Coaching

Leadership Nuggets

gold-nugget

Here are some things I’ve learned about leading people:

  • When people feel like you listen to them they work harder and perform better
  • It’s important to admit when you made a mistake or handled something wrong – be open about it and say it outloud
  • It’s good to change your mind if there is a better idea proposed
  • Ask for feedback and give people permission to be critical of you, the strategies and the ideas
  • Only ask for input from your team if your willing to change what your asking about, if you have already made up your mind it demotivates people to give input and then you just do what you want anyway.
  • Explain the why of your decisions and your strategies
  • It’s OK to have a bad day – if your always happy and positive you don’t comes across as genuine and real.
  • You have to be flexible; with your strategies, your work schedule, your timelines, your budget
  • People follow leaders that are humble yet persistent
  • If you think you know it all you’re not a leader your a dictator
  • Most people want to grow and get better – believe the best about the people you lead
  • Never stop developing yourself, read, learn from others, take risks and learn from failure
  • Write down your goals and share them with your team ask the people you lead to do the same
  • Keep reminding the people you lead what the main targets are and celebrate the wins
  • Be real and vulnerable with your team
  • Empower people and let them do their job
  • Stay connected to your team, meet with them on a regular basis to listen, coach, encourage and re-direct if needed
  • Communicate a lot – when you get information think about who needs to know this and tell them right away
  • Be direct and honest
  • Don’t lead everyone the same way, each person is unique and you need to know what motivates them and what encourages them and what deflates them
  • Love the people you lead – you don’t have to be best friends but you do need to care about them
  • Give feedback as quickly as possible don’t wait for the annual review to talk about things to improve
  • Take personal responsibility and don’t blame others
  • Hire people with good character, people skills and a desire to grow
  • Fire people that can’t get along with people and think they know it all
  • Make decisions and don’t be wishy washy – once you have the input you need make the call
  • Always be thinking about what obstacles might be ahead and how to avoid them
  • Share information quickly and often
  • Be yourself, don’t pretend
  • Pray a lot

5 Elements of a Great Team

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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.

  1. A Sense of Purpose – The great teams I’ve observed and served on have had a sense of purpose, they all knew where they were headed.  That sense of purpose allowed the team to want to be great not just average.  The first step in building a great team is to make sure everyone knows the big picture purpose of what they are trying to accomplish.  Does everyone know what a win looks like and are they celebrating the right things and changing the wrong things?
  2. Empowered – Great teams are given the ability to do their jobs and the decision making power to get things done.  They don’t have to check with the boss before every decision, because the boss trusts them and has given them their purpose and goals.  When a team is empowered and trusted great things can happen very quickly.  When they are told what to do and how to do it they tend to move slow and become average and apprehensive.
  3. Humble – Great teams might have superstars on the team but everyone knows the team is more important than any individual.  People are willing to defer to others if they have more experience and knowledge.  They also learn how to push back on ideas without attacking individuals.  The team is always trying to find the best and so everyone is open to feedback and evaluate everything together.
  4. Transparent & Honest – Great teams talk to each other and are honest with each other.  If they are on the same page as far as purpose and are clear on the objectives they can push each other and hold each other accountable.  This can only happen if they are also humble and trust each other.
  5. Cross functional and diverse – The great teams have different personalities, skills and strengths.  Team members know what each others strengths and skills are and allow people to work in their area of strength.  Great teams communicate about who should be involved in certain projects based on their skill and strengths and not on politics.  Team members understand what others are doing on the team and therefore can help each other if needed.

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.

Lead On

Seven Servant Leadership Principles

 

Leadership_ToLeadIsToServe

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.

