• Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    What’s Important Right Now?

    2013-03-24 02.30.17After the first game of our boys’ high school’s district basketball tournament (which they won) my son Mitch and I talked about his performance. He wasn’t happy in how he played and had begun to worry about its implications for next year’s season.

    In light of the district championship game two days away, I asked him, “in terms of basketball, what’s important right now?” He looked at me with this dawn of realization and said “to win Friday night’s game.” To which I said “You’re right, it’s the only thing you should be thinking about right now, because winning Friday’s game is the most important thing you and your team can do right now. You’ll have plenty of time to think about next season when this season’s done.”

    Mitch then looked at me and said “I’ve just had one of those ah-hah moments. ‘What’s important right now?’ is the question I need to ask myself every morning.”

    And of course Mitch is right, “What’s Important Right Now?” is a question every organization, every person in every organization, and frankly, all people need to ask themselves. It’s the question that keeps the right things in front of us and keeps the distracting issues off to the side. (Click here to see other important questions leaders and organizations need to ask)

    So the next day Mitch printed and framed this question “What’s Important Right Now?” and hung it in his room so he’d be focused on the right things, every day. Will you follow Mitch’s lead and ask yourself “what’s important right now“, every day? You and your team will thankful for the clarity it brings.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Leading by Asking the Right Questions

    085Leadership is more about asking the right questions than having all the answers.

    Implied in my last post, What’s Required to Lead Teams, Organizations and Movements, is the reality that best Organizational Leaders ask the right questions.

    That’s because asking the right questions creates dialogue, and dialogue is critical for creating shared vision and values, as well as creating a strong commitment to both the people and the organization’s mission. So the leader’s job is to ask the right questions and listen to all the answers and discussion that follows.

    Asking the right questions also requires asking the right people. In most organizations the right people included include employees, board members, customers, potential customers, volunteers and donors (for non-profits), and yourself. Of course it’s not always practical to ask every person in each category, but it’s important to find the right number of people in each group, remembering that the goal is to create dialogue, commitment, and clarity in the answers to the Right Questions.

    Finally, though it’s obvious, if leaders are to lead through asking the right questions it requires them to ask these questions with humility, to be truly open to hearing things they may not like to hear, to respect both the messages and the messengers, and finally, to have the wisdom to sort through the array of answers to find the common themes which, ultimately leads to the right answers.

    So what are the right questions that need to be asked?

    They’re questions that center on the four areas leaders need to lead – Organizational Thinking, People, Resources, and Self – discussed in my last two posts. Though there may be many right questions, you might want to begin with the questions SpringHill asks by clicking here (or see my page on the above right side of my blog called “Questions Leaderships Should Ask and Help Their Organization Answer”); they’re formatted into a checklist you can use to evaluate your own organization and its journey of asking and answering the Right Questions.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    What’s Required to Lead Teams, Organizations and Movements

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to leading others, whether it’s a team, an organization or even a movement, there are four areas that require leadership – an Organization’s Thinking, People, Resources, and Self.

    Let’s start with an Organization’s Thinking. Thinking is the way an organization sees the world and sees itself in the world, then through these lenses, develops a sense of what’s important, articulating its purpose and distinction as well as unity in its beliefs and aspirations.
    Thus the leader’s job is to bring clarity to each of these culture defining attributes by asking the right questions and creating the best dialogue.

    The second area in which a leader must lead is People. People not only desire to be a part of something significant (as defined in an Organization’s Thinking) they want to know where they fit and what they can do to contribute to the organization’s success. An organizational leader’s job is to provide clear answers to these questions for the People they lead.

    The third area of leadership is Resources. Resources include time, property, facilities, technology, money, intellectual properties, partnerships, and any other tools at the disposal of the organization for the purpose of advancing its mission. To lead an organization’s Resources requires setting clear priorities which maximum the use of these resources. It also requires continuously improving as well as assuring the growth of these resources so that the organization can achieve its vision.

    Finally a leader must lead Self by assuring their own time, focus, and attention’s aligned with the Organization’s Thinking, People and Resources. There needs to be a clear and visible sense of consistency, one that’s seen by anyone associated with the organization, between the leader and these other three areas. This can only be accomplished with honest self-evaluation and frank input from others.

    In my next post we’ll look at an approach to leadership that makes leading an Organization’s Thinking, its People, Resources and Self a reality.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Personal and Organizational Leadership and Why You Need Both

    121There’s an entire industry dedicated to helping people become leaders and much of it focuses on what I call Personal Leadership. Personal leadership encompasses those character traits and qualities a person needs to have to be an effective leader. This is especially true of the messages from authors and speakers who come at leadership through a Christian perspective.

    And it’s obvious why this is the case. Effective, world-changing leadership always begins with the leader. So it follows that helping people think and behave in a way conducive to being a leader is essential. We might even say it’s the first and most important step in leadership development.

