Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dropping bread crumbs to the Kingdom

Mary Ann and I travel...a lot. And we meet a lot of people in the process. One of our favorite things to do is to engage them in conversation whether expats like us or nationals whom we meet. Our goal is to engage them in conversations about Jesus, or just love on them, tip them well and perhaps share some of the books we have written.

Mary Ann describes it as dropping bread crumbs for the kingdom. It may just be a simple conversation or an act of kindness. One of the things we love to do is to show our appreciation for those young men and women who serve us in our hotels. The truth is that they often receive no regard. So we love to go out of our way to show them kindness and appreciation monetarily. Often they make next to nothing and our gift is huge in their economy. They end up as friends on Facebook which transcends international barriers. 

We also ask questions to get their stories. As we do so we realize how blessed we are compared to so many. No one asks about their background or families so we do. We get email addresses so we can write and thank them and often they turn into long term relationships. If we can help them in some way we do. And it is a joy. 

All of us meet people in the course of our days where we can drop crumbs of the Kingdom. It is what Jesus did and it is what we can also do as we join him in His work of bringing His love and appreciation and message to those around us. Never forget how starved people are for genuine love and attention. Just last night Mary Ann and our son Chip stopped to visit with Johann, here in St. Paul who was from Germany. He was clearly hungry for community and love. 

We often do things like loan a car, or caring for a friends yard when he had a stroke. Small things that make a difference. Mary Ann will often bring our dry cleaner a cup of coffee and engage him in conversation. Small things that make a difference. Tonight as I came home from a three week trip, my driver asked what I do. I said among other things that I write books. He asked what kind of books and I said leadership books and one on the ten most important questions people can ask about their lives. He said, "I'd love to read that." I told him that if he would bring the luggage in I would get two books for him. Bread crumbs to the Kingdom. He thanked me profusely.

What crumbs are you dropping?

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

One of the most critical responsibilities of organizational and team leaders that is often neglected

I know it is often neglected because I talk to too many staff in too many organizations who are unhappy in their jobs. Not necessarily in the job itself but in the culture that they work in. Often a culture of non-empowerment, micromanagement, unnecessary rules and regulations that demean and a lack of graciousness, openness on the part of leaders. 

What is one of the most critical responsibilities of organizational and team leaders that is often neglected? It is creating a culture where collegiality is present, empowerment is the norm, work is appreciated, barriers are removed, voices are appreciated and contributions are acknowledged. All too often this is not the case.

I suspect the reason for this neglect is that leaders often are thinking more about their thing than about the organization as a whole. They are more concerned about staff serving them than they are about serving their staff. And with a fair amount of hubris in the Christian world, they think more highly of their contribution than they do of the contribution of their team - who actually make them successful or not. 

Also, there is far less training on basic leadership principles in the Christian world than in the workplace in general. Or, there is more talk about the right things than there is delivery on the right things. I am always bemused by major Christian leaders who put on conferences on leadership but whose own leadership culture is deeply dysfunctional. It happens more often than one would think.

Because leaders lead people one of their primary jobs is to create a work environment and culture that is healthy and life giving rather than dysfunctional and life draining. Want to find out which is true of your organization? Ask some candid questions or engage someone like the Best Christian Workplaces Institute to receive feedback.  Whether we do it formally or informally, if we lead we are responsible for knowing, building and maintaining a healthy workplace. One of the most telling questions is whether your staff would recommend that others come and work where they do. 

One of the most helpful exercises with staff is to ask them what is most important to them in a healthy workplace. They will tell you things like fairness, collegiality, being appreciated, knowing they are listened to, being empowered and so on. Just asking the question opens a very healthy dialogue for improving what you have and making it the best it can be. Interestingly, while people want to be fairly compensated, that is usually not the highest on their agenda. There are far more important things but unless we ask we don't know.

There are no perfect workplaces but there are some that are much more satisfying to work in than others. My goal as a leader is to have the kind of culture where people love to come to work, feel they are doing something deeply important and are appreciated for their contribution. And, where they have the tools to do what they are asked to do. 

Published from Washington D.C.

Many leaders need to redefine their definition of loyalty

It is not uncommon in conversations with leaders and their staff to have the issue of loyalty come up. I have heard many leaders say, "my highest value for staff is that they are loyal." That statement, however it is made begs several questions: loyal to what or whom and what is the operative definition of loyalty?

Whenever I hear leaders talk about loyalty as one of their highest values, yellow flags go up in my mind. For many leaders, loyalty means that staff will agree with them or if not at least not take issue with them. And, that they will follow the party line with others. Disagreement means that the staff member is not loyal and that becomes cause for mistrust in the best case and dismissal in the worst case. This definition usually reflects either narcissism or at least deep insecurity on the part of the leader. 

I actually deeply believe in loyalty but strongly disagree with the definition that many leaders have. First, the best loyalty is to the mission of the organization not simply to an individual. We require our staff to live within the philosophical boundaries of our organization. They include our mission, our guiding principles, our central focus and our culture. These are well known, clearly articulated and critical if we are going to achieve our God given mission. When loyalty is primarily to a central leader rather than to the mission of the organization, what happens when the leader leaves? Healthy leaders build a commitment to the mission rather than to themselves.

This has implications for the ability or lack of ability to have candid and robust dialogue over critical issues. When loyalty is defined as agreement with the leader, any disagreement is seen by him/her as a threat and a sign of disloyalty (a highly dysfunctional view of leadership and loyalty).

On the other hand, when loyalty is to the mission of the organization, candid feedback, robust dialogue and the clash of ideas is highly valued because all are committed to seeing the best for the organization and the mission they together are committed to. Thus one's definition of loyalty has a direct correlation on the ability of staff to speak their minds and be candid in their assessments. When loyalty is defined as agreement with the senior leader it shuts down discussion. When loyalty is defined as a commitment to the organizational mission, it invites discussion.

I once worked for a leader who did not appreciate disagreement of any sort. The result was that most individuals told him what he wanted to hear - to his detriment. There were several of us who simply told him the truth as we saw it and we were called the unholy trio. What he did not understand is that we had the best interests of both himself and the ministry in mind when we were candid. Several times I told him that I was in the wrong place if I could not express my views with him.

I want a loyal staff. I want them to be as passionate and loyal to what God has called us to be and do as I am. It is not a loyalty to me but a shared loyalty to a calling to reach the world with the Gospel. That means that we need the very best thinking and dialogue as to how to achieve that within our non-negotiable framework. Therefore we invite rather than squelch differing opinions. After all it is not about us but about the mission.

Posted from Washington DC

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Church boards who live with their heads in the sand

More frequently than I like I receive calls from a church board member who gives me a litany of issues that are taking place in their church. All too often, as well, when I ask what the board has done about it the answer is "nothing." And they they will often say, "Can you help?"

I love to help churches but it astonishes me that boards often do not address known issues which are hurting their congregations. Let me give you some examples:

  • A loss of staff over time because of a dysfunctional senior leader
  • Toxicity on the staff because of an insecure senior leader
  • A recalcitrant board member who does not allow the group to move forward
  • A spiritual malaise in the church (which usually reflects a spiritual malaise on the board)
  • Lack of clarity for ministry which usually means things don't go anywhere
  • Bad decisions being made by senior leaders and the board does not have the courage to speak out
  • Group think where differing opinions are not allowed or valued
  • The poor treatment or firing of staff who don't agree with a senior leader
  • A gradual but steady decline in attendance
  • Lack of new people coming to Jesus
  • I could list many more
In one case, people have been leaving a church for years because of the loudness of the music and despite the fact that the congregation has multiple services and therefore could address the issues. The leaders have never addressed it and allow the exodus to happen - or tell congregants to stay outside the worship venue until the music is over. Really? It is not only ignoring a real issue but is very disempowering to those who cannot deal with the volume. But evidently they do not have the courage to address an ongoing and real issue.

Here is my challenge to board members - don't allow known issues to go unaddressed. They are elephants and elephants hurt the church. If there is an issue, name it, talk about it and don't pretend it does not exist. It does and it matters. It takes just one board member who has the courage to speak up to at least put the issue on the table. often, once they do, others who are uncomfortable will do the same.

