Category Archives: Uncategorized

Internal Motivations = External Culture

“Internal motivations create the culture around you. When we have the right motivations & culture, anything we do can be a success.” – Chris Hodges

I’m a student of WHAT great leaders DO.  What are their systems, process, best practices?  However, recently I’ve been challenged that it’s not all about what I DO that makes me successful.  I can plug a great system into a bad culture and fail.  Culture is what matters most. To be specific, a life-giving culture matters most.

Chris Hodges recently talked about how our “internal motivations” are the determining factors of the culture around us.  He listed out 3 internal motivations he has.  These were a challenge to me.  Over the next few days I’ll list these out with some of my own thoughts.

1st Internal Motivation:  LOVING LIFE.

  • I have been guilty of thinking, “One day, when ________ happens, then life will be great!” Truth is, _______ will never happen.  I’ll always be looking ahead.
  • I need to find joy in TODAY!  In my daughter’s soccer game, the meeting that I’m in, the fact that my kids still run to me when I come home, the weather today, the fact that my church is alive, the friends I have.
  • Things like WORRY & INSECURITY choke this joy out.
  • I too often embrace the “Good Ol Days Doctrine”: Thinking my best days were either the one’s gone by or the one’s ahead…never the one that I’m in.
  • I have to embrace the atittude that the best day of my life is right now!  “I will enjoy ___________.” Whatever _________ is.
  • We love life when we embrace the joy of today.
  • Find satisfaction with the day we’re in.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:10 “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Question: Do I…do you love life?  Do we love today?  Are we in love with our lives?



“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” Roy L. Smith

I’ve noticed that the one thing that sets really great leaders apart from those who may only aspire to greatness is DISCIPLINE.  Yes, there may be a few other things you could point out…but discipline seems to be a consistent thread.  While I am not the best at this, I thought I’d share some current disciplines.  In some of these I am doing well…in others…not so well!

  • Bible – I read through the One Year Bible & I use Larry Stockstill’s devotional to go along with it.  I would love to say that I am on this EVERY day.  I’m not.  My goal is to read this 5 days a week.  Sometimes it ends up being more.  Hardly ever is it less.
  • Margin – This is “the amount available beyond what is necessary”.  I’m going to do a blog post on this later this week so I won’t dive in here.  I will say that margin IS a discipline.  The reason most people don’t have it is because most people use excuses to not practice discipline.
  • Physical – I work-out 6 days a week using P90X.  This is pretty much a given for me, I don’t miss.  There are some weeks I do 5 days.  I often have to get up early or stay up late…but I’m going to do it.  And no, I don’t always enjoy it.  I discipline myself because I don’t want to feel bad or look bad (not sure it’s helping much with the looks!).  Where I struggle in this is my eating.  Let’s just say, I like to eat!
  • Study – Outside of the bible I study other things; mainly leadership writings.  This happens 3 ways:  Podcasts – I listen to podcasts while I’m driving.  Blogs – I catch up on blogs every Tuesday morning.  Books – I read a portion of a book every day for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Money – I don’t spend everything that I make.  This is not a reflection of how much I may make.  It’s a reflection of decisions & discipline.  We did this when we didn’t make anything.  I’ve always tithed (10%), I ‘ve always saved (this has varied) & I’ve always lived substantially lower than my income.  I’ve never had more than 1 car payment.  I do want clothes at the mall, I just don’t buy them.  I have never had a credit card at a department store.  I don’t finance “consumer debt”.  I buy off season so things are cheaper.
  • Planning Ahead – I spend every Tuesday morning out of the office in a local coffee shop just getting ahead.  I plan, finish tasks, etc.  This is a non-negotiable time for me.
  • Rest – I take Friday off.  I mean OFF.  It’s genuinely a lazy day.  Here’s how this works for me:  I can still do stuff on Friday…I just don’t want anything PLANNED.  Not even dinner that night.  I just want to have one day with no agenda or an agenda that I make up in the moment.  Over the past couple of months I have stumbled a little in this area and I’ve felt it.  Working now to correct the ship.
  • Preaching – This is a painful discipline for me.  Here’s what I build around a message:  I like to prep 3 weeks ahead.  I’ll preach through it about 3-4 times the week of, usually changing portions every time.  I unplug on Saturday night before and usually rework a good portion of it based on how I’m feeling.  I get up EARLY on Sunday morning, read back through it at Starbucks & preach it twice in my office before service.  Then I’ll preach 3 times live.  On Wednesday of the following week I watch the video and make mental notes…and I cringe…a lot!

