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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:


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?

executive assistant

How NOT to Sabotage Your Team

Today’s post is a guest post by Tricia Sciortino, president of eaHELP, one of our partners on the blog and on my Leadership Podcast

By Tricia Sciortino

As pastors, directors of special ministries, worship leaders, educators and administrators in the church, we know the call to serve is paramount. You strive to grow, nurture, provide for and support our communities and congregations.

But you also must do so in ways that demonstrate stewardship and competent leadership.

People believe in you. They depend on you. And your congregants are relying and counting on your steady hand to direct the organization forward. But with so many moving pieces, so many competing and continuous demands, it can become a challenge to manage everything.

It’s not uncommon, though, for leaders to experience some growing pains when they first hire a virtual assistant. They’re so accustomed to managing everything, to being hands-on with very routine tasks, that it can be hard to let go. But as the president of eaHELP, I’ve learned how pastoral and ministerial clients can avoid unintentionally sabotaging their virtual executive assistant. Sometimes this can happen quite accidentally, despite the best-laid plans or good intentions.

executive assistant

We are only human, after all, and there’s only so much an individual can – or should – do.

There is the day-to-day administration, the calendars and scheduling, the meetings and reporting, and even the special projects, new events and even just the process of getting the word out as you seek to grow and bring others to Christ.

There are weekly preparations, daily commitments and the longer-term planning of what you hope, aim and plan to do in the future.

At eaHELP, we help many leaders and ministers just like you who have recognized they would benefit from some extra support.

In fact, we specialize in matching virtual administrative and executive assistants with leaders and organizations of many types, and we’ve honed in on the unique needs of the church. We have a team of more than 400 home-based administrative assistants who partner with people like you to make life less hectic, projects less monumental and general operations more efficient.

When you have a dedicated expert to manage schedules, arrange travel, update databases, conduct outreach, respond to emails and perform bookkeeping, imagine how much easier your life becomes.

Here are some insights to help you make the most of the dedicated help which companies like ours provides. Following these tips can ensure a satisfying, productive experience for all involved – for you as the leader, for the assistant as your administrative partner and for the service provider who matches both sides of the equation.

Don’t Just Task – Empower

Somewhere along the way, the perception of what executive assistants really offer became too simplistic. Yes, administrative assistants can answer calls and make copies, but the reality is that they do much more than that. Sometimes that work happens behind the scenes and is not always within full view.

Think of a quality executive assistant as the mystery ingredient in an incredible recipe; it’s the one element that brings it all together, but you may not even see it, smell it or taste it.

Plus, executive assistants often bring a level of disciplinary expertise that can be valuable to your efforts. These insights and knowledge could pertain to member outreach, operational organization, research and reporting, or marketing and media.

Churches always have reports to produce, and social media is more of a must than an “if” or “when” these days. Emerging, developing and established ministries alike often have complex calendars to manage, and getting the word out is a consistent concern of churches as they grow. Seek and solicit your assistant’s input where it counts, and you’ll cultivate a professional “right hand” who can help you more than you ever thought possible.

Don’t Infer – Express

Based on their aptitude and experience, executive assistants are often pros in proactively identifying needs and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a leader, can go work on other things and leave your assistant operating in isolation. An avoidable error in the administrative assistant-client relationship is a gulf in clarifying needs and expectations.

Even if your assistant is performing according to expectations, it never hurts to offer constructive feedback. Be sure to volunteer your guidance about her ideas on how to execute an existing or new task.

Offer specifics about key contacts she may interact with, bringing beneficial context to her conversations and interactions. Executive assistants need to hear from you to ensure you’re not only singing from the same hymnal but that you are synced to same song and verse.

Don’t Conceal Your Quirks

Quite naturally, over time your virtual assistant learns more about you as the client, picking up on your verbal cues and gestures. Everyone has quirks – let’s call them pet peeves or preferences. If we take just a few minutes to do some self-reflection, each of us could probably name at least three work-related deal breakers of our own based on personal ideals or specific ways of being.

On occasion, these unknown quirks can emerge at inopportune times. For example, let’s say you ask your virtual assistant to create a new report about a developing program. She creates the report, but as you review it, you see that it’s not color-coded in a way you would prefer and even features a shade you absolutely never use in documents. There’s nothing wrong with the report itself; however, your preferences represent an affinity that she could not have known unless you informed her.

Miscommunication, bruised feelings and instances like these can be minimized through honest, clear conversations and fuller disclosure on the front end.

Don’t Be a Closed Book

Of course, you must establish and preserve professional boundaries at all times with your executive assistant. But that doesn’t mean you should erect a fortress between you and your administrative support partner.

