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people pleasing

How People-Pleasing Crushes Your Leadership Potential

Ever wonder how your leadership potential gets crushed? How you end up stalling out as a leader with your dreams stifled and your future looking far less exciting than you hoped for?

It happens more easily than you think.

And it often happens despite a leader’s best intentions.

In fact, there’s a good chance that even today, you’re wrestling with the very dynamics that ultimately thwart your leadership potential.

What kills your leadership potential more than just about anything?

I’ll walk you through a downward spiral many leaders have encountered. It starts innocently enough but ends rather tragically.

How does it happen?

You’d be surprised. Because you come by it so honestly.

shutterstock_373148281We’re All Afraid of Rejection

So let me guess, you’re almost always working hard on a new idea. You:

Sweat over it.

Pray over it.

Revise it.

Perfect it.

And you hope—really hope—that when your idea is unveiled, people will like it.

Before you dismiss that as a trivial observation, ask yourself: Have you ever unveiled an idea or project you sincerely hoped people wouldn’t like?

I didn’t think so.

The desire to have your proposal accepted is pretty universal, isn’t it?

Almost every leader is afraid of one thing: rejection.

And not just personal rejection, but the rejection of your ideas as well.

Your hopes. Your strategies. Your dreams.

So you do what you can to make people happy… to get them to buy in.

And therein lies the trap.

So This is What You Do

Because we’re all afraid of rejection, you and I revise our ideas until we think they have the greatest chance of acceptance.

And in principle, that’s a good idea. Who wants to introduce something that ultimately only 5 people on planet earth are going to find helpful?

But often, in the process of trying to get people to buy into your initiative, you take the edges off of it.

You dilute it.

You compromise.

You talk about what’s possible, not about what’s best.

And then you die a little inside.

Then This Happens

So… you introduce your slightly watered-down idea/product/change/innovation hoping people will applaud wildly.

Except they don’t. People still don’t like it.

You hear from the critics.

A few people leave.

More people threaten to leave.

You grow more scared.

So you retreat.

You revise your plan. You sand more of the edges off. You compromise more. You try to offend as few people as possible.

And then you die a little more inside.

Except now, your product becomes, literally, unremarkable.

Criticism, remember, is a remark, and a remark indicates you might have a truly remarkable idea.

Can you imagine what might have happened had you gone with your original stellar idea you were afraid to even say out loud???

Do you see what you often do when you water down your bold changes as a result of criticism? You change a remarkable initiative into an unremarkable one.

Being inoffensive ultimately makes you ineffective.

And Suddenly You’re on the Fastest Path To Irrelevance

That’s why far too many leaders end in a place where they are too afraid to be bold. Too afraid to try something new. Too afraid to even dream.

They reduce potentially great initiatives to the least offensive form they can find, hoping everyone will buy in.

Except your ability to attract new people just went out the window.

The only people who really like your new idea are a small core of the people who already liked your old idea…and any growth potential is jettisoned.

Here’s the lesson far too many leaders never learn about trying to offend as few people as possible:

If you attempt to offend no one, you will eventually become irrelevant to everyone.

Where does this land you as a leader?

With worship services that are bland enough to inspire no one, including the 40 or 400 people who are there but who strangely want to keep it that way.

Adopting mission statements so drab they could have been lifted from an HR manual.

With a vision for the future that looks far too much like the past.

It’s not that difficult to head down the path to irrelevance.

When your vision for the future looks too much like the past, you need a new vision. And that’s where you’ll end up if people-pleasing causes you to lose your courage.

Lead Boldly

So what do you do?

Four things can help a leader usher in bolder change and avoid irrelevance without becoming a brash, arrogant leader.

1. Be bold

Don’t stop dreaming. Introduce some bolder changes. The problem with incremental change is that it brings incremental results.

So be bold. Bolder change will bring bolder results.

2. Lead with humility

No one likes an arrogant person; even fewer people like an arrogant leader. Being bold is not a licence to offend.

Leading from a place of humility can help you broker change far better than leading from a place of arrogance.

3. Take the long view

A key difference between leaders who successfully navigate change and those who don’t is the ability to stick out the initial waves of criticism.

The fact that some people don’t like your change is natural. Take the long view and realize this too shall pass.

Think about it: surprisingly, your insistence on pleasing people will ultimately cause you to disappoint people.

4. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep

If you focus on the 10% of people who don’t like the change, you will lose the thousands of people you can reach by making the change.

Again, this is not an excuse to be stubborn, arrogant or bullying.

But it is permission to be courageous.

To be true to your convictions, and to lead with conviction and even some occasional daring, I share more specific strategies on how to effectively lead change here.

If your mission is as important as you say it is, it deserves your best leadership and courage.

My Guess Is…

…that you are not trying to be ineffective.

It’s just that the gravitational pull we all feel in leadership to please everybody is almost always counterproductive.

Sometimes, you even end up being nothing to nobody.

So what’s keeping you back from acting on your best strategy?

What’s keeping you back from being more daring?

Is it the desire to be liked? The fear of being rejected? The unwillingness to offend?

I understand that…but just know what’s at stake.

To be inoffensive is to be ineffective.

Sometimes, you need to push through a controversial proposal to get to the other side.

In your attempt to offend no one, you just might become irrelevant to everyone.

Want More?

I wrote about three powerful truths about likability and leadership in this post.

If you’re wondering what issues the church needs to tackle to be effective and reach people, I devoted my most recent book, Lasting Impact, to 7 pivotal issues every church leader needs to address. You can learn more about Lasting Impact here.

What do you think?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

insecure leaders

5 Things Insecure Leaders Wrongly Believe

Ever notice that so many of the challenges you face as a leader happen in your mind?

Me too.

Why is that?

Well, so much of leadership is actually not a battle with others, it’s a battle with yourself.

And a good portion of that battle arises out of insecurity.

Barnabas Piper and Todd Adkins interview me this week for their 5 Leadership Questions podcast. You can listen here. This week’s release is Episode 113 (I was also a guest previously on Episode 80).

Barnabas and Todd asked me to comment on 5 lies leaders believe (especially church leaders).

The conversation was fascinating…as it mostly goes back to insecurity. And I thought it was worth a blog post.

Here are 5 lies leaders wrongly believe.

insecure leaders

1. I must know everything about everything

This trips up so many leaders, and it was a tough one for me when I was starting out.

Most leaders who think they need to know everything feel that way because they know they don’t.

That insecurity can be paralyzing.

The funny thing is…when you fake an answer, people can tell you don’t know. Rather than gaining confidence in your leadership, your guesses, fake answers and ‘covering’ actually causes people to lose confidence in you.

One of the most glorious answers a leader can give is “I don’t know.”

Period.

You don’t need to be defensive.

Just look them in the eye, securely, and admit you don’t know. You don’t even need to go the uber-achiever route and say, “But I’ll find out.”

You might say “I don’t know, but what do you think?” Or “I don’t know, but I’m sure we have someone here who might. Let’s see.” Or you might just say “I don’t know.”

When you do that, you elevate the team. You actually build up the ability of others to contribute.

Frankly, I trust people who tell me the truth far more than people who cover their insecurity with guesses and partial knowledge.

2. I must be prominent and lead from the front

I think in the early days of leadership, most of us instinctively want to lead from the front.

Frankly, during the first decade of my leadership, I was too insecure not to.

But over the last decade, as I’ve become more comfortable with who I am and who I’m not, I’ve been able to do a better job leading more people than ever with less ‘up front’ time than ever.

