Here are some things I’ve learned about leading people:
There has been a lot written about teams and team work. Yet many companies struggle to have healthy, high functioning teams. Most often that is the result of an unhealthy culture or misguided leadership. There are some fundamental elements of great teams that allow organizations to get things done quickly with excellence.
Teams are only as great as the leader. Leaders that try to control and direct instead of casting vision and empowering tend to have average teams. As a leader don’t get caught up in telling your team what to do. Instead make sure they know their purpose and what the wins are. Establish clear goals or outcomes and then allow your team to figure out how to get there. If you can’t trust your team then you have the wrong team and need to find people you can trust.
As the leader you are there to coach along the way and not get involved in the how. This means encouraging people, redirecting people, refocusing people and backing your team up even if they make some mistakes. Building a great team takes great leadership. If you have a very new team or inexperienced team you may have to spend more time with them and give them some of the how. Getting your teams to great is a process, there is an ideal yet you need to work with reality. Start with yourself as the leader and then your team members. The better you lead the better your team becomes.
The greatest leaders in history are the ones that had a mindset to serve others. There has been a lot written about servant leadership and many today try to practice being a servant leader. But just how practical is that in the real world. When you have to get things done, ship your product or close the sale, how can you serve?
It can be hard when the heat is on to be thinking about serving others. Yet if you want to be great you must learn the fine art of serving others as a leader. Here are just a few things I believe are important in having a servant leader mindset.
Over the past 12 years I’ve been working at NewPointe Community Church is various leadership positions. NewPointe is a multi-site church meaning it is one church in multiple locations. Currently there are four locations and we are working on locations five and six to be launched in 2015. Over the years there has been a lot of change at NewPointe. The strategy has been a constantly moving thing but the vision has always been steady. Our vision is to lead people to realize and reach their full potential in Jesus Christ. With millions of people in Ohio, which is where we are located, we have to keep growing in order to continue reach more people to help them grow spiritually.
Recently I went over some points of emphasis with my staff at the Millersburg Campus. These are areas that all of us as leaders need to pay attention to and constantly be working on. These points lead to a healthy organizational culture and to steady growth. These points are all transferable to any business or organization. These are leadership issues that I have found to be important in building a healthy organization.
10 Points of Emphasis at NewPointe Community Church:
1. First Impressions matter – So remove all distractions and create wow moments of service. You only have one opportunity to make a positive first impression. Make someone’s day and then keep building on that positive first impression.
2. Lasting Impressions matter – So follow-up is essential. Once a person comes to your organization it’s important to connect with them so that they keep coming back – write notes, send emails, texts and calls – meet with as many people as possible – Each touch matters in building relationships. You don’t want to bombard people, but they need to know that you value them as a customer or client.
3. Lead by example – People are watching and listening so make sure your healthy emotionally, physically, mentally and especially spiritually, so that you can be positive and passionate about the vision. Sometimes you need to do things that are not your job, to show people that you are willing to do whatever it takes to move the organization forward.
4. Focus on the individual – Be fully present with people. When you are talking with someone focus on them and not what’s going on around you. Work at listening and not thinking about everything else you need to do or what you are going to say to respond. When you make the person you are talking to feel like they are the most important person in the room they feel valued, heard and cared for.
5. Do for one what you wish you could do for all – You can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. When you come across a person in need and you can help do all you can to help and serve that person. It might be providing a needed piece of equipment to an employee or finding a way to help during a difficult time.
6. Always try to make it better – 1% improvements over time make a big difference. Have a mindset of how can I improve this. Constantly ask for feedback and give people permission to be negative and honest. When you get negative feedback be grateful and don’t get defensive.
7. Be good stewards of all our resources – Pay attention to details and don’t waste resources. This forces you to be creative and responsible. Work within your budget and spend money as if it’s your own, not the organizations.
8. Don’t just care about your team, care for them – When the people around you know you care because of your actions it builds loyalty, healthy community and a positive culture. You care for people by taking the time to listen to them, serve them, follow up quickly if they have questions, be flexible and give them open honest feedback.
9. Be clear when you communicate – Make sure you clarify the win and the expectations and then repeat and follow up. Repetition is important especially when it comes to values, guiding principles and vision. Don’t make people guess at what you mean. Most people appreciate clear direct communication.