    Unfortunately leadership development gurus, and leaders themselves, too often stop with personal leadership. This happens because we believe that the most important thing is, well, the only thing. But unfortunately, this is rarely true in life or in leadership.

    You see, people who want to be world-changing leaders, can and will only do so by leading others in the context of movements, teams, and organizations. And it’s in these contexts that a leader needs more than just personal leadership qualities. They need, what I call, Organizational Leadership

    Organizational Leadership includes those attitudes, perspectives and behaviors that move people from being a group of individuals to becoming a team, from being disorganized and unfocused to becoming aligned and disciplined, from doing a job to making a difference, and from just existing to changing the world.

    What does it take to practice Organizational Leadership? It requires leading in four specific and integrated areas:

    Organizational Thinking




    Each of these areas is critical to creating and leading teams, organizations and movements. In my next two posts I’ll outline their meaning and what it takes to lead in each.

  • Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    The Chief End of SpringHill

    064aWhen the reformers asked the question “why do we exist” or “what is the chief end of man?” They landed on a succinct answer – to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

    At SpringHill we’ve asked and answered our own version of the reformers’ question. We ask “what is the chief end of SpringHill?’ or more clearly “why do we exist?”

    And we answer these questions with our mission – To create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Our mission explains why God created SpringHill and why God continues to sustain it and give it a bright future.

    Another way to understand our mission is to see it as our calling, our vocation. God’s called us to create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

    So what exactly does the SpringHill mission mean? Let’s break it apart a bit.

    Create life-impacting experiences: SpringHill’s called to create life changing experiences we call the SpringHill Experience (SHX).

    Enable: We believe that God transforms lives and not the SHX, so our goal is to create SHX’s which help young people hear, see and experience Jesus in a life transforming way.

    Young People: This is who we’re ultimately called to serve, to reach out too, and who we ultimately create life transforming SHX’s for.

    To Know and Grow: Our chief end is to introduce Jesus to young people who may not know Him and to help those that do to grow in their relationship with Him.

    Relationship with Jesus Christ: Ultimately, if the chief end of a person is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever, than the only way we can fulfill this end is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    So this is SpringHill’s ultimate purpose, the reason we exist –
    to create life-impacting experiences that enable young people to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. When SpringHill fulfills its chief end enables young people to fulfill theirs – to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Dancing to Your Organization’s Music

    Christina Dancing

    There’s an old song by the band Genesis called I Can’t Dance which includes the lines “I can’t dance, I can’t talk. The only thing about me is the way I walk.” I can relate to these lyrics because they’re the words of someone who has no rhythm.

    And though I have no musical rhythm, my goal has been to create an organization that does; I want SpringHill to have rhythm so it can dance to the music of its annual work calendar.

    What does organizational rhythm look like? It’s when an organization’s structure, leadership, meetings, communication, reporting and planning align with the natural rhythm of its work.

    For example, at SpringHill, we discovered that we have three distinct seasons (winter, summer, and fall) and not the traditional 4 quarters. So we’ve organized board meetings, SpringHill wide staff meetings, and planning sessions around these three seasons. It allows us to evaluate the past season and plan the next.

    Then within each season all our teams meet after the middle of each month to review the monthly progress towards seasonal and annual goals. We also have weekly “huddles” where we review our weekly progress towards these same goals.

    During the next two weeks, for example, we have our monthly leadership team meeting, our winter board meeting and our winter SpringHill wide staff meeting. In each meeting we’re reviewing, discussing and evaluating all the same information – the evaluation of our 2012 results and the progress on our 2013 plan.

    And the beauty of having this rhythm is that at the end of this two-week period all our staff and board will be both informed, aligned, and focused on achieving our goals.

    So like dancing, having organizational rhythm, makes moving to your organization’s music easier, exciting, and more importantly, effective in achieving your goals.

  • Leadership,  Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Every Non-Profit’s Best Shot

    136When I coach basketball I tell players “a good shot may be the easiest one but not the best one, so work for the best shot”.

    And every once in a while I’ll hear a leader of a non – profit say “wouldn’t it be nice if we had one big donor who would cover all our needs so we won’t have to spend so much time fundraising?”

    And I always reply, like I do with basketball players I’m coaching, “yes, that would be good and it would be easier, but it wouldn’t be the best shot you can take for your organization.”

    And exactly what is the best shots for a not for profit organization to take?

    First, it’s simply to have donors.

    Second, is to have lots of donors.

    And third, an even better shot is to need all those donors to achieve your mission and vision.

    Why are these the best shots for a non – profit?

    First, because, as Jesus said, “where’s one’s treasure is, so is one’s heart” (Mt 6:21). So if you want people’s hearts with your organization, you need a bit of their treasure.

    Second, when people hearts are with your organization they’ll do more than just financially support you, they’ll volunteer, promote and endorse your work.

    Thirdly, having many donors provides a broad level of accountability. With few donors, the accountability isn’t broad and the possibility exists that the accountability will not represent the interest of all those involved with the ministry.

