Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Here's a great post by Tom Shefchunas that challenged me as a leader.

I was once told that a definition of leadership was "letting people down at a rate that they can stand."
In some ways I get that. I think there is a bit more to it but… for sure… one of my jobs as a leader is saying “no.” I say it all the time.

Here’s my problem... I love saying "yes." I'm still a people pleaser.

And, though I say "yes" too often, I still say "no" all the time for various reasons.

Most of the time it’s not that the idea wasn't any good…though that happens.

It’s not that we don't have the budget… though that happens.

It’s not that I simply don’t want to do that… though that happens too… just ask my staff.

Most of the time when I say "no" it is simply a "trust" issue.

And that is not what you think it is either. It’s not that I don’t "trust" the person or the idea…

It’s that I want to be trusted…

I want to run a department that is trusted…

I want to be a person that is trusted.

Here's my tension – I want to be trustworthy and I want to please people.

Here's my hard truth – I can’t do both.

I simply have too many people making requests of me. If I say "yes" to all… I'm lying to somebody.

Part of being trustworthy is being worthy of trust.

Being trustworthy does not mean your perfect. It does mean that you do what you say your going to do, and when you don’t, you "own it."
There’s a slight addition to this though... you ready?

Don’t be the guy who constantly has to "own it."
When you constantly don’t come through, even though you admit it… you’re still not trustworthy.

So, the next time someone asks for something that is too much, fight the urge to say "yes" to please the person. You are really making a choice between disappointing someone and losing trust with someone.

It is better to disappoint than to lose trust. A good leader under promises... all the time!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vampires & Surgeons...

I thought this was an imaginative and insightful post by Brett Trapp. Lots to think about is this parable.

Our life is a story of growth. From diapers to school naps to multiplication tables and so on. Under the cupped hands of school and family, we bloom. We grow. We grow up.

But along the way, we bump up against vampires.

Vampires—negative people intent on draining us of life, hope and optimism. They’re the bully in the gym, the gossip in the girls’ bathroom, the soured-on-life co-worker. Vampires come and they go, but they never really go away. They move with us, lurking from lifestage to lifestage. Sometimes disguised as friends and even family, they stand in the shadows of our greatest moments—arms crossed, jealous toe tapping. And when our shining moment fades and the lights dim, they track us down in the parking lot, only to remind us of our pimples, hiccups, and scars.

And these vampires do real damage. Their words stick, clinging to our souls and thrashing around in our minds months and years and decades later.

And then one day we meet a cheerleader. Ahh… the anti-vampire. Her face is warm. She’s cute and has a pony-tail. Her words soothe, encourage, affirm. She’s our 5th grade teacher, or a smiling face from church, or college buddy who loves life. The cheerleaders of life tell us everything we want to believe about ourselves. That we’re good-looking and funny and that we smell good. Not only are they present during our shining moments, they’re actually the ones helping create them, toe-touching and fist-pumping us the whole time.

But there’s a third player—the surgeon. And he’s the difference-maker.

The surgeon is one part vampire, cutting and hacking and slinging blood. And he’s one part cheerleader, nourishing pallid souls back to health. He recognizes the ills of life and offers to help. He seats us on the hospital table with the crinkly paper, finds the hidden tumors, and goes to work. He doesn’t just dice and slice—for this would make him only a butcher. He also administers blood during the procedure. He identifies and fixes what we don’t need, and gives us more of what we do need.

And, like vampires, surgeons are scary. Dark eyes peering over a surgical mask, scalpel in hand. Oh, that scalpel–his instrument of pain! But the surgeon, in all of his blood-soaked horror, has a noble calling. Like a vampire, he wounds. But he wounds to heal. He cuts to fix. He injures to revive. While the vampire is our enemy, the surgeon is our friend...

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” – Ancient proverb

Most of us spend a lifetime running from vampires and running towards cheerleaders—avoiding pain and chasing after people who make us feel good. We resist the call of the surgeon, the call of the mentor. Because in the wounding there is pain (and we are biologically programmed to resist pain). But the wounding is the hallmark of a good mentor.

