Leadership Rules

Pastors and Business Leaders- Learn from each other

A couple of years ago Mike Myatt interviewed me and asked some great leadership questions. Not sure how good my answers were, but in any case, you can watch the entire interview here. One of the questions he asked me was "what can Church leaders learn from Business leaders, and what can business leaders learn from church leaders?" Good question.

I thought I would provide a few more thoughts around this issue here.

Church Leaders, here are a few things you can learn from Business Leaders:

1. collaboration- business is built around partnerships and collaboration. Many times you will see competitors in business partnering together if it makes business sense and they can create a profitable return. We have a tendency in the Church to be protective, selfish and isolated, whether it's between denominations, associations, or other churches in our communities. Especially the pastor right down the street from us.

2. excellence- if a business doesn't create a great product, no one will buy from them and they will go out of business. And if you aren't good at what you do, whether a designer or consultant or restaurant owner or UPS driver, then you won't last. Sometimes in the church we have the tendency to make excellence a low level priority, and we don't demand that staff members constantly get better. I've written several times about doing what you do with excellence. And pastors, don't be afraid to ask your business leaders to get involved in helping you create excellence with what you do.

3. execution- the business world is built on "getting things done on time." Again, without this as a core value, businesses will fail. Church leaders can learn a ton regarding execution from the business leaders sitting in your seats or pews on Sunday morning.

4. measure success- businesses measure their success mostly based on return on investment- the idea of creating a profit. There are definitely other factors, but that one is key. You have to measure your success in order to know if you've accomplished your mission. In the Church, many times we are not as intentional at measuring our success because we're in the "people" business. But I believe the Church is doing the most important work in the world, and to not hold ourselves accountable and constantly measure whether we are creating "Kingdom" profit is not good stewardship.

Business Leaders, here are a few things you can learn from Church Leaders:

1. relationships first- the currency of getting things done in the Church is through relationships. Many times in business we are so focused on execution and profit and margin that we forget about the relational currency we are building or not building.

2. income for greater purposes- Business leaders- Look for ways to create a "triple bottom line" in your business. Meaning you find ways to give back and be generous and help those in need. This has become the new standard for many businesses- no longer are you only measured by what profit you make- but now measured by what kind of investment you give back to the community. Church leaders understand this.

3. leadership- some of the best leaders in the world are on staff at Churches, especially those who lead volunteers every week. If you can get hundreds of volunteers motivated and excited and committed to serving, then there are all kinds of leadership lessons we can learn from you and implement in the business world.

4. passion and calling- great ministry leaders have a sense of calling on their life that is inspiring. They do what they do with great passion, many times sacrificing a higher paying job or other opportunities because of the specific purpose God has laid on their life. Business leaders should have the same level of passion, purpose and calling for their vocation. There is NO sacred and secular. It's all sacred. Your calling as a business professional is not second class, so run after it with a desire to truly live for God in the marketplace.

What Poisons a Team Quickly

I've been reminded recently of the constant tension on a team. And.... the Tension is Good. We talked about this and leaned into this phrase before, and actually dealt with it as an event theme back in 2010 at Catalyst Atlanta. The right kind of tension is important for teams, as well as for individuals. It stretches and shapes and allows for growth. But there are other things that can creep into a team and poison it quickly. Things that sneak up fast and before you know it, start to define the team and take everyone off course. In the wrong direction. Headed the wrong way.

Here are a few of the poisons to make sure and avoid:

1. Arrogance- Pride comes before the fall, and for teams, the same holds true. Jim Collins talks about this at length in his book How the Mighty Fall. Humble confidence is the ticket.

2. No communication- this one is the most common poison for all teams to have some form of. The remedy? Overcommunicate. Be intentional and make sure folks are in the know. For team leaders, this one is tough. I struggle at this.

3. Me first, vs. We first- see this alot on high profile sports teams. Or with celebrities. As they say, there's no "I" in team. A WE first mentality starts at the top with the leader who has to set the tone in word AND deed. If you are hearing "it's not my job," then it's time for a gut check.

4. Jealousy and Cynicism- many times these go hand in hand and one follows the other. The remedy? Confronting it head on. Don't allow jealousy or cynicism or cliques to form. Stomp it out immediately. Team members have to confront it with each other, as many times the team leader won't be aware of this until later.

5. Distrust- either not trusting the leader, or not trusting each other. A killer of morale and momentum. Trust comes with time, but also is fueled by interaction and shared experiences. So make sure you are creating opportunities for trust to be built within and among your team.

6. Lack of Vision, and Lack of reality- this usually shows up in the form of a team lacking self awareness. And starts at the top with the team leader. One of the roles of a team leader is to constantly cast vision, but also to confront reality head on and make sure everyone is aware of reality. Don't allow your team to live in fantasy land. You should cast vision constantly, yes, but you should also deal with reality constantly.

What else would you say poisons teams in your experience?

Feeling Stuck right now?

