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?

Beyond Failure

Failure. We’ve all been there. We hate it when it happens and we never want to go back. But then it happens again. We find ourselves facing some of our worst enemies; shame, guilt, embarrassment, frustration, low self-worth and so on. In the face of failure, most of us ask questions like, who have I failed, how did I fail and why did I fail. However, the most important question we can ask is “how will I respond?” This question is the one that will affect your future.

I read somewhere recently (forgive me for not recalling the source) that when Australia was being formed the leaders gathered to design a crest that would resemble who they wanted to become as a people. They chose two animals, a kangaroo and an emu, that would face on another on the crest. These two animals have something unique in common. Both are able to glance backwards briefly to get their bearing but they keep moving forward. In fact, it’s said they can run up to 30mph but can’t even walk backwards. Australia wanted to become a people who continues moving forward.

Failure can often keep us living in the past beating ourselves up for our mistakes. If we’re not careful, we can begin to define ourselves through the lens of our failures rather than through the lens of our potential. Here’s what I know that’s true for me and you…

You’re bigger and better than your last failure!

Consider the kangaroo and do these two things to get beyond failure.

1. Glance backward to learn from the experience. 

You have to know in your heart that failure is not about your worth or value as a person. Failure is most often about a decision, action and/or circumstance. We all make mistakes because mistakes are part of the process of growing our faith and increasing our potential. Glance back and ask God to show you what to take with you and what to leave behind, but don’t stop.

2. Keep moving forward. 

Don’t stop moving forward. Failure is not the enemy unless you stop moving forward. Allow failure to propel you forward into a fresh momentum that is now better informed, equipped and prepared for new opportunities. You have to live your life forward not backward.

Philippians 3:13 (NASB)
13  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your failures and see them as part of growing your potential for great things to come.

Consider the kangaroo!

When Doubts Are Many

Doubts. We all have them and they are many. Doubt is nothing more than to be uncertain about something. It’s like standing on a frozen pond when you’re uncertain about the depth or strength of the ice. Will it hold me up? Will it collapse under the weight? What idoubtsf…? How will I…? Have you been there?

We are haunted by uncertainties because we live in such an uncertain and ever-changing world. We’re surrounded by injustice, betrayal, wickedness and disappointment. We question the solidarity of our relationships, jobs, health and future. What we know to be true one day proves to be false the next. Doubts. We all have them and they are many.

The longer you focus on the potential failure of the ice the greater the fear and doubt will become.

Followers of Christ have a different focus. We know that God never changes. He is always true and faithful and never effected by our circumstances. No matter who betrays us, God will never leave us. No matter what fails us, God will remain faithful. When we are weak, He gives us strength. When we are sad, He gives us joy.

When we have doubts, though they are many, He comforts our soul and brings us good cheer from the promises of His word and the faithfulness of His character.

Keep REACHING FORWARD today knowing that God is there when you have doubts. Take comfort in knowing He changes not.

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!

Cultivating a Valentine’s Day Heart!

heartAs Valentine’s Day approaches there’s love in the air, so to speak. People are focused on how they are going to show love to that special someone in their lives. A person’s heart is usually oriented toward being kind, thoughtful and loving on this specific day of the year. However, true love is realized when we develop a heart that is oriented toward that special someone throughout the year not just on Valentine’s Day or birthdays. I was thinking, wouldn’t it really be special if we cultivated a Valentine’s Day heart every day so that we live our lives heart first toward those we love. Here are a few tips for those who desire to live every day with a Valentine’s Day heart.

1. Be quick to forgive.

Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” People who cultivate a Valentine’s Day heart are quick to forgive. While some things are very difficult to forgive and require a process, most of us hold on to grudges that keep us on edge and not very loving. The best tip to cultivate a heart that is quick to forgive is to pray for those who are close to you daily, especially those who have wronged you. Prayer softens the heart and allows God access to those hidden places in the heart that need healing. There is great freedom in living a grudge-free life!

2. Practice a grateful heart.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” People who develop a grateful heart are some of the most content people I know. Most people live with a sense of discontentment underneath the surface because of something we don’t have or something we have yet to accomplish. Find something everyday to be grateful for – and start with those people in your life that are important to you. After all, a Valentine’s Day heart is really about saying thank you for being you and sharing your life with me. The real blessings in life are those people we enjoy life with every day. Be grateful for them.

3. Be teachable.

Proverbs 13:18 says “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” The first problem with being teachable is that we feel like we have to qualify the person through whom the correction comes. It’s like we stay stuck in the adolescent mindset that people without the proper “authority” are not allowed to speak into our lives. However, people who are teachable develop a heart that hears the Lord through others and takes heed to instruction. It’s not about who does the correcting; it’s about acknowledging we’re not perfect but being willing to grow. This is the kind of heart that communicates love and mutual respect for one another.

The best Valentine’s Day gift we can give our special someone is a Valentine’s Day heart every day of the year!

Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life!

Comments welcome!

Only ONE thing will guarantee your success in 2014!

Right about now multiple blogs and articles are being written about how to better your life in 2014. We all know that the beginning of a new year is a great opportunity for change. Most of us desire to change in one way or another. Perhaps the change is to lose weight or become more fit and lead a healthier lifestyle. Maybe the change is to master that hobby or new skill that you’ve taken up. Whatever the change that you’re desiring, there are as many methods and processes for achieving that change as there are writers giving us advice. I don’t know about you, but here’s where I am with the changes I desire to see in my own life:

I DON’T NEED ANYMORE ADVICE! I don’t need another three-step, four-step, or five-step program to help me achieve my goals for 2014. While I appreciate the advice and pointers that are freely given by well-meaning people, I simply don’t need another prescription. What I do need is something that no one else can give me. What I need and what you need to achieve those 2014 goals is something that resides deep in our hearts. The ONE thing that will guarantee your success in achieving your goals in 2014 is to…

Submit to the Process!

All change, ALL change requires a process. Whether you want to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthier, learn more, build more, or relate better to others, there is a process involved. You can I can learn all the steps that it takes, write it down and post it on the fridge and put it on our calendars; but if we do not submit our will to the process it will never happen. My problem in achieving positive change in my life is not information, it’s submission. If you are at all like me, allow me to share a few tips that might encourage you to look past all the methods and steps to the ONE thing that just might empower you to reach those goals!

1. Start with WHY!

If you’re not convinced in your heart of why you should achieve the goal, you will never be committed to seeing it through. A good idea is only a good idea until it becomes painful or inconvenient; then it becomes not such a good idea. Search deep within your heart and find a reason that’s worth fighting for. Ask yourself this question: “What’s at stake if I don’t submit to this process?”

2. Catch the VISION!

Once you’ve settled the WHY in your heart and you are 100% convinced that this is a “must do” for you, the next thing you want to do is imagine yourself being there already. What does life look like having achieved that goal? How is your life different now that you have finally accomplished this goal? What is the impact on the people around you now that you’ve made this change? Ask yourself this question: “What does my life look like if I don’t submit to this process?”

3. Commit to SUBMIT!

If you and I are going to see positive change in our lives, we must make a commitment to ourselves to submit to the process that’s going to be involved in the change we desire. Do not commit to the plan, do not commit to follow your calendar, do not commit to phone a friend or be accountable. All of those things are good, but the only commitment that will take you to the finish line is the commitment to submit to the process.

If you’ll discover a compelling reason from your heart to achieve your goal, imagine yourself living it, and require your flesh to submit to the process, you will achieve your goals for positive change in your life. The empowerment to accomplish lies not in more information, but within the convictions of your heart and the ability to envision it as a reality.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to positive change in your life! You can do this! Submit to the process and watch it happen!

Comments welcome!

When Life is Confusing!

confusion

Have you ever ended up here?

Do you ever become preoccupied with the things in life you just don’t understand? Do you ever find yourself in a state of confusion looking to God wondering why something is or isn’t happening? The truth is all of us have experienced this multiple times because it is a part of life. The question is not if, when or why these confusing moments or seasons in life will happen; the question that we’re all asking in these intense moments is…

“What do I do now?”

It’s a matter of perspective and how we see ourselves. We have to know and believe in our hearts that God is God and we are not, and there are things that are simply beyond our control. Nevertheless, we can find comfort, strength and direction from the Lord when we find ourselves in the midst of this fog. Here are a few tips to help get you through confusing seasons in life.

Psalm 131: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”

1. Know that God hasn’t forgotten you.

The Psalmist knows that he is not alone. Although he is in the midst of a confusing time in life, he knows deep down that God will not leave him nor forsake him.

2. Accept what you can neither understand nor control.

The Psalmist gives up trying to control everything that is beyond his ability. He says “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” In other words, there are things in our own lives that belong to God and are too great for us to try and figure out. We must not become preoccupied with things too great for us!

3. Place your hope in The Lord…always!

The one thing that will give us proper perspective and get us through is to “hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” When we hope in the Lord, in the good times and the bad, we find rest for our souls knowing that God is our source.

Keep REACHING FORWARD when life is confusing and filled with a fog. God has not forgotten you, nor has he left you to yourself to get through. His grace is being extended toward you!