10. Keep it simple – Take the complex and make it simple for people. This is hard the bigger you organization gets. You have to be very intentional about keeping things simple and easy. Remove as much red tape as you can. Systems are good but can become too complex if you as the leader don’t keep pushing for simple.
These are things I think about and try to do on an everyday basis as a leader. Leadership means you are out in front and yet walking behind and with your team. Serving the people you lead is vital in leadership.
If your in any kind of leadership position, whether leading your family or a major corporation, you want to be productive and get results. You want to see your family communicate and grow closer together and for your children and spouse to develop and grow. You want your company to be profitable and your employees to succeed. You want to deliver on what you promise.
There is always resistance to getting results or productivity. Every day we wake up and that resistance is there to greet us. Here are some of things we must face everyday and overcome in order to be productive and get results.
So what can we do to overcome these forms of resistance and be productive on a consistence basis?
Everyone can improve in this area of productivity and getting results. Think about one thing that if you finished it would bring great results or move you further along as an individual, family or organization. Now go do it.
I read a great article by Brandon Cox about how to invest in people. I also listened to Daniel Harkavy from Building Champions talk about Investing in People. They both had similar things to say. The bottom line is that if you are a leader, if you have influence with other people around you, then you should be investing in people. As a Christ follower we also need to be investing in people to show them the love of Jesus and introduce them to him.
Brandon Cox gave these 8 simple ways to invest in people:
*Schedule three to five informal meetings per week – coffee, lunch, etc. – with people into whom you want to invest.
*Take potential leaders on trips with you. I’ve heard great leaders talk about the mentoring power of never traveling alone. My Worship Pastor calls it “windshield time.”
*If you’re a Pastor, take a partner as you do pastoral care – hospital visits, etc. Just the time in the car on the way is a great opportunity.
*Buy and send books to leaders. I’ve received and given books that have shaped who I am.
*Check in with a phone call. Have a list of potential leaders into whom you’re pouring, and randomly call them once a month or so.
*Convene conversations. Gather leaders who aspire to be involved in the things you’ve spent your life doing and let them connect with each other.
*Listen. Pouring into leaders doesn’t mean doing all the talking. It often means lending an ear in a tough moment.
*Connect leaders to other leaders. It’s powerful when we say, “here’s a friend of mine you need to connect with.”
You can adapt these ideas to your situation, but to invest in people you must be pro-active. You have to take the initiative and put things on your calendar, make the phone call, write the note, schedule the trip, buy the book. You can invest in your children, your spouse, your friends at work or the neighbor next door by doing some of these things.
Whether you are a leader in the business world, non-profit world or church world, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ you have three main roles. These roles are each important, but you can’t be effective as a leader unless you are doing all three.
The three roles I am talking about are Shepherding, Equipping and Developing. First lets look at shepherding. This may not be a term you use much in the business world but it is a great description of a leader that cares for the people he is leading. You see a shepherd is responsible for the flock of sheep entrusted to him. He knows each sheep and makes sure they have what they need and pay attention when one gets hurt. He leads them to where they need to go and develops a trusting relationship with the sheep.
So what does that look like in today’s world. Here are some things a leader can do to shepherd his team:
Another important role of a leader is to equip the people on their team. Here are some thoughts on equipping people:
The last role is that of development. This is the hardest of the three roles because it takes the most time. However, this is the most powerful role a leader has and brings the biggest results in the long run.
These roles are all vital and you will have to play each role every day based on personal and work situations. At times you will need to shepherd and care for even your most talented people. It takes some time and practice to be able to switch gears based on the situation and the person, but the results will be worth it.
One of the keys to effective leadership is to empower the people that you lead. In a growing organization empowerment is a must, otherwise the leader becomes a bottleneck or a barrier within the organization. If the leader continues to block people instead build people, the people, especially the leaders will begin to leave. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to learn to empower people instead of trying to control people. I love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt “the best executive is one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Empowering people is hard work, it takes a lot of self-restraint to not get involved with things when people want to do things a little different than what you would do.
Leaders that empower are able to lift people up. They work hard to add value to people and develop people and then empower them to do what they are asked to do. This is a skill set that can take some time to develop, but if you can do this well you will grow your organization in a healthy way. So how do you empower people?
