Coaching Leaders Through What Keeps them Up at Night. Shawn is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. Shawn also speaks and trains leaders and their teams about all things leadership all around the country.
I've never been very into science fiction or outer space. Something about "no oxygen" just doesn't interest me! Despite my lack of interest, I learned something recently about the space program that caught my attention. One would think when NASA launches moonshots, it would be an exact science. However, in every Earth to moon shot, the rocket almost immediately goes off course.
A key component in successful missions is correcting and getting it right along the way.
Success requires constant adjustments. Leadership shares this similarity with space travel. No day is perfect, but every day can be a success. What's the key? Knowing the areas to focus on and adjust when necessary.
Keep the areas below on your radar, make course corrections at time and eventually you will successfully land where you're aiming.
Humor is our own admission of human frailty. Most leaders need to drop the sense of perfection. Perfect is an unrealistic expectation. Perfectionism doesn't mean "I'm perfect"; it means "I’m miserable!" Don't worry about getting something perfect, just get it started and you can get it perfect along the way.
Take an honest assessment of where you are right now. Leadership begins by defining reality. Be honest with those around you and yourself. Honesty accelerates productivity because it identifies your starting point. Get over feelings of fear and doubt that try to convince you that you should be further along than you are. You’re not graded on how good you are, you’re graded by how willing you are to get better.
Every project I lead has multiple moments where I say to myself, “I did not see that coming!” Stay open to changes and be willing to adapt. Be ready to go in any direction. Some of your best ideas come from the forth or fifth iteration of your original idea. Leaving the door open to opportunities allows opportunities to open doors.
If you are responsible for anything, you will face obstacles. What differentiates a leader from a person simply in charge is how they handle obstacles. Positivity is a cornerstone of good leadership. Resist the urge to wallow in what is difficult about a situation and have a great attitude about what you can do. Get the doubt out.
Dreams won’t be reality until you do the work to make them so. If you want it to work you have to work it. I easily tire of talking about "what I plan to do"; I need action! What can you do today to help your dream become a reality? Quit dreaming and schedule the first three things you will do to make that dream happen. Nothing dreamed up has any value until its on a calendar. How can you move your project down the field? Seek people out who will create momentum for you, . Make things happen.
Shooting for the moon is a good thing. Don't dream too small, dream big. Just know that success comes on the heels of constant adjustment. Stick with it. Don't quit. Keep leading bravely.
Kevin is a coach for couragetolead.com. He is also Executive Pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia, and the founder of LeadBravely.org. Kevin specializes in strategic thinking, financial health and developing teams. He lives in Augusta, GA, with his wife, Melissa, and two daughters.
“Focus on your strengths.” I’ve heard it. So have you. I don’t believe it. At least I PARTIALLY don’t believe it. Do you know why? I have never had a failed leader tell me: “What took me down was my strengths.” I’ve never had a leader of a failed organization tell me “What took us down was our strengths.”
The truth is, we are only as strong as our weakest link. The truth is that what will bite us in the butt is our blind spot. Do you have blind spots? Do you know what your blind spots are? No, you don’t. If you know what the blind spot is, it’s not a blind spot anymore. It’s just sin! You still have blind spots. You have still have growth areas, of which you are unaware!
Organizationally, we all have blind spots as well. Yes, we have strengths. We have areas that come more natural for us in our leadership. Strengths are important. However, understanding our weaknesses organizationally may even be more important! At CourageToLead We talk about the Gears of Growth®, Culture, Team and Systems. We are usually naturally stronger organizationally in one or two of these ares, but we usually have a weaker link...maybe even an achilles heel!
How can we discover our weakest link? How can we find our weakest link? We need outside perspective! This is the great value of having a coach. A true coach walks with us over time and really gets to know us and our organization and then brings the honesty assessment, perspective, and honesty needed to not only recognize our weaknesses, but get better at them?
Should we focus on our strengths? Yes, just not at the neglect of our weaknesses. We have to get better. The weak link must get stronger. We must get the weaker gear moving. If we can, it could create momentum for everything and everyone.
Does your organization have a leadership development plan?
Would it surprise you to know that only 1%-3% of churches have an intentional process/pipeline/system? It surprised me. Even among “mega” churches the percentage, according to leading researchers, remains the same. Why? You should ask yourself that question, as should I.
I can offer you three reasons:
We’ve conflated discipleship and leadership development. In other words, we believe our helping people become better followers of Jesus will also automatically make them better/future leaders. Wrong.