In fact, in the last few years, I’ve been thinking constantly about what John the Baptist said:  “He must become greater. I must become less.” Naturally, this applies to Christ, but I think it also applies to others.

That’s why I’m fixated on handing off our ministry at Connexus to the next generation… and that my role doesn’t always have to be front and centre.

Every church planter needs to ask this question: “Is what started with me going to end with me?”

The more secure you are, the easier that becomes to answer that with a no. I’m working on it. Hard.

So…if you want to build a ministry that endures, don’t build it around someone who will die.

3. I must prove myself constantly

Ask yourself this: to whom are you trying to prove yourself? To God? To others?

If it’s God, you’re already approved. That had something to do with a cross on a hillside out of Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

And we all know leaders (even Christian leaders) who are constantly trying to prove themselves.

You know what happens?

Leaders who try to prove themselves lose themselves. You actually never discover who you are because you’re not comfortable enough to look inside and discover what’s already there.

My favourite leaders are those who have developed a quiet confidence. They know what they’re good at and what they’re not, but they’re not loud about it. They consistently and humbly play to their strengths and have no difficulty admitting their weaknesses (see point 1).

If you can’t admit you’re wrong because you’re always trying to prove yourself, remember: People admire your strengths but resonate with your weaknesses.

When you can accurately (and even quietly) lead well and admit your mistakes, people trust you.

4. My follower’s success is a threat to me

So many leaders feel threatened by the success of the people around them—even the people they lead.

Big mistake.

You shouldn’t feel threatened by the success of your followers. You should celebrate it.

A leader’s success is ultimately tied to the success of their followers.

Great leaders don’t build great platforms; they build great people.

So how do you do that?

Well, start by murdering your insecurity.

Brian Houston had one of the best answers I’ve heard on this subject. When I interviewed him on my leadership podcast (you can listen to it here), I asked Brian how he’s managed to keep so much talent around him over the years.

I loved his response. He said, “You raise the ceilings.”

Raise the ceilings, and you’ll eventually be surrounded by giants.

If you want to learn more about developing a great leadership pipeline, the team at LifeWay Leadership (where Todd and Barnabas serve) has developed a number of resources to help you begin developing a generation of new leaders at your church.

  • Free E-BookletDeveloping Your Leadership Pipeline
  • Free Leadership App – featuring blogs, podcasts, training videos, and more
  • Pipeline – A Conference for Church Leaders – October 13-14 in Nashville, TN

I’ll be delivering one of the keynotes at the Pipeline Conference in October in Nashville. Join me and 6,000 other leaders this October.

5. I emphasize mission, vision and values enough

On the podcast, I said this one is perhaps the only statement of the five lies that doesn’t arise out of insecurity.

As I’ve thought about it further, now I’m not so sure.

You know what insecure people are? They’re self-focused.

Their needs end up trumping the needs of the organization.

And here’s the truth: you will get tired of casting vision, talking about the mission and celebrating values.

So the question becomes, do you do what you feel like doing or do you do what’s best for the mission?

Great leaders never only do what they feel like doing: they do what furthers the mission of the people they lead.

An insecure leader will flit from feeling to feeling. A secure leader will wake up and do what’s best, even if she thinks she’s done it 1000 times.

Secure leaders can focus on something bigger than themselves because they’re over themselves.

What Do You Think?

I’m a huge podcast fan. I hope you listen to the 5 Leadership Podcast Questions podcast.

I also host a weekly leadership podcast you can listen to for free every week. In fact, if you subscribe for free, you’ll never miss an episode and have access to my back catalogue at your fingertips.

I interview today’s top leaders like Brian Houston, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Jenni Catron, Mark Batterson, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, Kara Powell, Chris Brown, Jon Acuff, Lewis Howes and many more. You can subscribe here.

On Episode 61 of my podcast, Josh Gagnon, pastor of one of the fastest growing and largest churches in the history of New England, and I have a gut-honest conversation about how even successful leaders struggle with insecurity.

I’d love to know if there are other lies you’ve noticed that insecure leaders believe.

Just scroll down and leave a comment!

are you actually a leader?

So Are You Actually a Leader? A Simple Way to Tell In Less Than Two Minutes

One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is to know how you’re doing as a leader.

Add a little insecurity into the mix, and it makes things even more complex.

Naturally, you’ll get feedback from your peers and probably get an occassional 360 review (both great practices).

But beyond that, how can you tell how you’re doing as a leader?

There’s a way to check that’s much simpler than you might think. By asking yourself three simple questions, you can not only get an accurate gauge of how you’re doing, but where you need to improve.

shutterstock_365846192

Why This Matters (Leadership and Self-Delusion)

I find a lot of leaders are not clear on how well they’re leading.

This falls into two categories:

Leaders who overestimate how well they’re doing.

Leaders who underestimate how well they’re doing.

Both are problematic for different reasons.

If you think you’re doing better than you are, you’re the last person to realize you need to improve.

And if you think you’re not doing as well as you actually are, then you likely have potential you have not yet tapped into.

So getting a reasonably accurate check in on the quality of your leadership is critical to help you lead with all diligence.

3 Easy Ways to Check Your Leadership Effectiveness

The following three questions form three quick shoulder checks you can do.

As with all self-assessment, there are limits on how accurate it will be. But my guess is as you work through these questions in the next few minutes you’ll know a lot more about your leadership than you might predict.

And, lastly, a quick note. This post (like almost all posts on this blog) assumes you want to lead better now and steward the leadership gift that God has given you. If you don’t, you’ll push back against these questions. I get that. But if you care about leadership, as difficult as the answers to these questions might be, you will want to answer and act.

So, to gauge your leadership, as honestly as you can, answer these three questions:

1. Is anyone following you?

One of the best ways to tell whether you’re a leader is simple this: Look over your should to see if anyone’s following.

If no one’s following (or only a few are), you’re really not leading.

It doesn’t matter how many leadership books you read, how many webinars you do or how grandiose your vision might be, a leader without followers is not actually a leader.

While we all get touchy about this in leadership, the reality is leaders lead people. (This post explains why some leaders have a higher number of followers than others.)

So whoís following you? Be honest.

2 Who’s following you?

That you have followers is one thing, but the next thing to check is the kind of person following you.

High capacity leaders will attract other high capacity people.

The caliber of the people around you points to the caliber of  leader you are.

Again, this isn’t always a fun question to answer, but it can become a spring board to progress.

If you don’t like what you find, ask yourself why higher capacity leaders don’t follow your lead.

And then take the steps you need to take to change that.

Here are a few posts that will help you better lead high capacity people.

6 Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Leaders

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

How to Tell If You’re An Organizational Or Relational Leader

I also wrote about developing a high capacity team in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

 

3. Who are you following?

It’s not just a question of who follows you, but also a question of who you’re following.

I’m not talking about the podcasts you listen to, the blogs or books you read or the conferences you attend. Our celebrity culture has created a mass following mentality that allows many people to follow influential leaders almost effortlessly. I’m not slamming this.

I read and listen to leading voices all the time and love going to great events. I’m in when it comes to that.

But I think it’s easy to develop a false intimacy with these influential leaders, thinking we know them when in fact we’ve never met them and in all likelihood never will. S

While you can learn from people you read or listen to, even more important are the people you actually hang out with.

On that note, ask yourself:

With whom do I spend the most time personally?

Who’s building into me, personally?

Who’s mentoring me?

Do the people I spend the most time with represent the kind of leader I want to be in 5 years?

Are the people closest to me helping me grow into the leader God has called me to be?

If the answers to these questions bother you, change the circle of people you hang out with.

