The Seasons of Organizational Growth

A few years ago I heard a statement that really shifted the way I evaluate and asses Bloom Church. Someone said and I am paraphrasing “Every healthy leader of a healthy organization knows exactly what season their organization is in”. That we should be purposefully understanding where we are at as an organization and what are the biggest needs for us to move forward. Now that may sound like a no brainer, but if we are honest most organizations are stuck in the day-to-day mindset and the thought to evaluate where they are at as an organization and where they need to go is non existent. What we must understand is that every organization goes through seasons and we never stay in the same season for ever. Now if you don’t understand this concept of organizational seasons you will do one of two things. First you will think you are the only organizations experiencing what you are experiencing and put yourself in a silo. Secondly, when times are great or when times are not so great you don’t understand that neither season last forever and if you are not looking ahead you will find yourself in trouble.

Seasons in an organization can look a lot like the seasons we experience in a calendar year.

FALL– Fall is the season of change. The leaves change colors, the air gets crisp, and the reality is everything is dying to embrace for winter. The same is true in your organization when you are in the season of fall. This is when change must happen in your organization to go to the next level, but with change there is a price to pay because the way you used to do it will die. Things will start to look a little different in this phase of the organization, but don’t worry because change overtime becomes the new normal.

WINTER This is the dreaded season because on the surface it doesn’t look like much is happening, but beneath the surface is where new life is forming. Most people quit in this season because they reminisce about how good it was in the past instead of understanding that there are new seasons in their future. With the change of fall we see the dead of winter and sometimes we lose some of our people, but this is the pruning process and cleaning process of your organization. We all need to get rid of the unhealthy areas of our church so we can allow the new growth to take place. Maybe the death is in character flaws, leadership struggles, ineffective ministries, or systems that are failing and it is in the dead of winter that we start building and perfecting those once weak areas.

SPRING– This is where hope starts rising as the temperature starts to change and birds start singing again. You start to see the new colors forming where life is coming back into bloom! This is the stage that you actually start seeing the changes you made have a positive effect on your organization and you start to see some growth take place. This is a much needed relief after a long winter of developing, training, and restructuring and now you are starting to understand that it was worth it.

SUMMER– This is where momentum kicks in and everything is rocking on all cylinders. Everything is in full bloom, relationships are being formed, and sense of joy just permeates your organization. Everyone loves the excitement that the growth of summer brings and the places your organization is going. However, if we just kick our feet up in this phase and not anticipate another year of seasons we will not make the necessary improvements and changes that our organization needs to sustain this growth. Then we will be like one of those summer main attractions that was once so popular in the past, but now is just a ghost town.

We all experience the seasons in our organizations and the length of those seasons all depend on the size of the problems you are facing and/or your willingness to embrace the seasons and change. Remember that if you embrace the season you are in and anticipate the next season you will arrive at the seasons of growth soon enough!

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The One Business Every Organization’s In

I feel like it is easy for any leader to drift into manager mode as they drift out of leadership mode. We tend to do this because we simply hit cruise control running through our day to day operations and we become more managers of the schedules and the duties than leaders of our people. I understand in any business there are a certain amount tasks that must completed every week, but if forget our number one task which is development of our team and the well being of our people/clients then every area of our organization will suffer.

I don’t care what business you may be in you are first and foremost in the people business. The faster you learn that and the more you focus on that aspect the quicker you will see life and success happening in your organization. You are not selling a product or a service although you may think you are. However, what you are selling is an experience, is relief, and an enrichment to someone’s life.

Coming from a ministry perspective I understand how easy it can be to drift into manager mode and get consumed in the task. You would think that it would be weird that a church could forget about the people, but every week Sunday comes and there is another service we have to pull off. So every week can get lost in the tasks over the experience if you are not careful. You can get lost plugging holes in the scheduling of volunteers instead of elevating the volunteers, you can get so distracted with writing a new message that you forget the audience that you are trying to help, or you can just pick a few random songs that sound good instead of prayerfully crafting a worship experience.

We must wrap our mind around this idea of people first and tasks second because in that we will execute on our tasks in a more impactful way that elevates our entire organization.

1. CHANGE THE LENS THAT YOU VIEW FROM

Lets be honest what becomes normal becomes overlooked and the atmosphere, environments, systems, team members, and structures all become normal to us. Overtime we just don’t notice what is wrong or what could be improved because frankly we don’t really see it. Put on the lens of a guest, new customer, new client, or new team member and try to view your organization from their perspective. Start to think what their 1st impression would be when they encounter your organization, your product, your service, or your staff culture for the first time. A helpful tip is to visit a few other organizations in your realm of business and take in your 1st impression reactions and then with that new mentality view your organization through that lens.

2. KEEP FILLING THE TANK OF HONOR

You can never overfill the tank of honor in your organization because honor leaks overtime. We must build a culture of honor in our organizations because there is nothing better than a reputation of honoring the people that your company interacts with day in and day out. Honor is seen through many ways by delivering on excellence with your service or products, by being generous with your time, talent, and treasure, and by showing and expressing tremendous amounts of gratitude for your team members and customers.

3. ELEVATE YOUR TEAM MEMBERS

Healthy organizations are a product of healthy leaders. We have to be equipping our team members with the tools to succeed. Unfortunately as much as we know this very few leaders follow through with this understanding in their teams. We either allow the busyness of taking care of the day to day functions of the organization to over ride the discipleship aspect or we over complicate developing leaders. What I have found is that leadership development is neither time consuming or difficult and yet is still the most beneficial to your organizations growth. A few simple principles that are extremely helpful to build a culture of leadership development is first read a leadership book together as a team and discuss it a chapter at a time. Neither difficult or time consuming. Second is make sure your team is writing out measurable goals and review the progress with them frequently. Both of these ideas are simple and neither are extremely time consuming yet I promise you if you implement these ideas at first they will give you a HUGE ROI!

4. BUILD CAMARADERIE WITH YOUR TEAM

You must spend time with your team members and build camaraderie. If you don’t like spending time with your team members they don’t need to be on your team because if you don’t spend time with them you will never build the bond that stands the test of trials. Loyalty is built over time, but also you would be surprised how much discipleship takes place that is unplanned when you are spending enough time with your team members.

5. KEEP IMPROVING

We honor our customers, clients, and team members when we show a hunger for growth and continual desire to keep improving. When we keep making our services, our products, or our culture better it is felt by the people are serving. How we impact the people our organizations encounters is the testament of a successful organization and the testament of the fact that we are in the people business. That understanding is always fueled by continually getting better week in and week out!

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Excellence Honors God & People

Excellence is not obtained through having more, but by being a steward by what you have already been given!

Growing Leaders Lead Growing Organizations

It is always a huge red flag for me when people complain about learning because of the work attached to it. This is a sign that we have seen that leaders lid and they will only take their department to the level they are currently at and no further. Without internal expansion of yourself there is no hope for external expansion in your organization. I truly believe growing leaders create growing organizations. If we have the discipline to be learners and apply what we learned to continually enhance our people and systems we will see over time substantial growth.

As far as growing I can only communicate the way I personally grow so lets look at ways that I grow as a leader.

1. I READ A LOT

I know this is the boring answer! It is like when someone asks you “how did you lose weight” and you respond “I ate right and exercised”. That is BORING but effective and the same is true when it comes to reading! Harry S. Truman once said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

Reading expands your knowledge, sets discipline in your life to actually sit down and read, creates a catalogue of information that you can return to in the future, and helps you enhance your time management skills. Reading is important for a leader and effective for all great leaders. Now when it comes to the type of books you read there are a plethora of options and what you choose may depend on the season of your life. I read a large variety of books everything from leadership, to faith building, to creativity, to biographies and that is to keep me from being singular focused as a leader.

A few of my favorite leadership books are “Leadership Pain” by Samuel Chand, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith, “Axiom” by Bill Hybels and of course “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

2. I LISTEN TO A LOT OF PODCASTS

Podcasts are what consume my time driving and my workouts at the gym. It is the perfect place to hear a variety of leaders as most podcasts are interview style and get exposed to new leaders or organizations you have never heard of before. Most podcasts are very practical in nature with the advice given and when you hear a great episode they are great to send to your team. A quick tip I listen to my podcasts on 1.5 or 2 speed to get through them faster. This may sound weird at first, but you get used to it and now sometimes when I am listening to a podcast it sounds slow and I think it is turned off when it is not.

A few of my favorite podcasts are “The Learning Leader Show with Ryan Hawk”, “Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller”, Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast”, “The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast”, “The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes”, and “Creating Disney Magic with Lee Cockerell”. The list could go on and on, but these are a great start!

3. I ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS.

I have learned that being a leader that is a “know it all” actually makes you a leader that “knows nothing at all”. Great leaders are like sponges that learn from others and can ask the appropriate questions. I like to go into an new organization with fresh eyes discovering how they do things and why they do it that way. I am fascinated with the systems and structures of great organizations and the best way to learn is to ask.

So you need to find a leader that is farther a long in the process than you and ask if you can have 30 minutes with them to ask a few questions. Make sure you have your questions prepared in advance so that you respect their time and so that you get the most out of the conversation.

Also attend a few conferences a year and learn the art of networking and question asking during the break out sessions. I promise you the more you sharpen this skill the faster you will grow as a leader.

4. I LEAD OTHERS

Now knowledge is useless unless you apply it and many times we as leaders don’t realize how much we actually know until we actually use what we know. The greatest way to do this is develop leaders inside your organization. Take what you have learned and help elevate the people on your team, invest in their leadership growth, and allow them to ask you questions. This will grow you as a leader and grow your organization.

A simple easy way to develop a small group of people is to have your team read and discuss a leadership book together. Have them read one chapter a week and then spend several minutes discussing it at the weekly meeting. You can also attend conferences together or webinars together. As you grow together the ceiling to organization grows!

Be a leader that learns because growing organizations are led by growing leaders!

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The Biggest Weakness of Most Leaders (People)

I would venture to say that over the years I’ve found that one of the biggest excuses I hear people tell is “I just don’t have enough time”.  I would say out of all the weaknesses there are, time management is probably the biggest, or pretty close to being the biggest weakness for most leaders or people in general.  The crazy thing is that this is the one commodity that every single person has the same amount given as every other person.  Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Page – the list could go on and on; all had just 24 hours a day just like you and me.

The radical difference between someone who is productive and someone who is not is the way they choose to use this precious commodity of time.  Time is the most precious commodity because once it is gone it is gone forever and too many of us are spending our time instead of investing it in areas that have an ROI.  I heard it best described that we are all given 86,400 seconds in a day, and let’s look at each second like it is a dollar.  So we are given $86,400 a day and told we must use all of it everyday because none of it can roll over, but how we use it is extremely important.  We could spend it on things that have little long term value and once spent is literally gone forever. However, we can invest it in areas that will produce long term gains towards a bigger goal, and we can get the benefit of compound interest in the future because we were wise in how we spent it in the past.  It is easy to waste time because we are “live in the moment” people with little to no cognitive thoughts about where we will be 5 or 10 years from now. But unless we change our perspective, 5 or 10 years will pass and we will still be in the exact same place in life!

So how can we maximize this commodity called time? Well let’s look at 4 ways to get an ROI out of your time:

1. You control your calendar.  Your calendar does not control you.

As driven people in our search for success we can easily become workaholics because we love what we do, but in doing so we destroy the greatest loves in our lives.  When we allow our calendar to control us we are slaves to our work instead of masters of our work.  What I mean when I talk about our calendar controlling us is that our true priorities are taking a back seat to every other activity that is already scheduled.  You MUST schedule your “top priorities” first and there is no compromise in this area.  Listen if you just try to fit in your so called “top priorities” it is expressing to yourself and the people around you that work is actually your “top priority” and everything else is filler.

So how do you discover what is the most important areas or priorities in life?  Well, I ask myself,  “What will impact me in heaven a thousand years from now?”; because that is what should be at the top of my list when it comes to my priorities.  Those two things are my relationship with God and my family.  I can’t take my business, my money, my cars, or my homes with me; but I can take people with me and I will get to spend forever with Jesus.  So those two areas ALWAYS come first in my calendar because I can be the most successful on paper, but if spiritually I am bankrupted and my relationships are strained it is all meaningless!

2. Schedule Everything!

You must put everything in your calendar.  Every meeting, lunch, haircut, appointment, all has to go into a calendar, and what is on the schedule always comes first. (Now a side note: I am not talking about family emergencies). What will throw a schedule completely out of whack is several 20 to 45 unplanned meetings that people need to have with you.  The next thing you know you are running behind and are late to your scheduled appointments, which is extremely rude to the person you are scheduled to meet. If someone needs to meet with you, schedule them in or block out a certain amount of time that is built for random meetings, but either way it is scheduled in your calendar.

3. Maximize empty slots.

Now that you have your priorities in your calendar and you are scheduling every meeting, you will see where you have empty slots in your schedule.  These moments are where we can either invest or spend our time.  We can either hop on Facebook or turn on Netflix or we can start chipping away at our goals.  The choice is yours and you have to have the discipline to choose wisely. If you can develop this discipline you will maximize your progress at a speed that most in this world do not, and this is where you separate yourself from the pack.

4. Wake up early.

I know this one is definitely not sexy and no one likes to wake up early, but I feel it is imperative to success.  On top of the studies that say you work better in the mornings, I do it for a few different reasons beyond that. First, it takes discipline to wake up early.  Secondly, when I wake up early and I have already been productive before the day begins I feel accomplished and that builds momentum into my psyche.  Thirdly, I am more presentable for the day in my appearance and in my attitude.  When we roll out of bed straight to work and we look like we have been run over by a truck, it does not boost confidence or respect from our team.  It also takes time for your brain to wake up and you are losing valuable productive work time.  Fourthly, nothing causes stress or ruins your mood like rushing out the door as you are running late. Lastly, as a married man my wife cares much more about us going to bed together than us waking up together.  There is something meaningful about going to bed at the same time with your spouse instead of working late, going to bed separately, and then sleeping late.

I know life can seem busy and you may be working a job that is not in your future while trying to pursue your dreams, but trust me it is still possible to manage your time so you can be productive moving forward. I am speaking from a first hand experience, and it can be done if you have the discipline to make it happen!

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Our Decisions Must Elevate the Vision

As leaders we must make decisions that impact the entire organization not just the select few!

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Faithfulness Brings the Harvest

My greatest privilege is the opportunity to lead people to Jesus and I never want to forget that every opportunity matters!