We respond to the urgent, rather than endure the urgent as we position ourselves to secure the vital. Meaning we are so busy dealing with what’s in front of us—working in the organism/organization—that we don’t stop to actually work on the organism/organization. This leaves us with a dearth of leaders, and a cycle of chaos.
We (Hope | Think | Believe | Dream?) leaders will develop via osmosis, from being around and watching us lead. I cannot count how many church leaders I’ve coached/assessed/trained that just assumed leaders would be made by “doing life” with them. No. Just, no. If it lacks intentionality, it will lack investment. If it lacks investment, it will produce a minimal return.
Likely there are many more reasons than these three, but the result remains the same—almost 99% of churches (and many non-church organizations for that matter) have no intentional plan in place to replicate leaders, and it is often the biggest hurdle to sustainable growth.
What, then, is the solution?
Make a plan and execute it, even if it’s imperfect.
Plain. Simple. Plan.
Maybe you have no clue where to even begin. Allow me to offer three starting points for your new leadership development plan.
1. First, define leadership.
At Renovation Church, we define leadership as: Vision + Faith + Execution. I’m positive I lifted all or part of that, so feel free to do the same.
2. Next, define what a leader is.
I define a leader (likely lifted, at least in part) as:
3. Define the underlying context/criteria in which these “self’s” will find expression, and in what manner they will be cultivated.
At Renovation, we’ve decided on 7 necessary “C’s” of development. It is both the grid through which and the means by which we choose tools to use for training and developing leaders. These also function as qualities we want to cultivate in them.
Example: Evaluating, training, and cultivating capacity is my personal favorite because it is not something we intuitively look to, but it is often the culprit in cases where we believe someone to be a poor leader or lazy. Often a lack of capacity masks itself as laziness, and what is discovered is not that people don’t want to do their job well, but rather they lack the capacity to do all they’ve been given. When this is discovered, you have the decision to lighten the load so that they can flourish (if there is room in the role to do that), train them to increase their capacity, or find someone who’s capacity covers the breadth of the work.
This is a very brief look at the “why” of leadership development, and a couple parts of my “how.” Is this helpful? What would you add?
Whatever you decide to do regarding the leveraging of what I’ve shared here, good or bad, do something! Grow that percentage, and lets lead great organizations that readily replicate leaders.
Since they came on the scene, wasting time watching commercials is a thing of the past.
Digital recording has impacted the way I watch sports as well. Fast forward allows me to watch a 4 hour football game in an hour, tops.
Speed is something we all value.
I wonder if we don't value it too much at times?
One of my favorite groups of people to be around and lead are millennials. Their energy, potential and challenge to my perspective helps me stay sharp.
With all of the positives I see in this generation, there is one thing I am constantly encouraging them to do: Slow Down! I notice a desire to fast forward through this season of their lives in order to jump to what they envision as their end goal.
If you're in your 20's, you don't need to sprint through this season. Use it to prepare yourself for the person you want to become.
You have greatness inside of you and these years are the marinade that will maximize that greatness.
Here are a handful of things you need to do to grow as a leader in your 20's.
1. Build a large network
Work on connecting with as many people as you can. Focus on your generation and the generation just above you. Once you are ready to start calling on those connections, they will be moving into seats of authority. It's good to have your number in their phone before they are in a role with the power to make decisions.
2. Perfect a few values of the generation currently in charge
Go to the generation ahead of you, 40 and 50-year-olds, and learn their values. Ingrain a few of them into your DNA. Weave them into your own value system. This will set apart by helping you earn respect. You will become more well rounded as a leader in the process. All of a sudden you will stand out from among all of "those millennials."
3. Become a master communicator
You are a leader. Leaders sell ideas, compel people, and create movement. All of those things require the ability to communicate. Study public speaking, learn to lead a meeting, and discover how to read a room. Before you find yourself in a situation where you need to convince a group of people to invest in you, prepare yourself to make the pitch. Passion isn't enough; you have to communicate your passion in engaging ways.
4. Start something
The greatest teacher is experience. Use these years to flex your entrepreneurial muscles. Launch a blog site, small business or non-profit. Very likely the thing you start will not be the thing do forever. However, you will teach yourself how to grow an audience, take risks and make decisions. While I don't wish this on you, it may also teach you how to fail. Learning to fail without falling apart provides you the stamina to stick it out until you succeed.