These aren’t all of the things I’m disciplined with…just a few.  How about you?  How are you doing with discipline?

Communication Mistakes (a re-post from Tim Stevens)

I recently read this post by Tim Stevens and it was a refresh for me on several communication practices.  I feel that I do ok with this…but can always use a reminder.  Actually, maybe you should ask some of the people on my team for the truth on that!  Anyway, I hope this re-post is helpful.  You should also follow Tim…it’s worth it!


The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Communicating Expectations

  1. Barking out “marching orders” without making your directions clear enough that people fully understand and accept them.
  2. Assuming people need only one explanation in order to understand what you expect them to deliver.
  3. Failing to form an expectation clearly yourself before communicating it to others.
  4. Excluding any explanation about “why” you want something done within a specific time frame.
  5. Asking people to do something, but not clearly explaining when you need it done.
  6. Failing to describe the resources available to help people do what you want them to do.
  7. Issuing such specific instructions about what to do and how to do it, that people hesitate to “own it” themselves and think out of the box to ensure the result.

From the book How Did That Happen? by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Have you seen any of these mistakes being made (by you or others)?

Staff Values

Yesterday I shared with my team some “staff values” that I picked up while visiting Church of the Highlands.  I really like the simplicity, clarity & life-giving nature of these.  Plus, they are derived straight from the personality of Jesus in Revelation 4:6-7.  I’ll give you the values & the personality trait it comes from.

1.  Value :: Love God – Jesus is POWERFUL.

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with him.” Acts 10:38

2.  Value :: Love People – Jesus values healthy RELATIONSHIPS.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

3.  Value :: The Right Attitude – Jesus is a SERVANT.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

4.  Value :: A Good Work Ethic – Jesus practices EXCELLENCE.

“People were overwhelmed with amazement.  ‘He has done everything well,’ they said.  ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'” Mark 7:37

Difficult Conversations

Feedback is always about future behavior. It’s NOT about the past, because there’s nothing we can do about the past.

Can I be honest about something that I hate about leadership?  I do not like having hard conversations with people.  I just don’t.  Maybe that means I’m weak…I don’t know…it’s just reality for me.

That said, if I’m going to lead & manage people well I have to have these awkward talks.  If I don’t then they don’t grow, I become frustrated with them and they don’t even know it!  One of the worst leadership practices is NOT having difficult talks with people.

So in order to lead well I’ve had to create a system for myself.  That may sound odd…but it works for me.  If you’re the type that can slip into bad conversation practices such as: being too emotional, getting defensive and/or just not having a tough talk with someone, maybe this will help you.

Now, here’s the system that I use to actually lead the conversation:

1.  ASK. Simply start the dialogue like this, “May I give you some feedback?” This allows you to make sure it’s a good time for them and that they are open.  If they say no, ask when will be a good time.  Don’t wait too long, tackle it soon.  This also opens the door for you to speak straight.  People know what “feedback” means.  It can be both good & bad.  Key Words: “May I…”

2.  Describe specific BEHAVIOR. Don’t attempt to guess at the “motivation” for the behavior. Discuss the actual behavior you saw, heard, or read. You cannot see someone being lazy or having a poor attitude. You can see them being 15 minutes late 3 of the past 5 days. You can see documents with spelling errors. Seeing these behaviors only allows you to infer their attitude. Tell them what you saw, hear or read, not what you inferred. Avoid labels.   Say, “When you roll your eyes in meetings when others talk; when you say ‘you guys don’t get it’; when you come late to meetings and are texting during it; When you stomp off because you don’t get your way…” Key Words: “…When you…”

3.  Describe the IMPACT of the behavior.  Adults understand that actions have consequences.  Once you have described what you observed, tell them what you felt or what impact it had on the company, project, or team. A phrase that captures this thought is, “When you do this, here’s what happens” or, “When you do this, I feel…”Key Words:  “Here’s what happens…”

4.  Discuss NEXT STEPS. When the feedback is negative, and the person has verified that they understand what they did and its impact, it is time to work out how to change the behavior in the future. At this point, they must really own their efforts. If I simply impose a change, they will be less likely to enact the change. Ask open-ended or leading questions to start this process, such as: “What do you think you can do in this area?” “How should we approach this?” “What ideas do you have to improve here?” Key Words: “What are you going to do about this?”

