It's up to you. You may have been raised in a negative environment, but you can learn how to look at the world differently. How does that happen?
  • Make peace with God.
This is the beginning point. If you and God aren't getting along there's a very good reason you're miserable. We were created for relationship, and the very first relationship we were created for was the one we should have with God Himself. He has provided all that we need for peace with God through Jesus Christ. It's a gift; it can't be earned. Peace with God is the first key to good relationships with others.
  • Control your thought life.
Our minds are very much like computers, what goes in is what comes out. Read positive books, listen to uplifting music; as far as possible be around positive people. You will gradually find that your attitude towards life will take a turn for the better.

Practice good will.
Good will is really a commitment to giving other people the benefit of the doubt. We all look at people in one of two ways: either they are friends or enemies. Generally, we also find what we're looking for. If you approach someone assuming that their motives are wrong, it is highly unlikely that we will find a friend. On the other hand, if we assume the best about people until proven otherwise we're likely to be rewarded with good will in return.

Look for the good in people.
Everyone has good qualities, even if they are harder to find in some people than in others. Choose to look for the good in people - and mention it. How do you feel when others speak well of you? Doesn't it make you want to do even better? We all like to get a pat on the back, and we all tend to flourish in a positive environment. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be."

Practice doing the little things.
It doesn't take much to make a big difference. So often when we think about making changes in our lives we make it a huge daunting challenge. Start small. Smile at everyone you meet; you'll find that it's contagious. More often than not your smile will be returned. Make a commitment that with everyone you talk to today you will make one positive comment. Find something that is deserving of a comment - and say it. Tell the person serving your coffee that they're doing a good job. As Mother Teresa said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Write one encouraging note to someone. Finding a note like this can make all the difference in the world, and may turn someone's day around.

Be others centered.
If you want to be an encourager, spend some time investing in another person. Ask them about their day; their life and their family. Focusing on them will help them to feel important, and everyone needs that. One of the best things we can do for ourselves when we're feeling down is to care for someone else.

Look for good examples.

Albert Schweitzer
Who are the people who have encouraged you? What is it about them that stands out? Emulate those qualities. You can become a person that people want to be around. I've included some quotes that speak eloquently to the power of encouragement. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change our corner of it.

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." ~ Albert Schweitzer

Booker T. Washington
"Correction does much, but encouragement does more." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don't care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause."~ George Matthew Adams

"There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up." - Booker T. Washington
Related Articles:
The Power of Words
Growing a Thick Skin
Where's A Good Mentor?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Confrontation is Necessary

I hate confrontation! I just thought that I'd get that out there right at the outset. I've never enjoyed difficult conversations; I'd much prefer to avoid them altogether. The truth is, however, that sometimes confrontation is necessary.

That being said, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you want to look at the wrong way, take a peek at how the Parliament of Canada operates - or the U.S. Congress for that matter. In both cases the issue rarely matters, what seems to matter is who can yell the loudest or score the most points with their sound bite. It's not the place to take your child to learn about civil discourse.

The wrong way is also modelled often on Facebook and other social media. The airing of public laundry seems to have become the equivalent of a pre-emptive strike for some people. It's certainly not the place to get into a confrontation - you do know you can send a private message, right? As Ravi Zacharias says, "When we start throwing dirt, we both get dirty and everybody loses ground."

So, why and how should we confront? Let's look at the why first. (Full disclosure: I'm looking at this from a Biblical perspective.)

We should confront when we firmly believe that we are doing so for the good of others. Confrontation should not be about evening the score, or putting someone in their place. That is revenge. In Romans 12:19 God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” No, confrontation ought to be done, first of all, for the good of the person being confronted. I try to assume that everyone wants to do the right thing until proven otherwise.

