Sunday, June 11, 2017

What R.E.A.L. Influence Looks Like

Like it or not, if you work with other people, or are in any kind of a relationship, you are an influencer. You may be a positive or a negative influencer, but no breathing human being is without influence. So why not be a positive influencer? 

Here are the 4 skills most critical to being an effective and positive influencer.


You have been around that rare breed of person that others refer to as a people magnet. They can be introverts or extroverts. What they have in common is that they add value to those around them. I know people like this. If they are people skilled at being empathetic, hanging around them makes me more empathetic. If they have the gift of encouragement, some of that rubs off on me and I become more encouraging to others. Influencers know that it is only through relationships – investing time in people who know you genuinely care about and value them as a person and not just for what you might get back from them – that any positive influence you have will also be lasting influence. This leads to the second skill.


Once you enter into a relationship, build trust with that person and begin to see yourself rubbing off on them, you have begun to exhibit the second key skill of an influencer. Empowering. Having seen the value of a character trait, skill, attitude or ability in you, the other person feels empowered to exhibit that same trait, skill attitude or ability themselves. Wise influencers will recognize this, and through encouragement begin to direct those under their leadership, management or supervision to continue in positive growth. Influencers give others opportunity and space to use their gifts and talents. They provide feedback, coaching and counsel so that those being empowered will be successful. But influencers also do this so those being empowered will grow in their own influence, and then will be able to do the same for others someday.


Most people who leave a job or fail to advance in one do so not because of a lack of ability, knowledge or skill. They stay stuck or go backward because of attitude. Influencers know this and lead by having the kind of attitude that is unshakable. Influencers know their life’s mission or purpose. Their values have been forged and tested by fire. They know that what happens around them is nothing compared to what happens inside them. You cannot deflate, demean, diminish or derail them. It’s not stubbornness that makes it so, It is confidence, clarity of vision, commitment to certain values, and in most cases a healthy dose of joy (there is nothing stronger than true joy) that gives key influencers the ability to stay positive, hopeful and optimistic in the middle of any storm, even with their eyes wide open.


Influencers recognize all the ways they have the ability to influence others through their attitude, their ability to empower and build strong, solid relationships. And they put all of this together under the banner of leadership. A leader does not have all the answers nor the ability to determine the paths of others. A leader does two primary things. A leader goes first and invites, challenges and encourages others to come along. Secondly, a leader serves those who have joined up to prompt and direct them toward fulfilling their mission and purpose in life. Even if this means a team member leaves, the culture you have created by your influence will be a magnet for others who want to have what you’ve got rub off on them.

You are a person of influence. So make it and keep it positive. Oh, yeah. And keep it R.E.A.L.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

2 Top 5’s of Church Growth and Decline

Top 5 Reasons Churches Grow

1.      The Pastor can preach. Preaching ability goes a long way, and more pastors ought to spend more time refining their skills. 91% of pastors assess themselves as better than average at preaching. If you know anything about the Bell Curve, this means 41% of them are lying to themselves. More than any other factor, good preaching will make up for what may be lacking in other areas. But not all, of course.
2.      Relevant, applicable Biblical teaching. Just open the book and let it speak. The Bible does its best work in our lives when we allow it to read us rather than us trying to read it. Great Bible teachers understand this, and growing churches know how to recruit, train and deploy such teachers in Sunday School, Small Groups and other high-impact venues.
3.      A church of Prayer. Prayer changes what is possible. It puts us into a posture of being able to receive from God blessing, correction, reproof, direction and wisdom. Only perfect churches can ignore these things. All other churches must have them in order to grow. So prayer is critical to a church’s success.
4.      Highly focused. A growing church knows its mission and so do all of the members. In fact, they orient everything they do around it. And the mission always has the person and the ongoing work of Jesus at its center. A church with 250 members and 86 different ministries is likely an unfocused church. If you need help here, check out the book Simple Church.
5.      High degree of accountability. Before you run away imagining benchmarks, long and short term goals and measurements of success, the best kind of accountability looks different than the corporate model. Here, leaders are in regular conversation with those serving in ministry under their leadership. Here, accountability is a regular check-in meeting where ideas, struggles, hopes and prayers are shared. Most people don’t need to be held accountable to the work, but to the mission of vision. These meetings keep that in crystal clear focus, and good work almost always naturally follow.
Other Essential Elements of Growing Churches:

  • Intentional Discipleship Pathway 
  • Invitational Culture 
  • Budget heavy on missions 
  • Develops leaders

Top 5 Reasons Churches Decline

1.      Conflict and/or the fallout from it. For whatever reason, these churches usually have at least 3 missions. One is the stated mission, and the others are the missions hiding in the shadows created by various competing factions within the church. Hallmarks of these churches are a frequent change of pastors, lots of gossip, same group of lay people in leadership year after year, and very few guests returning for a second time.
2.      Poor leadership of both clergy and laity. This goes hand in hand with conflict. Poor leaders do not know how to leverage conflict for the good. Instead, they try to avoid it, even when it is unavoidable, and come off as weak, out of touch, clueless, scared or apathetic. It’s no surprise that followers abandon those who refuse to lead when strong leadership is most needed.
3.      Poor followers. There are 2 kinds here. One is the overly domineering personality. They insist on their way and often get it to the detriment of the mission. The 2nd kind of poor follower will remain quiet and cave to strong personalities and then resent it in silence. They will acquiesce and agree to what they know is harmful, destructive and wrong. But not great followers. Nathan confronted King David about his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba. Good followers will do that. They insist on integrity and will risk their relationship with the leader, because the ongoing work of Jesus is too important.
4.      No hill to take. A recent social media meme lampooned a major denomination’s call for unity sarcastically declaring, “It is our unity that unifies us.” But this is what happens when there is not a common, shared mission around which the life and ministry of the church is oriented. Churches so easily get bogged down in programming that is interest-driven rather than mission-driven. As a corrective, Jesus said that the mission of the church is to win the lost and set the oppressed free. Focusing on that might be a good place to start to turn it around.
5.      Poor hospitality and communication. In declining churches, the insiders always seem to know what’s going on, but few others do. This failure to communicate as clearly and broadly as possible creates a sense of alienation that says outsiders are not valued or even thought about all that much. Nothing communicates a lack of hospitality like a failure to communicate. And communication starts the moment someone steps on campus. The only thing worse than no greeters or ushers are unfriendly ones who seem detached and disinterested. But every week, in declining churches all over the country, you will find them.
Other Traits of Declining Churches:

  • Few commitments of faith or baptisms
  • Everyone thinks just alike (these can grow for a while, but it’s not sustainable)
  • Change is a dirty word
  • Very few returning guests

For those of you struggling with some of the above realities, I am struggling right there with you. You pray for me and I will pray for you!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Performance and Engagement

How to ramp up performance and engagement from Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author and founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company.

Friday, February 3, 2017

This One Trait Sets Successful People Apart

There are countless books, articles, blogs and seminars dedicated to the traits, qualities or skills needed to be a success. This goes for success in life, sport, business, relationship, and any other arena I might be missing.

Most of what you will hear has to do with qualities such as talent, teachability, trustworthiness, transparency, accountability, communication, vulnerability, humility, good listening, asking great questions, etc. Personally, I love that stuff! I can’t get enough of it, and I appreciate so much those who have dedicated the time and energy to offer their insights on each of these.


Even if one possesses all of the above qualities in abundance, there is one thing that will set a truly successful person apart. That is, they notice things others do not. They have an awareness of themselves, of others, of what is happening around them and right in front of them, giving them the ability to draw lessons from daily life and apply them on the fly.


Scott Williams of Wright University has a good, succinct article about self-awareness on the WU website. He talks about a person’s awareness of the personality, values, needs and habits, how this awareness will make one more effective, and how to practice this skill to become a better leader or manager. But awareness of self is just the first step.


The very best at this know how to read between the lines of what others say. They read body language, facial expressions and tones of voice. How are they able to do this? They very intentionally practice it. They listen more than they speak. They ask questions and then pay attention to the answers. They see and hear things that others do not. As a result, they have insights and understandings that elude others, giving them the edge.


This one is huge. We all react and respond differently to different input or stimuli. Our environment is the provider of these things. People who are calm and cool under fire do have the ability to get rattled and confounded from time to time. People with wonderful judgement can blow the call now and again. Most of the time it is because we know ourselves and the people we are around, but something in the world around us is different or out of step with the norm. This could be a momentary step away from normalcy, or it could be the result of a culture shift.

