All posts tagged: leadership

Imagine you’re on a journey.

You’ve got a worthy vehicle.

You’ve got a gifted team with you.

You’ve got great momentum & direction.

You’re passionately charging along; “all cylinders firing” as they say.

And then you hit bump, you slow down, you veer off-course, and you can’t seem to get momentum back on your side.

You’re stuck in a rut.

It happens to the best of us. Business owners, salesmen, pastors, fathers, students, military leaders, presidents. Being stuck is not the issue that defines us, we all get stuck. What defines us is how we deal with the situation, at least that’s what I believe.

Two schools of thought on getting out of the rut:

  1. The “Push Harder” Theory.The Push Harder Theory states that the reason you’re stuck in the rut is because you’re not doing enough. So naturally we combat that by doing more. We start new things, try to reach more people, try to convince more people how impressive we are. Spend money we don’t have. Pull from resources that are long tapped, including people.Imagine a vehicle literally “stuck” in a rut and the driver just pushing as hard as he can on the gas pedal as he tells everyone, “It’s ok everybody, we’ll be out of the rut any time now, I just need some more juice!”. And you’re in the passenger seat watching the engine overheat, tires burn, and gas gauge hit empty. Not too smart, eh?

    Yet I’m surprised at how many organizations use this theory when they plateau, when the budget dries up, when people stop coming. You can almost smell the burning rubber as the leader pushes harder and harder, not realizing that in his efforts he’s single-handedly killing the organization. And usually no one has the courage to take the keys out of the ignition (that’s a whole nother post, or book).

  2. The “Access the Situation” TheoryThis is by far the less popular process. This means the leader has to first admit that she’s stuck in a rut. She has to swallow her pride and admit failure. The she must look critically at the organization and try and figure out what circumstances have caused the slow-down. What’s working, what’s not? Does she have a loyal team? Have they failed to meet their goals? Has the vision shifted? The questions are countless…Imagine that same vehicle, stuck in a rut. After a couple minutes of trying to gas her way out, she realizes that she’s really stuck (sometimes reality is hard to accept). She gathers her team, gets out of the vehicle and begins assessing the situation. She assigns people to look at what’s going on, and come up with solutions. After some research, the team decides that the best course of action is to open the trunk, take all the junk out, throw it under the tires, rock back & forth until the vehicle gains traction, then with the help of some people pushing, she is finally free.

    I believe the reason this method isn’t popular is because it requires slowing down, maybe actually stopping in order to assess the situation. Slowing down is so un-American; it’s so un-manly – “never give up, never surrender!” is the anthem we live our lives by. And we drive ourselves right into utter defeat. It also requires a healthy look at reality; admission of failure is hard for someone who’s always been winning. Yet failure is a sign of ingenuity – it means you’re trying things. We’re such a backwards culture. I’m not surprised at all that I don’t see this happening much – it’s the hard way, it’s the slow way.

I’m particularly surprised that churches fall into this trap most often. Of course there are the churches that never risk anything and thus don’t get enough speed to even find a rut (that too is another post). But I’ve seen and experienced this personally, and it’s painful, for everyone.

I don’t have the answer, but here’s my conclusions:

  • Pray for your leaders. Being in the drivers seat is more complicated than you’ll probably ever realize.
  • If you’re in the driver’s seat please try and remember that many others are depending on you and your decisions. Your ego, your vision, your drive does not trump people – remember, you’re a servant first.
  • If you’re a passenger, try and be solution oriented when you sense you’re stuck in the rut. Don’t complain, don’t bail, be helpful.
  • Draw closer as a team when you’re stuck in the rut – talk about it, innovate. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop and assess. Most organizations are moving too fast to have a healthy view of themselves and find out too late that there were signs all along of disaster (think Titanic).
  • Momentum only lasts so long. At some point the vehicle must be self-sustaining.
  • Learn from the experience. Watch for signs in the future so the next time you hit that rut you can get out more efficiently.

How have you handled being stuck in a rut? How have you seen other organizations handle it? What do you think?

All for now.


From Seth Godin’s post:

“I’ve got your back” – These are the words that entrepreneurs, painters, artists, statesmen, customer service pioneers and writers need to hear.

Without a safe environment, there will be no creativity or innovation. What there will be is a stale, no-nonsense, get-er-dun, attitude. Mistakes will be few, and so will ideas. Artists will always paint inside the lines, singers will sing only the melody, and musicians will never wander from what’s written.

Maybe that’s what you want, that’s ok too. Just don’t expect to create anything new or inspire people to expand their horizons.

I’m learning that in order to foster creativity, there must be trust. Creative people are sharing what most keep hidden. If they feel safe, respected, and trusted the ideas and innovations will flow. Once that trust is broken, they shut down.

So take some advice from Seth and create an environment of trust and watch creation happen.

be genuine

As I’ve had the opportunity to meet leaders in the different places I’ve worked or networked, I’ve gotten to see quite a few different leadership styles and qualities. My favorite quality is not vision or creativity, or assertiveness, or even spirituality. My favorite leadership quality and the one that I aspire to have is being genuine.

According to genuine means:

possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real: genuine sympathy; agenuine antique.

The reason that being genuine is my favorite quality in a leader is that you can’t fake it, and faking it as a leader is the worst possible thing you can do (in my opinion). My favorite leaders may not be the most visionary, or the most creative, or even lead the largest organizations, but they are genuine. I can trust them, which means, they can lead me.

There’s so much to say about this, I may (or may not) write a few posts. But I’ll close with this – Leaders, aspiring leaders: be genuine. Do what you say you’re going to do, and when you don’t, admit it, don’t blame other people or circumstances, just own it. Don’t lie – and yes, half truths are lies. Be honest with people, create environments where you can share openly about your expectations and their performance. If people are following you, you owe it to them to be genuine.


I’m reading “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity” and just sharing my reflections here. Part 1 is here Part 2 is here.

Chapter 2: The Science of Connection

In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that positive human contact has a physiological effect on people… (pg. 9)

Other research establishes that connection improves mental and physical health… (pg. 10-11)

Layman’s terms: connection makes us feel good. Connection provides a sense of well-being, it minimizes stress, and it makes us more trusting.

We have deeply felt needs to be respected, to be recognized for our talents, to belong, to have autonomy or control over our work, to experience personal growth, and to do work that we feel has meaning and to do it in a way that we feel is ethical.

People want and need to be valued.

When people are shown respect in the workplace and their real talents and contributions are genuinely recognized, they become fired up. They put their hearts into their work.

People who over control us send the message that we are incompetent and that we are not trusted or respected.

Connection is enhanced when we experience personal growth… When we are in the right role and therefore more productive, people notice and affirm us. This also increases our sense of connection to the group. Finally we are motivated when we know our work is meaningful.

We need to remind people constantly how important what we are doing as an organization is. Celebrations, weekly updates of victories, stories, and opportunities to share “wins” should be the DNA of our meetings. We should hear what is happening in other departments, a win for them is a win for all of us.

So what? The findings of neuroscientists, psychiatrists, sociologists, and medical researchers support that a higher degree of connection improves our mental and physical performance. We ignore it at our peril.

This past week our School had the last faculty meeting of the year. Our new Superintendent and I were discussing the agenda of the meeting, and as we did we decided that we would spend the entire meeting just giving teachers kudos and giving them time to encourage one another. We had about ten teachers on the agenda to brag on. What happened was amazing. For the hour and a half that we met there was clapping, laughing, crying, and so much sharing that we had to actually stop people and move on.

I think this just goes to prove that people want and need to be valued – to hear that they are appreciated, making a difference, and growing in their roles.

I think the bottom line is this: Understand that there is a science to connection; an if then equation. If people feel connected, then they put their heart into their work and from that blossoms positivity, trust, innovation, etc.

Next: The Connection Culture (what does this look like?)


This is a picture of the Governor of California. He’s got very large muscles. That has nothing to do with this post.

I’m reading “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity” and just sharing my reflections here. I love the book. I love reading about stuff like this. And I love thinking about how it applies to my world. In this case, how it applies to our church/school organization at Rancho Community Church and Rancho Christian. Here we go. (part 1 is here).

Chapter 1: The Case for Connection at Work

…connection is invisible, yet has a very real effect on the behavior of people.

…unless the people in an organization have a strong sense of connection – a bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and esprit de corps – they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

We have so much potential, could a lack of connection be a barrier to our potential?

Employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged; more productive in their jobs… feel energy, empathy, and affirmation.

Connection transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled dog team that pulls together.

(research shows that) 75 percent of workers do not feel engaged or connected at work.

The state of many organizations today is like that of a bodybuilder who exercises only one arm. The result: one bulging bicep and three skinny, underdeveloped limbs.

What are some of our strengths & weaknesses?

Widespread disengagement is a waste of human talent and energy. It’s not healthy…

So What? Increasing connection in the workplace is a significant opportunity to improve the performance of individuals and organizations.

Do we feel a need to increase connection in our organization?
How significant is connection at our church/school work environment?
How are we seeking to improve the performance of individuals? Ex: maybe we need more accountability in our workplace to help people reach their potential. If we simply impose new accountability measures without first making personal connections, we cause people to distrust, act fearfully, defensively, become suspicious of or all-together reject change.

Next: The Science of Connection (defining Connection)