• Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    5 Steps You can Take to Help Your Team Win

    2013-07-16 04.58.12Do you want to assure your team accomplishes a goal, task or project? Then there’s five steps, as a leader, you must take to increase the odds of your team being successful. By the way, in the spirit of transparency, I write these as much as reminders to myself as I do to be helpful to you.

    1. Put the goal, task or project clearly and concisely in writing – writing down a goal, task or project with the accompanying plan gives it a sense of permanency and significance. Making it clear includes defining success so your team knows when it has won. Also outline the steps and resources needed to win. Make sure it’s concisely written because by doing so it will make it more memorable.
    2. Measure and track progress on a regular basis – How often you measure and track your progress depends on duration of the goal or project. The shorter the horizon the more frequent you must measure and track. The farther out the horizon is the less frequently you need to measure and track progress. But no matter the horizon, don’t ever believe you can stop or avoid regular tracking and measurements. If you do, your team will soon flounder. The depth of your measuring and tracking will also depend on the track record of your team.
    3. Provide consistent and regular feedback If you’re appropriately consistent in measuring and tracking then you’ll be in the right place and posture to provide timely and helpful feedback. Feedback includes recognizing the good progress and providing correction if necessary.
    4. Stay with it till it’s accomplished and finished – Doing these five steps requires discipline on your part as a leader. If you lose sight of a goal, task or project eventually our team will as well. What you chose to focus on will be what your team focuses on, and what you chose not to focus on (or lose focus on) will eventually be what your team choses not to focus on as well.
    5. Celebrate – By doing these first four steps you will increase your team’s chances for success. This last step increases your team’s chances of success on the next project, task or goal. So celebrate, thank, reward, and affirm the good work your team does and they’ll be ready for the next challenge that comes their way.
  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Play and Lead as if You’re Behind

    Brady Hoke

    Winning and being on top is a great place to be personally and organizationally. There’s nothing like setting challenging goals, working hard to achieve them and then enjoying the sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing you and your team have won.

    Yet this place is one of the most dangerous places to be. We’re at our most vulnerable because winning and being on top is a very slippery and deceptive place.

    It’s slippery because no organization, team, or person wins all the time, nor sit on top forever (trust me I know this because I’m a Michigan football fan). This means we can never plan on or expect our lofty perch to last forever. There’s always a fall, a stumble or loss along the way.

    And this is exactly why being on top is so deceptive. The longer we’re on top the more it feels like it will last forever, that our organization is somehow immune to whatever causes others to lose or fail. We even begin to feel that we’ve earned the right to be in this place regardless of what we do going forward. We may even admit intellectually that this can’t last forever. Yet too often we never allow this intellectual ascent to descend into our heart and our emotional being. The result is we never truly change our behavior or our direction until we find ourselves no longer on top.

    So what can we do to protect ourselves and our organizations when we’re winning or sitting on top?

    Play and Lead as if we’re behind.

    We need to work as if the wolves are nipping at our heals, the barbarians are at the gate, that impending doom is sitting at our door. We can do this by always setting new goals, tougher standards, and expecting more from ourselves and our teams. If necessary, as leaders, we may need to find or create a crisis that reminds everyone that we’re much more vulnerable than we feel.

    Or sometimes it’s as simple as giving all the naturally pessimistic people on our team a voice and really listening to that voice. When we’re on top we lose our sense of urgency about change. Our job as leaders is to create that urgency again, in ourselves and in others. And finally we can never allow ourselves and our teams to make decisions from the perspective of being at the top. The only perspective in which we should make decisions is in the light of being behind.

    Finally, whatever we do, we cannot allow ourselves and our team to trust that feeling we have when we’re on top. Instead always, always we need to feel, play and lead as if we’re behind.

  • Marriage and Family

    28 Years Ago Seems Like Yesterday

    Today Denise and I celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. When I write “28” it sounds like such a long time ago, but the truth is, our wedding day seems like it was just yesterday. They have been the best 28 years of my life because I’ve been married to the  best woman in the world who also happens to be the love of my life (a nice combination).

    Earlier this summer a friend who was preparing to officiate her first wedding asked a number of us if we had any marriage advice she could use in her message to the bride and groom. Below is my answer, it’s simple but I believe it’s at the heart of why both Denise and I can happily, thankfully and joyfully celebrate 28 years of marriage today.

    “Apart from trust, shared expectations about what life should look like and be like is the most important aspect of a happy and successful marriage. It seems when marriages struggle or don’t make it, much of the time (apart from broken trust) it’s because the two people have different expectations about such things as kids, standard of living, life style issues, or where to live (in the city, in the country or the “burbs”).  Many expectations also revolve around roles within a marriage. These need to be worked out as early as possible. When there’s different, unstated, or misunderstood expectations then there’s always missed expectations. When there’s missed expectations disappointment, dismay, a sense of compromise and then bitterness can easily follow.  It’s important in a marriage to have a clear understanding about each other’s expectations, a clear plan on how to work out the differences, and then grace as you live out your plan.”

  • Living as a Leader

    April Gann – Loving Kids, Loving Staff, Loving Christ!

