Home » Blog » Mission

Category: Mission

insider-focused

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Congregation Is Insider-Focused

So many churches that aren’t growing wonder why they’re not growing.

Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing about your church or a friend’s church.

Of course, people point to many reasons why their church isn’t growing (I cover 10 frequent reasons in this post), but underneath all of them is one root cause: insider-focus.

Churches that stop growing almost always have lost their heart for outsiders.

Even if many say they’re still passionate about reaching new people, their actions deny their intentions.

So how do you know whether your church is focused on insiders?

Here are 5 tell-tale signs:

shutterstock_158418200

1. Personal preference drives decision-making

In insider-focused churches, member preference rules. Everything from the preaching to the music to the programming gets evaluated through the lens of whether people ‘like’ it or not.

As a result, people-pleasing rules. As soon as a church leader hears that member X isn’t happy, the expectation is that the leader will try to placate the member or make the changes necessary to keep him or her attending.

The challenge is there is zero objective standard.

The standard is whether people like it.

As a leader, you end up playing whack-a-mole because different people ‘like’ different things, and no one can agree on what they like. Which is exactly why churches end up adding far too much variety to their services and too much programming to their menus.

In your attempt to please everyone, you please no one. And besides, as I outline in this post, your church can’t be for everyone anyway.

Regardless, if personal preference drives decision-making, you will always make bad decisions.

2. Emotion trumps mission

Insider-focused churches have a mission, it’s just that no one lives by it because emotion trumps mission.

How does that happen?

Because members are so bent on pleasing themselves, discussion about future direction becomes very emotional: it becomes about what people feel, who’s happy, who’s not happy, who’s thinking of leaving, who might stay if X changes, and what would need to happen for people to be satisfied again.

As a result, leaders make emotional decisions trying to appease the unappeasable, and congregations react in kind: emotionally.

Lost in all of this is one thing: the mission to reach people.

3. Sacrifice is non-existent

In an insider-focused church, no one sacrifices anything for the sake of others, because people believe others ought to sacrifice to please them.

If the church exists to make you happy, why wouldn’t people sacrifice more to make you happier?

In outsider-focused churches, the opposite is true.

Insiders sacrifice for the sake of outsiders. They realize that when they give, others live. That when they decide the church isn’t about them, the find a joy that is so elusive to selfish people.

Externally focused churches realize that sacrifice for the sake of others is a pathway to joy.

Internally focused congregations never understand that.

4. Any growth is mostly transfer growth

Do some internally-focused churches grow? Sure…that can happen.

But it’s not real growth. It’s not mission-induced growth.

In an insider-focused church, almost all the growth that takes place (if any happens at all) is transfer growth. Not the kind of transfer growth that happens when a new Christian family comes to town or a family makes a once-in-a-decade move to a new church.

The transfer growth that insider-focused churches usually attract is the kind of growth that attracts serial church shoppers.

And guess what transfer growth often looks for? A church to make them happy. (I wrote a post on the challenges of transfer growth here.)

Best wishes with trying to make them happy.

5. Innovation is dead or on life-support

Most insider-focused congregations aren’t excited about the future, they’re afraid of it.

For the most part, insider-focused churches cling stubbornly to the present or the past, preferring the way things are or the way things used to be over the way things could be.

As a result, innovation dies. New ideas are shot down. Anything that would reach people who currently aren’t being reached  is viewed with suspicion or even called ‘unfaithful.’

Members end up liking their church ‘just the way it is,’ which usually means they like it smaller and smaller every year.

So What’s the Antidote?

The antidote to insider-focus is simple: your mission.

One of the best ways to refocus your mission is this: focus on who you want to reach, not on who you want to keep. I learned that truth years ago from my friend Reggie Joiner, a co-founder of North Point Church and now CEO of Orange. Reggie is so right.

An external focus will beat insider drift every day, all day.

So, shift your focus. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep.

Will you anger some members? Yes.

But they will have other churches to go to. The unchurched don’t.

Any Thoughts?

If you want more, I write about the changes the church needs to make to get healthy and reach people we’re not reaching in my book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Any other signs of insider-focused churches you’d like to share?

top leaders

5 Things Every Leader Should Tell Their Top Leaders

If you could only tell your top leaders a few things, what would you tell them?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one I was asked recently as I spoke to the senior leadership team and staff at Next Level Church in Florida.

