Prepare to WIN in 2017

At the end of every year, I take some time to look back at the previous year and look forward to the next. It is an exercise that is not uncommon, and I use the time to evaluate and make a plan in several areas of my life. So, in the couple weeks after Christmas and to start the new year, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting and planning. When working with coaching clients, I find that many people are attracted to the thought of doing this, but lack a framework that allows them to safely evaluate. Hence, for many, such an exercise becomes one of comparison, shame and making a commitment to try harder. What I wanted to do in this first blog of the year is give you a simple framework that you can add to or subtract from as is appropriate for the context of your life. It is a great tool to examine yourself spiritually, relationally, physically, financially, professionally, as a parent, or in numerous other areas. The acronym is simple: W. I. N. Click here to get 33 clarifying questions to help you make a discipleship plan. W is a prompt to look at what you did well in the area you are examining. Too often our tendency is to start an examination with where we fell short. My own tendency is to want to press on before celebrating what has been done. Here are a few sample questions: What did I do well in the area being examined? How have I celebrated these milestones? How will what I did well impact...

Make Yourself Available

  The ability to ask open-ended questions and listen with presence is a skill. Good questions have power, not just to garner information, but to change perspective and build influence. Everyone has relationships in which influence must be built and maintained: spouses, children, leaders, teams, students, etc. Questions are a necessary component to growth in all of these areas. All too often, attempts to build influence become prescription. Telling another person what they need or should do without giving them a chance to evaluate or explain. Another mistake is to continually tell people what you need from them. This sends the implicit message that the other person, whether it is spouse, child, employee, or volunteer, is there to serve you. Now you have stolen joy from the relationship and created obligation. Both of these are attempts to build influence that are centered in self and the need to maintain control. Recently, a client was having trouble finding a way to effectively maintain connection with a leader without seemingly like they were meddling. In this situation, the person being led reacted very negatively to feeling like they were being managed. One solution to this problem was to ask a simple question: What do you need from me? With these words you can demonstrate compassion and a desire to serve the other by putting their needs alongside your own. Asking this question communicates your availability without bruising the other’s ego. They may be more likely to ask for help if they know that it is not a sign of weakness to need help. Additionally, this question places ownership for the circumstance or task on the other person’s shoulders, where it...

Five Characteristics of a Healthy Team

Regardless of the context, good leadership is not a lone wolf activity. It takes a team or community of people to lead well. On some level, all people who lead are aware of this, yet there are a variety of factors that inhibit the development of leadership teams. Insecurity is high on that list, as are issues of control and a need for approval from others. Developing quality leadership teams takes intentionality and discipline. Here are five necessary characteristics that I have observed in healthy teams (and missing from unhealthy teams) with whom I have worked. Don’t let familiarity detract from their value to transform your leadership culture, for they are also vetted out by experience. Competence: Of course it goes without saying that we want people who are effective at their facet of the task. What does a particular role require a person to be good at? What determines effectiveness? Character: Leading together is a relational activity. It requires trustworthiness and adherence to standards. When we are exposed and vulnerable it is invaluable to know that we won’t be taken advantage of. What personal goals does the person leading have? How much oversight is required to ensure things get done? How honest does the person evaluate their self? Commitment: It is always hoped that a person has a commitment to more than a paycheck or accolades. But, commitment goes beyond loyalty to a task or vision. What is the commitment to balance? How open to growth and transition is the person? Setting up to lead for the long term. Chemistry: This may be the hardest to ascertain initially. Will you and others enjoy working with this person? Is...

An Unfortunately True Story

A recent conversation with a hurting pastor prompts me to share this story from my experience… Almost a decade ago, I was an associate pastor with a lot of responsibility at a large and very fast growing church, and at the same time my marriage was in a bad place. For my part, I was trying squeeze out of my marital relationship a sense of affirmation and worth. For my wife’s part, she was struggling with issues of trust, responding to masculinity, and a general apathy to the idea of being married. Due to my need to prove my worth, I was working very hard to right the course of the relationship. The lie that I was believing was that if I just tried harder, the results would be different. So I set up opportunities to pray, do Bible studies, go to a conference, and offered to see a counselor. All with no response. I was frustrated, angry, miserable, and feeling rejected. My wife, too, was not in a good place through all this. It is in this context that I reached out to one of the elders at the church in which I served. Because of my people pleaser tendencies, this was a level of vulnerability that was unusual for me. I was desperate. This man was someone I considered a friend, so I told him some of what was going on, how I needed help as a husband, and I also asked if his wife would consider being more intentional in her relationship with my wife to help her process what was going on in her personal...

The Empty Inner Circle

Note: This is a post originally from my writing blog from 2010, when I was coming to understand what an identity in Christ meant. My wife and I were learning what it meant to develop a healthy marriage, one not based on each other’s performance but on our relationship with Christ. At this time I was beginning to discern how God was going to use my experience to help others. ————————————————— One of the things that I think God is directing me toward is working with church staffs. This is probably a long range plan, but I feel like I have learned an amazing amount about leadership and relationship systems that can be of help to those who maybe have not stepped back to examine themselves, their position in the leadership structure, and the stresses they endure and cause. So just one element that I have to offer is a relational systems evaluation. My first question would be for each staff member/leader to tell me about their closest relationships. The quality of our inner circle relationships is a key foundation for successfully enduring the unique rigors of church leadership and pastoring. We need connection. An outlet. Support and comfort. Sadly, by the time all was said and done with regard to the collapse of my world, my inner circle was completely empty and that hastened the fall. Some of the emptying was done for me. My wife and I had no connection. She had distanced herself from me and I had stopped trying. The person in the world that I would want to describe as my best friend, my...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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