    Finally, being dependent on a large numbers of donors keeps an organization appropriately humble; open to input, and listening for opportunities to better serve.

    So remember, don’t just take a good shot for your organization even if it’s an easy one, instead work for the best shot and your organization will benefit for years to come.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The One Ingredient Necessary for Any Team’s Success

    Our exclusive IN Food Service Teams from the past 3 summers
    Our exclusive IN Food Service Teams from the past 3 summers

    We’ve just hired a new Food Services Director for our Michigan overnight camp. Her name is Ann Marie and she moved here all the way from Texas. On her first night in Michigan she had dinner with Joel Hamilton, our Site Director, and her son in our New Frontiers Dining Hall. It was a Saturday night of one of our Winter Retreats.

    And it just so happened that my wife Denise and I were also in the Dining Hall so we joined them for dinner where Ann Marie asked both Denise and I what we’d like to see in our Food Service program. I answered that I wanted people to brag about the food, the service, and entire dining experience.

    My wife, on the other hand had the far better answer. She told Ann Marie, “I hope working in the Dining Hall becomes the most desirable job at SpringHill”

    Why is Denise’s answer a far better one? Because accomplishing any great vision or achieving any big goal starts with having the right people. And the only way to have the right people is for the right people to want to be on your team. Which means you need to be the kind of organization that the right people want to work for.

    And I know this is to be true, even in Food Service, because this is exactly what our Indiana overnight camp has accomplished over the last few years. Under the leadership of our Operations Director, Keith Rudge and his Food Service managers, working in our Indiana Food Service Department has become one of the most desirable jobs at camp. And the result has been an ever-increasing quality of food and better dining experience.

    So after watching Joel, Ann Marie and her team work these past few weeks, I have no doubt they’ll exceed both Denise’s and my expectations and, more importantly, they’ll accomplish what our Indiana Food Service team has so beautifully accomplished over these past few years.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    How to play your first Game like it’s Mid-Season

    197This weekend I watched our SpringHill Michigan team perform during our second Winter Teen Retreat of 2013. And frankly, it seemed like it was our seventh retreat because it went so smoothly. Yet I know this didn’t just happen, instead it was the result of our team’s good work before the first retreat.

    So what was that good work our team did leading them to perform at a mid-season level in our second weekend? Well our team took four intentional and necessary steps to be ready. First, they created a plan, second they prepared, and then they practiced before they ever played the first Winter Retreat.

    Let’s take a closer look at the four steps our team took look:

    Planning: plans require setting measurable goals and then mapping out in detail how to achieve these goals.

    Preparation: preparation is where the identification and the gathering of all the resources necessary to successfully work a plan takes place. A plan without resources is just a dream.

    Practice: once the necessary resources are in hand then practice and rehearsal provides insight into what needs to be re-planned and what resources are still needed. It also builds the confidence and habits required to win. This step is the one most often skipped, yet as any coach knows, without practice a team will not be ready for the game.

    Play: playing is the outcome of the first three steps. And, as coaches know too well, how the team plays is 100% dependent on the game plan, the preparation, and most importantly, the practice a team’s had before the game.

    And so, because our team worked through the first three steps before taking the fourth, this second retreat went as we’d expect our seventh one to go, which a good for our team, but even better for our campers.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Why I’m Not a Lions Fan (and what it would take for me to be one in the future)!

    Detroit lions fanI’m 50 years old and having lived my entire life in the state of Michigan, I’ve always been a Detroit Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings and, until recently, a Lions fan. And, as a result, during my 50 years I’ve celebrated two World Series championships, three NBA championships, four Stanley Cups, and one NFL playoff victory.

    Yes, that’s right. The Lions have won one playoff game during my half century of life. Now I’m not greedy, I’m happy to be a Tiger’s fan and win a World Series every 25 years. I just need to know that my teams are doing what it takes to win and then actually bringing home a championship every couple of decades.

    So, being a student of organizations and leadership, the question I’ve often asked is why have the Lions won just one playoff game while Detroit’s other professional sports franchises have won multiple world championships during the past 50 years? Well it’s not because of the players, coaches or management, since they’ve changed a dozen times during the past 5 decades.  Nor is the city, because if it was, our other professional teams wouldn’t have won any championships either. There’s only one answer that makes any sense, because there’s only one common denominator found during the past 50 Lion’s seasons – the ownership.

    This isn’t surprising because winning always starts at the top. So if there hasn’t been a NFL championship in 50 years it has to be because of the leadership at the top. I know this to be true because in every organization I’ve been a part of, winning, and losing, always started at the very top.

    So a number of years ago I gave up being a Lions fan, along with the frustration and broken heart that come with being a Lion’s fan, until the day comes when they have new ownership.  It’s the only change I believe will lead to consistent winning, the one that could lead to the Lions winning a Super Bowl

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