It was a good challenge to distill years of leadership experience, mistakes and insights into five key learnings.

Here’s what I came up with.

I’d love for you to add your suggestions and top learnings to the mix in the comments below.

shutterstock_160648694

1. Your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you

As a young leader, I was 100% convinced that competency was the key to effectiveness in leadership.

I no longer believe that’s true.

Sure, competency is important. Incompetence doesn’t get you or your mission very far.

But competency isn’t the ceiling many leaders hit. Character is.

Why is that?

Well, all of us can name highly gifted pastors, politicians, athletes and other public figures who failed not because they weren’t competent, but because they weren’t up for the job morally. An addiction, an affair, embezzlement or honestly sometimes just being a jerk caused them to lose their job or lose their influence.

This is why I’ve come to believe your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you.

So what do you need to do to ensure you character doesn’t undermine your talent?

Work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.

I know that’s difficult to do but do it.

Cultivate a daily habit of prayer and scripture reading. Go see a counsellor before you need to. Have great people around you who have permission to tell you the truth. Do the soul work you need to do to animate your other work.

It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted you are if you disqualify yourself from leadership.

2. Abandon balance and embrace passion

Almost everyone in leadership would advise you to lead a balanced life.

I’m not so sure.

What if that’s the wrong goal?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone should work 80 hours a week.

But here’s my struggle.

I think we find many circles in our culture where balance has become a synonym for mediocrity. Don’t work too hard. Don’t be intentional about your time. Just be balanced.

Here’s what I’ve seen.

Most people who accomplish significant things aren’t balanced people. They’re passionate people.

They are passionate about:

Their job.

Their family.

Their hobby.

In fact, they’re often even passionate about their nutrition and their rest.

They never see work as a job…they see it as a calling. As a quest. As a mission.

They can’t wait to get up in the morning and attack the day.

When they engage relationally, they’re fully present.

When they’re with their family, they’re with their family. They give everything they have to everything that’s important to them.

So do a variety of things (work, play, family), but allocate your energy so you can do everything you do, including rest and relaxation, with passion.

I love what John Wesley said:

“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

I never want to lose my passion. In fact, I’m praying that it intensifies as I grow older in everything I pursue.

Don’t let balance become a synonym for mediocrity. Balance is a retreat. Passion is an advance. So passionately pursue all you do.

If you’re intrigued by how to better manage your time, energy and priorities, I’m launching a new resource this fall called the High Impact Leader. It’s a 10-unit video course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

If you want to get on the inside track of the launch of the High Impact Leader, sign up here.

3. Pursue your health

So many leaders struggle with staying healthy in leadership… spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally and financially.

One way to look at leadership is to see it as a series of deposits and withdrawals.

All day long as a leader, people and the mission make a series of withdrawals from you: someone needs to meet with you, another person needs counselling, a third needs advice, a fourth wants to get that report done asap.

If you think of your life as a leader like a bank account, the problem eventually becomes the ratio of deposits to withdrawals. Over the long run, if you make more withdrawals than deposits, you go bankrupt.

That’s exactly what happens to far too many leaders.

The withdrawals that happen to you in life and leadership are inevitable. You can manage them well or poorly (which is something we’ll help you master in the High Impact Leader course).

Here’s the thing, though: the withdrawals never go away.

It’s your responsibility to make the deposits.

This means applying the spiritual disciplines, physical disciplines, financial disciplines and the discipline to get the help you need to resolve your emotional and personal issues.

Here’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself and I would love every top leader to ask themselves daily: am I living today in a way that will help me thrive tomorrow? Spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, and financially?

If not, why not?

Since I started asking that question, I’m far healthier. It’s a recipe that works. Start using it.

4. Understand that attendance no longer drives engagement, engagement drives attendance

It’s interesting to me that we didn’t get to a strategy insight until the fourth insight. The top three pieces of advice are all heart and character issues, which is exactly as it should be.

But in the church, the strategy you apply also matters. So here we go.

As North American culture becomes more and more post-Christian, declining attendance has become a universal phenomenon (here are 10 reasons why that’s happening).

The current approach to church has largely been driven by getting people to attend. The idea is this: get them in the door and hopefully at some point, they’ll engage in the mission.

