Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

We all have our comfort zones. Your home. Your office. The seat in the back right on the last row at Church. A certain restaurant you always go to. The same songs over and over again you listen to in the car. The same treadmill at the gym. Might be a group of friends that has been the same since high school or college. That favorite uncle you always play golf with on Saturday morning.

Whatever it is, we need to be leaders who take risks. And step out of our comfort zones. On a regular basis. This can be incredibly big life decisions, but many times it may just be a small decisions, or a small change in our usual routine, that can provide the momentum we need to consistently Step Out of our Comfort Zones.

Reality is, most of us by nature enjoy the same old routine, the luxury of the known, the safety of the convenient. Ultimately, it takes extra effort to step out, but if we're not risking and pushing ourselves out of the normal and routine, then we can't expect others around us who we lead to do the same.

Here are a few examples to get you thinking on how you can this week step out of your comfort zone.

1. Attend a weekend service of a completely different religion than your own.

2. Visit a local homeless shelter or soup ktichen.

3. Walk somewhere instead of driving. Or ride a bike.

4. Leave the TV off for one week straight. Or at least one night.

5. Read a book and download a song that you never would have before.

6. Call an old friend and get reacquainted.

7. Ask your neighbors how you can help them.

8. Take someone to lunch from your office who you've never had a conversation with before.

9. Go fishing, hunting, camping, or hiking. The key is outside.

10. Visit your local police station and fire department and take them food.

11. Start a conversation with the person at the register at the gas station or the cleaners or somewhere else you visit frequently.

12. Write an article about your area of expertise and submit it to a local paper, magazine, or leading website.

What are other simple ideas that help you step out of your comfort zone?

5 Simple Ways to Grow as a Leader

5 Simple Ways today to Grow in your Leadership: 1. Read- leaders are readers. Pure and simple. I recommend business books, Christian living, historical biographies/autobiographies, and magazines. And of course the Bible as your #1 source.

2. Serve- jump in and help wherever needed. Ultimately, just keep Leading- more and more and more. The more you lead, the better leader you will be. The more you serve, the better servant you will be. And believe me, if you keep asking to take on leadership in your organization, you will continue to have more responsibility piled on you.

3. Watch- find those who are great at what they do, and stalk them. I kid of course, but be intentional about watching closely how they lead. And learn from those around you. Everyone. Who are more experienced, wiser, and have something to offer. Find a few leaders who you want to learn from, and seek them out. Ask them for advice.

4. Pray- the prayers of a righteous man accomplish much. Pray for wisdom, pray for favor, pray that your influence will be expanded. And pray for humility.

5. Connect- hang around other leaders. Go where other leaders are. Catalyst, Leadership Summit, Leadercast, Hillsong Conference, etc. Local gatherings. Small roundtables. Large conferences. Lunches. Receptions. Whatever. Osmosis really does work when it comes to growing as a leader. And getting outside of your "norm" is essential to growth- many times just hearing how another leader is handling a situation will bring great clarity and perspective.

8 Points on Leading Artists

Okay, so alot of us who run organizations, or manage teams, or have staff direct reports, are leading those who consider themselves to be ARTISTS of some sort. Whether it's musicians, or designers, or writers, or entertainers, or worship leaders, or those who sketch/paint/draw, I'm going to lump them all together for the sake of this conversation and my thoughts on how to best lead them.

Disclaimer: we are ALL artists. In regards that we all are called to create things of excellence. Some of us are way more "Artistic" at our core than others. That is who I'm talking about here. You know who they are on your team. Guaranteed.

I'm also VERY INTERESTED to hear from you on how you best lead/manage artists. Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Start with reality. Artists are different. Not in bad weird way. But in a great weird way. So just begin with this, and it will help tremendously.

2. Lead, don't manage. Share vision, inspire, and let them loose. Managing an artist type like you would an accountant, or a project manager, or a typical hard charging type A, is not a good idea.

3. Be very specific on areas that most think are ambiguous. Most leaders think that because artists are spontaneous and spatial in their thinking, that they don't want specifics. So alot of leaders will be totally ambiguous in their interactions with artists. But just the opposite. Most artists need and desire very clear, focused and specific direction. They don't mind boundaries; in fact, they welcome them (more insight on this from my friend Tyler Reagin here).