The truth is that our private life does affect work life. You don’t have to completely “spill the beans,” but it may strengthen your virtual assistant’s performance and perspective if she knows about your kids’ demanding schedule of extracurricular activities, that you’re traveling overseas with your spouse for three weeks in the spring or that you have an upcoming medical procedure that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.

Want More?

Communication, continuity and consistency are some key ingredients in the successful recipe of an executive assistant-leader relationship. When both sides understand each other and are vested in the benefits of an effectively shared partnership, what materializes can be absolutely game changing for you, your ministry and your highest calling.

Trust me. We see the results every day.

Want more information on getting help with your team? Contact us free of charge.

In the meantime, what have you found helpful in working with an EA? Scroll down and leave a comment.

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.


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.


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.


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!

scared to risk more

7 Easy Risks You Can Take Today If Too Scared to Risk More

The problem with many leaders is that there is a gap between what they want to see happen and what they will do today.

We dream of a radical new future, but then we answer email all day, go to meetings, inhale caffeine and go home before it’s too late with far too much of whatever-we-did-today (what did I do again today?) left over for a boring repeat tomorrow.

To put it as eloquently as possible, this stinks.

To accomplish a radically new future, you will have to do radically different things.

This scares the socks off of most of us. After all, risk is for risk-takers, and many of us are not crazy risk-takers.

But what if you could begin to change that starting… today?

You can get over your fear in leadership by overcoming your fear in other areas of your life.

Small victories over fear can easily become larger ones because like any good muscle, the more you practice overcoming your fears, the more fear you can overcome.


The End of the Road for the Timid is Not Awesome

Before we get into how to break this pattern of leadership monotony, let’s look at why courage, risk-taking and a willingness to be daring matter in leadership.

It’s simple. This is what can happen if you fail to take risks in your leadership:

Your organization will suffer from few breakthroughs and likely continue a path to decline and irrelevance.

You will likely never leave leadership with any sense of fulfillment or accomplishment.

I completely understand that underneath a lack of courage is often the heart-pounding feeling of fear.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a fearful leader and a lazy leader?  The writer of Proverbs shows us where that line is, proving that fear and laziness are cousins. While the motivation is different, the outcome is often indistinguishable.

I’m not saying you should be a reckless crazy person, but you probably need to be more of one than are you presently.

Let’s face it, when over 90% of churches are plateauing or declining, the church is not suffering from an overabundance of courage or risk-taking.

I believe risk-taking is both a habit and a mindset. Take a few steps toward tackling small challenges, and soon you’ll be up for the bigger ones.

At the same time, if you’re a natural risk taker, you may feel an urge the older you get to rest on your laurels. Don’t.

Even taking risks like the ones below will prime the pump for future change and transformation, which, by the way, is always in season.

After all, the next generation doesn’t care what you did yesterday.

7 Risks Any Leader Can Take Today

So, if you want to flex your risk-muscle for the first time or the 1000th time, here are 7 things you can do today to get started:

1. Start something you don’t know how to finish

This can be truly awesome. Tackling things you know how to do is a sure path to stagnation and eventual boredom.

What’s that project at work that scares the life out of you? Start it. Today. And see where it goes. You will figure it out. You will.

Most people who make a dent in the universe had no idea what they were doing when they started.

Why would it be any different with you?

2. Do what you’ve been thinking of doing but haven’t done yet

We all have things we’ve been thinking of doing for years that might be doable. But we haven’t started yet.

Just do it. Seriously.

True leaders have a bias for great action, not just great thinking.

3. Be generous when you don’t feel like it

Yes, generosity is a risk. Being financially generous when you don’t feel like you have the funds to be generous is a risk.

Being generous with praise when you don’t feel like praising someone is a risk.

In a world where there are a thousand reasons to be stingy, generosity is a risk.

But generosity is the key to developing an abundance mentality. And people with an abundance mentality often end up taking more risks.

So start by thanking someone who deserves some thanks even if you don’t feel like giving it. Or give some money away. You may surprise yourself at what you get back.

4. Set a goal you think is impossible to reach

The reason you won’t set a daring goal is because you think it’s impossible. Which is exactly why you should set it.

It can be small. When I began seriously and consistently blogging 4 years ago, I set a crazy traffic goal of reaching 100,000 page views a year. I thought it would be impossible. But that goal motivated me to write three times a week, week in and week out.

I had no idea that in my first year full year of dedicated blogging, I would realize 7x that goal…reaching over 700,000 page views. That was in 2013.

Three years later, this blog sees 3-4 million pages views a year and reaches over 2 million leaders each year.