But in an age where fewer and fewer people are motivated to attend church at all, that’s a bad strategy.

Instead, if you want to see your church grow, stop trying to attract people and start working on engaging people.

Why? Because engaged people attend.

The more engaged you are in the mission, the more likely you’ll want to be part of the church.

In the future church, only the engaged will attend. So do what you can to drive engagement.

Want more? Here are 7 ways to drive engagement.

5.  Play favourites

My guess is you spend 80% of your time trying to help your struggling leaders get better.

They’re producing maybe 20% of your results, but you’re devoting 80% of your time trying to motivate them, get them to show up on time and get them to do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

What if that’s a colossal mistake?

What if you spent 80% of your time with the leaders who give you 80% of your organization’s results?

That’s what the best leaders do: they spend 80% of their time with the people who give them 80% of their results.

What do you do with the bottom 20%? Let them go or let them figure it out on their own. Or limit your involvement to 20% of your time.

Your best leaders get better with time and attention. Poor leaders never do.

So try it…spend 80% of your time on the people that produce 80% of your results.

I know… I know… you’re pushing back. I get that. You think this isn’t a Christian thing to do. I’m not sure sure you’re right.

You’re afraid that playing favourites isn’t biblical.

Just the opposite. Not playing favorites makes you unfaithful.

I know, I know….what?????

Moses tried to treat everyone the same, and it almost killed him and wore out the people he led (just read Exodus 18).

The solution? Moses had to learn not to treat everyone the same.

He appointed leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The result was that the people’s needs were met and Moses got to lead for the rest of his life. His leadership (finally) scaled.

If you start to look for it as you read, you’ll see organizational principles throughout Scripture (how did Israel become a great nation after all?)

For example, even in the New Testament, Jesus and early Christian leaders didn’t treat everyone alike.

Jesus actually walked away from people who needed to be healed in order to get food and rest.

Jesus organized his disciples into circles according to potential impact…groups of 70, 12, 3 (Peter, James and John) and 1 (Peter) and intentionally spent the most time with those inner circles.

The early church reorganized and mmoved their key teachers and preachers away from daily tasks and appointed new leaders, which fuelled new growth.

Loving everyone the same does not mean treating everyone the same way.

So if you want to be more biblically faithful, start treating different people differently.

What do you think?

Those are my top 5. What are yours?

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

And if you want more, I outlined 7 critical issues every church needs to deal with in my latest book.

boring sermons

7 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block and Eliminate Boring Sermons

Ever write a message or talk that even you suspected was boring?

That’s exactly where I found myself this week.

I’d outlined my message for our current series weeks ago, but when I went back into it 6 days before delivery, I realized I’d written a basically boring sermon on a fundamentally exciting subject.

What’s worse, it moved me into one of the worst cases of writer’s block I’ve had in years.

I worked at the message day after day but I just couldn’t make it interesting, despite having a fascinating subject (heaven).

Don’t get me wrong. As a preacher and Christian, I’m the first to tell you God’s Word is never boring. But sometimes we preachers make it boring. That’s exactly where I was heading this Sunday.

I kept tweaking the message for a few days with little success. I still found it…boring. And preachers, if you’re bored by your message, it’s a guarantee your audience will be as well.

How did I get through it? Well, I dug out everything I know about beating writer’s block and solving the problem of boring writing.

It worked…I think. You only ever really find out on Sunday. But I’m no longer bored by my message. In fact, I’m excited to preach it.

Almost every communicator I know has been there…so I thought I’d share my 5 best tips on beating writer’s block and eliminating boring sermons.

boring sermons

1. Find the tension

If a sermon or piece of writing comes off as boring, it’s often because it lacks tension.

As much as we all dislike tension personally, without the tension, there is no story.

Think of the universal plot line for every story/book/movie you’ve ever loved.

It’s NOT this:

Good thing happens.

Another good thing happens.

Then lots of good things happen forever.

As much as we wish our lives were tension-free, there’s actually no story in that. You’d never watch a movie without tension.

Instead, the universal plot line people come back to again and again is:

Things are good.

Something bad happens (enter death, illness, a villain, a problem).

There’s a struggle between good and evil.

A hero enters.

Good wins.

Hopefully, people live happily ever after.

If there’s no tension in a story, there’s no story.

So what’s the tension point in your message?

