7 Ways I’m Learning to “Disagree and Commit”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame wrote a well-circulated article to his shareholders. You can read it here: Jeff Bezos’ Shareholder Letter

In my industry of church, the implications of his letter are equally important. My guess is any industry where leadership is required to make decisions would benefit from adopting a version of these ideas (that’s everyone, btw).

When our leadership team discussed this article, we spent some time on what Jeff calls “High-Velocity Decision Making.” Within this section, he tells a story of how he disagreed with a specific direction one team was taking, but after voicing his opinion through several heated conversations, he decided to “disagree and commit.”

That simple phrase, “disagree and commit,” hit home for many of us, including me. It is certainly an empowering concept in leadership — empowering because it frees those in our organization to move forward without requiring consensus and without the usual ramifications. Obviously, having consensus is helpful, but it’s elusive. Let’s be honest — all leaders have opinions, and the odds of everyone’s opinion aligning for consensus is relatively small. That’s why being able to commit, even without consensus, is empowering. As for ramifications? Being able to decide and move forward without fear of leadership reprisal is even more empowering.

As a leader myself with plenty of opinions, Jeff’s advice rings true. Here’s how I am personally trying to follow his “disagree and commit” mantra, and what I’m hoping it does for our church:

Continue reading…

Always Content, Never Satisfied

I love this sentiment: “Be content, not satisfied.”

I can’t remember when I first heard it. It sounds like something John Maxwell would say, but I’m not sure. It’s certainly not a new idea. But for many leaders, mastering the power of this statement is novel and can provide new innovations and invigorate change.

At Woodstock City Church where I lead, we are constantly fighting to remain content, but not satisfied. Content because we are partnering with God and his church. Unsatisfied because the mission of God’s church is too big to every feel like it is complete. We take this so seriously around our church that we even labeled it “Make it Better,” one of our six core staff behaviors. “Make it Better” means never fall prey to believing we have arrived.

You know that in an ever-evolving culture, we can never stop evolving our approach, our model, or our strategies. As my friend and boss (Andy Stanley) likes to say, “We must be married to our mission, not our model.”

Continue reading…

How to Make Great Decision without any Clarity

As a leader, have you ever struggled with a decision?

If you lead or have ever led anything, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Making decisions is crucial to leading. Making decisions is an inseparable part of leadership. Leaders who cease to made decisions abdicate their leadership.

Of course, some decisions are obvious, some are more challenging, and some are absolutely daunting. The decisions leaders face during times of transitions, whether personal or organizational, are often the most difficult. The reason is simple:

Transitions bring cloudy conditions.

Great decisions are only possible when we have clarity — clarity of the situation, problem, possible solutions, and ramifications. Clarity is essential, but as every leader knows, when seasons give way to what’s next, the transition creates conditions that work directly against clear decisions.

Transitions are cloudy because they happen between what is known and what is next. What is known is often clear, but what’s next is typically new. New always has an element of unknown, and unknown is often unclear. It’s like driving our car into a dense fog. When you can barely see, it makes driving nearly impossible. If the fog grows dense enough, moving forward ceases to be a viable option.

Continue reading…

How to Focus Your Leadership in the Spaces You Control

As a leader, what is within your sphere of control?

That is a critical question to ask, because if you don’t know what you can control, you can’t be sure where you can fully lead.

The question matters, because true leadership does require an element of control. I would argue that without any internal locus of control, we are at best managers for the leaders who are in control. This explains why we (and me) desire control within what we are responsible to lead.

I serve as a Campus Pastor within North Point Ministries. That means that I have full control over some things, partial control over others, and no control in certain spaces. No matter what your title, like me, your locus of control varies from space to space, decision to decision.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to hyper-focus on what I can’t control, forgetting all that I can control. I want fully control, but full control is never fully available, no matter what your title. Unfortunately, the areas where my control is limited tends to mentally override the places where I do have majority control. That’s a leadership dilemma, and I’m convinced it exists for all leaders. One solution is to stop worrying about control, but that’s a terrible goal — and if you’re a leader, it’s not possible. Leaders want to lead, and leadership requires some control.

Continue reading…

A Much Better Way to Respond to Unsolicited Advice

Does everyone seem to be an unsolicited advice giver in your church?

I mean, how often do you hear, “Can I give you just a small suggestion?

I get it. I critique everything we do, as well. When you are a part of something, you want it to be great. When you serve and give to a church, you want your time and resources to be leveraged in the best way possible. Unfortunately, “great” is quite subjective. Every opinion is just that — an opinion. Good, bad, or terrible. (Insert pithy quote about armpits and … you know the rest.)

“The music is so loud.” “Too quiet.” “Too bassy.” “Not thumping enough.” 
“The sermon is too long.” “Too short.” “Not helpful.” “TOO helpful (substitute convicting).”
“It’s too crowded.”
“Somebody sat in my seat.”
“There wasn’t enough … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”
“There was too much … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”

I’m sure everyone means well, but hearing this week in and week out doesn’t do my heart well.