Find some leaders and mentors who can help you realize your potential. Seriously, send an email today to someone who can do these things for you before you close this blog post.

Know why this is so important?

As Jim Rohn says, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

What Questions Would You Ask?

I find that by asking myself these three questions on a semi-regular basis, I get a fairly accurate assessment of where I am.

How about you? What questions would you add to this list?

Leave a comment.

mistakes churches make

5 Basic Mistakes Churches Make Over and Over Again

It’s one thing to make mistakes in leadership.

It’s another to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Any idea what your frequent mistakes might be?

And if you have mistakes that you make, why do you keep making the same ones over and over again?

One of the reasons many leaders and organizations repeatedly make the same mistakes is because our actions spring from our viewpoint, viewpoints that in fact may be wrong.

Get the viewpoint wrong and the actions follow.

As you’ll see from the list below, the mistakes I see church leaders make repeatedly spring from a view point that can best be described this way:

What we do in the church doesn’t really matter.

The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. What we do in the church matters incredibly, because the church actually is, as Bill Hybels says, the hope of the world.

If the church has the most important mission on earth, behave like it.

But so many churches don’t.

Here are 5 mistakes I see over and over again.

mistakes churches make

1. Thinking cheap

Too often in church, leaders carry a dollar store mindset. Get as much as you can for as little as you can and you win.

But do you?

What leaders miss is that cheap has a cost. In fact, in the long run, it’s actually more expensive.

First, you end up with inferior products, whether that’s furniture, technology or even ministry (Here, leader…do world class children’s ministry on $140 a year).  Cheap things break earlier and more easily, and you end up replacing them frequently. So often, you don’t even save much money.

Cheap even translates to team.

Paying church staff poorly is not only unbiblical, it’s stupid. When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Do I think you should pay outrageous salaries to church leaders? Absolutely not. But you should pay people a living wage.

If you want a radically different view on why non-profits shouldn’t be cheap on salaries, Dan Pallotta makes a powerful case for decent pay in the non-profit sector.

Why do some church leaders want to underfund the most important ministry on earth?

2. Starting late

I’ve been to numerous church services and events that regularly start late, after the published start time.

Why?

Maybe it’s just me, but that just oozes “Hey, what we’re doing doesn’t matter much…and we don’t really value your time.”

Some people got their kids up early, made breakfast, showered quickly and fought traffic to show up on time. When you start late, you dishonour all their effort.

I know some church leaders think they want to wait until ‘everyone is here.’ Well guess what? No matter what time you begin, people will always wander in late.

We had an ‘everyone shows up ten minutes late’ problem a few years ago. Rather than start late, we actually told people to arrive on time and then put some of the best, most creative elements in the first 5 minutes of the service.

When people showed up late, we told them “Man, it’s too bad you missed it.” That was it. We never apologized.

Guess what happened? We went from 30% of people being present when the service started to about 70% of people being present when the service started.

It’s amazing what happens when you provide great value on time. People show up.

The other 30%? Too bad they missed it….

3. Deciding it’s good enough

Even if you invest some money in ministry, too many church leaders behave as though a moderate effort is good enough.

As Jim Collins has famously pointed out, bad is not the enemy of great (because that’s obvious). Good is the enemy of great.

A ‘good enough’ attitude can create a false sense of satisfaction, leaving a meaningful part of both your mission and potential unfulfilled.

That’s why I love that at Connexus Church, where I serve, one of our stated values is ‘Battle Mediocrity.’

I love that phrase because first of all, ‘mediocrity’ names ‘good enough’ for what it is—massively unsatisfying mediocrity. Second, ‘battle’ is a call to arms. This is a fight, and mediocre has to die. (I teach on battling mediocrity in this talk.)

God didn’t decide his work was good enough, so why should the church? He gave his best. His all. He threw the full force of his majesty not just into creation, but into redemption.

Strangely, many people will give 100% to the marketplace, a hobby or their family, and then give 60% when they serve God. Makes no sense. At all.

4. Choosing easy over effective

Being effective as a leader is difficult. Which is why it’s so easy for leaders to settle when so much more is possible.

Being effective means you dig in when others retreat. It means you ask the 11th question when everyone else stopped at ten. It means you wake up early and sometimes stay up late trying to figure out how to do better.

It means you call out the best in people and ask them to bring their best energy, focus and skill to advancing the mission of the church.

That’s effective.

And it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

5. Thinking that conversations like these are  unspiritual

Some leaders understand why conversations like these matter to the church. But there are always some who don’t.

In some circles, talking strategy is seen as ‘unspiritual.’ Instead, the goal is to not get too concerned with strategy and just try to keep everybody happy. Or to pray about things and maybe they’ll just get better.

The best prayer is rooted in action. Praying about forgiveness when you’re unwilling to forgive is pointless.

Praying for your church if you’re unwilling to act on it doesn’t make any sense either.

If we believe God is the author of our hearts, minds, souls, strength and gifts, then we should be willing to lend all of the above to further the mission.

What Mistakes Do You See?

I outline 7 other key issues the church needs to tackle in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, I’d love to know some of the mistakes you see churches make again and again.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

suck at vacation

Why Driven People Suck at Vacation (And 5 Ways To Fix It)

So summer is here and you’re trying to take some time off.

Ever notice that’s what driven leaders say all the time?

I’m going to try to take two weeks off.

I’m gonna try to unplug.

I’m trying to relax.

We A-types suck at vacation, don’t we?

It also really sucks if you’re married to us. Or we’re your parents.

How bad is it?

So bad that I included the “5 ways to fix it” subtitle to this post to get you to click on this article because you’re so driven you wouldn’t read an article on how to vacation unless it included a to-do list.

How do I know this?

Because I’m one of you. I’m actually finishing this post at an airport while everyone else talks and I’m trying to wrap it up because the flight we’re boarding has no wifi.

Yep, I’m speaking my native tongue.

Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me.

But I also understand how important it is.

Sabbath is God’s idea. And, as I discovered when I burned out, if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.

I know people who can take time off easily… they don’t worry, they’re never tempted to check email, they can easily shut down social media for a week, and they find a hammock to be relaxing.

That person is not me.  I think a few of you can relate.

What’s frustrating is that you hear people give advice all the time about powering down, not checking email, getting offline and just relaxing…vacation is easy for them. But not for some of us. 

So over the years I’ve developed these 5 vacation rules that, if observed, make shutting off all the devices and truly taking a break easier.

They help me, as a driven person, relax better.

suck at vacation

1. Prepare for your vacation, don’t just take it 

I used to run into my holidays full speed, and it would take me half my holidays to unwind.

Take some time before your holiday to prepare for your holiday. Use your evenings to rest up before you leave.

Pack ahead of time. Build the anticipation. When I do this, I can start day one of vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy.

Last year for the first time, I took a week off before our family left for a week together, just to unwind alone and be ready for them when they were free. It helped.

2. Equip your team, and yourself, for your break 

Leaving work behind is hard work.

I wasn’t good at this for years.  Now I spend time before leaving asking “what does my team need while I’m away so they can run optimally and so I can rest?”

If all of that is lined up, then they have what they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.

The next step is even more important: let go.

I did this recently when my wife and I went to Australia. I spent almost zero time online (except TripAdvisor or Instagram for fun), fought no fires and let my team handle everything. We had two of the best weeks we’ve had together in years.

But more than that, great things happened back home. The church grew. And my podcast had the single biggest month in its almost two-year history (I lined up all the episodes before I left and gave my team the job of posting them).

You know what I learned? When you let go, things grow.

Early in my leadership, I never would have believed it. Now I do.

3.  Delegate authority and responsibility

While this is good practice all the time, make sure you leave behind real decisions, real authority and real responsibility.

My team can call the shots while I’m away. My assistant handles my email for my entire vacation.  If you don’t have an assistant, use an autoresponder and plan to spend your first or second day back sorting through email.

If you plan for it, you won’t worry about it while away.

4.  Find out what fuels you

I have friends who love to vacation at bed and breakfasts, chat with the locals and make new friends during their holiday. For me, that would be the opposite of vacation.

My ideal vacation is where I go somewhere with my family,  I don’t know anyone, and I don’t need to talk to anyone who might know me.  I suppose it’s a way to refuel for living in a world where so many people know me and I get stopped for conversation virtually everywhere I go (happens to a lot of us in ministry).

I also know it’s important for me to be in an environment that refuels me.

Camping is my nemesis. Give me a good hotel and some day-trips any day and I’m good to go.

We’ve worked it through as a family to the point where when we do the kind of vacation we’re currently doing, everyone comes back rested and recharged, ready to go.

If you don’t know what fuels you, even your vacation can drain you.

5. Pick a goal for your holidays

My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Obviously, one of my goals is to spend meaningful time with my family; I also use vacation time as time to connect with God.

But I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time alone and with my family more. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal.

I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals.

Do you suck at vacation?

How about you?  What vacation rules do you have?

Or do you just unplug and think us A types are crazy?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

hidden factors

9 Hidden Factors That Influence Your Leadership More Than You Think

So you’ve noticed something.

Your ability to lead well seems to fluctuate.

Some days (and seasons) you seem to be in top shape. You have energy and enthusiasm, a clear mind and your decision making is sharp.

But on other days (and in other seasons) you’re sluggish, fuzzy or so burdened down you feel like you can’t lead anything well.

What gives?

What I’ve learned in leadership is that on most days, there are hidden factors at work. These hidden factors can make you excel, or they can completely work against you.

Knowing what’s at work in the background can be tremendously liberating. Once you realize what’s helping or hurting you, you can deal with it.

So what hidden factors threaten to make or break you as a leader?

Here are 9 I’ve identified at work in my leadership. You’ll notice many have to do with a leader’s mind, while a few are more physical.

It should be no surprise so many of the factors are in your mind. Leadership, after all, is a mind game.

Work at the mental aspect of leadership and you’ll discover what many leaders have discovered: changing your mind can change everything.

hidden factors1. The weight of leadership

Anyone who has led anything remotely significant is familiar with the weight of leadership.

The weight of leadership is the sense of responsibility you carry that goes with your job.

The problem is it never turns off easily.

It follows you home. It accompanies you to bed. It travels with you on vacation.

It’s hard to shake the weight of leadership. You feel it because you are the leader, and you’re likely the leader because you’re the kind of person who feels it.

So what can help lift the weight of leadership? A few things:

Naming it

Doing something fun (the power of distraction)

Prayer

Talking to a friend or mentor who understands

When it’s appropriate, the weight of leadership can spur you toward leading better.  But when it crushes you, all of the benefits of feeling responsible for what you lead disappear.

2. Pace

Many leaders run hard. But you can only run so hard so long.

For many of you, it’s been too long.

Any leader can run hard for a season, but even if you avoid burnout, eventually it becomes counterproductive to run hard all the time.

Why?

Your mood tanks. Your fatigue rises. Your productivity drops.

And—bottom line—it’s unsustainable.

Smart leaders ask themselves: Am I living in a way today that will help me thrive tomorrow? If not, why not?

3. Lack of sleep

I’ve written about sleep before, and I’ve become a sleep evangelist of sorts over the last decade. (Here’s why sleep is a leader’s secret weapon in my view.)

Frankly, my conversion was involuntary. I used to pride myself on how little sleep I got. Now, most days, I unapologetically nap during the day and generally get 6-8 hours every night.

The truth is, before I started taking sleep seriously, I was awake, but I was a zombie. And despite being awake more hours, I wasn’t nearly as productive as I am today.

To say I’ve been 10x more productive since I started taking sleep seriously is probably not an exaggeration. I wanted to write a book all through my 30s. Never got a manuscript done.

I’ve written 3 in the last 6 years. Plus launched this blog, and a podcast, started speaking at conferences more often, and worked full time on top of that.

I find when I cheat sleep now, it feels like my world comes crashing down. If I can call an audible and simply admit “Man, I’m tired” and get some rest, things come back into alignment surprisingly fast.

Not convinced being rested is a key component to great leadership? Gary Vaynerchuck and Arianna Huffington have a fascinating conversation about the necessity of sleep for leaders here.

4. The amount of time since your last break

Leaders are often famous for taking little time off.

Like missing sleep, you make a mistake when you don’t make the time to recharge.

I’ve discovered over the years that if I am going to operate at my peak, I need a break or a diversion every 6-8 weeks, if even for a day. An extra day off, a short trip or something that can refuel me (even if it’s somewhat work related) is often really restorative.

The longer it’s been since your last break, the longer it will take for you to feel truly great again. So take a break.

5. What’s happening at home

Too often leaders think they can separate what happens at work from what happens at home.

Leading poorly at home always impacts how you lead at work. Just like you carry the weight of leadership around with you wherever you go, you also carry the weight of a bad marriage or a fractured family with you wherever you go.

If you win at work but lose at home, you’ve lost.

6. Constant connectivity

You can leave work, but thanks to your phone, work never leaves you.

I’m a connected guy, but even I found the constant buzzing of my phone to be too much.

Last year I turned off all notifications on my phone except for phone calls and text messages. And I’m selective about giving out my cell number.

I no longer feel my phone vibrate every time someone emails me, tweets me, likes a pic on Instagram or interacts on Facebook or Snapchat.

This isn’t just a tip for home; it helps at work too. It’s very hard to do any thinking if your phone is buzzing every minute, which for a season of my life it was.

Another change I made last year: sleeping with my phone in another room, turned off. Yep, I know that’s radical. I use an old school alarm clock to wake me up. Most of the time, I’ve slept so well I wake up before the alarm. Imagine that.

7. Your spiritual state

As a Christian, I believe everything starts and ends with God.

Your ability to give love is directly related to how deeply you receive love. Your ability to love is like a bank account: you can only withdraw what has been deposited. Make too many withdrawals, and you go bankrupt.

As you know, leadership is a series of withdrawals. So you better make some deposits.

There is no greater source of love than God.

So…

If you want to love the people you lead, it starts with God.

If you want wisdom, it comes from God.

If you want to exude grace, that also comes from God.

When you sever a limb from the tree, it’s only a matter of time until it withers.

8. Nutrition

Almost all food is brain food. Not all of it is good, but all of it affects your brain.

And if you’re paid to think (like many who read this blog are), your nutrition is critical.

Skipping meals, loading up on sugar and otherwise eating poorly impacts everything from your energy level to your blood sugar levels to your ability to think clearly.

I know for me, eating well is essential. Sometimes when I’m getting upset or angry, I realize it’s likely due to the fact I haven’t eaten or I’ve eaten poorly.

9. Change of venue

I realized a long time ago that I am deeply impacted by two things:

Choice of venue

Being in a single venue for too long

Sometimes, you simply have to step away from the screen, get out of the office and change the scenery.

In fact, I find my best ideas come to me when I’m not behind a computer screen or I’m within the first hour of a fresh venue.

Ideas I love often come to me when I’m cycling, doing yard work, in a fresh place (or favourite place that isn’t an office), or doing anything that doesn’t require me to sit behind a screen and write.

As a result, I have 3 or 4 ‘offices’ I use regularly, ranging from space at our church to a home office to the back porch to our living room.

Sometimes all I need to do to get fresh perspective is change venues.

What Do You Think?

These are 9 largely silent factors that impact my leadership.

What are you discovering? What helps you be at your best? What hinders you from doing your best?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

people leave your church

5 Surprising Reasons People Leave Your Church

In a perfect world, you wish everyone who comes to your church would stay forever.

I get that. I share that desire too.

But the reality is that on this side of heaven people come and go, not just in church, but everywhere.

Think about it: you’ve switched gyms and supermarkets. You’ve bought and sold cars and homes. You’ve even switched jobs. And no, the church is not a commodity, but the law of averages tells you a certain percentage of people inevitably come and go.

Usually, when people leave a church, it’s because there’s a problem, a disagreement or a conflict of some kind.

But I’ve also come to realize people leave churches when things are going well.

As surprising as this sounds, every time you make progress as a church, you’ll lose people.

This comes as a shock to most leaders. And it can be very disheartening, especially if you don’t realize some loss even in great seasons is ‘normal’.

While I don’t have hard data to back these 5 reasons people leave your church, I do have more than a few conversations with leaders from great churches who still experience exits when things are going well. And all 5 reasons listed below are trends I have seen personally where I serve.

So why do people leave even when you’re making progress at your church?

Simple. The people who are at your church today are there because they like it the way it is.

Change that (even for the better), and some will leave.

It will shock you. It will disappoint you. It will leave you scratching your head. And it’s unavoidable. But you need to keep moving or else you’ll be paralyzed by focusing on who you want to keep, not who you want to reach.

So when do people leave when things are going well?

Here are 5 surprising moments that trigger exits when no one is expecting it:

people leave your church

1. A move into a new building

So many people think a move into a new building is a positive step that will only cause growth.

For a church that has momentum, that’s almost universally true. (Although a move into a building will not cause a declining church to grow…I explain why here.)

But even when things are going well, you will lose people.

Some people will love the portable days even better. Some won’t like the new location. Others may not like the design. Others may feel displaced.

For some people, there’s also a sentimental association with past places of worship as well. Maybe the sentiment is because they became Christians there, were baptized there, or even got married there.

For sure, that’s understandable. Most people get past the sentiment, but some don’t. And they’ll leave.

The church has to keep moving though…advancing the mission. After all, you cannot build a future by living in the past.

2. You’ve hired a new senior leader

Naturally, some people leave when you hire a new senior leader—a senior pastor, campus pastor or teaching pastor.

But what’s surprising is some people leave even when you hire a GREAT new senior leader.

People have their own reasons for liking the old better than the new, even when it comes to people.

Often the reasons are personal or preferential, not missional. They liked the only senior leader better, or felt a personal connection with him or her, or even had a friendship with him or her.

Even though a great new leader will lead a congregation into an exciting future, there’s always a small group that will not want to come for the ride.

3. You’ve added new staff

So it should be no surprise that when the leader changes, so does the team—the other staff and many of the key volunteers.

Why does this happen so often?

I learned something a while ago in leadership:

Leaders often behave missionally. Most people behave relationally.

What do I mean by that?

Well, often as a leader, you think and act in terms of the mission.

Most people don’t think or act according to the mission; instead they behave relationally.

So when a new staff member steps in and people sense “oh, this isn’t how it used to be,” they move on.

In the case of new staff (not senior staff…but associate staff), the good news is most people won’t leave the church—they’ll just leave their ministry area for a new ministry area.

I used to be surprised by this trend and often upset by it. Now I just realize that if we appoint a new leader, within a year many people on that leader’s team will change. Again, if the overall situation is healthy, they’ll relocate within other ministries. If it’s less healthy,  people will leave outright.

4. You’ve stopped some old programs

Effective leaders don’t just start things, they also stop things.

They realize good is the enemy of great (as Jim Collins said), and they are willing to cut good things to make way for great things. They certainly don’t hesitate to cut what is ineffective.

Yet it often comes as a surprise that people leave when their program gets cut, even if it gets cut ‘well’ and with sensitivity.

The reason people leave in circumstances like this is because for many people, what they’re involved in becomes the mission. If they run a Tuesday morning coffee club (even an ineffective one), their relationships within that club run deep and perhaps even their identity is caught up in leading that club.

Change that, and they’re left floundering.

Again, healthier people will realize the mission is bigger than them and they will adjust and find a new place.

Others won’t. They’ll leave. Even if the church as a whole is getting better at accomplishing its mission.

5. You announce an exciting new initiative

So let’s say your church announces a new initiative to reach more people, be more effective in the community or even add a location or ministry.

As a leader, you’re pumped. As pumped as you’ve ever been.

Guess what? Some people won’t want to go with you.

There will still be a tiny minority that likes your church just the way it is.

They don’t want it to get bigger. They don’t want it to get better.

They just want it to stay the same.

As exciting as the future is, some people prefer the present. Others live in the past. 

That’s just life. 

How Do You Manage This Tension?

All of this can leave you feeling discouraged unless you realize one core truth.

As a leader, you need to choose your focus. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, you need to decide whether you will focus on who you want to reach, or who you want to keep.

If you think about it, deciding to focus on who you want to reach is the better choice. Some people are un-pleasable, and deciding to please the un-pleasable is an exercise in futility. (In fact, here are 7 kinds of people no church leader can afford to keep.)

But even if the handful of people who might leave aren’t unappeasable, the people you need to reach are far greater in number than those you’re trying to keep.

The people you might lose always have other churches they can go to.

The unchurched people you will reach by changing…don’t.

Don’t burn bridges with those leaving (be gracious…thank them for their time with you), but don’t sacrifice the mission for the sake of a handful of people who don’t like the future.

The challenge, of course, is to reach more people than you lose, and to keep unnecessary departures to a minimum.

Any Thoughts?

I hope this post comes as encouragement to you. Just know if despite your best efforts, you still see a small group walk out the door, you’re not alone.

Keep making progress. Keep leading. Keep pursuing your mission.

If you’re leading well, who you reach will be greater than who you lose, even if in some moments it doesn’t seem that way.

What’s your experience with this?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

ripping off other preachers

Why You Should Stop Ripping Off Other Preachers (The Led Zeppelin Scenario)

Ever get jealous of a line or idea that another preacher or communicator came up with you wish you had thought of?

Me too.

It’s tempting to think of stealing it and to hope no one notices you didn’t think of it.

Well, all I can say is we preachers ought to be thankful that we don’t face the kind of lawsuits Led Zeppelin did recently accusing them of stealing the introductory riff from Stairway to Heaven off a lesser known band.

The jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to show Led Zeppelin borrowed the introduction for its mega-hit from a song called Taurus by L.A. band Spirit.

So, good for Led Zeppelin. Other bands have not been so lucky. And whether they’re vindicated or not, any band sued racks up tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs to prove their innocence.

The Led Zeppelin case reminds me that plagiarism (stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own) is a serious offence.

Ever wonder what would happen if preachers were held to a similar standard?

With the proliferation of podcasts, free sermon downloads and constant connectivity that describes our era, plagiarism in the church may be at an all-time high.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard lesser-known preachers steal other preachers key ideas and pass them off as their own—with no attribution.

In law, that’s technically a crime.

Now before you go all 1 Corinthians 6 on me and tell me that Christians should not sue one another (I agree), or point out there’s nothing new under the sun or that we’re all in this together, hear me out: I’m with you.

But just because we’re all part of the same Kingdom doesn’t mean we should go ripping each other off and claiming a thought was our idea.

I propose a rule for preachers that goes something like this:

Write your own stuff. And if you didn’t, tell people you didn’t.

That’s it.

Because if you don’t, there are at least five things you’re messing up as a leader.

shutterstock_273018893So what can I borrow?

There’s actually nothing morally wrong with borrowing other people’s great ideas.

But be honest and tell people you didn’t think of it yourself.

If you don’t think this is an epidemic, please know I’m not even close to being the most well-known preacher on the planet, nor the best-known writer. But my team has found other preachers preaching our local series verbatim, with no permission and zero attribution. Even the jokes were re-used. (Note, we happily share our message series with churches that ask. This particular guy didn’t ask.)

Ditto with my blog. My team has found other bloggers who have taken my content, pasted it word for word into their blog, and written their name above the post as the author. (We’ve asked them to take it down.)

So what’s the problem with idea-theft, sermon-theft or writing-theft? Well, clearly it’s not financial. Few of us stand to make millions (or even hundreds) off of having original message or blog ideas. It’s a free economy that way. And we ARE in this together.

But here are 5 things that are simply wrong about plagiarism:

1. You want people to think you’re smarter than you actually are

Let’s be honest…the real reason we borrow other people’s ideas and make them appear to be ours is so it makes us look smarter than we are.

Don’t think you can give credit and still seem smart?

Just listen to Tim Keller. In virtually every message, Keller references a book he’s read or a thinker he’s borrowing from. He does this regularly and generously.

And guess what? Keller’s one of the sharpest thinkers alive today. Also one of the smartest.

Quoting other leaders doesn’t make you seem dumb. It actually makes you look smart.

It’s evidence you’ve read more than a few tweets, and that you’ve dug deep into the heart of history or current events. It’s a sign you’re not lazy.

Ripping people off is lazy. Learning from other authors and thinkers isn’t.

2. You lie

Lying is an integrity issue.

People assume when a speaker, artist or writer shares something, it’s their take on an issue.

I know of several pastors who have been fired by their board for stealing sermons they claimed were their own.

One literally downloaded another pastor’s messages every week and preached them verbatim. Another borrowed different sermons from different sources but never attributed them.

Their boards fired them. Bravo, boards.

If you steal money, you get fired. If you steal ideas, maybe you should be fired too.

3. You stop growing

Of all the leaders and communicators who have their ideas ripped off, Andy Stanley is likely top of the list. He’s one of the most quoted leaders alive today in the Western church, and for good reason. He’s brilliant.

I had a chance to talk with Andy on my Leadership Podcast and I asked him about how he felt about others ‘stealing’ his material and ideas. I loved his answer (you can listen to the episode here or on iTunes—Episode 1).

Andy said—so accurately—that preachers who preach other people’s messages forfeit the growth that comes with preparing a message from scratch. They miss the angst, the frustration and the tremendous reward that comes from wrestling down ideas until they come out in a powerful and helpful way.

Andy’s so right. Preachers, when you start stealing, you stop growing.

You also lose your own voice. If you’re like me, you may not be the biggest fan of your own voice, but it’s a voice God gave you and that God loves.

Further, if you’re simply a copycat, my suspicion is a younger audience will eventually tune you out. Why? Because Millennials can smell a lack of authenticity a mile away.

You may not be quite as clever or articulate as your favourite preacher, but you’re real. And real resonates.

But wait, you say, can’t you buy Andy’s sermons so you can reteach them at your church? Can’t you download Craig Groeschel’s messages and reteach them at your church? Both legally?

Yes, you can.

There can be strategic purposes for doing so. But when you do, give credit. Don’t lose the edge you gain by wrestling through your own ideas, your own reading of God’s word, and finding your own voice on a regular basis.

4. You lose touch with God

When you plagiarize, you lose touch with God in at least two significant ways.

First, the sins of lying and stealing are themselves a barrier. Confession stands between you and God.

Second, stealing ideas required zero reliance on the Holy Spirit for inspiration, direction, courage or insights.

Ironically, in trying to make your content better, you’ve made it worse. You’ve robbed it of its true power. The real power in preaching comes not from our words, but from what God does with our words.

Do the hard work. You and everyone around you will be better for it.

5. It creeps into other areas of your life

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s generally true that when you compromise in one area of your life, it doesn’t take much to start compromising in other areas.

Sin is like a weed: It grows fast and you never have to water it.

The best way to tackle sin is to pull it out by its root before it creeps into other areas of your life.

So what do I do?

What should you do in a hyper-connected era when you and I are exposed to more ideas in a day than our grandparents were in a month or year?

First, use other peoples ideas generously. Just give credit where credit is due. Quote. Attribute. Link back.

That covers most of us.

But what about those preachers who realize they’re guilty of knowingly stealing entire messages or lines of thinking and passing it off as theirs..and no one has confronted them on it (yet)?

I would strongly encourage anyone in this category to come clean. Talk to your board. Explain what’s been happening, and tell them you want to stop. See a counselor if you need to (there’s something inside that drove you there in the first place), and start writing fresh.

Want to develop as a preacher?

Here are some free resources you can use to become a better communicator. I share the process I use for preparing messages in this 5 part blog series.

I have also learned so much about message preparation, delivery and communication best practices from Preaching Rocket (affiliate link).

Preaching Rocket can help you get started preaching from scratch. Or, even if you’ve been at communication for years like I have, it can help you grow.

You can sign up for a 7 day free Preaching Rocket trial here.

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on us as communicators? What’s been your experience?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

insights on burnout

A Decade Later: My Top 10 Insights On Burnout

Burnout is almost an epidemic among church leaders today, and it’s increasingly common among business leaders as well.

Even young leaders are burning out. No longer is burnout an “I’ve been at this too long” kind of phenomenon.

So what happens if you burnout?

Can you come back?

Can you lead again?

Can you thrive again?

Is there hope?

10 years ago this summer, I burnt out.

It was the first time my fatigue pushed me over a cliff and left me unable to get back. It was more than physical exhaustion…it was emotional exhaustion. I had led for 12 years, but clearly, I had not processed my leadership properly. My first decade in leadership pushed me past the brink of burnout.

If you want more about my story, I write about the descent into burnout in this post and about my recovery here.

In addition, Perry Noble and I talk about burnout on Episode 2 of my leadership podcast (Perry’s story is fascinating).  Perry and I also put together some free resources to help leaders going through burnout.

Personally, I’ll never forget the depth of the despair.

And yet, a full decade later, I have never felt better, never felt more alive, and never been more productive in my life.

Here are 10 ways my burnout changed the way I lead, and 10 insights that can help any leader lead better (whether or not you’ve burnt out).

burnout in leadership1. Limits exist for a reason

As a young leader, it’s so easy to think limits don’t apply to you. In some ways they don’t.

Until they do.

People kept telling me I would burn out.

I thought I was invincible. I was so wrong.

I have a much greater respect for God-given limits: limits for how much I can do, what I should be involved in, and even how much sleep I need.

I’ve discovered that when I respect limits, I ironically get far more accomplished. The desire to burn through all limits many leaders feel, is, in the end, counterproductive.

2. God is still present, even when he feels absent

It’s hard to feel God’s presence when you’ve hit bottom.

There were months where I simply went through the motions—praying, reading my bible and following God as best as I could, even though I felt nothing.

There were moments in which I felt there was no way God could be present because clearly I had failed him, or I wouldn’t be feeling the way I did.

But that simply isn’t true.

God was very present when I was burning out. In fact, he was doing some deep work in me: prodding, shaping and refining who I was. You could even argue he was preparing me for what was ahead.

Did it have to be as painful as it was? Of course not. Had I listened earlier and heeded the warning signs, I probably wouldn’t have burned out.

But God is sovereign, and his faithfulness doesn’t depend on me.

God is still present…even when he feels absent.

3. Your unresolved past will sink your future

Unprocessed ‘issues’ are deadly.

My wife had urged me to go to counselling for a few years before I actually went. I was too proud to go. I sent people to counselling. I didn’t go to counselling.

How stupid.

She saw issues I couldn’t see. Others saw issues I couldn’t see. I had issues…things that were driving me to hurt others unintentionally.

The truth is we all struggle with unresolved issues. The sooner you deal with them, the better everyone around you is.

Your unresolved past will sink your future, unless you deal with it.

4. Grieve your losses

A mentor once told me that ministry is a series of ungrieved losses. He was right.

Think about how much loss is involved in leadership. Someone leaves your church. A staff member quits. A decision doesn’t go your way. You lose a friend.

Many leaders pretend it doesn’t hurt when the reality is it does.

Worse than that, we don’t know what to do with our losses. So we just go back to work.

For years when I read the scriptural stories of how people grieved, I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with these people? Why did they take 40 days to grieve the death of Moses? Couldn’t they just get back to work?”

Little did I realize that taking the time to grieve your losses is one of the healthiest things you can do.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in August 2006 crying. It’s like all the losses I ignored for decades couldn’t stay inside anymore. And once they left…I found closure, even healing.

Now, I pay much more attention to feelings of loss. I pray about them. I process them. Occasionally I do shed tears over the deeper ones. And then I move on.

So much healthier.

5. If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far

The #1 question I had in the middle of my burnout is will this ever end? 

It took me three months to start functioning semi-normally again. Within a year, I was at 80%. But it took a full 5 years to be at 100% of normal, which wasn’t the old normal, but a new normal (the old normal would have landed me back in the ditch again).

I realized God was doing some soul surgery in me that went very deep. I believe he wanted to get to the root of some heart issues that would have held me back from doing what he wants to accomplish with my life.

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to encourage other leaders going through burnout, spending some time to pray and talk with them, sometimes at length.

The question they always ask is this: when will this be over? All of us A-types want burnout over quickly.

My standard answer these days is “don’t rush it and don’t delay it. Let it take as long as it takes.”

Why?

There’s a promise underneath the pain. If God is doing surgery, it’s because he wants to bring healing.

It’s also a sign of his love. If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far.

6. Your heart will heal and you will trust again

Your heart gets mangled in leadership because:

You trusted people who betrayed that trust.

You hoped only to have your hopes dashed.

You believed only to discover what you were hoping for never happened.

That’s the natural stuff of leadership, but in the process, your naiveté and innocence are lost.

As a result, it’s hard not to grow cynical. It’s hard not to let your heart grow hard.

How do you thrive long term when leadership can be disappointing?

For me, it’s a combination of realism and optimism. Yep, it can be hard. Yes, there will be disappointments. But despite that, I will believe again. I will hope again. I will trust again.

Here’s something I’ve discovered: leaders who thrive see life for what it really is but keep their hearts fully engaged.

7. Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience

When you’re burnt out, your emotions stop working properly. You sometimes feel nothing. Or you feel a deep despair. And at other times, you feel emotions but they are not proportionate to what is going on around you or what you should be feeling.

I think a lot of leaders simply quit because their emotions have stopped working.

What I’ve learned is that obedience is greater than my emotions.

I stayed in ministry because I believe God had not released me from my calling. So I just obeyed.

The amazing thing is, eventually, your emotions catch up to your obedience. As you get healthier, the emotions begin to work the way they should. Sometimes they work better than they ever have.

8. Managing your energy is more important than managing your time

Prior to my burnout, I worked on time management.

Since I burned out, I still work hard on optimal time management, but I’ve discovered a much better approach: energy management.

Your energy waxes and wanes throughout the day. Rather than fight that, I’ve learned to cooperate with it. I’ve discovered that there are probably 3-5 hours a day when I’m at my best (for me, that’s usually in the morning).

I’ve moved all my most important work to those hours when I’m at my best.

Doing what you’re best at when you’re at your best unlocks a world of potential many leaders miss.

I write more on how to manage your energy here.

9. Sleep is a leader’s secret weapon

Exhaustion was a major reason I burned out. Not the only reason, but a major reason.

Now, I guard my sleep zealously, when I’m at home or on the road. I’ve embraced naps. And I watch my fatigue levels like a hawk.

I’ve come to realize that most of us are like our phones. You start off in the morning with 100% charge and at various points in the day, you need to be plugged back in.

A quick nap at lunch can recharge me for a few hours. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night has become essential for me to perform at my best at work and at home.

If you want more, I wrote a blog post on why sleep is a leader’s secret weapon.

10. Your best days may actually be ahead of you, not behind you

Here’s some hope for anyone struggling with burnout.

When I was burning out, I was mostly convinced my best days were behind me. With a decade’s distance from my burnout, I can see that wasn’t true in the least.

I came back from burnout (again, here are the 12 keys that helped me), and I’ve accomplished more in the last 10 years than I ever imagined was possible.

I planted a church that has grown into the largest church I’ve ever been a part of.

People told me all through my 30s that I should write a book. I never did. In the last 6 years, I’ve written three.

My blog has grown to millions of readers a year, I launched a weekly leadership podcast, and I’ve had the chance to speak all over the world.

If you had told me God would open up doors like this when I was in the depth of my burnout, I would never have believed it.

I’m not sure I could have handled what God brought my way before I burned out. There were things he needed to do inside me before he did things through me. I see that clearly now.

The point is simply this…if you’re burning out, keep moving through it. Maybe your best days are ahead of you, not behind you.

Want More?

I included a full chapter on personal health and team health in my new book, Lasting Impact. You can pick up a copy for you and your team here.

In addition, listen in on my interview with Perry Noble, Lead Pastor of NewSpring Church who burned out while leading a church that reaches tens of thousands of people. Perry tells you not only why he burned out, but how he came back.

If you prefer, you can listen to the podcast on your phone or another device by subscribing here. Once you’ve subscribed, just look for Episode 2, which is my interview with Perry.

Additionally, don’t miss the free resource page Perry and I put together to help leaders who are burning out. You can access it here for free.

You can subscribe to my podcast for free here on iTunesStitcher or Tune In Radio.

Those are my top 10 insights on burnout a decade later.

What’s helped you move through your toughest seasons? What are your top insights?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

age of terror

Thoughts on How to Be the Church in An Age of Terror

Like me, you hope and pray that tragedies like the one we just witnessed in Orlando will stop and go away…forever.

You wish you could wake up in a world in which children could go to school, friends could go to movies, athletes could run marathons, music lovers could go to concerts and people could go to night clubs and churches without the fear of violence.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be ready to happen any time soon.

In an era of randomized terror, it’s extremely difficult to protect ourselves from acts of violence in shopping malls, schools, churches or movie theatres…it is infecting and affecting our ordinary, every day life.

Which is exactly what it’s designed to do. And hence, it’s terror.

In many ways, terror and evil have been part of the fabric of human life forever. My father was born into a world in which Nazi soldiers regularly marched feet away from his living room window while his older brothers hid in the hayloft. Terror is no stranger to previous generations or present generations in many parts of the world.

But living in this emerging reality in the West is new to most of us. And we are left, emotions swinging and raging, wondering how to respond.  Wishing it would go away. Even when in all likelihood, it won’t.

And so we pray, even when we are not sure what to pray or how to pray and often when our prayers consist more of tears, fear and desperation than they do of words. We are heartbroken. And we suspect our hearts will be broken again….soon.

How do we respond as Christians? As church leaders? As pastors and neighbours? As parents? As citizens?

Clearly, there is no single response that can adequately address the complexity or dark depth of what’s happening. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Nor is there an election result that can fix this once and for all.

But there are some reflections which I hope and pray can be helpful for Christians and church leaders. What you do is important. And how you respond, in the small and the large things, matters so much.

Here are a few things that have been circulating through my heart and mind as the tragedy in Orlando hits home.

age of terror

1. What the church is doing is more important, not less important

Doubtless the church is in an era of deep change.

Given the rise of terror and violence in the West, the days of playing church or simply going to church are drawing to a close.

This is the time to be the church, because what Christians have to offer is a radically different ethic and alternative to hatred and violence. The Gospel is a needed ethic in our culture, and it’s being lost in the noise.

You can debate parts of the scripture all you want, but one thing that is undeniable is that Jesus said his followers would be known by their love.

This, more than anything, is what Christians need to be known for.

Families need this love. Victims need this love. Perpetrators need this love. Children need this love.

The Gospel moves us to love when all that is left is hate.

So what you’re doing this Sunday, not just in response to what happened but in advance of what might happen next, is so important.

Our culture needs the love found in Jesus more than ever. What you’re doing next weekend matters more than you realize.

As the Gospel spreads from person to person, life to life, community to community, nation to nation, we are transformed.

Preach the love of Christ like you were changing the world. Because you are.

2. Confession and humility are more important than ever

Confession and humility are increasingly rare in the West. And in the church. And yet they are two characteristics of Christianity that run to the core of our faith.

The opposite of confession is blame…and that’s an instinctive reaction most of us have. Lack of humility pushes people (and nations) into stand-offs that deepen the divide and escalate the ruin.

The truth is, other religions aren’t the only religions that have spoken hate. Christians have spoken hate as well. We need to repent.

We are perfectly capable of hating and killing each other without intervention from foreign groups that hate the West. And sometimes, we do.

We need to pray, and repent, and carry deep inside of us the knowledge that we too are broken. We too need a Saviour. We too need grace. We too are forgiven.

That posture can’t change everything, but it will change more than you think. It can deeply alter the dynamic and dialogue at a micro-level. When the micro-dialogue and the micro-dynamics changes, it is only a matter of time until the macro changes.

3. Faith is a dividing line that ultimately can become a uniting line

The reality, of course, is that if you’re a Christian, there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only an ‘us’ and ‘us.’

The early church realized that when Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women and every ethnic nation imaginable came together under Christ. It was tremendously radical then. It will be just as radical now.

We live in an age where faith is increasingly seen as divisive and extreme. More and more people feel that way about Christianity as well, as David Kinnaman and I discuss in Episode 82 of my leadership podcast (you can listen here).

Yet Christianity, which man sees as divisive, is ultimately unifying because it ultimately unites radically different people groups under the love of God that is in Jesus Christ.

4. The only ethic that will ever work is the ethic of love

A generation ago, Martin Luther King Jr. faced a situation that had some parallels. The civil rights movement was hardly yet a movement as the young black preacher began his ministry. The controversy over busing had just begun in Alabama.

One night when King was preaching, someone threw a bomb inside the house where he wife and infant daughter were inside. His family was unharmed, but his front window had been blown out and there was a huge hole in his porch.

As he rushed home, a crowd of several hundred blacks had gathered as had the mayor and the police.

As Charles Duhigg tells the story (in his book, The Power of Habit), someone shoved a cop, a bottle flew through the air and a police officer waved his baton. All the ingredients for a full riot were there. The tension had been building for weeks. Well, actually, for centuries.

King stood up on his porch and told the crowd “Don’t do anything panicky….He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Then, as he got everyone’s attention, King spoke these words:

“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in word that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’…We must meet hate with love.”

As Duhigg notes, this was a turning point for the civil rights movement. People put down their fists and their weapons. When hate became instead, an embrace, it became a very difficult force to stop.

The only ethic that will ultimately work against hate is love. And no one should be more loving than those forgiven in Christ.

It would be wise to study King and the civil rights movement again in detail to see not just results, but strategy. The strategy of love appears to lose at first, but ultimately wins.

5. Christians lay down their lives in the face of evil

Should Christians take life? There is little point on this blog to getting into long debate about gun control or state violence.

I would assume that only a few of us who read this are actually legislators, and that none of us who read this have ever sat in the Oval Office or at 24 Sussex Drive to receive a briefing as the leader of a nation. We cannot understand the complexities of leadership or government from the seats in which we sit. Or at least I can’t.

But I do have to figure out my personal response. So do you. So does anyone who identifies themselves as Christians.

Here’s what I know.

That when Jesus himself was hated enough to be unjustly tortured and killed, he willingly gave his life. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even enter a defence at his trail.

In fact, he did something more profound than defending himself, he forgave his torturers.

Actually, it went deeper than that. The very act his captors used to kill Jesus is the act Jesus would later use to extend to them forgiveness and salvation.

Meeting Jesus, this crucified Saviour, would later lead Saul to move from killing Christians out of hatred to planting churches across the known world.

Ultimately, Paul gave his life for the sake of the Gospel.

The ultimate Christian response to hatred is not to take someone’s life for hating you, it’s to lay down your life for their sake.

You can kill the body. But you cannot kill love. You cannot kill forgiveness. You cannot kill grace.

It is to those things we must cling in these days.

6. External regulations cannot trump internal values

Can you legislate away terror? Not really.

I’m all in favour of better laws, smarter laws, and doing all we can to make sure evil does not win.

But laws alone cannot defeat evil. Laws, in fact, can barely contain it.

Ultimately the problems we are facing are not issues of law, they are issues of the heart.

Changed laws do not change hearts.

What changes hearts? The Gospel. Love. Christ.

When a heart is transformed, its value system is transformed. Forgiveness dissolves anger. Love dissolves hate.

As a result, a person’s value system changes. This is where the hope is. This is where the key to the future lies.

Why? Because internally-owned values trump externally-imposed rules every time.

In a community where love has won, laws are barely needed. In a community where hate lives, laws do almost no good.

Paul knew this.

So how does that love gain a foothold in a culture threatened with hate?

The way people will discover that love is when they meet a Christian who behaves like an actual Christian.

And that means that this begins with you and with me.

You may have never met a terrorist. You may not have even know many Muslims.

But the truth is there are people you don’t like, and probably a few that you hate. Start there.

Forgive someone you actually know.

And then when it comes to adding your voice to the public dialogue on social media or in private conversations, don’t fuel hate to people groups and other religions…instead, extend love.

The most radical thing you can do today is to extend love in the face of hate.

It will require all you have. In fact, you will not be able to do it. You may actually need a Saviour to help.

Which is exactly the point.

So go be the church…

So go be the church…the real church. The authentic church. The church Jesus had in mind.

Repent. Confess. Humble yourself. Forgive. Love. Hope. Trust.

Turn to Christ for the strength you don’t have. He has it.

Church…we may actually have the things that can change the world.

What you’re doing this week matters more than ever.