Saturday, February 15, 2020

Taking greater charge and responsibility for our lives

Most of us would be far happier and more productive if we decided to take greater charge and responsibility for our lives. 

Why is this? Because to the extent that we do not take charge of our lives - others will! They will fill our lives with obligations, commitments and "opportunities" that can suck the life out of us leaving us drained and unsatisfied.

I believe this is a major reason for low levels of life satisfaction and even depression. And the irony is that we often do it to ourselves. The greater charge we take of our lives - saying yes to the right things and no to the wrong things, the happier we become. 

Those who don't take charge of their lives are usually people who don't have a clearly defined purpose for their lives. If they did, they would steward their lives with greater passion and purpose and not allow others or circumstances to dictate their priorities and time commitments. 

The most successful people you encounter are individuals who steward their lives with great care. They know that every commitment they make has direct implications for other commitments they should or could be making. They know their purpose and act accordingly.

Taking charge of our lives takes place when we

  • Are clear about our purpose in life
  • Are passionate about making a difference in line with our purpose
  • Are willing to say no to obligations and commitments that would take us away from our purpose
  • No longer need to please people over living out our purpose
  • Fill our schedules first with those things that allow us to make a difference
  • Have margin to think, evaluate, get appropriate rest and spend time with friends and family
  • Fill our lives with activities that fill us rather than deplete us
Taking charge of our lives has a rich payoff including a happier and more productive life.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Think about the vocabulary you use in your workplace - and the implications for your culture

I recently worked with an organization to bring greater health to their staff culture. Every evening the last individual to work the front desk makes a list of all the "mistakes" that were made that day. Thus, the next day staff are confronted with their "mistakes" (it is the vocabulary they have been using) and in our conversations it became apparent that this language was highly demotivating, 

The word mistake conjures up failure and those who made the "mistakes" ended up beating themselves up over it. How would you like to come in every day and start your day reviewing your mistakes. Whether intended or not, those responsible feel like they failed and were being blamed - after all, it was "their mistake."

In the course of our conversation it occurred to me that the language being used was hurting people and the staff culture. I suggested that the word "mistake" is full of negative connotations and that there might be a better way to handle issues that come up. We decided to talk about "best practices" (a positive word that we all aspire to) and ban the word "mistake" (a negative word and charged with the concept of blame.

As I think about places I have worked or organizations I have work with I think of the question "Whose fault was it?" when something went wrong. That very question or phrase is laden with negative connotations. What if we were to ask another question: "What happened here?" That is a neutral question that is not focused on blame but on understanding so that whatever happened won't happen again.

The vocabulary we use can often be negative and demotivating. Try to find positive ways to state the same thing so that we life one another up rather than give people a sense of failure.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Two key factors that can predict whether your ministry moves forward or maintains the status quo

There are two key factors that can directly influence whether your ministry moves forward or remains static. These two factors will not be new to you. Nor will anyone argue that they are not important. The real issue is that most leadership teams and boards do not choose to live these two commitments out. To their detriment.

If you want to change the status quo and find meaningful momentum two things are necessary: Time devoted to prayer and time devoted to thinking about the future. Few would argue with this but most do not practice these in a meaningful way.

Prayer is "time exposure to God." That is why prayer changes us - as it reorients our hearts and plans around His has for us. And if the Spirit is our counselor, prayer is that opportune time for Him to give us His wisdom rather than simply asking Him to bless our wisdom. 

Think about the difference of asking Jesus to give us His wisdom versus blessing our wisdom!

The second game changer for boards and leadership teams is not a new idea either. But executing it is less common than it should be. It is that of thinking and planning for the future. Why is it so uncommon? Because managing a current crisis or managing the day to day operations sucks the needed time and energy to focus on the future. What suffers is what could be at the expense of what already is.

What is already is - but what could be will not be realized without an investment of time, energy and careful thought.

This discussion comes out of carefully thinking about questions like the following:

  • Where is God doing something already that we ought to be paying attention to?
  • What opportunities has God put across our path that we can use for His Kingdom purposes?
  • How can we take what we currently do to the next level in order to see more believers and better believers?
  • Is God impressing something new on our hearts that we ought to be considering?
  • How well are we doing on a discipleship pathway?
These and other questions are the kinds of questions we long to grapple with as leaders. The only thing needed is time. 

How does one find the time? By recalibrating meetings around what is most important rather than what looks in the immediate time frame the most urgent. There will always be urgent matters but time lost to think about the future cannot be regained.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Ensuring that your new church board member will help your board, not hurt your board. Nine questions to consider.

Adding a new member to your board is an opportunity to strengthen the governance to your organization. In many instances, however, it does the opposite because the new member has not been vetted well and they bring their own agendas to the board. This is especially true with church boards.

