The Solution is in the Room

solutionThe best solutions to problems are discovered by a team not mandated by a leader. Every team runs into problems or speed bumps that slow progress. An assessment is done to analyze the problem and determine the root cause. Often times the solution requires an outside coach or consultant, but more often than not…

The Solution is in the Room

I recently called a meeting with one of our teams to address an issue that had been created by a shortage of personnel. One very important priority was suffering because of the lack of personnel. The most obvious solution that seemed to be unanimous among the team was “we need more people.” In other words, most people on the team assumed the solution was going to have to come from outside of us (i.e. more people) rather than among us.

Our job as leaders is not to have all the answers, but to guide our teams in such a way that solutions are discovered. I want to share four things we did in that meeting that infused energy, sparked fresh ideas, and refocused the team as a whole. As a result, we all learned that the solution was right there in the room.

1. Encourage the Heart – Before getting into problems, it’s always best to celebrate successes and the hard work of the team. Encouraging the heart is about celebrating the value and importance of what it is you do. As Simon Sinek would say, “start with why.” This step should always be first because it instills purpose and meaning and sets a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.

2. Cast Vision – Once the team is encouraged and the mood is set, it’s time to calibrate the compass and ensure everyone is headed in the same direction. Remind the team of where you are headed and the future you are trying to create. Tap into their imagination and discuss specifically how their role is playing a part in moving the organization toward that future.

3. Set Priorities – Everything that’s worth doing is important, so priorities based on values must be established. This is the leader’s job. Others can buy into the vision and run with it, but if priorities are not established circumstances will cause subtle shifts in progress and cause the team to deviate off course. The priorities that need to be discussed in this particular meeting are the ones that need focus. Keep it to one or no more than two in order to be productive. After all, your goal is to find a solution to a priority that is suffering.

4. Empower the Team – Empower the team by asking a question that invokes thought, participation and action. The question I asked in our case was, “How can we as a team meet this priority with the resources we have?” As ideas began to flow, I simply bounced them off of other people to create discussion and communicate that they were empowered to act. Suddenly I was no longer the focus of the meeting – the solution to the problem became the focus. In fact, I left the room at one point and no one hardly noticed. The power to solve the problem shifted from me to the other leaders and team members in the room. In record time, we had a solution.

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your vision and dreams while maximizing the dreams and passions of those around you. When you run into issues, know that more often than not the solution is in the room.

What else can be done to rally a team toward a solution?


Ten Confessions of a Church Planter!

This is the first blog I’ve written since February when we launched LifeBridge Tyler. It has been quite a journey and continues to be the most thrilling, challenging, and yet joyful experience of my life! So, my first confession is to all of you faithful followers who have taken the time to read Reaching Forward: I’ve let you down. I’ve let you down for not writing and encouraging you to keep Reaching Forward in your life. Now let’s continue with today’s content.

I’ve known for 12 years that God has called me to plant a church! I have prayed, read the books and prepared. I reached a point about a year and half ago when I felt God was saying now is the time. I have the vision, I have the passion, I have the degree, I have the experience, I have the training; and now I’m ready! However, what I was not expecting was the experience that is unfolding as we speak. Instead, I’m learning a ton about myself and my relationship with God. Now I confess, but with each confession comes a fresh perspective and direction that God is taking me and I pray you can identify and learn from each one.

1. I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I’m still learning. Good ideas and proven methods are great and should be sought after, but context and application is everything. In other words, there are no cookie cutters when it comes to walking out your calling and mission with God. 

2. I wasn’t as mature as I thought I was. I’m still growing. I’ll admit it, I’ve lost my cool more than once; with my wife, my children, myself and even God. You will always discover what’s inside you when you get squeezed. Never stop growing. 

3. I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. God is now my strength. The difference in strength for leaders is level of responsibility. When someone else is responsible it’s easier to be strong in the face of adversity. However, the lesson here is to know what responsibility is yours and what belongs to God. He and I still discuss this regularly! No matter what, I need Him!

4. I wasn’t as close to God as I thought I was. I’m passionately drawing near to Him. God is consistently drawing me nearer and nearer so that I can see things the way He sees them. Not that I’m getting it all, but He’s trying. 

5. I didn’t pray as much as I thought I did. I’m praying more intentionally and more fervently. The only one that ultimately has the wisdom, strength and direction you need is God. As an under-shepherd to Jesus, I’m more drawn to prayer now than ever before! When you think you pray enough, thing again!

6. I didn’t understand what I thought I knew. I’m relearning key lessons from a different perspective. It’s amazing how what you know changes based on your perspective. Knowledge is great, but without personal application it’s pretty much useless. There’s no greater teacher than experience. Oh, and don’t judge others based on knowledge until you’ve been there.

7. I didn’t expect a relationship vacuum. I’m connecting with others more intentionally. We need people around us who care about us, especially when going through the most challenging seasons of life. Don’t be caught short on friends. God will use them to get you through another day.

8. I didn’t expect the unexpected. I’m prepared for surprises. The best way to know this is to measure your immediate response to the unexpected. Is it failure, massive roadblocks, or opportunity for creativity and growth? Don’t let an obstacle stop you – keep going! Find a way and get past it.

9. I don’t have what it takes. I need God and other people. I’m amazed at how much I don’t know how to do! I could tell you but the list is entirely too long for this post. Surround yourself with ALL types of people, not just those like you. Make room at the table for creatives that can’t stay focused and the OCDers that focus too much! Put them at different tables but include them all! 

10. I never knew the joy that’s possible when faced with the impossible. I’m having the time of my life on this journey with God! I never knew the hardest season of my life would also be the most fulfilling. I’m experiencing God, other people, and even myself on a level that is crazy awesome! I wouldn’t change a minute of it! Well, maybe just one! 

Keep REACHING FORWARD even in the difficult realities that life hands you! Embrace your journey and your own confessions, but turn them into opportunities for growth. It’s all about God pruning and shaping you into the amazing person you are and are becoming!

Feel free to share a confession or two of your own!

Something to Live For!

somethingtoliveforAs a pastor, I have the privilege of doing life with people as they invite me in to their world. Sometimes that world consists of great joy and celebration; other times it consists of pain, sorrow, confusion, and loss of direction. Recently, I was helping a person process their current season of life, which is one of transition, financial strain and uncertainty. They shared how they have begun reaching out to a neighbor and a friend who need a level of expertise that they have regarding a particular quality of life issue. What they have discovered is a principle that gives us something to live for every day regardless of our personal circumstances. The principle is very simple to learn and with little effort can be incorporated into your daily life.

Sharing your gift, talent, knowledge, or resources with others gives you something to live for!

Everyone has something to offer others; a gift, talent, skill, information, or simply a listening ear. When you and I can focus on offering what we have to help others our lives suddenly have meaning. Our own problems that seemed to be huge are suddenly reduced to manageable life-circumstances rather than overwhelming odds that are stacked against us. Here are a few steps to help you find that ‘something to live for’ every day of your life.

1. Identify what you have to offer.

Perhaps you understand fitness, eating healthy, financial management, leadership, or any other area of life that someone might benefit from. Don’t discredit yourself. Trust me when I say you have something the world around you needs!

2. Look for a need.

I have learned that all you have to do to find a need is to look for it. Needs are all around us every day. I would say that a need is tied to every person in one way or another. One of the best ways to look for a need is to simply listen to what people are saying. The need they have will eventually be revealed.

3. Share with sincerity and compassion.

Once you identify someone that has a need in an area where you know you can help, approach them with all sincerity (not in a haughty fashion telling them what they “need to do”) with an offer to help by providing what you have.

I believe this principle is the one that keeps people REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in their lives. All we have to do is be willing to add value to others with what God has given us. When we learn to do this daily, we find renewed purpose and vision for our lives that will keep us moving forward in the midst of our own struggles.

Make a difference in someone’s life today!

Share your comments of how you found something to life for!

The Spiritual Leader’s #1 Responsibility!

spiritualleadershipSpiritual leadership is a lot of things. It is first a privilege to be involved in the spiritual growth of the precious people that God has brought into our lives. Spiritual leadership is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, for people look to us for direction and guidance regarding the most significant questions of our existence as human beings. Spiritual leadership is a mandate to make disciples through baptism, teaching of the word, love, and fellowship (Matt 28:19-20, John 13:35, Acts 2:42). Spiritual leadership is carried out by setting an appropriate example for others to follow (John 13:15, Phil 3:17, 1 Tim 4:12). However, there is one thing that all spiritual leaders must understand.

Spiritual leaders are NOT the source of fruit in a disciple’s life!

Spiritual leaders who think that they are responsible for producing fruit in a disciple’s life find themselves living in a state of constant frustration. I must say I have been guilty of thinking this way in the past. My heart was to do everything in my power to help people change and become fruit-bearing Christians. My heart is still there, but my perspective on who is responsible for the outcome is different. There is a long list of things that spiritual leaders do such as feed, care, tend, protect, teach, preach; however, not among that list is producing fruit in a person’s life. Scripture points out in multiple places that a person is responsible for his or her own fruit (Mt. 3:8, Mt. 7:17, Jn 15:16, Rom 7:4) and that Jesus is their source (John 15).

Our job as spiritual leaders is to point them to Jesus in everything we do!

Young believers become attached to their pastors and spiritual leaders and if not instructed properly will believe that the spiritual leader is their source of life. Many leaders and pastors allow themselves to be that source because it gives them significance or helps them feel important. Our job is not to be the source of fruit in a person’s life. Jesus said plainly in John 15:5 “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.Jesus is the only source of fruit in a person’s life; not the pastor, not the Sunday school teacher, and not the small group leader. Our job is to point them to Jesus. If we allow people to abide in us as their source, we are doing them a disservice by withholding the very Gospel that is found only in Jesus.

All spiritual leaders I know have a deep desire to see growth in those they are trying to disciple. This desire is why we do what we do. I encourage you today to evaluate how you see the outcome of your efforts and where you place responsibility for a person’s growth. I pray the Lord will set you free from taking on a role that belongs to him and his sheep. Keep REACHING FORWARD for as many as the Lord would give you to disciple! There’s no greater calling!

Comments are encouraged!

Great Leaders Think ‘Leaders’ not ‘Bodies’

LeadersthinkI have learned a valuable lesson over the years that I still have to remind myself of frequently. One of my strengths is “Achiever,” which is to get things done and to do so quickly and efficiently. Many of you are the same. Nearly everything you do goes on a list and you begin your day by reviewing your to do list. You dislike interruptions because it interferes with your progress in knocking out your to do list.

I have learned that a to do list is very helpful as long as the list contains things that I should be doing. However, a personality like mine can be overtaken by the to do list and miss opportunities to invite and empower other leaders to utilize their own strengths and gifts. This is why I have learned to keep reminding myself to…

Think “Leaders” not “Bodies”

To think “leaders” means to look for opportunities to invite others to join you in the leadership journey. Often times, people with a personality similar to mine look for “bodies” to get the job done rather than “leaders” who will take it to the next level. For example, if you have a project that requires 10 people to complete, you basically have the following two options: (1) search for TEN people, or (2) search for ONE leader. If you choose option one, you recruit the people, you plan the project, and you oversee execution. However, if you choose option two you step into the realm of true leadership and release others to grow and lead. Sure, bodies will get the project done; however, when you invite someone to lead rather than a body to do, the following happens:

1. Your efforts as a leader are multiplied.

You can either hang on to leadership and stay where you are or you can release others into leadership and multiply your efforts AND energy. Releasing others into leadership expands your capacity to have a greater impact.

2. You become a mentor instead of a manager.

Managers are responsible for details and moving parts, while mentors are responsible for developing people into their own future.

3. The results will most likely exceed what you could’ve done alone.

Leaders who think ‘leaders’ are more likely to produce the kind of excellence that every endeavor deserves. If you find yourself frustrated by the level of excellence that you are seeing, perhaps you should consider giving more away.

There are more results that will occur when leaders begin thinking “leaders,” but I’ll stop here and leave room for discussion.

I encourage you to keep REACHING FORWARD in your leadership journey, but by all means—-invite others to join you!

Feel free to share other benefits of thinking “leaders.”

Three Steps to Understanding Others in Life and Leadership.

ImageThe ability to understand others correctly is vital to the health of relationships. One of the key factors in communication is interpretation. An incorrect understanding will lead to an incorrect interpretation, leading to faulty conclusions, which will most likely result in the wrong response.

Whether you are a leader, an employee, a spouse, or a parent, seeking to understanding those with whom you are close will greatly enhance your relationship. Putting forth the effort to listen to and understand others communicates that you actually care about them. To disregard understanding communicates that the only thing important in the relationship is your own opinion. Scripture tells us in Proverbs 18:2:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Steps to improving the health of relationships

1. Take responsibility for understanding.

Understanding is a personal responsibility. Most of us are quick to judge rather than exercising patience for understanding. The place to start in trying to understand others is to suspend judgement and realize that there are unseen factors at work.

2. Ask questions to clarify.

Interpretation is most important. The more emotionally involved a conversation is the less clarity tends to be present. Questions must be asked in order to ensure that you are hearing what you think you are hearing. If you and I skip this step, we will likely misinterpret, misjudge, and respond inappropriately. Ask simple questions like,

  • What do you mean by that?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What do you want me to understand about how you feel?

3. Validate concerns.

Validate a person’s concerns even when you don’t understand. Remember this: Your lack of understanding does not make a person’s concerns invalid. When we validate others’ concerns, we communicate that we care. I’ve recently written more on this topic here.

Unhealthy relationships create stress, anxiety and avoidance. We all should desire to be in healthy relationships at home and at work. Let’s not be fools that are only interested in our own opinions; rather, let’s keep REACHING FORWARD to understand those we care about in our circle of life.

Feel free to leave comments.

Two Lessons From Joseph That Always Lead to Promotion!

JosephThe story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is one my favorite narratives in the Bible. There are so many lessons to be learned in this story. Today I read how Joseph was approached by Potiphar’s wife and tempted to commit adultery with her. If you know the story, Joseph turned down her attempts to lure him on several occasions. One day, Joseph explained to her that he could not commit this sin against his master or God. Joseph possessed impeccable character as seen in his response to Potiphar’s wife:

“But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?'” Gen 39:8-9

Joseph was a steward of his own character

Joseph understood how to be a steward of his own character. He recognized two things about his life that propelled him forward not only in promotion but in integrity. Joseph possessed many character qualities, but I want to highlight these two from which we can all learn a valuable lesson.

1. Steward the trust of man.

Joseph earned the trust of Potiphar to the point that he was placed in charge of all that Potiphar had. It’s a good reminder for us today that we have a responsibility to steward the trust that has been placed in us by men. Whether you are a CEO, Executive, Team Leader, Administrative Assistant, or part-time employee, you have been entrusted with responsibility. To steward the trust of man is to not take advantage of or abuse the position, but to be faithful and diligent because of the trust placed in you. Joseph teaches us that we should steward trust regardless of the condition of the job or the treatment by others. The stewardship of trust will either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block to promotion.

2. Steward the favor of God.

Joseph highlighted the fact that to betray his master’s trust would be a sin against God. Not only would he be sinning against God in adultery, but also in abusing the favor of God on his life. Joseph knew that his position was only attributed to the favor that God bestowed upon him in the eyes of Potiphar. You and I must understand we have a responsibility to steward the favor of God upon our lives. When we steward God’s favor, we demonstrate faithfulness and honor to God and those with whom we serve. Stewarding God’s favor is doing all that we do as unto the Lord for his glory; it’s serving in humility with confidence and excellence. The stewardship of God’s favor will either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block to promotion.

I am reminded today that how I steward the trust of man and the favor of God will either be a stepping stone for me to keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in my life or a stumbling block.

Feel free to share your own comments.