4. Give them room to dream. This might mean they need to spend an afternoon at a coffee shop or in the park or at the lake. Let them do that.

5. Include them in the process. If you simply tell them what you want once you and everyone else have decided, you'll probably get it. But including them in the creative process will create more buy in and probably a better outcome.

6. Allow them to decorate and make their area "their own." Their office or cube or space needs to reflect who they are. Otherwise, finding inspiration could be tough in the office.

7. Release them into their areas of greatest strength. Don't burden a great artist with tasks and responsibilities outside their strengths. If it's a money thing, pay them less but let them do what they are great at. Most artists care way more about doing their "art" anyway.

8. Aggregate artists in "pairs" and team lead them. I like to always have at least two artists in a meeting, on a team, working on a project, sitting together, and ultimately working together. It gives them more energy and allows them to vent to each other. Also, if you have personality conflicts with artists on your team, then "team" lead them. Don't take it personal, but figure out the best way to release them and inspire them. It might be that you are not the best person to do that, and it's okay that someone else on your team is.


Two Vital Questions for Leaders

Asking the right questions is crucial for leaders. Many times the questions you are asking are way more important than the answers or solutions you are giving. I was reminded of two crucial questions for leaders when recently reading an article by Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company. Alan talks at length about these 2 questions in his book Rules of Thumb. These are crucial questions for leaders to answer, both for themselves as well as the organizations they lead.

1. What keeps you up at night? This one is a familiar question for most leaders. What makes you cry? What makes you mad? What are the things that nag at you? This question has to do with what you are passionate about. What are the problems in the world you want to help solve? Usually the things that keep us up can be incredibly frustrating to us until we get them solved.

2. What gets you up in the morning? This one is less familiar to most of us, but probably even more important. What keeps you and your team committed? Engaged and excited? This question has more to do with purpose. Do you look forward to jumping in to the career or current job you have on a daily basis? Especially as things get tougher and more demanding than ever, we need to make sure we are laser focused and determined and locked in on what motivates and drives us.

Spend some time this week thinking about these two questions and how it effects what you are working on and where you are spending your time.

Are You the Best?

Are you operating at Good, Better or Best? Good is what is expected of you. It is slightly above average, and requires some focus and determination to get there, but is relatively easy to achieve.

Better is just that- it's better than good. Being better means you are typically comparing yourself to what is good. Your standard is tied to outdoing good. And good is slightly better than average. Better gets you mentioned at the company picnic, probably gets you a raise on a continual basis, ensures some "atta-boys" from your co-workers, and looks good on a resume.

Best is where you want to live. Best is greatness. It's about a standard that requires you to give everything you've got and all the talent you've been wired with to reach your full potential. Best means there is no one better than you. Best is a standard unto itself. Best has no comparison. Best is award winning, status defining, and legacy creating. Best is the top of the mountain.

Are you good, better or best at what you do? Who you are? How you lead? How you live?

God demands our BEST. Not just a good show. Not just being a good father. Not just being an average follower of Jesus. Not just being better at your career than someone else. Not just leading a bit better than your c0-worker down the hall. Not just being an average mother who is "okay" at stewarding a family and juggling a career. God wants us to be the BEST. Period.

I don't want to just have a good team, or put together a good leadership event, or be a bit better at what I do than others. I want to be the Best in the world. Good NFL teams don't set out to be good. They set out to be the best- winning the Super Bowl.

Being the best requires focus, determination, intentionality, lots of hard work, learning all the time, never giving up, pushing the envelope, and making sacrifices. And we all know when our performance is not our best. When our writing is not our best. When our attention is not at it's best. Our families know it. Our friends know it. Our staffs know it. Our bosses know it. And God knows it.

Make sure your standard is not just being a bit better than average. Or only being a bit better than your competitor. Your standard is being the BEST. God demands it!

Create a "No Meetings" Policy

I have to be honest- I despise most meetings. Now don't get me wrong, some meetings are important and needed. I love brainstorming and creative meetings when there is lots of energy and ideas being thrown out. I like meetings where ideas are being moved to completion. I like meetings where we are solving problems and coming up with solutions. But meeting for meetings sake is unproductive, demoralizing and a waste of time. Too many organizations and churches build their "get it done" culture around "let's meet about it." A meeting becomes the default for everything. Here are a few thoughts on meetings:

1. Always try your best NOT to meet vs always looking for an excuse TO meet.

2. If you can solve an issue or figure out a solution or agree through email or a quick 30 second in person conversation or phone call, don't schedule a meeting.