Sometimes we just feel stuck. Not that anything is really wrong, but more the sense that we're not going anywhere. That place where you sense that things are okay, but not great. Where it seems like you are just going through the motions. Dependable and reliable, yes. Consistent, absolutely. But not necessarily bringing your A-game.

I know the feeling. For me, this usually happens after an event is over. About 10 days-two weeks later. I usually just feel stuck at that point. I have a hard time being creative, being intentional, getting things done, moving the ball forward, and making decisions. I feel like I'm walking in knee deep mud at these points.

Another time of the year many of us feel stuck is early summer, right about now. You feeling it right now?

If so, here are a few things to do:

1. Get out of your "normal" routine. Break up your schedule. Go on a trip. Visit someone you've wanted to see for quite a while. Hang out with people you don't know but want to learn from. The key on this is break up your "normal" with something that is out of place, out of context, or just simply breaks up the rhythm. Makes you see things from a different vantage point. For me, when I travel, it usually "unsticks" me.

2. Go back to the Basics. Sports teams will go back to the basics to get out of a rut. In football it's back to "blocking and tackling" or  in basketball it's back to "passing, dribbling, and shooting." For you, this could mean a number of things, but in essence, returning to the foundations of what you do, why you do it, and how you are uniquely designed to be doing what you are doing.

3. Jump on the Inspiration train. When I get stuck, I usually take time to find some stories of inspiration, read some emails, watch some videos, and allow myself to be re-inspired and re-energized.

4. Talk with someone who motivates you. I also like to make sure I find some time to spend on the phone or in person with people who inspire me, because they usually can pull me out of my funk that I'm in. Make sure you have some people in your life who are motivators and inspiration icons- when you are around them it just fires you up. Could be a friend, a boss, a mentor, or someone you don't know well. For me, I'll call Bob Goff. If you know Bob, you know what I mean!

5. Keep it simple stupid. Kiss. Figuratively, not literally...! Start a new to do list with no more than 5 things on it. Get those done. Then move on to the next 5 things to do. Don't overwhelm yourself with a to do list that is unachievable and not reachable. Focus on simplicity and clarity.

6. Hang around kids. Whether your own kids or someone else's. Children have a way of providing inspiration because of their imagination, childlike faith, and sense of amazement at everything.

7. Exercise. Take a run, go swimming, work out, climb a mountain, jump on a bike, water ski, play basketball, or whatever activity fits you.

Characteristics of Great Teammates

Great teams are a joy to watch. OKC Thunder, LA Kings, Miami Heat, New England Patriots, and more. And of course my beloved Oklahoma Sooners! Reality is, we are all part of some kind of team, wherever we are in life. Family, church, volunteer, sports, business, community, social. As Leaders, it's equally important for us to know how to follow and be a great team member as it is how to LEAD and be a team leader. In fact, many believe to be a good leader, you must first be a great teammate. And I would suggest that great leaders are equally in tune with how best to be a teammate, along with how to lead well.

So here are a few thoughts on being a great team member:

1. Good teammates are great finishers. They get the job done. They take projects across the finish line.

2. Good teammates anticipate. They understand what needs to be done next before others, and are always looking for ways to make the process better.

3. Good teammates criticize their leader in private, and praise in public. Enough said on that.

4. Good teammates are trustworthy. When given an assignment, a leader can be assured that it will get done. This is incredibly important.

5. Good teammates are vision copycats. They take on, embody and live out the vision and mission of their leader, and of the organization.

6. Good teammates make their leader better. They push their leader, and know how to lead up appropriately and intentionally.

7. Good teammates make their other teammates better. They know how to lead their peers and lead across in an organization, and don't rely on the leader to be the only one motivating the team, as well as holding the other teammates accountable.

8. Good teammates lead themselves. They don't need to be managed, and aren't needy. They don't need all the attention from the leader.

7 Tips for Communicating Well

Whether you are a seasoned leader, college student, author, professor, CEO, politician, or pastor, we all have to learn to communicate well. Whether we are speaking to thousands, speaking to our staff, giving a report, making a speech, teaching your kids soccer team, or addressing your company, it's imperative as leaders we know how to communicate. To make our point. To deliver a message. And communicating is much easier said than done. Actually it's the saying part and the doing part that make it difficult.

So here are some tips that might make communicating a bit easier for you and a bit more enjoyable for those listening.

1. Keep it Simple. Stay focused on a few key points. And use common sense. If it sounds confusing, it probably is. If it sounds cheesy, it probably is.

2. Tell great stories to validate your points. Unless you are just an amazing communicator, your points probably won't hold me. So sprinkle in some great stories, good analogies, personal connections, and current events.

3. Inspire action. Push me towards doing something, not just hearing something.

4. Know your audience. Seems simple, but many miss this one. Make constant connections to your audience. If you're talking to a group of high school students, don't use the same jokes and intro as you did with the local Lions Club mens pancake breakfast the day before.

