Forgotten your “why?”

Leaders often dive into implementing a plan or moving from one big idea to another. There can be extremes! Whether you’re focused on implementation or dreaming big, you can’t forget your “why”.  It’s what gives you the go/no go filter necessary to healthy leadership. Forget your “why” and you’ve lost your bearings. Find your “why” and you’re laser focused to hit your mark.

So how do you find your “why”? A few simple questions can help:

  1. What motivates me to pursue my passion?
  2. What passion fills my time?
  3. What am I giving my time to fulfill?

Answer these three questions and you’ve found your “why”.

4 Ways to Waste Your Influence

My mentor John Maxwell says “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less”. But what happens when that influence is squandered? Are there signs to heed along our leadership journey that give us fair warning that our influence is “less” than it could be? I believe so. Here are four ways to waste your influence and leave your leadership lacking:

1. Forget your “why?”

2. Pursue your tail.

3. Neglect who matters.

4. Leave “well enough” alone.

Over the next four posts, let’s discover together what each of these influence wasters look like and how we can avoid them!

Character Matters

I was recently flying from Denver back home to Dallas. I had just spent three days at the annual Peacemaker Conference. I enjoy flying an airline that lets you choose where you sit, so I immediately scanned the plane to find a bulkhead or emergency row seat. There in the first row was an open middle seat. A bulkhead with plenty of leg room for this 6’5″ long legged guy to enjoy his 2 hour flight home! As I approached the seat with great relief and anticipation, the two gentlemen seated on the row said in unison “They are saving this seat for a man in a wheelchair.” Being the kindhearted, compassionate guy I am, I moved on to take a seat two rows back in a cramped middle seat thinking how great it was that an airline would think to provide a convenient bulkhead ride for a wheelchair bound person. 

An hour into the flight as I enjoyed my peanuts and ginger ale, I happened to glance forward to notice the two men in the bulkhead row sprawled out with no one in the middle seat. My first thought could have been “I guess the wheelchair man must have missed the flight.” But that wasn’t my first thought. It went something like this: “Those lying jerks! Here I am scrunched into a middle seat with leg cramps and they’re taking advantage of luxury!” I wanted to call the attendant over and ask if that seat was being saved for a wheelchair guy. I found myself stewing over being duped and deceived into forced contortionist seating far less comfortable. As the flight landed, I caught myself thinking “I’ve got to know if if they were telling the truth.” However, in that moment, I chose to deplane without asking the attendant about the seat.

 I reflected on that incident and came to the conclusion that my character was showing and it mattered that I did not make a scene. I could have acted on my judgmental thoughts but chose to extend grace. My selfish desires were driving my thoughts. My wanting comfort was battling my contentment. Character matters. Whether those two men hatched a deceitful plot or not, it did not warrant an over reactive response on my part. After all, why not rather be wronged. Did I mention that I had just been infused with biblical teaching from the Peacemaker conference? 

This small incident underscored the reality of our moment by moment struggle with influence. I recognized the battle in my soul as my feelings of being deceived fueled my thoughts of judgmentalism toward these two men. With a whispered prayer, I submitted my agenda to the influence of God’s mission: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.”-Hebrews 12:15. 

When small offenses happen and you fill in the blanks missing facts, it quickly becomes a battle of influence between your fleshy selfish desires against the influence of the Spirit. A holy pause allows us to respond with a gracious stroll through the garden where fruit of the Spirit is ripe for the picking (choosing). May you seek to allow the character of Christ to be reflected in the small details of your life. That is the definition of God’s sovereignty. Character matters!

S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leaders Take 

(Final post of 7 in series)

Here you are at the end of serving others by leading through conflict. Now it’s time for you to take. 

Take is a verb for leaders having walked with others through a conflict. Leaders take next steps to follow up once the process has finished. This was historically the most difficult part of the entire conflict coaching process for me personally. It’s not that I didn’t want to follow up, it’s that I didn’t want to stir up what had been resolved and I thought it best to leave good enough alone. How tragic! I missed so many more opportunities to minister to people by not following up with them.

I’ve grown to understand the value of a well timed, appropriate point of emotional connection. The spiritual encouragement that comes from following up is a balm the Lord uses in the healing process. Here are a few suggestions in establishing best practices as you follow up:

1. Schedule a visit two weeks after the final meeting. Let them know you’d like to meet with them individually. During these one on one conversations, focus on these three statements:

“Thank you for…” This is your opportunity to tell them what you saw in their character during the conflict. Highlight how you saw them allow the Holy Spirit to influence them.

“I’m looking forward to…” Share your vision of God’s best continuing to work in their lives. Using Scripture to lay a foundation of hope.

