thumbtacks in the road

One of my favorite bike riding trails in our area is Jupiter Island. The scenery is amazing, with ocean views as well as multi-million dollars mansions. There is relatively little car traffic. It is well-known as a bicycle trail so most drivers are courteous and make allowances for bikers. It’s a beautiful place to ride.

But recently, there was another round of thumbtacks in the road. Someone doesn’t want us riding on their road. So they occasionally sprinkle tacks around. When unwitting bikers ride through, they get flat tires, putting a frustrating end to a beautiful ride.

Biker or not, someone or something is throwing tacks on your road. Someone wants you to have a flat, to fail. Someone wants to sabotage your journey.

Who or what is the joy killer in your life? What is it that is trying to prevent you from getting where you want to go?

Whoever or whatever it is, don’t let them do it! Actually, you can’t stop them – if they insist on being a butt, there’s not much you can do. But you can be smart enough to watch out for the tacks and not run over them.

3 points to remember:

  • Be aware, not everyone is on your side. Be smart enough to avoid their road hazards.
  • Don’t quit! Stay in the ride, Don’t sit on sidelines just because there are some jerks in the world trying to stop you.
  • When you get a flat, fix it! No excuses!

Ride on!

120 for orphans

In a little more than 3 weeks, some friends and I will be riding our bicycles 120 miles to benefit orphans in 3rd world countries.  The 120 for Orphans (click on for details) is an event sponsored by International Orphan Support.  Over 2 days, we will ride through 5 counties around the largest lake in Florida: Lake Okeechobee. I am asking all my friends to make a donation to help the children. It’s easy and tax deductible. Our goal for the event is to raise $10.000. Currently, we are 58% of the way to our goal. Whatever you can do will be greatly appreciated and will help meet the basic needs of some beautiful children.

Please consider a gift – and help spread the word. Thanks!

leading change

I recently read John Kotter’s business book on bringing change to an organization. I really enjoyed the book and thought it may be helpful if I posted a brief summary. While the framework is for business, I found it easily applicable to ministry.  See what you think…

  1. 1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency

Without a sense of urgency, complacency will consume an organization. Emphasis on the status quo will strangle any hopes of increased effectiveness on the part of the organization. Kotter discussed the sources of complacency and how leaders can combat and defeat it by revealing the crises being faced by the organization. Effective leaders must create an atmosphere of open and honest communication where team members can discuss the realities of the market, the weaknesses of the organization and the opportunities that are being presented.

Because unawareness of crisis and opportunities will cause an organization to stagnate, a strong sense of urgency to bring change must be fostered by leaders.  Without it, no significant change will be experienced.  With it, employees will observe the opportunities being presented and a foundation for transformation can be established as the change construction process proceeds forward.

2. Creating a Guiding Coalition

In order to affect change in an organization, a leader must strategically develop a leadership team of influential leaders from within the organization, who believe in and help lead the transformation. No singular leader is able to bring healthy and lasting change to an organization of any size. Members of this team must be in position of authority, must possess expertise, must enjoy credibility within the organization and they must be proven leaders among their peers. Both leadership and management skills are needed on this team, with leadership being vital.

A significant part of the success of the transformation coalition is trust. Team leaders must trust one another as well as the processes in which they are engaged. This does not always happen organically: leaders must intentionally focus on efforts to unite the individuals. This is most effectively accomplished in off-site team-building experiences. From a higher level of trust, a common goal will be adopted and invested in by all members.  The coalition can then lead the organization in the transformation process.

3. Developing a Vision and Strategy

Both the creation of a vision and the development of specific strategy must be employed if change is to be embraced.  The author refers to vision as “a picture of the future with some implicit or explicit commentary on why people should strive to create that future”. (p.68) Strategy is what makes the vision “doable”. One without the other is impotent in affecting transformation.

Vision must be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible and communicable.  A transformational leader must be able to describe to an interested party the strategy of the vision within five minutes. The importance of vision and strategy cannot be overemphasized, without these vital elements, no substantive change will be enjoyed in the organization.

4. Communicating the Change Vision

One cannot lead change without effectively communicating the change vision. This requires an incredible amount or time and resource investment, which makes the process painstaking and unappealing to many leaders. It is essential that the vision communication be clear and simple.  This is the responsibility of the primary leaders.

Key elements of vision communications are: simplicity, use of metaphor, multiple forms, repetition, leadership by example, explanation of inconsistencies and two-way communication. These elements may be formal in their presentation or more organic in their development but they must be presented on a variety of levels to a variety of people utilizing a variety of media.

It is required that the change coalition be united in the commitment to the vision and communicate that unity to all employees.  Modeling behavior is a crucial element to vision communication.  Employees will observe the solidarity of the leaders and will pattern their behavior accordingly.

5. Empowering Broad-Based Action

Employees and volunteers must be engaged in inclusive action in order to experience true organizational change.  They must be empowered by the change coalition.

There will be many obstacles in the typical organization that will serve as barriers to change. These obstacles must be identified, address and removed, if necessary.  This includes systems or structures which hinder vision fulfillment. All structures need to align with the vision. Many of these designs have been in place for many years, without strong leaders to point out better alternatives, there will be an unawareness of the possibilities.

Individuals within the organization will need to be motivated to resist the status quo and to learn to function outside of a traditional comfort zone. Employees need to be developed and supervisors, as well as employees, who resist the vision must be confronted. The employees who challenge the way the organization has always functioned must be rewarded for their visionary behavior.

This is a painstaking and sometimes frightening stage of change, but required nonetheless.

6. Generating Short-Term Wins

Leaders who wish to motivate change within their organizations must establish the expectation of legitimate short-term terms wins for their team. Too much focus on a big dream without an emphasis on day-to-day improvements can leave employees tired and battle-worn.  Since it does not come naturally, most managers need to include more of a strategic system for creating these wins.  Team members should know that the change is working and those who help to create wins should be recognized for their efforts.

Short-term wins possess these characteristics: visibility, unambiguity, and a direct relation to the change effort.  These characteristics will create a healthy pressure on employees, and create an increased sense of urgency and expectation.  Everyone on the team should have the privilege of celebrating the day-to-day organizational victories.

7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change

At every stage of the change process, resistance to change will continue to arise. The temptation for leaders will be to celebrate short-term wins, but this can be lethal to the change process, and all momentum can easily slip away. In order to sustain long-term transformation, it must be driven deep into the core of the organization.

This stage may seem radical, in that many times, massive amounts of change are required before any change in the organization can be realized.  This is especially true of highly interdependent systems. All systems, structures and policies that do not fit within the vision of the desired change must be addressed. This can be accomplished only by leaders who have built substantial credibility through the patient development of the previous six stages.  This includes hiring, developing and promoting key individuals who are helping to fulfill the change vision.

This stage requires a very long-term perspective on organizational leadership by the leaders.

8. Anchoring New Approaches in Culture

Until a transformation is anchored deeply in the culture of an organization, the change is subject to reversal.  Culture is very difficult to change, it happens only after the actions and behaviors of people have been modified. This is why cultural change happens at the end of the transformation process, not at the beginning.

More effective leadership and better management will inspire increased performance through customer and productivity–oriented behavior.  They will paint the picture for employees as to how these new behaviors enhance organizational success.  Those who refuse to adopt the new culture of change will need to be addressed and may need to be removed.  Those who do adopt the vision should be assured of continued leadership development and succession. Obviously, this is one of the last steps in the change process.

The eight stage process of bringing change to an organization as presented by John P. Kotter in Leading Change is thorough, practical and motivating.

don’t miss the moment

It’s easy to be so busy that you miss a precious moment. I find that there are two mentalities that could be the culprit:

Hindsighters –

People who long for days gone by, who spend their time wishing that things would go back to the way they used to be will, if they are not careful, miss today. They are tempted to spend their time looking back, rather than into the eyes of the people in the room. They don’t enjoy the pleasures of right now because their memories won’t allow them to. Today is lost.

Visionaries –

People who are always looking ahead run the risk of missing today. It is easy to look beyond a real-time experience in the name of advance planning. Potential and thoughts of what could be can rob us of the beauty of right now.  Tomorrow closes the door on today.

Just a little advice: Control the thought processes that pull you away from family and friends right now.  You’ll never get this moment back. While it may not seem as though anything significant is happening, if you are with someone you love, that is profound. God is doing something big right now. Don’t dare miss it! Tempore occupare. (Latin for “seize the moment”)

we’re not putting up with that

I had a strange encounter yesterday.

First a little background: About 5 years ago, a new family showed up at our church, having left their church across town. The husband/father was quite outspoken. I recall how he dominated the conversation in our membership classes, even making suggestions and observations that were critical of our method of operation. Because I did not want to make the situation more uncomfortable, I did not address it at the time. After about 6 weeks of attending, he requested a meeting with me in my office. In that meeting, he presented his resume and a long list of reasons why I should hire him to serve on our staff. Of course, my decision would not affect their decision regarding attending our church – God had brought them here.  When I explained that we would not be hiring him, he left the office and I never saw him or heard from him again – until yesterday.

I noticed the family in our 11:00 service yesterday. As soon as the service was over, he made his way to me and began explaining who he was. I already knew. With a bit of fanfare, he brought his wife over and reintroduced her. He called his daughter and her boyfriend over.  He said, “We have left our church and are now church shopping. I thought we’d give you a try”.  And then he said, “I enjoyed your message but you left some things out…” He proceeded to point out what I didn’t say that I should have, how I omitted several points that revealed that I was overlooking some very important principles for the church.  I could feel my blood beginning to boil.

I am open to criticism, in fact, constructive criticism is one of the greatest gifts God gives to leaders. But I need to hear from people who are invested in the work with me.

I stopped the man and said, “Let me get this straight. You haven’t been here in many years and you walk in the door telling me what I should preach?”. His answer: “Absolutely!”.

It was at that moment that God gave me an extra measure of grace. Rather than doing something I would have felt good about at the time but regretted later, I took a deep breath. I confess, I was really angry – but I restrained myself. I simply said, “I reject that” and I walked away. I went to talk with some other people.

I can think of times in the past when we were so desperate for new people in the church that I may have put up with that kind of behavior.

I know of times that I wouldn’t have said anything because I did not want to be rude.

I certainly know of times when I would have been much more aggressive in my response.

But I passed this test. And we don’t have to tolerate this kind of stuff in the church. It feels good to know that.

I am betting that this family will continue their church shopping.

revolutionary concept?

I am planning to teach some things during tomorrow’s message at Cross Community Church (“Revolutionary Relationships”) that may appear to be revolutionary or even controversial. But they will only be controversial to those who are too highly influenced by our culture. I plan to say something like this to the guys present:

“Men: that woman in your life is the daughter of God. You need to treat her as such. Don’t sleep with her until you have made a forever commitment at the altar of God to be her husband.”

You think that’s revolutionary?