3. Most meetings ultimately should instead be quick stand up conversations for no more than 5 minutes. Get to the point, and move on.

4. Many "managers" plan meetings so they'll actually have something to do and can justify their existence. This is not great management.

5. You DO need to meet on a regular basis with your team or staff and connect, cast vision, laugh, etc. More for creating culture than anything else.

6. Instead of a culture that defaults to "let's meet about it," build a culture that thinks "let's go make it happen." When in doubt, don't meet. Just go make it happen. Execute. Take the project to the finish line. "Ship it" as Seth Godin says.

7. Leaders- if at all possible, don't schedule a meeting, unless it is really needed and leads to action. And if a meeting is required, LESS participants (as a general rule) is better and more strategic than MORE participants. More than 5 people in a meeting trying to get something done bogs down the process.

8. Always ask following a meeting: "Did we accomplish anything? Or just create more work and more bureaucracy?" Consistently measure the value of each meeting, and get rid of it if you're not accomplishing anything.

Leaders: Find a Confidant

Leaders are called to be courageous. And confident, yet humble. Being Confident is important. But change out the "e" for an "a" in confident, and this is also a huge need for leaders: A CONFIDANT.

Dictionary.com defines Confidant as "a close friend or associate to whom secrets are confided or with whom private matters and problems are discussed."

A few thoughts on having a confidant:

1. This is not someone on your team who reports to you or is a peer.

2. This is not your boss. And for non-profit and church leaders, this is probably not someone on your board.

3. This is probably not a family member, since family members seem to only see one side and not the whole picture.

4. Make sure it's someone with honesty and integrity, who you are 100% sure won't talk to anyone else about what you are sharing. Loose lips sink ships.

5. It is someone you can rely on, share with, lean into for tough decisions, gripe about things, and receive counsel from.

6. There are lots of executive coaches out there. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea for your executive coach or life coach to potentially be a confidant. But ideally, your confidant is not someone you pay to help you.

7. A confidant doesn't make decisions for you, they ADVISE you. Don't allow your confidant to be your final decision maker.

8. Nothing to gain- make sure your confidant is not motivated one way or the other by the outcome of your decisions. For example, as a professional athlete, many look to their agents as their confidants- but ultimately that can be a bit risky, since the agents job is to get more money for the athlete, thus gaining more money themselves.

9. Confidants are more for listening, than they are talking. Advice and counsel many times can be best given by being a sounding board than a clanging gong.

Top Ten Influential Athletes in US the last 10 years

Over the last 10 years (since 2002), which athletes have had the most influence on our culture? An interesting question for sure. I know there will be lots of debate on this one, but here are the Ten I would suggest: 1. Tiger Woods

2. Kobe Bryant

3. Jimmy Johnson

4. Derek Jeter

5. Peyton Manning

6. Lance Armstrong

7. Lebron James

8. Michael Phelps

9. Tom Brady

10. Shaquille O'Neal


Who would you add? 

Decisions, Decisions and more decisions....

Leaders are decision makers. Period. Whatever the time of year and season of life, lots of decisions are probably on your desk or in your to do list waiting to be pushed forward. It's something we must do. Constantly. So here a few thoughts on making decisions:

1. Understand that it's part of your job. Making decisions as a leader is normal and ordinary and required. It's why you are a leader. Embrace it.

2. Sleep on the big ones. For big decisions, always sleep on them. The extra time will allow your decision to be made without the spontaneous emotion that comes with a spontaneous response.

3. Know your values. As Roy Disney stated, "It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are." Many times indecision occurs because of lack of clarity on vision and values.

4. Understand the context. Do your homework and make sure you are informed. Plus be aware of the situation- in the case of a good/bad decision, those are pretty easy. In the case of a better/best decision, those take a bit more time to push forward and get to a final decision. Different decisions require different levels of involvement, awareness, and information.

5. Just do it. Create a culture of action in your organization. Many leaders quickly become overwhelmed with several decisions in front of them and then unintentionally paralyze the organization by avoiding them all. Create a system of action that demands completion and execution, and ultimately your system/culture will demand decisions from you.

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.

