I was in church this past Sunday. I say it like that because I am often unable to be in my home church due to my ministry, where I am speaking somewhere else on Sundays. But today, we were back with our congregation, and it felt so good.
February is missions month at our church, where we get reports from around the world where we are involved. This month we are seeking to raise $250 thousand to support ministries beyond our walls. As I watched and listened to our lead pastor, he shared about the work we are involved with in India. My mind wandered a bit as I thought of how that church in India is also meeting today. Around the world today, and each week, pastors are speaking at 37 million churches.
When people think about pastors, often the picture of a quiet and reserved person comes to mind. But what many don’t realize is that pastors work tirelessly behind the scenes preparing sermons and messages every week. Millions of pastors – men and women – stand in front of their congregations each Sunday, providing words of hope, help, healing, inspiration, and life-changing messages from the Bible.
Just imagine – pastors have to keep up with current events and use them as examples for their messages; they research sound theological insights, all while finding time to practice before presenting these sermons, attending meetings, visiting and leading teams! It’s no wonder pastors can become exhausted after preaching week after week.
As churchgoers, we should be more mindful and thankful for pastors who dedicate their lives to sharing the gospel. Speaking in front of a large crowd is just as terrifying as rewarding. Let’s take the time to thank pastors for giving us hope and inspiring us week after week! They deserve our deep appreciation and respect for all the hard work they put into each sermon.
Delivering the sermon is not the goal each Sunday. “Only half of the pastor’s work is to gather the people together for worship. The other half is to send them back to their daily tasks equipped to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If we forget this second part, the other can be positively dangerous.” – Leslie Newbigin
Let’s show pastors some much-needed love and gratitude by taking a moment out of our day to say “thank you”. After all, pastors are essential in keeping up the spiritual momentum that leads us closer to God – which really is lifegiving! You may be at a church with more than one pastor in which case we should also reach out to the entire team with appreciation. A small word, or note of encouragement goes a long way.
So next time you hear a pastor speak at church, remember how incredible they are and offer a prayer of thanks to God for them.
Thank you, pastors, for all that you do – may God bless you.
Thank you for your interest and emails concerning this series on what questions I am commonly asked by leaders in mentoring relationships. While many have heard the term mentoring, lots of you are not quite sure what takes place in a formal mentoring relationship. Here is my next cluster of topics that I commonly speak to executives about. I welcome your comments or questions so please leave a note in the comments section at the end.
The development of men and women leaders is my calling, starting with my family. My work as an Executive Mentor is to come alongside leaders and their organizations helping them to be effective, well balanced and successful.
Often, I am asked, “What do leaders want to talk to you about?”. Some topics come up frequently and I shared examples in my previous posts in this series found here and part two here.
A mentor walks beside you and, in doing so, helps build your confidence and leadership ability. We help you discover insights, skills and solutions for your business, church, organization, or life. Our support and guidance helps you to draw your own conclusions and decisions guided by experience and passion for you to be a better leader.
1. How to confront an employee
So many leaders have an aversion to conflict and, because of this, do not hold their staff accountable properly. This fear leads to siloing and team members creating their fiefdoms within the organization. Our fear of conflict is usually grounded in our upbringing, and a therapist can be helpful if you want to understand more about your fear of confronting.
Usually, something from the past has created assumptions about how it will go, and you back off.You can’t change what you refuse to confront. Suppose leaders spend time avoiding arguments or difficult conversations. In that case, they are surrounded by people with poor job performance, staff who do not work well with others, a toxic atmosphere in the office, and status quo results.
A mentor can do several things to help also. I usually start with assisting the leader in realizing the “cost” of not being direct and reminding them that it is part of their job. If we consider what might be gained by being direct, leaders often reconsider assumptions holding them back.
There are MANY mistakes we can make when confronting others, and a mentor can help. Two quick tips are:
1. Don’t wait and always speak about it in person.
2. Never use email or voicemail for this leadership function.
One book I recommend is Jill Scott’s “Radical Candor” where she describes how she had to learn to be more direct as a leader.
If we confront someone we should have one goal in mind: restoration, not embarrassment.
2. Making difficult decisions
Leaders who postpone making decisions frustrate their teams and lose the respect for their leadership. Over time if you keep deferring making a decision, you will lose your best employees who want more action, and you will encourage those who love the status quo. With similarities to leaders who have trouble confronting employees, leaders who fail to make decisions share fear as the core of the problem. Mentors can help you face your fears and gain confidence.
Overthinking and perfectionism are common culprits with those who delay making decisions. Leaders in the relentless pursuit of perfection are afraid of deciding because they fear making the wrong decision. Only God knows the future, and therefore any decision we make is subject to variables that might happen in the future.
I make a decision. Then, if things don’t turn out like I thought, I make another decision.
A mentor can help you develop the skill of making decisions and can also help you to evaluate your choices after implementation. You can grow in this area by experience, but experience comes at a cost – you are going to make some mistakes.
3. Identifying and solving problems.
A mentor can serve as a safe sounding board for a senior leader to think aloud about identifying a problem. It is essential to discover what the real problem is.
A friend in Houston who was a bonafide card carrying rocket scientist with NASA told me, “The problem is NEVER the problem.”
There is a lot of truth in that nugget. How many of us have solved a problem only to find that it created several new problems. Finding solutions to complex situations requires help. I am always impressed with a leader who knows they would benefit from some mentoring when solving the root cause of some leadership issue. Often fresh eyes, like a mentor provides, can point out the obvious and save a great deal of time and potential loss.
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions
One leadership tip: Don’t let yourself get enamoured with large amounts of data. It is only helpful if you can make sense of it.
4. Handling transition and change.
The global pandemic of COVID, created change for leaders. I think of change as the shift of an external situation. As we have seen, it can happen fast and cause global upheaval. Transition is the reorientation people need to make in response to change, and that takes time.
Sometimes mentors can help leaders, or their teams, accept the need for change. It is easy to believe what they’ve been doing, and how they’ve been doing it, is the best possible way to do it. To be successful in both implementation, and helping people we need to manage both the change and the transition.
Similarly, succession-related factors should be on a leader’s radar. Often a safe discussion with a mentor, who does not hold power or position over the leader, is constructive to begin strategizing for the future.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
5. Leading up and working with boards
I work with many not-for-profit organizations, which means their CEO, ED or President serve a governing board of directors. The operational leader reports to and works for the board, and a healthy, positive relationship with your “boss” makes your life much easier. However, no two boards are alike, and bad board governance is the stuff of legends. Those who serve on boards may need some leadership in working well with the CEO or lead staff person.
Leading up is more complicated than managing your team. It may involve offering your board a strategic insight, or a plan for a new initiative. I remind those I mentor that every member on a board has a day job. They do not live with the day-to-day operations of your organization, and they need leadership assistance to help understand what you and the staff do regularly. A mentor experienced serving on boards and who has worked for boards can assist both the board and the management team in working together.
Lots of times we are afraid to ask our board members to do too much because we’re afraid they will be scared off. I have long observed that more board members resign for lack of meaningful work, than from being overworked.
You and Your Nonprofit Board (Temkin, 2013)
I have drawn together a team of associates to work with me in serving leaders. This new approach to coaching and mentoring has expanded our capacity to help leaders like yourself. Our team has a diversity of giftedness to mentor leaders in life, leading themselves, leading teams, strategy and marketing, all from a faith perspective.
If you would like to speak to me about how you might become more effective as a leader, spouse, strategist or influencer, please let’s talk. Here is my calendar, and you can choose a time that works for you.
Awhile back, I had a conversation with my therapist, Ahmad. I cannot stop thinking about it. Ok, so he is not really my therapist, he is my barber, but our conversations are always fascinating.
Ahmad and I talked about the summer holidays and a time when he drove his family pulling a trailer. As he was driving, he felt the trailer’s weight and momentum behind him as he held the wheel. On the other hand, his wife was chatting to him without any sense of the pressure and responsibility of towing a trailer.
The first time I drove a trailer that was not behind a tractor was towing a sailboat in downtown Vancouver. It was scary at first. Was it hitched properly? Would my brakes handle the extra weight? What about the extra height – would I make it under bridges?
There was a certain sway to the trailer as the sailboat seemed unbalanced. I knew I had to be careful, especially when backing up while having my brain wrestle with counter-intuitive steering in the opposite direction. No question, Ahmad was correct in identifying driving with a trailer as stressful.
In a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, eighty-eight percent of leaders reported that work is the primary source of stress in their lives and that having a leadership role increases stress levels. No kidding!
..having a leadership role increases stress levels. No kidding!
In all my years of mentoring leaders, I have never seen an intensity of stress faced by leaders, as during this COVID-19 season. Whether in business, non-profits, or churches, leaders are juggling many additional demands on their time, attention, and focus. This past month, even the most effective leaders I know are feeling emotionally and physically worn down because of the pandemic.
When we as leaders are under extreme stress, it affects us in many ways. Our decision-making is affected because we have trouble processing information, and COVID has caused extreme responses. Often leaders focus on the immediate and have been kept from thinking about the long-term implications of decisions.
Another stress response is to become very controlling. Leaders stop working with their teams and make unilateral decisions as they try to control the situation – a pandemic beyond our ability to control.
Leadership stress also drives men and women into isolation. They want to withdraw, to hide, to run. By shutting other people out of their lives, leaders are often left with only their own counsel causing people around them to lose trust while they lose perspective.
The most common question I ask leaders these days is, “How well are you sleeping?” Stress impacts the quality of sleep we are getting. Lack of sleep affects our behaviour, reduces confidence, and can damage relationships with those closest to us.
Do you know a normally calm and positive leader who is now showing signs of anger, irritability, and being overwhelmed? These are signs that your leader needs to be encouraged to take time to practice radical self-care.
A problem exists in that you and I can just be “along for the ride.” We are unaware of the stress involved in driving the leadership trailer. So let me urge you to reach out to a leader and encourage them. Let them know you understand the stress they must be feeling and encourage their practicing of self-care. Lower high expectations during this time, and recognize good things they have accomplished. Encourage them to recharge, recover, pray and practice restorative activities.
Our family loved our sailboat and for sixteen years we would be out on the ocean as often as we could. Today, I kept noticing my head raised up to look at the weather. What do I look for first? The wind. It is the wind that gets the attention of sailors, and this was one of those days.
In a sailboat, you cannot get back to port quickly should something go awry. This fact breeds self-reliance among those of us who love the sea. You learn to look at all the elements, to study the weather, to do a walk around your boat before casting off, and to understand where you are going and all about navigation.
Laughing now at the thought of how many times I would drive my car 100 kilometres per hour to get to our sailboat at Point Roberts WA so that I could get on board and proceed at seven knots towards some unknown destination. All the while, adjusting the sails, tweaking the sheets and scanning the water trying to get one more tenth of a knot out of her.
Sailing, for me, has been the one thing I do that puts everything in proper perspective. I see it as the ultimate expression of freedom – perhaps exactly because I have chosen to place myself in a position where there is no forgiveness for mistakes. This causes you to become very aware of what’s going on.
This is Annalong. She was named after a small fishing village in County Down, Northern Ireland where the Pue family are from. In fact the Presbyterian church at the top of the road has the Pue family gravesite with many of my ancestors named. It is also a meaningful name to us as my mothers name was Anna and we purchased the boat shortly after her death.
We don’t own her any longer. She is off on adventures with another family, but I sure miss her. Along with sailing her, I miss writing in the salon, making coffee at sunrise and sipping it outside in the cockpit during my quiet time. As the sun rose I would continue to sit there, my mind coming slowly to rest like I was in a sacred sanctuary.
Annalong was to me as I imagine going to a cabin is or others. But let me tell you, when you put up the sails and the hull moves through the water with waves lapping her side – there is nothing like it.
Being on a boat that is moving through the water it’s so clear… Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important, and what’s not.
How is the COVID pandemic like being out on the ocean?
How has it made you more aware of what is going on, and what’s important?
During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been mentoring Christian leaders around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations.
These are their stories.
Ministry organizations I am mentoring and coaching are now working with fewer people on staff. Staff members are absent due to sickness – either themselves or loved ones for whom they are caring. Others have left because they are caring for children home from school or due to furloughs or layoffs caused by the impact of closures and reduced revenue.
My friend Bob Kuhn, in conversation the other day, said the challenge ahead is discerning how to maintain the mission while modifying the methods. Not only a catchy phrase, but Bob also speaks wisely about the role of leaders in organizations and businesses today. In the book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner considers “fewer things done better” as the most powerful tool for effective leadership. Essentialism, written in 2014, is perhaps the exact theme needed in 2020.
When asked by leaders how they are supposed to cope with all the reductions they are experiencing, I propose some questions to help think through what is essential, and how to maintain the mission with fewer paid staff and reduced financial resources.
Questions Leaders Can Ask
What are the essential services we offer? Can we limit any other services or activities and put more resources into our essentials?
With fewer staff, you cannot expect to do all you have done before COVID-19. Can we reduce the number of service hours we are open?
Do you have any area of your organization where only one person knows how to do a critical part of your work or ministry? If a crucial member of the team became ill or indisposed, is anyone cross-trained to keep the organization going?
Do you have any former staff or volunteers whom you might call on to ask for help during the pandemic?
Is there some new service, resource or product that you might be able to retool with fewer workers and generate new revenue?
What about you? If you were to become ill, have you identified who could make critical decisions in your absence?
I have been very encouraged by leaders who are not trying to be heroes, and who are inviting team members into leadership roles during this time. I think in years to come we will look back and realize how this Covid-19 season re-calibrated teams and revealed previously unrecognized strengths within them.
Last summer I was staying at a beautiful wee home in Northern Ireland. One of the features that I enjoyed was the garden off the kitchen. Beyond that, through the garage and across the lane, was a secret garden. This hideaway had a weaving mowed pathway back towards a grove of trees with benches situated to catch the sun at various points of the day.
The secret garden also concealed a small green house for starting plants and in it two chairs which proved delightful for relaxing and reading as it rained every day while I was there.
On one of my visits to the greenhouse, a bee followed me in through the door. After a short buzz around small glasshouse, it seemed confused about how to get out. I kept the door open and wanted to help the bee but instead of retracing its path, the bee insisted on pounding itself on the ceiling. Over and over again the bee would bounce off the clear glass. I imagined it wondering what on earth was happening when it could see through to the plants and trees beyond – a much more friendly place.
Finally, the bee slid over to the open vent and I was excited to anticipate its escape through the gap. However, the bee didn’t escape and went back to practising the same behaviour as the previous four minutes. Over and over again the bee banging itself against the clear glass as seemingly ignoring the large gap that would provide freedom.
After numerous attempts, the bee collapsed on the frame of the window and stayed still acting like an exhausted runner catching its breath. I was worried about the poor things life but after a few minutes, there was movement again. No flying this time, the bee was just crawling along the frame. Finally, the frame led it to the opening and spreading his wings he flew off into the world of trees, flowers and freedom.
Getting grounded was the path to the answer.
This image has stayed with me for months. I believe that the first thing a leader must do to make decisions is to get grounded. That is true at least for making the ‘right’ decisions. So in a time like the pandemic, many leaders feel like their feet have been knocked out from under them. They are no longer grounded and a form of panic can set in making you bump your head against the glass that prevents you from finding the answer.
The majority of leaders I have spoken to since the pandemic started have experienced this. The global crisis has hit us in waves, and each time a new wave comes, leaders have to pivot and change. This impacts us personally and organizationally. If we respond by symbolically hitting ourselves against the ceiling we will upset our team as they are looking to you for leadership in these times. Personally, it can induce fear and uncertainty that shakes you to your core. As a result, many feel like quitting or saying to me that they sense “God is moving them on”.
The leaders I am mentoring are by all measure successful. They are used to living with complex decision making and seemingly unending demands. As the frequency of decisions has intensified, throughout the pandemic many have not been prepared to deal with this.
Even though we have been in isolation, time seems to be absorbed with all there is to do, because the world keeps changing daily applying even greater demands on you. People speak about the world having stopped, but not so for leaders. We struggle to stay grounded in all aspects of life – our job, family and friends, our broader community and our faith life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs as Andy Stanley describes in his book called “Choosing to Cheat”. You may see Andy speak about this here.
Staying grounded is important
Mature and seasoned leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. It is what keeps them from riding the roller coaster of emotions between “I am so great and have got this!” to “I am such a loser, and I think God is calling me on or right out of this ministry thing. What do they say they do to stay grounded? Here are some typical responses:
Spend time with family
Draw close to your best friends
Get some exercise
Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, solitude, worship
Have an attitude of gratitude and thank God daily for your blessings
Go to your spot, where you feel God’s calming presence
It is in practicing these that leaders can return to a stated of being grounded, and being grounded is essential to you being productive, authentic and integrated. This grounding is vital to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.
So let me ask you this. Are you letting frenetic activity dominate your days and weeks? It happens easily, but let me encourage you to stay grounded. Do what works for you. Rest on that window frame and walk along with it slowly. Doing so will eventually reveal the opening that you need, just like that bee in the greenhouse.
It doesn’t matter what training or experience you have. Nothing has prepared you for these leadership days of COVID-19. I have had mentoring calls with Christian leaders in the marketplace, ministry and not for profit organizations globally. There are some common themes in these calls.
Over the next while I am going to share observations from these conversations with leaders and pass on some mentoring insights to help you with your leadership.
What is your role?
Leaders are getting so caught up in the adrenaline powered hour by hour changes that they have abandoned their key role – leading the organization. Leaders are there to make hard choices for the sake of the organization and to honour your team. Your job is not to protect your people, it is to lead them through this as you care for the overall ministry or organization.
Perhaps more than at any other time your team need to see you lead with confidence, faith and skill. Allow your people to grow through this in their faith, and skill. Treat them with honour, dignity for who they are – even if they are laid off. No one was prepared for this.
Christian leaders are usually very compassionate people. I love that. It is just that sometimes it can get in the way of you having the space needed to make tough decisions. I coach leaders to find the space you need where you can ask God what to do. He has the wisdom that you need right now. The Bible reminds us in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” And remember, this is coming from a God that cares about you and everything that concerns you.
But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?
A question that often follows when I encourage praying for wisdom is, “But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?” Two responses. One is that if it isn’t clear, then ask God to make it clear to you. The other is that we should look for His peace (shalom) to be upon us. Colossians 3:15 in the Amplified Bible states,“The peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].”
Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity
These are wild (VUCA) times: Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity. Remember that you are not alone in this. Think of someone else in your line of work and give them a call. Encourage them in their leadership, share best practices, help each other with problems. get over yourself and reach out for help.
There is a great need right now for what is called spot coaching. It is a ten to fifteen minute call to help hold up the arms of leaders facing these challenges. I am going to offer FREE coaching to as many as I possibly can in the month of April and maybe beyond. My next post will have the details of how to book a time to talk, pray, cry, decide or be encouraged – whatever you need. Until then, as my mentor Barry Hawes used to say at the end of every call, “Keep your heart up.”
Did you know that 100 Huntley Street is Canada’s longest running TV Talk Show? After decades of serving Canadians it is still a place men and women tune into to hear the stories of real people. With thanks to Lorna Dueck and her team I was invited to share a little about Brenda’s book and our family journey in grief after cancer.
Lorna is so easy to talk with I hardly noticed the cameras and lights. She and Brenda were close. In Brenda’s Bible she had a list of some leaders she prayed for each of the seven days in a week and Lorna was one of those leaders.
We were getting ready for the evening, about to take turns by Mom’s bedside throughout the night. Jer and I were going to have a glass of wine, but then opted for something a bit stronger. We poured our glasses as Kristin came downstairs and said that Kirstie was crying. There had been a lot of tears over these last couple days but somehow I knew that this was different. We all gathered quickly around Mom to be with her. Her breathing was different, struggling more so than before.
The doctor had joined us and assured us that she didn’t feel any pain as we watched her breathe. Each breath was full of anticipation and wonder, is this the last breath? Minutes turned into hours and the hours felt like moments suspended in time.
We cried. We laughed at memories. But mostly we waited and were not sure what to do. My family and I were just content to be present. Everything had been said, love from each of us was well known to her. We held her hand, her arm, stroked her head in comfort- for ourselves and for her. Her breaths were shallow, and short, and the space long in between. The small breaths lingered like watching a bubble slowly climb into the air until it eventually burst.
On what was her last breath, the doctor listened for a heartbeat, searching and waiting for any sign. But there was nothing to be heard, and he turned to us and said, “she’s passed”.
For all the days I had to get ready, nothing really prepares you for that moment. She was gone. And in an instant, in one moment, she moved from a living and breathing saint to someone who dwells not just in heaven but also in all of us. She remains now in our memories, in our minds and actions, and in pictures that hang suspended from the walls.
Grief and sorrow take over. A sudden realization that life is no longer the same. Everything is altered. I said goodbye with a kiss on the forehead, that was unexpectedly cold for someone whose love was so warm.
Already, as a family, we had leaned on each other greatly. Now more so than ever. What’s ahead? Conversations that come far too early with precious nieces and nephews, and for me the fear of now trying to live without an anchor that has grounded me for years. Seems overwhelming…and it is.
I take comfort in knowing that Mom died exactly how she would have wanted to- at home peacefully, with loved ones close at hand.
It still seems so surreal, like having a bad dream and waiting to be scared awake to reality.
Already, I long for Mom to know my sons and daughters. That they could know the woman she was. I wish she could love them and guide them through this life as she did with me. I rue the times when I go to call her while I drive simply to see how her day was. I must tell myself that I did the best I could with the time that was given to us. And to not fall into the guilt of how I used my time, did I work too much? Should I have called or visited one more time? Rather, I can trust that she knows the deep and unrelenting love I have for her. The moments we have had will never be replaced and never lost.
I thought I was ready. But I was not.
Today marks the beginning of learning how to live again.
Just after midnight this morning, surrounded by love from her entire family, Brenda answered the call and slipped into heaven.
Our loving warrior teacher has gone ahead of us and we look forward to joining her in glory one day.
The celebration of her life will be held August 22nd, 1:30pm, at “CLA” Christian Life Assembly (21277 56 Ave. Langley. All are welcome (typical of Brenda). Come be inspired by the life of an amazing leader in life, family and faith. You will leave a better person as a result.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in her memory to Arrow Leadership Ministries or Barnabas Family Ministries.