If someone had told me that when I started, I would have laughed. The thought still astonishes and humbles me.

But here’s some truth for you: People who set goals accomplish more than people who don’t.

5. Be vulnerable

Yes, vulnerability is also a risk.

Bring a close friend in on a struggle you haven’t talked to anyone about yet.

Get over your fear of telling your team you don’t know the answer (I promise you they already know).

Being vulnerable sets you up for accepting the failure that inevitably accompanies risk…that failure you’re so scared of.

Being vulnerable today will prepare you for a bit of failure tomorrow on your way to greater accomplishments.

6. Give someone else an opportunity you were going to take for yourself

It’s a risk to trust others with something you care about, isn’t it? Which is why you need to do it.

Pick an opportunity you were personally going to do and invite someone else to do it. This will not only help you be more generous with your leadership but this will also position you to create a stronger team moving forward.

As the saying goes when it comes to accomplishment, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go with a team.

7. Take quitting off the table

When you’re afraid, you think about quitting, don’t you?

So take it off the table. Just decide you’re in for the long haul and get moving.

It’s riskier to stay and try than it is to quit and leave.

In the same way that couples who take divorce off the table usually find a way to work through their issues, you will find a way to work through your issues if you move quitting off the table.

These are 7 risks you can take today that will set you up for greater risks tomorrow.

Oh…and by the way…all of this will grow your faith.

You will have to stop trusting yourself and what you know and start trusting God more than you ever have before.

After all, did you ever know God to call anyone in the scripture to something that was easy? Didn’t think so.

If you take more risks and trust far more, both you and your organization will be in a far better position because of it.

What do you think?

If you want more, I wrote a book on leading change you can read here, and I included a chapter on change in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, what other risks do you think leaders can take that will set us up for the future?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

feedback without getting defensive

9 Ways to Handle Negative Feedback Without Getting Defensive

If you’re truly going to develop as a leader, you can’t do it without great feedback.

The dilemma is that you want to hear ‘well done’.

In fact, you crave positive feedback enough that it’s tempting to only want to hear ‘well done’ rather than the truth.

The irony, of course, is you don’t really get to ‘well done’ without hearing the truth.

I know for me personally, it took a while to develop both a culture and a process for feedback that worked.

Frankly, a lot of the delay was due to my sensitivities and insecurities. I just didn’t want to hear negative feedback.

Don’t get me wrong, I often heard negative feedback.

Sometimes the negative feedback was from people who were off-mission or who were honestly just negative people. While you can always glean a nugget from even your worst critic, feedback from off-mission or negative people rarely helps you develop your fullest potential.

The best feedback you can receive is from people who believe in your mission, who support you and who love you. More than anyone else, they are in the best position to see your faults and help you through them.

Feedback from them is gold.

It took me a few years to figure out how to get feedback from the right people that was also deeply constructive.

And now that I find myself in a place where helpful, truthful feedback is part of the culture, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hearing the truth about your leadership and acting on it is the only way you can really grow as a leader long term. Honest feedback is fundamental to cultivating a deepening self-awareness.

The self-aware leader is a growing leader. And growing leaders are the best leaders.

Here are 9 approaches and practices that will help you develop a culture of honest feedback without getting defensive.

feedback without getting defensive

1. Ask for it

Don’t expect people to volunteer their opinions.

Some will, but they can often be off-mission, negative people and not the people you want to hear from anyway (here’s a post outlining 7 signs you’re dealing with a negative person, and another one on constructing a feedback filter).

Ask people who are on mission.

What happens if you don’t ask for input?

Well, people will still give honest feedback if you don’t ask for it; you’ll just never hear it. And that’s bad for everyone.

2. Surround yourself with people who aren’t intimidated to tell you the truth

You can find on-mission people who just don’t have the personality to tell you the truth.

They are great people, but you need to solicit an inner core of people who are not intimidated by you or overly impressed with you.

Usually, they are other leaders.

Feedback from people who are strong leaders in their own right is the best.

Leaders who surround themselves with other leaders become far better leaders.

3. Look for people who are aligned but honest

If you find strong, aligned leaders who give you feedback (that’s who I look for in elders for our church), you will never have ‘yes’ men or women around you.

Instead, you will have a team that shares your mission, vision and strategy and will tell the truth to help you get there.

Leaders who surround themselves with yes people ultimately say no to growth.

Leaders who surround themselves with unaligned people ultimately say yes to division and chaos.

Leaders who say yes to aligned, strong leaders always do best…and so does their organization.

Alignment is often the difference between criticism that leads somewhere great and criticism that leads nowhere good.