A good mentor is not merely a cheerleader. He’s more than the rah-rah. Like a surgeon, a good mentor identifies the tumors in our lives. She sees the things that we cannot see or refuse to see—character defects, blind spots, and glaring inconsistencies in the way we live. Mentors step into our personal space and ask us the tough questions. They challenge our presuppositions on living. They aren’t afraid to get bloody. The ancients understood this; apprenticeships were a way of life. Professional athletes understand this now; personal trainers and coaches are a foregone conclusion. Yet in our personal lives, we’re content to march along alone, sovereign rulers in the Kingdom of Me. And it’s in this secret kingdom where the tumors of hubris, infidelity, and scandal take root.

Better to swing open the gates and invite a surgeon in. Surgery may be needed. And you don’t have a day to waste.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Relational Invasion...

The following thoughts were shared by Steve Saccone in a recent post. Steve's words provided me with a great deal to think about.

When it comes to the impact we long to have as human beings, we must be intelligent in how we approach our relationships.

To build and develop true relational influence, we have to be invited into someone’s relational space versus what we sometimes do, which is invade someone’s relational space.

By "relational space," I mean that invisible dynamic inside of people where they either open themselves to someone else’s advice… or resist it. For instance, if someone refuses to allow us into his "relational space," that means he is resisting our advice. In leadership, we often don't know exactly how to handle this interpersonal dynamic. In the process, if we are the invader of someone’s space, we break trust, lose credibility, and diminish our capacity to influence. That’s why we must learn how to navigate the space between you and another.

Let’s think about this dynamic in a different way. Imagine hiring a personal trainer at a local gym to help you get in shape. By hiring him, you give him permission to coach you, offer his advice, and even push you to exercise with greater effort and focus. You are inviting him into your “space.”

On the contrary, imagine seeing a friend at the mall. After saying hello, he verbally assesses your physical health, explains to you how much exercise you need, and then commands you to "do 50 push-ups." I’d be looking for the hidden camera.

This metaphor may sound bizarre, but enter the world of relationships, and people often ignore this same principle. We try to advise people who haven’t yet invited us into their relational space. To them, our approach seems bizarre because we're trying to impose on them something they've never invited us to give.

Maybe this has happened with a person you’re trying to mentor, but you haven't established a mentoring relationship. Or maybe it’s happened with someone you supervise at work, but you've wrongly assumed they want your input. Just because you live in close relational proximity, and just because you have a position of authority, doesn't mean you've established credibility, nor a voice of influence in their life.

Even if our motives are sincere in wanting to make a positive impact, when we force our way into a person’s relational space, they sense relational invasion…and will usually resist. They resist because they feel we’re barging in without knocking. They haven’t opened the door and welcomed us in.

As leaders, we will become more relationally intelligent if we refuse to consistently invade people’s space. Instead, when we wait to be invited our credibility builds and our influence capacity expands.

One of the primary ways to identify when someone is inviting us in comes down to our ability to read and discern non-verbal, invisible cues that people emit. Everyone sends them out, thus communicating whether they’re open or closed off to us. This is revealed primarily through body language and the emotional energy a person emits. In simple terms, someone could maintain a welcoming and open spirit, or they could emit an aloof and distant one. People tell us without words whether they want our advice or input. To be relationally intelligent, we must pay close attention to these cues. Over time, this will help us build relational capital and expand our influence.

I'm not advocating for relational passivity here. And, this doesn't mean there aren't moments when we push through resistance and challenge people to grow and change. It’s just that in many circles, we rarely acknowledge this dynamic, and we continually overlook these cues, often forcing our agenda upon someone and eroding trust.

Since Jesus doesn't force Himself on people neither should we. But His posture is always bent toward serving others, and He’s a model we can emulate in our conversations.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Reasons Not to Consider Yourself an Empowering Leader...

As someone who's trying to grow as a leader, I found this recent post by Ron Edmondson to be very useful.

Here are 10 reasons you may want to reconsider calling yourself an empowering leader AND some tips on what to do about each one:

1. Your number one answer is “NO”

A leader should practice saying “Yes,” even when he or she isn’t certain it’s the right decision. Many times, he or she will be proven wrong. Other times a mistake will be made. In those times, the leader shouldn’t claim, “I told you so,” but allow those times to help shape the empowered leader. You’ve learned from your mistakes and you should allow your leaders that opportunity as well. Saying “Yes” invites people to take risks and keeps them exploring new ideas for your team.

