Leadership Tensions: Policies vs. Filters

By title I am the rule maker and the rule keeper.  It’s kind of a given as the Executive Director of an organization.

But guess what?

I hate rules, policies & most procedures. 

Most of the time they are a necessary evil.  On a few occasions they are necessary.  On most occasions they’re evil.

Why do I hate them? 

Rules, policies & most procedures are the easy way out.  They’re a scapegoat for true leadership.

Policies are usually a reactionary fix to an issue you’d rather avoid.  Oftentimes we create a policy when we want to avoid a tough conversation.  Rather than address the specific person and the issue, we create a policy to hide behind.

However there are occasions where some parameters need to be established.  I like to call these filters.

Here’s how I define the difference:

Policies are blankets. They don’t account for nuances or growth.  They leave little room for conversation or flexibility.

Filters are “if this, than that” parameters that lead to sound decision making based upon values or agreed upon standards.  Filters also increase accountability because they force discussion.

At Cross Point we’ve created filters for things like:

  • Continued education and development.  Staff are encouraged to find ways to continue their personal development via books, conferences, etc.  They are given a few guidelines and budgets, but each staff person and their manager determine the best course of learning for them each year.
  • Sunday staff schedules.  Based upon their role and responsibility we determine their work schedule for Sunday.  Some staff have greater responsibilities than others for Sunday services and we adjust their work week to make the best use of their time and contribution.

Before you implement policies, consider:

  • Is this a black and white issue that will not require any exceptions?
  • Is this policy likely to be broken often because, while it controls a bad thing, it inhibits another good thing?
  • Am I creating a policy because it will keep me from having tough conversations?

When policies are necessary:

  • When the policy is necessary to be compliant with a power higher than you, i.e. the law.  Implement policy when it’s necessary to make sure your team understands and is compliant with the law.  For example we have policies for expense report filing, “duty to report” circumstances and safety.
  • When you face a repeated issue that doesn’t have many variables.   We have a vacation policy so that we are consistent with each staff member and accountable to those who fund our salaries through their giving.

How are you managing the tension of policies vs. filters? 

** Here is another post I wrote on this topic.

Jeremy Camp – Christmas: God With Us

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED: Congrats to @brianfalexander who was randomly selected as the winner!


Because it’s now officially the Christmas season… and because I love giving gifts… and because I have great friends at awesome record labels… I have Christmas music to giveaway!

This week I have a copy of Jeremy Camp‘s “Christmas: God With Us”.

I’ve been listening to this album for nearly two weeks already and I love it!  “Jingle Bell Rock” is a great opener and perfect fit for Jeremy’s style.  Other favorites are his arrangements of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

To be entered to win, tell us what your all-favorite Christmas carol/song is.

**Winner will be randomly selected Monday 12/3



In her best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain has affirmed half the population and become an advocate for the introverts of the world.  She has given voice to the tension introverts feel in a highly extroverted world.

Seriously, reading this book was like discovering a long lost friend!

If you’re an introvert, I suggest making Quiet the next book on your reading list.  It will affirm some of the innate parts of your personality while also better equipping you to engage effectively in a highly extroverted world.

If you’re an extrovert, I think you will find Cain’s research about both introverts and extroverts very fascinating.  If you have introverts in your life (and you probably do), it will give you a glimpse into how they process the world differently from you.

If you’re a leader, I strongly suggest you read this book to understand the differing dynamics of introverts and extroverts.  The power of your team lies in your ability to engage both personalities effectively.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”

“Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who you are.  Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

“The  word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope.”

“Nor are introverts necessarily shy.  Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.”

“At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons – as a way of outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society.  But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people.  We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.”

“We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be.”

“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies.  We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

“Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.”

“Introverts are ‘geared to inspect’ and extroverts ‘geared to respond.'”

“Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.”

Are you an introvert or extrovert?

Leadership Tensions: Criticism vs Coaching

By our nature as leaders we are wired to see potential.  We are always looking for ways to improve or expand the things that we’re a part of.  Potential and possibility drive us.

But the dark side of that part of our leadership is that it can also make us quite critical.  When our inability to be satisfied engages with our leadership of others we can easily become a constant critical rather than an encouraging coach.

That’s the leadership tension for us to engage this week: Criticism vs Coaching.

There really aren’t a set of rules that I can give you for this one.  It’s an attitude and spirit that we must embody as leaders.

Oftentimes if we discover ourselves being hyper-critical of others, we might swing to the other extreme and not address the issues we ‘re concerned about.  That pendulum swing only further exasperates our leadership.  By not addressing issues that need to be improved, we allow things to stagnate or decline.

Critique needs to occur and you as the leader are designed to give it.  The spirit that you give it in determines if it’s tough criticism or constructive coaching.

Here are some ways to check the spirit of your approach:

  • Don’t critique when you’re angry or in the heat of the moment.  Calmly respond as necessary and circle up later to have a not-so-emotionally charged conversation.  But do have the conversation!  Don’t wait until it happens again and you’re angry again.
  • Consider how your critique can make the receiver a better person, employee or leader.  Deliver the information with a heart to see them grow.
  • Determine if any of your own insecurities, fears or pride are driving your frustration.  Is it really your employee who needs coaching or is it you?
  • Pray about it.  Prepare your heart by asking for God to give you wisdom, grace and love from which to lead through your concern.

How do you manage the tension between criticism and coaching?

Leaders Lead Thanks

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I’ve had a fabulous few days with family including my amazing one year old niece.  She is just so much fun!

As I’ve reflected on Thanksgiving this year, I’m reminded of the importance of how we as leaders create a culture of thanksgiving.

Leaders lead others towards an attitude of thankfulness. 

It’s another difficult tensions that many leaders face.  In our drive and intentionality towards progress, it’s easy to gloss over moments to be thankful.  We are naturally wired to see what is yet to come and subconsciously become impatient with the idea of slowing down enough to celebrate and say thanks.

This tension doesn’t change in good times or bad.  If you’re in a thriving season, you are afraid to pause to give thanks for fear you’ll lose momentum.  If you’re in a bad season, you don’t feel like you have time to give thanks because you’re working so diligently to turn things around.

I was fascinated by a post that one of my former bosses wrote about how Abraham Lincoln created the national holiday of Thanksgiving during the middle of the Civil War.  In a time where no one likely felt thankful for their circumstances, President Lincoln understood the importance of leading others towards finding a way to be thankful.

Darlene had this to say about why President Lincoln may have instituted this National Holiday during such a terrible time:

“Yet I think he did it for this reason.  In the most difficult and divisive of times focusing on what we have to be thankful for completely changes our life view.  Not only does it make us remember the good things, the good times, it offers us hope.  Hope for today and hope for tomorrow.”

Whether you are in a good season or a tough season of leadership, how can you model a heart of thanksgiving?

Here are a couple of simple things that you could do:

  1. Start every day by thanking one of your staff for doing a great job the day before.  It could be a quick email or even better in a hand written note.  It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but your kind, encouraging words will mean the world to them and you’ll be instilling a grateful attitude in your heart and theirs.  (Joel Manby talks about this in his book Love Works)
  2. In your staff meeting, add a time where you and your staff take a few minutes to talk about what you’re thankful for personally or professionally.  This may be a little awkward at first, but lead through it.  When your staff realize you’re serious, they’ll begin to relax and find value in it.
  3. Several times a year, create opportunities to more deliberately thank your core team.  Following major events, on their birthdays, at the holidays and in their performance reviews, make sure you are giving them specific feedback on how you’re thankful for them.

What are you doing to create a culture of thanksgiving with your team? 

Leadership Tensions: Who vs. What

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Today’s post for our Leadership Tensions series is about the tensions of Who vs. What in hiring decisions.  This is actually a repost from awhile back but this is one of the most popular conversations I have with leaders in balancing how we handle the recruitment of staff.


There are two schools of thought when it comes to hiring and organizational structure.

The relational types subscribe to “first who, then what”

The all business types lean towards “first what, then who”

I don’t agree with either of them.

I believe that one of the most dangerous things we can do as organizational leaders is overly systematize our processes.  It’s reassuring, comforting even, to have a formula for every organizational decision.  But I just don’t think it works.  It’s the easy and safe way out.

Leadership is much more complex.

For example: What if you have an amazing “who” but you have no “what” to place them in?  Meaning, you have a great employee with a great attitude, who understands the organizational culture, embraces your DNA and exemplifies great character – all things that you desire to have in an employee – but you absolutely don’t have a position suited for their gift set.  In a large organization, you may be ok because you have a lot of departments that you can place them in, but if you lead a small organization what do you do, especially when the budget won’t allow you to create a role that caters to this individual’s gifts?

Leaders who subscribe to “first who, then what” are likely to keep the “who” they love and put them in any position to keep them on the team.  In most cases, however that leader eventually gets frustrated with their favorite “who” because “who” is no longer a star performer.  “Who” is working outside of his strengths and doing a terrible job.  Eventually you let the “who” go and no one wins.

Leaders who subscribe to “first what, then who” disconnect themselves emotionally from their “whos” and just focus on the “what”.  They create the “ideal” organizational chart and only look for candidates that meet their specific “what” criteria.  The result is a culture that is cold and sterile with no relational chemistry.

I believe the best leaders do both of these things… and a little more.