Often when boards do not act on known issues, congregants do: with their giving and their leaving. One might say, "you should not do that." But here is the truth: When congregants cannot get the attention of their leaders (staff or board) because they will not listen you leave them no choice. And they will act. Often by the time the board wakes up to smell the coffee it is too late and ultimately it is the inaction of the board that is responsible for what happened. Most congregants will not fight a battle but they will act personally.

Posted from Panama City, Panama

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Eight reasons many supervisors do such a poor job of leading others

I suspect that many staff would not give their boss or supervisor high marks for their supervisory skills or stewardship. It is true in ministry settings as well as secular settings. I expect that in smaller organizations there might not be as much expertise in this area but poor supervision is found in organizations of all sizes.

Before I share the reasons why I believe this is the case, let me remind you of how I describe good teams as this is the job of supervisors to create. A good team is a group of missionally aligned and healthy individuals working synergistically together under good leadership with accountability for results. When you consider how rare these elements are on teams one has to conclude that there is a problem with the good leadership piece of the equation.

My own work with organizations around these issues has led me to conclude that there are eight principle reasons why leadership and supervision of others is lacking the quality it ought to have. 

First, we often put supervisors in their positions without giving them the training in how to build teams, empower people, lead others and resolve conflict to name just a few of the necessary skills. It is foolish to believe that anyone can take the leadership of others without some kind of training as it is a skill to lead. Moving from being an independent producer to an organizational leader is no easy step and without coaching and mentoring many never make the transition.

Second, there is rarely a specific set of expectations that are given supervisors other than the fact that others now report to them. In my book there are at least ten critical issues that leaders of others must pay attention to but how often is the case that no one has clearly laid out what it means to lead other people?

Third, supervisors often treat the supervisory role they have as a distraction from their own work without realizing that it is the focus of their new work. Leading others is never ancillary, it must be central. In fact, this is one of the expectations that is often never communicated. When supervisors or team leaders treat this as a necessary evil, their staff read it quickly and it does not encourage them.

Fourth, most supervisors or team leaders do not know how to create clarity for those they lead as to what they are going after, what the non-negotiables are and how they will interact with one another. Lack of clarity creates conflict, confusion, lack of common direction and lack of accountability. Yet many supervisors are not taught these important skills.

Fifth, many supervisors do not empower but tend to control. Empowerment within clear boundaries creates health while control without clarity creates disempowerment. Whether because of a lack of training or a controlling nature this deficit creates dysfunctional teams.

Sixth, when team is not central, supervisors do not develop their staff. After all, that takes time and energy and the team is not their highest priority anyway. Any leader who does not develop those they lead is neglecting the leadership stewardship they have. 

Seventh, many supervisors are not held accountable for the quality of their leadership of others. That means that many supervisors have no real incentive to pay attention to building the kinds of teams I mentioned above. Especially in the Christian arena (but not only) where senior leaders don't want to confront substandard work in the name of grace or niceness this situation continues to exist. 

Eight and perhaps at the crux of the whole matter, senior leaders are not themselves committed to leading others with health or taking the time to build the kinds of healthy teams we are talking about. When the example and direction does not come from the very top, it is not going to be a priority for the rest of the organization. Unless seniors leaders care about the issue, it will never become an important issue in the organization.

I know individuals with great talent and potential who are leaving their organizations for all of the reasons above. They have not been led well and they are disillusioned by it and want their lives and energy to count. The organization ultimately loses and I hold their leaders accountable for the loss. Don't let it happen in your ministry or organization. It is a net loss for all.

Posted from Havana, Cuba

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to influence others without telling them what to do or how to do it

Few people like to be told what to do or how they should do it. Leaders often inadvertently discourage their staff by being overly directive. While there are times when a hard or directive conversation must take place it should be a rare thing if one has good staff. The question is, how do we address issues without needing to be overly directive?

The answer is often a simple one. It is to engage them in dialogue and ask questions rather than to make statements. In fact, it is in the dialogue that questions engender that better solutions come about than even we might think should happen. I work very hard to not give direction through telling people what to do but to ask questions that help them come to appropriate solutions. It is not only better received but generally is a more honoring way to communicate.

Asking questions gives us an opportunity to think about how we approach sensitive issues so that those we are interacting with will hear us, lower their defenses and create an environment where we can get at these sensitive issues that need to be addressed. Since every individual is wired differently how we address these issues means that we need to think carefully about our approach.

Asking good questions that cause people to reflect also teaches those we are interacting with to do the same with their staff. Soon you have a culture that is more life giving and people who think more deeply. In fact, when we have to think about the right question to ask on a certain issue we are engaging in much deeper thinking than if we do not.

The bottom line is that asking good questions is almost always more helpful than simply making statements – although there are times when we should address behaviors or decisions head on. Generally, though, questions create dialogue and dialogue gives us an opportunity to come to good solutions and to influence others. 

Posted from Havana Cuba

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The cost and rewards of empowering others

Empowerment by leaders is often ubiquitously poor. The reason is that there is a cost to empowerment and many leaders are unwilling to pay the cost. So any discussion of empowerment must begin by acknowledging that cost. Let me suggest three costs that prevent leaders from empowering others.

First, and this is a big one for leaders. When we empower, things may well not be done the way we would do them. Nor should they as we are not the fount of all wisdom and strategy. God gave gifts to people for a reason. If they are good staff they will figure out how they should do what they do. Empowerment naturally means that we give up a measure of control. Otherwise it is not empowerment.

Second, we are afraid that something will go wrong. If we have good people it is not likely but life is messy. And, unless we give people the opportunity to try and even fail, they will never learn and grow. For me, the best lessons I have learned in leadership was through getting it wrong on occasion. Both Jesus and Paul were willing to let people fail and learn from those failures.

Third, many leaders are controllers rather than empowers. They need to micromanage and insist that others do things they would do it. Jesus does not do that with us and we ought not try to control others. Control is dysfunctional leadership. Setting appropriate boundaries is necessary but control is dysfunctional.

What are the rewards of empowering others?

First, people grow in their skills and responsibility. If I only do what you tell me to do and how to do it I don’t develop my own skills to think, analyze, and lead. Paul was willing to empower leaders where he planted churches knowing that they would mess up on occasion which is why he wrote some of his epistles. In the process those leaders grew in their leadership. We only learn to take responsibility when we are given responsibility.

Second, we develop a leadership and staff bench, sorely needed by most ministries. Need more good staff? It only happens when we find and empower good staff and give them a chance to develop their skills.

Third, it expands our influence. Each of us is limited in what we can personally do. We expand our influence for the Kingdom as we develop, empower and release others in line with their gifting and skills. I for one want to have the greatest influence for Jesus that I can. That means that I need to focus significant time on developing others. As we multiply empowered and skilled staff we directly increase our influence.

I talk to many staff in many ministries who tell me that they are not empowered. Some are given responsibility without the necessary authority. Others are not free to use their creativity to get the job done in ways that may be different from the way their supervisor would do it. In my own experience the best staff eventually leave when they are not empowered in their work. On the other hand, those who are empowered become loyal to the organization because they are able to contribute in meaningful ways.

Posted from Havana Cuba

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Monday, March 23, 2015

We are only as healthy as our secrets

It is not one of the measurements of health that we often consider: We are only as healthy as the secrets we have. In determining our own health we often consider the many good things that we do or the spiritual disciplines that we enter into. But the truth is that our secrets are the very thing that have the potential to do us the greatest harm – and potentially to take us out of the game entirely. Secrets matter and they are the very things that secretly diminish our personal health.

We don’t like to dwell on our secrets but the healthiest thing we can do is to face and acknowledge them. Jeremiah 17 reminds us that our hearts are deceitful and it is that deceit that keeps us from naming and identifying to ourselves those secret places in our lives that are dangerous to us and perhaps the source of our greatest dishealth. The most dangerous thing is to ignore and not acknowledge to ourselves the secret places in our lives that we know to be unhealthy. That is denial of our own realities. Ironically, because our secrets are hidden to others we often try to live with them hidden from ourselves by simply ignoring them.

Having identifying those secrets, it is time to push into them in order to resolve them. Sometimes that means getting the counsel and accountability of others. It may mean changes in our lives that minimize the temptation to go where we know we shouldn't go. It is a deliberate strategy to resolve our secrets in order to develop greater health. Those who do so avoid the pain and dishealth that inevitably comes with secrets.

This is not so much about avoiding pain (although relevant). It is in the final analysis it is our own commitment to emotional, relational and spiritual health. Health is life giving in every way while secrets are life robbing in every way. Jesus came to bring us health and our cooperation with him is essential to getting there. We are only as healthy as our secrets.

Posted from Havana, Cuba

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Your hidden C.V.

All of us have a C.V. many of which are pretty impressive. It includes our degrees, accomplishments, job history, awards and publications. Others if they were to write one would include raising wonderful kids, supervising their education, running the home and any number of of ministry involvements. All good!

Each of us has another kind of C.V. It is a hidden C.V. that would include such things as our inner life, our personal spiritual growth, our commitment to spiritual transformation and areas of life that have become more like Jesus, our paradigm for time with Jesus and the life we live when no one is watching. Of the two C.V.'s this one is far more important because it is is a record of our spiritual growth as well as of our spiritual commitments.

Furthermore the hidden C.V. impacts all of our life because our inner lives spill over into our words, actions, motives, relationships, priorities and decisions. No area of life is exempt from the impact of our inner life with Jesus - or lack of it. 

Take a moment and consider you hidden C.V. from the time that you entered into a relationship with Jesus. Are there things you want to change or modify? There is still time and it is worth the effort. 

Posted from Havana, Cuba

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ten questions we ought to consider regarding the teams we lead

Chances are, if you lead others you also lead a team or teams. You are probably also on a team above you. I've been on a lot of teams over the years and they were not all created equal. Many of those teams were teams in name only. They were a group of people who were called a team but did not operate as a team. And that is the problem with teams: many are not truly teams and don't operate together in a common mission. This creates cynicism and discouragement for staff who want to be working with others toward common objectives.

I define a team as a group of missionally aligned and healthy individuals working synergistically together under good leadership toward common objectives with accountability for results.

The problem with many teams is that they lack one or more of the critical elements above which creates frustration and disempowerment for team members. One unhealthy individual can cause team chaos; without mission alignment people are doing their own thing; when members don't work together they create silos and turf wars; without good leadership there is no cohesion; when common objectives are not present lack focus and without accountability for results you don't evaluate your effectiveness.

All of these scenarios hurt your staff who want their energy and contribution to count. In fact, when teams are not healthy there is often staff fallout. There is certainly a level of cynicism and discouragement. Good leaders build good teams because it is what their staff expect, what the organization needs and what brings satisfaction to those who are on mission together.

What does this mean for me as a leader or supervisor? It means that we need to make the development of the team or teams we lead one of our highest priorities. We must remember that it is not longer about me but about us. We must provide maximum clarity to the team as to what we are about and we need to intentionally craft and nurture the team so that it is the healthiest team possible.

There are ten important questions we ought to think about when we consider the teams we lead:
  1. Are we clear about what we are going after?
  2. Do we have the right people on the team?
  3. How am I developing the team to grow?
  4. Am I keeping the main thing in front of the team at all times?
  5. Do I prepare and conduct meaningful team meetings?
  6. Am I removing barriers for team members?
  7. Does the team have what it needs to be successful?
  8. Do I appropriately engage the team in crucial conversations?
  9. Are team members free to share their views candidly?
  10. Does the team have a plan and are we together accountable for results?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A frank and appropriate prayer from the 17th century that is applicable today

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom--it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end...

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person--some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.

