From Life

how to control your calendar

6 Ways to Control Your Calendar So It Doesn’t Control You

StevensTimIf you struggle with time management, you don’t want to miss today’s guest post by Tim Stevens, a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders.

Previously, Tim was the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact.

Tim just released his latest book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.

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Mark Batterson wrote, “If you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you.”

Alan Lakein said, “Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it.”

Scott Peck is credited with saying, “Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”

And I’ve heard a hundred preachers say, “Show me your checkbook and your calendar, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

I agree with all these statements. Leaders who don’t have control of their calendars will constantly be spinning out in the dirt without making much progress. Life will seem frantic and hurried, yet it will be difficult to pinpoint what they are actually getting done.

how to control your calendar

I’m not the king of time management, but I do live and die by my calendar. Everything that is important in my life goes on my calendar.

Here are six principles that help me:

1. Put priority items on your calendar first

Perhaps you’ve seen the illustration where the presenter tries to fill a jar with a combination of big rocks and little rocks. If the presenter fills the jar with the little rocks first, he is not able to fit very many big rocks in the jar. However, if he fills it with all the big rocks first, then he can add many of the little rocks in and around the big rocks.

The analogy breaks down if you go very far with it, but the foundation is true.

You must put priority things (e.g., time with your spouse and kids, vacation, strategic planning, and vision time) on the calendar first.

Otherwise you’ll never find time for those priorities.

2. Stack your meetings

If it’s within your control, try to schedule all your meetings on the same day or two each week.

I knew I wouldn’t get much productive work done on those days, but I was going to have some great conversations, help move the ball down the field on some projects, and keep my staff moving forward because of our connections.

Stacking your meetings will keep you from getting bitter about meetings ruling your life, and it will leave you with a couple days where your schedule is relatively open.

3. Schedule your rest

If you don’t plan for rest and renewal, it won’t happen.

My calendar will always fill up if I don’t plan for some down time. I’m always amazed when I hear people say, “I’m going to try to take a couple days off next week. I just have to see how the week goes.”

What? Are you kidding? You can’t wait for the right time to unwind or take a vacation with your family. It will never happen.

Get the dates on the calendar months in advance. Always be looking at your schedule for busy seasons ahead. Make sure you plan some time in the middle of those seasons to unwind and get centered.

4. Manage your travel schedule

If you don’t travel, skip over this one. But many leaders have to be on the road.

A few years ago I noticed my travel schedule was getting out of hand. One year I was gone eighteen nights, the next year it was twenty-five, then thirty-two, then forty-seven. This was not a good trend.

Because my kids were younger, and because my wife was not able to travel with me often, I was unwilling to see that trend continue.

So I sat down with my wife and my boss, and we figured out that thirty nights away from home was a reasonable number for me during that season. Any more than that, and my priorities started to get out of whack.

If it was much less than that, it was more difficult for me to get my job done. I don’t think the number thirty is magical, but I do think it’s important for anyone who travels regularly to find the right amount that balances family, business, and personal health.

5. Go home before the work is done

This is difficult whether you are in business or the church world. (In ministry, we convince ourselves someone might go to hell if we go home too soon!)

When you go home before the work is done, it means you are leaving something really good behind. But you can’t wait until your to-do list is complete or until the phone stops ringing before you head home to your family.

The work is never finished. Just go home!

(Note: If you are a slacker, then please ignore this point. You actually shouldn’t leave until your to-do list is done.)

6. Leave room for people and leave room for God

It is easy to fill up your calendar and not leave room for what God might bring along your path.

I had a friend who called these “Godadents” instead of accidents. If my calendar is booked solid, I don’t have the flexibility when someone drops by my office or a crisis comes up that needs attention.

I try to monitor this by blocking more time than is needed for appointments, leaving a buffer between appointments, and keeping my door open as often as possible.

This is just as important for Christian business leaders. Part of your calling as a follower of Jesus is to love and care for people—and that begins with the people already in your life. Make room to ask your employees about their lives, their dreams, and their hurts.

John Maxwell summed up calendar management this way: “The key to becoming a more efficient leader isn’t checking off all the items on your to-do list each day. It’s in forming the habit of prioritizing your time so that you are accomplishing your most important goals in an efficient manner.”

FairnessIsOverrated[1]-2What are you learning about controlling your calendar? What interferes with your desire to manage time?

Scroll down and leave a comment! And remember to check out Tim’s new book, Fairness Is Overrated

One Single Word Every True Leader Embraces…That’s Far Too Easy To Abandon

There’s a single word every true leader uses regularly, that far too many leaders abandon early into their leadership.

In fact, the more successful you become, the more tempted you will be to abandon it.

Others abandon it too. Leaders who become conservative (not politically, but attitudinally) are likely to abandon it. So is the fearful leader.

Yet every great leader clings to it. It’s one of the things that makes them great at leader.

So what’s the word?

The word is attempt.

Here’s why it matters more than you think.

attempt

 When Something Good Sounds Bad

I was just recently reminded of why leaders abandon a great word.

After I did an interview I did with Josh Gagnon, founder of Next Level Church (which grew from 0 to over 2000 people in four locations in just 6 years….in New England), I heard from a number of church planters who were inspired by the interview. (You can listen to Josh’s story here.)

Here’s what I wanted to say to the church planters: “I love what you’re attempting.”

But the 140 character universe we live in, I didn’t use attempt because I thought it would be heard negatively, as in nice attempt…too bad it won’t work out.

So I said I love what you’re doing instead.

But their attempt is actually what I admire most. Really admire.
We need more leaders who attempt things.

We need more leaders who risk, who believe, who experiment…who attempt.

Attempting something is difficult, because if it’s truly an attempt, you have no guarantee it will work.

Which is why so few people do it.