We should confront when coming to the aid of someone who cannot defend themselves.
There are times when we see things that need to be dealt with. Bullying is one example. When we stand by and watch someone being bullied without doing something about it, we are giving our tacit approval. One of the most powerful quotes I have read on this subject was written by Martin Niemoller, A Lutheran Pastor in Germany during World War II. He said, "When they came for the Jews, I did nothing, for I am not a Jew. When they came for the Socialists, I did nothing, for I am not a Socialist. When they came for the labor leaders, the homosexuals, the gypsies, I did nothing, for I am none of these, and when they came for me, I was alone, there was no one to stand up for me."

We should confront when it's for the common good.
There are times in leadership when we must confront because not to do so would allow the organization to be damaged. The same goes for society as a whole. There are times when we do need to speak up firmly, but respectively, and confront - when we see injustice, abuse or neglect for example.

We should confront when we are in a position of accountability to someone.
When in a position of trust we are to act accordingly. I am often asked to provide accountability for people, I take that very seriously. If I see something wrong and don't say something about it, that becomes my responsibility. Too many people are guilty of benign neglect - allowing things to slide because they don't want to step on toes.

Those are some of the whys of confrontation. Here are a few reasons why people don't confront.
  • Fear of being disliked.
  • Fear of making things worse.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Don't know how.
  • Who are we to confront? We're not perfect either.
Now let's look at some suggestions on how to confront.

Deal with issues as they arise.
Don't store up issues until you're so frustrated that you can't take it anymore. Nothing is worse, as an employee for example, than thinking that everything's fine only to be blindsided with a list of things you've been doing wrong for months. If it bothers you, talk about it politely when it's fresh, then move on.

Check your attitude first.
Remember, when we confront, our goal is to fix the problem or to restore a relationship - not to destroy a person. What are your motives? If they aren't right, perhaps you need to take some time to pray about it before you have the meeting. Don't contribute to the problem; be a part of the solution.

Start on a positive note.
People are much more willing to hear you out if they know that you care about them. As someone said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Outline the problem.
What is the issue that is causing the problem?
How is this affecting you or others?
Why is this a problem?

Encourage a response.
Prepare yourself for an emotional response. Often people may feel shock, bitterness or resentment and may want to "vent."

Put yourself in their place.
Try to understand how they may be feeling. Restate back to them what they've told you to demonstrate that they've been heard.

Communicate the expected result.
Focus on moving forward. People of good will want to move towards a solution. Let them know that you have high expectations for them.

Put it in the past.
Don't keep bringing it up again and again unless the problem is recurring. We have all made mistakes and would appreciate it if we could just move on after correcting them.

Here are some parting thoughts on confrontation that I've learned from experience.
  • The longer you wait to confront, the harder it is.
  • It's rarely as bad as you think it is.
  • Aim for a better understanding; a positive change and a growing relationship.
  • If you truly care about people, it shows - so work on you first.
  • It's not about you, so don't make it about you.
  • You really can be nice and honest at the same time. Try it, you might like it.

Related Articles:
Growing a Thick Skin
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
Are You a People Person?
The Power of the Mind

Monday, February 27, 2012

Growing a Thick Skin

One thing that is guaranteed, regardless of your field of leadership, you will be subject to criticism. Often it's the way that we respond to our critics that can determine whether we succeed or fail over the long term.

A lot of leaders are like the young man who's father gave him advice as he joined the military. He told him to "always get in the middle of the line and don't draw attention to yourself." That might work in the military, but it certainly won't work in leadership. The nature of the beast is that we are up front, making decisions, casting vision and being accountable. All of these things attract attention and criticism.

What are the keys to handling criticism and being healthy in leadership?

Recognize it as a normal part of the job.
You will be criticized. Don't be surprised when it happens. Not every decision you make is going to be popular with everyone. That's life. The greatest leaders were all the recipients of healthy doses of criticism. It didn't mean that they weren't good leaders, it meant they were doing something.

Look after your emotional health.
From my own experience, I have found that when I am emotionally healthy, it is much easier to take criticism in stride. Conversely, when I have allowed myself to be run down and have neglected myself emotionally, negative feedback has a much greater impact.