Posted originally by Joni and Friends

Friday, March 13, 2015

Closed ministry systems that are deeply dysfunctional

I spoke recently with a ministry leader who had resigned from his church staff position (a large church) because of the dysfunctional culture that he sensed. Having left the "system" he now realizes that it was a great deal more dysfunctional than he thought and he is so glad to be out of it. When we are in a "closed" system that is dysfunctional or toxic we may sense that not all is right but it is when we get out that we realize how dysfunctional it was. This applies to staff systems as well as whole congregations where there is significant dishealth. Such dysfunction can be part of the historic DNA of the church, a dysfunctional board, a dysfunctional leader or a "church boss" who wields unhealthy power and has a personal agenda.

What are some of the signs of a closed and dysfunctional ministry system?

One: There is great pressure for people to think in similar ways and not to have independent voices. In closed systems, independent opinions that go against the "group think" is a threat and is not valued. Often, independent thinkers in ministries are either labeled as trouble makers or spiritually immature. Certainly it is not safe to disagree significantly.

Two: Questions to the status quo are seen as disloyalty. This is especially true for senior leaders who are insecure and do not like their paradigms or opinions to be questioned. As long as one keeps the party line you are "in." If you ask hard questions you are marginalized.

Three: Candid dialogue is not allowed. Usually it is the senior leader who sets the tone here. In closed systems candid dialogue is a threat rather than a valued part of the culture. The reason is that such dialogue will inevitably challenge the standard line.

Four: In closed systems, senior leaders often protect themselves from accountability or questions. They hide behind a spiritual veil that sounds good but keeps people from getting too close. And they surround themselves with people who will agree with them and those who don't usually don't stay: either because they know how dysfunctional it is or they are marginalized or let go. 

Five: When independent voices appear or when someone steps out of the prevailing culture there is great pressure put on them to get in line and conform to the standard opinions. It is a family system thing and any threat to the prevailing culture brings pressure for conformity. This is why in dysfunctional staff situations and congregations the independent thinkers often leave. They see the system for what it is and know it is not healthy.

Six: The most telling moment for those who get out of such systems is how free they feel once they are out of it. And even though they knew it was not healthy the realize once out how unhealthy it was. Those how leave are also a threat to those who stay who at some level feel that those leaving are not loyal. They have violated the family system.

If any of these characteristics are true of your staff or the ministry you are in consider the possibility that you are caught in a closed and dysfunctional system.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"I’ve loved Addington’s work for years, because it addresses the questions that keep me up at night as a leader."

"Awhile back, T.J. sought input on the manuscript of his now-released Deep Influence to fellow leaders in the EFCA (like me). What follows are some of the gems I gleaned (a combination of direct quotations and personalized applications)." - Jeff Cagwin

See Jeff Cagwin's take aways

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

The expectation trap for leaders

Those who lead inherit expectations from their team or organization. Some of those expectations are critical: Building healthy teams; serving one's staff; removing barriers; clarifying what is important and so on. As I wrote recently all supervisors and leaders have an unwritten contract with those they lead around these key issues.

Then there are what I call false or unrealistic expectations that simply come from history (what the previous leader did), personal preferences (this is what my leader should do) or my personal version of what a leader is and does. This is one of the primary issues pastors face because there are as many expectations of what a pastor should be and do as their are members of the congregation. It is these unrealistic or false expectations that cause issues for leaders unless they are personally clear as to what is important to them.

The expectations of others are a trap because no leader can ever fulfill all the expectations that others have, nor should they. There are simply too many. Leaders must be clear about what is important to them in leading well rather than trying to fulfill the expectations of others. Furthermore those expectations (other than the critical obligations every leader has) are often distractions to good leadership rather than contributors to the mission. 

If we are driven to please others by meeting their expectations we are more concerned that people like us than that we lead well and people respect us. There is a big difference between the two. The best leaders have great conviction as to what their priorities are and it does not include meeting all the expectations of others. 

There is another issue at play. The expectations of others usually come from how they would live or lead. But they are not us. "But our last pastor...." is not an uncommon phrase. Bless them for how they did what they did but we are not them. It is why in our organization while there are some non negotiable expectations of leaders, how they do what they do is highly flexible. Leaders are individuals with their unique gifting, personalities and even quirks (yes we all have them). This is why I write in Deep Influence that we must lead from who God made us to be. 

