5 Ways to Build Trust with your Team

Without trust, a church staff or ministry team simply won’t function at its best. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog the author quoted some dismal statistics about the workplace which probably hold true in the ministry realm as well. In this post I suggest 5 ways to build trust with your team.

Photo by Civilian Scrabble

According to the 2013 Edleman Trust Barometer, fewer than 20% of respondents believe leaders are actually telling the truth when confronted with a difficult issue in their organizations. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and Interaction Associates in 2013 found only 34% of organizations had high levels of trust in the places they work. And, a paltry 38% reported that their organizations had effective leadership running the show.

To cap off a small sliver of dismal data points, research firm Gallup found that over a twelve-year period between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of engaged employees in the workforce has shifted between 26% and 30%. That is, roughly 70% of employees in today’s organizations have spent more than a decade essentially collecting a paycheck, an almost Shakespearean spectacle of tragic ambivalence.

Wow, if only 1/3 of our church staff teams experience a high level of trust, then we have a lot of work to do. Here are five simple ways to build trust with your team.

  1. Intensity personal relationships. John Maxwell was right when he said that, “People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Although depending on the size of your staff you many not have time to build strong relationships with everybody, at least do so with your key players.
  2. Share when you’ve failed. When others hear from us when we fail and what we learned from our failures, we endear ourselves to them. When you mess up, admit it.
  3. Don’t abuse your authority. If you’re in a place of leadership over others, don’t lead from position. Lead from character. Lead in such a way that others would want to follow you.
  4. Invite input from your team. We seldom know all the answers. When we invite input from our team, we give them ownership of the ministries and the changes we want to implement. And ownership builds trust.
  5. Never, never, never condescend. When people feel patronized and condescended to, they deeply resist. A friend once shared with me that during a session with his supervisor he felt so patronized that he had to stifle his laughter by the incredulous comments she made. She made herself out to be a know-it-all and made the employee feel like a dummy.

What has helped you build trust in your teams?


“I just learned 5 ways to build trust in my teams.” (tweet this quote by clicking here).


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Ask Yourself these 7 Simple Questions to Clarify your Personal Values

Every pastor needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.

Photo by dtwash

Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.

In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise. Daniel and his three friends best exemplify these values.

Data Overload: Is Your Church Guilty of Infobesity?

In today’s world we’re bombarded with information overload. One author coined this problem infobesity (Pearrow, 2012) to describe this data overload. When we get too much data our thinking brain shuts down to new information. British psychologist Dr. David Lewis coined a term to describe what happens from infobesity as ‘Information Fatigue Syndrome.’ Symptoms include burnout, a compulsion to constantly check email or the web, poor concentration, hostility (Elwart, 2013), and anxiety caused by over stimulating our brain’s emotional centers. Sometimes churches can be guilty of infobesity. Is yours?

In 2012 this amount of information was produced every single minute and it grows each year (Elwart, 2013).

  • 72 hours of video posts
  • 347 blog posts
  • 700,000 Facebook entries
  • 30,000 tweets
  • 2 million e-mails sent
  • 12 million text messages

Unfortunately the church can be guilty of overloading people with information as well. What might indicate that your church is guilty of infobesity? Consider these 5 indicators.

  1. You pack your Sunday bulletin with so many inserts about activities that the inserts get dropped all over the floor after the service.
  2. Your announcements last longer than 3 minutes.
  3. Your announcements include more than 3 items.
  4. At your staff meetings you get dizzy thinking about all the stuff that “needs” to be communicated.
  5. You send out more than one weekly email to church members about church events.

So if you think your church is guilty, what can you do to address it?

  1. Clarify your church’s vision and don’t do stuff that doesn’t reinforce it.
  2. Learn to say no to marginal events and ministries.
  3. Prioritize what’s most important and make sure those priorities get priority communication.
  4. Align all your communication venues (announcements, bulletin, enews, other printed collateral) so that they all reinforce your priorities.
  5. Develop an annual calendar so you can see what events might compete with each other.

How have you dealt with infobesity in your church?


“I just learned how to deal with infobesity in my church.”(tweet this quote by clicking here).


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References:

Elwart, S. (2013) Information overload making your head explode? [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/information-overload-making-your-head-explode/> [Accessed 24 April 2013].

Pearrow, M. (2012) Infobesity: Cognitive and Physical Impacts of Information Overcomsumption. Available from: <http://distworkshop.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/dist2012_submission_8.pdf>.

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from my Dogs

I love dogs. We’ve owned as many as four at one time. One currently makes her home with us. Lulu (in the picture on the left) is a combination of a cat, a rat, and a dog. She’s as quick as a cat and looks like a hybrid rat-dog. She was a stray when we took her in “for just a few days until we find her owner.” We became the owners. On the other hand, P-nut was our registered Chihuahua. I had the agonizing job of taking him to the vet last year to have him put to sleep. But he was a funny doggie. He was missing most of his teeth. And sometimes his lip got stuck on his remaining molars so that he sported an Elvis look (no kidding). When I reflect about our relationship with our dogs, I’ve learned these five lessons from them that apply to me as a pastor or to any leader.

Leadership lessons from dogs.

  • Consistent: They are pretty much the same day in and day out. They don’t get moody. They’re not angry one minute and kind the next. They “show up” the same way every time I come home: they are glad to see me.
    • Leaders should be consistent with their followers. Your followers and/or staff shouldn’t have to wonder who’s going to show up each day. They shouldn’t have to wonder if you’ll be in a good mood or a bad mood.
  • Grateful: When I give them a treat, they are always glad to get it. Their tails wag, their body shakes with glee, and they truly appreciate that chicken sliver or doggie biscuit I toss them.
    • Leaders should be the most grateful people in every church, ministry, or organization. After all, we get the privilege of leading and influencing others toward a cause greater than ourselves. God puts leaders in places of leadership and when He does, gratefulness to Him should fill our hearts.
  • Baggage laden: This one may seem odd, but it’s true. When we picked up Lulu off the streets when we lived in California, we had no idea when or where she was born. All we knew was that she was skittish and skinny. We loved her, yet if I raise my hand too quickly, she cowers. Apparently her prior owners beat her.
    • Every leader carries his or her own baggage. We don’t emerge from childhood without some broken places. Healthy leaders aren’t afraid to discover their broken places. When leaders become self-aware of them, they seek help to repair them and realize that God can redeem them for good.
  • Content: Both P-nut and Lulu modeled contentment. I don’t believe they had a worry in the world. I believe they knew that all their needs would be met. So, they didn’t fret about where their next meal or comfy blanket would come from (they have several).
    • Leaders trust the Lord that He will provide, care for, and guide them in any circumstance. Hebrews 13.5 reminds us that … “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
  • Restful: Both dogs knew how to rest. In fact, they took multiple naps every day. When they got tired, they slept.
    • Good leaders know and practice Sabbath rhythms. While they certainly work hard, they also get enough sleep, take days off, take vacations, and quiet their souls before the Lord daily. As one friend often said, ” We must Divert daily… Withdraw weekly… Abandon annually.”

If you have a dog, what lessons have you learned from it?


“I just learned 5 leadership lessons that a dog can teach us.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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How a Leader’s Brain Works, Part 2

In my previous post I explained how two basic systems operate in a leader’s brain. In today’s post I give an example to illustrate how this process might work in real life. Here’s an excerpt, however, to bring you up to speed.

“The brain’s overall operational process incorporates two sub-processes: the X-system, from the ‘x’ in the word reflexive and the C-system, from the ‘c’ in the word reflective (Lieberman, 2006). The X-system engages the parts of the brain that act spontaneously and impulsively (our emotional centers, the low road). The C-system engages parts of the brain that act with intention and think before acting, our thinking center (the prefrontal cortex, the high road route). This system also helps regulate emotional reactivity.”

Let’s say I’m hiking in the woods and I see what I think is a snake I’m about to step on. My short route response, called the low road (Foley, 2003) quickly shuttles information to my emotional center (limbic system) and then to my peripheral nervous system. Among many body responses, the peripheral nervous system increases blood flow and respiration and instantaneously directs the muscles in my foot to avoid stepping on the snake. It helps me quickly respond to the perceived danger.

At the same time the long route process (the high road) sends that signal to my sensory cortex and then to my thinking center. It then recruits the brain’s memory center, to check for any data about snakes already stored in the brain’s memory. It then sends its assessment back to the emotional center. Because my emotional center processed this as a snake, my body has already instantaneously reacted to direct me to plant my foot in a different place, any place but on the snake.

However, as my thinking center assesses the situation it compares it to maps already in the brain about a snake’s color, size, movement, and so on. In relative terms it’s slower than the low road, but only a fraction of a second slower. It may determine that the rattlesnake was simply a coiled vine that my emotional center interpreted as a snake. As a result, it begins to down-regulate my emotions and my body’s response. I now don’t have to worry because vines don’t bite. Although my body is still tensed and my heart rate has jumped, my thinking center now tells my body it can calm down and not be alarmed. In diagram form it looks like this.

How a leader's brain works, part 2. Dr. Charles Stone

This same process can happen in a meeting with your board. Someone may say something that immediately feels like a threat (the low road, the X-system). But as your thinking center assesses what he says it helps you realize that his words don’t truly present a threat. So instead of internally stiffening up in fear or verbally reacting in defense, your brain can help you calm down (the high road, the C-system) so that you can stay fully engaged in the conversation. The key is to pay attention to these internal signals. The low road provides the quick response, needed at times, and the high road response, although slower, more accurately assesses the situation.

This same process occurs with any intense emotion. Your brain will act the same way if you unexpectedly bump into Tom Cruise or Gwyneth Paltrow at the grocery store or even meeting someone you don’t know someone at a party. As with seeing a snake, your heartbeat will jump, your respiration will increase, and your blood pressure will rise. You brain’s emotional center will initiate the stress response even if our ‘survival’ is not threatened, although not looking dumb in front of Tom might qualify as a survival situation.

In my 33 plus years in ministry leadership I’ve sometimes taken the low road and reacted in anger to a staff person, become defensive at someone’s critical comment, or acted like a jerk in the heat of the moment. In those cases, my brain’s X-system overrode its C-system and I gave in to my emotions. I didn’t wait long enough for my thinking brain to inform my actions so that I could respond in a Spirit-directed way.

When the X-system gets overloaded, two processes occur that can suppress the C-system: hormones enter our blood stream and neurotransmitters flood our brain. When that happens we can respond in these ways.

  • Emotional accelerators can diminish our impulse control.
  • The reactive parts of our brain can take over and we can become defensive.
  • Objectivity can diminish.
  • We don’t listen well to others because our brains can’t concentrate on other’s viewpoints without prematurely framing our own responses.

And the writer of Proverb speaks to what happens when we act impulsively rather than respond thoughtfully. (NIV)

  • It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. (19.2)
  • It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows. (20.25)
  • There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. (29.20)

What indicators in people you’ve been around evidence that their X-system overruled their C-system? What does the X-system look like in leaders?


“I just learned how two systems in our brain affect how we act and lead.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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References:

Foley, D. (2003) Emotions and the Brain: Fear. Science. Available from: [Accessed 7 March 2013].

Lieberman, M.D. (2006) Social Cognitive Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes. Annu. Rev. Psychol., (58), pp.259-89.