“How may I come alongside if needed?” Many people need more help to get through the emotional obstacle course of re-engaging a relationship once severe conflict has torn at the fabric of trust. Provide resources as needed.

2. Schedule a meeting with all involved three months after the final meeting. This follow up is to cover the following:

– Review agreements and accountability. Remind them of the action steps they agreed to as noted in the process. How are they doing? Where do they need to be pushed toward action? Where can you affirm them?

“How are you?” Allow each to share how they are really doing emotionally and spiritually as they piece together the newly forged relationship.

“How are we?” This question can be a bit scary for us as leaders. It opens the door for them to vent about any aspect of our leadership that may have been painful for them during the process. It’s a great opportunity for us to model for them how to respond with grace and compassion.

– Finally, remind them of how God was faithful. I like to call this the Joshua 4 exercise. Have them read that passage of Scripture and note what God asked and why He asked it of them. End on an encouraging high note!

Now, go and lead well through conflict as a S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leader!

S.E.R.V.A.N.T Leaders Note

(Post 6 of 7)

Walking through conflict requires a leader to be attentive to the dialogue. Here are a few key ways to help those in conflict come to an agreement and move forward:

– Capture specific points along the way and note them as mutual agreements. 

– Create a written document that provides appropriate accountability. Suggest third party resources for assistance after your involvement.

– Bullet point steps moving forward while capturing points to celebrate. This can be done by listening for “buzz words”; those emotional, sometimes passive statements that speak to the heart and motivation behind a statement. 

– Formulate a plan of action directly linked to the solution; measurable yet simple. Bullet point lists work well to simplify agreements on moving forward.

– Note positive agreements, points of confession, and forgiveness granted by those involved. Point out these areas of agreement and celebrate the fact they agree!

Finally, prepare this document for the parties in conflict to sign and take with them. Their action items serve as conversation for follow up.

The final post in the S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leader series will focus on follow up and what taking next steps look like.

S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leaders Acknowledge

(Post 5 of series)

When leading others through conflict, there is a need for your leadership to take on great depth of discernment in helping to acknowledge hurts, fears, and hopes.

A creative way to do this is to draw two horizontal lines significantly spaced above/below one another on a flip chart or dry erase board and communicate that distance between expectations and reality as disappointment. Expectations the top line, reality the bottom line.

One of two things must change. Either lower your expectations or raise the bar on reality. Otherwise, the disappointment of the situation will continue to provide fuel to hurts and fears in the conflict.

These disappointments do three things:

1. Breed hurt that must be addressed relationally

2. Foster fears that require definition to unveil unknown variables

3. Provide opportunities to infuse hope

Leaders who take time to acknowledge the hurt, fears, and hopes are more inclined to bring the conflict toward resolution and the next step in S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leadership: Note Agreements.

The next post in the series will guide you in doing just that.

Get your copy of Eric’s book

Breathing Space: Breathing SpaceA Respite for Ministry Leaders

Customer Review from

While there a tons of leadership books talking “to” leaders, this book is different because it actually invites leaders to stop and listen – listen to God’s Word, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Using a set of thought provoking prompts, Breathing Space is a workbook to guide leaders in a monthly sabbatical retreat (a six hour block of uninterrupted time). As a seminary professor, the lack of Sabbath is one of the greatest dangers in leaders today. Use this book to build “breathing space” into your life.

S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leaders Value

(Post 4 of series)

Value the person, vent the issues.

This one concept, when practiced, can revolutionize the way those in conflict respond to your leadership! Everybody wants to be heard and those in conflict want their agenda to be validated, supported, and adhered to in order for the issue to be resolved. And therein lies the problem. When two or more in conflict expect their agendas to win out over others, it is a recipe for conflict. As a leader, your role is not to determine who is right and who is wrong, but to provide the perspective of what is right. Here a few tips on navigating the choppy waters of expectations and agendas:

– Separate the person from the behaviors.

What a person does points to who they are bringing to the conflict. Some behaviors are flesh driven and others ares influenced by the Spirit. Teachable moments happen in this space of connecting knowledge to understanding. You can reinforce a persons identity in Christ by simply reminding them that what they did in the conflict either agrees or disagrees with who they are. Allow them to come to an understanding by asking questions that lead them to a deeper grasp of the true battle between their flesh and the Spirit. What they did is tied to one of those two influences. Separate the person from the behavior in order to evaluate and correct any false meanings they’ve attached to their agenda.

– Find character traits that affirm the persons worth.

Often in the heat of conflict and the chaos of conversation, an individual will become frustrated and flustered because they have an overwhelming sense to be right. Good leadership will take those moments and affirm the person which in turn underscores the value of pursuing peace. Affirm those traits that reflect Christlike attributes which will move the conversation toward solution. If you sense the individual is stuck on making sure their point is heard, pull them back from a myopic view into a more eternal perspective which reminds them of their worth regardless of the current situation. Who they will be when they walk out is not dependent upon an agreement over this conflict. Their worth is defined by whose they are, not what they’ll accomplish in this meeting.

– Speak to issues matter of fact with tact and respect.

One of the most difficult pieces of communication is the biblical command to “speak the truth in love”. Many people can speak the truth and many people can speak in love, but not many can do both. Here’s a simple way to model for people how to do it. To speak the truth in love; affirm the relationship, say what needs to be said, and then affirm the relationship again. When something needs to be said, just say it with tact and respect. Crouching the truth between relational affirmations creates an environment where people can hear the needed perspective.

– Ask questions to help the individual come to appropriate conclusions regarding issues.

Have you noticed how Jesus responded from the throngs of people down to the intimate conversations with individuals? He asked intentional, provocative questions in order to guide and teach. We as leaders are wise to follow this proven method especially in working with those in conflict. You will undoubtedly see the issue long before the individual picks up on it. To serve them well, lead them to their own conclusion by asking intentional and at times provocative questions. Focus your questions on the open ended, introspective type of “how”, “why”, and “what” questions that require the person to look at their personal responsibility in the conflict.

In the next post, we will learn how to Acknowledge the hurt, the fears, and the hope.

S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leaders Reaffirm

(Post 3 of a series) 

When conflict stares us down and requires a response, our overthinking can get in the way. After establishing a solid plan of Carefrontation, it is important to pause in order to make a few affirmations. 

 – Reaffirm your commitment to the process

When the conflict seems to break down, make a point to remind participants of the process to ensure their concerns will be dealt with. Attempt to identify what is keeping the process from moving forward by asking “What do need in order to move forward?” And “Let me remind you of what’s coming next in the purpose of our process.”

 – Reaffirm a commitment to the people involved.

When the emotions of the conflict become heightened, pause to affirm those involved. Their emotion is evidence of their perceived value to work through the difficult conversation. A statement to refocus is “Thank you for expressing yourself. That shows how important reconciliation is to you. Let me encourage you to say what you need to say without the accusatory tone. Keep your words focused on the content of what you want to say and how best to say it in a way that honors the other person.”

 – Reaffirm the agreed upon goals and objectives.

There may be a time in working through conflict when participants need to be reminded why they are there. “Thank you for continuing to work so hard on getting to an agreement. As a matter of fact, you’ve already agreed on a few things like_____________.  You’re doing a good job getting to your goals and objectives. Let’s go over them again.”

S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Leaders Engage

This post is Part 2 continuing our look at leading through conflict. Please read previous posts for context.

Engage appropriately

One of the least acknowledged issues we as leaders face when attempting to walk others through the pain of conflict is the personal impact of other’s conflict on our own emotions.

How often have you felt yourself becoming frustrated or angry with the very person you’re trying to help? It is common. What’s not common is a healthy response to those feelings. That’s why I challenge leaders to reframe or think differently about their role. It begins with understanding Carefrontation opposed to Confrontation. As you engage the conflict, remind yourself of God’s perspective:  Relationship always supersedes the circumstances.

When you sense your frustration level rising, simply pause to ask for the Spirit to calm your heart, clear your agenda, and work His will through you.

Carefrontation is a term coined to set the stage for engaging appropriately. The negative baggage associated with the concept of confrontation requires a different approach. Your attitude will determine whether the person experiences care or walks away feeling conned. Carefrontation is your opportunity to speak truth in such a way that the individual not only hears your concern, but feels the compassion in which you express it.

As you can imagine, this is no easy task! Here are a few pointers on creating an atmosphere of carefrontation:

– Prepare your posture, positioning, and presence to reflect a welcoming and warm interaction. Smile. Lean slightly forward when listening, keep your eye contact consistent with the person who is talking. Especially keep eye contact when talking; shifty eyes send an unsettling message.

– Craft your words with intentionality. As you are led by the Spirit in speaking into the situation, be gentle with what is said and how it is stated. Steer away from words that communicate blame, cynicism, sarcasm, and coarseness. Rather, speak life into the other person with encouragement in a tone just under the tone of the other person.

-Acknowledge what is said by affirming you’ve heard them rather than affirming the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what they have stated.

-Follow a process that allows those in conflict to walk away with a sense of being heard. The process I use is one established through Peacemaker Ministries and can be found with many other useful resources at their website here.

Finally, in order to engage appropriately, leaders must put their presumptions of fixing the conflict aside. Trust The Lord to move in hearts and remember you are there to serve well.

In our next post, we will look at the R in the S.E.R.V.A.N.T. acrostic… Reaffirm the Goal.