It’s easier to play it safe…to stop risking…to cut the losses.

Stop attempting things things consistently enough, and you eventually stop leading. You’ll simply manage what you’ve already built.

Here’s What’s At Stake

Want to know what’s at stake?

More than you think.

Whatever you decide to attempt, there’s so much at stake.

If you’re not attempting, you’re not trusting.

If you’re not attempting, you’re not innovating.

If you’re not attempting, you’ve stopped believing.

If you’re not attempting, you’re no longer blazing a trial.

And ultimately, if you stop attempting, you’ll stop inspiring.

And the reason you’ll stop attempting is because you’re simply afraid to fail.

Everything Remarkable Started as an Attempt

Almost everything that’s truly worth noting started as an attempt.

And more accurately, everything remarkable usually happened after numerous failed attempts.

This is true for things as diverse as:

Human aviation

The invention of the light bulb

Tablet computing

Climbing Mount Everest

Putting a man on the moon

Nothing truly remarkable happens with out some kind of attempt, often repeated attempts.

What Are You Attempting?

So the question for you to ask (honestly) is simple.

What are you attempting?

I don’t mean what are you doing. You can do a lot of things without creating anything of value.

But what are you doing that’s risk enough to fail?

What honestly deserves to called an attempt?

If you’re stumped, you’ve stopped leading.

If you realize this is a gap, address it by attempting something.

You know it’s truly an attempt only when you are completely uncertain whether it will succeed.

So….what will you attempt this week?

Any thoughts on why leaders embrace of shy away from attempting great things?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Christmas Joy

5 Tips To Help Ministry Leaders Get Their Joy Back At Christmas

So as Christmas approaches, how are you doing? Really?

Let me guess. You probably barely have enough time to even skim this post.

Which is why I wrote it.

This post is for all of us who ‘work’ in ministry.

It’s for all of us who are on staff, for elders and for volunteers who work so hard that they might as well pay you.

It’s Christmas, and while we sit on the best news to ever hit the planet – the coming of the Messiah – Christmas, like every major holiday for ministry leaders, can be a time of mixed emotions.

The biggest casualty of Christmas for those who work in ministry?

Your heart

Too many Christian leaders drag themselves through Christmas, with smiles painted on, only to collapse after the final service is done.

As my friend Jon Acuff says, it was probably never Jesus’ intention to create a holiday church leaders resent and can’t wait to be over.

Christmas Joy

You’re So Busy Helping Others Celebrate….

Why do so many Christian leaders lose their joy at Christmas?

It’s simple. You’re so busy helping others celebrate Christmas that you lose any sense of celebration yourself.

I know because I’ve been there. This year we’re doing five Christmas Eve services. For our team, it’s exhausting. For years I came home on Christmas Eve exhausted and could spend most of the Christmas holidays “recovering”.

It can make celebrating with your family challenging, because you spent all your energy helping others.

This Christmas, I want to encourage you to fight back and make sure you carve out time to personally celebrate the thing we so desperately want others to celebrate.

Over the years, I’ve found some ways that have helped me celebrate Christmas personally and with my family.

I realize there’s nothing you haven’t heard before in these tips, but having them all on one screen and seeing they actually are doable is hopefully helpful.

5 Simple Tips for Ministry Leaders at Christmas

1. Make some quiet time

I got up just before 5 this morning and spent some time alone in God’s word. Just for me.

I do this almost every day, but I do it because it makes all the difference in the world. But it’s easy to miss when life gets busy.

The reason it’s so important is that my first hour sets the course for the entire day. Which, of course, ends up setting the pattern for your life.

I’ll get up early on Christmas Day too to have a personal, private celebration. That will keep my heart fresh to help others celebrate.

2. Add a private, family celebration

We go to church as a family, but before we open presents Christmas morning, we pray, read the Christmas story and have some personal time together.

I completely love what our church does at Christmas (our church rocks Christmas, seriously), but I want to mark it personally with my family too.

I think when the personal, family and public celebrations happen, my personal joy is at it’s deepest.

3. Be off when you’re off

“Off” looks different for all of us. But the reality is most driven leaders have trouble being ‘off’.

Put your email on auto-responder. Shut down the stuff that drains you. Turn your phone off, or at least turn off all the notifications.

And just be off.

4. Don’t overschedule

The week between Christmas and New Year’s can be a swap out of one kind of work for another, and you can run into the new year exhausted.

Even if you happen to be ‘off’, you can run yourself ragged with parties, family commitments and pressure.

We keep lots of white space on the calendar on purpose. To refuel, recharge and reconnect.

5. Do something fun!

Fun happens for me when I connect with the people closest to me, when I get exercise (biking in the summer, hiking and snowshoeing in the winter) and when I work on projects that are just recreational.

For me that sounds a bit weird, but it’s just true: I love writing, thinking through big issues I don’t spend enough time on and tackling new challenges. I’ve got a healthy dose of what’s fun for me (and us) on tap for the holidays. I also plan to outline a new book. Yep, for me, that’s fun.

I find when I do these things, my heart comes back more deeply engaged with God and with others.

My hope is that for those of you who are struggling, you get your joy back this Christmas.

If you suspect you might have a more serious case of burnout going on, make sure you don’t miss the resource guide Perry Noble and I prepared to help you recognize and work through burnout. Plus you’ll want to hear Perry’s story about how he recovered from burnout and even depression.

What do you do to recharge?

How do you avoid making your heart a casualty at Christmas?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

self-medication

5 Socially-Acceptable Ways Church Leaders Self-Medicate

Let me guess.

You’re so busy caring for others (people in your church, your kids, your family, your friends) that you haven’t really taken great care of yourself lately, have you?

Welcome to leadership. Especially church leadership.

You run hard. You work long hours.