When we get caught in trying to meet the unrealistic or false expectations of others we inevitably get out of our best lane and it hurts our leadership. Ironically in trying to meet the expectations of others we often end up hurting our staff because we are no longer leading out of who we are or focused on the clarity that we ought to have.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How a life of grace makes humility possible and pride less likely

Pride is ubiquitous among leaders in the Christian world. The interesting thing about pride is that it is often rooted in insecurity. If I am insecure I don't want to be wrong and if I don't want to be wrong I will insist that I am right which leads directly away from humility and straight toward pride. 

But why do we live with needing to hide our insecurities and weaknesses and mask them with certainty and a need to be right? May I suggest that it is because we are trying to prove something about ourselves? That we are good enough? That we are not failures? That we are worthy people? That God will be happy with us? That we are successful? 

Is it possible that at the heart of our pride and fear of failure and therefore a need to be right and in charge is that we do not understand grace? What is grace about other than that God accepts us with all of our sin, weaknesses, dysfunctions, dark sides, and all the rest we can name. And if He accepts us and loves us and if we live in His grace, why do we need to pretend we are something we are not or fear our insecurities? After all, God knows everything about us fully and yet loves us fully. He loved us when we didn't know Him and even then extended grace. 

Understanding God's grace is necessary to give ourselves grace. And if I am living in grace I don't need to pretend, I don't need to be right, I don't need to prove myself to others and I can admit my insecurities, failures and other areas of struggle. And that is the key to a life of humility. Pride is all about a facade to protect ourselves. Understanding grace removes me from the necessity of the facade and allows me to be real - the real me - warts and all. And it allows me to be OK with the journey I am on toward greater likeness to Jesus but knowing it will remain imperfect until I see Him.

I suspect that humility and grace are deeply intertwined and that understanding, living in and extending to ourselves God's grace is a key to the ability to live humbly. Humility is a nothing to prove, nothing to lose attitude where we don't need pretense. It is an honest life. Honest about who we are, the gifts God has given us, the brokenness we have and the journey we are on. I am not sure that true humility is possible without a good understanding of God's grace.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Negative voices are empowered because they talk with one another

Why can a few negative voices make such a difference in an organization? It is really quite simple. People with negativity find each other, talk to one another and create bonds with each other around their unhappiness. Of course others are left out of the conversation but the negative voices reinforce themselves and it feels like they represent the majority. Usually they do not.

These alliances often create significant dysfunction. For instance, a negative staff member of an organization finds a receptive ear with a board member (going around the leader) and they start back channel discussions around their concerns. All of a sudden this board member has "information" (tainted as it may be) but none of the other board members are in on the conversation or can bring balance. The leader is also in an unfair place as he/she does not know where the negativity is coming from.

These alliances reflect poor EQ. We should be able to disagree with one another and stay connected rather than needing to connect over what we don't like. Relationships built on common enemies or "concerns" are not true relationships. They are simply alliances built around an issue. And when the issue is a negative one, the relationship gets it fuel from the negativity, never a healthy fuel.

What is interesting is that those involved often lose their ability to truly see reality. They assume that there are far more people who are in agreement with them than is actually the case. That is because negativity is reinforced by talking to others who agree with their position. Often in church conflicts this is the case. People will tell me that the vast majority of folks agree with them when in reality it is actually a few. But negativity feeds their reality until they don't see accurately.

When I hear common negative language or mistrust I assume that there are folks allied around a common issue. I do not assume that it reflects the majority opinion even though it is loud. These are times when it is important that those who don't agree speak up and not stay silent. Silence contributes to the negativity. Being self defined can change the equation. Don't get caught up with others where the relationship or common interest is a negative one. It is rarely healthy or productive.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Our commitment to speaking truth as leaders and Christ followers

One of the attributes of God is that He is truth incarnate. If you do a search of words like "truth," or "lies" you realize that God's character demands truthfulness from His people. But even more significant are Jesus' statements in the Gospels that Satan is the father of lies. Thus, when we speak truth we emulate the character of God and when we knowingly speak untruth or spin the truth (so that it is no longer truth) we emulate the Evil One. There is no other conclusion.

The lack of truthfulness in our lives or organizations is designed to make us look better than we are or to cover up our own mistakes. It is what Washington does, it is what corporations do it is what happens daily all around us. It is an acceptable practice in many circles. But it should not be acceptable in the lives or organizations that represent Jesus. If we represent Him we must emulate His character and truth is at the heart of who He is.

Spinning the facts to make ourselves look good is so ubiquitous in our society that it pervades many of God's people. I often work with churches where leaders have not only not told the truth to the congregation about issues they were dealing with but actually lied. They would say to protect people. Silence is far better than lying and while one does not have to share all truth, whatever is shared must be true. 

Often we add some truth to falsehoods to make our statements plausible. But as CS Lewis points out in The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia, "By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lies far stronger." 

We have had instances in our own organization where someone was not truthful in their communications. I take these instances very seriously as the leader of ReachGlobal because our integrity is at stake. When we become aware of such issues (thankfully rare) there is literally a "come to Jesus meeting" since such violations go to the core of who He is and who we represent. We either emulate the Father of truth or the father of lies. It is that simple.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Communication silos and integration

It is not uncommon for a leader to have many one on one conversations with members of his/her staff but not to inform others of the contents of those conversations so that they are the only ones who have all the information. FDR was famous for this tactic. What it does is to give the leader the power of information but to leave staff in the dark. It is disempowering to staff and actually a dysfunctional way to lead (FDR notwithstanding).

Whenever any of us have conversations with other staff whether we are the leader or a staff member there must be a question asked at the end of the conversation. Who else needs to know about what we talked about? Often our conversations have implications for others and it is our responsibility to let them know of ideas being considered or decisions made or contemplated - if it will impact them.

Because information is power and because healthy leaders share rather than hoard power, we need to ensure that those who need to know are in on the conversation even if not physically present. Few things silo organizations or individuals more than siloed conversations and decisions. Not everyone needs to know everything but we need to be sensitive to what they do need to know. 

In a flat world this is everyone's responsibility, not simply the leader. I am responsible for sharing the information I have that others need. They have the same responsibility. Don't allow siloed conversations when they have implications for others. Share what you need to share. It builds trust, keeps everyone in the loop and removes unnecessary silos.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Conversation with Hugh Halter on bi-vocational church planting

Interesting conversation today about bi-vocational church planting of small kingdom communities in the United States as a means of multiplying the church, doing evangelism among friends and forming relational communities that are connected. It costs almost nothing, allows those driven for evangelism and ministry to use their gifts and multiplies the church.

This is not the answer for all church planting but it is a lane that needs to be far more visible and honored in the United States. Interestingly this is exactly what we do internationally. The three largest inhibitors to the multiplication of the church globally - including the United States is the belief that you need to have real estate, a building and a full time pastor. Forming Kingdom communities costs almost nothing, releases God's people and is all about relationships. It is similar to what happened in the early church.

We use this approach in the developed and undeveloped world but it is not an honored model in the United States but I predict it is coming. Many young leaders are not interested in the traditional model but are interested in an evangelistically and discipleship model based on relationships, community, releasing everyone in ministry and keeping expenses low. These Kingdom communities can multiply in relationship together and form a larger community.

What gets in the way of seeing this as a viable model in the US? It is our metrics of success which focus on numbers, buildings, budgets and staffing. But often to the exclusion of relationships with unbelievers, evangelism (rather than church transfer) and releasing everyone in ministry within close community. 

Unfortunately in the large church model we often pay people to do ministry rather than open opportunities for the congregants to do significant ministry. Kingdom communities open doors for far more significant ministry for ministry driven professionals and congregants. 

This is not an either or but a both and. Those denominations that open a lane and honor those who plant Kingdom communities will lead those who only use the traditional model where it is not unusual to invest $250,000 in a church plant - many of which fail.

Check out Hugh's book. We do it internationally. Why not domestically?

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.