As leaders, we need to know ourselves. Recognize the signs that you are pushing your limits. Before you reach that point, take action.
  • Return to your strengths, those things that build your confidence.
  • Take a break if you can. Look toward the finish line, whether it be the weekend, the end of the assignment, or that much needed vacation. 
  • Turn to your support network. Who are those trusted people that you can rely on to pick you up when times get tough? 
  • Share the load. Delegate. We should do this all the time, but especially when we are overwhelmed, just remember to delegate, not dump.
Accept the pressure of the moment.
You are the leader. Don't run, hide or obfuscate. Face the challenge and deal with it accordingly. This is a particular challenge for those who don't like confrontation or difficult conversations but, as stated above, it comes with the territory. Face it and fix it.

Hear your critics.
Surprisingly, sometimes critics are our best friends. Winston Churchill said that “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Even our worst critics can provide us with useful information. When faced with someone who is irate or concerned, here are a few hints.
  • Act - don't react. Don't allow someone's childish behaviour to push you into acting childish yourself. Welcome their input and give them a fair hearing. I have found Proverbs 15:1 speaks very well to this situation: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Show grace. 
  • Consider the source. Is this person someone whose opinion you value? If so, be sure to listen intently. Often, however, when someone approaches a leader about an issue, it's not about the issue, it's about them. People are people, and all people have problems. Sometimes leaders make great targets for criticism because they are out front. And sometimes they are having problems with everyone and you're the only one they can come to. When criticism is completely unfounded, ignore it. 
  • Look for the nugget of truth. We can learn from almost everyone. See and hear through the bluster and try to find something of value to take away from your meeting. Invite your critic to help you with suggestions.
  • Thank your critic. This is difficult to do, but helpful. A wise leader I spoke to about an issue surprised me with this statement, he said, "Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share your concerns with me." He gained a great deal of respect from me in a tough situation.
  • Win them over. Handling a confrontation well can often result in a much stronger relationship. As a Christian leader, I recognize that people are not my enemies, they're in need of God's grace, as am I.
Act on what you've learned.
When your employees or volunteers care enough to speak out about an issue, it means that it matters to them. Sometimes it means that changes do actually need to be made. When this is the case, actions speak louder than words. A leader is willing to respond when they see the need gains leadership points with their followers. Those who build a wall and ignore their critics will soon find themselves isolated.

Create the proper vehicle for input.
Here's a good question, when your people see something that needs to change, how can they go about providing that suggestion? Here's one suggested method. Communicate that you are open for suggestions. Tell your people that for every issue they recognize you would like them to provide two possible solutions or alternatives. This gives them permission to participate and may provide some great ideas. It will also likely help you to avoid some not-so-pleasant encounters.

Communication problems are one of the most common problems in organizations. People want their voices to be heard. For most people, I've found that their hearts are in the right place and they really want to help. Believe in your people, value them and listen to them. People will be either your greatest asset or your greatest liability, see them as the former.

Grow through the criticism.
Don't take it personally - all leaders are criticized. You will usually find that criticism can become a great tool for your personal growth. Early in my ministry I found that I was taking a lot of heat, and it bothered me. But when I really took the time to consider what was being said, I found much of it to be true. This resulted in some major changes in my life. If I had rejected the criticism outright, as many do, I would have put a cap on my own potential.

Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? What skill do I need that can help me to do better? If you're hearing the same criticism from different sources, you should seriously consider dealing with that issue. In all of these things, having mentors you can trust to share with is invaluable. Talk to them about what you're hearing, and ask them for honest feedback. Remember, "Iron sharpens iron." Sometimes the greatest opportunities come from uncomfortable circumstances.  

Related Articles:
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
The Power of Words
Turning the Corner - How to Regain Momentum
Are You a People Person?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Turning the Corner - How to Regain Momentum

Momentum is a powerful thing in any organization. When it's going your way everything is easier. It takes less effort to get more results, people are excited; there's a "buzz" in the air. When momentum is going the wrong way everything is more difficult; the lack of energy is palpable. So, how can you turn it around.

