OnPurpose

On Sunday at NewHope we launched a new series called – OnPurpose. I shared the following at the end and a lot of people were asking for it. So, here you go…

When we live OnPurpose, we remove ourselves from the role of the victim and become a co-creator with God. It’s far too easy to live life by accident…and most people do. But we aren’t most people, we live OnPurpose

Most people allow life to happen to them. But we aren’t most people, we are living OnPurpose

Most people blame their circumstances, for their poor choices. But we aren’t most people, we are living OnPurpose

Most people follow the crowd, even if that crowd is headed over the cliff. But we aren’t most people, we’re following our Purpose

Most people shrug their shoulders and say – that’s just the way it is. But we aren’t most people, we’re living OnPurpose.

Most people live for the moment rather than the long term. But we aren’t most people, we are living OnPurpose.

Most people live relatively meaningless lives. But we aren’t most people, we are living OnPurpose.

Prayer at the end: God thank you that you have a purpose for my life. Thank you that you have more for me. Thank you that you want my life to make a difference in the lives of others. So help me to discover my purpose and live it well.

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Depleted

There are times in our lives when vacations, rest days, calling in sick, going fishing, taking a walk or any of our other normal tricks for finding rest just don’t work. These are the times when we are spent. We are at our end and can’t seem to keep our heads above the water line. There is still some good things happening but the ground of our souls is cracked and dry.

Recently I have been in a season like that. I tried everything to break out of it. I did all my normal things that usually work – I took a personal retreat, I rode my bike, I tried to rest. Although I enjoyed those moments, once they were over I was right back where I started. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

One day I was talking to my mentor, Doug Fike, and he said, “You’re depleted.“

That word hit the mark. There’s something relieving about at least knowing what’s wrong, even when you don’t know how to fix it.

Soon after, my leadership team recognized I wasn’t doing well. They said I was grumpy and responding to people poorly. I’ve learned enough over the years to know that when people I love and respect are seeing something in me, even if I don’t see it, to listen. They suggested (strongly) that I begin my annual month-long sabbath a little early, so I did.

During my time away I ran across a devotional on the YouVersion Bible app called Soul Rest. That sounded great to me, so I dug in. On day three this verse was part of the reading and I couldn’t get it out of my head.

For I [fully] satisfy the weary soul, and I replenish every languishing and sorrowful person. – Jeremiah 31:25

I spent the next several days thinking about those words. It’s been water to my soul and life to my bones. Here are three reflections…

– God is the one who replenishes us

That seems fairly obvious for a person of faith to say, but it’s so easy to lose sight of this simple truth. There were many days all I wanted to do was come home from work and watch TV. Although that’s not terrible, it’s not going to renew my soul. It might even make things worse.

– Soul health is vital

I can’t give what I don’t have. If I don’t spend dedicated time building my own soul up, depletion is inevitable. I’m a TJ on the Myers Briggs, which means, in part, that I don’t have a felt need for down time and I tend to be out of touch with how I’m feeling. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that I’m going to need some people speaking into this much more pro-actively.

– I am finite

Languish means to: lose or lack vitality, grow weak or feeble

People will often say to me, “You’re a high capacity leader.” That may be true but like every strength, it has its weakness. Here’s what I mean – because I rarely run out of gas and when everyone else seems to be exhausted I feel like I’ve still got more to give, it’s easy for me to lean on my own strength, to rely on my own intuition, and to deceive myself into delusion about my capacity to just keep going. That’s what got me to the point of depletion. It’s not that I wasn’t praying or worshiping but I wasn’t depending. And my times with God had become much less about him and much more about the work, the people, and the stress.

In the Soul Rest devotional I was challenged to take 10 minutes a day for silence. Sounds simple. It’s not. Our lives are chaotic and hectic. Deadlines abound and expectations are abundant. I can’t think of a more counter-cultural activity than silence. That ten minutes of silence has become a safe haven for me. It is becoming something I can’t and don’t want to live without.

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The Problem with Freedom

Free-dom/’frēdəm

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Freedom

When I was younger I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. I was independent, proud, and wanted to do my own thing. I felt that when people told me what to do, they were demeaning me as a person. Somehow their guidance and advice seemed like limitations on my freedom. After a lot of mistakes, blunders, unnecessary hurt feelings, people leaving and my wife feeling like I was doing my own thing, I deduced that unrestrained freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

The unhealthy freedom I had been living in, led to unnecessary mistakes; where people were hurt and wounded by decisions I made out of my own wisdom. It created scenarios where it was all about me. In other words, whether something succeeded or failed, I was the epicenter of people’s attention. 

When things were going good it was great for me! The only problem was that there were other people working hard, just like me, who didn’t get the attention they deserved. More importantly God wasn’t getting the credit he deserved. 

Conversely, when things went poorly, I became the touch point for people’s pain. 

Either way, it was too much for any one person to carry. 

I’ve learned that Lone Ranger leadership is NEVER healthy. It’s not healthy for the organization, the team, or the leader. And it certainly doesn’t bring honor to God. 

In John 6:38 Jesus says – For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.

If the son of God needed authority and accountability in his life, how much more do you and I?

2 thoughts that could make you a better leader and make your life better too…

1. Authority

Just like Jesus needed authority in his life, we need authority in ours. God’s authority always includes people. If I’m not submitted to a person, I’m probably not submitted to God. Our tendency toward independence has caused us to live and lead in isolation. Sure, you’ve got a team, but do they have any teeth? Do you have the ability, through force of will or loopholes to do your own thing? Is there a person in your life, outside of a spouse, who is regularly calling you to account, asking the tough questions, and knows your weaknesses? Do they know you are submitted to them?  If you haven’t made it clear in the last six months, they probably aren’t sure. 

2. Re-center

One day my wife said, “I need more of you.” I thought to myself, “More of me? I’m providing for the family and loving the kids, what more do you want?”

What she wanted was to partner with me. She wanted me to open myself up to her in fresh ways and feel like she’s not just another employee, but that we are in this together. I had to re-center on my marriage and to get there I needed to re-center on God. I had to stop making everything about me. The sooner we learn as leaders that whatever we are doing is not ultimately about us, the better off we will be. Why? Because when God is the center of it all, I can literally lean on him to sustain whatever I’m doing. I have a part to play and I need to do my best but at the end of the day, I’m simply following his lead. The results are his to manage.

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Ideals

When I was a young leader I went to work at an organization I had known and loved for years. In fact, the leader had mentored me in my high school years. I was so excited about this new opportunity and couldn’t have been more expectant for the great things That were about to happen. I was convinced that this would be a step toward bigger and better opportunities for me.

Dazed and confused

I certainly didn’t expect the buzz saw I ran into on day one. I got to my office early and quickly realized I had been unconsciously incompetent. In other words, I got to work and it dawned on me I had no idea how to do this job. What was worse, I couldn’t get my former mentor and now, new boss, to tell me what I was supposed to be doing. In addition, that first day, it became clear that the relationship had changed. He was no longer a mentor and friend but a boss. In the coming months, our communication stagnated and the only way he would initiate conversation with me was by email. I was dazed and confused. There was passive aggressive behavior that confounded me and often I had to choose the truth in the face of pressure to conform to manipulation.

Dysfunctional team dynamics

In my new position I was asked to be part of the senior leadership team. It was an honor to be asked and I was hopeful, as I said yes, that this would mean better relationship with my boss and his team. After attending a few of the weekly meetings it became apparent that this team was as dysfunctional as our office staff. The team would try to give input, counsel, or provide accountability for initiatives that had been promised but not yet accomplished. The leader would nod his head yes and give no specifics. Everyone around the table knew that meant nothing was going to change. When these awkward moments came everyone would just look down at their shoes until someone changed the subject. It wasn’t until I read Patrick Lenconni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, that I realized just how dysfunctional this team really was.

I could tell many more stories about this situation but I’ll save those for another day. In short, I was faced day after day in that job with the option of living in relational integrity or surrendering to the unhealthy organizational culture I felt stuck in. Most days I chose well but some days I didn’t.

Here’s what I learned in my 3.5 years in that role.

  • Never ever give up on your ideals

No matter what anyone else does, hold true to who you are. The ideals in you, are based on God-given values. When you let go of your ideals you become a shell of the person you and God want you to be.

  • You are not a victim

Sometimes we are victimized but we don’t have to be victims. Victims are powerless, you are not. Powerful people recognize they have choices and they steward that responsibility. You are the manager of your life, so regardless of what others do, choose wisely.

  • Think about the story you want to tell

Whenever I’m faced with difficult decisions of integrity, I try to think about the story I want to be able to tell my wife, my kids, and my grandkids. When I do that, the decision that seemed so unclear quickly becomes abundantly clear. Not easy but clear.

  • Remember, people are watching you

There were people on that leadership team who watched me make really tough decisions that cost me equity with my boss over and over again. Later, one of those guys became a key player in the endeavor I started and still lead today. He’s still with me and we are still making tough decisions that we love telling our grandkids about.

  • Bitterness will destroy you

After about 2 years in that role I got so upset I started saying negative things about this leader to some friends of mine. I just felt I had had enough and needed to vent. But bitterness doesn’t make you better. It’s like cancer that eats you up from the inside out. Someone has said, it’s like drinking poison and expecting it to kill your enemy. I realized I had to forgive because I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. I was grumpy with my wife, short with my kids and thinking about this stuff all the time. I asked God for his grace and he gave me the strength I needed to forgive this guy. Here’s what’s amazing – I actually began to feel compassion for him. I started learning things I was missing and was able to, for the most part, enjoy my last year and a half working there.

When you hold true to your ideals, the process may be difficult but the story becomes an opportunity for growth and transformation for you and others who are watching.

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3 things that will quickly improve your leadership

When I was young I thought leadership was for the privileged. I would listen to leaders talk about the challenges, the costs and the constraints and think to myself, ‘Yeah right, you guys are flying all over the world, have tons of followers and pretty much have it made.”

Then I became a leader! I found out quickly that leadership-theory and leadership realities are very different.

My first big leadership assignment was leading a team of 17-30 year olds all over the country and to another nation. I had never experienced so much open criticism in my entire life. There were times it felt like mutiny! In the end we learned to work together and the trip was amazing but it took me learning the hard way, along the way. I learned a lot on that trip; about people and about myself.

Here are three of those learnings…

1. I’m never as clear as I think I am.

No matter how many times you have said it, say it again. You almost cannot over communicate.

2. Most people like to know the plan.

It’s tempting to hold all the cards so you have control but this backfires when people realize you could have helped them prepare by telling them earlier what the plan was.

3. People want to succeed but few know how.

Even fewer can do it on their own. If you help them succeed they will follow you almost anywhere.

 

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What Qualifies a Leader?

I was eating dinner a few months ago at my friend Ned Berube’s house. He and his wife Sue are dear friends to Susan and I. We just absolutely love hanging out with them. They live in St. Paul, Minnesota, so we don’t see them much in person.  Our son and daughter-in-law have moved to the Twin Cities, so thankfully, this creates more opportunity to spend time with them.

During dinner, our friend Ben Metz asked Ned and me a great question,  “What if you only had a few minutes to live, and you could only give one leadership lesson to the next generation, what would you say?”

Ned answered first, and wryly said, “Do good!”

We laughed which gave me a few moments to think about what I really wanted to say. I quickly realized I should just share out of what I’ve done rather than try to think of some witty leadership principle.

My answer was simple, “Empower people before they are qualified and before they are ready.”

We spent the rest of the evening unpacking that, and I thought I would share some of it here.

When I was a young leader, I was asked to develop a small group structure in the church where I was working. I immediately began to talk to my peers about leading a small group, and their enthusiasm was palpable. They were so excited that someone had noticed them. They were ready to go, and their participation would double the number of groups we currently had. Naively, I excitedly took my list into a meeting with my boss. I thought for sure he would be excited and thrilled to see all these young leaders willing to step up.

He wasn’t.

As I went through my list and showed him one name at a time, he responded with – “Too young”. Then – “Too immature.” “Too many issues.” Too too too…

Basically, everyone on my list was unqualified. The more we talked, it became abundantly clear that he really didn’t have any specific criteria except his own perception of these potential young leaders. The truth is, they were raw and unskilled in many ways. They were also passionate and wanted to learn and grow. There was no question they would need ongoing training and investment along the way-  which I was more than willing to give.

 As a young leader, I remember thinking any qualifications for leadership were pretty silly. I thought, “To me, it seems simple: If God calls you, then lead.” 

 I still don’t feel like most people’s lists for qualifying leaders are very helpful. For example, in my world, the criteria for people in ministry are often things like ordination, education, age, or experience.  None of these were the criteria Jesus used for the people he left in charge of the future of the world.  Instead, he chose people who were uneducated and very young. Their only qualification, if you will, was that they had been with Jesus.

Ned asked what my criteria are for people to be able to lead, and I said, “I have two: passion and teachability.”

Passion

Without passion, nobody is going to follow you anyway. People don’t follow your diplomas or how much you know. Passion is what moves people to action. Emotion creates motion. I want leaders who are passionate for Jesus and will follow him to the ends of the Earth. The famous explorer and missionary, David Livingstone, was once asked by a mission’s society to send a map, so that they could provide a good road for their men to reach him. Livingstone responded with this…

 If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”

Teachability

Passion without teachability is like zeal without knowledge. It leads to disaster.

Teachability says – I realize I don’t know everything, and I need to learn and grow.

A teachable heart allows my passion to be focused and effective. Teachability is not just a recognition that I need more knowledge. Information is helpful, but it’s not enough. If information alone was the answer, then the world would be amazing, and all the smart people would be the nicest people. We also need to be willing to learn how to relate well with others. The currency of leadership is trust and the key to trust is relationship. As leadership guru John Maxwell says,

 “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Next time you are looking for a good leader, just start scouring your organization for the passionate and the teachable. They may not be very shiny, and they may not have all the right degrees on their wall… but trust me, these people have the potential to change the world!

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Reflections on launching my baby girl

I’m sitting in my backyard looking at all the preparations for my daughter’s wedding this weekend. Its been a big project and we are certainly looking forward to seeing her united with her soon-to-be husband. He’s a great guy and we are very thankful for this new season of her life she’s launching into…and emotional too 😉

As this day has approached it has reminded me multiple times how grateful I am for the investment we’ve had the privilege to make in Sarah’s life. It certainly hasn’t been easy. She was a STRONG willed child, to say the least! But these past 23 years have been worth every effort, every prayer, and every late night conversation when we didn’t feel like it. It seemed like she always wanted to talk at the most inconvenient times, like as we were falling into bed, exhausted and desperate for sleep.

I thought I would share a few things we would do all over again…

Prayer – we prayed daily for this girl and her siblings. We also prayed for her future mate, who turned out to be Patrick. What we didn’t know but found out this week was that Patrick’s parents were praying for Sarah as well. They just didn’t know her yet. I’m thankful for every prayer with her and for her. God is the only one who can truly parent your kids in the best way possible. He’ll cover your many mistakes in ways that are beautiful and gracious.

Conversations – sometimes you don’t feel like talking to your kids and many times they don’t want to talk to you, but those are usually the times those conversations are most needed. Lean-in and have that talk, give that input, ask those probing questions. It is so worth it. You will absolutely be thankful you did it!

Love – this seems like such an obvious one but I really don’t think it is, at least not in the sense that Jesus loves us. Loving our kids means choosing the best, even when it costs me. Sometimes that means sacrificing our time and our agenda, we get that. The one we tend not to get is that sometimes it means choosing their best and its not at all what they want. In other words, sometimes it means saying ‘no’ and they don’t like you for a while. Trust me, they’ll love you for it later if it was truly for their best.

That’s just a few reflections I’ve been having this week as my baby girl prepares to ‘fly the coop’.

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Generational Leadership

Generational Leadership – leading so that the next generation can impact generations

I recently gave this talk at the annual GRG Weekend. Afterwards we did a panel style interview with some of the next generation guys I’m investing in. It was one of the most talked about parts of the entire weekend. I’ll put the link to the panel discussion at the bottom so you can check it out after reading this post.

When I turned 50, two years ago, I almost immediately began to have this thought constantly running through my head, “I don’t want to be doing the same thing I’m doing now when I’m 60.”

That thought became much more refined over time to something like, “I’m at the age where investing in the next generation is not optional. If I’m going to finish well I can’t leave this to chance.”

That thought led to more thoughts, like, “If I don’t do something now, I will be doing this at 60. If I don’t do this well, I’ll have no one to blame but me.”

Granted, I’ve been investing in the next generation for years but what I was realizing is that the level of intentionality needed to ramp up and the focus needed to crystalize.

Here is what I believe – Nothing great happens without great leadership and no leadership lasts without thinking generationally

Some people were literally sitting in that audience that night because a great leader named Nelson Mandela was willing to stand up to the tyranny of apartheid and then said, “No” to revenge and “Yes” to reconciliation.

Leadership is not about a position but a passion for something that matters

Mary Kay Ash is a leader who looks like her passion was big hair and makeup. In truth, her passion was to create a path out of poverty for single women, especially single moms, because she was one.

God has given you something worth stewarding. If its worth stewarding it is probably worth investing into the next generation.

God is generational. 14 times God is referred to as The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob; 8 in the Old Testament and 6 in the New Testament. The first chapter of the New Testament is the genealogy of Jesus. God wanted to make sure we understood he is a generational God. But too often in the West, especially, we don’t lead generationally. As a result we don’t leave a legacy. Our leadership dies with us. All of us have probably worked under leaders who were holding on tight to their power, controlling every decision and making sure they got all the credit. This kind of leadership creates a glass ceiling that keeps younger leaders from stepping up. I want to be a leader who makes a way rather than being in the way. I want the next generation to be able to stand on my shoulders and be far more successful than I’ve ever been. So why don’t we lead this way?

 

We don’t lead generationally because… 

  • We are too isolated 

Not that we don’t have people around us, we just don’t have people who really know us. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying – Leadership is lonely. Leadership isn’t lonely, leaders are lonely. Its true that there are lonely moments where its just you and God. As a leader there are dark nights of the soul where you are shedding tears and your only comfort is Christ himself. But this should be the exception rather than the rule. Leadership is only as lonely as you make it.

I’ve had so much push back on this over the years. Leaders constantly say things like – I’ve been hurt or I tried to be relationally and I got burned. Yes, that is true. It’s true for me too. It was true for Jesus. Remember that his own followers were the ones who betrayed him. But Jesus never stopped opening his life to his friends.

If you are going to work with millennials you better embrace that for them, collaboration is leadership-crack. If millennials aren’t involved in the decision making they aren’t interested in the decision. Said another way – Decisions made in isolation don’t get celebration.

  • They offend us

I love the Apostle Paul’s approach to generational leadership. He really didn’t care who got the credit. There is no indication that Timothy contributed any substance to Paul’s letters. Yet look how he opens the book of Philippians; 1:1 Paul and Timothy to all the saints …at Philippi.

My friend and mentor Dough Fike says, “Insecure leaders are the greatest hinderance to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

I believe he’s right. Our insecurities will keep us from releasing people who aren’t as far along as we are or who might surpass us. I was in Romania recently and during some down time Jesus began to speak to me about Resourcing. I felt like he was saying that is going to be my role in the next season. I was excited until a few weeks later when he began to unpack that – I was taken to John the Baptist who resourced Jesus. John was the man before Jesus. People came from miles around to hear John speak and to follow him. Yet when Jesus came on the scene people left John and went to Jesus. John was hurt and yet he didn’t allow his hurt to deter his mission. He said, “I must decrease that he might increase.”

That’s the kind of generational leader I want to be. A leader who makes a way rather than getting in the way.

 

  • This is the link for the panel discussion with some of the next generation guys I’m investing in.

 

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Believe the best but don’t assume

This is my new axiom coming out of the last several months of difficult conversations, organizational repair, and building a new consensus around God-inspired vision.

I’ve always been a person and a leader who prided myself on believing the best about people and seeing people’s potential over their problems. That’s really good and I don’t want to lose that, in part because the alternative seemed to be cynicism.

However over the last few months I’ve realized at a whole new level that this is not only a naïve approach to life but is also a bit lazy. I no longer believe the only two options are to assume the best or be cynical. I’ve learned there is a third option. Here’s what I mean.

When I make the big ask of a colleague, employee, or a volunteer to accomplish a task, I  should believe that when they say, “Yes” they mean “Yes.” That’s believing the best.

The problem is that if that’s all I do, I don’t know what they actually said “Yes” to. I may have made an impassioned pitch that won their heart but that doesn’t mean they fully understand all the parameters and expectations I have about what their performance needs to look like to get a “win”.

They may work very diligently at what they think I want but if I have not been abundantly clear both verbally and in writing about my expectations all their hard work may be in vain. Worse yet, I will be disappointed with their performance and now we have a relationship gap. At that point, they could feel I’m unfair or that I’m the kind of leader that can never be pleased; simply because I didn’t take the time to clarify the win.

There is no true evaluation without clarity.

What is the win here? If that question is not answered with crystal clarity it is highly unlikely either of us will be celebrating at the end of the project.

Yes, believe the best but don’t assume the person knows your mind unless you’ve taken the time to make it clear in a way they understand.

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The Story

I was asked to write an article for our local newspaper that will be published next week leading up to Easter. I thought I would do a sneak preview here. Let me know what you think.

This Sunday is Easter. Being in my profession this means I’m pretty excited about this weekend. We’ll have more people at church than any Sunday of the year, the atmosphere will be electric, and everyone is thinking about Jesus. In my world, that’s a pretty great day!

But Easter is more than a holiday and it’s more than a day to go to church. Don’t get me wrong holidays are great and I happen to think going to church is pretty great too. What I mean is, the story. I love stories don’t you?

The problem is that we often put our own spin on any story we come across; especially Bible stories. Perhaps its because many of us heard Bible stories when we were kids so we think we know them or because it’s supposed to be God’s book so we think all the characters will be perfect and therefore we can’t relate to them or maybe it’s because we don’t believe in God and that just eliminates the value of the story altogether. Regardless of the reasoning we all come with a bias, me included.

I wonder if it might serve us well to surrender some of our preconceived notions about this ancient book and just let the story tell itself this Easter. If we did that maybe…

…Peter’s denial of Christ in his hour of need wouldn’t just be about a bumbling buffoon but more a picture of our own human frailty.

…Perhaps Judas’ betrayal could teach us that we’re all prone to selfishness and greed without God’s grace.

…Mary might be a hint at the faithfulness of a mother.

…John standing at the cross as the only disciple not to run away when the chips were down could help us see what real friendship looks like.

…Then there’s Jesus, who after declaring to the world, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” gives his life for all of us.

Maybe just maybe this story could show us that our concepts of God as a judgmental, legalistic, perverse warmongering, narrow-minded, dictator are not quite as accurate as we thought they were. Maybe he’s not a heavy-handed father waiting to drop the metaphorical hammer on our lives the next time we make a mistake. Perhaps the prophet was right when he said…

He will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

This year let’s let the Easter story speak to us rather than deciding we already know it or allowing someone else’s preconceived notions determine how we view God. Maybe we could get beyond the religious view of God and just see Jesus in his purest and simplest form, loving you and me just like we are. Because when you really see Jesus, your story changes.

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