Here’s the outline of a talk I did a few years ago that offers more about alignment,

4. Don’t be defensive

This is difficult but so critical. Don’t offer excuses, reasons or get your back up.

Tell them why you needed to hear it.

Ask questions.

Dig deeper.

It signals to them you value what they say, and they will know they have not wasted their time.

5. Thank them

Seriously, thank every person who critiques you.

Even the negative ones (and realize you may have to leave your silent thoughts unspoken).

You can grow from everything.

Saying thank you for criticism is perhaps the biggest signal you can give that you want it and are open to it. Sure, you need boundaries if a critic is going after you, but thanking them for any potential insight signals humility and a willingness to learn.

For your best feedback people, gratitude is essential.

6. Don’t confuse your effort with your results

This is a note to self.

Just because you poured 40 hours into something doesn’t mean it helped advance the mission.

I had to get past the idea that trying = well done. A+ for effort but C- for results means there’s growth opportunity. Lots.

You’ll always want to reward yourself for your effort. Ultimately, though, you need to own your results.

Effective leaders never confuse their efforts with their results.

7. Show people how they helped you

Once you’ve processed the feedback, go back to the people who offered it and tell them how it helped you and what you’re doing about it.

It’s a signal to them that their time was an investment and not a waste, and that you value personal growth.

8. Evaluate using objective tools

Conversations are one thing, but objective tools can take things to a whole new level.

We evaluate weekend services every Tuesday with a set of questions.

I also regularly use Survey Monkey to get feedback on everything from sermon series ideas to blog readers to new book ideas.

I also love Strengths FindersRight Path and other tools that help me gain insights into personal strengths, weaknesses and team dynamics.

9. Solicit feedback regularly enough to make it part of your culture

If you practice the eight approaches outlined above regularly enough, it will become part of your culture.

Solicit feedback at every turn.

Ask questions.

Eventually people will realize this is not only a safe place to give feedback, it’s desirable and needed to advance the mission.

When leaders listen, everyone grows.

What Do You Think? 

If you want more, I wrote more about healthy leadership is my latest book, Lasting Impact, 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

What have you used to help you get regular feedback?

What are your best practices? What are your stumbling blocks?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

new assistant

5 Things I’ve Learned About Leadership Working With A New Assistant

If you’re like most leaders, you’re almost always adding someone new to your team, whether that’s a new volunteer, a new board member or a new staff member.

In a growing organization, a changing team is an organizational constant.

I had this experience recently. As some of you may know, I recently transitioned to working with a new assistant after 7 (great) years with my former assistant.

Few people impact you more directly than an assistant. That’s why I knew finding a replacement for Sarah Piercy would be a tough challenge. (Sarah and I talk about what made our working relationship amazing in this interview.)

When I found out Sarah would be heading out on maternity leave, I immediately turned to eaHELP, and I’m so glad I did.

I knew eaHELP provides virtual assistant services based in the U.S. They immediately matched me with a highly competent and smart new assistant, also named Sara (Sara Horn, with no ‘h’ though!). Sara also writes, speaks and has a blog. It’s actually a pretty amazing pairing because Sara understands my world well and can help me navigate the dynamics in my world as an author, speaker and leader.

What I didn’t realize is how in-depth eaHELP’s infrastructure and system is designed to support both me and Sara throughout the process. That has proven to be such a bonus as we’ve navigated the first 90 days.

Their help and expertise have been invaluable.

But even with all the support in the world, there are new things to learn and new adjustments to make.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about leadership (and especially about myself) working with my new EA.

new assistant

1. You have to let go of the past to embrace the future

Sometimes you’re really glad to see a team member go. Other times, you’re actually really sad to see the team member step away. The second scenario describes how I felt about losing Sarah Piercy, even for a year.

Even though I was really happy that Sarah and her husband were going to become parents for the first time, I felt a pretty deep sense of loss. Sarah and I had worked together for 7 years and she was fantastic at what she did. Plus, we had a ton of fun working together.

I realize as much as I prepared myself for Sarah’s departure, I actually felt the loss more after she left than before.

That’s natural, but I had to be very careful not to project that on my new assistant (or others).

I actually felt quite a bit of internal resistance to all the changes that were taking place during the first month or two. (The irony was not lost on me since I wrote a book about overcoming opposition to organizational change.)

But I soon saw that not letting go of the past is the first, sad step toward living in the past. And I’ve seen so many leaders do that, to everyone’s detriment.

If you want to embrace the future, you’ve got to let go of the past, no matter how much you may have enjoyed it.

