Monday, April 29, 2019

Letting go of fear and ego to empower our staff

Truly empowering staff is a difficult thing for many leaders to do and many organizations are far more controlling than they are empowering. While this is often driven by good motives - make sure that things don't go wrong, it is highly demotivating to staff and actually keeps staff from growing and developing. After all, without having to take responsibility and risks one does not grow. Simply following the instructions of another is not a recipe for development.

The root of unempowered cultures is often fear that someone may make a mistake which reflects poorly on the leader - which is about the insecurities of a leader. Or, it is hubris on the leader's part that no one can do it as well as they can. Thus the need to control rather than empower. The point is that lack of empowerment is not about the staff but about the leader. When leaders recognize that this is about them, they are more likely to pay attention to the issue.

In unempowered cultures:
  • People feel controlled
  • Permission is always needed
  • The ideas of staff are often ignored
  • The best staff generally leave
  • The leader is seen as fearful or indecisive
  • Staff don't grow
  • The organization suffers
Leaders who resist empowering staff end up hurting their staff, their organization and themselves. Their fear or ego gets in the way of forward progress. If you want to develop a healthy organization, however, you will overcome both fear and ego and allow your staff appropriate freedom. 

Here are some things to remember as you do so.

1. Recognize that empowering others may well mean that some things will fail. Failure is a good thing because if nothing fails, little is being tried! Breakthroughs come through trying new things or doing things in new ways. The best leaders allow failure and practice autopsy without blame. The best lessons are often learned when something does not work as we wanted it to.

2. Realize that others will do things different than you. We are all wired and gifted differently. The issue is not usually how something gets done but that it gets done. Be OK with different approaches knowing that yours is only one of many.

3. Give freedom within boundaries. If there are specific boundaries you don't want crossed, be clear about them so staff know where they have freedom and where they have limits. All freedom comes with boundaries after all.

4. Be specific about the outcomes you desire rather than the strategy to get there. Strategies can vary but the outcomes need to be clear.

5. Stay connected and guide the process not through telling or micromanagement but through ongoing dialogue that allows the best ideas to emerge. Ask questions rather than telling someone what to do. Sometimes that will mean stepping back and allowing something not to work and allow the staff member to figure it out.

6. Give appropriate feedback in a way that continues to empower and not control. Share your observations and thoughts but resist telling them what to do.

7. Celebrate success and help staff learn from their experience. It may not be perfect but with time and coaching it will get better and better. The more experience your staff have in figuring things out the happier they will be and the better off you and the organization will be. 

Don't allow your fear or ego to get in the way of empowering your staff!

TJ Addington of 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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

How are you doing as a leader or how is your leader doing?

How is your leader doing as a leader? If you are a team member, here is a way of figuring that out. If you are a leader, here is a reminder of what is really important.

Does your leader bring great clarity to what the organization or team is about and how it will get there? That is job one of a leader. Clarity gives direction while ambiguity brings confusion.

Does your leader empower you to accomplish what you are tasked with through your gifts and wiring and without micromanagement? Empowerment values people while disempowerment devalues people.

Does your leader meet with you monthly as a mentor coach in order to remove barriers, help you move the ball forward and understand what you are doing? In doing so, does he/she provide you with honest and helpful feedback?

Does your leader keep his or her commitments and promises on a consistent basis? Good leaders don't ask their team to do what they do not do themselves.

Does your leader lead through their team or treat their team as ancillary to their "real" work? Do you feel that their number one job is to help the team be successful or that they are more concerned about their own work? Good leaders lead through their team.

Does your leader keep the team focused on results rather than activity? Are measurable results a focus of your leader? Do they help you strategize for achieving those results or is evaluation a secondary issue?

Does your leader foster a collegial atmosphere where team members work in concert with one another or are your team members isolated and siloed?

Is your leader open to honest feedback and suggestions or do you find them to be closed or defensive? Are there issues that are off limits for the team to discuss with their leader knowing that those issues are too sensitive to discuss?

If you had a choice today, would you sign up to work for the leader you work for? If yes why? If no why?

TJ Addington of 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

Monday, April 22, 2019

What Harvest Bible Chapel could do to avoid bankruptcy and closure

I believe there is a good chance that Harvest Bible Chapel will suffer bankruptcy and closure unless drastic actions are taken. The current situation within the church is not sustainable. ECFA has not only removed their seal of financial approval but said that they will never reinstate the church given what they have learned. Attendance and giving is in a steep dive. The elders (former and current) have yet to be completely candid. 

The books have not been opened and the information of financial malfeasance is devastating. The movement of funds and excessive pay of James MacDonald cannot be justified. The use of funds for non ministry purposes has been verified - and we may only know the tip of the iceberg. True information as to what is happening internally is not being shared apart from leaks that occur daily. Individuals who have been a part of what looks like a corrupt organization are still employed by the church. Deals are still being made with James according to those in the know. Lawsuits have been initiated to request donations be returned. 