If you can find that, you’ve created a plot line the audience will follow and identify with. Because everyone has tension in their lives.

For my message, the focal point was that heaven is a beautiful place…beautiful beyond words.  The tension points in the message became the fact that most of us don’t realize how beautiful it is, and that we experience both beauty and tragedy in this life. Once I pickd up on those points, the message became both more relevant and interesting.

2. Identify, build and solve an actual problem

Most people showing up at your church, at your blog or who open the first pages of your book face problems they don’t know how to solve: marriage problems, money problems, hope problems, forgiveness problems.

When you identify a problem and lead people to a solution (or potential solution), your message immediately becomes relevant.

What I had to do in my message was identify a problem that most people would want to see solved.

In my message, I zone in on why people instinctively hate the idea that there’s a hell or separation in eternity, but I also explain how that resolves some of the tension people find impossible to resolve in their lives right now.

Ironically, your writer’s block problem often gets solved if you can identify and solve someone else’s problem.

3. Find the Why

You can find tension and find a problem to solve but still not have a fascinating message.

Why?

Because you haven’t yet identified why any of it matters.

In any kind of communication, the why is the most important question you can answer for someone.

Why establishes relevance. When you establish the why – a money problem suddenly matters to your listener; when you explain why forgiveness is an issue, or why the existence of hell or the beauty of heaven matter, interest in a subject piques.

The problem with far too many sermons and far too much Christian writing is that they focus on the What and the How and they completely miss the Why.

In this post, I outline the 5 questions I use to evaluate every message as I write it (I got them from Andy Stanley). My two most favourite questions are the questions of why the audience needs to know what they need to know and why they need to do what they need to do.

When you’re stuck, keep asking yourself “Why does any of this matter?” When you can answer that, you’ve got an interesting message.

If you can’t answer why your message matters, your message won’t matter.

4. Look for surprises

Even in an age of declining biblical literacy, familiarity is a problem with preaching from the Bible.

It’s a problem because people assume they know what a text means. And even people with little Christian background assume they know what Christians would say about an issue.

Even as a preacher, you might read a text and miss the shock and surprise of the original text.

To get over this, I try to pretend I’m reading the text for the first time. My text this week was from Revelation 21-22. Here are some surprise angles that could make a sermon on Revelation 21: 1-3 (and this just scratches the surface on three short verses):

John is in exile on the Island of Patmos and he sees this? Why? What would that have meant to him?

Wait…there’s a new earth, not just a new heaven? What????

And why a new heaven? What’s wrong with the old one?

Wait…heaven’s a city? What about the endless golf game in the sky that people imagine?

What’s this bride and groom language all about and why is it so intimate?

Hey, in Greek, the word for ‘dwell’ is ‘tabernacle’…does this go back to the Old Testament and John 1 and then the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (actually, yes it does) and what on earth does this mean?

See…that’s just three verses.

Approach the Bible as a stranger or a child and it pops to life.

5. Talk to someone another writer about your problem

Honestly, when you go to a non-preacher or non-communicator for advice, their advice often isn’t that helpful.

Why?

Because writing problems are usually best understood by other writers.

So sure, you can ask questions of your neighbour or someone else who doesn’t write for a living.

But keep in mind that a quick consult with another writer or preacher can zero in on the problem faster than you might think.

6. Imagine you’re being pulled off the stage…

I don’t know how I developed this trick, but it’s tremendously helpful.

Years ago when I felt stuck in the writing process, I started imagining myself being pulled off the stage in the middle of my message (almost by a cane…like in the comics) and getting 30 seconds to shout out my last line before the message was over.

If I didn’t have anything to shout in that last line, I knew I hadn’t found the main point of my message.

If I could say it, I’d found the tension and the main point of my message.

Last week, the single line was “You should have a better plan for eternity than you do for your next vacation.”

Try this exercise… it works.

7. Come back to it another day

If you find that you’re striking out, again and again, pack it in and come back to it fresh in the morning. I find so many breakthroughs happen this way.

Of course, that doesn’t work if you’re starting your message Saturday morning for Sunday delivery.

But if you work ahead like I do, time becomes your friend as much as deadlines do.

So work ahead. And come back to it fresh after a good night’s sleep.

Want More?

I shared almost all of my communication shortcuts in this 5 part series you can access on my blog for free, including a post on how to deliver a talk without using notes.