And you’re so busy caring for others you forgot to care for yourself.

Usually when I ask church leaders how they’re doing personally, they admit they don’t take great care of themselves.

And when you don’t take great care of yourself, guess what you end up doing in almost every single case?

You end up self-medicating.

Every leader has a choice between self-care and self-medication, and subconsciously, many choose the ‘polite’ version of self-medication.

Do you? And how would you know if you did?

self-medication

What’s Self-Medication?

I had never heard of the term ‘self-medication‘ until I got married.

But my wife Toni is a health care professional and she uses it to describe what people do to cope with the stress, anxiety and difficulty in life.

When stress and life overwhelm you, you will either choose to respond to it in a healthy way (self-care) or an unhealthy way (self-medication).

And when you think of self-medication, don’t just think of pills or alcohol. As we’ll see below, there are some very ‘socially-acceptable’ ways even for Christians to self-medicate.

But the results are still numbing.

The choice is yours, but the first reality is this: Self-care is so much healthier than self-medicating.

The second reality is just as important: If you don’t intentionally choose self-care as a leader, you’ll end up self-medicating.

5 Socially Acceptable Ways Christian Leaders Self-Medicate

1. Overeating.

Being overweight or even obese is almost normal in some Christian circles.

As someone who has to watch my weight very carefully (and who does not understand how anyone can be a natural bean pole), I empathize. And I also know I often eat when I’m not hungry, but when I’m upset or just bored.

Food is the drug of choice for many Christian leaders.

2.  Working More 

Again, working too many hours is socially acceptable, even rewardable in some circles.

As a recovering workaholic, I know. But all work and no play doesn’t just make you dull, it makes you disobedient.

It’s ironic, but the way some leaders cope with the stress associated with work is by working more. It numbs the pain.

3. Gossip 

It’s just a theory, but I think when we feel bad about ourselves, we say bad things about other people.

Often church leaders who have failed to care for themselves end up with enough toxin inside that they want to take down others. In many churches, prayer requests are thinly disguised gossip sessions. And too often Christians would rather talk about someone and their terrible misfortunes than help them.

That’s just sinful.

4.  Spending

Whether it’s retail therapy at the mall, ordering more of your favourite pursuit online, or the constant climb into a bigger house, a better car, the latest tech or the latest trend, Christians can easily numb their pain endlessly accumulating things that end up in a landfill site one day.

5. Under-the-Radar Substance Abuse

Sure, you’re probably not going to develop a cocaine addiction. But sometimes it can be more subtle than that.

Whether it’s a drink every day when you get home or an overuse or misuse of your legitimate prescription, Christian leaders can fall into the classic pattern of turning to a substance rather than turning to God for relief.

So if you don’t want to end up self-medicating, what do you do?

10 Healthy Options for Self-Care

The best thing you can do as a leader is take good care of yourself.

When you carve out time to take care of yourself, you’ll always be in a better position to take care of others.

There’s nothing truly new in these ten options, but when you do them they have a staggeringly positive impact on your personal health and well being, spiritual and otherwise.

1. A great daily time with God.

Whatever method you use (here are some ideas), time with God matters. And your personal walk with God is often a casualty of ministry. Why is that? Shouldn’t be!

2. Exercise

Being out of shape physically means you will never be in top shape mentally or emotionally. I don’t like exercise either, so I invested in a road bike.

I get asked all the time what I ride, so here you go: a 2009 Specialized Roubaix. And I bought it used (1/3 of its original price). It doesn’t have to break the bank.  And yes, I love it!

3. A healthy diet

You are what you eat. Dumping the processed foods for whole foods can make a big difference.

4. Proper sleep

If I don’t get 7-8 hours semi-regularly, I feel it. Sadly, sometimes others do too.

I really think sleep is one of the most-underrated leadership secret weapons there is. Here’s why.

5. Intentional white space in your calendar 

You can schedule time off and down time in the same way you schedule meetings. Just do it! I wrote a post on time management that links to many time management tips here.

6. Healthy friendships

Ministry can be draining.

When was the last time you hung out with a friend you didn’t need to ‘minister to’? Who makes you laugh until you cry?

Go hang out with them. Regular doses of life-giving relationships can make such a difference.

7. Margin 

I am kindest when I have the most margin. This is true in terms of my calendar, but also true of finances.

How can you be generous with your heart, time, money and attitude if you have nothing left to give?

8. Hobbies

Writing, blogging  and podcasting are my hobbies these days.

You can be much more interesting than that. Take some pictures. Take up hiking. Get crafty. Study the constellations.

9. Family Time

Take a road trip, go out for dinner. Have some fun!

Play hockey in the driveway or shoot hoops.

10. Coaching and counseling. 

For about 12 years I’ve had coaches and counselors who have helped me get through road bumps and life issues. Invaluable.

Yes I pay them money, but it’s an investment in my family, my church and my life. I’m different and better for it.

Better Than The Alternative

I know at the end of my life, I will be so much better for pursing the path of self-care rather than the path of self-medication.

One takes intentional planning, but it’s so worth it.

Eventually leaders who don’t care for themselves but still avoid self-medication end up burning out. If you haven’t heard Perry Noble’s incredible story about burning out while at the top of his leadership game, don’t miss it. Perry and I have also put together a lot of resources here to help leaders who think they might be burning out.

What are you learning about self-care? How have you seen people self-medicate?

I’d love to hear what you’re learning on this!

what to change when you can't change things

7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does

So what do you do if you want things to change and pretty much no one else does?

Your team doesn’t appear to be listening. 

The leaders or board above you are opposed.

The culture in your organization is stale 

That’s a tough situation in which almost every leader finds themselves from time to time.

Clearly, you should pray. God uses our circumstances to push us closer to him.  But what practical responses should you formulate?