  1. Keep Growing – If you want to serve the people you lead and the business or organization you work at, then grow.  If you become a lid for the organization then you are not serving anyone well.  To me this means that you are reading and studying your area of business.  It means that you are talking to others that are doing it better than you and learning as much as possible about how to improve yourself as a leader and whatever product or service you offer.  The bottom line is that servant leaders are constantly growing and changing and improving.  The more you grow the more you can pour into the people around you.
  2. Have a Vision – You have to know where you are going and be able to articulate that to your team on a regular basis.  A servant leader is constantly reminding everyone about why we are doing what we are doing.  Where we are heading and what the win is every day.  Casting vision is vital to being a servant leader.
  3. Think Strategically – A servant leader must be thinking ahead and planning.  One of the best ways you can serve people is by being well prepared and by thinking of things that could wrong before they go wrong.  This involves analyzing what is working well, what is not working well, what is missing and what is confusing.  Going through that process with your team will help bring clarity to the work being done.
  4. Collaborate – Servant leaders realize they don’t have all the answers, so they will involve the people around them in the decision making process.  They will ask what other people think and be open to new ideas and suggestions.  They allow other people that know more about the situation to make decisions and then back them up.  Servant leaders are also very open about what is happening and what is coming, they don’t keep secrets from their team.
  5. Empower People – This is one of the most powerful principles of servant leadership.  It’s developing people and then allowing them to do their jobs.  Servant leaders do not micro manage unless a person needs that extra attention.  Empowering a person is trusting them to make decisions, without having to always check with you first.  This can feel risky at times, but it builds your team and develops leaders.  People learn from mistakes and it allows you to coach your team along the way.
  6. Hold People Accountable – This is another important servant leadership principle.  When you are leading someone it’s important to be clear about what the expectations are and what results you want.  It needs to be in writing and you need to talk about it on a regular basis.  Setting goals and objectives with your team and then asking for regular updates on the progress is a great way to serve your people.  When someone is not hitting the goals or meeting expectations you serve them by having honest conversations with them and telling them the truth and coaching them on how to get back on track.
  7. Care About Others – Finally the people you lead need to know that you actually care about them.  That they are more than just an employee that is getting results.  This means you have to get to know your team.  Find out about their family and personal lives and ask them how they are doing.  It means taking time to have conversations with them and carve out time to have fun together as a team.  If your all business all the time you won’t connect with your team and your not serving them well.  When you take time for people especially when they are going through a crisis it’s a game changer – People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Lead On

10 Points of Emphasis

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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.

Getting Results

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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.

  • Procrastination – we can over-analyzing things, and talking ourselves out of doing something. We convince ourselves that we will do it later.
  • Interruptions – every day we have distractions.  Things that are urgent, things that pop up, people that pop in and bunny trails we pursue.
  • Stress – The higher the level of stress the harder it is to function, make decisions and get results.  Stress limits our thinking and allows emotions to overcome us.
  • Multitasking – No one can actually multitask.  Some people are better at jumping from one thing to another, but when you do that, you are distracted and end up not doing either thing well.  You also don’t tend to finish things.
  • Blaming Others – When you start blaming other people it shifts the focus onto things you cannot control.  It also distracts you from seeing how you contributed to the problem or allowed it to happen.
  • Fear – fear can stop us in our tracks and feeds all of the things I mentioned above. Fear of failure, rejection, being misunderstood, not being good enough – those are just a few of the fears that greet us daily.

So what can we do to overcome these forms of resistance and be productive on a consistence basis?

  1. Commit to Excellence – whatever you do, do it the best you can.  This is not perfection but doing it right and not cutting corners. When you do it right the first time, you don’t have to go back and do it over later.
  2. Plan – This is probably the most important step.  Putting a plan together with clear, specific goals and timelines will help get results.
  3. Focus – People that have the ability to block out all the resistance and distractions and focus for an hour at a time on a project get great results.  To keep that focus, take frequent breaks and refresh your mind, then come back to the project.
  4. Do the Hard thing first – If your facing a difficult conversation, complicated problem or hard task, tackle it right away.  The faster you accomplish that hard thing, the more productive you will be the rest of the day.
  5. Stick with it – people that get results have the ability to hang in there and keep at it until it’s finished.  It’s having the tenacity to work through all the obstacles and keep focused on the bigger picture.  It’s showing up every day and doing what needs to be done.

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.

How to Invest in People

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.

