Today I spoke at a workshop about leadership development and mentoring. It was a great experience because I was talking about something that I am passionate about. about 15 years ago I went through a time of searching for meaning in my life. I turned to God and went deeper in my faith. At the time I started asking myself what kind of person do I want to be remembered for. I started praying and questioning myself. After a long process I came up with a personal mission statement for my life: Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership. Those three areas of my life have been the main focus for me over the last 15 years. It has helped to keep me focused on the right things and to say no to the things that distract me from those three areas of my life.
Here are the things I shared with the group today at the Equip2Serve conference in Canton Ohio at Malone University.
Leading yourself is always the hardest thing to do. We spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, yet most of us don’t take the time to be intentional about our own development. Here are some practical things you can do to work on yourself.
Leading yourself is not easy and will be something you have to do the rest of your life. We never arrive and get it all figured out. Once we make one break through in life there is always another obstacle and other opportunities that will come up. Make sure your carving out time to lead and develop yourself. The more time you spend on yourself, the more you can pour into others.
One of my heroes is Nehemiah. His story is found in the Bible and it’s loaded with leadership and spiritual principles. Nehemiah was a Jewish man living in Persia after the Persian empire had taken over Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people. Slowly over a 90 year period the Jewish people were traveling the 800 miles back to Jerusalem and were trying to rebuild that great city.
Nehemiah had an important and prestigious job as the cup bearer to the king. He found out that the rebuilding process in Jerusalem was not going well and they were struggling to make it. Mainly it was because the walls around the city had been torn down and that left them vulnerable to the people around them. Nehemiah had a great concern about the walls of his beloved city. The rest of the story is how he went about rebuilding the walls.
Here are some of my takeaways:
Wall rebuilding then…. Wall rebuilding now:
Ancient walls served many purposes. They offered Protection, Security, and reflected the strength of the people.
Likewise, today the walls of spiritual disciplines that we build around our lives are vital for our Protection and for building our relationship with God.
We need to examine the condition of our walls.
Are some gates open for the enemy to slip in?
Has neglect allowed a loose piece of stone or mortar to become a hole or a gap?
Have weeds of compromise overrun certain sections until those toppled walls have become a main entrance for sin?
If your walls are in need of repair lets take a look at some principles from Nehemiah.
First: Develop a genuine concern for the condition of the walls.
Is it a burden on your heart? We must have a genuine concern for the condition of our spiritual lives. If spiritual growth is not important it will take a back seat to all the more important stuff in our lives. The spiritual walls we have in our lives keep us focused on the best things and growing in our trust of God.
Second: Express direct prayer for guidance and protection.
Nehemiah started 800 miles away in prayer before the Lord. Prayer tends to be an afterthought many times. It should be the first thing we do. Get into the habit of acting on your burdens only after you have given them a firm foundation in prayer. Prayer is a privilege and God is available at all times. We have access to the only one that controls everything.
Third: Face the situation honestly and with determination until the task is finished.
If we are upfront and honest about a problem we usually can get more of a commitment from the people around us. An honest appraisal of your own spiritual walls will help you stay determined to fill the gaps. We all know were we tend to struggle and where we are allowing things to influence us in a negative way. If your unsure then ask the people that are closest to you for honest feedback.
Fourth: Recognize that we cannot correct the condition alone.
No amount of experience can overcome sin’s power to crumble our walls. It is only when we are willing to live in dependence on God that we have the power to fix and build the spiritual walls we need for survival. If we are serious about making changes in our spiritual lives then allowing other people to speak into our lives is vital. Pray for someone that can hold you accountable by asking tough questions and then pray for courage to be open and honest.
Breezes instead of wind gusts usually knock us down. We get lulled into neglecting our walls. We drift from God and allow other things to take priority in our lives. Slowly we stray away and can find ourselves lost, stuck or alone.
Pray for God’s help in recognizing those subtle breezes in your life that are causing you to drift into moral compromises.
What area of your spiritual wall needs repairs or strengthened?
Are you faithful in all areas of your life? At work, At home, At play?
Take some time soon to think about the condition of your own walls and then follow Nehemiahs example and rebuild them as needed.
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.