I’ve also gotten much better as a communicator not just by practice, but by training. Few resources have helped me as much in the last few years as Preaching Rocket (this is an affiliate link).

I’ve been through their entire coaching programming and it’s been fantastic for me both as a preacher and a conference speaker.

If you want to explore it for yourself, you can try Preaching Rocket for free for 7 days.

In the meantime, what helps you overcome writer’s block and boring messages?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

jerk leader

10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not A Leader

So you lead. You’re in charge…at least you’re in charge of something or hope to be one day.

But how do you know you’re leading effectively…and that you’re not, well, a jerk?

I mean we’ve all been around leaders who are extremely difficult to be around.

Think about how badly leaders are often viewed.

Over the years, boss has even become a bad word. If you’re a pushy kid, you get labeled as bossy and people stay away. Hollywood simply needs to put the word “horrible” in front of the word “bosses” in a movie title and everyone smiles because they can relate. Who hasn’t had a horrible boss?

And yet, sometimes there’s a fine line between being an effective leader and being a jerk. The strength required to be a leader can sometimes push you up against the hard edges of your personality.

When you reach that point you fail. You not only destroy others, you ultimately destroy yourself.

Here are ten signs you’re actually being a jerk, not a leader.

jerk

1. You’ve made the organization all about you

Hey, there’s no doubt your leadership gift probably brings something to the organization or church in which you serve—maybe even a lot.

Leaders, after all, make things happen.

If you want to be a jerk, make the organization about you.

Make sure you’re front and center all the time. Think about how grateful people should be to have you.

Be incredulous at why more people don’t thank you for your leadership. Imagine that you should be paid more.

Just think of  yourself as undervalued and indispensable. Jerks, after all, think it’s all about them.

2. You think that people work for  you

If you’re a jerk and not a true leader, you’ll believe people work for you. 

Contrast that with what the best bosses do. The best bosses think of themselves as working for the people around them.

They prefer to serve rather than be served.

If you keep thinking people work for you, few people will want to work for you.

3. You never say thank you

Jerk leaders rarely say thank you. After all, why would you say thank you when people are just doing their jobs?

Jerk leaders rarely take the time to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they noticed the difference that team member made today.

And why thank the employee who worked late to get the project done? After all, shouldn’t they just be grateful to get a paycheck?

Great bosses often take the time to hand-write a thank you note.

They high five people.

They look team members in the eye and tell them how much they appreciate them.

They put their arm around people and say thanks.

Great leaders realize nobody has to work for them. Which is why people do.

4. You’re demanding

One sure way to be a jerk is to demand things of people.

It’s one thing to have high standards (great leaders have high standards), but to remain a jerk, make sure you always communicate those standards in a way that demeans people.

Always focus on what you want from people. Never think about what you want for people.

5. You keep the perks of leadership to yourself

Leadership does have perks. Maybe you know some people other folks would love to connect with.

Maybe you get the nicer office or have a slightly bigger budget than others. Or people send you gift cards once in a while because you’re the boss man. Or you have a nice parking space (which you shouldn’t by the way… here’s why).

To stay a jerk, just make sure you never share anything with anyone. Keep it all to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t be generous.

6. You keep yourself front and center

If you’re a jerk leader, you think you’re so valuable to the organization (see point 1) that you do whatever it takes to be at the center of everything at all times.

You don’t develop young talent. You’re too insecure to share your platform with others. You never push other people into the spotlight. (Insecurity causes a lot of leadership problems by the way. Here are 5.)

You’re never going to retire anyway, or even if you do, it doesn’t really matter if the organization crumbles when you go, does it?

Besides, no one else on your team has dreams, gifts or hopes. Why would you pay attention to that?

Think about it: Great leaders don’t build platforms; they build people.

7. You take the credit and assign the blame

If you’re a jerk leader, there are two surefire ways to anger your team.

First, take all of the credit for anything good that happens in your organization.

Make sure you mention how it was your idea and whatever you do, don’t mention your team or how hard they worked on the project.

Second, when things go off the rails, wash your hands of it. Look surprised and then appear concerned.

Blame something else.

Blame someone else.

Blame anything else.

You weren’t responsible anyway. Except for all of the good things, of course.

8. You never have your team’s back

Is there really any value in public loyalty? Didn’t think so.