Many natural instincts are unhelpful in situations like this. Being impatient, critical and blaming others is counterproductive.

So what do you do?

There are at least 7 things you can do if you want to things to change and no one else does.

what to change when you can't change things

1. Cast Vision

Nothing attracts people and resources like vision. And vision always precedes people and resources.

If you’re having trouble attracting people and resources to a better vision of the future, it might be because you simply haven’t cast a clear enough vision of a preferred future.

It eventually becomes difficult not to follow a visionary leader. And if your vision is faithful to scripture and a sensible interpretation of where to head in the future, it will likely be compelling.

Will it always work? No. (See below for that.)

But far too many leaders quit before their vision is even articulated in any kind of compelling way.

You shouldn’t get angry at people for not following a vision you never told them about.

2. List All The Reasons You See For Change

Maybe change you want to make is obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean others see it.

So list every reason you see for the change. In writing.

You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just write it out for yourself.

This will do two things:

1. You’ll become privately convinced of the strength of your argument. Note: this cuts both ways. If there are few good reasons for the change, you could also talk yourself out of it (which would, of course, relieve your angst).

2. You’ll be more convincing when you talk about the change you’d love to see. Not that you’d walk around saying “And here’s another reason….” But if you’re cogent and make sense in conversation after conversation, you might change the tide of the discussion.

So grab a piece of paper or your Evernote, and make a list.

3. Change Yourself

You’re human. You’ll be tempted to focus only on the changes you’d like to see.

But the best leaders also see a great opportunity in a stalemate. They focus on changing themselves.

A stalemate is a great opportunity to grow in character and skill. If you become the healthiest, most self-aware, kindest member of the team, people will be attracted to you and what you have to say.

And you won’t be as busy trying to change them. Which might be a nice turn of events in some cases.

4. Change What You Can

So you can change yourself. And the best leaders will do that.

But there are probably some things you can also change. And yes, you’ll be tempted to rail against the things you can’t change. But again, why focus on that?

Ask yourself this: What can I change?

You’re in charge of something. Change it.

You might argue that you don’t have permission to change anything.

Sure you do. You can change the culture. Even if you’re in charge of a volunteer team of 5, make them the 5 best loved people in the church or organization. Create a super healthy team. Accomplish all you can accomplish. Do everything you’re capable of doing. Even a little more.

Others might sit up and take notice, realizing everyone would be better off if they did what you’re doing.

And even if no one notices, the 5 people you work with will notice. And they’ll be so thankful for it.

5. Publicly and Privately Support the Team

So you’ve got some personal growth happening and you’ve changed whatever is within your control.

You’ll still be tempted to rail against the leadership that just doesn’t get it.

Or you’ll be publicly loyal but privately critical—all smiles during the meeting but venomous over coffee.

Big mistake.

Integrity would demand that you be the same in public and in private.

Plus it’s a decent strategy. As Andy Stanley says, public loyalty buys you private leverage. When a leader knows you’ve been supportive, they’re more likely to listen to you, even if what you have to say (to their face) is critical.

If you’ve got an issue with someone, share it with that person directly. Otherwise, keep quiet.

6.  Weigh Your Options

Does this always turn out well? No, it doesn’t.

But churches (and every organization) would be so much healthier if people followed the course above.

So what happens if you’ve done all this and more and, still, nothing changes?

At this point I think you weigh your options. You need to decide whether you can live within a glass ceiling (things above you will likely not change), or whether it’s time to move on.

This is the time to prayerfully weigh your options, call in wise counsel and get them to give you advice and look at the pros and cons of staying v going.

When things don’t change, it might be time for you to make a change.

If it helps, I outlined 5 signs it’s time to move on in this post.

7. Make a Decision

Too many leaders I know get stuck in perpetual discontent because they refuse to make a decision.

When I ask them how long they’ve been disgruntled they’ll often tell me ‘for years’ or ‘since the beginning’. Really? Then why are you still there?

Either make peace with the limits you see, or move on.

The key is to make a decision. Decide to stay or decide to leave.

If you stay, accept the limits and play within them. Do all you can with all you are able to influence and control but know you’ve settled for something less than you once hoped for.

Or you might head into the brave frontier of the unknown.

Either way, decide. Because either way, you’ll be happier than you would be if you simply stay perpetually frustrated.

What Do You Think?

What have you learned about what do you if you want things to change but no one else does?

Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Why You’re Not As Grateful As You Think You Should Be

My suspicion is that most of us are not nearly as grateful as we should be.

You have a lot. I have a lot.

We put on a good face for Thanksgiving, and maybe even update our Facebook statuses outlining our gratitude.

Sometimes we make a list (public or private) of what we’re thankful for, but deep down…there’s a discontent.

And if you’ve read this far, you know it.

So many leaders (and people) I know have a gnawing dissatisfaction that leaves us feeling less grateful than we know we ought to.

So…why?

In light of all we have and God’s faithfulness, why are you not more grateful?

There are at least three things that kill gratitude.

Here are 3 things that show up in my life and the lives of other leaders I track with.

Identify and keep them in check, and gratitude grows. Leave them unattended, and gratitude dissipates:

1. High Expectations

The secret to happiness, as you may have heard, is low expectations.

Think about that.

If you had no expectations of anyone or anything, you’d be happy. And grateful.

This might one of the reasons  those of us who have been on mission trips are always so shocked at how happy the poor in other countries seem to be; they expect little and are grateful for what they have.

I’m NOT justifying poverty, I’m just saying there’s little denying that the poor in the developing world often display far more gratitude than the rich. Unrealistic expectations might also explain why so many rich and middle class people are so miserable.

So…as a leader AND as Christ follower, husband, dad and friend, probably the biggest gratitude killer for me is high expectations.