Lead On

The Three Main Roles Of A Leader

 

 

 

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:

  • Care – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Guide – In this role you will need to guide people in the direction you want them to go. Sometimes a gentle nudge or sometimes a more direct push.  This can get messy as people are messy.  It’s knowing when to nudge and when to push.
  • Pay attention to immediate needs – If one of your team is having a personal crisis be sure to pay attention and listen to see how you can help them through it.  It can also be simply making sure your team members have what they need to get their work done.
  • Need-oriented – When you are in shepherding mode you are making sure that basic needs are being taken care of and that vital resources are made available.
  • Listen – Take time to get to know the people you lead.  Listen, ask questions about their family and show them you are concerned.
  • Listen some more – This is all about establishing trust with your team.  When you take the time to get to know them personally people start to trust you more
  • Be vulnerable – this takes courage as a leader, but your team needs to know you and what is going on in your life as well.  If you are real with them, they will be real with you.

Another important role of a leader is to equip the people on their team.  Here are some thoughts on equipping people:

  • Training – this is about making sure they are learning the skills needed to do the job.
  • Direct – In this role you will need to tell people what to do.  You will need to give them their objectives and maybe even help with the strategies on how to accomplish the objectives.
  • Task focused – to equip someone you need to assign some tasks to them to see how they handle it.  This is a great way to test them to see what their capacity is.
  • Skill-oriented – In this role the leader is focusing on skill sets that are needed to be effective in their area of work.
  • Coaching – this is when you are working on fundamentals and keep bringing them back to those basics that make a difference.  Explaining the why behind what we are doing.
  • Instruction – often the leader is in teaching mode or is making sure that someone on the team is teaching the others how to do something.
  • Demonstration – The leader needs to model what he wants done.
  • Experience – Here you need to allow people some room to grow, stretch and make mistakes.  Then evaluate those experiences with them to make sure they are learning from that experience.
  • Assessment – You need to debrief often with people so that they are clear on the objectives and expectations you have.  This should be done one-on-one and in teams.

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.

  • Training for personal growth – Here your time with them has a different focus, it’s more on their personal growth and having a plan for them in that area.
  • Influence – In this role you are more a presence and the people you lead will set their own objectives and strategies with your oversight.  They will take initiative on their own and you are more their cheerleader.
  • Personal Focus – You should have a plan for each team member based on where they are at in  their development.
  • Character-oriented – Here is where you dig a little deeper and talk about character qualities and work on developing stronger character and healthier relationships
  • Few – You usually can’t do this with everyone on your team.  This should be your high potentials.
  • Empowering – Here is when you can allow them to lead and get out of their way
  • Mentoring – Your role is more of a mentor, sharing your life experience with them and answering the questions they have.

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.

Secure Leaders Empower People

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?

  • Believe the best about your people – This can be the hardest part if you are naturally skeptical about people.  If you find it hard to believe the best about people you might need to deal with your own insecurities and past hurts in order to move forward as a leader.  Sure there have been people that have let you down and hurt you, but that does not mean that the next person will do that.  It all starts with trusting that the people you are leading have huge potential.
  • By believing in people you build their self-esteem – The greatest leaders draw out the best in the people they lead.  Many times the people you are leading don’t realize what they are capable of doing.  As the leader it is your responsibility to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team and place people where they can use their strengths on a regular basis.  Once they are in that right place you can empower them by giving them authority to make decisions without having to always check in with you.
  • Keep growing yourself – A leader that is not growing will not empower others. The more you grow the more you can give away. Personal growth helps you to become more secure as as a leader and allows you to be able to invest more in the people you lead. Leaders that are teachable and humble realize they don’t know it all and are willing to allow others to contribute to the team.
  • Endorse people in public – To empower people it is necessary for others to know that you are endorsing them and believe in them. Give them praise in public and let others know that they have authority. Bring to light their strengths and acknowledge their contribution to the team. When they make mistakes talk to them in private and coach them to learn and improve.
  • Invest in people – What I mean by that is you must do more than believe in someone in order to empower them. You need to take steps to help them become the leaders they have the potential to be. This requires your energy and time. Spend time pouring what you know into them and by learning about what makes them tick.  This can be done one-on-one and in groups. I often do book studies with people that have potential. I also meet with people one-on-one to get to know them and to let them get to know me. Another way I invest in people is by giving them tests.  I give them a project to work on and see how they do with it.  As I get to know the person I can quickly determine if they are in the right place on the team and how much I can trust them. The more potential someone has, the more time I give them, not micro-managing them, but listening, encouraging and coaching them.
  • Lastly, be clear – It is vital that the people you empower know the outcome you are looking for.  The method they use may be different that you would take, but the outcome is what you are concerned with. Establishing clear Key Results Areas or Objectives is vital to healthy empowerment. It means putting it in writing and then reviewing it with them along the way. If you take the time upfront to establish clear direction and objectives it empowers the person to focus on what is important.