Here are specific questions you want answers to before you bring a new member on your board.

1. Does the prospective board member meet the Biblical qualifications?
While this may seem obvious, it is not! We overlook issues such as divisiveness, ego, lack of humility and even Biblical knowledge, especially when they are people of influence or wealth. Your board documents ought to specify the Biblical qualifications and any board that does not honestly evaluate a candidate against those qualifications is generally in for trouble down the road. 

2. What do you need on the board at this time to strengthen it?
A board full of type A personalities may well need someone who is more mercy oriented. Alternatively a board of nice Godly people who don't have strategic gifts may well need board members who think strategically. 

There have been too many instances in recent days of board members who have allowed ego driven pastors to do things that have caused shipwreck to the church because they did not have the courage or ability to speak truth and hold others accountable. In many of these cases the senior leader has stacked the board with individuals who will do their bidding rather than serve in a governance role in protecting the church.

3. Is the individual thoughtful and discerning?
Thoughtful individuals may not speak a lot but when they do, they often speak from a place of wisdom and discernment. Thoughtful and discerning individuals see below the surface, can identify the real issues at hand, and take a wholistic view of the ministry. They think before they speak, are able to identify key issues and contribute well to healthy solutions. They also ask the hardest questions which causes the board to think at a deeper level.

4. Do they understand how your board works and the ministry philosophy of the church. Are they in sync with that ministry philosophy? This question assumes that the board has done the hard work of determining the rules of engagement for the board, has a defined way that the board does its work and has that information in writing. The same needs to be true of the ministry philosophy of the church. Where these documents don't exist or are not known by board members chaos and conflict will inevitably take place. 

I have seen boards add people to the board who "represent rival philosophies within a church" so all voices are represented. This is foolish thinking as the board will not be able to work in a unified way. If a prospective board member does not agree with the rules of engagement for your board or are not in sync with the ministry philosophy of the church they will hurt you rather than help you.

5. Have they displayed any tendencies toward a critical spirit or divisiveness in their past?
Past performance is a pretty good indicator of future attitudes or actions. Critical spirits and attitudes will hurt your board while gracious individuals will help you - even when they are asking the hard questions. Those who have any history or being divisive may well do the same on the board which will hurt you badly while those who can unify will help your board. 

6. Are they team players who will wrestle well with issues and humbly submit to decisions of the majority?
Board members who are not team players and who will not submit to the decision of the majority end up holding the board hostage. These are signs that their personal agenda supersedes the united agenda of the board which will divide the board, stall its work, create unnecessary conflict which then needs to be resolved and hinder the work of the group. 

7. Are they financially vested in your ministry at a reasonable level?
Yes, before you bring an individual on the board be sure that they are generous with the church personally. Those who are not financially committed are out of sync with God's mandate of generosity and will likely turn out to be critical board members. No one who is not personally generous should serve in church leadership where they are to model a lifestyle that pleases the Lord of the Church. Ignore this at your own peril.

8. Will they abide by your board covenant that spells out how you interact with one another?
Any board that operates without a board covenant does so at its own peril. Further, if you do you have no objective standards by which to judge the behavior of any board member. You want to know that the new board member understands the expectations of board behavior and agrees to it fully. If you don't have such a covenant, I strongly advise you to develop one today.

9. Do you have any reservations about their being added to the board?
If you do, don't put them on the board until those reservations have been satisfied. Too often we overlook concerns in the name of optimism that all will be well. That is foolish and unwise. If you have reservations you may want to talk with the individual and honestly share your reservations. Only when you are satisfied with their answers should you put them on the board.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A no nonsense policy to deal with interpersonal conflict and gossip in the workplace

Few things destroy the health of a team or workplace more than that of triangulation and poor conflict resolution practices. In too many places, rather than resolving interpersonal conflict in a healthy manner, staff make it worse by talking to others about the one they have conflict with, gossiping with their "friends" about another individual which results in alliances being formed against other staff member(s). 

This is made worse when a staff member makes assumptions about another's motives and starts to see them through a negative lens no matter what they do. It is a lose lose proposition for the relationship and the greater team as the fallout spills over to others. 

Unfortunately many workplaces accept this is a part of their culture but they need not do so. 

Recently in working with an otherwise great organization, these issues came to the forefront and were poisoning relationships between good people. The first thing I did was to run a series of reconciliation meetings in line with my blog entitled, The Six Questions to ask in any Reconciliation Process. Not surprisingly what staff members believed to be irreconcilable differences were surprisingly easy to  clear up using this process.

When I asked how each of them had contributed to making the conflict greater, the consistent answers were:

  • I talked to others but not to the one I had an issue with
  • I assumed poor motives of the one I had conflict with
  • I created alliances with those who were my friends against the other individual
We then instituted a new policy with staff. 