If you want to alienate your team, speak poorly of them when they’re not in the room.

For example, when you disagree with a decision a team member made, make sure you tell anyone who will listen how much you disagreed with it.

And when someone complains to you about what a team member did, make sure you pull them aside and in hushed tones tell them how disappointed you were with their decision too, and that you don’t understand why they would do that.

For bonus points, never privately speak to the person with whom you disagree. Just smile when you see them.

Great leaders don’t always agree, but they always disagree privately behind closed doors and they support you publicly, no matter what. That builds a team.

As Andy Stanley says, great leaders realize that public loyalty buys you private leverage.

9. You make all the decisions

One sure sign of a jerk leader is that you infuriate other leaders on your team by personally making as many decisions as possible.

You never let them exercise their leadership gifts or become thinkers in their own right.

And when they do make decisions on their own, you meddle frequently.

You even pull out your pocket veto regularly. Especially if you’re acting on partial information and don’t have the whole story.

10. You act like a martyr

When your team is angry with you (as they should be), one sure sign you’ve moved to the jerk column is that you pull out the martyr card.

Nobody has it as hard as you do. True?

Nobody is as misunderstood.

I mean, who puts in as many hours for a thankless job? And who really understands you?

Nobody. Of course.

To keep jerk status, make sure you tell everyone how hard you work, how lonely leadership is and how you haven’t taken a vacation in X years.

Great leaders realize leadership has a cost, but they don’t expect others to share it. This is exactly why many people are willing to share the cost with a great leader.

The Jerk Inside Me

How do I know jerk leadership so well?

Because I have a jerk inside of me I need to suppress every day. My guess is you might too.

Fortunately, Jesus introduces a completely different paradigm for leadership.

If you want to be a Christ-like leader, just do the opposite of these ten things. You’ll be well on your way.

And Christ promises to help you.

If you’re like me, it takes supernatural strength to lead in a Christ-like manner. But there’s no better way to lead a team (or your family).

Include Your Team on Decision Making

If you want to include your team on decision making and help them own the challenges before you, my last book (Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow) is 100% designed to facilitate team discussion and problem-solving on the biggest issues facing church leaders today.

Plus there’s even a full chapter on creating a healthy team.

You can buy the book and/or the team edition video series (for team discussion) here.

Want to see a sample? Download a free chapter here.

What Do You Think?

What other characteristics of jerk leaders have you seen?

How is this battle at work in your life?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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!

bad leaders say

7 Things Bad Leaders Say

Nobody sets out to be a bad leader.

You didn’t. I didn’t.

Yet according to a recent Gallup study, only 18% of managers have a ‘high degree of talent’ in leading people, which includes the ability to motivate and manage the relationships they have with people around them.

So why does the world end up with so many, well, not-so-great leaders?

Often those of us who lead lack the self-awareness to know when we’re leading poorly. (Here, by the way, are four things self-aware leaders know that others don’t.)

Leadership is difficult—you have to overcome obstacles that non-leaders never tackle, AND you have to then lead other people through them.

But your first approach to a problem isn’t usually the right one.

So…has bad thinking clouded your ability to lead effectively?

Here are 7 things bad leaders say. I only know this, because, over the years, I’ve caught myself thinking or even saying some of these things.

And I’ve realized that if I’m going to lead more effectively, I need to change my approach. bad leaders say

1. If I’m going to get it done right, I have to do it myself

So we’ve all been frustrated with the work other people do. And it’s very tempting, after trying numerous times and maybe even after working with numerous people, to conclude that no one can do the job but me.

That’s fabulous thinking if you want to keep your organization tiny and never scale it beyond your own personal abilities.

It’s also fabulous thinking if you believe you are the only person God gifted in your organization.

But if you want to grow, it’s a terrible way to lead. And it’s completely demotivating for the people around you to hear you say that.

Usually, the inability to do great things through others can be tied to a lack of clarity on your part as a leader.

If others aren’t doing their jobs well, there’s a good chance it’s because you never explained what success looks like.

There’s also a very good chance the definition of success you carry is 100% in your head; you’ve never written anything down. Or what you have written down is so general or vague it’s not helpful.

You can’t hold people accountable for something you never explained to them. Yet most leaders try anyway.