So who do you need to empower? Who do you need to believe the best about? What is your plan to grow yourself? Do you have a plan to develop others? Who do you need to spend more time with? What can you give away? Are you clear about what you want to accomplish as an organization?
I work on the staff of a multi-site church. We have three locations and will soon have a fourth. One of the big challenges in any growing organization is people development. In the non-profit and church world we often talk about recruitment and finding the right people and adding them to our ministry teams. Many of our staff have been asking for help in recruiting better. This is vital as you have more people attending the church, that means more children and teenagers and adults to lead. That takes a lot of volunteers to do it well.
I think that trying to be a better recruiter is the wrong mindset or perspective. As I think back on my last 10 years in ministry I don’t think I would call myself a good recruiter. If that is your mentality, you tend to focus on what people can do for you and help serve in your ministry. Every person you meet you are evaluating to determine if they could be a good fit in your area of ministry. People sense that pretty quickly and are often turned off by that.
The right mindset or perspective is to think about people development. In order to attract people to your ministry there needs to be several things in place:
More people will join your team because they like you than any other reason. Knowing this is huge, because if you are not likeable or approachable it will be difficult to attract people around you. If that is a struggle for you find some resources that can coach you on being likeable. A great book on that topic is “The Likeability Factor” by Tim Sanders. You also need to make sure that your ministry or organization is organized and well run, because people will get very frustrated if you are flying by the seat of your pants. That may feel exciting to you, but you will lose a lot of volunteers if you don’t pay attention to details and strategy or if you don’t execute well. Part of that is allowing gifted volunteers to lead you in areas you are weak. That takes humility, but it can make a huge difference in the people you attract.
Problem solving is a key skill to develop if you want to be a good leader. Solving problems will get you noticed and give you influence. Of course solving problems can be both positive and negative.
In the book of Genesis the story of Abraham and Sarah gives us a good example of trying to solve a problem on your own. Sarah could not have children and was getting older. God had promised them they would have many offspring and a nation would grow from them. Sarah was impatient, and who can blame her as she waited for over a decade and no child. Sarah decided to solve the problem on her own and convinced her husband to sleep with her servant Hagar in order to have a child. It worked and Hagar got pregnant and had a son. However this caused a lot of conflict in the household between Sarah and Hagar and Sarah ended up kicking Hagar and her son out.
This story illustrates what happens when you try to work independently of God. Here are some mistakes that Sarah and many others make in solving problems:
So what are some characteristics of a good problem solver?
- They anticipate problems – When you can see a problem coming and prevent it before it happens that is great leadership
- They accept the truth – You face reality and are honest with yourself and others
- They see the bigger picture – You must understand where you are trying to go and what the vision is before solving problems. This is about perspective
- They handle one thing at a time – This is all about focus and not getting distracted from dealing with the issue at hand
- They don’t give up when they are down – Things will not always go according to plans and that is when persistence and patience come into play.
So when you face a problem, how do you react? Do you ignore it and hope it goes away? Do you feel paralyzed or powerless? Solving problems well comes from evaluated experience, learning from failures and overcoming mistakes. It also comes from wise counsel with other people and staying connected with God who gives wisdom when we ask. Here are a few things you can do to improve your problem-solving skills:
- Look for trouble – Don’t avoid problems, but pursue them. This takes both persistence and patience and a willingness to face messy things and speak the truth in love. It means talking openly about the issues no one else wants to face. This takes courage and confidence, but must be done with humility.
- Develop a method – Systems are the best way to solve problems. Take time to discover the real issues. Usually the things we notice are just surface issues or emotions. You need to dig in order to find the root issues. Find out what other people have done in similar situations. Study the options that come out of your research and then prioritize solutions and try one.
- Surround yourself with problem solvers – This means finding people that are good at areas you are weak. Diverse thinking usually leads to more creative solutions. Seeking wise counsel is always a good idea when trying to solve problems. You should have people in your life that you can go to when you need help solving certain types of problems. For example when you are having problems in your marriage you need to find someone that can mentor you in that area. When you are having problem financially you find someone that can give you wise counsel in that area.
Take the initiative to solve problems. Ask God to give you wisdom, patience, discernment and the right people to help you solve the problems you face.