Identify the cause.
When did things begin to turn for the worse? Was it a leadership decision, a change in policy or product, or an outside occurrence? Until you know why you are in the shape you're in, changing it will be difficult.

Speak to it directly.
Leaders are often hesitant to admit when mistakes have been made or even that things aren't going well. What they don't realize is that the people in their organization already know. They're looking for honesty and integrity from their leaders. Speaking the truth can inspire confidence and trust.

Re-affirm your commitment.
Are you here for the long haul? Do you believe in what you are doing? Leaders must ask themselves these questions and then re-affirm this to those who are following them. No-one is going to put out effort and energy when they don't know whether or not the leader is going to be there for the long haul. Let them know that you still believe and that you're commited. If not - get out.

Identify your core.
Who are those people who "have your back?" This may be a much smaller group than it used to be, but once you identify them you at least know the facts. Who are they? What skills, talents and abilities do they have? How do their skill sets match up with your current programming?

Consider a re-organization.
When I found myself in this position I realized that we were trying to operate too many programs with too few people. We made painful decisions to cut some popular programs in order to focus on those things that would move us further down the road. We made a commitment that we would only start new programs as the leadership and volunteers emerged and only if they were sustainable. This gave a sense of relief to our volunteers, some of whom were dangerously close to burnout.

Focus on your strengths.
What is it that you do well as an organization? Focusing on those things can go a long way to improving morale and confidence. If you have been struggling for a while, it can make a big difference to allow people to operate in their comfort zone; their area of expertise. This alleviates a great deal of stress and makes the work enjoyable.

Feed the fire.
When something starts to work, throw resources at it and keep it going. Success breeds success. Celebrate those successes - everyone likes a party.

Don't let it happen again.
This is easier said than done, but the easiest way to regain momentum is not to lose it in the first place. The illustration below shows the normal lifecycle of an organization. The key to moving forward and not losing momentum is making changes before you fall into decline.

Thoughts to remember:
"Success requires first expending ten units of effort to product one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort."
~ Charles J. Givens

"When you're successful, things have a momentum, and at a certain point you can't really tell whether you have created the momentum or it's creating you."
~ Annie Lennox

Related Articles:
The Importance of Defining Success
Learn This Lesson First
The Pareto Principle
Key Leadership Qualities - Resourcefulness
Authentic Leadership

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Importance of Defining Success

Guest post by Dr. Jeremy Stratton

You don’t start something new, you don’t take excess amounts of risk, with the idea that someday it will fail.

The reason you do your work, the reason you take on resistance, is to succeed.

What is the point of doing so much, taking on potential ridicule, quitting a stable job, risking your reputation, without success?

Part of our work is defining what success means, and most of us define it poorly.

When we dream and begin our work, we picture a form of success that looks like acclaim and recognition.

• Reaching the pinnacle of our chosen field.
• Attaining best seller status.
• Becoming wealthy through an IPO.
• Winning a grammy.
• Having 10,000 members at our church.
• Running fast enough for a gold medal.

Perhaps this is one potential definition, but if you choose this one for yourself, you are doomed to fail.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl warns against the idea of pursuing success.

"Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it."

A better definition of success? Dedication to your work. Surrender to another person through love. Surrender to a cause that is greater than yourself.
Success is found when you do a work you love. When you show up every day to do that very work, overcoming the resistance inside of you.

It is found in creating, in making something new. Something interesting.

It is having a vision for something great and then taking daily small steps in that direction.

It is believing the impossible.

It is learning from mistakes and becoming better at your craft for having “failed.”

If acclaim follows, then so be it, but don’t ever let it interfere with your true success.

  • This post is written by Dr. Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. His blog focuses on encouraging others to live a better story with their lives. You can connect with him on Twitter.
Related Articles:
The Power of Words
Men Without Chests
"I Have A Dream"