Continue reading…

How Leaders Can Stop Hogging the Hero Moments

One-Sentence Summary: Every leader wants to be a hero, but rather than hog the hero moments, great leaders empower others to be heroes. 

As a leader, have you ever been a hero to those who follow you?

Maybe you were the bearer of great news. Or maybe you served or loved them in an unexpected way. Maybe you gave them a job!

Most point leaders have the opportunity to be a hero with their staff from time-to-time, but what about the other “leaders” in the organization?

It’s an important question, because there are lots of people in every establishment leading something or someone. On our church staff, nearly everyone leads a staff team and/or volunteer team. Not everyone, but nearly everyone. There is one point leader, but there are nearly 65 leaders.

What I see too often (and maybe you’ve see this a lot, too), is point leaders hogging the hero moments while lower-level leaders are forced to handle the day-to-day, non-hero stuff. And unfortunately, there’s not too many “hero” moments day-to-day.

Continue reading…

Because Hiring Diverse Strengths Is Not Enough

Every leader knows that a well-rounded staff makes for a better organization. As a leader, you desire to have a diversity of skills, capabilities, and even personalities on the team. You want a leadership team to provide different perspectives. You want a leadership team to contain unique individual abilities. You want an overall staff built upon a healthy diversity of talent.

You want people with financial strengths, administrative strengths, people strengths, and creative strengths. You want leaders around you who are feelers, doers, thinkers, strategist, contemplative, and decisive. You need this as a leader. And your organization needs this to be successful.

That should be easy to accomplish, right? I mean, all you really need to do is hire for strength and personality diversity. Not diversity of chemistry — we all need to love the people we work along side — but diversity of talent. Diversity of abilities. Diversity of personality.

Continue reading…

Do Labels Limit Potential?

Do you have a label maker in your workplace? Or maybe at home like I do? A small little printer with only one purpose in life: labels. My wife really loves label maker, which explains our pantry. She’s labeled every bin, which felt like overkill until I needed to distinguish between powdered sugar and all-purpose flour. A light dusting of flour on your pancakes isn’t a good as you probably imagine!

My wife isn’t alone in her love of labeling. People by nature love to label things. You have probably labeled something today — or many somethings. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. And that could be a good thing. Labels are helpful. And labels give context. A label describes what we know and what we can expect. Powdered sugar or flour. Black beans or green.

Here’s where labeling goes downhill. Unfortunately, as a leader, our propensity to label things often transfers to labeling people. We do it for the same reason as the bins in my pantry — labeling people gives us context. It helps us understand who people are and what we can expect. We label people through personality test, which is often helpful, as these types of tests give us context on how to best lead individuals individually. We label people’s roles though job descriptions and titles. Again, helpful for us and the person on the other end of the role. If we could stop the labeling there, maybe all would be fine. But we don’t. In fact, it’s as if we can’t. We love context too much to stop with personality characteristics and job descriptions.

Continue reading…

Does Your Team Really Believe They Belong?

Have you ever felt you needed to prove yourself? Prove your worth? Prove you deserved to be at your company, church, or organization?

I guess that’s more of a rhetorical question, right?

We’ve all felt the sense of performance-based acceptance at play in our heart. It’s part of the human condition. We’ve all wondered if we really belong. If we are worthy of our role.

As leaders, we have to look outside of our own experience to see the bigger problem: The internal battle to belong isn’t isolated to us. If we have felt it, most likely everyone in our organization has felt it — or is currently feeling it. And it’s a problem on several fronts. I know, because like you, I’ve been there.

The Internal Battle to Belong Creates:

1. Sideways energy: When people are trying to prove their worth, their misapplied motivation moves their energy away from the good work and toward a good pat on the back. When people are focused on being noticed, their efforts cannot be fully dedicated to something bigger than themselves.

Continue reading…

Filling Seats on Your Bus

If you lead any type of organization — company, church, or department — you probably have an organizational chart of some sort. It’s one of those necessary structures that help delineate chain of command and channels of communication, among others.

When I first began leading a church (a typical organization in many ways), I was encouraged to envision the org chart 5 – 10 years down the road. What departments would be necessary? What divisions? How many layers? How many staff? I even went as far as putting my name in most of the “open” positions in this hypothetical org chart. Visually, it looked impressive and strategic. Personally, it just looked like I had too much to do!

I think this is a valuable exercise for every leader. If you’ve never done it, you should. But a few years into leading at Woodstock City Church, this exercise created quite the conundrum.

Here’s the dilemma I began to ponder:

Is it better to start with the org chart in place so you can then find the right people for each box, or is it better to find the right people and build the organization around them?

Continue reading…