We are committed to the highest level of relational health in our organization. The following is our conflict resolution policy.

When there is a conflict or personal issue between staff members it is the responsibility of those who have an issue to speak directly to the staff member with whom they have an issue. 

It is not permissible to talk to other staff members about issues one has with another staff member or to speak negatively about other staff members. This constitutes gossip,causes division, encourages others to take up another's offense and results in greater conflict and ill will. Violation of this policy can be grounds for dismissal.

If resolution is not found in a conversation with the staff member one has an issue with, the only individual it is permissible to speak with about that situation is one's supervisor. The supervisor will seek to find resolution between the two parties. Staff members involved will be expected to abide by the requirements of the supervisor for resolving the presenting issue(s). 

If necessary, the supervisor may choose to bring a higher organizational leader into the conversation to ensure resolution.

We take great pride in a culture that is healthy to work in. This policy is designed to ensure that relational health is maintained, cultivated and issues that may arise resolved in a healthy manner.

Leaders who are proactive in laying out expectations and the consequences of violating those expectations create a much different and much healthier culture than those who do nothing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The eight hurdles to innovation in the church

Most churches that are seeing significant growth and ministry effectiveness are also churches that practice regular innovation. They have a culture of looking for new and better ways of accomplishing their mission and pursue those opportunities regularly.

However, developing a culture of innovation is not as easy as it sounds. There are always significant hurdles to moving from a culture of status quo to a culture of innovation in a church. Obviously those churches who see regular growth have overcome these hurdles but understanding what they are is an important step in overcoming them.

Hurdle One: You have to want a culture of innovation
Do you embrace innovation, seek it and value it? If this is not a value at the leadership level it will not happen. If your leaders operate out of fear (what if something goes wrong? We've never done it before! Someone might object) innovation will not happen. Organizations that see regular innovation do so because they want it to happen and know how it helps them move forward and stay fresh.

Hurdle Two: You must be willing to fail and even celebrate failure
Truth be told, most leaders won't go toward innovation for the simple reason that it may fail. They would rather be safe than suffer the embarrassment of failure. Here is a simple truth: Innovation requires risk. That risk pays off in multiple ways but not all ideas work. Ministries that make innovation a part of their culture know this and will celebrate that people tried a new idea even if it failed. In fact, it is often after the learnings of a few failures that the right solution is found.

Hurdle Three: You must focus on the future rather than the present or past
If one wants to focus on the past or present, innovation is not for you. If your focus is on the future, innovation is the key to that future. Times change, opportunities around you change, generations change and unless we also change we become irrelevant and stale. If you are happy where you are, doing things differently will not be a value. If you live in fear of failure, innovation will not be a value. If you want to reach the next generation or new opportunities, innovation is your friend.

Hurdle Four: You must be willing to push through the naysayers
It is a sad reality that the majority of church leaders (staff and boards) live in fear of those that object when new ideas are suggested. Think about that: The most conservative and change unfriendly folks in your congregation hold the congregation hostage from moving forward because their voices are loud and intimidating and leaders are unwilling to challenge those voices. Lets be candid. New ideas face opposition. We have the choice of allowing naysayers to run our ministries or for us to lead well and push through the opposition. Every good idea that is different will face opposition.

Hurdle Five: You need to we willing to spend money when necessary
Innovation does not mean that it must be expensive but there are times when investments need to be made in order to try new things. If your leadership is unwilling to spend money to try something new you will never have a culture of innovation. No business prospers long term without making investments in R & D and nor do ministries. Such investments are investments in the future success of your ministry. Make no investments and you live with what is and not what could be. 

Hurdle Six. You cannot be too proud to steal good ideas
Cultures of pride say, "I won't do what others are doing, it has to be my idea." Cultures of humility say, "I am willing to learn from others any time I can and keep my "dumb tax" to a minimum. Proud leaders don't value learnings from others but humble leaders do. Learn from others and rip off their ideas. This is not about you but about maximizing the impact of your ministry.

Hurdle Seven. You must have a leader who promotes innovation
If the senior leader does not value innovation and you are an idea person, you may be on the wrong team. A senior leader must champion innovation and new ways of doing things if there is going to be a culture of innovation. Otherwise you are pushing a boulder uphill and it is likely to come back down and flatten you.

Hurdle Eight. The church board must value innovation
It is unfortunate that church boards can be the largest impediment to innovation in the church. I have watched this happen time and time again. This is where the influence and skill of the senior leader is important. Can they convince the board to take the same risk for the future that the staff is willing to take? 

Think about the level of innovation in your church or ministry. Which of these hurdles are keeping you from embracing a culture of innovation and what can you do about it?