5. Create hooks, repetitions, and memorable phrases. I won't remember all you said, but I might remember something you said. Our current culture is now built around soundbytes- status updates, tweets, texts, etc. So keep it simple, but also keep it short.

6. Connect personally. Look people in the eye. Recognize individuals in the audience and mention their name. Find people in the crowd and speak directly to them. Make eye contact with the entire room, from side to side. If your audience thinks you care about them, then they'll care about what you are saying.

7. Land the plan on time. Not just ending on time, but actually ending with the right timing. Don't keep circling above the runway- land it now.

What other tips would you add for communicating well? 

Feeling Overwhelmed?

As leaders, many times we take on way more than we can handle. We intuitively know it's not healthy or the best solution, but we feel like it's "our duty." Anyone with me on this? We feel the responsibility, so therefore we are willing to roll up our sleeves and take on more. This ends up affecting our families, our own personal life, our team, and organizations.

Now don't get me wrong.... there are seasons for carrying the weight and burning the midnight oil. But if this becomes the "norm," then it's not healthy. But many times we still don't know how to manage and juggle all of the things on our plate, especially if we are leading a smaller organization, a start up, or several major projects/initiatives at one time. You may feel you have no options.

I've felt this same tension, and had to deal with the process of figuring this out.

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few practical thoughts from my perspective on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed:

1. Hire a great assistant- I've found this one to be crucial. A great assistant can really make all the difference in the world. Not in the old school fashion of getting coffee and picking up your laundry. Please. But as a project manager, a taskmaster, and ultimately an extension of who you are who helps you get things done.

2. Make progress daily- if you are trying to tackle a big project, or multiple projects at once, this is always my approach. Many times a project is so big it just overwhelms you. But if you can see progress being made, even if it's small, it creates momentum and keeps things moving forward. Figure out what a win looks like on a daily basis, and then shoot for that.

3. Find interns/volunteers- Interns can be a great addition to your team. Not only can they relieve capacity issues you might have, but it's a great way to "test" out new hires before making them official. You'll be surprised how many students or recent graduates there are who are willing to work for free or for relatively free just to gain some experience. Put them in the game!

4. Delegate- this is the one most often we forget. And not just delegating things we don't want to do. Or just handing over everything and wiping your hands clean, but then quickly jumping back in because it's not going the way you envisioned. Strategic delegation is the key- look at your project list and determine what can divided up among your team in three areas- 1. total handoff and no involvement from me needed; 2. handoff of project but I'll still be involved at certain points; 3. I'm leading the project but need help on certain tasks.

5. Change environments. Many times changing our surroundings or getting out of the "normal" routine will give us new perspective, new energy, and new insights on how to move a project towards the finish line. And will provide a fresh lens through which to view your current realities- may not be as bad as you think it is!

6. Learn from others. Find mentors, other organizations that are doing great work, and leaders who you respect that you can learn and gain insight from. Dig into why and how they are successful, and even ask them to be an advisor to you and your organization.

7. Ultimately, less is more. If you are overwhelmed, it might be time to cut some projects or new ideas from the list. Better to be great at a few things than to be average at several.

8 Tips for the Free Agents and Consultants

This post is for those who are TRANSITIONING or have already TRANSITIONED from an organizational environment to being a lone ranger, an entrepreneur, "consultant" or "free agent" - whether you are starting your own business, beginning a new season as a "free agent" or "consultant," or just continuing to live life as a true entrepreneur. I have lots and lots of friends who are in this season of life. More and more leaders I know are ending up in this space, because the opportunity is available like never before to be your own boss. They've decided to branch out on their own and chase the dream without an organization behind them. Whether leaving the corporate world, or the non-profit world, or leaving a ministry, or leaving a church environment, they have now decided to go at it on their own. Without the comfort and safety of an organization behind them.

We work with lots of these "free agents." Our Catalyst full-time team is really small compared to the amount of people it takes to put on what we do, so we are constantly hiring free agents and consultants.

So, as someone who might be hiring you to "consult" or provide advice or be a free agent on my team, let me provide a bit of perspective:

1. You currently think you're worth way more than you really are. Most of the time when you transition from a church environment or ministry environment, the first thing you want to do is make way more money than you did before. Let me give you some advice- until you prove that you can deliver, you'll probably make LESS than you did before. Your get rich quick scheme has no legs, so wake up to the reality that you really have to deliver before the money will start pouring in.

2. You think you're busier than you really are. You might feel busy, but are you really getting things done or just creating a lot of stir and hype? You've found this new found freedom in working on your own and having yourself as your boss, and the tendency might be to become a "40-hour workweek snob," where you think everyone who works long weeks in an organizational environment is wasting time. Don't tell me about how busy you are. Just get it done. Your quick reality is that time and normal will not be normal. You're being hired to get things done.

3. You think everyone wants to work with you. Reality is, they don't. Not yet anyway. You might have been the big man or big women on campus in your last season, but now you're on your own, and there are LOTS and LOTS of other free agents and consultants ready to step in and steal your thunder.

So what are practical ways to deal with this tendency?

4. Hustle. Pure and simple. You are going to have to outwork, outthink, outcreate, and outhustle the other free agents.

5. Deliver homeruns on every project you're working on. This is HUGE. And very important especially when you are starting out. No singles or doubles. Homeruns. You're establishing your own personal brand, and expectations on what it will look like to work with you in the future. So OVER DELIVER. Regardless of who the client is or what the project is. The word will get around. Don't worry.

6. Become an Expert and a Learner. Since you really don't know it all, you should be incredibly intentional about trying to learn it all. Become an expert by learning from everyone.

7. Be HUMBLE. Again, no one wants to work with you if you are cocky and arrogant and full of yourself. They might for a while, but over time, the opportunities will dissipate and you'll wonder why. I don't care if you are the best in the world at what you do- if you are arrogant and difficult to work with, I'll choose the other option every time.

8. Be Collaborative. It's important you know how to work well with others, especially since you'll many times be splitting time on a project with some of your competitors or folks who provide the same service. If you can't partner well and be collaborative and work with others to get something done, you won't get hired again.

Are you a LEADER or a FOLLOWER?

Leaders are initiators. Followers are responders. Leaders are willing to step up and take on the task of driving a project.

Followers have to be forced to drive a project by their boss. They wait on someone to give them direction.

Leaders are intuitive, and once they have a general direction for a project, don't have to be told what to do every step of the way.

Followers want direction on a constant basis, so they make sure approval has been given and therefore cover their tracks if something goes wrong.

Leaders push for action, and are not content with simply sitting still.

Followers are content with the project sitting idle, as long as it's not their responsibility or not their fault.

Leaders drive to the finish line.

Followers are pulled across the finish line.

Leaders don't let fear or a strong sense of anxiety paralyze them. They attack fear. Head on. And are willing to lean heavily into the rough waters and push through.

Followers stop when things get rough. Rough waters tend to bring about dissension and cynicism among followers.

Leaders are innovators. They try new things. They are willing to fail, but fail trying.

Followers simply want to maintain the status quo. And very rarely are they willing to risk or try anything new.

Leaders embrace change. They invite change in their own lives and in the context of their leadership because they know change many times is the way we grow and improve.

Followers despise change, and do everything possible to resist it.

Leaders accept responsibility, and are motivated by more things on their plate and under their leadership, vs. less.

Followers avoid responsibility, and would much rather that someone else is "responsible" instead of them.

Leaders despise inaction. It drives leaders crazy to not make progress.

Followers move toward the areas of least resistance, and are comfortable with little or no progress.

Make sure you have a team of leaders who initiate at their core. It's much easier to slow down a racehorse by having to pull back on the reins vs. having to spur and kick and get out the whip in order to move forward.

Are you a leader or a follower? An initiator or responder? 

Are you a Bridge builder?

Building a bridge is an art. Not literal bridges that you drive over, although those are incredibly important.... I'm referring to building bridges in business, friendships, co-workers, mentors, and key partnerships. I'm referring to building a new relationship with your neighbor. I'm referring to connecting with someone that you've wanted to meet with for a long time and only having 15 minutes for a meeting. How do you turn that meeting into an hour or more, and then eventually into a friend?

Many folks just think that showing up is half the battle. Well, sort of. But there's more. When it comes to winning a client, or inking a new partnership, or developing a new friendship, there are some key things I've learned over the years that might be helpful.

A few thoughts:

1. Love people until they ask why. Let your actions speak so loud that people can not help but to see your authenticity, and ultimately demand an explanation for the reason you do what you do.

2. Prove your craft before asking for something. Excellence, skill and know how is key on this. Show that you are competent before you demand that they should partner with you.

3. Ask more questions than they do. I love this one. Many times asking great questions is way more strategic than giving great answers.

4. Spend lots of time listening. Once you've asked a great question, listen. And listen more. And listen more.

5. Find points of connection and shared interests, and be intentional. A crucial part of great bridge building. Find out what motivates someone, what their interests are, what they enjoy. Is it sports? rock climbing? history? Whatever it is, find out and then build on those areas of shared interests.

6. Connect them to others. Great connectors and bridge builders are always figuring out ways to introduce their friends within their circle. Claire at Twitter does this amazingly well. And here's the key on this- the ultimate value for the connection is not for you, it's more for others.

7. Follow up. This is the #1 step that everyone seems to forget. We have to follow up. Never assume that because you haven't heard from someone, it means they are not interested. They're busy, just like you. Take the first step and reach out. And then reach out again. And then again.

Are you stuck in the middle?

Leading from the middle of the organization is tough. Lots of responsibility, but limited empowerment. Less money, but more work. More to manage, but less training. And on and on and on. Reality is, most influence within organizations always comes from the middle, and not from the top. Those leaders "in the middle" of any organization are crucial to the success of  the mission, vision and values being lived out.

