12 Keys for Successfully Starting something New

Are you starting a new organization? A Church Planter? Entrepreneur? Involved in a small organization just getting started?

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Act like you’ve arrived. No one needs to know you’re just starting. When you’re small, act and think big. When you’re big, act and think small.

2. Hire people you like. Look for chemistry first in terms of creating your initial core team.

3. If at all possible, don’t work with your family. Start with competency, not relatives. And stay away from taking loans, venture capital, or seed money from family members as well.

4. Establish your values and organizational culture immediately. Build your organizational DNA early and often. And repeat.

5. Work hard, play hard. Have fun. Get things done.

6. Lean into interns. A great way to build capacity quickly. And to keep you young.

7. Establish partnerships. Look for opportunities to collaborate at every corner. Seek to build joint ventures.

8. Create benchmarks. Understand clearly who you want to be like, both personally and organizationally. Once you know, learn from them. Seek them out.

9. Celebrate constantly. Find the small wins as well as the big wins.

10. Seek feedback and accountability everywhere. Learn from everyone, and intentionally ask for input.

11. Create a board or advisory group, regardless of your corporate structure. You need this regardless of whether a church planter, entrepreneur, small business owner, or sole proprietor.

12. Dream big, but aim small. Scale your vision appropriately. Have a change the world dream and idea, but be very clear and laser focused on your target market/customer. And understand everything about that target market.

9 Things to Consider when Hiring someone New

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1. Hire slow and fire fast. Many organizations are just the opposite, hiring fast and firing slow.

2. Look for heart and hands, not just mind and spirit.

3. Culture is key. As the leader, do you want to hang out with them? Hire people you want to be friends with.

4. Don’t just interview them. “Intern” them. This has always been the system at Catalyst.

5. Hire a doer, not just a talker.

6. Benchmark the Experts. Who are the best people in the world at the position you are hiring? Figure out who that is, and contact them. For advice, suggestions, and to understand why they are so good at what they do. Learn from them and build a job description for your new hire from that.

7. Be wary of the “stepping stone” mentality. If you are another stop on the journey for someone, then run. Reality is – people are transitioning all the time. But that shouldn’t be their mindset going in when hiring them.

8. Do your homework. Have potential team members take personality tests, and spend as much time as you can with them.

9. Talk to their former employers. Many people skip this step, but it’s crucial. Talk to their references, and make sure you get a sense of how they performed in their former roles.

10 Key Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned over the Last Year in Handing off Catalyst

***UPDATE***

I’m a year removed from being on a strategic 4 month sabbatical. This time last year I was in the middle of it. It’s been quite a year. And the last 12 months have provided some incredible learnings.

So looking back, here are 10 reflections and learnings one year later that hopefully will help you in your own leadership journey.

1. I got my smile back. Stepping away allowed me to rediscover the passion. Finding joy in the journey again. At Catalyst Atlanta the first week of October- I was in the “mosh pit” during the evening session on Thursday down on the floor in front of the stage. Matt Redman looked down and almost laughed out loud while singing because he was so surprised to see me! I’m not too cool or too old. Passion and zest for the current season.

2. What I do is not who I am. Who you are is not what you do. My identity is simply a follower of Jesus. I’m okay with that on my business card. My identity is in Jesus. I’m not the “Catalyst guy” anymore, and I thought that would be incredibly difficult. And it has been. My identity and my need to know what is next are the two most difficult things for me to deal with and work on as an ENTJ. But ultimately, I had to answer the question “Who am I, really?” I’m Brad, and I’m a follower of Jesus. Period. End of story. I’m Brad. Not Catalyst Brad. Just Brad.

3. Getting out of the way is part of my responsibility as a leader. There is tremendous power in passing on the power to the next wave of leaders behind you. Getting out of the way and letting other leaders step up is healthy. Removing myself from the equation as the organizational leader gives a chance for other leaders on your team to step up. Stepping out of the way allows others to step up. Others step up when you step out. Pass the baton. Most leaders hold on for too long. Let go before you need to or are forced to. Generation transfer- we are always replacing ourselves. Constantly. Not just when you’re CEO or President or Senior Pastor or Executive Director. Great leaders model succession constantly. At every level in an organization, in every role, at every intersection.

4. Calling is demonstrated and reflected by seasons, and specific assignments within that season. Seasons of assignment gives me freedom and flexibility in how I appropriately view life. My season and assignment of leading Catalyst has ended. Been completed. Driving the Catalyst bus has ended. But that doesn’t change my overall calling- to influence influencers. It just means this chapter of the book is complete. But the story continues! On to the next chapter. The book is not done, just the chapter completed. Just because you’re not driving the bus doesn’t mean you can’t still be on the bus. I’m the kid now in the back of the bus rolling down the bus window and waving at all the people on the sidewalks walking by!

5. Margin matters. Rest and margin and space are crucial for a leader- rhythm is incredibly important. Speed kills. Change the pace. You have to slow down in order to speed up. Don’t avoid or under-estimate the value of this. You won’t realize it till it’s too late. Burnout might be right around the corner. We have to recharge as leaders. And renewed fresh vision requires a renewed fresh mind. Waiting on God is an active thing, not a passive thing. Margin allows for us to hear from God, because the distractions are removed. Many times God is speaking, we just can’t hear because of the speed we’re traveling and the number of songs on repeat in our earbuds that are good, but not the best. Listening intently to God requires connecting intently with God. I’m waiting on God to reveal what is next in my story that is part of His story.

6. I’m not winning if the people closest to me and working with me and for me are not fully flourishing. Wow- this one punched me right in the face. I was allowing the pursuit of the purpose to get in the way of people. The vision and goal and finish line matters, but not at the expense of leaving people in the ditch. I was not a good friend. I’m great with the wider community, but have to work really hard at making sure I’m constantly connecting and in true community with those closest to me. And the people closest to me were getting the worst of me, or none of me. And were suffering the most. While those on the outside still thought I was the cat’s meow.

7. Pruning is not fun, but is required if you want to lead. Being pruned requires getting kicked in the pants, slapped across the face a bit, punched in the stomach, and patted on the back. Pruning is required if you’re going to go to the next level in your leadership and in your life, especially as a follower of Jesus. Being pruned is needed in order to move from one season to the next, as well as part of the process of discipleship of becoming more like Christ. John 15:5, a branch being pruned and cut back in order to bear more fruit in the next season. Pruning was difficult, but very needed. I was the poster boy for the theme of Known. Who you are before what you do, that ultimately will provide the legacy for what you’ll be known for. I didn’t realize I would end up walking through a transition and leadership mile marker on the life road partly due to a conference theme that I helped create!

8. My leadership was stale. I was not a good leader the last few years. I looked the part, but was decaying from the inside out. I had to step back and realize this. It’s important to step back into my true identity- the last couple of years had pushed me into being a leader that is not completely parallel to who I am. Slowly, over time, leadership had become something I was supposed to be an expert on, but not actually doing. Yikes. Dangerous place. I can be having lots of success and growing a movement and making a difference yet disregarding those closest to me. Have to lead myself first. Taking a time out and a break is imperative to be able to stop and notice that you are off course and drifting out to sea. The slow decline and slightly off course can derail you in the long term. Have to stop and look inward. And looking inward is difficult. Dying to a season is hard.

9. Good fruit is required. As a leader, what are you building, vs. who are building into? Your leadership is effective if it’s producing good fruit in others around you. You can build an empire, but if it’s built on sand and a house of cards then it will come crashing down at some point. Focus on good fruit. I had to realize that what I had been building the last 10 + years was stripped away from me, and what was going to last? Who I had built into- that’s what would last.

10. Faithfulness and stewardship is the measure of ultimate success. Stewardship of what is put in front of me. I can let go of Catalyst now with hands open because it’s not mine anyway, and I stewarded it the best I knew how during my season of assignment. Hopefully assignment well done. Now onto the next assignment.

Not sure what that is yet, but right now I’m speaking a ton, finishing up my 2nd book, and also consulting with a handful of organizations, and still an advisor to Catalyst. I guess you could say I’m a professional friend and advisor for this season. Not sure how long it will last, but enjoying every second of it.

I’m committed to leveraging my experience and equity and wisdom for what is next. And not to settle for the easy. I’m really being challenged to do something that is outside my comfort zone.

But right now, I’m proud to look back over the last year, and see a transition that has occurred in a healthy and correct way.

I’m able to help at Catalyst and be an advisor and not in any way for that to feel weird or for me to want to jump back in and be in charge and take over. Part of the reason for I believe a fairly reasonable transition was that there was a point where I killed “Catalyst Brad.” He was put out of his misery. Dying to this season means I’m giving up that title and that business card intro. A title that has been what I’ve done for the last 10 + years. Moving forward I have to say that I led Catalyst for 10 years and am done.

So many transitions and successions happen from one leader to the other without the outgoing leader ever truly releasing that season. So they either try and jump back in at every turn, or just spend all their time bad mouthing and sabotaging their replacement because they’re deep down concerned that someone else is going to be better at the role than they were. Hopefully I’m not doing this.

Step out before you need to. Go out on top. Hand off way before it’s time.

Now onto the next season!

 

Want to be a Thought Leader, Author and Expert? Great! But beware.

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All of us should be striving to be experts. To be the leaders in our industries. In our organizations, our churches, our schools, our businesses, our non profits, our networks and associations.

These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the years in the pursuit of being a thought leader, an expert, a leader. I haven’t arrived in any way, but thought these might be helpful as we all strive to get better and continue to gain more influence.

1. Actively Build a Support Network- including those who can help you on the journey, and those who will be real with you regardless of what you become. Beware of CEO disease, the temptation to surround yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear. Keep honest people in your life so that you can stay grounded in the reality of your experiences. Don’t start to suffer from Reality Deprivation Syndrome.

2. Don’t think You’ve Arrived- Banish the phrase, “I’m done” from your vocabulary. The best leaders never stop learning and see every opportunity, success or failure, as a learning opportunity.