And ironically, once you do, you’ll see how awesome the present is and how good the future can be.

2. Ambiguity is a terrible training manual

One key to an easy transition is to have your systems and methodology written down.

I’ve done a decent job of writing down the mission, vision, strategy and culture of Connexus Church, where I serve.  (I outline how I did that here.)

My new assistant Sara’s main job is not to help me with the church side of my life, but with this blog, with my leadership podcast, with my speaking engagements and the rest of my life. Those things have grown exponentially over the last few years, but I’d never made the time to write down the mission, vision, strategy or even culture I’m trying to embody in those areas.

That makes training someone new much more difficult. Ambiguity is a terrible training manual.

This kind of ambiguity almost always results in a leader telling a new team member what’s wrong, not what’s right. The dialogue can almost end up sounding like this:

No, I don’t think that’s right.

Okay, well let me try it this way, is this better?

No, that’s not it either.

How about this?

Um…not really.

Well, can you help me understand what you’re shooting for?

I’m not 100% sure actually.

Fortunately for me, my new assistant Sara is sharp and we avoided countless rounds and rounds of this.

We actually found a groove on culture, communication and process faster than we might have largely because she is really good at reading between the lines and is highly motivated to get there fast.

But the process has taught me I need to codify as much as I can quickly.

You can’t scale ambiguity.

3. Reasonable expectations are your friend

Like many leaders, I am an optimist.

And so I regularly underestimate how much time things take, how many bumps there will be and I often assume everything that’s unreasonable is reasonable.

In many ways, that’s a strength, but it’s also far healthier to have reasonable expectations and timeframes in place.

Underestimating the challenges in front of you only creates new challenges.

There will be a transition period with any change. And as a leader, you need to make time for it.

If I was guilty of anything in the first 60 days, it was probably that I kept assuming the transition was ending, when in fact, it was perfectly normal to still be in transition.

Ironically, if you plan on a transition, the transition period will end sooner than if you pretend there’s no transition.

4. Relationship managers are a GREAT idea

Usually, when you hire a new person, it’s 100% up to you and them to figure out how to make the relationship ideal.

eaHELP does something unique: they assign a Relationship Manager to assist both you and your assistant to work through all the dynamics of the transition.

The Relationship Manager’s job is to check in, help identify and find solutions for any bumps and challenges that come up as your working relationship develops, and make sure the leader and the assistant succeed. This has proved tremendously helpful to both Sara and me.

And this isn’t an elite package; everyone who uses eaHELP gets one. Brilliant.

I think if more companies and churches did this, you would see far greater success in both team member retention and satisfaction.

eaHELP founder Bryan Miles and I talk about what relationship managers do and cover the story of the rise of eaHELP in Episode 45 of my leadership podcast (an interview which happened long before I became a client. :))

5. Lead yourself, not just the new team member

It’s easy to assume that in a transition, you need to lead the new team member. That’s true. You do.

But it’s easy to forget that you also need to lead yourself.

When you’re in a transition, everything changes. This means you have to change. Your systems, expectations, and even the chemistry is going to be different.

One of the best ways to lead yourself is to set time aside to work on it, not just in it. Most of us run hard enough that there’s not a lot of extra time to think, reflect, and work on the system.

Change that and make the time.

You’ll be glad you did. So will your assistant.

Need An Assistant?

I’ve always said I couldn’t do what I do without a fantastic assistant.

That has become even more apparent to me in the last few months. Man, am I thankful! I realize how valuable a great assistant is, and how helpful it is to be matched up with a highly competent person straight out of the gate.

Whether you’re looking for very part time help  (say 5 or 10 hours a week) or full time help in either the church world or corporate world, I highly recommend eaHELP.

You can learn more here.

What Have You Learned About Leading Team Members ?

What have you learned about on-boarding new team members?

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.

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.


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!

are you actually a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why This Matters (Leadership and Self-Delusion)

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

This falls into two categories:

Leaders who overestimate how well they’re doing.

Leaders who underestimate how well they’re doing.

Both are problematic for different reasons.

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

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

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

3 Easy Ways to Check Your Leadership Effectiveness

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

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

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

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

1. Is anyone following you?

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

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

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

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

So whoís following you? Be honest.

2 Who’s following you?

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

High capacity leaders will attract other high capacity people.

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

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

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

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

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

6 Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Leaders

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

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

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


3. Who are you following?

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

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

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

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

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

On that note, ask yourself:

With whom do I spend the most time personally?

Who’s building into me, personally?

Who’s mentoring me?

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

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

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

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

Know why this is so important?

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

What Questions Would You Ask?

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

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

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