Category Archives: Workplace

Tension Produces Dreams – revisited

I have often wondered if life would truly be better if it was simpler. What if I didn’t have to strive quite so much? What if relationships just happened naturally? Wouldn’t everybody be better off if we removed the struggle and pain and work? I mean don’t most people just live for the weekend so that they can kick off their shoes and relax?

I think that this idea is actually fairly hollow and will not actually lead us where we want to go. An oft repeated story is told of butterflies that must wrestle with their cocoon in order to strengthen their wings so that they can survive once they are loose. I have been through this process many times personally and, due to my recent events, I feel like I am back in caterpillar mode, whereas I had been in butterfly mode for several years. The only way to get back to the freedom that being a butterfly provides is to walk through the process of tension…tension that produces dreams. What does tension do for us?

Tension provides a sense of gratitude for an accomplished work

Tension makes the thrill of jumping that much bigger

Tension helps me know what is worth fighting for

Tension provides the perspective and momentum necessary to take a risk

I have shared before how it took seven months of unemployment before I landed at my most recent job. Talk about tension! The team that I was privileged to lead is currently wrapping up a 3-year project to create resources for local churches to better serve families affected by disability. These resources are the result of years of tension – conversations, debates and discussions about the best way to serve the church. Personally, I am back in the process of tension as I seek my next great adventure.

So, what are the basics I need to focus on to ensure that this time of tension is one of growth and production, not discouragement and frustration?

1) Tension forces me to revisit my dreams, my goals, my hopes.  If tension causes me to give up on any of them, then they weren’t that compelling to begin with. My dream is ultimately to make a difference in the lives of others, to advocate on behalf of those who have been marginalized, to develop leaders and build sustainable teams to accomplish amazing projects! I look back over 20+ years of full-time leadership and these basics have never changed. Take this as a great opportunity to revisit your vision and make sure that it is truly large enough to be compelling.

2) Remember that life is a journey and tension is simply one of the steps you must take on your way to success. Tension is the pressure required to create a diamond, the rubber band stretched and ready to launch, or the nervous feeling you get right before you make a leap of faith. Embrace tension as a launching pad to your next great adventure, not an obstacle that will keep you grounded.

3) Although it might be clichè, there is a reason that it works – “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”. Tension is necessary for world class athletes to become stronger. I am not content with status quo. I don’t want to be bored or settled or live a dull and mundane life. I want adventure and excitement and progress in my life and tension is the tool that brings this about. And without tension you will never learn just what you can truly handle.

4) Tension brings you to the feet of Jesus. I do not want to assume that everybody reading this is a follower of Christ, but for my life, this is the only constant. Tension reminds me constantly that He is God and I am not. I cannot, nor am I meant to, proceed through life on my own strength. Tension keeps me humble which is always the best way to be.

I don’t know what you are walking through this week, but I would imagine it includes some tension. Be encouraged to not run from it, but rather to embrace it…and to anticipate the dreams that will be birthed because of it.

~ Mike


The Great Rat Race of Leadership

So much of our lives is spent at work. There is great pressure to advance, to excel, to influence and to be seen. Far too many of us have allowed our identity to be more about what we do than who we truly are. I have worked on church staffs and in retail environments and currently am in more of a corporate office setting. Regardless of the purpose of different organizations, there is a general expectation to make a difference, even if at times it might involve cutting corners. In such high pressure environments, is it possible to lead well, in an effective manner, according to biblical principles?

I have learned over the years through challenging circumstances and personal pain that I must be about the calling God has on my life and entrust the details to Him. Promotion, recognition, influence and the like cannot be my focus or I become desperately self-seeking. Rather, I must intentionally keep in mind the following biblical principles when it comes to leading well at work.

Do all for Christ – Colossians 3:17 (ESV) encourages me that “whatever [I] do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” If I want to lead effectively in the work place, I must remember that I am first and foremost a representative of Christ. For years I have tried to work with the mindset that Jesus is sitting at my desk with me. How much more effectively would I manage my time if this was true? Would I speak with a different tone on the phone or would I reply differently to that difficult email? While this is my reality as a follower of Christ, I confess that it takes great intentionality to live accordingly and do all of my work for Christ.

Submit to authority – In Romans 13:1 (ESV), I am commanded to “be subject to the governing authorities.” While this passage is specifically speaking to government, I can see a fairly easy correlation to my boss and supervisors. I must confess that I am blessed to have a boss who leads with great compassion, vision and empowerment. He is truly about the team above himself and it is a joy to work under his leadership. However, this has not always been the case in my life, nor could I say that I have the same relationship with every leader at my current job. So, what happens when I might not agree with or get along with work leadership? I do not see an asterisk in this verse that God only asks me to submit to authority that I like or agree with. Rather, I must trust that God has established leadership and must submit accordingly. This in no way implies that I cannot share an opinion, or even disagree with leadership, but ultimately the final decision is theirs. If I simply cannot submit, then it might be time to move to a place where I can be a benefit to the organization and not a thorn.

Serve others – The point of leadership is not to take care of and promote myself. Jesus teaches that true leadership is not about lording over others, but rather is about serving people (Luke 22:25-26). Effective leadership in my workplace happens as I am able to look for ways to elevate others. There is great joy in shining the spotlight on the accomplishments of my team; far greater than self-promotion could ever provide. Great leadership teaches us to praise publicly and criticize privately. In the same manner, I need to deflect the praises of others onto my team while shouldering the responsibility when criticism surfaces. This is a great way to serve others at work. Give credit away, don’t pass blame when criticism arises, and trust God to handle the promotions and recognition on your behalf.

Get caught doing good – Speaking of recognition, I would say it is much more satisfying to get caught doing good than to strive for recognition. We have all been in a meeting where somebody is busy talking about how amazing they are. Typically, their own hype does not match the project they are talking about, but even if it does, there seems to be a lack of luster when they have to shine the spotlight on themselves. When I was younger, I spent an inordinate amount of time telling people about what I was doing and how well I thought that I was doing it. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV) says to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Why would I violate this clear biblical principle and risk missing out on God raising me up? I am fairly certain that He can raise me up much further than I could ever hope to do for myself.

Is it possible to lead biblically within the workplace? Yes! Is it easy? No! I work in a Christian ministry and the struggles to lead biblically still very much exist. Why is this so? Probably because my organization is filled with broken and sinful people, including ME! All I know is that God’s ways are the best and this has been proven in my life so many times over the years. I am growing in each of these areas through circumstances and relationships at work, and my hope is that I am becoming a better representative of Christ along the way.

How about you? Are any of these steps particularly challenging for you? What other aspects of workplace leadership would you add to the list?

~ Mike

4 Keys to a Successful Work Environment

Unless you are in a very unique role, you participate on a regular basis in a work environment, interacting with others. Most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else in life. It’s safe to assume that each of us wants this environment to be successful, both personally and with projects to be completed.

Startup Stock Photos

I have worked in many different environments, some more casual and some more corporate. I have been part of large department teams, been my own department and almost everything in between. Along the way, I have learned one crucial truth: work environments are filled with people! Crazy, right? But this means that there are certain principles that will extend across multiple work places.

First, I have to remember that it is simply not about me. If my energy, focus, concern and conversation rotates around myself and my projects, several things happen. I become unable to see the big picture and I no longer include others in the journey. Others begin to pull away as they realize that their presence is no longer important to me. This self-centered egotism is a sure bet to destroy any chance at a healthy work environment.

Second, the job description is rarely the job description. While this fun document might be what opened the door to employment, I would suggest that your boss is looking for more. More creativity, more initiative, more wisdom and more desire to engage with the greater good. I must find places to serve, groups to participate in, special projects to accomplish and the like.

Third, we all have a sweet spot – find your groove and get to work! How do you add value to the organization? What can you bring to the table that nobody else has? While this is not permission to ignore areas of less strength, it is a strong reminder to shine brightly where you are most gifted.

Finally, spend a little time caring about people more than projects. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in tasks and to-do lists and accomplishments that we find ourselves not truly knowing the people we interact with on a daily basis. The better a team knows and understands each other, the better they will work together. Have lunch together on occasion (not a working one), celebrate birthdays and find other simple ways to encourage and connect with your co-workers.

Work is consuming and takes up the majority of the day. This can either be a drudgery or can become a place of great satisfaction. Take the time to create a healthy work environment and enjoy the benefits that you and your team will receive.

Any other ideas for healthy work places? What are some things you do currently that create health? I would love to hear about it!


3 Benefits of a Healthy Team

Working for a ministry provides so many opportunities for teamwork, both internally and externally. I have the honor of leading a team of eleven individuals from across the country in our Church Relations department. Last week we held a leadership summit and spent a day and a half together in collaboration, brainstorming and celebration.


While I know that much has been said about teamwork, several things struck me last week. The level of productivity we achieved was greater than almost any I have experienced in such a short amount of time. This got me to wondering why and here are the results of my thoughts.

1 – A healthy team provides space to explore, encourage, challenge, confront and succeed. We have been working on a few projects for over a year now and this past week saw the culmination of several of them. The discussion that surrounded the final products was opinionated, fierce, provocative and passionate – and I loved every minute of it. Our team has learned to trust each other and that leads to great success. This does not come easy and it is something I must intentionally cultivate as the leader, but the benefits of a trust culture are truly immeasurable.

2 – A healthy team is able to include others quite seamlessly and not create an “us v. them” mentality. We had several attendees at our summit who have been part of the team for a very short time. One literally was added to the team within weeks of our gathering. However, there was no awkwardness, competitiveness or desire to protect the inner circle. Our team understands the value of collaboration and the idea that many leaders bring even greater success to projects and outcomes. Whereas a lack of health can lead to infighting, divisiveness and a cutthroat mentality, I am blessed to be on a healthy team that constantly seeks to include and learn from others.

3 – A healthy team knows how to celebrate together! I have to admit that I have never attended a baby shower until last week, but the culture of our team led me to not want to miss out. It was a blast and we completely surprised our expectant team member. We laughed and cheered and played odd baby shower games (I actually ended up with 4 clothespins). This was the perfect ending to a time of great accomplishment. Healthy teams celebrate as well as they produce!


So, how would you describe your team? Healthy or unhealthy? Please notice that I never declared our team to be perfect. We mess up projects, have misunderstandings and often disagree on the direction of our ideas. However, at the end of the day, we are able to see the bigger picture and remember why we work together. This provides the framework for a healthy team and allows us to experience many benefits together.

Leading in His Name,


Why Another Leadership Blog?

There are so many blogs on leadership available – why would we need another one? This is a question I have wrestled with for several years and finally came to the conclusion that I am the only one who can share my stories and experiences. I have been in ministry, through a divorce and remarriage, worked in healthy and dysfunctional environments and believe that I have learned much along the way.

sunset abstract

Photo courtesy of Jenny Downing

While I am not a leadership guru by any means, I have learned what works and what doesn’t work. According to John Maxwell, “leadership is influence.” This means there are leaders in homes, in the Church, in workplaces and in communities all across the country. Many of us lead daily but do not recognize our leadership. Every choice I make personally is leadership – interactions with my wife and kids are expressions of leadership.

When I am at work or at church, I am leading. Sometimes this is by words, sometimes by activity, but always by my very presence. When I think of how often I watch other people, it causes me to realize how often I must be watched. If I am being watched, then I have influence and I am back to being a leader.

Leadership begins in the heart, with self-awareness and self-reflection. It then flows to my family and beyond. Ultimately, the best leadership is surrendered to God and His plans. While individuals may lead outside of His will, it is not nearly as effective as His hands would allow.

This blog is about a journey, about the steps of a leader as they grow and develop. It will be funny and sad, compelling and inspiring. This leadership blog will reveal my stories, both good and bad, and ideally share principles of influence. So what? How does this affect you, the reader? May my stories and experiences expand your influence and increase your leadership, whether at home, work or in your community.

Thanks for joining the journey,