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re not a big deal. Seriously. I don’t care who you are. Humility is way more attractive than arrogance. Humor is way more attractive than hubris.

4. Celebrate Your Rivals- Jealously is natural, but how you respond to it is not. When you find yourself tempted to speak ill about a rival or secretly wrestle with jealousy, flip that emotion on its head. Find ways to celebrate your rivals and when you run into a new one, let the first question you ask yourself be, “How can I help this person win?”

5. Be Generous. Both with your time as well as your expertise and experience. Don’t forget- you were once a greenhorn who didn’t know anything. As soon as you are an expert or a thought leader, it’s time to start passing on what you know to others younger or less experienced than you. It’s NOT the time to become arrogant and protected and sheltered by an assistant or entourage.

6. Bring others with you. Take your team with you. Take your family with you. Bring as many people along on the journey as possible. Going on a trip? Take a co-worker. Traveling international? Bring your child. Business meeting in NYC? Bring your spouse. Community is paramount to longevity as a leader. Isolation is one of the most dangerous habits you can develop. True, authentic, longterm friendships are a game changer.

7. Congruence between your inner and outer worlds. Work on character as much as competency. Don’t let your outer world start to outdistance and outpace and overtake the intentionality of your inner world. Heart and character and conviction and moral fiber must be maintained and developed and grown as you continue to build your competency, expertise, relational equity, networks, influence and ambition.

8. Flow between the five stages of creative development. Don’t get stuck in one. Taken in concert, these five stages can be healthy, important parts of growing any creative endeavor. Isolated and obsessed on, any one of these stages can cripple your best intentions. Focus on moving between them. The key is to not just hang out in the “caretaker” stage, where you protect and defend everything you’ve developed, but instead keep returning to the “craft” stage, constantly creating new ideas, projects, organizations and impact.

STAGE #1- Craft – You create something out of passion for the art of it.

STAGE #2- Crowd – An audience discovers you’re good at your passion.

STAGE #3- Commission – You earn money for the thing you love to do.

STAGE #4- Career – You turn a passion into your profession.

STAGE #5- Caretaker – You protect and nurture the thing you’ve created, and do everything you can to “defend” your turf. A dangerous phase.

8 Ways to Make your Communication Stick

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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. To make it stick. 

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. Be authentic, vulnerable, and funny. The key is to just simply be you. Allow the audience to get to know you. Make yourself vulnerable by talking about a failure or something that gives you instant connection. Be funny and find ways to keep your content light and humorous.

8. Land the plane 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? 

5 Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

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One of my favorite Old Testament leaders is Nehemiah. He was a government worker in the employment of a foreign administration. 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. He was deeply bought in and moved to action.

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.

Say No to the Good, and Yes to the Best

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“Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.”  - John C. Maxwell

I love this quote, but I struggle constantly with implementing it. It makes total sense, but as a persuader, my leadership style is to include and to invite more and more into the conversation and the huddle. I have a hard time saying no, because for me that feels like I am excluding someone. I’ve learned how to do this, but it still goes against my natural leadership style.

But as leaders, we have to be willing to say no in order for our time and energy to be spent on the things that only we can do, as well as the few ideas or projects that will end up being the “best.”

Reality is, the more influence you gain, and the more your organization grows, the harder it is to say no to the good. And with more influence, you have more opportunities. With more and more opportunities, the more we have to make decisions on what we will focus on and where we will expend our time, energy and resources.

The key is to know what you do really well. The areas you are great. Spend your time and energy on those things. Be focused. Give up on trying to do everything. On trying to be all things to all people.

Remember, saying no doesn’t mean you don’t like someone or something. It’s not personal. You have to be disciplined and focused on a few things to be great.

Leaders Take the First Step in Relationships

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Reach out First. Take the first step.

Most of us aren’t “experts” at relationships. Whether dealing with family, friends, co-workers, new acquaintances, or team members, we are all guilty of coming up short. It seems like every day I goof up in the way I relate, communicate, and lead.

I’m sure this scenario applies to you right now, or will soon. A business deal gone bad. A conversation that was really tense. A mis-spoken word or hurtful phrase- either directed towards you or from you. Gossip behind your back that you know about, and so does the person who said it. Disagreements turned into frustration and now no communication. A confrontational conversation with a close friend that leaves both hesitant to talk.

Are there folks in your life right now who you are at odds with? Here are two thoughts on how to “restore” healthy and harmonious relationships with those around us.

1. Reach out first- don’t wait on someone else to move toward you. Go ahead and confess, apologize, bring it up, or start the conversation. Even if you are not at fault. You need to lean in and reach out and move across the “center aisle” and intentionally make amends.

2. Move on- Don’t hang on to something just so you can hold it over someone’s head. Let it go. Restore the relationship, and restart the relationship immediately.

3. Get better- continue to work on living and leading at peace with those around you. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Establish a healthy routine of daily reaching out and daily vulnerability. Make sure you are progressing and improving and not allowing relationships to get to points where you have to be intentional about mending them.