Life-Giving vs Life-Taking

John 10:10 tell us “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”

Several years ago I was introduced to a term describing a certain attitude or philosophy of ministry.   Through the ministry of Billy Hornsby, the ARC, Church of the Highlands & Healing Place Church I saw this modeled.  The term LIFE-GIVING was used to describe a positive, non-threatening, no-strings-attached, relational-based approach to ministry. I would even say that it can describe how we “do life” as individuals too.

As I watch the world around me, my heart is often saddened. My fear is that we miss the heart of simply being life-giving.  It seems that our words & attitudes are laced with anger/frustration rather than with life.  We use our opinions and feelings as an excuse to behave in “life-taking” ways rather than behaving as givers of life.  Bottom line: as people who have been transformed by the good news of Jesus…there’s just no excuse for this. Before you give an excuse…remember…there is no excuse.

So, I thought I’d post some of the Life-Giving Church Values & Characteristics here for us to chew on. These come from Billy Hornsby & the ARC, the church planting organization that Stevens Creek is a part of.

Life-giving Church Values

  1. Relational. Life-giving churches prioritize authentic friendships.
  2. Relevant. Their message is relevant-It connects to the needs of everyday people… every day.
  3. Generous. Life-giving churches strive to “go the extra mile,” equally sacrificing together.
  4. Risk-taking. Life-giving churches and pastors are willing to do something new. They are not unwilling to fail.
  5. Inclusive. Life-giving churches believe that every believer can be in ministry and they encourage God’s gifts in each individual.
  6. Inspired. Their source is inspired by the truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for all they do.
  7. Focused. Their focus is edification of the believer and evangelism of the un-churched – the lost, the absent and the unfulfilled.
  8. Contemporary. Life-giving churches believe in engaging with our culture, embracing media & technology.
  9. Ancient. Their practice is ancient. They pray, study God’s word, serve, share Christ.
  10. Authentic. Pastors are authentic, real and transparent. No hierarchy, just servants in different capacities.
  11. Fun. Pastors of life-giving churches understand that experiencing joy in the journey and laughing together is a key ingredient to a healthy, life-giving church.
  12. Accepting. Their arms and hearts are open and accepting. They focus on the needs of people not on just “having church.”
  13. Powerful. Their lives are pure and powerful. There is a sense that the Holy Spirit is real and active in their services…something bigger than man.

A bit broken…

Love is intentionally doing something caring or helpful for another person, regardless of the cost or consequence.

I have a confession…I’ve never been that into the whole “social justice” thing.  I’m sure that sounds harsh.  It probably is.  I have felt like it’s a fad in the church that’s really hot right now.  That said, I do BELIEVE in serving people, caring for the under-resourced, reaching out to the hungry, poor and destitute.  I have just never reflected that in my BEHAVIOR.  I know that I am wired to walk into a room and to look for the leaders and/or potential leaders…it’s who I naturally see.  I’m not wired to naturally see the people who are in need.  My “gifting” has become my excuse.

2 weeks ago I helped lead (actually one our interns, Morgan Tomberlin, led it) a weekend missions experience to Seacoast’s Dream Center in North Charleston, SC.  Something in me started happening a couple of weeks before the trip, was ignited a little while I was there & has continued to burn since I’ve been home.  I hesitate to use this word, but I almost feel something “breaking” in me.  I feel a sense of brokenness towards the impoverished like I never have.

On that trip I witnessed how much we can actually help someone when we rally together, how much good we can do.  I also saw how open people are to the love of Jesus when they feel the tangible love of people.  I also stood back and watched how this can be lived out in a local church.  I was amazed.

Now I am not saying that my gifts & wiring have changed…I’m saying that my heart is changing.  I’m still a leader who loves leaders.  I want to develop as many young leaders as I can in my lifetime.  I want them to do more than I’ve ever done.  That said, I feel like for the first time, I may be becoming a leader who is really broken.  I hope that’s the case.

What I’m wrestling with right now is “How can I leverage what I HAVE, what I can DO & what I’m actually GOOD AT to help heal the broken state of so many people in our world?”

I’ll let you know if/when I ever figure out that answer.