Tag Archives: influence

My Biggest Critics

I have crazy dreams! I hope that you do as well. I want to write books, and have a blog that people follow. I want my words and experiences and very life to encourage others to reach for and accomplish their dreams. I want to look back on my life and believe that I made a difference in the lives of others…first for my family and then for those who I am fortunate enough to know and influence.

I don’t know what your dreams are, but I wonder if we might share the same critics. I wrestle daily with fear and doubt – the voices within me that remind me I have nothing of value to share. I have no experiences that might encourage others. I have no words that could inspire or exhort others to accomplish their crazy dreams!

I am often my worst enemy at stepping out, trying something new, daring to dream. In the same moment that I am enjoying a dream, the voices in my head are letting me know why the dream will never actually happen!

I can talk myself out of just about anything…and it’s exasperating and frustrating.

Fear – what if I fail? What if I’m not perfect? What if nobody cares? My fear voice looks at the reactions of others and convinces me that nobody will listen much less respond to my attempts at encouragement. Fear paralyzes me in a place of frustrating inactivity. Fear pops the balloon of my dream and turns it into a piece of latex trash.

What’s interesting is I have countless stories of helping others overcome their own fear of accomplishment. Yet, I very rarely remember this on my own. I drag my feet in order to ensure that fear is not correct. If I never jump, I can’t crash, right? The problem is that if I never jump, I will never learn just how far I can soar…and that’s just downright depressing.

Doubt – who am I? What do I have to share? What difference can I make? My doubt voice typically speaks more to myself as a person. This voice challenges my very identity and attacks the presumption that I, as a person, have anything of value to offer others. Doubt doesn’t even let me get to the point of jumping. Instead, my dreams are shattered well before they ever have true definition.

Doubt focuses on my flaws, my mistakes, my shortcomings, and my failures. It reminds me that these completely invalidate anything positive I might try to drum up about myself. If people only knew what a complete train wreck I was on the inside, they would run from any advice, encouragement, or inspiration I share.

These critics are brutal. They are devastating. They are intensely personal. Unfortunately, they are winning more lately than they ever should. Why?

Because I am choosing to listen to them. Success and progress are predicated upon my listening to voices that speak truth in my life. I can only make a difference if I step out and take a chance. I become a self-fulfilling prophecy when I listen to my critics of fear and doubt.

What’s the solution? Look to my past for stories of success and value. Connect with my circle of family and friends who know me, warts and all, and believe that I have stories worth sharing. Remember who God made me and daily pursue my relationship with Him so that my identity remains grounded. Jump! I have to take a chance – call a friend, write a blog, launch a website, or provide a listening ear to somebody.

If our voices match, then join me in ignoring fear and doubt and giving into hopes and dreams. If we never try, we are guaranteed to come up short. But if we choose to jump…who knows just how far we can soar?


Capture Your Next Great Idea

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to remember what I believe I should remember. I find myself walking back into rooms in hopes that my thought is still floating in the air waiting for me to engage with it again. I couldn’t tell you how often I have had the next great idea and then within moments it was gone!

Thankfully, I have done a much better job with remembering the times that God touched my heart in a powerful way and challenged me to a new way of living. The difference is that I tend to write down the things God tells me, but by default forget to write down what I tell myself.

Admittedly, I am a big picture dreamer and visionary. I love potential and future and hope and the anticipation of what might be waiting around the corner. I love new ideas, innovative tasks and strategic planning. However, this all comes to naught if at the end of the day I don’t actually change anything or accomplish anything. Dreams without action simply remain dreams. But when I add action then the sky’s the limit to what might happen!

Over the years, I have applied how I interact with God to how I interact with everything else and I simply write it down. I have a standing note on my phone to capture new ideas, as well as a paper notebook at home. It doesn’t really matter how you might capture your next great idea…what matters is that you capture it. The sooner and more thoroughly that you capture the dream, the more likely that you will follow through with an idea to completion.

So, what are the main benefits of capturing your next big idea?

** Seeing my dreams and ideas written out makes them more real and concrete. They become possible and tangible and are no longer floating in the space for ideas, but are now entering the land of
accomplishment. I have a vision that I can now begin to strategically plan out and work on.

** It is much easier to discover gaps on paper than in my head. Whether I am writing a book, preparing a sermon, or even jotting together a blog post, I find that I write and rewrite multiple times before content might be ready to share. As a visual learner, it is vital that I see what I am creating while still in process. I am a HUGE fan of whiteboards for this very reason.

** We were not designed to function within a bubble. When I have my next great idea written down, I can easily invite others to join me. In Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV) we are told to “write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” I get fired up whenever I am able to come alongside somebody and see them fulfill their potential. If my dream might be a tool to accomplish this in somebody else’s life, then I need to capture it in a way to makes sense to others.

** I can complete the task at hand while not forgetting my next great idea. I often have dreams and ideas surface while I am already busy with a different task. When this happens, I have several choices. First, I can get distracted from my task and focus on the new idea. Or I can focus on the task and forget the details of my idea. The best practice I have learned is to quickly capture my idea so that I can revisit it later. This allows current tasks to be completed and future tasks to be remembered. 

The discipline of capturing new ideas over the past years has become an invaluable tool for me personally. I am sure that many activities and strategies would never have come to fruition if I trusted myself to remember it all. Some ideas have been discarded, some acted upon, and some are still in the holding tank. The key is they are out of my mind, onto the paper, and ready to be acted upon if the opportunity presents itself.

How about you? How do you capture your next great ideas? Do you write them down, record a voice memo, or use some other medium?

4 Questions for Handling Obstacles

If you have been in leadership for any length of time…or part of a project for that matter, inevitably you have run into obstacles. Sometimes they were anticipated, but often they seem to come out of nowhere. Effective leaders do not panic when this happens. Instead, they walk through a series of questions to discover not only what the obstacle is, but more importantly what the solution is for moving forward. While obstacles often can feel like an insurmountable wall, there is typically a way over, under, around, or through.

What’s broken? Before you can even consider options and solutions, it is essential to discover what is actually broken. Slow down, assess what is happening, and determine what isn’t working. Is it a lack of resources? Maybe the original timeframe for completion now seems unrealistic. Perhaps, you have the wrong people on your team, or the right people in the wrong roles? You might even discover that nothing is broken and that the obstacle is simply a natural result of your process. Gain input from others and come to an agreement with key leaders.

What’s working? Sometimes, the best way to handle an obstacle is to take a break, walk away from the project, and celebrate the accomplishments of your team. This provides the opportunity to reflect on progress, to cheer for team members, and to fill up the energy of your team members. Great leaders constantly celebrate others and cultivate sustainability through encouragement. You might be surprised to discover that upon your return from a celebration break, the obstacles no longer exist. In addition, assessing what is working might also lead to potential solutions to anything that you previously discovered was broken.

What’s confusing? There is nothing more challenging as a team member than to be commissioned to accomplish a project, yet be unsure what the actual goals of the project are. How do you aim for a target than you cannot see? It is crucial for leaders to listen to the objections or frustrations of team members, clarify the vision of the specific task, and redirect energies as needed to successfully complete objectives. Clear and concise should be foundational requirements for every leader when it comes to sharing the purpose and process for a project.

What’s missing? If you have cleared things up, celebrated the accomplishments of the team, and determined that nothing is truly broken, the final piece of the puzzle is to identify gaps. It might be that you have everything you need to accomplish steps “A” through “G”, but you then realized that you never created step “D.” Find the gaps, determine the people and resources needed to fill the gaps, and then move forward with creating the solutions required to achieve the expected results.

I have led projects with as few as 3-5 people up to entire camps with over 100 volunteers. It doesn’t typically matter how many people are involved or what the scope of the project might be. Obstacles are reality and leaders must have the tools necessary to confront the obstacles, reassess the process, and get the team moving forward again in a timely manner.

What questions am I missing that you might use to handle the obstacles you have experienced?

Make a Difference Where You Are

I can remember years ago when I was in children’s minstry having the experience of being greeted in the grocery store by a woman whose daughter was in my ministry. I have had football coaches and players come up to me at church functions to say hello because I was a referee for their games. Once I even found myself on the phone with a customer service representative who turned out to be the parent of a child in my ministry. Enough of these occurences have caused me to become more aware of the fact that I am part of a community. I do not lead in a vacuum and neither do you. No matter how much we might want to compartmentalize our lives, the vivid truth is that there is a greater connectedness between home and work and church and extracurriculuar than we might realize. Authenticity compels me to be the same person regardless of the context where I find myself. 

As a leader, people are watching me for various reasons. Maybe they want to see how a follower of Christ responds to certain situations. Maybe they know that I am leading in one context and are observing my authenticity. Maybe I am just the loudest person in the group (which is very typical)!

So, what does leadership look like in my community? Going back to leadership as influence, community life is all about points of influence. Do I influence in a good and positive direction? Do I provide hope and stability? Am I seen as a healthy role model? Ultimately, do people see Christ or at least become curious about Christ as they watch my life?

In considering my community, there are four basic characteristics that I want to be known for. These apply at home, at church, in the mall or on the football field or anywhere else I might find myself.

First, I want to be known as trustworthy. I want my words to be credible and my actions to be authentic. It is easy to speak the truth when people are watching or I am engaged in a conversation. But what do I do when I am given incorrect change at the store? If, as a football official, I am supposed to uphold justice and fairness, but am seen in the community as a liar, my credibility is severely undermined. There is a great concept of truth that states if you always speak truth, you never have to remember the story. Being trustworthy is actually as simple as speaking truth and sticking to the single story that actually happened. 

I also want to be known as a generous leader. While generosity is most often equated with finances, it also speaks to how I spend my time and how freely I share my story or advice. Leading in the community means that I do what I can to improve and enhance life. Maybe I volunteer at church, serve at a community event or look for ways to mentor upcoming generations. Nobody really wants to be around a stingy or selfish person, so I strive to choose generosity with what I have. 

Effective community leadership also requires that I am caring and compassionate. This is as simple as making it easy for somebody to cross the street when I am driving. I don’t know about your city, but in mine, it has become an adventure to use the crosswalk because far too many drivers are self-absorbed and in a hurry. How would I respond if I arrived at the scene of an accident? What about the kid in line at Starbucks who comes up short for her venti quad super-sugar extra whipped cream drink? I need to slow down a bit, see the world around me, and look for ways to care for others.

Finally, I want to be seen in my community as a leader who stands for justice. I want to be on the side of the underdog and to speak on behalf of the marginalized. Whether this applies to people who have become homeless, families affected by special needs, or just a small child attempting to be noticed by a store clerk, great leadership looks for and acts upon opportunities to elevate the people nearby. I truly hope that I am seen as this type of a leader. 

So, what about you? What does leadership look like in your community? What other characteristics would you add to my list and, more importantly, how are you doing in living up to these standards? Leadership is influence and our communities are a great place to exert the influence that we have – this is how to truly make a difference right where you are!

~ Mike

I am my Biggest Problem

Leadership must begin with me. Unfortunately, on my own, I want to stay up late, play video games, eat snacks and then sleep in. I get impatient, want to rush the process and can easily see people as being in the way of my agenda. Leadership would be so much easier if it wasn’t for my own selfish humanity. While it might seem that I just need to get more organized, set alarms and choose to like people, this only lasts for so long. I have learned that I need the wisdom of the Bible to have a chance at leading well. The principles of God are the only way I can grow and develop as a healthy and effective leader.

So, what does the Bible say about leading myself? While there are a great many things, here are four that I typically struggle with the most.

Self-control – Galatians 5:22-23 says that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. I find the name of this characteristic ironic since I clearly need the strength of God to have self-control. I can last for a while staying faithful to plans and dreams and needs that will set me up for healthy leadership. But it is only temporary because my humanity will kick in soon or later. Reliance on God allows me to last a bit longer before I indulge in too much ice cream or stay up far too late for anybody’s good.

Servanthood – Jesus takes the typical paradigm of leadership that involves working hard to look out for self and step on others to get to the top of the pyramid and flips it completely upside down. True leadership happens when I choose to serve others, look out for others first, and use my influence and experience to set those around me up for success. Easy? Not a chance, but I have seen this truth play out well time and time again.

Humility – is leadership really supposed to be about myself? At the end of the day do I care so much about my ego and image that I am willing to fight to be seen and heard? Unfortunately, this battle happens inside of me more often than I would care to admit. Thankfully, with age I have learned to at least mostly keep it inside. So often I have to fake it even when I never make it, but the Bible teaches that humility is truly the best way to lead.

Patience – admittedly, I saved the best for last. And by best, I mean the area of my biggest struggle. Whether it is in traffic, waiting for an email reply or just need Amazon Prime to fulfill my over-energetic, type-A needs, patience is definitely not a characteristic of leadership that I embrace well at all. I want everything done yesterday and I have spent the majority of my life waiting for God to catch up. Now, truth be told, He is always perfectly on time and hindsight confirms this fact, but I will probably struggle with this leadership trait every day of my life.

So, while this list is far too short, it is what I am working on to become a better biblically grounded leader. I want any influence I have to be used to advance God’s kingdom and to set others up for success in whatever they are called to do. The Bible is the ultimate book on leadership and hopefully this list helps jumpstart the same conversations in your life that it does in mine.

~ Mike

4 Essential Links to your Leadership Chain

Who are you learning from?

This is a common question in leadership circles but is essential to growth as a leader. Once a leader stops learning, their capacity for leading is greatly diminished and their influence is minimized. A typical leader is constantly striving for growth and expansion so learning becomes a requirement for effective leadership.

chain links

John Maxwell talks about the “Law of the Weakest Link” in regards to team building and leadership. We all can identify the weakest link in our ministry or organization and often wonder why the leader won’t remedy the situation sooner.

Today’s links that I am writing about are different – they are the necessary links for yourself as a leader in your learning “chain of influence.” Without these essential links, your chain is incomplete which means your learning is incomplete which means that your influence is already waning.

The first place to look for learning is to the books and authors who have come before you. Writers such as C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers write with such an authenticity and vintage…truth is timeless, Experience is a powerful teacher, whether the experience is positive or negative. Read about Jack Welsh and the G.E. turnaround, or John Wooden and his pyramid of leadership. The amount of information available in our world is enormous – grab a book and a good cup of coffee…and start learning!

Another important link in your chain of learning is your direct supervisors. Whether you like them or not they are there for a reason and can provide a model to learn from. Ideally, their model is positive and one that you want to emulate. If you are in a different situation, strive to learn what does not work and discover how to be different in your area of leadership.

If you are a leader (by definition, anybody who has influence), then you have opportunity to learn from your direct reports. If you are not in a more corporate setting, this could be volunteers, colleagues or even your kids. The point is that we can all learn from those who might have less experience or influence than us…their unique perspective provides another place of learning for your leadership chain. Allow space for others to share opinions, discuss ideas and participate in conversations.

Finally, make sure to include your family in your leadership chain. They know you the best, both the good and the bad, and most often want to see you succeed. Ask for input, insight and inspiration from the ones who are in your corner, regardless of how many widgets you created today.

The bottom line is that great leaders have learned how to gain wisdom from every experience and every person they interact with. Learning is possible in healthy and toxic situations, from positive and negative leaders, and from books written last year and 100 years ago. The more intentionally you work to develop and strengthen your chain, the better the chances are for you to be both an effective and an efficient leader.

~ Mike

Leading Through the Storm of Emotion

Life is filled with emotion. Crowds are swayed by it and individuals get caught up and often don’t even know why. Leadership is required to navigate the storms of emotion well.  One of the places that I have best learned this lesson is on the football field. In honor of Super Bowl 50, the timing of this post seems appropriate.

football ref 2football ref 1

I have had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to officiate youth and high school football for 26 seasons. What started as a great time to spend with my dad has turned into a career avocation and led me to numerous All-Star and championship games over the years. I can recall many games filled with emotion due to rivalry, championship aspirations or even just frustrated fans.

What does this have to do with leadership? Whether you are a sports aficionado or not, there are many things I have learned on the football field that apply in leadership regardless of the context.

1 – be prepared. Leaders can only lead out of what they know. This is most often a combination of education and experience, but there is no excuse for a leader to not be as prepared as possible. I have studied the football rule book for 26 years, taken countless tests and learned how to hone my judgment through many mistakes, learning from mentors and growing with the game. Preparation allows me to execute my craft of officiating well.

2 – communicate. This starts with my crew for the night. We have pre-game, talk through potential scenarios and ensure that our signals all match. Communication then continues to coaches, players and fans as we strive for integrity on the field. A well called game that is communicated poorly will feel like a poor game. Communication is essential to effective leadership!

football ref 3

3 – establish your tone. As officials, we strive to work a game, keep players safe, ensure justice for both teams, and to walk off the field mostly unnoticed. At the same time, we determine how a game will go by what we allow. Late hit out of bounds not flagged? Get ready for fighting later in the game (most likely). We establish the boundaries of how players will play, how coaches will communicate (and complain), and how the overall tone will be for the night. Leadership sets the atmosphere for all contexts – what tone do you set with your team and for your projects?

4 – be consistent. One of the biggest complaints against officials is inconsistency. Whether real or perceived, this must be addressed. The best officials are consistent – coaches, players, fans and support personnel should know how a great official will work a game. It is the same wherever you lead. Be consistent in your style, your communication, your expectations and your encouragement. Consistency allows people to adjust and function well within prescribed boundaries.

5 – trust your judgment and instinct. Sometimes a situation occurs that is not explicitly covered within the text of the rule book. It is imperative that the referee make the right judgment at this point, whether it involves safety, sportsmanship or some other concern. I have called games early when the score is a blowout and kids are getting hurt due to size and strength discrepancies. All of the books, trainings, and mentor conversations become real when judgment is necessary. Trust all of these aspects and go with your gut! This is where the true test of leadership happens – how can you lead and influence people when there is not a perfect principle to follow.

While I know that not every enjoys sports, the lessons on the field apply across the board. Where do you have opportunity to function as an official in your leadership context? See how any of these ideas might add value to the leadership mantle you carry.

~ Mike

Help! Leadership is Killing Me…

Have you ever had the feeling of being overwhelmed? Of losing control? Of having no idea what to do? It is the aspect of leadership that is most unnerving because leaders are used to and prefer to be in control…to know what comes next…to have the answers! Leaders don’t typically do well when things are on fire and we don’t have a solution.

fire storm

Leadership is filled with many peaks and victories and successes and a great deal of joy. However, there is always the flip side. People won’t like your decisions, they will gossip and criticize and will leave on your account. Fun, right? On a regular basis, I can find myself in a situation where my battle cry becomes “Help! Leadership is killing me…” Please tell me that I am not the only one?!?

So, why do we sign up for the pain, the stress, the challenge and the overwhelming feeling of dread that leadership can cause? Because we innately have learned that it is exactly these circumstances that provide the greatest opportunities for growth. If leadership was not challenging, then everybody would be a leader, right?

Fire is cleansing in nature. It purifies water, helps nature to remain in balance and cooks food. Fire out of control can bring great devastation, but in the right hands and circumstance, it provides great benefit. Leadership involves a great deal of fire. Don’t run from it, don’t rush to put it out, don’t look for a different way. Sometimes the best leaders know to walk through the fire because there is something on the other side calling their name.

When you get to the point of feeling like leadership is killing you, it might just mean it’s time to learn a new skill, gain a new perspective or obtain a new lesson. Life spent in a comfort zone loses its appeal for leaders – by nature, we must be trailblazers and try new things…and bring people along the journey with us. Embrace the feeling of overwhelming dread, remember that it is just a season and that you will come out stronger on the other end. Fire provides just the credibility you need as a leader to inspire others when the going gets tough.

~ Mike

Sometimes, Sweat the Small Stuff

I cannot tell you the number of times in college that I ran out of gas in my truck. The worst was that it typically happened in a moment of urgency when I had a deadline to meet for either school or work, yet that familiar sound of a coughing engine would taunt me. My truck was new, was in great shape and I loved it – I just found myself often distracted by the big and important things in life and I forgot about small details such as filling up the gas tank.

gas station-night

Now, I admittedly am a bigger fan of and more natural at vision, future, big picture, etc. While these are crucial components of leadership, I have learned over the years that there are times that it becomes essential to sweat the small stuff, regardless of what the experts might say.

I am not a proponent of worrying and stressing about every little detail and expecting perfection. However, I am a proponent of the idea that my journey begins with the first step…and this is typically small. Even jumping off of a cliff requires a small step.

What is the small stuff worth sweating?

  • Paying the bills on time – might seem trivial, but why waste hard-earned money on late fees
  • Putting gas in the car in a timely manner – enough said
  • Checking your work presentation for typos – nothing says amateur or “I don’t care” more than spelling and grammatical typos
  • Learning the important aspects of life for those on your team. While you might not remember everybody’s birthday, do you put them on your calendar as a help?
  • Listening when your spouse or children talk – not merely hearing, but taking the time to listen, to empathize and maybe, at times, to even understand
  • Being faithful and honest when nobody is looking – it is far too easy to cut corners, but in the long run I have discovered that integrity wins out virtually every time

What about you? Any small stuff in your life worth sweating over? I would love to hear about it…until then, don’t forget to check your gas gauge!

~ Mike

Leaders Need Perspective

Left to ourselves, we often get bogged down in mundane details and issues. Other people make their problems into ours and attempt to pull us into the drama and struggles of their lives. While healthy leaders serve and look out for others, there must be a place to step back, say no and gain a little perspective.


While there is no magical formula, I have learned the importance of perspective. It is necessary on a personal level, for my family, at work and basically everywhere that I am. Without perspective I can begin to spend my time chasing shadows, worrying about things that don’t need worrying and find myself rundown. Since I am really not interested in living this way, I must intentionally seek perspective.


  1. The Word of God – my perspective becomes healthy when it filters through the Bible. While I know that not everybody subscribes to this lifestyle, it is what works for me. I have too many experiences without this filter and they never end well. Daily disciplined reading, prayer and meditation make a huge difference for me.
  2. Slow down and look around – when did it become cool and fashionable to be busy, to be late and to over schedule? This is a terrible way to live and definitely does not give space for perspective. The old phrase “stop and smell the roses” carries more truth than most give it credit.
  3. Try something new – drive a different path to and from work, listen to a new podcast, take up a hobby, volunteer at church or learn a language. Whatever the specifics, new things force us out of our comfort zones which naturally leads to new perspectives.
  4. Spend time with people more than tasks – I believe this is obvious. Tasks do not typically alter perspective, but working with and doing life together with people does. It requires that I listen more than speak (not easy, I must admit) and that I am okay with agreeing to disagree. Also, I must intentionally spend time with different generations as perspectives change drastically between them.

So, how important is perspective to you? Which of the suggestions resonates with you? Be encouraged to take that challenge for a test drive this next week and see what happens.

~ Mike