A Conversation w/London based singer, songwriter and worship leader Tim Hughes

A couple of weeks ago I was in London and had the pleasure of attending the HTB Leadership Conference. If you are not familiar with Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), then you need to check out what they are up to. They are one of the most influential churches in the world, and have tremendous influence and favor in London and across the UK and throughout Europe. After being there for several days and connecting with many of their leaders, along with leaders from Hillsong London and other great churches and organizations throughout London and across the United Kingdom, I'm incredibly hopeful and optimistic regarding the Global Church. Everyone seems to think that the Gospel is not alive and well in the UK. Well, I'm convinced otherwise!

While in London, I had the chance to hang a bit more with Tim Hughes, who currently serves on staff with Holy Trinity Brompton as Director of Worship. Tim is a longtime singer, songwriter, pastor, and worship leader. He is the co-founder of Worship Central, an international worship training and resource center, as well as a band and label with an epic album entitled Spirit Break Out that you need to download now!

Tim has written songs such as Happy Day, Everything, Here I am to Worship, and Holding Nothing Back.

Below is my recent conversation with Tim, regarding HTB, Worship Central, his heart for training and resourcing worship leaders, and his favorite Olympic sport! (I apologize for the sync problems on the video and audio midway through the interview). Enjoy!


People and Places I'm Learning from Currently

Every leader needs to make sure they are continuing to learn on a consistent basis. Here are a few current outlets for my learning. This is not an exhaustive list since the things I'm listening to, reading, or watching change on a pretty regular basis. But this gives a pretty good perspective for what is happening right now. 1. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast- one of the best resources and podcasts available.

2. Catalyst DVD sets- I don't get to hear most of the talks at Catalyst, but I always go back later and listen to every talk.

3. TED Talks- one of my favorite places to look for fresh content and inspiring new voices.

4. Seth Godin- through his blog and all of his books.

5. Fast Company- both their magazine as well as the website. Great content for innovative leaders.

6. Blogs from Michael Hyatt, Tony Morgan, Perry NobleTechCrunch, Ron Edmondson, and John Maxwell.

7. Alltop.com- a great aggregator of blogs, links, and important info. Check out the Church section on Alltop for a listing of some good Church Leadership blogs to read.

8. Charlie Rose- one of the great interviewers of our time, and always has fascinating guests on his show. And you can watch all the interviews on the website.

9. Twitter- I know that Twitter is about community, but I also think the best news feed you can have, since you can choose what you want to hear and who you want to hear from.

10. Mashable- keeps me updated on everything in the tech, social media, cool new websites, and social networks space.

11. News Apps on my iPad- including the USA TODAY app, CNN, and NY Times.

12. Other events- like SXSW, Pop Tech, Big Omaha, 99% Conference, Plywood Presents, and World Business Forum.

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? 

Best Advice You've Ever Received

Was reading this helpful article from Fortune highlighting 22 leaders and them talking about the Best Advice They've Ever Received. Also a great article from Bill Gates on advice he's received. In thinking about the best personal advice I've ever received, here are a few that stand out:

My dad's advice- "Never let someone out work you."

My mom- "present yourself with excellence, including your appearance and your words."

And St. Francis- "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." He actually didn't tell me this one in person, and could be used by many others.... But it is such a good statement I had to include it.

Another one for me is "Listen way more than you talk. Be the best question asker in the world." And "Do what you love" and "Keep it simple." 

How about you? What's the best advice you've ever received?

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.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

One of my favorite Old Testament leaders is Nehemiah. He was a government worker in the employment of a foreign king. A high ranking worker no doubt. A leader. A cupbearer to the King. Trusted and respected. Then he became a building contractor, called in to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Through the story of the Old Testament book, we can discover a few of the leadership qualities that he possessed.

1. Compassion- when learning of the condition of the wall and of his people, Nehemiah wept.

2. Conviction- he understood that loyalty to his country and to his people in Jerusalem was paramount.

3. Courage- he stood alongside the builders of the wall to fight off enemies who wanted to bring them down. A shovel in one hand and a spear in the other.

4. Confrontation- Nehemiah called out those who were stealing from their brothers, and doling out debt without reason. He held them accountable, and directed them towards living right. Those whom he loved and admired he pushed towards righteous living.

5. Calling- he understood his role as the one who had been called to lead in rebuilding the wall, and correctly responded to that assignment when God prompted.

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.