First, they evaluate their “whos”.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of their individual team members?  What are their gifts?  Where do they shine?  How are they motivated?  What are their dreams and aspirations?  How well do they support the vision and direction?  Do they reflect the DNA and culture that you desire for your organization?

Second, they determine their “what”.  What does the organization need to continue to grow?  What does the organization structure need to look like to best steward its resources and momentum?  What specific skills are needed for those roles?

Then, the leader starts matching the “whos” with the “whats”.  You might move someone to a totally different role because the process of evaluating “whos” and “whats” separately opened your eyes to a solution you didn’t see when you were focused just on one side of the equation.  You also might discover that some “whats” aren’t as critical as you first thought.  You might be able to give up something so that you don’t lose a good “who”.

The point is that while you need to approach some elements of organizational structure with systematic thinking, your final decisions will come down to more intuitive analysis.  There is a discernment element of navigating this leadership tension that you can’t create a system to solve.

Your instincts in leading through the complexity will be what sets you apart as a leader.

How do you recreate, train and develop your team?

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve encountered in managing your organizational chart?

We Have a Savior

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED: Congrats to @Umcpastorgina who was the randomly selected winner.


I’ve been playing Christmas music for about a week already.  The more of it I play, the more festive I’m feeling!

For the next several weeks I have some Christmas music to give away!

We’ll start with the new Christmas album from Hillsong.  I’m enjoying the Hillsong twist on some traditional Christmas songs.  My favorite track so far is “Emmanuel”.

To be entered to win, share with us in the comments what you’re favorite Christmas album is.

**I’ll choose a winner on Monday 11/19


Leadership Jedi Mind Tricks

Defining reality is easy.

Vision-casting possibility is hard.

It’s kind of like a Jedi Mind Trick.  Great leaders use their influence and power to help calm nerves and change people’s perceptions.  They alleviate fears and provide hope.  They re-frame reality in a way that makes it palatable.

Where do you need to put your Jedi skills to work today?


Leadership Tensions: Ambition vs. Self-Control

Most leaders are driven and ambitious.  We see opportunities and we go after them.  We see farther than others can see and help lead people to those possibilities.

At its best, our ambition is part of our gift of leadership and serves to propel the mission forward.

At its worst, our ambition steamrolls those we serve and may crush the work that God is doing through us.

This is why we as leaders have to be constantly measuring our ambition with the fruit of the spirit of self-control.

Unbridled ambition becomes destructive, but when we filter it through self-control we can more appropriately strike the balance of being an effective yet driven leader.

Self-control is simply “exercising restraint over our impulses, emotions and desires”.  (Merriam-Webster)

The implications of this are huge!

We are never honoring God with our gift of leadership, if we are abandoning one of the character qualities He has called us to. 

If our ambition is fueled by our own desires or impulses, it’s not God-honoring.  But when our ambition is filtered through self-control, we remove our selfish desires and are driven by a passion for implementing God’s plan and purpose instead.

Self-control helps us eliminate our desires from the leadership equation.

How many times in our leadership, do we push for something because of a desire or emotion that we feel?  The next time you feel yourself beginning to lead from an emotional reaction, pull back and filter it through self-control.

Can you think of a situation where you have recently let ambition drive your leadership without the filter of self-control? 

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED: Congrats to April who was the winner!


I have to say, that I was really looking forward to reading Rachel Held Evans new book.  Rachel is a thought leader who is stretching the discussions of our faith.  I was particularly intrigued by what her perspective would be on the issue of biblical womanhood.  That’s a can that very few are brave enough to open.  Rachel does so with a great deal of wit, humor, a splash of sass and yet a deep desire to challenge us to rethink some of the perspectives that have been passed down through our religious traditions.

I can’t aptly describe the anecdotes that made me laugh out loud or or exclaim, “Oh my, I can’t believe she did that!”  You’ll have to read it to enjoy those things.  But here are a few quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“We cause serious collateral damage to the advancement of our sex each time we perpetuate the stereotype that women can’t get along.”

“But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.  Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.”

“One need not be a saint, or even a mother, to become a bearer of God.  One needs only to obey.  The divine resides in all of us, but it is our choice to magnify it or diminish it, to ignore it or to surrender to its lead.”

“That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in his kingdom that Jesus ever delivered.” (referring to Mary Magdalene being the first to see Jesus after his resurrection)

“The Bible does not present us with a single model of biblical womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”

I’m admit, this subject makes me sweat a bit.  The confusion and inconsistency in interpretation of the scripture as it relates to women has been an exhausting topic of conversation for me. I appreciate Rachel’s willingness to run right into the fray and provide some perspective for new thought and conversation.

What is the most confusing part of scripture as it relates to women that you wrestle with?

I have a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood to give away.  I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments on Monday 11/12.