My expectations of myself are very high. And they’re also high of others.

I think I know what you’re thinking. Well if my expectations weren’t high, then what would happen to my life/organization/mission? 

Great question.

Perhaps there’s a subtle but important distinction between standards and expectations. 

A high standard is not a bad thing. You should set high standards for yourself and for your church or organization.

But when those standards become expectations, only disappointment ensues, because you’re dealing with flawed people.

When you invite people to live according to high standards, you help bring out the best in them. Who doesn’t want to live a better life?

Keeping them as standards (not expectations) allows you to celebrate their success when it happens and to allows you to come alongside them and encourage them in the event of failure.

Think about your last seven days? Chances are every time you got angry or frustrated with someone it was because you expected something and they felt short. Expectations just make you miserable.

Now, keep the standard of behaviour the same, but instead of expecting they would do what you hoped they would do, come alongside them, talk about the standard, and help them reach it.

Totally different isn’t it?

2. The Thirst for More

If you had what you have now back when you were 15, you would have thought you won the lottery, wouldn’t you?

And yet chances are you feel you don’t have enough. As this article points out, almost everyone feels like they need more money to be content, no matter how much money they make.

Advertising in the Western world is built on the idea of discontent. The very thing they sold you last year as the ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ isn’t good enough.

This desire for wanting what you don’t have shows up sexually as lust, financially as greed, in diet as gluttony and in power as ambition.

The reality, of course, is that ‘more’ never delivers what it promises. Or if it does, the satisfaction is temporary and is followed by an even deeper emptiness. Having had what you desired only to have it disappoint you is more bitter than sweet. And, left unchecked, you plunge yourself right back into your quest for ‘more’ hoping that the next acquisition will finally satisfy you. Which, of course, it won’t.

The best way I know how to battle the thirst for more in my life is to call it for what it is—an empty, vain pursuit. For sure, being grateful for what I have is definitely part of it. But simply acknowledging sometimes out loud before God that this chase is bankrupt also helps.

I need to allow God to determine size. I simply need to be obedient. And then if more does come my way, obedient with what I have. It’s God’s, after all, not mine.

3. Comparison

Fuelling the thirst for more and high expectations is comparison.

Think about it. You were fine with what you had…until you saw what someone else had.

Comparison fuels jealousy, envy, greed and selfish ambition.

And while I love social media and the hyper-connectedness we have today, it can pour jet fuel on the envious blaze already ignited in your heart.

The New York Times calls it the agony of Instagram, and they’re right. Scrolling through someone’s oh-so-perfect life can make you feel worthless compared to their perfect chef’s kitchen and artsy dining room table.

Every preacher is now stacked up against every mega-church preacher courtesy of podcasts and online church.

And even if your people don’t compare you, you compare you. Why do we fight a battle we lose every time?

One of my all time favourite Andy Stanley series is Comparison Trap. In it, Andy says the cure for envy is to celebrate what God has given others, and leverage what God has given you.

Bam.

That’s it.

Becoming More Grateful

While gratitude is complex, I know I do best when I

Drop the expectations but keep the standards.

Realize that more can’t deliver what it promises; and

Celebrate what God has given others, and leverage what God has given me.

How about you?

What helps you become more grateful? Because sometimes making a list of what you’re thankful for just isn’t enough.

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How to Tell If You’re An Insecure Leader (5 Signs)

So…over the years, I’ve struggled with insecurity as a leader.

Maybe you have too.

Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity.

But there was a season where I didn’t really know I was insecure. And with most things leadership, knowledge is power. You can’t address a problem you’re unaware of.

In the meantime, how would you know whether insecurity occupies some real estate in your life?

insecure leaders

Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you’re an insecure leader:

1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others. 

We have lots to learn from other people, but insecure people aren’t driven so much by a desire to learn as they are to know whether they are better or worse than others. There is a world of difference between tracking with someone to grow and learn, and tracking other people or organizations to see how you stack up.  One is healthy, the other destructive.  As Andy Stanley says, there is no win in comparison.

2. Your sense of self-worth is driven by your latest results. 

Your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews and what others say about you.  I do monitor most of those things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.  God’s opinion of me doesn’t change with people’s opinion of me.  I need to learn from trends and learn from others, but I cannot let someone else determine my worth.  Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.

3. You can’t celebrate someone else’s success.

 This trait is a tell tale sign that you are insecure.  Why can’t you just give a compliment?  Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?  Life is actually not a zero sum game – at least not life in God’s Kingdom.  For you to win, someone else does not have to lose.  If you can’t compliment a competitor, why not?  If you can’t celebrate a colleague, is it because you are worried others might think they are better than you? You do not need to be the only one who is ‘great’ at something.

4. You make no room for people who are more gifted or competent than you.

This is where your personal traits inflicts direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).  The sign of a great leader is not that they are the most gifted or competent person in the organization.  The sign of a great leader is someone who can attract and keep people more gifted and competent than themselves.  The future will belong to people who can forge great alliances, make great partnerships and attract great people.

5. You need to be the final word on everything. 

Insecure people end up being controlling people.  You don’t need experts because you want to be the expert.  Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.  The truth is most of us are only great at one or two things, and even then, you became good at it with the help and advice of others.  When you value the counsel and input of others–especially on the things you’re best at–you embark on a path toward greater wisdom.

Those are some signs I’ve seen that mark insecurity in myself and in others.

In this post, I share some strategies that can really help getting past the struggle so many of us face.

How about you?  What have you noticed?

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Sleep: The Secret Leadership Weapon No One Wants to Talk About

If there was a secret weapon in leadership, would you use it?

Most of us would say ‘absolutely’—as long as it’s ethical.

So here’s a leadership weapon almost no leader will talk about. In fact, in some circles, it’s embarrassing to talk about.

Sleep.

More specifically, getting enough of it.

In more than a few high octane leadership circles, barely sleeping is seen as a badge of honour (I can run on 4 hours a night!)

But what if your lack of sleep wasn’t a badge of honour at all?

What if your lack of sleep is undermining your leadership? Making you worse, not better?

And what if it’s not just taking a toll on you at work, but also at home…making you a worse parent, spouse and even friend?

sleep, leadership

So…What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

The Centre for Disease Control recently called insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, arguing it causes industrial accidents, motor vehicle accidents and even medical errors.

1. Lack of sleep can literally kill you.

And the implications are a little more serious than nodding off in a meeting after lunch. According to medical research, chronic lack of sleep can cause weight gain, age your skin, harm your sex drive, impair memory and can contribute to illnesses as serious as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and even premature death.

It’s a little shocking, but it’s not actually an exaggeration to say that a chronic lack of sleep can kill you.

2. Lack of sleep often leads to burnout.

I know for me, chronic lack of sleep was one of the key factors that led to my burnout a number of years back.

Like many leaders, in the name of caring for others, I had stopped caring for myself and my family. I thought I was super human, and I only needed 4-5 hours of sleep a night.

I’m not the only leader who burned out. Perry Noble and I chronicle our stories of burnout in quite a bit of detail here, and the post also contains a lot of resources that Perry and I have put together to help leaders who are burning out.

3. At a minimum, it will make you hard to live with.

Even if you’re not dead, sick or burning out, lack of sleep can turn you into you a bit of a jerk.

Unrested, you’ll snap at the kids more, fight with your spouse more, and even at work, you won’t be fun to hang around.

Or at least all of the above is true for me.

Here’s what I find.

I am at my most kind when I’m the most rested. When I’m tired, I’m just not nearly as nice to be around.

If you can’t identify with that statement, it’s probably because you haven’t been well rested in, well, years.

You’ll be amazed what happens if you ever get enough sleep to finally not be tired any more. Seriously.

 

Sleep Is Like Money. You Can End Up In Debt

So what happens if you’re chronically overtired?

The same thing that happens when you’re in debt…that’s what.

One of the key lessons I learned in my burnout back in 2006 is that sleep is like money.

You can run a surplus…or you can run a deficit.

And just like with finances, when you run a deficit over time, you end up with debt that you carry from month to month and year to year. A debt that needs to be paid off. 

This lesson became inescapable for me personally in August 2006. 3 months into my burnout, I was having a hard time functioning.

In fact, my fatigue was inescapable. So I decided to sleep every time my body told me I was tired.

I slept a lot that August.  8-11 hours a night. I added to that multiple naps a day whenever I could grab them.

By the end of the month, I felt much better.

I could work again. I could breathe again.

While my burnout wasn’t fully over, I felt flickers of hope again.

Soon, I was on the gradual road to recovery.

 

So What Can You Do? 5 Keys to Staying Rested

So how do you stay rested?

Better yet, how do you get rested if you’re reading this article and are quietly saying “oh crap?”

1. Lose the stigma

I love that a few years ago Michael Hyatt went public by admitting that he takes naps. Thank you Michael!

Not only does Michael take naps, but so, as he pointed out, have many great leaders in history.

I have always been a napper. I even nap at work occasionally. But I feel like if someone caught me, I’d be in trouble.

That’s a bad thing.

For me a ten minute nap can be the difference between heading into the afternoon raring to go, and dragging my knuckles wishing it was 5:00. It can be the difference between being sharp and being in a fog or being disinterested.

It’s not just the stigma around naps leaders need to lose, it’s the stigma around a good night’s sleep.

I unapologetically go to bed on time when I’m on the road hanging out with other leaders, and when I’m at home.

A rested me is a better me. Just ask my wife. Just ask my kids. Just ask my team.

2. Catch up

You might be in your equivalent of August 2006 for me. You might need to take a week or two off to sleep.

Do it.

Or maybe you’re just running hard for a season. Catch up.

I realize you might have young kids or be in launch mode for a new project.

But here’s the truth.

You will always have a reason to cheat your sleep.

You will never have a reasons to catch up, unless you decide it’s time.

So decide it’s time.

If you have young kids, trade nights for being on call with your spouse until you are both as caught up as you can be.

If you’re a single parent, ask someone to take the kids for a night or two and then sleep.

If you don’t have young kids, you really don’t have a good excuse. Just get disciplined.

3. Develop better sleep routines

Here are few things that can help you sleep better.

1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Researchers say you will sleep better if you do.

2. Go to bed earlier.  This was huge for me. Instead of staying up late to get stuff done, get up earlier to get things done. Sleep in on the front side. I try to be asleep every night by 10:30. Sometimes it’s as earlier as 9:30. And I’m up between 4:30 – 5:30 every morning. That’s my sweet spot.

3. Sleep in a dark room and turn off electronics. I love my phone, but it’s off (as in powered down) every night.  If it’s an emergency, someone will knock at my door and wake me up. If the world ends, well, there’s not much I can do about it anyway when I’m asleep.

4. Get as good a mattress as you can afford.  Get as picky about a good mattress as you can with your budget. You’ll spend 1/3 of your life on it.  So invest well.

5. Don’t eat much before bed. It helps you sleep better…it really does.

4. Watch for the signs

Since I burned out, I have paid super close attention to the signals my body tells me about my fatigue level. As soon as I sense I’m running a sleep deficit, I try to pay it off.

Here are some signs that tell me I’m tired:

1. A bad or sullen mood. Someone once said that 70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep. Well yes it is. I am more of a Christian when I’m well rested. So I watch my mood like a hawk. Being short with people, angry, sad or lacking mercy are all signs I’m tired.

