I’ve been in ministry full time for over 17 years and I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. The church I worked at went from single site in a small town to a major relocation to a bigger facility to multi-site now with five locations. I was involved with leading the relocation of two of the sites from a portable campus to a permanent site. Now I’m working for a church that is in the process of becoming a multi-site church.
I’ve been a part of a lot of change and challenges over the years. I’ve grown as a leader and I’ve struggled as a leader. I believe there are some basic things that help a lot in ministry, do these basics well and you will lead well.
Here are seven things I’ve learned and believe about leadership.
- Relationships are more important than Systems – Effective, well thought out systems are vital to an organizations health, but people are more important. Every person that attends our church is important, and every person that does not attend our church is important. Each person matters to God and so they must matter to us. When going through explosive growth it’s easy to miss the relational part of ministry. That is when you must work hard to meet with people and listen to them. I have learned so much by simply meeting with people and listening to them. listening to their story and sharing parts of yours is so important when building relationships.
- Communicate with your team often – Even when there is nothing new to report, it’s important to communicate with your team on a regular basis. As a leader, I wake up every day thinking about what needs to happen to get us to where we are headed. The volunteers I am leading have many other things to think about, like their own jobs and families. The more I can communicate about what is going on, the better my relationship with the people I lead. Open honest communication builds trust, it also motivates and encourages and allows people to ask clarifying questions. When you don’t communicate, you are still communicating, and that’s when people start loosing interest, or fill in the blanks themselves.
- Trust that God is working in ways you do not see – In ministry, things don’t always line up like you would like them to be. As a leader, I am responsible for my own actions and to make plans and develop strategy. It is also my responsibility to be flexible and to include God in everything. The deeper my trust in God the stronger my faith grows. If we figure everything out on our own, we don’t need God to show up. When you take on a big vision, only God can make it happen, we need to trust and obey.
- Trust the leaders around you – I must choose to trust and not to be suspicious of the leaders above me and around me. The more I choose to trust the more my heart remains in the right place. When I start to fill in the blanks with my own ideas, I begin to head into a downward spiral. When I believe the best about the people leading me, I can then lead with integrity and passion. Trust builds a culture of emotional health and stability. It’s also important that you are trustworthy, and lead well in the area entrusted to you. This becomes even more important, and difficult as you add multiple sites. You are not as close to the leaders as you used to be so trust becomes vital to moving things forward in a healthy way.
- Do more than rally the troops – You must do more than talk the talk, you need to walk the walk and make things happen. That means doing what you say and equipping your volunteers to do what they are asked to do. It means taking the time to develop people rather than just direct people. When you build meaningful relationships with people they will follow you through the most difficult of times. When you pay attention to the details and delegate to people that can get things done, your influence goes up. Don’t just try to pump people up, pour into them and love them. The only way to do that is by allowing God to pour into you and to keep growing as a leader.
- You have to be real – People are looking for real leaders that admit their mistakes and take responsibility. Be quick to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness and extend the same to others. Don’t put on the religious mask, where you try to make people think that everything is just perfect. Being real is only possible if you are sure of your identity, and comfortable with who you are. I have learned that I need to be me and not someone I think people want. The more I am the person God created me to be the more influence God gives me.
- Be as clear as possible – Clarity is one of the most difficult things to do as a leader. It is easy to dance around the issues and not give direct answers. Sometimes there are things that I just cannot share with people, so I need to be honest about that and let them know that I will share details when I can. To be clear as a leader means taking time to think about what you are going to say. It means you can’t just shoot from the hip, but take time to aim before delivering the message. Being clear is a way of honoring people and letting them know you care. Whether it’s in an email, in a meeting or face to face be honest about what is happening or what happened. Share as much information as possible. That will build trust and respect.
When things are changing all around me and the pace seems to be higher than what I can stand, it helps to step back, and trust God and obey what he tells me. When things are busy and hectic I need to make sure that I am praying and communicating with God. I also need to be reading the Bible to build my intimacy with God and get wisdom and direction. One thing that has helped me in this area and many others is having people in my life to ask me how I am doing in some of these areas. Having accountability in my life has brought growth and freedom into my life.
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
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.