Monday, July 25, 2011

Taking your team to new heights

I must admit I'm a sucker for shows like the Apprentice and Top Chef.  I love to see how people interact, watch the creative group process and how leaders deal with their team members.  You can learn a lot about leadership from the shows, especially what not to do.  One of the most difficult leadership issues on these shows is the process of working with a team to choose and settle on one idea for a marketing campaign, room design or menu. It's great fun and drama watching creative individuals try to work as a team. 
I often wondered why the leaders on the Apprentice didn't use brainstorming techniques more often to develop ideas. You'd think that these so-called entrepreneurial leaders would know how to use brainstorming to elicit better ideas.

As much drama and dysfunction there is on these reality shows, I've seen some of the same problems and leadership struggles on church staffs also (why I love the shows).  I think many church leaders just avoid using teams all together because egos get involved, those who are more dominant get their way, people's feelings are hurt when their idea isn't chosen or there is a lack of control by the leader.  So the process often times just does not produce the creative ideas one expects.  Therefore, pastors and leaders just settle with relying upon the creativity of the individual instead of the group. Each staff member does his or her own thing and there is little input from the team and most of the time, they end up doing the same old thing over and over.

If more church staffs used brainstorming techniques (correctly), I believe we would have more creative sermons, ministries and ways to reach the lost.   On one staff we tried brainstorming a few times but the leaders and team members just could not resist commenting and critiquing during the brainstorming session and it always stifled the creative process to the point that it was frustrating and not as productive as it could have been.  If you do it, do it right and you'll be successful.

I'd love to hear if you have tried brainstorming with your team and whether it has been a success or not.

Here is one technique you can try with your staff or team that should help you in the creative process.

1.  Clearly define your objective, with budget, and parameters etc.
2.  Instruct the team leaders to leave the room, brainstorm by themselves for 15 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible.  Instruct them to be outlandish and as creative as possible within the parameters.  Write each idea on a separate post-a-note.  
3.  Have the team members return to the room separately and post their ideas, spread out on a wall or white board.  
4.  When all team members have posted, bring them back together and read the ideas together without comment or critique.  Because the brainstorming process is used to spark ideas, allow your team members 10 more minutes to come up with new ideas.  You can send them out again to come up with them by themselves or do it as a group.
5.  Add the new ideas to the others, and then group the ideas into related groups.  Once they are in groups, now you can discuss the merits of the ideas.
6.  Choose the specific group of ideas you like best and then you can narrow down from the group, to the individual idea you like best.  In many cases you'll find that there are many variations of the same idea. You'll see where the team is leaning.  But often there are one or two great ideas that come out of left field that may not have surfaced without the brainstorming session.  
For more brainstorming techniques, go to

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Motivation to change

A strange thing happened a few weeks ago.  I suddenly became very motivated to conquer my diabetes.  After struggling for 10 years, suddenly I had a renewed incentive to change my eating habits and workout routine. Why now?  What exactly happened in that clinic that suddenly inspired me to change and could I use the same methods to help change other things in my life also?

I struggled for 10 years to manage my diabetes.  There were times that I was a somewhat motivated to do something but I never really knew exactly what to do.  I was given plenty of information but was not confident in how to proceed.  The truth is that the world, culture that I live in, constantly puts pressure on me to do just the opposite of what I need to do.  The speed of life, diet, commercials, everything temps us away from what we need to be healthy.  Some of it is obvious, while most is so subtle we have a hard time even knowing when to say no.  

I floated along until I reached a point where I knew I needed to change or I faced severe health consequences.  People are usually not motivated to change unless they reach a point of desperation.  For me I had recently had unusually high and low blood sugar readings and was feeling lethargic and ill at times.  I knew I needed to change my eating habits and exercise more, but I did not have the energy to workout like I needed to.  A relative suggested I try the Diabetes of America clinic to get specialized treatment.  
At the clinic I was able to get immediate results and feedback of my blood tests.  The doctor sat with me and asked questions about what I ate, my workout habits and gave me great feedback to what was causing my problems.  I understood exactly what the problem was now and how to beat it.
The Doctor convinced me that it was possible to change, adjusted my medication to solve the immediate problem and gave me a vision of what was possible with a reasonable amount of change.  I was given a new meter to test my blood sugar and introduced to a new way to keep track.  
The nutritionist gave me a goal and a plan to reach that goal.  I now know what I can do and have the plan to do it.  I have a goal and will be held accountable to change.  Since then I have been consistent in taking and recording my blood sugar levels.  I am eating better and working out more.  The positive results were immediate.  Better blood sugar results and I am feeling much better without the highs and lows.  And I've stayed on track for the first three weeks.

From this experience I can discern the ingredients that helped motivate me to change.
1.  Must be motivated to change.  Without a strong need or desire to change, ie. health, relationships, faith etc. a person will not change.
2.  Must have correct knowledge of the problem.  Truth is powerful.  If you have any doubt, you will more than likely not follow through.
3.  A reasonable vision of what can be done.  What does victory look like.  Without a clear and reasonable goal, one will not pursue change.  
4.  A plan to accomplish that goal.  Sometimes small steps are the best.  If we can get some immediate accomplishment, it helps to motivate us to go on.  
5.  An accountability to see that it gets accomplished.  We need a person to hold us accountable.

Discussion question
What motivates you?  Who are the key players in your life that motivate you to change and hold you accountable?  Is it possible to change without any of these key components?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

From the probable to the possible

God tells us all things are possible. The world tells us what is probable.  Our goal is to realize what is possible instead of what is probable.  Left up to my desires and abilities I will accomplish only what the world requires, the "probable".  What is it that motivates people to move beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the probable to the possible?

I know that's a loaded question, maybe one of the top 5 mysteries of all time.  Men and women have given their lives to trying to discover what motivates others.  Theologians, politicians and business leaders all seek after the solution.  Some have stumbled upon the secret, like Adolph Hitler and used it for tremendous harm.  It is a fascinating topic but one that is extraordinarily valuable for those who understand it and can use it to motivate themselves and others.

And there are so many aspects of motivation from motivating self, to understanding how God motivates us to do His will.  So over the next few blogs, I'd like to focus on motivation and try to answer some of the questions.  I'd also like to look at some of the key people in the Bible and see what motivated them to accomplish what they did.  What was their "probable" and what was the "possible" that God brought forth in them.

What motivates you?  How have you seen God motivate you in your life, to move you from probable to the possible?

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