Category Archives for "leadership"

Leading Through Conflict

Conflict and confrontation are not my strong suit.  I much prefer when things go well and people get along even when mistakes and obstacles must be overcome.  Unfortunately, this is not the way it works.  People have different opinions.  People make mistakes.  People have different personalities.  And they don’t always get along.  Conflict seems to be inevitable.

As a leader and manager, I am faced with conflict on a regular basis.  I don’t have a choice to ignore it in hopes that the problems will just go away.  I often have to confront conflict to help bring about resolution and to hopefully be an agent for positive change.

The Bible gives some pointers for handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-20 which may give some insight for handling conflict in the secular workplace.  Here are the pointers from Jesus:

1.  Try to resolve the conflict just between the two parties in conflict (v. 15).  Don’t bring anyone else into the conflict if it can be resolved first.

2.  Bring the conflict to one or two other believers (v. 16).  If the conflict cannot be resolved face-to-face in step 1, the Bible mandates trying to bring the conflict to a resolution through the help of a couple of believers.

3.  Take the conflict before the church (v. 17).  If all else fails, the Bible tells us to bring the conflict before the church.  If the conflict cannot be resolved then the person may be removed from the church.

In the secular business world, I’m not always dealing with fellow believers.  In reality, the construction industry can be full of some rather colorful and rough personalities.  Having said this, I believe these standards from scripture can be helpful for handling conflict in the workplace.  As leaders in the business world, here are some ideas for handling conflict:

1.  Encourage face-to-face conversations between the conflicting parties.  Often times, people are misunderstood.  A meeting of this type should provide an opportunity for both parties to get their frustrations on the table.  With reasonable individuals and situations, conflict can often be resolved here.

2.  Sometimes it’s necessary to get a mediator involved.  Here’s where I would suggest getting involved along with another manager.  If the two parties in conflict are let by different individuals, it would make sense to get the other manager involved.  The managers should facilitate a discussion in an effort to bring resolution.  This may take a couple of meetings, but it shouldn’t drag out.

3.  If all else fails HR (Human Resources) and higher level leadership may need to get involved to drive a resolution.  The may mean a change in assignment(s) for one or both parties.  Or it may represent a more drastic transition towards other employment opportunities inside or outside the company.

4.  In all cases, rumors should be avoided.  As leaders, managers should squash any rumors.  Rumors only lead to further conflict.

Handling conflict can be a real challenge, but leaders must deal with it head on.  I wish I could say I always get it right.  I’m certainly challenged and stretched by this topic.

What tips would you add for leaders to follow in handling workplace conflict?


Look What I Found In My Closet – Notes From My Last Willow Creek Group Life Groups Conference

Okay.  I have a confession to make.  Many of you will find this surprising as I am generally known as an organized person.  I’m not always great at dealing with smaller paperwork.  As I learned today, many of the receipts and small notes that I carry around in my pockets end up in a pile in my closet.  Today, I had an opportunity to get in there and do some clean up, and I discovered a small sheet of notes from my last Willow Creek Group Life Conference.  I thought I’d share them with you here, because I think they still apply.

Conference Overview:

– Just like water and oxygen, COMMUNITY is essential to living.

– I don’t remember all the details, but the speakers, worship, breakout workshops, and discussion groups were excellent.

– The conference gave me a chance to:

– Rub shoulders with “Group Life” people from around the world (there were roughly 4,000 people at the conference and 13,000 viewing via satellite.

– Get new ideas and resources.  (These conferences are always great for this!)

– Recalibrate, Recharge, and Re-vision

My Big Take Homes:

1.  I need to be in Community.

2.  Check my centerline (Community helps keep me in check).

3.  We as Christian leaders have an opportunity to leverage technology for Community.

4.  Caught a deeper vision for how discipleship can happen in Community.

5.  We have a hope that we need to take into the Community.

I realize that these notes make seem a bit sketchy, but they bring back some great reminders and memories for me.

What conferences have had an impact on you?  What conferences do you recommend and why?

Book Review: Leadership is Dead – How Influence Is Reviving It

I recently finished reading Jeremie Kubicek’s new book, Leadership is Dead – How Influence Is Revising It, and I would definitely recommend this book to leaders who want to leave a legacy that out lives themselves.  Kubicek contrasts the leadership of those who are self-preserving and those who are self-fulfilling.  He outlines very clearly how a leader can have a much more positive and significant impact on others by giving themselves away to serve others.

It seems fairly basic, but these are concepts that every leader needs to hear again.  I know that I was challenged in my leadership at work, at church, and at home to be intentional and purposeful in serving others and providing positive influence.  I was also challenged with the fact that I need to make sure I’m plugging into people who can have a positive influence on me as a leader, husband, parent, friend, and Christ-follower.

Who is influencing you in a positive way?  Who are you investing in to be a positive influence?

Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt

I’m a big sports fan.  My favorite teams are the Eagles, the Bears, the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Bulls (I guess I’d throw the Flyers in there as my hockey team).  My favorite players of all time are probably Walter Payton (football), Julius Erving and Michael Jordan (basketball), and Mike Schmidt (baseball).  So when Leanne gave me Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt as part of my birthday gift, I was clearly looking forward to hearing what Michael Jack Schmidt had to say about his playing career and about his thoughts about the current state of the game of baseball.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Schmidt talks about the ups and downs of his playing days from his insecurities to his 3 MVPs and World Series Championship.   Schmidt also shares about his feelings about the Steroid area, free agency, and Pete Rose.  (The book was written in 2006, so I would be curious to know if Schmidt’s views on the Steroid era have changed as more information has been disclosed since then.)  It was interesting to get his perspectives and each of these, but this wasn’t my biggest takeaway.

I was first of all surprised by Schmidt’s expression of his faith.  Growing up, I can’t remember hearing anything about his faith, so it was refreshing to hear this.  I’d love to sit down over a cup of coffee or lunch with the legend and talk more about our common bond.

The other thing that had a big impact on me was Schmidt’s discussion about managing.  Obviously, he was talking about managing baseball, but one paragraph in particular spoke to me as a manager and leader:

“The sixth and most important attribute of a good manager – and this one’s a straight fastball right down the middle – is the ability to communicate.  To be a good manager, you must be a good communicator.  That means being able to talk to your players, not at them.  You need to work at relating to them, but at the same time, you need to keep a respectful distance.  Show you care about them personally. You can’t just stroll out of your office into the clubhouse one day a week and fake it; you have to have a consistent presence.”

I’ll be hanging this one up in my office.

If you’re a baseball plan, I’d recommend this book.

Becoming An Intentional Leader

This morning, I read a great article from the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Outreach Magazine titled Unintentional Leadership Investment by Brad Powell.

Powell provided three practical suggestions to leaders to make sure their leadership is intentional and effective.

1.  Don’t allow yourself or your leadership to exist on autopilot.

A leader needs to be alert to the mission and vision of the organization and should be constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the organization in meeting this mission.  Sometimes it can be easy to get into a coast mode – going through the motions – as one leads an organization that has a cyclical nature to it.  In my case, I have to do things repeatedly to make sure we close out our fiscal months, fiscal quarters, and fiscal years appropriately.  This is a good reminder to stay focused on the mission of the organization.

2.  Continually re-evaluate your leadership priorities.

What is consuming my time?  Is it important to achieving the mission of the organization?  Is it more or less important than other things that I could or should be doing?  A leader must constantly evaluate how their time is spent.  Am I making the most of every opportunity to be an effective leader?  For me, it has become important to make sure I’m not allowing my employees to shirk responsibility or to avoid making decisions that are appropriate to their level of responsibility.  It sometimes seems easier just to handle things myself, but I need to make sure I continue to empower my employees so that I can stay focused on some of the bigger picture things.

3.  Be willing to pull the plug on any investment you’re making that’s not advancing the organization’s mission.

This one is tough for me, because I’ve had the plug pulled on me, and it hurts – big time!  Does what we’re doing really make sense for achieving our mission?  This requires flexibility and confidence.  This also requires a clear focus on the mission of the organization (go back to step 1).  As a leader, this is an important step, but I think it’s also important to make sure that those impacted by the decision to pull the plug are effectively embraced and redirected towards things that help to advance the organization’s mission.  To pull the plug on someone and to fail to nurture and redirect someone towards the mission can be a leadership failure as well.

I know that Powell’s article was meant for church leadership, but I think it also applies to the business world and leadership of other types of organizations.  I appreciate these types of reminders and challenges.

Lead Me

Life can be real tough sometimes.  Sometimes, being a husband and a father isn’t easy.  I love my wife and my kids more than any words can say.  And I want to be the very best husband and father that I can be for them.  But to be honest, there are many times when I don’t do or say the right thing, and there are also times when I don’t have the strength to carry on.  Life has been pretty challenging recently.  I am so thankful for friends and family who have surrounded me and supported me and my family through these days – but even they cannot fully sustain me.  I’m learning again and again the importance of looking to God for His leadership and His strength when mine is waning.

This song by Sanctus Real speaks to my heart today.

Sanctus Real – “Lead Me”

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.  Psalm 119:116

Blog Spotlight – LeadingSmart – Tim Stevens – A Space for Margin

One of the many blogs I follow on a regular basis is by Tim Stevens who is the executive pastor at Granger Community Church.  Tim writes a lot about leadership.  I’ve really appreciated his wisdom as I’ve followed him over the past few years.

Last week, Tim wrote about the importance of making space for margins in our lives.  His post (below) really resonated with me.  Our family often seems to be running from one activity to the next.  We pack our calendars so full of stuff that we don’t leave time for rest, relaxation, and more importantly for God to intervene in the spaces that surround our lives.  Events at our home over the past couple of months have forced us to take a brave new look at how we organize our time.  Tim’s post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.



I’ve been thinking a lot about margin.

A margin is the portion of the page that you intentionally leave blank. You don’t write all the way from the left side of the page to the right side—no, you typically leave space all the way around, and we call those margins.

Yet in life, everything in our culture is telling us to ignore margins. Spend more money than you make and you will have no financial margin. Fill your schedule from early morning until late night—and you will have no time margin. Surround yourself with needy people and be constantly reactive to their expectations—and you will have no emotional margin.

Mark Batterson wrote, “You need margin to think. You need margin to play. You need margin tolaugh. You need margin to dream. You need margin to have impromptu conversations. You need margin to seize unanticipated opportunities.”

I want to live a life with margins.

When I live on less than I make, I have the financial margin so an unexpected expense won’t capsize me, and so I can respond in the moment to someone else’s real need.

When every moment of my life is scheduled, I don’t have the margin to stop and listen to someone who needs an ear; I don’t have the time to jump in and help a neighbor fix their sprinkler; or don’t have the flexibility to go to my kids sporting event that was scheduled at the last minute.

Margin makes you pleasant; no margin makes you grumpy.

Margin allows you to be generous; no margin makes you Scrooge-like.

Margin helps you listen; without margin, you come across like someone who doesn’t care.

Margin gives you the space to learn, grow and dream; without margin and you become stale and empty.

Margin increases the chance you will hear the still small voice of God when He speaks;  without margin and you might continue through life without the blessing of God.

Where are you feeling the lack of margin in your life? What should change?


And In This Corner…

Over the past couple of months, I have really been wrestling through what it means to be a leader – particularly as it relates to leading in a church related ministry. This has not at all been an easy journey for me. In fact, it has been down right painful much of the time. I have lost sleep. I have lost hope at times. I have lost confidence. I have lost trust. I’m not done wrestling yet – I’m sure of that, but I am learning some great things. Today, I was struck by a blog post by Chris Johnson that talks about the difference between good leadership and bad leadership. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

Good leadership vs. Bad Leadership:

1. Passionate about one’s job vs. It is just a job
2. Values one’s team vs. Has employees
3. Knows one’s team vs. Should not be personal at work
4. Takes time to develop their strengths vs. Focuses on their weakness
5. Gives people a chance to fail vs. Controls every decision
6. Takes time to reward good work vs. It is their job
7. Leads team to believe they are the heart and sole of the organization vs. Only the boss matters
8. Spends time learning how to be a better leader vs. Got it all figured out
9. Creates a fun working environment vs. All work no play
10. Secure vs. Insecure
11. Admits mistakes vs. Blames the employees or organization
12. Confrontational vs. Ignore problems hoping they will go away

Like I said, I thought this post was very appropriate to my current condition. I truly want to be a good leader – not in the eyes of man – but in the eyes of God. I want to make a difference. I want to feel like my efforts and actions are worthwhile.

I should also mention that one of the things that has encouraged me lately is the Word. Specifically, I have been returning to I and II Timothy. So far, I’ve been reminded that above all else – Christ has got to be my focus.

More to follow…
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