2. I watch my passion level. When I’m rested, I’m excited about work, about life, and about seeing people. If everything seems like a chore or an obligation, I’m out of balance. For sure, some things will always seem like a chore, but everything shouldn’t.

3. I watch my creativity. If I have trouble coming up with great ideas or great content, it’s a sign my mind is tired. I probably need more sleep.

4. I find myself nodding off. When I’m tired in meetings, driving or watching TV, it’s a sign I need more sleep. I know that’s obvious, but it’s so easy for this to become ‘normal’ I just thought I’d mention it.

5. React quickly

I still run hard. We all have busy seasons and busy weeks, and I get tired regularly. Part of my personality is I love to push myself and push limits. I get that.

But now I react quickly when I’m getting tired.

Why don’t you try that this week?

Take a nap.

Cancel your plans for tonight and go to bed early.

Don’t wait.

You’ll be fresher more often, and you’ll have far more energy for your family, for life and for work.

That’s what I’ve been learning about sleep as a leader and as a follower of Christ.

It should be no surprise that God wants us to spend 1/7 of our life resting (Sabbath) and created us to sleep 1/3 of our life away.

Your calling, your family and your life are too important for you not to sleep.

Now you can use your new secret weapon.

What are you learning about sleep?

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Why The Way The Church Talks About Sex Does More Harm Than Good

How are you talking about sex at your church (or with your kids…or with your friends) these days?

Or are you talking about it?

Sometimes when we don’t know what to say, we say nothing. Or we say the wrong thing.

Yet our culture is talking about sex every…single…day. And increasingly, they’re talking about how the church is talking about it.

The way we talk about sex, marriage and family is coming under greater and greater scrutiny.

This is true whether Christians are addressing same-sex attraction, sex outside of marriage or marriage itself.sex

For the record, I believe that the context God designed for sex is between a man and woman, married to each other for life.

I also realize that fewer and fewer people share that conviction with each passing year. Increasingly, the view I hold is the view of a small minority. I understand that.

But the fact that some church leaders hold a minority view means the way we talk about it becomes more important every year.

Consequently, I’m convinced that how we talk about sex needs to change.

Given the tone of some of the current dialogue, the damage done by the way we talk about sex may actually rival the damage done by sex outside of marriage itself (or inside marriage…married sex isn’t always harmless sex).

I don’t say that lightly.

So what needs to change?

I’m not sure anyone’s cracked the code on this, but here are a few things I think could help us create a dialogue that helps more and hurts less in the church.

1. Don’t just talk about sexual sin, talk about church sin too.

Everyone has sins they focus on and sins they ignore.

The tendency, of course, is to focus on the sins of others and ignore your own.

The church is no different.

So here’s a proposal:

Deal with the church sin everyone in the church seems to tolerate.

Let me explain.

When you explore a passage like Galatians 5: 16-26, you notice that included in the same list that speaks of sexual sins is a long list of what I call church sins.

Church sins are sins Christians engage in all the time that frankly, no one talks about or addresses.

Right alongside sexual immorality, impurity and ‘wild parties’, Paul lists:

hostility

quarreling

jealousy

outbursts of anger

selfish ambition

dissension

division

envy

jealousy

arrogance

If you add gossip and gluttony to the list, you’ve pretty much got a complete list of church sins we too often tolerate.

This list of sins actually describes the life of too many churches and too many people who would declare themselves to be ‘mature’ Christians. (I wrote about why we need a new definition of Christian maturity here, and shared some thoughts on what’s wrong with Christian discipleship here.)

We are so blind to our own sin that we not only tolerate them, we sometimes celebrate them.

What do I mean?

Too many prayer meetings are thinly disguised gossip marathons.

Many churches could easily call their next potluck Gluttonfest. It wouldn’t be inaccurate.

More than a few Christians justify division, dissension, hostility, quarrelling and jealousy in the name of being ‘right’.

This is terrible. It really is.

And before you think I’m pointing fingers, I’m not.

I have gossipped.

I have eaten too much too often.

I have caused division and hurt.

I struggle with envy.

I can be arrogant.

Don’t get me wrong…sexual sin has some heartbreaking consequences.

But so does church sin. Seriously, just look at the state of the church today where church sin gets neglected and you will see droves of people staying away and walking away.

So…what if church leaders:

Never talked about sexual sin unless we also addressed church sin?

It would reframe the conversation.

It might even change some hearts. Including ours.

 

2. Deal with church sin…seriously.

So do you never deal with someone else’s sin?

Well, you do. But we’re not nearly there yet.

Before dealing with someone else’s sexual sin, deal with the church sin that lives inside you and your community.

If we keep reading Galatians 5 we can see that Paul had an astounding picture of the church in mind. Here’s what he said:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:

love

joy

peace

patience

kindness

goodness

faithfulness

gentleness, and

self-control

There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” (Galatians 5: 22-24 NLT)

So think about it.

Why would someone struggling with their sexuality want to come into a place of judgment, anger, division, gossip and arrogance?

That’s right. They wouldn’t.

But they might want to find a place of love, kindness, faithfulness and maybe even a place characterized by self-control.

Ironically, the very thing most people look for when they express themselves sexually is acceptance and love. And it’s the very thing they are rarely able to find among many Christians.

Could you imagine if the church got serious about our sins?

What if we repented?

What if we became a community of truth and grace?

What if?

 

3. Put your arm around people as though you were one of them…because you are.

Paul called himself the chief of sinners.

People outside the church today have no doubt that people inside the church are sinners. They just don’t think that we think we’re sinners.

Too often when we open our mouths, we accuse.

We condemn. We confront.

What if we changed that?

What if we came alongside people and said “I know what it’s like…it’s hard isn’t it?”

