How To Lead When You're Not In Charge

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Sometimes, you feel stuck. You see all the possibilities that lay ahead in your ministry, yet you feel held back by your position on the organizational chart. You start to feel stagnant, unimportant, and disgruntled.

But don’t lose heart: You can cultivate influence without authority and you can use your passion to gain influence with those you work with. In today’s episode of the Think Orange Podcast, we’re joined by Frank Bealer and Clay Scroggins who talk about the concept of leading up and how you can be a better leader right where you are.

Goals Are Good, Initiatives Are Better

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Transcript from the Discovering Leadership Podcast

The goal was clear. My son wanted to make his mark. It was his first year on his high school football team, being new to the sport his playing time had been pretty limited, but today would change everything. He’d received the nod from his coach. He’d be starting. For two days prior to the game, all he spoke about was making his first major tackle, maybe even a sack. Either way, their county rival would feel the wrath of Micah Bealer. He texted me on game day with a request. “Everyone is drinking this new performance drink that is way better than Gatorade or Powerade. It’s on a whole new level. I gotta have one. Can you pick it up and bring it to me before the game?” Now, if you have a teenager you know that requests like this are pretty common. I agreed to pick it up after work and get it to the field as soon as possible. All he needed to do was text me the name so I could figure out where to purchase it from. About an hour later I was sitting in a meeting when the text from my son came through. I glanced at my phone, and couldn’t help but laugh, out loud. Is Pedialyte the performance enhancing drink of the future? I used to buy this stuff for him when he was a sick toddler.

Today on the podcast: action.

As the new year begins, you’ve set some goals for your organization, an attendance goal, a retention goal, a first time guest goal, a volunteer goal, a connectivity goal. In only a few months, you’ll determine whether you achieved those goals or not. It can be uplifting and discouraging and not incredibly helpful.

I’m learning having goals simply isn’t enough. What’s underneath those goals is what matters. I’m not referring to intention. I’m assuming your reasoning is sound, your intentions are pure. I’m talking about initiatives. Initiatives are the measures you take to reach your goals.

Let’s work through an example that demonstrates the importance of initiatives. 

     Goal: Grow our student ministry to a regular attendance of 75 students (10 week average).

In December, you sit down with your supervisor and team to evaluate the year’s success. You only averaged 67 students weekly. Goal NOT achieved. You then begin to evaluate your strategies to determine why your goal wasn’t reached. There are any number of things you could blame, your Lead Pastor retired causing a significant fluctuation in attendance, a new campus was launched and several families were sent out as part of the launch team, a change in schedule moved all high school football games to the night of your programming. The list goes on and on. If you’re not careful, this end-of-year assessment will be ineffective and discouraging. You’ll leave the meeting with new goals that may or may not be attainable and a plan to try harder next year. 

On another note, the opposite could also be true. You may have achieved your goal with little to no responsibility for your success.

Here in lies the problem with goals. They don’t give us enough to evaluate. Initiatives bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be by providing clear steps to pursue our goals.

Let’s take a look at our previous example, but this time start by putting clear and measurable initiatives in place. 

     Goal: Grow our student ministry to a regular attendance of 75 students (10 week average)

     Initiatives:

  1. Call every first time guest within 48 hours of attending. (This will allow us to get feedback and make an immediate connection.) Starting January.
  2. Have every small group leader update rosters monthly. (This will help us make sure students aren’t falling through the cracks) Starting February.
  3. Equip students with 3 business card invites and 3 social media images to use to invite their friends to church. Starting April 2016. Updating quarterly.
  4. Take strategic steps during our big summer event to connect first time attendees with other students in the same season of life. (Through marketing, group placement, talking points, follow up, etc.) Starting August.

In December, you sit down with your supervisor and team to evaluate the year. You only reached 67 students. Goal NOT achieved. Unlike before, now the conversation shifts towards appraising your initiatives. Did you complete your first initiative? Yes. Did you complete your second initiative? Not really, we started but never really followed up with group leaders. How about number three? Yes, sort of. We handed out the business cards, but never put together a social media strategy. What about the final initiative? No, never did anything with it.

Now the conversation shifts from, “What went wrong?” to “Why didn’t we complete these initiatives?” If you completed all initiatives and still did not achieve your goal then the problem lies in the effectiveness of your initiatives. At least you have a starting point for next year. Essentially, you are removing the independent variables from the equation and focusing on what you can control. If you look back at the first example, you will see how the initiatives to grow the student ministry can be executed despite all the other circumstances.

I’m convinced goals are better when supported by initiatives.

Take a look at your goals for the upcoming year and build out initiatives. See what you can accomplish if your steps strategically move you toward your goal. 

Blazing Fury : Discovering Leadership Podcast Episode 10

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As a ten year old from a small town in East Tennessee, I hadn’t experienced very much. But on a special fall morning, I had the opportunity to visit the iconic amusement park, DollyWood. The smell of fried foods and sugar filled the air before we even made it into the park. I knew instantly this was going to be a good day. It was like a step back in time as we made our way through the hillbilly town complete with wooden toy guns and banjos I began to ask what we were going to do first. My mom, answered “We’re going to ride the Blazing Fury.” I had never ridden a roller coaster. My heart and mind filled with anxiety and fear as I saw the sign. The line was really short and before I could even process this new adventure I found myself in a cart gripping the lap bar with a death grip.

I can’t tell you much about what happened next. All I know is that when the ride finally came to a stop and the lap bar moved, I didn’t. I was frozen. I was in shock. My mom was shaking me. I could hear her but I wasn’t responding. The person controlling the ride started to shout at me to move. At some point, I snapped to it and eased off the ride. My confidence in my mom’s parenting decisions were ruined. The day was ruined. And I was NEVER and I mean NEVER going to ride a roller coaster again. 

Today we are talking about … Confidence

Not long ago, I took a team of leaders on an offsite to work on our ministry. 

To kick it off, we talked about an issue that affects everyone at one point or another, confidence. More specifically, we talked about a lack of confidence.

Over time, I’ve discovered how important it is, as a leader, to regularly teach on this topic. Our team (including myself) is often rattled by life situations that bring into question our calling. We're not alone in this. For just a moment let's look to the life of Moses and examine his lack of confidence.

The story starts in Exodus 2, with the burning bush. However, let's pick it up in Exodus 4:10, as Moses replied to God, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’”

It’s easy for us to see a man who is shaken by the calling God has for his life, but compare this to what Stephen says in Acts 7:22, "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”

Wait. Is Moses equipped for his calling or not?

The answer...of course he is. God knew Moses and he wasn't intimidated by Moses' handicaps. From this scriptural discovery we land on a simple truth: 

My lack of confidence does not change God’s calling on my life.

At some point in your life you answered God's call and stepped into His ministry.  On that day, you were confident. On that day, the possibilities were endless. On that day, the journey looked fun and exciting. 

Life happened.

Some leaders let you down. Parents found their calling to be your opposition. A child was hurt. Your budget was cut. The senior leadership changed. Someone said you were not good enough.

Life rattles us. It's tough and messy and hurtful. At some point everyone feels like throwing in the towel because, "Surely, there is someone else who could do a better job." In those moments you must remember that God hasn't lost faith in you. He called YOU, knowing full well the circumstances you would face.

When you encounter life and find your confidence shaken, look to the heavens and remember His calling, power, and strength are enough. Take a deep breath, gather your confidence, and get back on the horse.

After all, your confidence in your calling, or lack thereof, will either set the world on fire or become a consuming flame that destroys you.

Bottom Line: My lack of confidence does not change God’s calling on my life.

I did eventually get over my fear of roller coasters at the age of 16 and all it took was a group of pretty girls.

This podcast is brought to you by You Lead Coaching. Do Ministry Better. Find out more at ylcoaching.com

Getting To The Bottom Of It - Part 1

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The first time I visited a Coal Mine I was blown away by two things: the tires on the large equipment which were literally bigger than my car and the amount of coal that was everywhere: With all of this coal, there must be diamonds deep below. I've hit the jackpot. Maybe I could just take a little coal with me and get to work on squeezing it until it becomes a diamond. 

My friends told me I was stupid but I was determined. I found a vice in our family tool shed and began to squeeze. Before long my floor was covered with coal dust. No diamonds, just a really big mess! With black smudges all over my face. I was devastated. Someone told me that diamonds came from coal. Why isn’t this working?

I think part of me just wanted to believe that it would work because it was a beautiful thing to think something as cheap as coal could become a diamond. The way I figure it. At some point, someone was digging, found a piece of coal, and then found a diamond. (Which in itself is strange because most diamonds are formed 90 miles below the surface.)  You can squeeze this all you want, but it’s just not happening. 

How could my understanding be so wrong? Where did I get this bad information? It was on this day that I learned the power of Getting To The Bottom Of It

Today on the podcast, Part 1 of Insight

We can rarely ever accept the first thought for something in leadership. And yet we do it, ALOT. Which made me wonder why. Why would we accept the first reaction when what we do is so important? 

Maybe it’s because we’re afraid.

What does fear have to do with it? Actually, fear has a lot to do with it. 

Often times, fear can creep in because we don't have a better understanding or insight to offer so we take it at face value because we don’t want to look foolish. Case in point, how many times has someone said to you “They said it was horrible” or “a lot of people didn’t like that song.” When we hear things like this we have two choices: get scared and start changing things OR we can pause just long enough to say:

Really? Who’s they? Who said? Was it really A LOT of people? 

Often times the next response will lead to great frustration because it’s really just one person. And here we were getting ready to change everything! 

Another thing that creates fear when "getting to the bottom of it” is that sometimes we're afraid of what we might find. We’ve all been there. Thinking, if I ask too many questions, I may discover it’s actually worse than I think. This can cause us to just look the other way.

I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to look the other way as the campus pastor at Elevation when our second time visitor numbers started to dip. The campus felt good, we were growing but based on data from our kids ministry, people were starting to come back less frequently. 

It can be a scary thing to dig into the data. What if we discover that our volunteers aren’t doing their part, what if I’m not communicating well from the stage, what if parking is a bigger problem than what I thought? You can see how we become afraid of the truth because it may reveal greater problems.

I’m not here to tell you that those fears are invalid. I’m here to say that great leaders will push through those fears to ‘get to the bottom of it’.

Today, I encourage you to push through any fears you may have and dig into some of the challenges you are facing. Gain some fresh insight and start changing things for the better.

Bottom Line: Fear provides horrible insight.

This podcast is brought to you by You Lead Coaching. Do Ministry Better. Find out more at ylcoaching.com

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Next Week on the podcast: Getting to The Bottom Of It: Part 2