Next-Best-Step Decisions

Seems like the longer I lead the more numerous and complicated decisions I face.  Good decision making is the mark of a great leader, so the journey to being a good decision-maker is a priority for me.

Most of our decisions in life and leadership will be “next-best-step” decisions.  What is the next best step that God is asking you to take or to lead your team through?

Taking the next best step is where faith and obedience collide: faith for the unknown and obedience to the next step of action.

The story of Esther gives us a great example of this principle in action:

Scripture doesn’t really explain why, but notice that even when Esther approached King Xerxes, she doesn’t immediately share her request even though he extended his scepter to her to spare her life.  Instead she asked for a banquet with him by which to share her request.  And them still at that banquet, she asks for another banquet.  Why did she delay her request multiple times when she found favor with the kind in her first encounter with him?  I can only assume that she must have been responding to the discernment of the situation and being obedient to the next best step.  We know that ultimately, the delay of that conversation allowed Haman’s evil plot to be exposed and Mordecai to be honored, making way for the king to eagerly grant her request.

When Esther made a decision, it was always a next-step decision.  Every decision faced numerous outcomes that were beyond her control.  Knowing she couldn’t control the outcomes, she simply remained faithful to her next step.

In my experience, God doesn’t give us the entire route all at one time.  He gives us next steps, step-by-step, day-by-day.  Learning to be comfortable and confident in those steps of obedience is what marks you as a great leader.

What critical decision are you facing today?  What does the next-best-step look like?

**Parts of this post are excerpts from chapter 6 of Just Lead!

 

Being a Catalyst Leader

I knew I would love Brad Lomenick‘s new book, The Catalyst Leader, because I’ve loved Catalyst since the day I attended an event.  These are my people.  This is my tribe.

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Now that I’ve actually finished reading the entire thing, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes and reminders from it:

Ambition must be grounded in wisdom.  Inspiration must be pursued with integrity.  Dreams must be built with boundaries.  And passions need the steady hand of principles to guide them.

Living one’s calling is a necessary first step to leading well and becoming a change maker wherever God has planted you.

If we don’t learn to be content with who God has made us and called us to be, then we will never reach our potential as influencers.

If we believe we are called by God to the work we do, then we bear the responsibility of doing this work with an unrivaled standard of excellence.

Every great organization has a few areas where their standards are so high it’s annoying.  This is a good thing.  Set standards that scare you, and work to achieve them.

Your calling is crippled without courage.  Courage moves us from ideals to action, from potential to actuality.  Courageous leaders are working in their sweet spot but may be outside their comfort zones.

We can’t live and lead in a state of fear and inactivity.

Leaders are defined by their inner strengths and convictions, not the outer portrayal of who they are.  Your character will determine your level of leadership and even your legacy.

Humble yourself enough to focus on others.

Demand perfection from yourself before anyone else ever demands it of you.

When we are spiritually disciplined, we are often more vocationally effective.

Leaders are dealers of hope, and we must give it way constantly and without bias.

A leader lives in the tension of the now and the next.

Cultivate leaders who create possibilities rather than make excuses.

The more influence you have, the more intentional you have to be about giving it away.

This book would be a great resource to read with your entire team.  I encourage you to check it out.

And… be sure to join us for Catalyst Atlanta October 2-4!

 

 

The 6 “Be’s” of Communication

No one prepared me for the complexity of communication.  It complicates our relationships and our workplaces.  It slows us down and it trips us up.

The more I study great relationships and great organizational cultures, the more frequently I find effective communication at the center of their success.

You’ve likely heard the axiom “everything rises and falls on leadership”.  I would add to that and say if everything rises and fall on leadership, leadership rises and falls on communication.  We can’t lead well without figuring out the communication conundrum.

In our book, Just Lead!, Sherry and I identify the 6 “Be’s” that we believe are essential for good communication as leaders.

1) Be a good listener.  Our temptation as leaders is to hurry through conversations and make quick decisions; however, earning equity and credibility with your team is often best achieved through intentional listening.

2) Be self-aware.  In order to help others understand us, we must first understand ourselves.  Nancy Beach said it this way, “Most of us have blind spots about how we come across to others, and the huge challenge is to find ways to see ourselves more clearly and to identify where we are strong and where we need to improve.”

3) Be sensitive.  A Harvard Business Review article said this, “Communication isn’t as simple as saying what you mean.  How you say what you mean is crucial and differs from one person to the next…”  Not only do we need to be sensitive to how we say things, but we also need to be sensitive to how others receive what we say.

4) Be direct and confident.  Oftentimes when we need to deliver feedback or constructive criticism we can be guilty of convoluting the message so much that the other person doesn’t understand our point or the seriousness of the message.  Say what you need to say kindly, succinctly and honestly.

5) Be well-timed.  A well-timed word of encouragement is absolutely life giving to someone, and a poorly timed criticism can completely demotivate or even derail them.  Be quick to praise.  Be slow to criticize.

6) Be you.  Nothing you communicate as a leader will be effective if it feels inauthentic.  Find your voice.  Trust your instincts.  Discovering your authentic voice as a leader will be one of the most important steps in your leadership development.

What’s the most challenging issue you face when it comes to communication?

 

God’s Favorite Place On Earth

My friend Frank Viola has just released a new book called God’s Favorite Place on Earth that could literally change your relationship with God, help you defeat bitterness, free you from a guilty conscience, and help you overcome fear, doubt and discouragement once and for all.

This is a book that will jar you out of your “Christian rut” and give you new eyes for looking at EVERYTHING. It’s a quick, inspiring, and entertaining read.

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Over 47 Christian leaders have recommended the book, including me.

Here is my endorsement for “God’s Favorite Place on Earth.”

“God’s Favorite Place on Earth beautifully creates a powerful and moving portrait of the humanness of Jesus and His dearest relationships.  Taking a story well-told, Frank Viola engages the voice and view of Lazarus to bring a new perspective and moving relatability to Jesus’ life on earth.  Incredibly thoughtful and moving.”

The premise of the book is simple: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.

The curtain opens with Lazarus, who is now ready to die, telling the incomparable story of Jesus’ interactions with him, Martha, and Mary. God’s Favorite Place on Earth blends drama, devotion, biblical narrative, and first-century history to create a riveting book that you’ll find difficult to put down. Within each narrative, the common struggles Christians face are addressed and answered.

Go to GodsFavoritePlace.com to read a Sampler of the book, and watch the video trailer.  In addition, if you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also get 25 FREE GIFTS from 15 different authors including Leonard Sweet, Jeff Goins, Andrew Farley, Steve McVey, DeVern Fromke, Pete Briscoe, Frank Viola himself, and many others.

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Systems and routine are good.  I believe in them.  I advocate for them.  Most of the time I fight diligently for them.

And then sometimes I blow them up.

As good as systems and routine are for creating good habits, structure and behavior, they can also breed complacency, contentment and comfortability.

When we get too comfortable we lose our hunger for pursuing what’s better and best.

When we are content, we aren’t actively seeking what could be great.

As Jim Collin’s says “good is the enemy of great”.

So every once in awhile as a leader, you gotta blow up the system.  Displace routine.  Disrupt the norms.

Because in our discomfort, we find new solutions.  We create new ways of working.  We develop new communication channels.  We find more efficient ways to work.

What system, structure or routine do you need to blow up today?

Kicking Off Another Coaching Group

I’m currently putting together another group of dynamic women leaders for my next coaching group.  I would love for you to be a part of it!

Some of my best leadership development has occurred in the context of a small group of peers who find themselves wrestling with the challenges of daily life as a high capacity leader. That’s why I believe in the power of coaching groups for intensive leadership development.

Here are the details of the next group that I’m gathering:
What: Coaching Group for Women in Ministry & Non-profit Leadership
When: October 2013-March 2014
Facilitated by: Jenni Catron

Who:

  • Women who serve in a high level leadership role in a church or ministry-related non-profit organization
  • Leaders who are in a season of challenging growth or transition that would benefit from the intensive discussion of a small, focused group
  • Leaders who are committed to the hard work of personal development that will result in growth for yourself and those you lead
  • Leaders who are willing to make the time and financial commitment

What you get:

  • Four days of coaching sessions in Nashville, TN
  • Special guests for relevant topics
  • The opportunity for transparent and honest discussion with other women who think and lead like you
  • Focused attention on your key issues or challenges and a committed group to share that growth journey with you
  • Two one-on-one coaching calls with Jenni
  • Supporting books and curriculum

What you invest:

  • Commit to participate in 2 face-to-face coaching sessions in Nashville, TN
  • $750 per person (includes all materials and books, lunch on training days, special guest costs and more) + travel expenses
  • Time to prepare and participate fully

A few more details:

  • You are responsible for your travel and lodging however we’ll get you info on hotel rates and help carpool as much as possible
  • Dates of coaching sessions in Nashville: Oct 17-18, 2013 & March 6-7, 2014
  • This will require some commitment so I want to challenge you to pray about it and apply as God leads you to
  • You can download the application here. Application deadline is May 30, 2013.

Create Hometown Heroes

One of the greatest gifts you can give to the people you lead is belief in them.  Too often, we undervalue the people right under our noses.

You would have thought Jesus would be the hometown hero, and yet even he was not acknowledged for his gifts with the people closest to him.  In Mark 6 we read:

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

 

Even Jesus influence was limited because of the lack of belief others had in him.

As leaders, you have the power to make your team hometown heroes.

See the potential they don’t yet see in themselves.

Be the first to notice them.

Identify their gifts and affirm them.

Create opportunities to stretch them.

See potential before there’s proof.

Be a part of the unique work that God wants to do in others and be a catalyst for bringing that to life in them.

The Catalyst Leader

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This week is a huge week for my friend Brad Lomenick and the team at Catalyst!  I couldn’t be more excited for them and proud of the work they are doing to equip leaders.

The Catalyst Conference was, and still is, a strategic element in my growth as a leader.  Sitting in that conference over a decade ago my heart resonated with the call to be a leader.  I will forever be grateful for what these guys do!

So I’m even more excited that the principles of the catalyst leader can now be found in book form. The Catalyst Leader released this week and you MUST check it out.  Brad Lomenick authors this game changing leadership book, based on his 20 years of leadership experience, as well as the last 10 years experience as the president and lead visionary of Catalyst. In it Brad identifies and captures what he calls the 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker. Ultimately identifying the essentials of a Catalyst Leader needed for leading well, and leading now.

You can purchase the book wherever books are sold. Go to the book site to purchase today. I can’t recommend this book enough, whether you are a young leader or seasoned sage. It’s filled with practical leadership advice and application.

And, as a special bonus::: anyone who purchases the book this week, from April 14-19, scan and send your receipt to catalystleaderbook@gmail.com and you’ll receive over $300 of leadership resources for FREE, all for simply purchasing the book during release week from any outlet, including the Catalyst store as well as other retail outlets.

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Be Patient & Don’t Elope: When Hiring Goes From Good to Ghastly

Hiring is one of the most complicated yet possibly the most critical parts of our job as leaders.

But time and time again I see leaders make hasty decisions when it comes to hiring.  Most of the time, their haste has good reason.  An employee just left leaving a gaping hole of responsibilities… budget was finally approved for the role that you’ve desperately needed for months, perhaps years… you’re so overwhelmed you’ll do anything to get some help.

We’ve all felt one or more of those pains when it comes to staffing.

But oftentimes these stressors that are driving us cause us to overlook the significance of our decision.

Hiring is like a marriage.

You are making a long-term commitment to that individual and they to you.  You are creating an expectation of security, longevity and belonging.  This gets even more complicated for those of you in ministry roles.  The people you hire and their families are intricately woven into your church community.  Their family, friends and community revolve around their job.  They potentially lose significant anchors of belonging if their job comes to an end.

This is why how you hire is critical.

Too many hiring managers elope after the first date.  They have a great interview with a great candidate and they rush to make an offer.

Unfortunately these hasty hiring decisions are often the ones that become extraordinarily painful down the road.

You must have a good, thorough, consistent hiring process for your organization.  And you must teach and train all of your staff to engage and support that system.  In my 15+ years of being a hiring manager I have never regretted a slow hire but I have unfortunately felt the pains of a quick elopement.

If you don’t have a formalized hiring process, here are some steps to consider:

  • Interview some great organizations to learn how their hiring process works.
  • Use some resources and tools that give you objective information from which to interview and evaluate the candidate.  We use the Leading from Your Strengths Assessment and Position Profile tools from Ministry Insights.
  • Consider what has worked well in hiring in the past and what has not worked so well.  Write out the steps that you believe are essential moving forward.
  • Gather a few of your key staff to discuss what you feel is essential for your hiring process.
  • Build a plan and then try it out on your next hire.

Be patient and don’t elope.

I promise you’ll thank me!

Slow Down & Lead

This guy and I just got back from a 3 mile run.

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He loves our morning runs.  He’s just as eager to go today as he was a decade ago.  But at 14 years old, he’s a little slower than he used to be.  His joints bark back and his breathing is a bit more labored.

He needs more care and attention.

And I’ve had to learn how to lead him differently.

There are days that I’ve been too impatient and left him at home so that I could run at my own pace.

Some days I’ll take him for a shorter lap, drop him off and keep going on my own.

Other days I embrace his slower pace and find value in slowing down to coach and encourage him along.

As leaders, we have to learn to adjust our pace to those we’re leading.

I’m embarrassed by the number of times I’ve chosen to go it alone because I didn’t want to slow down enough to bring someone with me.

When we run alone, we lose the opportunity to invest in others.  We miss the chance to coach and encourage.

We might go a little farther and a little longer, but at what cost to others?  Did we rob someone else of an opportunity to learn or grow?

You can run alone, but you can’t lead alone. 

Who needs to be with you in your next leadership moment?  How can you slow your pace to bring them alongside you?