I once led a team that experienced great success in reaching out to teenagers with a message of hope and challenge. One day, in our team meeting, I said, “We need to think about what’s next. What we have been doing has a shelf-life of about 4 years, and we are at the end of year 3. Teenage culture changes too fast for us to keep this up much longer, so we need to get ahead of the demand for a change by beginning to understand now what is going to make us successful 2 years from today, rather than 2 weeks from today.”

Because we had a team that well knew themselves, the people they were working with and for, and the culture they were in, they embraced this challenge and we began to make a shift that set us up for long term success.

But it would not have happened by skill, honesty, vulnerability, transparency, etc. alone. Awareness is the thing that gave us, and will give you the edge.

If you want to dive deeper into this, let me suggest two resources. First is Tom Rath's, Strengths Finder. This will help you discover your own strengths and explore the relevance of that discovery. It will also help you be able to recognize the strengths of others, and what that means for how you relate to them in whatever relationship you share.

Second is John Kotter's, Leading Change. It is amazing how much easier it is to recognize the need to change when you know how to lead yourself and others through it.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What Happens When You Stop Being Afraid

There are things in life we should fear. I'm afraid of heights. At 6'4", it took me three years to get used to being this tall. But a more justifiable fear is my fear of a phone call from one of my four kids in their twenties at 1:30 AM. Just typing that out made me shudder.

The truth is, there are fears many of us carry that debilitate us in the most important areas of life. Rather than expose the dangers here, I want to attack this by highlighting 3 fears that keep us from acting in ways that could end up giving us the life we always dreamed of, as well as the good that can come from leaving these fears behind.

Not afraid to fail.
There is a saying that contends the most destructive thing you can do is to do nothing because you are afraid you can only do a little. It is equally destructive to do nothing because you are not certain of your ability to succeed. But in the same way you never learn something unless you ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, you never grow in any area of life unless you attempt something you are not sure you can pull off. For this to happen, failure is an absolute requirement.

Some say that no one likes to fail. That’s not true. There are those wise ones who upon failure, take a little joy in knowing they have learned something new that makes success a little more within reach. These people are not only not afraid to fail, they expect it. They welcome it. They celebrate, learn from and quickly move beyond it, smiling all the way.

Not afraid to be judged.

These are people who stay focused, transparent and honest about their weaknesses as well as their strengths. People like this freely admit their limits of knowledge and ability, and seek the help of those around them. In fact, they view judgment, just like failure as an opportunity for learning.

When criticism does come, they dive into ruthlessly honest self-evaluation, sometimes even seeking feedback from their critics. They accept what rings true, dismiss what is obviously not true, and seek out the feedback of trusted friends to pull back the curtain on any blind spots.

Judgement does not scare them because they can learn and grow from it, and at the end of the day live more fully and faithfully into the kind of person they want to become.

Not afraid to be exposed.

Give me a person with character and integrity over a person with talent any day. Skill and ability can be taught. But if a person is lacking in character, no amount of talent will be able to compensate for the disaster that will inevitably come.

One of the practical benefits of character is that you never have to be afraid of being exposed. Even if you make a mistake or commit a relational faux pas, character will prompt you to quickly and humbly admit your failure, apologize, make amends, and move forward even stronger for having fought through a crisis. Others may try to hold it against you, but when the principals involved have moved on in healthy relationship, the critics end up looking foolish, petty and self-serving.

Those who scrutinize you in the clear light of day with honestly and sincerity will find a real human being possessing the qualities of honor, commitment, humility, grace and perseverance. There is nothing to be afraid of in that.


So if you are a person not afraid of failure, judgment or exposure, what can your enemies do to you? Nothing! You cannot harm a person with no fear. It is not failure, judgment or exposure that harms us. It is our fear of them and the dysfunctional ways that fear forces us to behave. Without fear, we can only grow and succeed, even if that growth and success is not exactly what we anticipated in the beginning.

So if you are a person not afraid of failure, judgment or exposure, your enemies can do nothing to you, but what can you do to them? Win them over! Strength, humility, integrity, grace and an unshakable confidence are very attractive qualities. May they be yours in abundance.

Be encouraged!