I always try to start a conversation by saying something like “We all have issues. Some of mine may be different than yours, and some may be the same, but I know what’s like to mess up. Let me know if you want to have a conversation about it.”

It’s amazing what happens when you change your stance, put your arm around someone and say “Let’s figure this out together.” I don’t always get it right, but I try.

Church leaders, put your arm around people as though you were one of them. Because you are.

 

What Do You Think?

I realize this is a complex and difficult subject. I’d love to know what you’re doing that has helped advance the dialogue about sex and sin in the church.

I’ll be monitoring the comments on this post carefully (be polite, be respectful), but please scroll down and leave a comment.

I’d love for us to learn together on this.

3 Battles Every Leader Loses…Every Time

Most days you try to win battles as a leader, don’t you?

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

But there are several battles leaders lose…every time. Even if you desperately try to convince yourself you’re winning.

Fighting any of those?

Your might be. How would you know?

leadership battle

How Did This Happen Again?

If you end up fighting these battles, you will fight them for two reasons:

You’re young and haven’t seen that these are self-defeating characteristics yet. That’s not slamming young leaders…I’m just saying that they really do live in most of us until we weed them out.

You’re simply not self-aware. (If you want to grow in self-awareness, it’s possible. I wrote more about how to become a self-aware leader here.)

Each of these battles arise because of a leader’s insecurity.

Most of us are insecure at some level. And an insecure leader is always a less effective leader.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a secure leader, check out these 5 signs you’re an insecure leader here.

Conversely, the more secure you are as a leader, the more likely you are to win these battles by changing your approach to leadership.

3 Battles Every Leader Loses…Every Time

Here are 3 self-defeating battles every leader loses…every time:

1. Creating An Organization That Exists For Your Benefit. 

It’s very natural to be selfish, and if you lead the way many do, you can fall into the trap of believing that the organization exists for the benefit of the leader.

People work for you. You don’t work for them.

Perks flow up, not down.

You feel like the rules should apply to others, but not you.

You feel entitled to inflict your emotions on the people around you, even if they’re negative or destructive.

Sometimes pastors and church leaders behave like that. Rather than existing to serve, they exist to be served.

The leader who places himself above his team eventually has no team, or at least a team not worth joining—just a bunch of minions doing his or her bidding.

And while you can sometimes get away with that style of leadership—even in the church—it certainly doesn’t reflect the heart of Christ.  You might not even really be the church when you lead like that. I would suggest you are not.

If you’re really selfish, there’s a surprise coming at the end:

A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone. 

All the joy you expected to find from having everything revolve around you doesn’t really satisfy nearly as much as you’d hoped.

Try to create an organization that exists for your benefit, and you lose. Worse though, is that everybody else does too.

2. Seeking Affirmation From the People You Lead

Most of us have some people pleasing tendencies in us. I know I have to fight mine. (If it helps, I outlined 5 ways people-pleasing undermines your leadership here.)

I don’t know who I originally heard this principle from, but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s a simple but profound truth:

Never seek affirmation from the people you lead. 

If you seek affirmation from the people you lead, it messes with the very dynamic that will make you effective. And they can smell your insecurity a mile away.

And yet insecure leaders seek affirmation from the people they lead all the time:

Did they like my last series/meeting/memo?

Do they appreciate me?

How come I don’t get more gratitude more often?

Here’s the gut-honest truth: the people you lead directly will always applaud you a little less than those who know you less well.

Let me say it again. The people you lead will always applaud you a little less than those who know you less well.

And that’s okay.

Why?

Two reasons:

First, they see you in a way people who know you from a distance don’t. They see you for who you really are: flaws and all.

Second, your job is to serve and lead them, not to have them nurse your fragile self-esteem.

Because I write a speak publicly, there are days where my inbox will fill up with thank you’s from people I’ve never met who read my blog or listen to my podcast or were at a talk I gave, and at the same time fill up with emails and texts from the staff and team I lead at home outlining the problems I need to help solve.

It can be tempting to think: why don’t the people I lead send me more thank you notes, (even though they do from time time)?

Easy. Because my job isn’t to get people to like or appreciate me.

My job is to lead them. To serve them. To love them. To help them succeed.

So I smile if I get notes from people…I’m actually very thankful. But then I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

So what should you do for affirmation?

The best affirmation to seek is of course, the affirmation of your heavenly father. Your spouse can’t be your perpetual confidence booster. Nor can your team.

Deal with your junk. Go see a counselor. Become more secure. Remember, you are called to serve, not to be served.

Don’t look to your team for gratitude, fish for compliments or wait for your inbox to fill up with sunshine.

Be honest about your mistakes, seek to improve. Be open to feedback. Listen. Change. Grow.

Then you’ll lead well.

3.  Keeping Smarter, Better People Away from You

You need a great deal of security to invite leaders who are better than you into your church or organization.

And the truth is, many leaders won’t.

They won’t allow a better speaker to fill in when they’re not speaking.

They won’t hire a better communicator as an associate, or allow a better communicator to speak to their team via video.

They won’t hire someone who’s more gifted or talented than they are.

The expect volunteers to do tasks, but not think, let alone contribute.

They won’t have elders or board members around a table who will challenge them.

If you lead like this, first of all, you really aren’t a leader.

And secondly, you won’t be surrounded by leaders. They’ll all leave.

The best way I know how to get over this fear that most of us naturally have is to do what Andy Stanley has suggested:

Celebrate what God has given others; leverage what God has given you.

You may not be as smart/fluent/funny/insightful as some other leaders. But that’s okay. You bring a unique contribution in some way. Celebrate what they bring. Leverage what you bring.

Everyone will be far better off.

What Do You Think?

These are three battles every leader loses every time.

Which ones are you fighting?

What battles have you seen leaders lose?

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