    April with some of her campers and staff

    This past Friday was April Gann’s last day as a SpringHill staff member (I know she’ll always be an ambassador, volunteer and advocate for SpringHill for as long as she and SpringHill are both around). It was a bittersweet day as staff and campers took the opportunity to celebrate her 12 years of ministry (in two different stints) with SpringHill.

    One of things I have always appreciated about April is her love for children, and in particular children from urban areas, and her love for our summer staff. These two loves, combined with her love of Christ, have led April to be a part of two significant startup teams during her tenure at SpringHill. First, April was on the start-up team, then the second director, for Storybrook, our 1 thru 3rd grade camp in Michigan. April helped cement the culture, program and focus of Storybrook that still exists today.

    Secondly, April has been instrumental in the startup and growth of our Day Camps ministry. Once again her love of kids and staff has helped this program grow to become a significant ministry of SpringHill. It’s become significant not just because of its reach to children but also because it’s become a desirable summer ministry opportunity for 100’s college students.

    Now April’s moving to inner city Detroit where she and her soon to be husband Josh will be taking up residence. Their goal is to continue, as April stated in her blog, “loving and serving the kids in our neighborhood” which, of course, is no surprise knowing April and the things she loves.

  • Living as a Leader,  SpringHill Experiences

    Blessed to be a Blessing to Others


    The Northrop’s and the Van Hall’s standing in front of Colin Ridge

    I’ve been trying for nearly 5 days to write about this past weekend’s celebration and dedication of Colin Ridge, our new housing unit for campers with special needs at our Michigan camp. It’s been hard for me to find the right words to both describe the event and how I feel. So I’ve finally decided to share with you some of what I said during summer staff worship on Sunday. It provides a glimpse into this moving event.

    First if you don’t know the story of the Van Hall’s, the Northrop’s and SpringHill (at least told from my perspective) click here to get caught up. Then read below the spirit of what I shared with our staff.

    “SpringHill has a rich history of incredible stories where God has miraculously brought people and resources together to accomplish significant initiatives that He’s used to transform the lives of 1000’s of young people. But the story of Arvin and Darlene Van Hall and a camper named Colin Northrop and his family has become one of my favorite SpringHill stories because of how God has both included me in it and allowed me to see His guiding hand in it all….

    But it’s also one of my favorite stories because of the people God brought together to accomplish His work. You see the Van Hall’s and the Northrop’s do not see the material, relational and the spiritual blessings they’ve received from God as something to hoard or keep, or own. From the beginning of this story I’ve witnessed their desire to share the blessings of their lives with others.

    Arvin Van Hall and Joe Yahner in front of “the seed”, the piece of pipe that started this story.


    The Van Hall’s and the Northrop’s understand the spiritual reality and Biblical directive that we are blessed to bless others, and by doing do we multiply the blessings, and build God’s Kingdom.”

    And the result is we now have a housing unit that will allow us to provide, every year and for decades to come, 100’s of campers with special needs an opportunity to see, hear, and experience Jesus Christ in a life-transforming way. And there’s no better story to be a part of than this Great Story.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Celebration and Dedication

    Jim and Kris Mestdagh, John and Marlene Boll

    This week we held a celebration and dedication for the recently renovated indoor pool at our Michigan camp. We invited everyone involved with the project, including staff, donors and the general contractors. It was a fun and inspiring afternoon.

    In the past we haven’t done a lot of these kinds of events and I’m not sure why. But over the last couple of years we’ve acknowledged, as an organization, the important role celebration plays in the life of an organization. So we’re trying to do a better job of finding reasons to celebrate, including celebrating and dedicating new or renovated buildings and activities at our camps.

    This effort to create a “culture of celebration” has led to my reflection on the question “what makes a great celebration?” Here’s my current answer:

    First, I believe, a celebration should be Christ centered, acknowledging the good things God has done or provided.

    Jenny Waugh and Ken Bailey from Rockford Construction

    Second, it should affirm those people God used to help these good things become realities.

    Finally, a celebration should inspire others to take part in God’s good work.

    But there was a second and equally important part of our afternoon and it was the dedication of the pool to God’s glory. An act of dedication reminds us that we’re stewards of something we don’t own. So in dedicating the pool to God, we symbolically gave back to Him what He’s entrust to our care, as if returning the master’s five talents with five more.

    So we all prayed, with hands joined together, that this pool building would be a useful tool in our work of helping young people see, hear and experience Jesus Christ in a life transforming way, and then celebrated His goodness which allows us the privilege to serve in such a way.

    Photography by Caitlin Crowley

  • Growing as a Leader,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    One Step Closer to Dunking a Basketball

    Our son Mitch just told my wife and I that he dunked a dodge ball for the first time yesterday. Dunking a basketball has been a goal of Mitch’s and yesterday’s feat was tangible evidence of his progress towards reaching his goal.

    He was proud of his accomplishment because, as he said, “it takes lots of small steps to accomplish a goal and yesterday was one of those steps in me dunking a basketball.” Our 16-year-old understands a powerful reality about reaching goals – if we want to accomplish a difficult task or reach a challenging destination we need to break it down into achievable steps and patiently work our way through those steps.

    This process of breaking down a goal, task or project into smaller steps does a number of important things that increases the odds we’ll reach our desired end.

    First, it forces us to think through, plan and count the cost of all that needs to be done to ultimately accomplish a goal. Mitch knows there’s more work to be done if he’s ever going to compete in a slam dunk contest.

    Second, if we ultimately don’t achieve our goal, we have the consolation of having improved and being in a better place than we were before we started. Yesterday Mitch jumped higher than ever before.

    Finally, and maybe the best reason for breaking down our goals into manageable steps, is it creates many opportunities for small victories which give us confidence and motivation to keep going forward. Dunking a dodge ball is a small victory and it fired Mitch up to keep moving along his journey to achieving his goal of dunking a basketball.

    What goal do you have that would become more achievable if you broke it down into smaller steps?

  • Organizational Leadership

    The Key to Becoming a Great Organization

    Photo by Denise Perry at the SpringHill Staff Christmas Party

    What’s the single most important factor in a successful organization? At SpringHill we answer, without hesitation, people. Winning organizations must have the best people in the right roles working effectively together.

    To this end we’ve committed ourselves over the last 10 years to becoming the kind of organization that the best people want to work for. The logic’s simple – if you want to be a successful organization you need the best people. To have the best people doing the best possible work you need to be the kind of organization that attracts, retains and inspires great staff.

    Now it’s one thing to say you want to be the kind of organization that attracts the best people, it’s another to be able to objectively say you’re making progress to that end. We faced this issue at SpringHill so decided a number of years ago to use an employee survey tool through the Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI). It’s a proven tool that provides survey over survey comparisons and benchmarks against other organizations on key factors measuring organization health.

    We take the survey every two years, not to win an award, but with the goal of identifying areas for improvement as well as areas we need to assure remain positive. It has become the “Key Indicator” of our organizational health and our impetus to continue becoming the best possible place for the best people to work.

    And our logic’s held true. As our BCWI scores have improved, indicating our improvement in organizational health, so have our other key measures including: annual campers served, camper retention, financial measures and most importantly our key spiritual measures of our campers and staff.

    Oh yes, we just took the survey and I’m thankful to announce SpringHill’s selection once again as a 2012 Best Christian Workplace.




  • Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Why Do You Spend Your Precious Time…?

    Yesterday we had one of our three yearly “all staff” meetings which follow each of our three “seasons”. Our agenda’s consistent for each meeting – we review the results of the completed season as well as the anticipated results of the upcoming season and year.

    It’s an opportunity to celebrate and pray together as well as ask questions, make suggestions and assure we’re aligned as a team.

    We want these meetings to be fun, informative, causal, real and helpful in achieving our goals. We speak frankly and with full transparency about how we’re performing and what’s needed in the months and years to come.

    At the end of this particular meeting, as a first in many discussions related to the task of re-articulating SpringHill’s vision statement, I asked our staff to begin to think, reflect and pray about the following three questions (taken from What to Ask the Person in the Mirror by Robert Steven Kaplan –see my 10/23/2011 post) .

    1. What do we (you) hope SpringHill will achieve in the years ahead?


    2. What’s special about SpringHill?


    3. Why do you spend your precious time and energy working for SpringHill?

    Over the next several months the answers to these questions will become key inputs into our vision re-articulation.

    But today I asked our team for some impromptu answers. Their responses were moving, inspiring, stunning and made me proud to be on this team.

    Here are just three of many answers (paraphrased) to question 3 our staff shared:

    “I’m able to fulfill God’s calling in my life of creating cool and inspiring environments that God can use to transform lives.”

    “God changed my life when I was a SpringHill camper, now I can help create the same life transforming experiences for other people.”

    We have a great start to this important task of brining new clarity to the SpringHill vision.

  • Marriage and Family

    Celebrating My Parents 50 Years of Marriage

    Our parents have blessed my brother, sister, me and our families in many, many ways. These blessings have formed us into the people we’ve become today.

    This past weekend Mom and Dad blessed us once again as we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Blessed because they’ve become role models of what a marriage should and can be not just in the short-term but over a long life.

    As I thought about their incredible accomplishment – 50 years of marriage – I asked myself a question. What can I learn from my parents and their marriage so Denise and I might one day have the same celebration? As I reflected on the possible answers I came up many things but a few that really stand out.

    First, Mom and Dad have loved each other. But it’s more than just love because we know many people who’ve love each other but their marriages haven’t lasted anywhere near 50 years.

    More than love Mom and Dad trust each other. Trust is a must in any relationship and it has to be trust that’s been built on consistency of behavior and agreed upon expectations.

    They have shared values. Shared values are essential if any relationship has a chance of surviving the crazy world in which we live.

    Mom and Dad are just plain committed to each other and to their entire family. This commitment lays the foundation that’s helped them over the years weather the storms of life.

    Finally our Mom and Dad have faith in Christ and have lived it out through their marriage and their commitment to their family.

    Now you see why the Perry family’s so blessed – to have living role models of what a marriage and family can be and to see the impact it can have for generations to come. It’s a gift of immeasurable value.

%d bloggers like this: