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Filtering by Category: Leadership

Are You a Master Of The "Almost?"

Mark Junkans

My life is "almost" 100% more awesome than it actually is. There are so many things I have almost done, or thought about doing, or just didn’t get to.

Many times when I am speaking with someone, and telling stories from my experience, I have to mentally differentiate between those things that I actually did and the things that I almost did. If I’m not careful, I will tell a story of almost as if it really happened.

Or, I tell a story about how I almost did or accomplished something with the same excitement as if I had actually done it.

Why is this?

Because I have mastered the art of almost.

In our minds, the gap between attempting something and actually accomplishing it isn’t very big. When we think about doing something, plan to do it, and start to do it, we have already reaped most of the emotional reward.

Our brains get a boost of dopamine when we start something new. It may be a new relationship, a new project, a job, etc. However, these things quickly lose that “new car smell” and we are quickly on the lookout for the next new thing to start while we still haven’t finished the last one.

We love to tell other people about the newest thing we’ve started like books, diets, training, workout regimen, etc. This is why people are forever starting things and never finishing them.

Finishing something that is difficult is, well...difficult. It takes determination, endurance, hard work and patience.

So how do you move away from the practice of Almost?

One way is to delay your brain’s release of those rewarding chemicals by NOT telling people what you are starting, but only what you are committed to finishing. Don’t allow yourself to celebrate until you finish something. That takes too long? Then split up the goal into milestones and celebrate those along the way.

But you can’t finish everything you start, nor should you.

You should always be trying to learn new skills, habits, etc. This doesn’t mean that everything you start you will finish. However, you should be able to determine those things that are worth seeing to completion, and those that were just good experiences.

If you’re like me, you learn by doing. That means you only learn if you want to do something or not when you actually start doing it. Also, by dabbling in several different activities, you find out what you have a talent for and can become a more well-rounded individual.
One strategy is to group your activities into Experiments and Commitments. In other words, categorize the things you are doing into those that are worth finishing, and the things that aren’t. This process is explained by Scott H Young in his post “How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start.” How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start

Sure, telling the story of how you almost did something is fun. But, how many “almosts” will it take until you finally finish something of significance? That story will be even better.

Be a master of the "Almost." Tell the story of all the hard work that it took and all the failed attempts to finally accmplish something great. Just don't fall into the trap of believing that Almost is good enough. It is just a step on the journey to accomplishing something great.

credit to Wilco for the inspiration for this blog title: I used to listen to this album almost everyday on my morning run. Wilco - Art of almost - YouTube

6 Traits Ministry Leaders Must Have

Mark Junkans

In our current culture, true leaders that set an example worth emulating are getting harder to find. Sadly, this is true in ministry as well. There are several important traits that you should strive to embody as a ministry leader.

1. Stay Focused on the End Goal If you work in a ministry position you'll often be called to wear many hats. It's far too easy to get side-tracked and find yourself far away from what you're really supposed to be accomplishing. Write down your primary goals, post them on the wall right above your desk and enlist the help of other leaders and co-workers to help you stay on track.

2. Stay Christ-Centered As a church leader you always need to remember that Christ is the focal point of every endeavor. CTPastors points out that leaders must have a strong focus on things that always remain the same. There is nothing more unchanging than Jesus, the foundation of our faith. Having a strong, unwavering commitment to Jesus’ mission is crucial, otherwise you will begin to exchange lesser missions for the most important one.

3. Adhere to High Standards of Integrity If you've been called to a leadership position in ministry you will be held to a higher standard. Crosswalk.com states that integrity must encompass all areas of a leader's life, not just in a particular leadership position. To be a leader of integrity means to adhere to a high code of behavior in issues regarding the heart and the home as well as in public.

4. Learn to Deal With Criticism If you're in a position of leadership there will be criticism. Jesus received a lot of criticism during his ministry, both from those who adamantly opposed him and even at times from his own followers. It's important to not take it personally and respond with love and kindness.

5. But Still Accept Constructive Criticism Remaining humble and realizing you aren't going to get it right all the time is a necessary leadership trait. If you surround yourself with Godly individuals who genuinely care as much about the ministry as you do, it will be easier to take counsel and apply it.

6. Take a Team Approach Taking a team approach means you'll seek out and involve others in what you're trying to accomplish, and in the decisions you make. It also means working regularly with others and not going it alone. David Mathis in Desiring God writes that individuals are simply too frail, shortsighted and naturally sinful to go it totally alone without support from others.

Being a better leader takes a conscientious effort on a daily basis. Excelling as a leader isn't be easy, but this is what you’re called to.

What would you add to this list of crucial traits?

How to Identify Future Leaders in Your Ministry

Mark Junkans

As a church leader, you can’t try to run a church, ministry or mission alone for long – you’ll burn out. One of your most important tasks as a leader is to find and develop other leaders -- the men and women who will lead your small groups, disciple others and carry the mission of the church forward beyond your own personal limitations.

Identifying Future Church Leaders

You’ve probably heard the saying, “leadership is influence.” We use this phrase to remind each other that we all have a responsibility to lead ourselves and those around us as best we can.

Unfortunately, although every person is a leader in this sense of the word, far fewer people have been given the right mixture of leadership gifting and character that allow them to take up more formal leadership positions in ministry.

In fact, finding the right leaders can be downright difficult. So how can we search better?

Make Time

The biggest obstacle many pastors face is that they don’t have time to look for and develop new leaders – they’re too busy running everything themselves!

You must carve out time for finding potential new leaders and then invest time in building a relationship with them. Only by getting to know them better can you assess their leadership potential.

Who has potential within your church? How can you make time to get to know them better?

Look for Character First

Raw leadership talent is important, but it isn’t everything. A talented leader without the right character can do more damage to your ministry than a less-skilled leader with a true heart for Jesus.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, Samuel is looking for a leader, specifically the future king of the Israelites. God gives him some advice about what to look for:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Examine the hearts of the people around you. Who has the character and faith to set a great example in leadership?

Use the People God Has Given You

When we talk about identifying and developing future leaders, we often assume this means young people – and it often does. It is important the church makes room for young leaders, but don’t discount other generations either.

This is especially true when you have a ministry with very few young people. Instead of choosing someone unsuitable, cast your net a bit wider. God can use anyone, at any age. Moses was about 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt!

Is there anyone you have unintentionally looked over because they don’t fit your initial expectations?

Yes=Yes

Mark Junkans

As I dropped off my daughter at preschool for her Valentine's Day party, I was reminded again how excited kids are about the littlest things. When a teacher says that they're going to do something, the kids get excited. Her teacher, however, told the class yesterday that if they didn't be quiet she would take their party away.

Her teacher’s words put such a doubt in my daughter's mind that, even after I repeatedly assured her, she was adamat that the party was cancelled. If adults continue to do this in her life, she will soon learn that they can't be trusted. Believe me, I know plenty of parents to use this tactic with their children, and they can't figure out why their children don't respond to their threats.

This situation really made me think about my own parenting style, and question whether or not I give and break promises as a reward and punishment. What about my other relationships? Do I fulfill my promises based on how I feel about a certain person at the time, or based on the fact that I gave my word?

If I am truly honest with myself, I would have to admit that I often behave just like my daughter's teacher. That’s not the kind of person that I want my children, or my coworkers and colleagues to know. What about you?

Because I know people use empty threats to control behavior, I was able to promise my daughter that she was indeed having her party, even though "teacher said." We took her bag of Valentines for the class, and got ready for the party that wasn't cancelled.

James 5:12  Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

Stretching Myself

Mark Junkans

Yesterday I had another great conversation with a friend and mentor. He encouraged me to continue stretching myself in various ways as a leader, both in new situations and challenges.

New Situations

The first way I believe I can put myself into new situations is to join a new group. I'm a very introverted person, and striking up conversation in a group is extremely difficult for me. I'm making it my goal to attend functions that I would normally shy away from, and to not bring along a wing-man to avoid conversing with new people.

The second way is to intentionally make contact with people in important positions. For me, this includes CEO's of companies and organizations, political figures and community leaders. Doing this forces me to find new ways to be outgoing and seek common ground witih other leaders, not just the ones I already know.

Third, I need to continue to travel to new places and events, learning from people and groups that are completely different than I am, or have a totally different way of getting things done than I do.

New Challenges

One of the ways to stagnate as a leader is to just stick with what I've already accomplished, or to simply do more of that. I need new challenges in order to stretch myself. I need new goals, both personally and for the organization, in order to force myself to learn. It's easy to simply allow circumstance to dictate my actions. I need challenges that go beyond just getting things done and solving current issues.


Questions for yourself

What are the ways in which you force yourself to grow as a leader?

What is a new challenge that you might give yourself?

What new situation will cause you to grow?

Lead or Follow, is there another choice?

Mark Junkans

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I just read an article by author Scott Berkun titled "Why You Must Lead Or Follow."  In the article he basically sets up the argument for a complete dichotamy between leaders and followers, and makes the case that an individual has to either be one or the other in any given situation.  

The author writes, "as a rule of thumb, if you’re not sure what you’re doing, you’re following."  

One of the most frustrating things I've experienced in a group is what I would call the Headless Leader.  For example, I've been invited to be part of think tanks and task forces where the individual that called the meeting and was seen as the leader of the group didn't lead.  

Instead of leading, the individual basically let the group "run itself."  What happened is that most everyone became frustrated because nobody was leading the agenda, discussion or even the leading decision-making process.  Naturally, the "alphas" in the room looked around wondering who was going to take charge.  It is always interesting notice the facial expressions and the nonverbal "are you going to take the lead or should I?"

In almost every group situation or project, people immediately ask themselves "who's leading this?"  If nobody is leading, then some people naturally begin to take charge while others naturally wait.  This doesn't mean that those who try to lead are the most natural leaders or the most ideal ones.

I've noticed that the strongest leader in a group is usually the one who patiently waits his/her time to decide if it's worth exerting effort or expending "leadership capital."  The mature and confident leader is able to allow others in the group to lead, even if they themselves could do it better.  They typically reserve exerting their leadership for those situations that warrant it.  

The immature and insecure leader is the one who feels the need to jockey for position in every situation.  They are the ones who tend to talk the loudest and the most, thus most people in the group see them as the natural leader.  It's interesting to watch group dynamics and see two or more of these "leaders" try to run things, or wrestle control in every situation.  They mistake ambition and self-confidence for leadership.

Here is a quote from the article that I really appreciated.

To be a leader means that you shape your opinions and decisions around the greater good for the project you are responsible for. This requires sacrificing your own interests and wants in favor of the needs of the project, and the people that work on it.

A true leader is able to put the greater good in front of her personal 

To be a successful leader means directing your energy in ways that creates the greatest possibility of success for everyone that works with or for you. Good leaders go beyond their own resources and cultivate positive power from others.

Lead of Follow?

Lately, I've tried to find new ways to lead without taking the lead.  It's difficult for me, but I try to ask myself these questions before putting my hat in the ring.

  • Is this something that fits my areas of passion, calling and expertise?
  • Do I have the time and energy to truly lead this well?
  • Is there a way I could mentor a new leader to lead this, thus allowing him/her to gain experience in the process?
  • Who would do a better job at leading this?

Perhaps there is a way to lead and follow at the same time.  What do you think?

Thinking Beyond Short-term Success

Mark Junkans

There is a lot of pressure for leaders to show immediate success, no matter if they are leading a startup or an existing organization.  In today's society, we have come to believe that everything can be done quickly, and that changes made today will literally result in growth tomorrow.  

For non-profit agencies, this means that they are under increasing pressure to show improvement in their outcome targets for the month or the quarter.  People who invest in their programs want to see immediate results, despite the fact that long-term problems take long-term solutions.  

Church planters feel the need to show big numbers to their supporters quickly, despite the fact that a longer rampup period is probably a more healthy and stable way of making durable disciples and begining a church.

I personally have fallen into the trap of rushing things in order to meet monthly or quarterly number goals.  I have often impatiently pressed my staff to "give me good numbers" to show the board this quarter.  What has happened is that we have sometimes launched something before it was ready, just so we could meet targets.

There is a holy tension between the urgency of the short-term and the patient wisdom of the long-term.

 

The following excerpt from a great article by Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread, make the case that quarterly earnings aren't as important as long-term success.

First, bet on the things that will improve your competitive position, and summon the tenacity to stay at the table long enough to collect your winnings. Making smart bets requires an understanding of what the competitive landscape will look like in three or more years. You must try to predict where the world is heading and be prepared for tomorrow’s arrival. That means building your credibility with your investors and board so that you have the wherewithal to resist short-term pressures and the patience to allow your initiatives to succeed.

Second, grow only when you know that you have forged a winning competitive advantage. Whether your company is built around a product, a service, or what we in the restaurant business call a concept, if your business model has not yet proven worthy of reproducing, don’t bet on a growth strategy.

Finally, remember that long-term success is created when you look beyond this year’s budget. Despite the constant pressure to submit to quick fixes, you stand a far better chance of delivering strong quarterly results year after year when you focus on strengthening your competitive advantage and growing only when your business model offers a proven competitive alternative.

As a leader, how do you balance short-term goals and long-term success?

LeaderTip: Don’t Make It All About You

Mark Junkans

A tendency among some leaders is to begin to make things all about them. Because we are so personally invested in and attached to what we do, it’s somewhat inevitable. Everything begins to revolve around around their personality, their preferences, their agenda, their problems, their strengths, etc. I’ve seen this in organizations both big and small. While it is inevitable that the personality of the leader will influence the whole group, that doesn’t mean that everything about the group should be held captive by the leader’s characteristics.

As leaders, we must remember that we are here to serve the mission, not ourselves. The whole reason that we even have a position of influence is to fulfill a greater purpose. It’s hard to separate our individual person from the organization we lead, but we must learn to do this for its long-term vitality. If you are to truly be successful as a leader, that which you lead must grow beyond you.
Where have you seen an organization held hostage to the leader’s agenda? How will you avoid doing the very same thing where you lead?

LeaderTip - Don’t Just Do It (yourself)

Mark Junkans

For type A leaders, having high expectations for yourself and your team is normal.  You drive hard towards your goals and  expect others to do the same.  Many leaders, however, find it easier to just do something themselves rather than being disappointed with another’s performance (or lack of).  By doing so, they secretly hope that others will see how they do it and follow their example.  Most of the time they are sorely dissapointed.

Unfortunately, the more you “just do it yourself” the more others will sit back and let you.  Whether your concern is timeliness or quality, don’t fall into this trap. You are not really leading, you are doing.  This is sign of either perfectionism or leadership laziness (both of which I’m guilty of).

A true leader develops the leadership of those around her.  It’s ok to show someone how to do something or to help out in a pinch, but never ok to do your subordinate’s job because it’s easier than “getting them to do it.”  As frustrating as it is, do the hard work of leading someone to do their job well.

By not just doing something yourself, you actually raise the expectations of those that you lead.  

  1. You force yourself to clearly communicate your expectations. 
  2. Those you lead will default to taking action instead of waiting to see whether you will do it.
  3. You can begin to focus less on the execution of the task and more on the quality of the work, raising expectations even more.

LeaderTip - Avoiding the What If Death Spiral

Mark Junkans

Scenario planning and information gathering are necessary for making good decisions as a leader.  It’s always important to ask the question “What if” so that potential pitfalls are avoided and opportunities aren’t missed.  There comes a point, however, when a leader needs to move ahead with a decision with the best information available.  This is where experience, wisdom, information and guts come together.  

I admit that it’s easy to avoid making decisions as a leader, and sometimes we aren’t ready  to because we simply haven’t done our homework.  

Ask the question “what if,” but don’t get stuck there indefinitely.

Sometimes the best choice between options is only slightly better than the others anyway.  Therefore sometimes it’s not worth expending more emotional energy and brainpower trying to stay afloat in the What-If death spiral.

10 Years Already?

Mark Junkans

Today LINC Houston celebrates 10 years of ministry at our Annual Gala.  I am so happy that we’ve been able to make it this far for this long.  Our growth hasn’t always been steady, and sometimes not pretty, but we have grown significantly in our impact across the City.  We’ve made lots of mistakes, but God is in control and He’s allowed us to be a blessing to those we serve and to those who serve with us.  

There are so many things we want to accomplish but still haven’t.  Thankfully, we still have years ahead of us to see some of these dreams become a reality.  By God’s grace, thousands of people have been touched by His love in some way.  It’s amazing to be a part of what God does, especially when He gets all the credit.

Prayer

God, I really don’t know how or why You continue to bless me as a leader, especially with all my glaring weaknesses.  You do, and I need to learn a little humility and just accept Your undeserved favor. Help me to always remember that I am blessed for the sake of others, not for myself.  

Let me never rest too pridefully in “my” successes, nor wallow too long in my mistakes.  To do so is to claim credit for what You have done through me.  Don’t let me simply be a salesman who makes empty promises, but a man of integrity who does what he says without excuses.

You’ve surrounded me with incredible partners and teammates, and have given me a spouse who supports what You’ve called me to do.  I can’t thank you enough for your mercies and your grace, which are new every day.

Thank you for allowing me to take this 10 year journey so far with LINC.  Hopefully we’ve only just begun.

Busyness

Mark Junkans

busy-2.jpg

With so many things going on, I fall into the trap of thinking that busier is better.  Sometimes busy is necessary, but most of the time I'm just inventing new things to occupy my time.  At times, I need to concentrate on slowing my self down so I can think, plan, pray and just be.  I've read this piece often since I began in ministry as a reminder that busy isn't always better.  It's interesting that the author wrote this in 1945, talking about the pace of ministry.  What about today?  Oops, gotta run to a meeting.

Never was there a ministry so bustled and rushed and perspiring as ours is now.  If things stick, we devise yet another type of meeting, and when this additional wheel is spinning round with all the rest of the complex machinery, and a wind is blowing in our hot faces, we feel better, and have a comfortable sense that something is going on; are tired and stick, but happy engineers.

- Arthur John Gissup - Experience Worketh Hope (New Yord: Scribner's, 1945), pp 58

Here's a link to another article entitled "Busyness, Is The New Spirituality"

Goals - Size Does Matter!

Mark Junkans

Is there value in setting goals that are unachievable?  What is the correlation between the size of the goal and the time it takes to achieve it.  It all depends.  Friends and family members of "dreamers" probably get tired of hearing about all the lofty things that will be achieved.  Those who know and live with task oriented people eventually get tired of hearing an endless list of to-dos.  What I do know is that the bigger the goal, the longer it takes to achieve.  The longer it takes, the easier it is to become side-tracked by newer dreams and goals.  Also, the smaller we continue to think, the more we can lose sight of our bigger dreams.

Goals can be broken down into several categories:

  • God-sized life goals - These are humongous goals that are unachievable without some divine intervention.  Examples: Cure cancer, travel to every country in the world, begin a movement.  These types of goals are what give our life their ultimate purpose.  They guide us long-term and can become very powerful and determining forces for our decision-making over our whole lifespan.  These life-goals are like the top of a multi-story staircase and are often the crowing achievements of one's life.
  • Intermediate goals - These goals are often difficult to achieve, and can take years to accomplish.  Examples: Graduate from college, travel to Paris, purchase a house.  These types of goals get us from one place in life to another.  They are often not ends to themselves, but rather means to a bigger end.  Intermediate goals are like individual flights of stairs that get us one floor higher to the top.
  • Short-term goals - These goals can be accompished within days, weeks or a few months.  They are the little accomplishments that help us get our work and life done from week to week.  Examples: run 40 miles this week, balance my checkbook, finish reading a novel.  Many times, we don't even think of these as goals because they are so small.  They are usually made up of smaller tasks.  Even though they are small, some people like myself find that these are the most difficult goals to achieve.  I will take a big audacious goal any day over a small easy task.  Others are pros at knocking out small, short-term goals.

Even if you're not a "goal-oriented" person, you probably have several goals in your life.  The question is not whether you have goals, but rather, what size goals do you have and do you have a strategy for achieving different types of goals?  Even a professional couch-potato has a goal, which is, to stay on the couch as much as possible.  What makes some people strive to achieve greater things while others set their sights much lower?  I am not naturally a task-oriented goal setter, but here are some of the things that cause me to set goals. 

  • Past experience - some goals are set or not because of a positive or a negative experience in my life.  I look back and desire to experience something positive again, or to NOT experience something that was painful.
  • Ambition - human ambition can be an incredibly powerful force in peoples' lives for setting and achieving goals.  This can obviously be a good or a bad thing, depending on what boundaries are set to protect oneself and others.  Sometimes my ambition drives me to set unrealistic goals, simply because I want to be "the best."
  • Purpose - some people, like myself, don't set goal and achieve goals unless it ties to a greater purpose in their life.  Many a slacker has transformed into a single-minded workaholic when there is a purpose to work for.  I can spend all day doing trivial things, until I'm reminded of my God-given purpose in life.
  • Pride - For me to admit that I can't do something is very difficult.  Some goals that I set for myself are there simply to prove that "I can."

Life without challenge becomes boring, and a boring life is just, well, dull.  When I write or voice my goals to someone else, I am challenging myself to achieve something.  My sister Sarah and I both decided to sign up for an IronMan together.  Why?  Because we both need challenge, and by doing it together, neither one of us is likely to back out.  I told my wife I was going to run at least one marathon this next year.  Even though she doesn't quite understand why, she sees the excitement that it brings in my life to set a big goal and work towards it.

I have stated other bigger goals, sometimes without even believing that they are possible.  Will I achieve every goal that I set?  Maybe not in my lifetime, but I will die trying.  1Cor. 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

What kind of goal setter are you?  Do you always think big, or do you go small?  I challenge you, and myself, to look at your strenghts and weaknesses in this area.  Whever you are strong, embrace it.  Whever you are weak, don't let that sabatoge achieving your purpose in life.  Also, collaborate with other who excel in areas of goals, tasks achievement where you don't.

When to Throw In The Towel On An Idea

Mark Junkans

BadIdeasFrontJohn had a great idea for a new church program that would reach new people and impact their lives.  He was going to do something new in a church that hadn't seen anything truly new happen in years.  He wanted to start a clothes closet to serve the needs of the poor and possibly even train some as volunteers/employees.

Over the course of a few months, he did his homework, talked to people about the idea, gauged interest level and planned the project.  He researched other similar projects in other churches and, based on best practices and examples, he designed a doable program that would fit both his congregation and the needs of the community.  It was an uphill battle to get people on board with his idea, but eventually his fellow church members agreed that a clothes closet was a good idea.  He got the green light to go ahead to recruit volunteers, rent a small space and advertise the need for donations.