5. Develop thick skin
Leading at high levels means not everyone will agree with or support your decisions. Prepare yourself for that now by inviting hard feedback. Have a few trusted people in your life who tell you brutal truths. Self-evaluation not only creates self-awareness but also squeezes situational drama out of your life. You need to be stead to get ahead. Thick skin gives those around you the "drama-free guarantee." I will take a mid-level leader over a super-star if the super-star comes with drama.
6. Create healthy habits
Don't slouch during these years. Discipline yourself today to create habits that help you tomorrow. Waiting until you are in your 30s to get healthy or create a budget puts you behind the curve. Binging on Netflix is a great way to pass the time, but these are years you'll never get back, use them to establish habits that will guide your future.
7. Execute better than the competition
Your ability to "do" will determine your freedom to "lead." Reality is that you will probably not be a vice-president of anything for the first several years of your career. Entry level roles are expected to get things done. Skyrocket yourself above others by getting things done with speed and excellence. The ability to execute reduces the time you have to wait for a seat at the table. Executing well makes others value your voice, not tolerate it.
8. Save a few thousand dollars
Dave Ramsey says that everyone needs at least $1,000 in an emergency fund. I agree; but you don't need to stop there. Start a savings account for "self-investment." Accrue as much cash as you can. Why? Because one day you may need to bet on yourself. You are the greatest asset you have. You are a part of the most entrepreneurial generation alive. Cash will come in handy when you are creating that app or launching that business. You may need to work for free at a company you love for a few months to prove yourself. Plan ahead and be ready for this.
9. Learn leadership
You may not be in a leadership role yet, but you need to prepare like you are a CEO. The secret to accelerating your leadership growth is having the right relationships. Connect with seasoned leaders and focus on gleaning three things from them. First, learn how they think. Ask, "Why?" quite often. Next, study how they spend their time and who they spend time with. Look for unique trends and disciplines built into their calendar. Finally, seek their wisdom above their knowledge. Your generation is insanely smart and quick; what you need is wisdom. Wisdom seasons intellect with maturity.
20 something leaders are some of my favorite. Soak up all that you can during these years. Resist the urge to wish for a fast-forward button or to meander your way to the future. Honor your potential. Lead well.
There is a spiritual truth I learned long ago that I’ve never forgotten. Our bodies tend to age and slowly break down after we’ve hit our peak in early adulthood.
I promise you I’m not sharing this to depress you, but we’re all slowly coasting toward the deaths of our physical bodies… bear with me…
It’s just a fact of life that our bodies weren’t made to last forever. We should certainly work to take care of them and keep them in the best shape we can (an area I plan, yet again, to re-focus on this year), but eventually, the natural processes of life will take over.
Our spiritual growth and maturity is just starting during this earthly life. When it comes to who we are in our relationship with God, we get to go onward and upward and grow indefinitely in spiritual and intellectual maturity forever.
For anyone who follows Jesus and receives God’s free gift of eternal life through the redemption offered by Jesus on the cross, life is merely the waiting room and the warm up exercise for all that lies ahead of us in heaven.
And that’s why, regardless of your age or stage of life, each next year can actually be your best year ever!
As you learn to build on what you know and apply more wisdom to your life, you can accomplish more than you’d ever previously dreamed of doing because of this slow process of spiritual growth.
But how? What kind of footing do we need to be on in order to soar?
1. Know your priority
No, not priorities. Your priority. Singular.
Having multiple priorities is a modern, western idea we’ve forced on the ancient concept of a priori, which means the one most important thing.
Getting your priorities in order is stressful. It’s a lot.
How do you rank all of those priorities? I was taught the formula, God > Family > Church > Work > Everything Else.
But here’s the flaw… we start to see ourselves like a pie being divided up, and everybody wants a piece and there isn’t quite enough to go around.
A few years ago, I made a decision to live for one priority. For one thing – the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
Each and every day, I wake up with a single priority – to do in each moment what King Jesus directs and desires, and nothing more.
This way of living is based on Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (NKJV)
Obviously, following Jesus well means loving my wife and kids, working hard, and taking care of the people around me, including myself. But instead of having the stress of determining whom I must disappoint today, I have only the priority of whom to please – King Jesus.
2. Seize some moments
In the movie, Yes Man!, Jim Carrey gives us a comical picture of the kind of mess we create when we decide to say “yes” to literally every single opportunity that comes along.
Obviously, we need to say “no” to plenty of things. Peter Drucker referred to this practice as planned abandonment – purposely neglecting some things that just don’t deserve anymore time, energy, or resources.
At the same time, life is never static. Everything is always changing, and we need to know how to adapt and change with it by embracing the right opportunities as they come along.
I once said yes to an opportunity to go work under an amazing pastor at one of the nation’s leading churches, and it changed everything.
My wife and I said yes to God’s calling on our lives to plant Grace Hills Church, which has changed us forever.
A year or two later, I said yes to a publisher who asked me to write a book, and the process was extremely educational and rewarding.
A mentor of mine asked me to join him in coaching pastors and leaders in the trenches. I said yes and have formed some amazing friendships as a result.
Our family said yes to working in Belize, sponsoring a child, and visiting Belize City for the gospel’s sake, and it’s deepened and changed us dramatically.
Don’t say yes to everything. Be selective, in fact, and let God’s purposes and the Kingship of Jesus be your guide. But do say yes to some right opportunities.
It isn’t about being perfect. It isn’t about performing without flaws or never making mistakes. It’s about progress.
Jesus gave us a great pattern to follow in Luke 2:52, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” (NLT)
In that short verse, Jesus – at age twelve nonetheless – challenged us by example to grow in four areas.
In wisdom – by reading and studying and being mentored and gaining knowledge. So in the next year, I’ll read books, take courses, and get coached and mentored.
In physical health – by eating better, moving more, and sleeping on schedule.
In spiritual maturity – by developing a more consistent quiet time, prayer life, and Bible reading time.
In leadership ability – by striving to love and to influence more people, for more good.
Know your priority.
Seize some right opportunities.
And with that pattern, every passing year can be your best year ever!
I have always sought to surround myself with mentors and people who could offer good counsel in my life.
I almost NEVER make any decision without talking it through with several people.
I have friends and mentors both inside and outside the church that have saved my neck numerous times, offered great feedback, critiques, and wisdom over the years. Some of my counsel givers outside my church have included millionaires, CEO's, lawyers, friends who do what I do, nationally renowned ministry leaders, and pastors from other churches.
When I was a pastor, I sought counsel often from people inside the church. I met with our pastors every week for at least two hours, and those meetings were often filled with strategic discussions about how to set the kind of culture God wants us to have here at our church and lead His church into the future. I met with the finance team every eight weeks, who offered feedback and counsel on virtually EVERY financial and personnel decision we made. I also had an advisory team made up of successful businessmen in our church, who happened to love Jesus. I talk through LOTS of things rattling around in my head and heart that I want to talk through with a few safe people in my church.
Suffice to say, I am surrounded by TONS of counsel, and it's something I have practiced for years. Why so much counsel? Years ago, when I read the following statement, I took God at His Word:
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors, there is safety" Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV).
Who do YOU seek counsel from these days?
Do you have a multitude of counselors?
I do, and it has made all the difference in the world.
What really changed in the last year? Did you really grow? Did you really raise your game? Did you really raise the lid on your leadership? Or...if we’re honest...was it largely more of the same? After coaching leaders for nearly fifteen years, when it comes to change, I am convinced of this one truth:
Growth is not automatic. Growth is always intentional.
Why aren’t most people growing? They don't have a plan for growth. They are not being intentional about it. Growth comes in asking and answering questions like:
Where do I want to go?
Who do I want to become?
What do I want to achieve?
What do I need to be doing to get there?
How will I know if I’m getting there?
Who can I ask to hold me accountable?
Hope is not a strategy. A strategy is a strategy! We need a strategy. We need a plan. We need tools. We need perspective. We need accountability. We need mentors. We need a coach.
I don’t have a coach. I have three or four at any given moment. I know the difference that coaching has made and is making in my life. I'm not the perfect leader, either, but I can honestly tell you that I am better than last year. Next year I will be better than this year. Why? I'm seeking outside perspective. I am developing a plan. I'm being held accountable to work the plan!
I believe every leader needs a coach. Do you have a coach? Do you have a plan for growth?
At CourageToLead, we CAN help you with this...whether you’re in the middle of a startup, or lead a large organization or ministry. One of the most genius-by-mistake things we have done is scale our ministry for both small and large organizations.
I would love to help. I feel CALLED to help. I have been coaching leaders for nearly fifteen years now. I know what it will take. I know how to help you get to the next level. Take a chance.
Quickly think of five common traits of high-impact leaders… good time management, assertiveness, drive, energy, charisma, etc. Humility rarely lands in the list when it comes to our modern, top-down management systems. But Jesus (the greatest leader ever) and Moses (perhaps the second) had this one thought in mind – great leaders don’t have power over people, but power under people by way of humility.
Humility may be a forgotten virtue in conversations about leadership today, but it’s essential to having long-term, broad-range impact. TWEET
Here are 10 reasons why humility is vital to great leadership:
1. Until you can be managed well, you can’t manage well, and being managed definitely requires humility.
2. You’re not leading well until you put the needs of others before your own, which requires humility.
3. You won’t invest time into others until you realize you’re not the center of the universe.
4. You won’t be a learner without humility, so you’ll stagnate and die on the vine.
5. You can’t be a listener without humility, and when you don’t listen, you’ll miss some vitally important feedback.
6. Receiving and making the most of constructive criticism definitely demands humility.
7. Being concerned about the personal welfare of others requires humility.
8. You won’t improve unless you realize your need for it, which requires humility.
9. You can’t be sensitive to what’s going on the behind the words of others unless you’re paying attention, which requires humility.
10. The respect you think others have for you will merely be an illusion unless you’re humble enough to see the reality of your own weaknesses.
Humility isn’t feeling bad, down, or low about yourself. Rather, humility is having a realistic picture of who you are and becoming oblivious to self. This self-oblivion characterizes the greatest leaders of all time, and if you want to rise to greatness, you need to stoop.
I am from the South. We southerners have a lot of traditions.
One long-held New Year's Day tradition we have is to eat as many turnip greens as possible in hopes of coming into more money in the coming year. I think the rationale is that life will somehow reward you for the punishment of having to eat turnip greens! Either way, it's always seemed a bit silly to do something like that "in hopes" of anything.
Instead of hoping for great things for the organization you lead, why not decide to become the leader your organization needs to do great things? TWEET
Your first step in becoming that leader is assuming the correct posture. Adopting some beliefs, mindsets, and attitudes that guide you.
Here are five leadership choices you need to make to guide you into your most fruitful year ever:
1. Have a Legacy Mindset
Ecclesiastes 3:14 says "I know that everything God does will last forever...". Solomon wisely refrains from saying "everything I do will last forever." Your organization is a lot bigger than you. It will remain long after you are gone. With that in mind, be a legacy leader. A legacy leader builds things for future generations. Begin with an end in mind and carry an enduring vision. Make decisions for tomorrow rather than today. Legacy mindsets build stronger teams and empower leaders. Legacy leaders lead teams who do work better than they can do. Lead with the perspective that success is still being successful long after you are gone.
2. Keep a Humble Spirit
Many leaders receive their fair share of spotlight and praise. Let’s be honest, it’s an honor! It's fun! It makes us feel good! And that is normal. That said, admiration left unchecked can chip away at humble intentions. So accolades cannot drive you; calling must. Do not go to read our own press. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Compliment other organizations in our city rather than compete with them. Aggressively pray against arrogance, and seek accountability to ensure it's absence. If talent scored you a seat at any table, your humility is what keeps you worthy of that seat.
3. Work with a Startup Mentality
Success can lull organizations to sleep. Make your efforts this year reflect a renewed hunger, desperation, and scrappiness to get it done. Exercise extreme creativity in problem solving. Do more with less. Never believe the myth that you have arrived. You may see record attendance this year, but stay as hungry. Risk momentary failure for longterm success.
4. Feel with Human Hearts
Lead with a heart that beats for people. Take time to walk slowly through your organizations on a regular basis to connect with people. Remember that the story of an individual matters. Simply be nice to people. Work extra, sacrifice more and abandon what's comfortable to reach that one life. Handle the important moments of a person's life well. Be Jesus with skin on for people who need it.
5. Adapt with Agile Attitudes
The superpower of leadership is agility. You can be strong, but if you're not agile, you're extinct. Businesses, churches and denominations have proven this. Our culture and people’s needs change at lightning speed. Get comfortable with change. Get comfortable leading change. You cannot take new ground with tired methods. Do not be slow adopters. Do not fall in love with your style. Only tolerate attitudes as positive as your changes. Resolve issues quickly and face to face and never with passive-aggressive hallway conversations. Think more new thoughts. Remain emotionally nimble, mentally flexible and operationally open-handed.
Every day is an opportunity. There are 360 more opportunities ahead of you this year. Make them count.
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