2. You have to personally approve every decision and control every outcome

The leader has to let go of control if she wants others on the team to continue exploring new ideas. Giving up the leader’s right to approve every decision implants ownership into the minds of the team members. People are more likely to give their best attention to things over which they personally have responsibility and control.

3. Everyone on your team works “for you” and not “with you”

If your team feels that they are merely an employee to do your bidding, they will most likely respond as an employee responds; working for a paycheck, rather than as partners on a team. The more the leader talks about and treats people around him or her as participants in attaining a common vision, the more likely others on the team will perform in that role, and perform at a higher level.

Mere employees are fine, they just aren’t as valuable, useful or reliable as trusted team members.

4. You use the word “I” more than the word “We”

A leader’s words carry more weight than he may realize. The best leaders I know rarely use the term “I”, because they love including others in the progress of their work. They love to share credit and spread responsibility, recognizing that the combined efforts of a team make an organization better.

5. Your idea of delegation is telling people what to do, when and how to do it

If a leader wants to delegate, then she has to delegate not only responsibility but also authority. Giving an assignment to someone should also mean giving them the right to choose the best ways to get it done and the general timetable for accomplishing the task. The leader may need to give a deadline for the task to be done, but then she should give some freedom for the one responsible to set the pace towards completion.

6. You say “Do this” far more than you ask “What should we do?”

If a leader wants true team members, then he will have to welcome input by soliciting ideas from others on the team. If people feel they never have a voice at the table, they are less likely to dream new ideas for the team. Eventually, if someone with leadership abilities isn’t allowed to contribute to the discussion, she will look for a place to serve where her input is valued.

7. Nothing happens in your organization without your knowledge

The best delegators I know lead people who are capable of carrying a task to completion without being hand-held through the process. When I see a team accomplishing great things that the lead person doesn’t even know about, I know it is a healthy leader and most likely a healthy team. The leader should be close enough to other areas of the organization to know progress is being made, but should be comfortable with not knowing all the details of accomplishment.

8. You consistently reverse the decisions of the team

There will be times when it is imperative for the leader to reverse a decision made by others on the team, but this should be a rare occurrence. No one likes to waste his or her time and energy on something, which will never be valued or used. It would almost be better to let a few bad decisions go forward than for the leader to shut down the team from wanting to try new things.

9. You control information because information is power

Leaders should willingly share information with the team necessary for completion of their work, but also for motivation, team building, collaboration and a sense of ownership by the entire team. Additionally, information should flow through an organization freely, not simply from the top down. The leader who is closed to learning from those that technically work “for him” will quickly find that the best ideas are never heard.

10. You crush people when they make a mistake

People on the team watch how the leader handles other team member’s mistakes. If they see the leader as forgiving and applying grace to the situation, they are more likely to take a risk. If a team member believes she will feel the crushing weight of defeat if a mistake is made, she will rarely venture outside what is absolutely required to get the job done.

If you desire to be an empowering leader, you desire a challenging task. It requires more risk-taking, a greater value placed upon other people’s skills, and a willingness to humble yourself. Great organizations, however, are built by those leaders willing to empower others to lead well.

Which of these areas is hardest for you to live out as a leader?

Friday, June 11, 2010

God In Brown Shoes...

I thought this recent post by Shaun Groves was terrific:

I've been wrong before. About a lot of things. Some of them got written down.

I’ve tried to communicate God, as I understand Him at the moment, to the best of my ability, over and over again. And over and over again, as the passage of time has gifted me new vantage points and wisdom and humility, I’ve realized my heresies.

Heresy is inevitable when describing God. And this fact leaves me paralyzed when I sit down to write.

What happens if I’m wrong?

Today it struck me, out of the blue, I will be. Often. As I have been. And that scared me. Until I saw it.

There’s a picture on my piano. It was drawn by my youngest daughter, the best artist in the family. It’s a picture of me.