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?

Don’t Recruit, Develop

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:

  • First it starts with your own personal development – If you are not growing, you will not be able to attract and develop other people.  In order to grow, you must have a plan.  I like to use a Life Plan model that I discovered in the book “Becoming A Coaching Leaderby Daniel Harkavy.  This plan looks at all the important areas of your life and helps you develop a set of goals in each area and then helps you take action on those goals.  Michael Hyatt has a great article and resources on his website about this Life Plan system, check it out here – Life Plan

 

  • Second, you need to identify your inner circle – This is the group of people that get the vision and mission of your ministry and are actively involved.  This could be key leader’s or people that have influence and are willing to tell you the truth.  This is the group of people you should meet with regularly and invest in.  Do a book study with them, ask them questions and involve them in your decision making process.  These are the people that will attract and invite others to join them in the vision and ministry.

 

  • Third, you need to regularly meet with people one-on-one – I first learned this in the business world.  I worked as a banker early in my career and learned quickly that people will do business with me and even pay a little more interest or higher fees if they like me and feel that I am serving them well.  I would take people to lunch, golfing etc and get to know them and their families.  I would meet them at their business or home to make it more convenient for them.  Now when I meet with people one-on-one I don’t go in with the mindset of getting them to volunteer, its more to get to know them and let them get to know me.  I have the mindset of how can I serve this person and help them grow.

 

  • Fourth, you need to be willing to ask – Depending on how my meetings go with people I ask them to consider serving, giving or joining.  I don’t do this too early in the relationship, however I will mention things that I think they would be good at based on what they talk about.  Once I have built a rapport with someone I am not afraid to make a big ask and challenge someone, but only when I have change in my pocket with them.

 

  • Fifth, Don’t get discouraged when people are not ready – Some people are not ready to make a commitment.  People have been burned before or are over committed and need to say no to some other things before they can say yes to you.  Keep meeting with them and investing in them, even if they are unwilling to commit.  If you think long-term you will end up with some great leader’s.  The best leader’s are often reluctant to jump right in.

 

  • Lastly, when someone joins your team know how to lead them – Some people need lots of attention and coaching.  Others need little supervision and just occasional encouragement.  Leader’s, though want to be able to make decisions and be a part of the process.  Knowing how to lead each person is vital to their growth and level of commitment.  You cannot lead everyone the same way.

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 Factorby 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.

Lead On

 

Problem Solving Do’s & Don’ts

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:

    • Believing that God is inattentive, absent or even against you.
    • Allowing your circumstance to determine your understanding of God’s character
    • Having a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset
    • Becoming self-seeking or self-focused which leads to manipulation to get your way
    • Feeling inadequate and insecure, fears that cause you to react in unhealthy ways
    • Resent the success of others and angrily turn on them
    • Blame others for the situation or problem
    • Conclude that you need to control the situation or fix the situation instead of waiting on God

So what are some characteristics of a good problem solver?

  1. They anticipate problems – When you can see a problem coming and prevent it before it happens that is great leadership
  2. They accept the truth – You face reality and are honest with yourself and others
  3. 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
  4. They handle one thing at a time – This is all about focus and not getting distracted from dealing with the issue at hand
  5. 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.