Things began to really move forward as more people found out about the program.  People donated their clothing, so much so that he soon needed an additional storage space.  Little by little, people were coming from the community to shop as well.  While they never broke even on their expenses, they got a lot of attention.  Everyone believed that this was good thing.  After a year of operation, however, John was frustrated.  The store wasn't selling enough to keep up with expenses and donated clothing was also piling up.  He found himself running the store most of the time as volunteers weren't consistent.  The church was also beginning to think that this wasn't such a good idea, but was struggling for some time to figure out what to do about it.  They were still subsidizing part of the rental costs due to inadequate revenue.  An unspoken tension was growing between John and his supporters.

If you are an entrepreneurial type, then you know what this feels like.  You have probably started projects like this that sounded good but didn't achieve the expected results.  That time of uncertainty about a new business or a new program is a tough place to be in.

Entrepreneurial Traps

There are several traps that founders, entrepreneurs and funders fall into when a program begins to fail.

  1. Believing that the idea is too good to fail, and will eventually work if given more time.
  2. Believing that we can always just work harder to make this work.
  3. Believing that the problem is lack of promotion.  "We just need to sell this to more people."
  4. Getting stuck in the emotion of not wanting to pull the plug because of who is involved.
  5. Substituting antidotal stories for hard facts.

How to know when to throw in the towel?

Good Idea - Bad Implementation

Most people driven by an idea often believe that the idea itself is strong enough to carry the day, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Their passion for the idea/project is contagious and people who care about them don't want to crush their spirit by not supporting it.  Creators of good ideas aren't always the best process thinkers that can design a successful venture of program.

One important thing to remember is that good ideas don't normally work that well the first time around. Most ideas take several attempts before they actually work as expected.  Many times the idea isn't at fault, but the implementation of the idea.  If things aren't working as expected after a period of time, the plan should be evaluated and tweaked.  If results are still not there, the plan should be scrapped and a new one put in its place that allows for new leadership, systems, etc.

If the project still isn't working as expected, it may be time to pull the plug, regroup and retry in a different way.  New projects/ideas have a greater probability of failure than of success.  Remember that failure will happen, but it's best to fail as quickly and as cheaply as possible.  If it's still a good idea after failure, then go back to planning for another attempt when possible, but don't allow one failure to ruin the entrepreneurial spirit to keep flowing.

Bad Idea

As an entrepreneur or starter, one of the hardest things to discern is when an idea is actually good or not.  The idea must be then vetted by data, research and throwing it against enough walls to see where it sticks.  If you come to the conclusion that your idea is a bad one, it shouldn't be hard to let it go and throw in the towel.  Probably the hardest thing for an idea person to admit is that his/her idea wasn't a good one.  Remember that, no matter how far down the road you are in implementing a bad idea, it's never too late to quit.  The longer you run with a bad idea, the harder it will be pull the plug due to momentum.  If you don't pull the plug, you will delay spending your energy on implementing a good one.

Conclusion

Last week I saw a boxing trainer throw in the towel while his son was getting pummeled in the last round.  After the fight he had to spend some time calming down his son, who had never experienced defeat in the ring as a pro.  I'm sure his advice is pretty much the same as I would give.  There will always be another fight, but this one wasn't worth dying over.

Moving from Doing to Leading to Multiplying

Mark Junkans

Some people accomplish great things because of their skills or because they can influence others to do what they want.  A leader is one who is able to influence others, not simply one who does something with proficiency and excellence.  Those who can influence others to accomplish goals and objectives have the potential to become good leaders.  

A great leader, however, is one who multiplies him or herself by investing in, encouraging and developing others in maximizing their leadership potential.  People know that he or she believes in them and won't work around them, but through their leadership.

Next time you need to get something done, ask yourself who around you should learn to lead by helping you in the process.  Learn to empower others and to delegate your leadership to them.  Do this slowly and be careful not to move too quickly, but also gauge yourself over time to evaluate whether you have been too slow to empower others.

Are you a doer, a leader or a multiplier?

Good Read... The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner

Finding Creative Solutions to Fulfill Your Vision

Mark Junkans

Do you wish that you had the freedom to be more creative in your position, organization or ministry?

Maybe you feel that your current reality doesn't permit the kind of creativity that God has called you to, and you may be getting frustrated by the constraints that you are working under.  I believe that every creative person feels the same way about his or her situation most of the time.  Such is the nature of the highly creative spirit.  We always imagine more than we can actually create.  Most people say "If I had more money to buy the technology, the tools or had the time I would be able to create more."  In a ministry or an organization, we complain that we don't have the freedom or control of adequate resources in our position to be the most creative.  Creativity is not something that is solely in the domain of the arts, but is what drives businesses to expand, organizations to discover solutions to social problems and ministries to bring the message of Christ to those who need to hear it. 

The creative tension between Your Vision and your Current Reality.

Everyone has constraints in their current situation.  Maybe their boss doesn't allow them to deviate from the standard ways of doing things, or maybe they don't have the time be creative due to their administrative duties.  Being creative doesn't equal working without constraint.  Most of the time, those who are most creative are those who have learned to excel even within their limiting situation.  Peter Senge, in his book "The Fifth Discipline" uses the illustration of a rubber band pulling you towards your vision and another one holding you back that represents your current reality.  

Take the people of Nigeria, where I currently am, for example.  The biggest complaint of the young people here is the lack of opportunity to use their skills and talents in the job market.  They undergo a lot of training, but rarely have the chance to put it to use.  Even so, Nigerians are a people bursting with creativity.  They have had to create ways to get things done within their limiting constraints that you or I might not even think of.  Granted, some of the creative ways are illegal, but that's not the norm for those leading ministries that I have known.  Because their reality is so constraining, their creative energy has become heightened and laser focused on solutions.  

The people of Mexico are also some of the most creative people I have known.  Again, put in their circumstances of poverty and limited opportunity, many of us in North America wouldn't be able to accomplish as much as they do.  For those with severe limitations of opportunity and resources, a hyper creativity is required just to put food on the table.  People learn to make the most of their current situation.  Again, creativity is often fueled best by necessity.

How do you begin to be more creative in your current situation?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Spend time defining what your desired future is (vision).   

Most people are not focusing their creative energy because they don't know what they are creating for.  If you've ever known someone who is ADHD, you know what I am talking about.  They have so much energy and  imagination that they are bouncing off the walls without accomplishing much of anything.  Creative people without a defined vision are much like this.  You must spend time defining and refining your vision so that all your energy can go to creating bridges to that reality.  This takes time and focus, but is time well spent.  If I am not personally defining and refining my vision for the future, then my energy gets easily dissipated and I become frustrated.  As a leader of an organization, if I don't have a clear picture of the future we are trying to create, those that I lead will also become frustrated and our energy and resources won't produce as much as they could.

2.  Define your current reality.  

It is important that you spend time defining your current reality.  Start with the assets at your disposal.  These may be the relationships you have, the authority you are given, the resources you have access to, the talents you have and the tools you have to work with.  Most people have more resources at their disposal than they actually need to achieve their vision.  They only imagine that they are limited by what they don't have and their potential is never fully realized.  

For example, you may believe that you personally need a new computer or new software to be able to be more creative.  Ask yourself if you are currently maximizing what you already have.  Most people have more power in their computers than they will ever use.  I have seen some of the most creative work done by individuals who are using technology that is almost laughable.  In defining your current reality, you must ask the question if you have maximized your current resources.  If not, use what you have at your disposal and create new ways to accomplish the same goal as or more efficiently than someone who doesn't have the same resource limitations.  Begin to see every resource that you have as potential piece to the equation to solve the problem you are trying to overcome.  Write each resource down that can be used to accomplish your vision. 

3.  Create solutions

Here is where you put all your creativity to work.  Based on your current reality and your desired future, you will spend time brainstorming creative solutions to get you from point A to point B to point C, etc.  Begin a time of free-thinking where you and those working with you can imagine solutions to whatever you want to accomplish.  Allow any idea to flow without first questioning the "how."  The problem with most people is that they don't allow enough time to imagine new solutions before shooting them down with the "why not."  Many of the proposed solutions may be small steps required to move you to bigger goals, and still others may be too lofty and unreasonable to every be practicle.  Begin to sort through your ideas to select the ones that best achieve your goals in the most efficient manner possible.

Being creative doesn't always mean that every solution has to originate with you. Research solutions that others have developed that may fit your situation, or be tweaked to accomplish your goals. This normally means modifying a current solution to fit your unique problem.  Apple Computers, for example, didn't first create most of the technology that it sells.  It is, however, an extremely creative company that uses its capacity to merge multiple technologies in a way that maximizes the end-user experience.  The inventor of a particular solution may only see one application for what he/she has created while someone else may create even more applications to solve different problems or to be marketed to a different consumer base.  The bigger the problem that you are trying to solve, or the bigger the risk that's involved should determine the amount of time spent in creating the best solution possible.  Spend some time analyzing the pros and cons of your preferred solution for all areas that will be affected in your organization or your overall plan.  Again, be creative, but don't use creativity as a license to do something stupid and cause problems in other areas that could and should be avoided.

4.  Fill in the gaps 

When you have created plausible solutions and maximized your current assets, you can now begin to define where you still have gaps.  In doing so, you should also set goals for attaining them.  It may be connections to certain individuals, time, skills, money, tools and equipment that you need, etc.  Think of creative ways to fill in those gaps.  If you can't afford what you need, consider borrowing or trading services.  Again, the gaps you are trying to fill are primarily for the purpose of fulfilling your current vision.  There are many low-cost ways to access resources that you need.  Collaboration is a way to think creatively and leverage the things that you have for the things that you need.  In seeking to fill gaps, collaboration is one of the highest forms of creativity.  Two organizations or individuals attempting to accomplish the same or different goals and may each have resources that the other needs.  Those resources can and should be leveraged for the sake of fulfilling your vision.  You don't always have to purchase or own something in order to use it to fill in the gaps.

5. Execute the Plan

Without creating a plan and actually executing it, your best solution won't be fully utilized.  Enough said?

To summarize, being creative doesn't always require more resources.  Maximize your creative potential with what you currently have at your disposal.  If you always wait until you have something that you "need" to proceed, then you may never move forward towards your vision.  Creativity is at its best when there is a proper tension between vision and reality.  Learn to embrace this tension and use it as a tool to catapult your creativity to new heights.

Coachnet's Top Ten Books for Christian Leadership

Mark Junkans

Coachnet sent out a list of top ten books for Christian leaders. Thought it was good enough to pass on.

Book #10--Right Here, Right Now by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford

Book #9--The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky

Book #8--The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom

Book #7--Seeing Through New Eyes by A Renewal Enterprise

Book #6--The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. by Daniel Coyle

Book #5--Death by Meeting: A leadership fable...about solving the most painful problems in business by Patrick Lencioni

Book #4--The 24-Hour Turnaround: Discovering the Power to Change: by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Book #3--The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Book #2--The Gospel According to LOST by Chris Seay

Book #1--Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within Us by Robert E. Quinn

A Chance For New Habits

Mark Junkans

There is something about the coming of a new year that gives hope. Even though our life situation doesn't change automatically, nor do our problems simply go away, the new year is a chance to start fresh. There is a sense that things can be done differently.

Prayer
I personally don't make new year's resolutions, however, I do try to bring some new habits into my life. My first focus this year is a renewal of prayer in my life. I, as a lot of people, find it hard to concentrate for too long in my conversations with God. I was the kid that couldn't keep my mind focused in Sunday School, church and school. My mind wanders, other thoughts creep in, and pretty soon I am not talking to God but solving my next problem. In an attempt to remedy this, I am experimenting again with physical posture while in prayer in order to keep my mind focused on talking with a God. It may seem counterproductive, but if I can keep my body doing something else, my mind can be free to converse with God longer. This is kind of like going to a coffee shop to get work done, the noise and activity around me actually helps me focus on the task at hand. I hope that my time with God in improves this year.

Family
As a husband and as a father, I tend to zone out quite a bit and focus solely on what I am currently doing. I think that this is a struggle for most men because of how their brains are wired to single-task. It takes a lot for me, sometimes, to shut everything else out and concentrate on my wife and daughters when I am home. I know I'm not alone in this struggle, however, I want to make sure that my family gets a lot of my quality attention and time. I am making it a habit to put my phone away when somewhere when I get home. My phone is much more than a calling device, it has my email, my social media, my calendar, my notes, etc. It is such an important tool for my ministry and life that it's hard to put down. My daughter will sometimes tell me to put my phone away when helping her with her homework. She can tell I'm not concentrating on her. I don't want to give her or her sister half of my attention. This year I am really trying to put my phone/laptop/ipad away until my wife and daughters are taken care of and loved for the night. My family is worth it.

These are the two areas of focus for me this year. There is a lot that I have to accomplish this year and I am dedicated to making sure that my relationship with God and my family don't suffer because I am not giving the proper attention to them.

 

How Jesus Multiplied His Ministry

Mark Junkans

As I'm reading through Matthew chapters 8 and 9, I'm struck with the rapid pace of the miracles of Jesus.  One after the other keep happening.  In Matthew 9:35, we see the essence of Jesus' earthly ministry.  

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

In chapter twelve, Jesus very deliberately calls his twelve disciples and gives them authority to do the very same ministry He was doing.  Jesus' form of leadership was empowering.  He gave authority to men who hadn't yet spent much time in his classroom.  "And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons." Matthew 10:7.

For many of us in leadership, this presents a challenge to our thinking.  Most of the time, we are not in a mode of multiplication, but rather control and preservation of our authority.  This is especially true if we have a divine call from God to do ministry, AND years of seminary training.  How do we get over this, while still maintaining our integrity as overseers who will be held responsible for what is taught to new believers? (Matthew 18:6).

How comfortable are you as a leader in empowering and sending early?