I know this even though It lacks proper detail, color, perspective. In her rendition I have no neck, no knees or elbows. I’m wearing brown shoes and I hate brown shoes. But the hair’s right and I’m taller than everyone else on the page. And across the top, over my head, it says, “I love Daddy.”

To an art critic it’s atrocious.

As a form of photo ID it’s useless.

But to me, her Dad, the model for this piece, the recipient of this gift, it’s beautiful.

And every Wednesday we have art lessons – we sit down at the kitchen table and draw together. She’s getting better.

I know the truth matters. I’m no proponent of loosey goosey make-it-up-as-you-go-along theology. It matters what God we’re loving not just that we love God. I know Paul literally trembled when trying to put God into words – because the words matter. I know. I know. Truth. Accuracy. These things matter.

So does grace. And mercy. Two words I think – today anyway – God is speaking to me, reminding me to give myself as he’s given to me.

It’s no surprise to God when I get God wrong – when the lines and colors are out of place and he’s left neckless in brown shoes of all things. It’s inevitable.

All writers, in fact – of songs, books, blogs – are heretics. Painters and preachers and you too. God is unavoidably trimmed and bent to fit inside our words – our puny minds, our narrow cultures, time and space and pages. Every attempt to capture him is more of a sketch than a photograph. No one has rendered God right.

But I wonder if he looks at all our well-intentioned scribblings and says, “It’s beautiful... let’s draw together.

The thought of that possibility makes me brave. Today anyway.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Staying Power...

This poem, by Jeanne Murray Walker, speaks beautifully to why a person can doubt and still believe. This is what it means to write hope.

Staying Power

(In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International Convention of Atheists.

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts

outside and question the metal sky,

longing to have the fight settled, thinking

I can’t go on like this, and finally I say

all right, it is improbable, all right, there

is no God. And then as if I’m focusing

a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.

It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t

there that makes the notion flare like

a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon

dragging the hose to put it out. Even

on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

tells me they’ve found melanoma,

complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.

God, I say as my heart turns inside out.

Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,

and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire

again, which--though they say it doesn’t

exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.

Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s

a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,

but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.

You don’t want to talk, so you pull out

the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer

till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up

metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up

and a voice you love whispers hello.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Traditional Ministry vs. Biblical Ministry...

I found the following post by Eric Geiger, co-author of Simple Church, to be an insightful read.

Often I hear deep lamenting from elders, ministers and staff teams about the lack of volunteer engagement in their churches. And often I have discovered that the problem is not with the people, but a faulty ministry culture that fosters low levels of volunteerism and perpetuates an unhealthy dependence on clergy. The typical approach to ministry in most churches stands in stark contrast to the biblical approach given to us clearly by God.

The typical approach to ministry in many churches looks like this:

(Ministers/Staff) >> minister >> (people)

Typically ministers are hired to minister to people. The number of children increases, so the solution is another minister. The number of sick people is on the rise; therefore, someone is hired to visit people in the hospitals. The typical approach is both illogical and unbiblical. The view is illogical because a church will never be able to afford to hire the entire ministry away. The view is unbiblical because it violates the essential doctrines of the priesthood of believers and spiritual gifting.

The biblical approach is found in Ephesians 4:11-12. “It was he who gave some to be … pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” The biblical approach looks like this:

(Ministers) >> prepare >> (people) >> to minister

In other words, we’ve created a big discrepancy between “Ministers” and “ministers.” Ministers are really leaders who don’t do ministry. Rather they equip and prepare people (ministers) for ministry. Churches that have effectively created a volunteer culture possess a deep seeded biblical conviction that all believers are gifted for ministry, not just the “professionals.” The ministers view themselves as equippers and trainers of the ministers within their church, and the people view themselves as active and essential servants.

How do we foster a culture in churches where people expect to be trained and equipped?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Art of High Five-ing...

The simple handshake has evolved into the high five. And the high five has morphed into more permutations than you can shake a stick at. If you're struggling to stay current in the world of "high five-ing," this video can help.

Go forth and high five with confidence!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Be Still...

"What people so desperately need today is space, stillness and attentiveness. And what so many churches major in are busyness, hurry and noise."