Clarity is a hallmark of great leadership. If your team isn’t measuring up, there’s a very good chance you haven’t been clear.

2. My job would be perfect if it wasn’t for people

Yes, leading people IS the most challenging aspect of leadership.

Typing, for example, is far easier than leading people. Hit the “j” key and the letter j appears on your screen.

If only people were that simple.

Ask someone to type ‘j’ and they might think you said ‘k’ or ‘a’ or they wonder if that was a capital letter or small letter.  Or they might speculate why you want ‘j’ typed in the first place.

Leading people is going to tax you more than almost anything.

Leadership is difficult because leaders take people where they wouldn’t ordinarily go.

Think about that for a moment. That’s hard!

But please realize that as much as you joke that your job would be easy if it wasn’t for people, you wouldn’t have a job if there weren’t other people.

Often, if you’re really honest, when you’re mad at others, you’re really mad at yourself and your inability to lead them.

Figure out how to lead better, and you won’t be nearly as mad at people as you used to be.

3. Listen….

What do you do when you feel like you’re losing control in leadership?

You try to take control.

You say things like “Listen…I’ve been at this a long time and…”

Ever notice people who start sentences with ‘listen’ rarely listen?

And when you stop listening, you shut down everyone else in the room. They instinctively think “well, he’s not listening anymore…so it doesn’t matter what I say or ask.”

Instead of trying to take control, ask a question instead, like “Is anything unclear?” or “So what are people thinking?”

It’s far better.

4. I’m having trouble with your colleague

Every leader gets frustrated. The question is, what do you do with that frustration?

Bad leaders complain about the team to the members of the team. Big mistake.

When your team hears you speak poorly about someone else on the team, trust dissipates as quickly as a mist in the desert sun.

The team knows that if you’re talking smack about their colleague, you’re probably talking poorly to others about them as well.

Every leader needs a safe place to vent. Cultivate that. But do that intentionally.

Have a small team around you where you can solve your problems and talk honestly. Sometimes that’s a few people on the governing board or the top leaders around you. Or it might be a colleague from another town.

Two rules of thumb:

Make sure the number of people in that circle can be counted on one hand. Otherwise, it’s gossip and can quickly become unhelpful.

Focus the conversation on solutions, not problems. Otherwise, things will become destructive, not constructive.

If you don’t have a small circle of trusted people with whom you can solve problems, your frustration will leak out all over and do damage that can be difficult or impossible to repair.

Never complain about the team to the team if you want a great team.

5. At least we’re doing better than               .

If that’s your standard, get a new standard.

Please.

6. My people won’t let me….

I hear this all the time:

My people won’t let me spend money on leadership coaching.

My people won’t let me change the way we do music.

My people won’t allow us to consider that kind of ministry.

Your people won’t let you? Really?

Hey, when you were four years old, your mom wouldn’t let you do things.

But you’re not four anymore.

There’s so much wrong with the ‘my people won’t let me’ stance:

First, you just threw your entire crew under the bus.

Second, you’re the leader. So lead them. (If you can’t lead them effectively enough to change people, stop blaming them and look in the mirror.)

Third, if the change you want to bring about is unsuccessful for now, respect that. Back your people in public. Back them in private. Love them.

Love doesn’t always mean agreement. Love doesn’t always mean you feel deep affection for them in every moment.

But love and respect are linked. And you don’t throw people you love under the bus.

If you can’t love your people, stop leading them.

7. I have to…

I still catch myself saying this and I simply need to stop.

I have to preach this Sunday.

I have to go to that meeting.

I have to finish this project.

No, I don’t have to. I get to.

And no, you don’t have to. You get to.

The truth is, you don’t have to do anything. But you and I get to do a lot of things.

If you begin to think about what you get to do rather than what you have to do, you’ll cultivate a much more profound sense of gratitude.

And gratitude is one of a leader’s best attributes.

Grateful leaders are so much easier to follow than ungrateful leaders.

So be grateful. You get to do this!

Want More?

I wrote more about 12 often-overlooked practices that great leaders adopt in this post.

I also outline 7 challenges every church leader needs to navigate in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, which is going into its 5th printing. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the new Team Edition video series, you can get it here.

What do you think?

What are some things you’ve heard bad leaders say that you could add to this list?

What have you caught yourself saying?

Scroll down and let me know in the comments!

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.