Choosing to Grow Before You Go

Have you ever been frustrated to a point where going felt like the best option? Or maybe the only option?

You were…

…Frustrated with a relationship, and you just had to get out.

…Frustrated in a marriage. So you walked out.

…Frustrated with a job. So you quit.

…Frustrated with your lack of progress. So you dropped the gym membership and grabbed a candy bar (sorry, was that too close to home?)

We’ve all been there. Most of us too many times to count.

The frustration to leaving conundrum is very real and very visceral. At times leaving is absolutely the best option. But not always. For now, let’s focus our energy on workplace frustrations.

I’ve never met a person who’s lived a life free of work-related frustration. As an emotion, frustration drives us to make many decisions. Not necessarily good decisions, but decisions none-the-less. Of all the decisions we face in the midst of our frustration, decisions that seemingly remove the frustration come to us first.

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Unplugging the Microwave of Success

Have you heard the soundtrack to the hit broadway musical “Hamilton?” If you’ve seen the actual musical, just keep that to yourself — intentionally causing envy is tantamount to envy, itself.

The music is quite spectacular. And historically insightful, too. My kids are way more knowledgeable about the Founding Fathers due to our time in the car together. It makes me question everything about my school upbringing! Hip hop trumps note-taking all day long.

Production aside, Alexander Hamilton was quite an amazing guy. He accomplished much, including establishing one of the first banks in America, the Bank of New York. Here’s what made me take a step back while jamming along to the soundtrack — it took Hamilton seven years to establish the bank’s charter. I know, the local community bank went up in a months time, and that seemed like forever in today’s world, but think about that for a moment. Seven years. That’s a long time to focus on something. Anything.

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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.

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Giving Yourself Some Growing Grace

If you are leading in any way, no doubt you are faced with potential personal growth opportunities. These opportunities come in various forms. Some are easy to understand while others are more complex. Some learnings are easier to implement than others. Unfortunately, the most difficult aspect of personal growth isn’t identifying the growth opportunity, but rather dealing with our implementation attempts and setbacks.

Let me explain with a personal example:

I recently was able to take some time away from leading at Woodstock City Church. I spent the bulk of my time processing some interpersonal stuff that was directly impacting my ability to lead well in the long term. One key learning for me (among so many) was how easily I can allow what I do as a leader to define who I am as a person. When what I do is doing well, I’m doing well. When what I’m doing is struggling, I find myself personally struggling. When I fail, I begin to believe I am a failure. It’s identity 101, but none of us are immune to forgetting this Christian life principle. Especially in leadership, where progress and doing is the bulk of the work.

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9 Reasons You Could Be the Growth Barrier in Your Church

This is Part 2 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I believe there are 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the first, and most difficult to embrace:

Ingredient 1: REMOVE YOURSELF AS A BARRIER TO GROWTH

By far, this is the most challenging of the ingredients to evaluate and embrace. Often when we bump into an issue or problem, we are tempted to look around and cast blame. At times blame should be cast elsewhere, but as a point leader of any team or organization, there is always an element of blame that should fall back on our shoulders. After all, we are the leader.

Looking in the mirror is more onerous than looking through a window, though. Discovering and owning our part in any problem is painful at best, but if we desire the build THE Kingdom more than our kingdom, a mirror moment is necessary.

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The Power of Proximity

Have you ever been passed over simply because you were not around when opportunity came?

Don’t feel bad—it’s the power of proximity, and it’s a normal function of organizational life. Those closest to the point leader often find themselves with the most opportunities. Not necessarily because they are the most talented, or the most capable, or even the best fit, but because they are there.

I’ll go ahead and say it for you: “That doesn’t seem fair.” It’s not, but neither is life, which doesn’t make anyone feel better, but nevertheless is still true.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to proximity, but for a driven, young leader, the advantages typically far outweigh the disadvantages. Young leaders want new challenges and opportunities. They want to learn through experience and be coached on their performance. They want to better understand and contribute to the bigger picture, and there is no picture bigger than that carried by the point leader. Being near him or her matters.

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Telling Yourself “No For Now”

When was the last time you listened to a leadership podcast, read a blog, or attended a conference and heard a great leader offer great advice, but walked away thinking it wasn’t for you?

Several years ago I listened as my boss, Andy Stanley, taught a leadership lesson on saying “No for now.” The basis of his teaching was saying “No for now” doesn’t mean “No forever.” According to Andy, as a leader, you should be willing to say “No for now.” He gave examples from his past.

  • When he had young children and was asked to speak at other churches or conferences, he declined. “No for now.”
  • When he was launching North Point Community Church, he didn’t accept any offers to travel. “No for now.”
  • He decided that being home at 4:00pm was best for his wife and family, so for a season, he would not meet with anyone in the late afternoon or evening. “No for now.”

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The 17 Best Books I Read in 2014

I love to know what friends and peers are reading. I’m always on the lookout for great books to stretch my theology, skills, and leadership ability.

I’ve already made my reading list for 2015.

Here are the books I loved the most from 2014. Note these are my favorites… I’ll spare you the full list!

1. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

This is a must read for any organizational leader. In fact, just read anything Patrick Lencioni writes.

2. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

I LOVED this book. Loved, loved, LOVED it!

3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The conversation around habit loops and understand keystone habits is worth the read.

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25’ish Books I Hope to Read in 2015


What books are you planning to read in 2015?

It seems like a daunting task to create a list of books, conferences, and other learning opportunities, but as we begin the year together, it seems having a plan is the best (and only way) to ensure we take growth steps.

One thing: Before you look at my list, I’d love to know what YOU are planning to read. Even better, what have you read that is a MUST READ that I’m missing on my list?

Also, in case you’re wondering, here were my favorite books from 2014!

Here are the books I’m planning to read in 2015.

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Does Working for the Weekend Work Against YOU?

AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You sense there is a connection between time and momentum.

This post in one sentence…
Does time away take away? From our momentum? From our progress? From our purpose?

How you can engage…
Create a “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” list of your own and share it with me in the comments below. And share this post with others who might need to consider the idea, too.


Do YOU need to take more time off?

I know, I know… sounds like a trick question. But let’s think critically for a moment. Is taking time off ALWAYS a good thing? Loverboy sang “everybody’s working for the weekend…, “ but does working for the weekend ever work against us?


An Observation that Initiated the Question

I recently took time away from writing. Outside of a few random posts, I didn’t blog for a couple of months. I didn’t really write anything. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but I was excited to get started again. I felt ready to pounce on a blog post like a lion stalking prey. I was mentally refreshed. I assumed two months away would allow me to come back with ideas upon ideas. It was going to be a landslide of great writing. After all, every time I write, I use up an idea; so taking a few months off should in theory create a backlog of options.

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