So how do you deal with this reality?

1. Understand your context. Truth is, influence doesn't require a title or position. You can wield influence from anywhere in the organization. Especially in today's cultural reality of flatter and more entrepreneurial organizational structures.

2. Be a linchpin. Be remarkable. Be so good at what you do that those around you have no other option than to take notice. Make others talk about you, in a good way of course.

3. Anticipate the needs of your boss or those above you. Understand how to best serve them and remove responsibility from their plate onto yours. If you are creating more work for your boss instead of less work, that's a problem.

4. Celebrate the accomplishments and wins for those below you. Be a cheerleader and mentor to your team and those who work for you.

5. Collaborate with those next to you or besides you. Collaboration with your peers in the organization is key. Serve them well.

6. Be trustworthy. This one is huge. It doesn't mean that you don't screw up or fail, but it means that you are worthy of being trusted. Make good decisions. Be honest. Be Authentic.

7. Lead like you are at the top. Your perspective should be that of an owner. This means you don't use the phrase "they are...." but instead speak in terms of "we are...." Big difference. Remember, influence can happen from anywhere in the organization.

8. Embrace the position you have. Don't be bitter. Lean into it. Be the best in the world at your current role. Be present.

By the way, as additional reading on this topic, I highly recommend John Maxwell'360 Degree Leader book in regards to this topic. One of my favorite books from John.

A Leader Must Be....

1. Ready to take the fall. 2. Willing to have to sacrifice.

3. Always informed enough to make the tough decisions.

4. Constantly learning.

5. In touch with reality.

6. Able to plan for the future while leading in the present and honoring the past.

7. Quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (Yikes!)

8. Humble and Hungry.

9. Never satisfied, but always content.

10. A great follower who understands how to be led.

11. Wise and discerning.

12. 100% trustworthy.

13. Willing to risk when it's needed, and not afraid to create change.

14. Constantly encouraging. (Yikes#2!)

15. Casting vision on a regular basis and creating a picture of the end goal.

Among many, many other things.....

Why Your Leadership must be "Social"

It's imperative that you are "social" in your leadership and influence today. A new reality exists, and as leaders we have to be not only aware of this, but also willing to jump in and embrace a new reality of Social engagement like never before. Here are a few thoughts on Social Leadership:

1. Social Media = Influence. Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, and Social media junkies are now the normal outlets to tap into for getting the word out. I've seen this the last few years with everything from new movies to new books to new conferences. These leaders are being sought out not just for their networks, but also for their endorsements. It's a new era. Exponential influence in ways never seen before is happening through blogging, tweeting, facebooking, pinteresting, etc. Digital mavens are shaping what we are listening to, reading, watching, and learning.

2. Social Entrepreneurs= A new wave of leaders has emerged. Leaders who combine business savvy with charitable endeavors and social innovation. Scott HarrisonCharles LeeBlake MycoskieJamie TworkowskiLaura Waters Hinson, Eugene Cho, Jeff Shinabarger, Kohl Crecelius and Jason Russell just to name a few.

3. Social Accountability- Leaders are constantly being evaluated in todays culture. You can’t hide anymore behind a position or title. Leaders are being held to a standard never seen before because of constant media- video, flip cameras, blogging, twitter. Your leadership has constant real-time evaluation. Especially well-known leaders. And Authenticity is crucial. Being honest, genuine and real is important for continual influence.

4. Social Good- it's now in vogue to "do good." And society in general is taking notice. Celebrities gain more influence because of causes they're involved in. Businesses are "doing good" and focusing on the triple bottom line, which is now a normal measurement of success in business. Meaning what was our "gift back to society" and how did we "leave the world a better place." It's not just about making a profit anymore.

5. Social Politics in organizations is fading- Positional leadership doesn’t really matter anymore. Not about what position or title you hold, but more about what you are delivering. If you are executing and getting things done and creating value for the organization, your influence will have impact.

6. Creating a social "community" is now a norm, not an exception. A great example of this is Zappos, and the kind of culture that Tony Hsieh has created there. Employees enjoy being around each other, and take pride in a sense of family that exists within their company.

7. Flattening of the "social hierarchy of influence." I can learn from all kinds of great leaders in todays culture, and not know them personally. I can also connect with well known leaders much easier than in the past through technology and social platforms. Information and inspiration has never been so readily available to us. When you follow someone on Twitter, you feel like you know them personally, even if they have hundreds of thousands of other "followers."

8. Social Justice is not just a fad. Connected to #4, but my opinion is that especially within the Church/faith community, this shift towards the "living out" of the Gospel through justice and mercy is here to stay.

9. A new generation of employees expect a "social workplace." This is a Reality of a new generation, according to Tim Elmore is his great book Generation iY :

Experiential- all about the 5 senses. Sensory engagement is critical and a reality in terms of what Millenials have grown up with and desire.

Participatory- want an experience to be customized. Millenials have grown up in a participatory culture. They don’t just listen, but actually want to participate. This is very important in terms of creating a work environment/team culture that is attractive to 20 somethings.

Image-Rich- all about pictures, video, large screens, large TV’s, high res pics on your phone, etc. Pictures/video are an incredibly powerful learning medium for Millenials, vs. just text. Especially in terms of memory.

Connected- information is constant for Millenials. Text, facebook, twitter, phone, email. This can be both a positive and a negative.

The Skill of the Follow up

Leaders get things done. They are action oriented and always moving towards the finish line. As all of us know, when dealing with other people, other organizations, and other teams, many times the project or initiative bogs down because "you haven't heard back from him" or "she never emailed me to confirm" or "I'm still waiting on them to send over a fax" or "I called and left a message, but don't want to bother them again." When other people get involved besides us, things get more complicated.

If you want to truly get things done, you have to become skilled at the follow up. Here are a few things I've learned over the years:

1. It's always your responsibility to initiate. Obviously if you are the one asking for something, then you have to initiate. But even if you're just part of the project or one of the steps in the project, you need to always feel responsibility to initiate.

2. We're all busy. Never take offense or get your feelings hurt because someone hasn't responded to your initial invitation or request. Very rarely is a lack of response personal. It's just because people are busy.

3. Figure out how best to get an answer. Many people don't return phone calls anymore, but if you text them, they'll get right back to you. Be smart. Customize your communication if you want a quick response.

4. Make it easy to get a response. Make sure it's one step to confirm or respond or get you the information you need. Don't make folks jump through multiple hoops in order to get you what you need. Remove all the barriers.

5. Create a deadline. Make sure you are very clear in your initial request and in your follow up what you are asking for, as well as when you need it. Sometimes we forget to create urgency and expectations alongside the request.

6. Aggressively pursue until you get a yes or no. If it takes 5 emails, then send 5 emails. If it takes 3 phone calls, make 3 phone calls. Get it to the finish line.

What are some of your secrets in regards to following up and getting things done?

15 Small things that will Kill Company Morale

As leaders, we always are trying our best to create momentum, good morale, team spirit, vision and an overall spirit of enthusiasm on our teams and in our offices.

Here are a few small things that have the potential to kill the company morale quickly:

1. bad tissue in the bathrooms- no one wants the equivalent of sandpaper at the office. invest in the good stuff.

2. charging for coffee- seriously. a bad decision all the way around. and while I'm at it, most companies should quit charging for snacks. Spend a couple hundred bucks to create a free snack bin.

3. standardized approach to your office or cube. let your team add some flare to their area. please.

4. a faulty copier- I think there is an international conspiracy to make all copiers bad.

5. Bad furniture- especially uncomfortable chairs. or desks that belong in a junkyard. And please get rid of the fake trees!!

6. technology issues- computer issues, incompetent IT people, and slow responses will cripple your team. Invest here or else.

7. public recognition that is incorrect. make sure you know who actually did a great job before handing out the kudos at the company picnic or staff meeting to the wrong person. this is a total demotivator.

8. a new policy every week. whether it is expense reports, insurance, office furniture, parking, kitchen etiquette, IT, pets, pranks, profits, spouses, travel, meals, hiring, firing, vacation, talking, sleeping, phones, dating, child care, meetings, conference rooms, dish policy, management, health care, reporting, new forms, recycling, etc., etc. etc. Change is good, but can quickly overwhelm the system. Constant change can be incredibly draining.

9. fun Police. there is one in every company, and their entire reason for living is to make you feel guilty for any kind of fun in the office. Punch them directly in the throat. Just kidding, sort of. And of course the IT/Tech guy who blocks every helpful internet download or interesting website is a real joy to have around.

10. too many meetings- if you are an executive or team leader, this is usually your fault, because you feel like you need to schedule meetings in order to seem busy. Stop it. When in doubt, don't meet. Just execute. Don't talk more about it. Just get it done. No one needs more meetings. No one.

11. unmet promises- i'm guilty of this one. I admit it. and it is a morale killer. Leaders- don't throw out promises you can't keep because you feel like the leadership moment demands it. Hold your tongue, or be prepared to deliver.

12. Unnecessary Dress codes. This one creates more water cooler talk than maybe anything else. If you can be casual, then just be casual.

13. Punishing all for the sake of one- another one I've been guilty of before. Instead of confronting one person regarding an issue, a whole new company policy or nasty email is created or sent geared towards the whole team but everyone on the team knows its meant for only one person.

14. Catering to the Brown nosers- this happens all the time. And usually everyone is aware of who the brown nosers are except the boss. This drives get it done type leaders crazy.

15. A reward that doesn't fit the accomplishment. You just brought in a $100,000 client... here's a $50 gift card to Applebees. Or you save the company $75,000 in expenses... thanks for the new mousepad and 2 free movie tickets.

Bonus: Sending an official "memo" as a reprimand. Really?

What would you add to the list?

A "Don't Do" List as a Young and Aspiring Leader

For young leaders who are "up and comers," here are a few things to NOT DO as you continue to gain influence, responsibility and authority. DON'T DO THESE:

1. Believe that you are "the answer."

2. Stop honoring those who've laid the groundwork before you.

3. Write off all the folks who finally helped you "arrive," who might suddenly seem insignificant or unimportant.

4. Remove yourself from reality by surrounding yourself with "handlers" and those only interested in being "yes" men and women.

5. Believe the hype and regard yourself as crucial, and ultimately more important than all others, in connection to the success of the organization or project.

6. Adopt a scarcity mindset, believing that everything is a zero sum game.

7. Lose the passion for collaboration and partnership, whether in your community, or industry, or network.

8. Become cynical and pessimistic at every turn.

9. Stop "dating" your spouse and intentionally building into your closest friendships.

10. No longer see learning as a priority since you now know everything.


Leadership Lessons from playing Point Guard

I played point guard on my high school basketball team. We were pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. And I was average as a point guard..... yeah, football and golf were my real sports! But I learned some solid leadership lessons playing the point, and when I watch great point guards play basketball still today there are lessons that emerge. Here are a few that we can apply to our own leadership paradigms:

1. Making a great pass is as important as making a great shot. Helping someone else on your team succeed is in many ways more important than you being the star.

2. Know the team better than anyone else. Point guards have to be aware of the strengths of each member of the team and understand how best to motivate them and bring out their best.

3. Preparation, knowledge and awareness. As a point guard, you have to be a coach on the court. An extension of your head coach. Part of your responsibility is to read defenses, set up your own defense, and adapt. Being prepared means being knowledgable and smart.

4. Keep your offense in rhythm and on task. Point guards distribute the ball to the playmakers. You have to understand who's hot and make sure they get the ball, while keeping everyone still involved in the rhythm of the game. This is a tough skill to master.

5. Call the play, and execute the game plan. Point guards must be prepared, but also must make it happen and execute. Ultimately, the point guard has to be a Catalyst and get things done.

6. If needed, take over the game and make a play. Great leaders and great point guards can do this on command. Spread the offense out and take the game winning shot. Steal the ball. Start a fast break. Get the crowd involved. Put the team on your shoulders if needed.

For you basketball experts, what other lessons have you noticed from the great point guards? 

Write it Down

Young leaders consistently ask me: "what's one practical piece of advice for becoming/being a leader who gets things done?" A leader that is trustworthy and reliable. The kind of leader when you ask them to get something done, you have complete confidence that it will happen. My answer is always the same: Write It Down. Always. What do I mean?

1. never show up to a meeting without a pen and a notebook. My preference is a sharpie and a moleskine notebook. But doesn't matter whether it's a legal pad or a Red Big Chief pencil, Or your iphone or laptop. ALWAYS show up to a meeting ready to record thoughts, ideas, takeaways, and action items. I tell my team this all the time, whether we are having a group meeting or individual meetings.

2. carry a pen and notebook with you wherever you go. If you have a thought, write it down. Remember a task that needs to be completed while in your office, capture it in an email or in a running to do list on your desktop or in Evernote. In the car?.... capture it on your iphone audio memo or on a dictation machine. Great ideas seem to always hit us at random times. But always make sure it is captured somewhere. Always.

3. create a system for organizing your ideas and thoughts. I did a blog post a while back about this entitled The Way I Get Things Done. Highlighting how and where I capture ideas and the way I organize them on my computer and in different email folders and notebooks.

BONUS thought: One of the most important, if not THE most important person in the room during a brainstorming or creative session is the notetaker. And if you don't have a notetaker for these meetings, find one. Don't have another meeting without one. It has to be someone who is really good at listening, filtering, and capturing. It CAN'T be someone who is actively engaged in the creative or brainstorming elements.

By doing these things, it frees you up to have energy to be creative, think outside the box, dream, and ultimately have a list that works and a way to keep a running account of what items are on your list to get done.

How to Honor your Leaders

Leading is not easy. And it's even more difficult if those on your team aren't equipped well to follow. We all have leaders that we work with, for and around. And every leader I know values being honored and respected. Honor is a really big thing. And incredibly important as it relates to being part of a team.

Here are some ways to honor your leaders:

1. Pray - a huge one. Pray for wisdom, for clarity, for compassion and for a clear vision for your leaders.

2. Encourage- lift your leaders up in public, and critique them in private. Tell them how you appreciate them. Consistently. Write them a note. Pour into them.

3. Confront- if you see something out of whack, tell them. Most leaders crave input and feedback, so give it to them. Push back on their ideas and convictions when appropriate. Confrontation works best though when encouragement and service and trust have been given freely for a long time. Confront in moderation.

4. Serve- be willing to carry the load. Get things done. Deliver more than you were asked to do. Be action oriented.

5. Trust- incredibly important. Follow them. Put stock in the fact that they have your best interests in mind. Fight against sarcasm and cynicism.

6. Understand- know what drives them, what motivates them, and also what frustrates them. Lean into the things that motivate them, and avoid the things that frustrate them.

7. Protect- always have their back. Stand up for them. If you hear something negative, fight it.

8. Release- give your leader permission to lead you. Lean in. Have a posture of humility, respect, and openness to follow them. Open hearts and open minds, vs closed thoughts, arms crossed, and a made up mind.

End of Week Leadership thoughts

It's cold and rainy in Atlanta on this Friday in January... I wish I was playing golf on the coast! But in the meantime, here are some Random Leadership Thoughts as we wrap up the week: - The Global Church is vibrant, colorful and alive. As a leader, you need to see it up close outside of the US to gain a proper perspective.

- Collaboration is on the rise. Especially in Churches and non-profit ministries. More and more leaders working together, sharing buildings, merging their services, sharing creative ideas, video sharing, pastors teaching in other churches, etc.

- Don't spend a $1 worth of time on a 10 cent decision. Leaders have to invest their time, energy and resources where it's most needed and valued in the organization.

- Without vision, people perish. So true in our country and around the world. Leaders need to step up and provide hope and a vision that is inspiring.

- When it comes to leaders I admire, the most common trait among them is courage. And a close runner-up is humility.

- Seasons of calling are just as important as life-long callings. And maybe more. Not everyone will necessarily have a true and specific life calling. You might have seasons of calling. That is okay.

- As a leader, you have to scale your vision appropriately. And especially those of us who are idea creators. We think every idea we have has a global reach. Not true. Your vision may be only for a city, or for a neighborhood. Scale it appropriately.

- Choose one or two ideas and execute on them fearlessly. If you try to execute on all of your ideas, you'll probably not accomplish much. We each have to be focused on the execution of ideas, not just the creation of ideas.

- Finish meetings on time. Especially when you are meeting with someone one on one. Actually finish early.

- Every great organization has a few areas where they are incredibly picky and their standards are so high it becomes annoying. This is a good thing. Know the areas you are so passionate about that you are willing to be obnoxious and annoying on.

- Being remarkable and doing things with excellence is about being intentional. Being remarkable isn't about being big. Or about things that are expensive. It's about a mindset and a standard. It's not about lots of money and a huge staff. In fact, many times as you grow, you lose the intensity required to be remarkable.

- Growth requires trimming. To go up we may have to give up. The things that were important 2-3 years ago may need to be changed or dropped within your organization. Leaders have to be able to make these kinds of decisions and push forward while cutting the fat.

- Ask twice as many questions as you give answers. Always. Listen way more than you talk. Being "quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger" (from James ch 1) is a good rule to live by.

- With influence and leadership comes power. And power can easily corrupt. Beware of it. Watch out for it. Have people in your life who will tell you what you don't want to hear, but need to as a leader. Stay humble and hungry.

Get the MOJO Back

The Big Mo. Momentum. Mojo. You've either got it or you don't. Most of the time you can't really see it, but you can definitely feel it. Hard to explain, but easy to identify the teams or organizations that have it on their side. In sports, momentum or lack of momentum is easy to spot. Green Bay and Denver - have it. Cowboys and Falcons- lost it. Alabama- feeling it. Baylor athletics in general- got it.

But organizations and business teams also thrive on momentum. Many times it can be the difference between a good year and a great year.

So as we all start 2012, here are a few thoughts on how to get the Big MO back:

1. Fearlessly go after ONE big thing this year. Don't get lost trying to be all things to all people. One Big Idea. And be better at it than anyone else.

2. Keep your mission as a team crystal clear. It shouldn't change. But try sharing it with the team differently. Mix up how you communicate.

3. Shift. Even if it means moving where people sit in the office, or when meetings are "usually" held, or shaking up the typical dress code. Start fresh this year with a cultural change. It's amazing what small things like this can do to build momentum.

4. Build energy with small wins. Literally set daily goals, weekly goals, and monthly goals. Incentivize your team with small victories. Crossing the finish line and hitting a goal always is a good thing, even if it's just a small victory. Don't just rely on the one big year end goal that everyone seems to think is unreachable.

5. Celebrate early and often. Even if it's just a quick gathering in the hall to cheer for someone who hit a goal, this is incredibly important to re-establishing momentum.

6. Dream. Have a brainstorming meeting. Think outside the box.

7. Tell stories that paint a picture. Remind your team of why you do what you do through stories, pictures, video, customer feedback, emails, and customer visits. Make the impact that you're having on your customers tangible by hearing and seeing it up close.

8. Go back to the Basics. Sharpen up on your foundational skills. Make sure the core of who you are and what you do individually and organizationally is being done well. Focus.