Wednesday, January 16, 2019

8 responses to change: Understanding who will help you and who will hurt you

Many are familiar with the bell curve that describes how people respond to change: innovators; early adapters; middle adapters; late adapters and laggards. In my experience in the change process I have another set of suggested categories to watch for. Where individuals are on this continuum from change resistors to evangelists for change makes a great difference when you are considering them for leadership positions either on staff or a board.

Resisters. Like the laggards on the bell curve, these are people who will actively resist change because they are simply wired that way. This is the individual who told me, "T.J., you can bring whatever change you want to the organization but don't expect me to do anything different." No rationale is going to change the mind of a resister.

Protectors. The protector is also highly resistant to change but for another reason. They believe in the status quo, the way things have been done in the past and they will actively try to protect "what is," rather than embrace "what could be." This was the individual who told me and many others that the changes I was bringing to ReachGlobal would destroy the mission. 

Cynics. This group is simply cynical about change unless the proposed change is their idea. They tend to view change as "the flavor of the month" and are often vocal about their opinion. Cynics generally don't trust leaders so proposals brought by leaders are quickly discounted.

Loyal followers. These individuals have a deep commitment to the organization and team. They accept change if there is a good rationale for it. These are staff who say, "Just tell me which direction we are going and I will go with you." 

Idealists. This is an interesting group with an upside and a downside when it comes to change. When creating change one inevitably creates a gap between what is and what should be. Idealists are highly impatient to get to what should be and believe that we should be there now. On the up side, they want the change. On the down side they can become highly critical that we have not arrived. Thus on any day they can be either an ally or a critic.

Realists. This group is supportive of change, realizes that it will take time and process and is generally comfortable with that process. They are helpful in realistically figuring out how to get there and can live with the tension of what is and what should be.

Change agents. These individuals not only support proposed changes but will be active agents in helping the organization get there. They are your front lines in speaking a new language, setting a new course and helping redesign philosophy and strategy.

Evangelists. These are the champions of change who publicly and privately live the change out, help others understand and get there and advocate for the new direction.

In my experience it is the realists, change agents and evangelists who will help drive change while the resisters, protectors and cynics will actively undermine change. Loyal followers and idealists will go with you but will not drive change. 

Think about the implications of these eight ways that people respond to change in terms of who you hire, who you put into leadership and who you ask to serve on a board. One church leader, after hearing these descriptions aptly commented, "no wonder so many boards are stuck." He is right. Resisters, protectors and cynics must be managed but beware of allowing them into positions of leadership and influence! 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence"

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Confusing, outdated, unclear and vague church governance systems

Many churches are long overdue to change their governance systems, but I am still surprised to read many church constitutions that make real leadership very difficult. Church leaders who would never structure their business the way their church structures leadership are seemingly OK with the fact that it is almost impossible to do any kind of leadership within their governance system.

Yes, churches are not businesses. They are far more important that a business because eternal lives are at stake. Yet we continue to hamper leadership that would help the church to be more effective. Here are some common governance issues that congregations still allow to hamper their leadership.

Keep the leadership from controlling the budget

In what other arena would you find a system where those who are charged with the direction and effectiveness of the ministry (elder, Deacons or whatever the group is called in your polity), must go to another board (often trustees) to designate funds toward ministry initiatives. One board is charged with the effectiveness of the church ministry and its direction and the other board holds the dollars to carry it out hostage.

Such systems are absolute foolishness from a leadership perspective, yet they continue to exist. Every decision the first board makes must then be negotiated and made by a second board when it involves funds. And a board that is not vested with the direction of the ministry can determine whether they release the funds or not. In the best scenario this is a waste of time and energy. In the worst scenario, it sets up conflict between the two boards.

Multiple boards and multiple authorities

When you give a group the designation of “board” you give them implied authority. So, when you have multiple boards such as elders, deacons and trustees you have multiple groups with implied authority. Of course, this raises the question as to who is ultimately responsible for church leadership. When no one is in charge, everyone is in charge!

It is these kinds of structures that cause the best leaders to stay out of church leadership. They cannot lead and when they do, it is a very frustrating experience. And because no one desires to give up their power it is hard to change. In both scenarios, the power issue keeps people from making needed changes. We would not admit it, but it is true! And again, key decisions must be negotiated with multiple groups.

Confusing, overlapping and vague authority

Reading many church constitutions is a laborious activity because they are often full of confusing, overlapping and vague authority that makes it impossible to interpret who is responsible for what. Good governance documents should be simple, clear and designate lines of authority with precision. When this is not the case, the authors (well intentioned I am sure) set the congregation up for conflict and endless discussion.

If it is not simple, clear and delineate clear lines of authority it is a poor governance document and should be revised. Yet we resist revision because “you cannot change the bylaws.” Actually, you can since the bylaws serve the mission of the church rather than the church serving the bylaws. And you should.

What many don’t realize is that these kinds of poor governance structures keep leaders from leading and the church from moving forward. If you like the status quo this is a great strategy. If you care that the church is effective it is a terrible strategy. Often it takes the courage and diplomacy of a true leader to help others realize that their structures need to change if they want to be effective.

Let’s call poor governance systems for what they are and revise them for the sake of the gospel. 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence"