Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Dozen Ways to Kill a Great Idea

Brandon Cox more from this author »

Date Published: 5/23/2013

From preaching topics to outreach programs, how many great ideas have fallen into these potholes?
Ever watched a really good idea crash and burn? Me too.
Here’s some brutal honesty: Entire movements have gone down in flames because of boneheaded approaches to good ideas. This isn’t to say we can’t afford to make mistakes. In fact, the only way to know we’re taking risks is to make mistakes. We can’t afford not to make them. But we also can’t afford to ignore timeless principles of leadership effectiveness.
In honor of our most fatal leadership mistakes, here are my “from the hip” ways to kill great ideas. (Warning: sarcasm ahead)
1. Form a committee. In this way, you’ll be able to devote more time to keeping minutes and electing officers and less time to solving problems. Also, we’ll be able to prevent a single great leader from running with the idea without feeling the need to check with several people with different opinions before proceeding.
2. Be sure to control it. Before you even start executing a good idea, be sure to write plenty of rules and parameters so that no one feels the freedom to run too fast with it. Freedom is the enemy when we’re trying to kill good ideas.
3. Devote a lot of time to calculating the costs. Be sure that everyone understands just how much failing can cost us so that we inch along, paralyzed by fear.
4. Assume it’s everyone’s responsibility. If we’re able to say, “Our church should really be doing this,” it takes the pressure off anyone in particular who might actually take ownership. In this way, no one gets blamed for the death of the idea ... at least not individually.
5. Assume it’s your responsibility alone. If we get help, we’ll just saddle people with the burden of investing their time into meaningful pursuits rather than having more free time to not develop their gifts for kingdom influence.
6. Vote on it. This will give everyone a sense of power and let them decide that they’re “against” the idea even if it isn’t something they understand. After all, majorities of people are usually smart, right? Besides, in the end, it’s really about keeping as many people as possible happy.
7. Avoid learning from others who have acted on similar ideas. Never ask people who have succeeded or failed before. It’s better to re-invent the wheel, take full credit (or blame) in the end and brag on how much we’ve been able to do (or not do) all on our own.
8. Keep young people out of it. They’re all too inexperienced and unwise to lead anything. Besides, do the voices of the young really matter? I thought they were meant to be seen and not heard ... or valued.
9. Keep old ... advanced ... experienced people out of it. After all, they’re just all grumpy, afraid of change and set in their old-fashioned ways. Their years of wisdom and experience will just complicate matters.
10. Keep women out of it. In all honesty, even in sarcasm, I’m too afraid to touch this one. I can just testify it’s boneheaded.
11. Execute the idea purely in our natural power. God’s power is just too much. The Holy Spirit can’t even be seen visibly, especially at committee meetings. Besides, we need to be busy executing, not wasting time in prayer.
12. Take a little more time to talk about your intentions for the good idea. As long as you’re intending to do something good, it’s as good as doing it, except that it never gets done. But you will have meant well when it’s all said and not done.
I’m guilty of at least a majority of these at one time or another in my own leadership, so I’m not writing out of arrogance but in confession.

Brandon Cox
Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.


Friday, May 24, 2013

10 Dangerous Paradigms for a Church

10 Dangerous Paradigms for a Church
If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms.
I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.
I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm in simple terms, is a mindset; a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.

If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.

Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms which impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative in this post and in another post some of the positive paradigms of the church.

Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:

This is more my church than yours – No one would ever say that, but a sense of ownership can set in the longer someone has been at a church. They have invested in the church personally and feel, often rightly so, a need to protect and care for it. The negative of this mindset, however, is when people don’t easily welcome new people. They own seats. You better not sit there, no matter how much the church needs to grow.They control programs, committees, and traditions. Obviously, the church is not your church or my church. God has not released the deed.

We’ve never done it that way before – And, if this is the “go to” paradigm, you probably never will. People with this mindset resist all change. Even the most positive or needed change. Small change is big change to these people.

The pastor needs to do it – Whatever “it” is…the pastor, or some church staff, must be involved at some level. It keeps a church very small. (And, doesn’t seem Biblical to me.)

That’s for the big churchess – Don’t sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry came from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. That could be a great purpose for a church.

That’s for the small churches – I’ve seen a few big churches with attitude. Bad attitudes. This mindset can keep a church from reaching the most hurting, because their only focus is on growing. A strong, narrowly defined and driven vision is powerful. It builds churches, but a church with this paradigm never welcomes any interruptions in their plans. Jesus is our best example of this. He kept the vision before Him, but was never afraid to stop for the interruption yelling in the streets.

My comfort level for change is ______ – This paradigm says, “We will change until it impacts our individual personal desires.” Does it sound self-centered? It is.

My people would never support that… – Well, pastor, maybe if they weren’t “your people”, they’d be more willing to be “God’s people”. He has ways you can’t even imagine of leading His people to do His will.

I can’t – Not with that attitude, but one question. Where is your faith?

This is the best we can do - Are you sure? Is that your opinion or God’s? Sounds like a dangerous paradigm to me.

We have plateaued as a church – Really? You may have quit growing, but plateaued? The word means leveled out. That indicates you’re stable. In my experience, you’re either going forward…or going backwards. Standing still is usually not an option.

Those are just some of the dangerous church paradigms I’ve observed. You’ve seen far more, I’m sure.

Do you know of any other dangerous church paradigms?
Ron EdmondsonRon Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at


Thursday, May 23, 2013

For Mac People

10 Apps I Couldn’t Do Ministry Without

If you’re looking to boost your productivity this week, here are ten apps I use all the time, and highly recommend to you.
I use a MacBook Pro, so many of these apps are Mac only.

1. Accordance

What it does: Accordance is a Bible software program that puts the most important references books from your seminary’s library at your finger tips.
Why it’s great: It enables you to do complicated, yet lightning fast searches in biblical texts, primary sources (think Philo and Qumran), and commentaries.
Price: Packages start at $149.

2. Caffeine

What it does: Caffeine is a menu bar app that will keep your computer awake with just a click.
Why it’s great: No more having to wake up your computer during PowerPoint presentations. Keep your sermon outline right in front of you while reading commentaries.
Price: Free.

3. Dropbox

What it does: Dropbox allows you to store and access files from the cloud, from almost any device.
Why it’s great: It makes sharing files easy. It also acts as an automatic backup for anything you have stored online.
Price: Plans start at free, then go up based on how much space you want.

4. Evernote

What it does: Evernote stores and organizes notes, pictures, articles, and voice recordings. It’s like a digital filing cabinet.
Why it’s great: Everything is searchable in Evernote, so that illustration you tucked away a couple years ago that would be perfect for this week’s sermon will pop up when you search for it.
Price: There is a free plan, and there is a premium plan for $45 a year. I use the free one and have never come close to running out of space.

5. Gruml

What it does: Gruml is an RSS reader.
Why it’s great: Although the aesthetics are lacking, the functionality is off the charts. It sends articles to Evernote, Instaper, and Twitter with just a click. No more dealing with this ornate process with NetNewsWire.
Price: Free.

6. Instapaper

What it does: Instapaper has an iPhone and iPad version, which allows you to store articles in one place for easy reading.
Why it’s great: Instead of wasting a few valuable minutes on video games or Facebook, you can read something while you wait in line at Starbucks, or even offline (as long as you’ve synced).
Price: $4.99 for iPhone; $4.99 for iPad.

7. Mobile RSS

What it does: It’s an RSS reader for iPhone and iPad.
Why it’s great: Just like Gruml, I can send articles to Evernote, Instapaper, or Twitter, with just a couple of taps.
Price: I use the free versions. The ads barely noticeable. Otherwise the pro versions are $2.99 for iPhone and $4.99 for iPad.

8. OmniFocus

What it does: By far my favorite app on the list, OmniFocus is a to-do list on steroids.
Why it’s great: It allows you to see your tasks from several different angles. You can see everything that is due today, you can view them according to projects and goals, or you can just look at what you need from Home Depot. It is fully integrated with the Getting Things Done productivity methodology.
Price: $79.99 for Mac; $19.99 for iPhone; $39.99 for iPad.

9. Send to Kindle

What it does: Send to Kindle sends pdf. and mobi. files from your computer right to your Kindle device, just with a drag and drop.
Why it’s great: It saves you the trouble of emailing documents to your Kindle account. There’s even a PC version.
Price: Free

10. Quicksilver

What it does: Quicksilver let’s you access almost anything on your Mac from your keyboard. Control + spacebar opens a window, and then you just type in the app, folder, document, or website you want.
Why it’s great: Using your cursor and clicking on folder after folder to find something is slow. This is fast.
Price: Free

13 Email Tips to Keep Your Inbox Under Control and Get Things Done

email-tipsFor many of us, email is a work killer. We have enough work apart from our inbox inventory to keep us busy for weeks. And that work is usually much more important than what pops up in our inbox.

I am one month into a new pastoral role, and one of the most notable differences is the increase in email I now receive. Having previously served as a junior high pastor, I didn’t receive many of the emails that circulated around the offices. In my new role as an associate pastor and an elder, I am now part of the church-wide conversations. The result is that my email load has tripled.

It is bad enough how long work processes take at the beginning of a new job, since I’m just learning the ropes.

Combine that with a ton more email, and you have a recipe for not getting off to the best start.

To deal with the deluge, I have adjusted some of my email processing habits. I am starting to tread more and drown less.

Here is what is working for me. Maybe if you are drowning in your inbox it will help you, too.

1. It’s an inbox, not a staybox. Don’t store email in your inbox. It is a good place to receive information, but a bad place to keep it. Delete old emails that don’t matter, and file ones that do.
2. Zero is not the goal. Don’t try to keep your inbox at zero. That is a sign of unproductivity, not productivity. Check it several times a day, not continuously throughout the day.
3. Silence. Turn off notifications for your email, whether audible, visual, or both. This will prevent you from being tempted to dive back into your inbox.
4. Separate quick replies from long ones. Batch process your emails based on how long they take to reply to. First, go through your inbox and reply to everything that requires only a quick response. Then go back through and reply to emails that require more thought.
5. Don’t clean out your email first thing in the morning. Get started on high level projects first. If youhave to check your email first thing, only reply to the emails that require a quick response (see tip #4). Save the longer responses for another time of the day so can get to your priorities right away.
6. Oldest to newest. Are procrastinated emails starting to pile up? Process your email from oldest to newest. This will force you to deal with emails you have been neglecting.
7. Delete without reading. If you can tell from the subject line that the email isn’t relevant to you, delete and don’t even read it.
8. Save attachments. Create folders on your computer for attachments. Or print them. Don’t keep emails in your inbox just for the attached file.
9. Get rid of junk mail. Unsubscribe like nobody else’s business.
10. Use your email’s search capability. A lot of people store emails in their inbox so they will know where it is for later reference. But even if you delete the email, you can always search for it. In fact, deleting or saving emails is a win-win. You’ll find the email faster through a search than looking through each email in your inbox, and  your inbox will be cleaner and more current.
11. Lean into your priorities, not email. Never check email as “one last thing” before starting a project that will take a lot of focus and time. You’ll get sucked into the email vortex, and you won’t get your most important work done.
12. Delete emails, even if the conversation is live. Delete emails you have replied to, even if the conversation is still going. You will be reminded to continue the conversation when your email partner replies back to you.
13. What to do with links. When someone sends you an email with a link to a website, click the link and bookmark it in your web browser or save it to Instapaper, and then delete the email. Now the content is stored in a place where you are in “online reading” mode (which is more reflective), rather than “email reading” mode (which is more reactive).

Those are my tips. What are yours? Share your productive email tips in the comments!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Value of Fresh Eyes
By mark miller on May 20, 2013 06:00 am

If you gave a man who had lived in a Chinese village his entire life a million dollars to design and build a house, what are the chances the new house would be French Colonial? Zero. We create from what we know.

This Chinese village syndrome is lethal in organizations. That’s why I’ve always valued outside perspective. An outside view can stem from multiple sources – study, benchmarking, job rotations within an organization, or my favorite… outside consultants.

I know in many circles, consultants have a bad reputation. It’s been said that a consultant borrows your watch to tell you what time it is. In my experience they can do much more than that. Last week, we had a fabulous experience with  Andy Stefanovich and the firm Prophet.

Our assignment was to re-envision our annual meeting; a simple enough task – on the surface. However, it is an event steeped in tradition – we’ve been hosting this meeting for over 40 years! Compound this with a risk-averse, conservative culture, and change becomes extremely difficult.
Prophet modeled what I think outstanding consultants do…

They were prepared. Here’s a partial list of what they did to get ready for our two-day session. They conducted interviews with our people, reviewed years of video and printed collateral and read almost 800 pages of verbatim comments from past events.

They challenged our assumptions. This is one of the things good consultants always do. They have fresh eyes. They can see things we don’t. They helped us see our assumptions and the consequences of those ideas.

They asked thought-provoking questions. “Why?” is a powerful question. Interestingly enough, they didn’t ask that question until day two. On day one, they asked other stimulating questions, including questions about our audience, the business environment, and what success looks like.

They introduced new ideas. This is one of the primary advantages a consultant has over the insider – they are paid to see what’s going on at other organizations. I talked to a consultant recently who worked with over 100 organizations in one year! In our case, Prophet brought 4 consultants to this project – with a combined experience base of over 60 years – that’s a lot of experience and ideas.

They brought energy and passion to the conversation. It was great! At one point, Andy was yelling, cursing and knocking things off the table… not our typical meeting, but exactly what we needed. When he amped up his challenge, we ramped up our thinking.

They told us the truth. In my experience, the best consultants always tell the truth. The second rate consultants will tell you what you want to hear. If you’re going to pay a consultant – hire a truth-teller.
The jury is still out regarding what we’ll actually do differently. Consultants don’t control that, we do. However, I can’t imagine a better picture of the value an outside partner can bring to a conversation.
Thanks to Andy, Prophet and all of you out there who make a living in the consulting profession. 

Thanks for helping us see the truth.

 read more 

Friday, May 17, 2013

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

I speak with churches everyday who want to grow, but nothing they do seems to work. Many say it’s a vision problem, but I disagree. The church may not be living it, but we have the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. (We are to make disciples.) The obvious problem to me of these churches is they aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.
But, honestly, that’s not the primary reason for a lack of growth, in my opinion. I have learned that if you want to have a culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common necessary paradigms. You have to think in certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.
What are some of those paradigms?
1. Lead with leaders.
Of course you need followers too, but most people are looking for leadership, especially about things about which they don’t know. In any group, you’ll have a few who are ready to move forward with the changes needed and a few who are opposed to any change you bring. The rest of the people are looking for leadership. Lead with those who are ready to move in a positive direction.
2. Prioritize your time.
You can’t do everything or be everywhere. Let me say that again. You can’t do everything or be everywhere. That doesn’t ignore the expectation placed on you as a leader, but it does recognize your limitations. By the way, the quickest way to burnout and ineffectiveness is to ignore this one.
3. Never waste energy.
When something is working, put fuel into it. All cylinders go. That makes sense, right? Momentum feeds momentum. Yes, in keeping the previous one, that means you’ll have to ignore a few things to do the very best things. But usually the most energy will be in a few key places at a time. Never fail to capitalize on those important moments in time.
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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years. Learn more »

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Leadership Made Simple
By mark miller on May 13, 2013 06:00 am

Friday, I attended the Chick-fil-A Leadercast. It was a great event! Although we’re the corporate sponsors, we don’t actually create the event. So, unlike other meeting we produce ourselves, I got to experience this one just as the other attendees – as a leader trying to learn. This year’s event didn’t disappoint.

Although I could unpack any of the presentations from the day, and probably will write more about some of them in the future, today I want to share what Andy Stanley talked about in the opening session.
For me, his big idea was this…
Complexity is the enemy of clarity.

And of course, we all know as leaders the critical role of clarity in the success of our organizations. So, with the need for clarity as the backdrop, Andy shared three questions he’s been using for many years – he keeps them on a 3 X 5 card for easy reference. Let’s take a quick look at his three questions.

1. What are we doing?
It’s amazing to me how many organizations can’t answer this question in a succinct fashion. Andy said, “The mist in your mind will become fog in your organization.” If there is anything that should be clear in an organization, this is probably it. If we miss this one, clarity on other issues will be irrelevant, if not impossible. For Andy’s church, the answer is: Creating churches unchurched people love to attend. What are you doing?

2. Why are we doing it?
This is where emotion resides. This answers the inspiration question… Why should I care? Why should I give extra time, energy and effort to this cause/organization? This is a timelss principle many leaders have lost. Simon Sinek wrote a great book on this entitled, Start with Why. Here’s a link to his 18-minute TEDx talk by the same title. Without the why, the work becomes a job.

3. Where do I fit in?
Answers to questions #1 and #2 should be the same for everyone in your organization. The answer to this question should be unique to each individual or at least to each role. Andy challenged us to create a one-sentence job description for everyone in our organization. One sentence. Here’s Andy’s:

Inspire our staff and congregation to fully engage in our mission and strategy.
Simple and clear. What’s your one-sentence job description?
As a leader, we need to always remember – Growth creates complexity, which requires simplicity. Simply Lead!

If you want to go deeper on this idea, check out this post: Simplify.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Important is Planning… Really?
By mark miller on May 08, 2013 06:00 am

At this stage in the growth of our organization, it feels like we are in perpetual planning mode. We literally have planning meetings at least 9 months out of every year! Not only have we been working on our 2014 plans, we’ve continued to work on our 2020 plans, which we started formulating about 2 years ago.

Is so much planning a good thing? Is it good stewardship? As I wrestled with the answer to these questions, I thought about many of the great quotes about planning…

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Alan Lakein

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Luke 14:28

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

After much reflection, my answer to the questions around the value of planning and the required investment of time, my answer is a resounding, “YES – it is worth it!”

Here are four reasons I think planning deserves to be a high priority for every leader.

Planning clarifies our intentions. The best plans flow from goals. In fact, I’m not sure how to plan without goals. Plans are conceived to achieve some predetermined end in mind. Therefore, the act of planning requires the stating of intentions. This helps priorities, alignment and focus – all good things for any organization.

Planning directs the activities of people. Like many of you, I feel extremely fortunate to be part of an organization that has attracted some amazing talent.  Therefore, my concern is rarely that work will be done well. My concern is whether or not we’re doing the right work. I tell my team all the time, “You get no credit for doing the wrong things well.” Planning establishes the right things.

Planning forces decisions. No organization can do everything. It is in the planning process where the merits of goals, strategies and tactics are debated and decided. There are always strategic trade-offs to be made. In planning, these are agreed to before the work begins. The plan is the blueprint for the organization. You’re either building a ranch style house or a two-story house. You can’t build both.

Planning enables accountability. Once plans are agreed upon, people can go to work with purpose and confidence. Strategies and tactics can come to life and the impact can be measured. The organization and the individuals involved can be given the gift of accountability. Did we execute the plan with excellence? Was the plan itself valid? What adjustments do we need to make for the future?
I’m convinced planning is one of the highest contributions leaders can make in any organization. I like the way Peter Drucker said it…
The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Are you investing enough time to plan the future of your organization?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Servanthood as Identity or Strategy?
By mark miller on May 06, 2013 06:00 am

I heard a wonderful and thought-provoking presentation a few days ago from Crawford Loritts. He was talking about leadership, so, of course, I was interested. Once he began, I was even more interested because he was talking about servant leadership!

He shared an observation I agree with but had never really considered. The best servant leaders see servanthood as their identity not as a strategy. Robert Greenleaf wrote about this idea decades ago. He said the best leaders are servants first. Servant is not a role we play but rather a reflection of who we are or are becoming.

What does servanthood as identity look like? It’s really a heart issue. My motivation and yours begins with a question: Why do we serve? If you haven’t thought about it, it’s a good question to consider.  
Here are a few others…

Do I serve to give or to gain? Crawford said:

“If we serve with an expectation of return, we’re not serving, we’re investing.”
Am I truly motivated when I help others win? How excited are you when the men and women you serve excel? How about when their career surpasses yours? Consider setting a goal to see how many of your protégés can exceed your level of influence and impact.

If servanthood as identity sounds intriguing, you may be wondering how to cultivate this lifestyle. Here are three ideas to consider.

Look for opportunities to serve… daily. My experience is the more you serve the more it becomes part of who you are. Don’t try to be strategic with every act of service – just serve. There will be ample opportunities to serve strategically in your future. Serve often to soften your heart.

Serve those who have little to offer in return. If we do this consistently, it can offset the investment mentality mentioned earlier. The young, the old, the helpless, the homeless, the under-resourced, the sick and disabled – serve them. I’ve learned a lot about the power of this idea from my youngest son, David. He has cerebral palsy. Serving him has made me a better person and leader; he has changed my heart.

Try hidden acts of service. Find people or organizations you can serve anonymously. This may be through an investment of time, financial resources, or random acts of kindness. When’s the last time you gave without ANY recognition? It can be a good discipline to strengthen your servant spirit.
My experience is servanthood as an identity is not a destination – it is the quintessential life-long journey. If you or I ever think we’ve arrived, we’re wrong. However, it is in the pursuit that the ideal can become more and more of a reality. I’m thankful to be on the journey with each of you.
Thanks, Crawford. I believe more firmly than ever, Great Leaders Serve!

What have you done to strengthen your identity as servant?

Friday, May 3, 2013

7 Principles for Leading Change

Every organization needs change to occur to continue to grow and remain healthy.
Every organization needs change to occur to continue to grow and remain healthy.
Change is hard for some people and is often rejected or rebelled against. Learning to lead change successfully is important for any leader.
Here are seven principles that can help you think through leading change in your organization:

1. Lead change from a pre-established trust in your leadership.

New leaders should be careful not to implement a lot of change early in their leadership unless that change is vital to the organization. Change will be easier if the leader is trusted.

2. Introduce change as early as possible. 

People need time to warm up to the change that is coming.

3. Prepare people along the way by keeping them informed of progress during a change period.

Include the good news and the bad news of change in these updates.

4. Get buy-in from as many people as possible. 

Sometimes leaders have to lead alone (for those times read this post on theloneliness of leadership), but, wherever possible, include others in decisions concerning change.

5. Follow through on commitments made. 

The quickest way to lose trust is to say one thing and do another. Likewise, do not make commitments you cannot keep.

6. Be consistent. 

You will keep people’s trust through the change if it is easy to figure out where leadership is at and what they will do next.

7. Do not make change a rare occurrence in the organization. 

Build a culture of healthy change in the organization so that change will be more naturally accepted.
What advice do you have for leading change? Have you ever been in an organization that lead change poorly?  
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at


Today’s Challenge: Biggest Lessons?
By mark miller on May 03, 2013 06:00 am

Each week, I take one question from a leader somewhere in the world and share my thoughts. Today, like last week, I’ll answer one of the questions I suggested you ask other leaders to accelerate your own development: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned thus far in your career?

I like this question. I know I’m biased, that’s why I recommend using it. Like you, I’ve learned countless lessons during my career. Lessons about people, lessons about myself, lessons about leadership and followship, lessons about business and much, much more! That fact alone makes this a good question – it requires a thoughtful response. Here’s my attempt to call out a few of the biggest lessons so far. If you’ve read much on this site, you’ll not be surprised.

Servant Leadership is the highest form of leadership. I didn’t know this when I was a young leader. I’m not exactly sure when I learned it. It was not a moment as much as it was a progressive revelation. There were great role models around me and over time I just began to “get it.” Once I understood it, I committed my life and leadership to this approach.

My capacity to grow determines my capacity to lead. Thankfully, this was instilled in me early in my career as well. Once again, I was fortunate to have leaders around me early in my career who taught me this lesson. I also learned that I had to own this – in concept and in practice. It’s great to have an organization that supports my growth, but with or without support, I am accountable for my own development.

Leadership is about results AND relationships. I was slower to learn this one. In the early years of my career, I didn’t focus too much on results, I focused too little on relationships. I believe my results and my opportunities suffered as a result. Today, I completely embrace the fact that the path to superior results is paved with a focus on BOTH results AND relationships.

I don’t control my opportunities to lead, just my readiness. I’ve worked in six different roles over the last 35 years. After my first job working in the Chick-fil-A warehouse, I’ve not asked for any of the positions I’ve occupied – I was volunteered. Most of us don’t control where we lead – our organizations decide that. What you and I do control is our readiness. Like the player on the bench, when the coach calls our number, we’d better be ready. If we’re not ready, we may never get the call.
What big lessons have you learned in your career thus far?

Mark Miller is the author of The Secret and The Secret of Teams.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Apr 26, 2013

Define Your Personal Core Values: 5 Steps

If your company has core values, shouldn't you? Establishing your own personal guidelines can remove risk and accelerate success.
chalk on chalkboard
Most concede the power of core values in business. Jim Collins made a great case in Built to Last. But it's difficult to accurately create or accept core values for your company if your own personal core values are unclear.
Many claim to understand their own values, but I maintain you don't really know them until you have:
  1. Articulated them clearly in writing.
  2. Tested them through daily decision-making.
Much like company core values, your personal core values are there to guide behavior and choice. Get them right and you'll be swift and focused in your decision-making, with clear direction. Get them wrong or leave them ambiguous, and you'll constantly wonder how you got into this mess.

Although your personal core values may not exactly match anyone else's, they still help you determine your surrounding culture. Most smart people consciously or unconsciously use personal core values to select friendships, relationships and business partnerships. Your core values also help you wisely manage your personal resources such as time and money.

Simply put, I use my personal core values as decision guidelines that keep me true to myself, and out of trouble. Here are mine with brief descriptions:


Some people are skilled liars. I am not. I function best when people are direct and honest. I make it clear in conversation and in writing that truth is necessary in my world, no matter how painful. This is probably why I thrive as a New Yorker.


I am a contact management freak. I focus on punctuality, returning phone calls and e-mails within the hour or at least the day whenever possible. I hear screaming in my head if I have left anyone hanging. I also make sure my statements are substantiated, hence the reason you'll rarely see me speak in absolutes without doing my homework.


Since people pay attention to my writing and talks, credibility is critical, and I have a lot to live up to. Hypocrisy is deadly in my world and this core value reminds me to integrate humorthe Awesome ExperienceROAR! and all my other lessons into my life and work, every single day.


You would think a writer, marketer, and theater graduate wouldn't need creativity as a core value. But when it's been a long month of travel, it's 3 a.m. and the column, speech, or book chapter is pending, I have to remind myself that I need to take that extra step to make my material compelling so I can intrigue, entertain, and connect with my audience.


Like most entrepreneurs, I see potential everywhere. This value reminds me to disregard when my brain is saying: "I can do that!" and instead ask the question: "Should I do that?" The criteria are simple: Maximum results for minimum effort. Each shiny new opportunity gets evaluated this way.

Some of my personal traits like passion, integrity, and energy don't qualify in my mind as core values because I follow these instinctively without consideration. They are unnecessary in my decision making process. I refer to them as my Table Stakes.
Now it's your turn to identify your values.

Personal Core Values Exercise:

Grab a notebook. It's time to do some writing. Give yourself quiet space, no distractions, and at least an hour to reflect on each section.

Step 1--Think through and describe the following in detail:
  1. What have been your three greatest accomplishments?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of efficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?
Step 2--Think through and describe the following in detail:
  1. What have been your three greatest failures?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of inefficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?
Step 3--Identify three or four brief sentences of advice you would give to yourself based upon these commonalities.

Step 4--Next try and reduce them to a few words. For example: If your advice is: "Don't overindulge in food and booze at parties and get in trouble," reduce that down to Keep Control Through Moderation, or even Moderation.

Step 5--Now comes the fun. You need to test the value. Think of a situation where following your core value hurts you rather than helps you. For example you might think Innovation sounds good until you realize that your life thrives on stability rather than constant change. You have to think it through carefully. If you can't identify a legitimate case where the value steers you wrong, you probably have a good core value.

Know that this process requires focused time and thought. I recommend doing it with someone you trust. Then you'll get honest feedback and you can help each other. It may require several discussions over weeks or even months. Your values may adjust and develop over time just as you do, so embrace the change.

As Mahatma Ghandi said, "Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny."

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