In spite of the above, the church is in the process of looking for a new senior leader. What leader of good character would even consider such a situation where there is a clear lack of transparency and where there have been grievous violations of trust that have not been owned up to and staff who were a part of that system who are still on staff?

Ironically, the webpage for the church states this: "Every weekend we're opening the Bible together and learning from its pages in ways that speak right into our lives. In our services, our ministries, our music - in everything we do at Harvest, our passion and focus are to bring glory through His Son Jesus Christ." Call me cynical but this statement does not square with the above descriptors. 

It is unlikely that the above scenario can exist much longer with a viable church. I am not sure that anything can rescue the church at this point but I believe that it only has a chance if it takes the following action. 

1. The appointment of an outside board of elders for a period of time. Too many people inside the power structure of the church still have a vested interest in secrecy and guarding their turf. Only a board made up of respected Christian leaders from outside the church can bring objectivity and transparency to what seems to be a corrupt ministry. Outsiders who have no agenda other than the good of the church have nothing to guard, nothing to hide and nothing to be afraid of. Until this happens there will be no healing or health.

2. This outside board is the only group who can choose new elders for HBC to choose men who are not part of the current system or have a vested interest in what has transpired. All new elders, if chosen by the current board or their representatives will live under the suspicion of covering up the past - which may well be true. Even if not true they will live under a cloud of suspicion. In addition, no elder who served under the watch of James MacDonald should ever serve as an elder in the church again. If for no other reason than they cannot lead well having been a part of a sick system.

3. All staff who were in senior positions either on the ministerial side or the administrative side must be relieved of their duties. They may or may not have been a part of the problem but the perception will always be there that they were. In addition, many staff knew of the sickness within but remained in their role which lacks integrity on their part. There are key financial people who remain in place who had to know of financial irregularities and yet are there today. 

4. The books need to be opened - completely. Without complete transparency at this point the leadership have no credibility. Only an outside board will be able to do this as there are too many inside the power structure that don't want the books opened as it will reveal their poor leadership. Open the books and let the chips fall where they will.

5. Someone - and I believe that only an outside board can do this - needs to name any illegal, unethical or questionable actions involving James, the leadership and the elders. Repentance comes with an acknowledgement of wrongs committed and only with that acknowledgement can the congregation have a chance of healing.

My prediction? None of these five steps will be taken because there is too much to hide, too much pride and too much need to be in power. It will sadly end in a failed church and even worse mayhem than currently exists. As long as you hide the truth it will likely repeat itself. Bring it to light and it will likely not. Unfortunately the history to this point is to hide and try to control what cannot be controlled and is no longer a secret.  

TJ Addington of 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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

This is what Easter looks like!

There is no better picture of what Easter looks like than the cross that still stands in the rubble of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The cross is empty and triumphant. The rubble of our lives - the reason for His death lies at the foot of the cross as we are relieved of our sin and burdens. Two days before, Satan thought he had triumphed over God only to find out on Easter morning that God had triumphed over him. The empty cross and the empty tomb said it all.

For everyone who feels
like a failure today. Leave that failure in the rubble at the foot of the cross and walk into a new future. Jesus died to free you of your sin. He died to free you of your failure. In that death He took all of our sin and failure on Himself.

Because of the cross, there is no wound He cannot heal, there is no failure He cannot redeem, there is no sorrow He cannot console. There is no burden we cannot give Him. There is no future that needs to be in eternal doubt. There is no path we need to walk alone.

This was a day that the world had never seen. Goodness actually triumphed over evil as it will one day soon. Hope triumphed over despair as it can for each one of us again and again. Life triumphed over death as Christ arose as we will one day from death. On this day the world changed forever.

Celebrate Resurrection Day. It shows the power of God when He triumphed over evil. It gives us hope for our own resurrection and life with God forever. It is a day of celebration and hope.

TJ Addington of 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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday: Things are not always what they appear!

One of the lessons of Good Friday is that what appears to be true is not always true. On this day the cosmic battle between Satan and God culminated in what Satan thought was his greatest victory. That battle had been waged from the time of the fall (Genesis 3:15) where God made it clear that one day Satan would be defeated. But on this  day, Satan knew he had won. The Son of God is on the cross, alone, abandoned even by His Father who didn't seem able to rescue Him. Thirty pieces of silver was all it had taken, the best deal ever in the history of evil.

The disciples knew it was over. Jesus' friends knew it was over. The Jewish authorities knew it was over - their problem solved, a rival gone. Not only that but for those who cared, evil had won over good and righteousness. For the followers of Christ, this was the ultimate sadness. They had expected righteousness to triumph and instead, evil had prevailed. The one who had called Himself the Son of God, dead on a bitter cross. 

Little did they know that what appeared to be the final chapter was only the beginning of a new chapter because out of the jaws of apparent defeat, Christ would not only be resurrected but in that resurrection he sealed the fate of Satan and evil and unrighteousness for all time and made it possible for the created to have a relationship with the creator. Apparent defeat was only the prelude to total victory! 

Not for one moment had the events of Good Friday been out of the control of the heavenly Father even though it looked like the Father had lost all control. He is sovereign and nothing under His control can ever be out of control. The world learned that on Easter Sunday.

Think about your own life for a moment. Where are the areas that seem to be out of control? Where does it feel like evil has won? Where are the apparent areas where you feel defeat, discouragement, sadness or pain? It is easy to see the Good Friday moments in our lives when it is clear that God has not acted and we need His help. It is harder to wait for the resurrection moments when God shows up as He always does and redeems what we thought was unredeemable - often in surprising and unique ways.

Whatever your circumstance you can be sure that Easter is coming and that things are not always what they appear to be. In the end, nothing that is in His control can ever be out of control and God always prevails. Our job is to walk by faith in the Good Friday moments of life when life is hard and hope is scarce, waiting for our Easter to arrive when He shows up and redeems our situation. The fun thing about Easter was that it was such a surprise. Invite Jesus to surprise you in your situation today.

The prophet Isaiah said it well. "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him and by his wounds we are healed. 

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."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Four kinds of boards: Which do you have?

Church and non-profit boards can be divided into four kinds according to how they operate. Unfortunately only one of these board modalities is consistent with good board work. If you have served on a board or currently serve on one, consider these four ways that boards operate and whether your board is operating in an optimal way. Here are the four kinds of boards:

The controlling board
Members of controlling boards see their job as "keeping watch" over their leader to ensure that they don't do anything that they would consider improper. All ministry decisions are required to go to the board for their approval. Often these boards, see their jobs as guarding the status quo and ensuring that there is not too much change. Controlling boards believe that they are the real decisions makers which means that their leader and staff are not empowered to make very many decisions. Essentially there must be agreement by the board before anything happens. I will address the deficits of this board modality later. Thousands of church boards are controlling boards.

The passive board
Passive boards see their job as largely to simply give their leader the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for his/her proposals. In many cases, passive boards are led by leaders who have hand picked their board members for their "cooperation" and often these leaders are intimidating, "forces of nature" and not people you want to disagree with. In many ways, the descriptions of the board at Harvest Bible Chapel. According to former board members it was not possible to contradict their leader without repercussions. The same can be said for the recent board Willow Creek Community Church which was unable to hold their leader accountable or disagree with him in a meaningful way.

The management board
This is a board that sees its job as making decisions that staff ought to be making. They get into the details of the day to day management of the church or organization: hiring staff, pay grades, staff deployment, and all kinds of daily management decisions. In this modality of board work, there is significant confusion between the disciplines of management (day to day details) and governance (the mission, vision, direction and values of the organization). Again, a high percentage of church and non-profit boards operate in this mode. In the process they miss the most important part of board work.

While these kinds of boards are common they are also deficient in important ways. First, these three do not focus on the most important board work which is to define the mission, direction, values, and Big Rocks that the organization needs to pay attention to. Good governance answers three questions: Who are we?; Where are we going?; and How are we going to get there? They define the mission, culture, direction and values of the organization and guard these non negotiable pieces of who they are.

Further each of these three board models have a fatal flaw. Controlling boards handcuff leaders by preventing them from moving forward. Passive boards allow leaders to do as they please without accountability. Management boards focus on the wrong thing: managing the day to day instead of the larger and most important issues. Of course, no board would call themselves by these three names but their behaviors do!

The governance board
This is a board that focuses its efforts on governance or the Big Rocks of the organization and leaves the day to day management to the staff. Governance boards focus on the large issues such as culture, mission, direction and values and are always looking at the future and the opportunities that should be anticipated. For churches, the board must ensure that the five responsibilities of leaders are fulfilled, even though they may not do them personally: Ensuring that the congregation is taught; protected; led well; the spiritual passion kept high and people released into meaningful ministry. Rather than deal with individual issues, a governance board makes policy that can cover other situations as well. Governance boards empower leaders within limits that are clearly defined so that leaders are free to lead.

Good governance boards know what they are responsible for and focus on those things. They know what staff are responsible for and release those issues to them. They spend more time focused on the future than on the present, pray often and seek God's agenda rather than their own. They stay within time limits and operate off of a clear agenda.

TJ Addington of 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