• 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.

  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    Selecting a Summer Camp for the Kids You Love – Part 2 Leadership and Camping Philosophy

    152As I stated in my last post there are four critical areas you want to understand when evaluating a summer camp for the child your love.

    The first area you want to know is the camp’s leadership and its camping/programming philosophy.

    So let’s start with the questions you should ask about leadership followed by questions to ask about the camp’s programing philosophy.


    1. Who is the Executive Director? How long has he or she work for the camp? How long have they been in this position? Have they worked at other camps or in other fields?

      You want to find a seasoned camping professional who has 10 or more years of camping or related experience. Running a safe and effective camp requires experience.

    2. Who’s on the board of directors?

      You’re looking for a board of experienced, business, educational, and ministry leaders who can provide the appropriate oversight to the camp.

    3. What kind of experience does the other senior leaders of the camp have,  such leaders as program and  facilities directors?

      Once again you’re looking for both a minimum of 5 or more years of experiences in camping and in other related fields.

    Camping/Programming Philosophy:

    1. What is the camp’s mission? What does the camp promise to provide your kids?

      It’s important to understand the camp’s promised impact on your kids to see if it matches your expectations and desires for a camp experience.

    2. What is the programmatic theme? Is it focused on athletics, adventure, classic camp, spiritual focus? Is it high energy or laid back?

      The camp should be able to articulate their programmatic philosophy so you can evaluate it against what’s best for your kid.

    And remember the camp you’re researching should be able to clearly and easily articulate answers to all of these questions either on their website, brochures or by talking with camp staff. If this information isn’t readily available then the camp’s not the place you want to send the kids you love.

    In my next post we’ll look at the critical area of staffing policies and practices.

    Also check out “Why Kids Need Camp”

  • 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.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Leadership

    General Norman Schwarzkopf and My Office Chair

    OOn December 28, 2012, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf died. In the early 1990’s General Schwarzkopf led coalition troops in Operation Desert Storm to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion forces. Because of his plain speech, clarity of conviction, love for his soldiers, and his skilled work as a general, those under his command as well as the public, including me, admired, respected and loved “Stormin’ Norman”.

    At the time of the war I was working for Steelcase, assigned to their wood furniture division. As American troops were preparing for war word spread throughout Steelcase that General Schwarzkopf’s staff, in putting together the General’s command center in Saudi Arabia, had bought up the inventory of Steelcase Breton chairs from a Saudi Steeclase dealer (a chair manufactured by our division).

    This meant that “Stormin’ Norman” would be leading and directing the war against Iraq sitting in one of our chairs.

    It also meant, because I too had a Breton chair in my office, I now sat, and led, from the same chair as General Schwarzkopf. So as strange as it sounds, sitting in the same chair of this great American general inspired me. I somehow believed that if General Schwarzkopf could lead from a Breton chair, then so could I.

    As a result I never gave up that chair. When I left Steelcase I asked if I could take it with me. They kindly gave it to me as a gift. And ever since then that Breton chair has traveled with me to every assignment and office I’ve been in, including the past 15 years at SpringHill.

    Now I believe God loves irony. He uses it to make us stop and think. Which He did once again because, within a week of General Schwarzkopf’s death, my beloved Breton chair broke, sadly the chair literally snapped off its base.

    But this irony has given me a reason to pause and reflect on this great leader, reminding me of my continue responsibility to speak plainly, have clarity of conviction, love my “troops”, and to plan and lead our team in a way that ends in victory.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    “Connecting One’s Voice to One’s Touch”

    “At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice to one’s touch” Max De Pree in Leadership Jazz

    Within any group of people, whether it is a friendship, marriage, family, or organization, holding shared values, a common purpose, and set of beliefs creates meaningful, enduring, and influential relationships. Without these commonalities, relationships become superficial, temporary and incapable of making a significant difference in the lives of the people in the relationship, or to others in the world.

    So how does a family, team or an organization achieve a unified commitment to such important issues? Ultimately it’s through leadership.

    After Mark Olson hired me to replace him as Director of our Michigan overnight camp I asked him what his expectations were for me. He simply said “maintain our culture”. In other words my job was to not only assure that our core values, mission and beliefs were never compromised but that they were also reinforced and advanced. Mark understood the absolute importance of a leader’s role in creating this kind of organizational clarity and commitment.

    Today, at SpringHill, we call leaders who do this “Culture Bearers”. And being a Culture Bearer isn’t just a philosophical ideal disconnected from the real work of our staff. Instead being a culture bearer, I believe, may be the most important personal quality a leader at SpringHill must demonstrate.


    Because it’s only through leaders fully and visibly living out SpringHill’s mission, values and beliefs, in other words “connecting our voice to our touch”, that these important truths become baked into our culture. And as they’ve become baked into our culture, I believe it’s given SpringHill a true opportunity to make a significant and enduring difference in the lives of young people.

    This is the final post of 14 in a series of about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Uncategorized

    Working in the “Fog of War”

    We live in a less than perfect world, and in this world we have less than perfect eyesight. This reality creates frustration for people looking for certainty, clarity, and predictability. Now most of us desire certainty, clarity and predictability because it makes life less complex, decision-making easier, and judgment sounder. But we rarely have this luxury. More often than not, we live and work in the “fog of war.”

    The trick then is to be both willing and able to effectively deal with complexity and ambiguity. As a matter of fact, I’ve become convinced that the ability to work effectively in the “fog of war” is a necessary quality leaders must possess today. The increasing speed of change at every level, from the family to society, from communities to nations, has nearly eliminated certainty, clarity, and predictability from our lives, and within organizations.

    And SpringHill hasn’t been immune to this rapidly changing world, thus our staff recognizes the need to carry forth our mission in this “fog of war”. We call this ability simply “Resourcefulness”. Resourcefulness is being able to effectively work in complex and fast changing realities with less than perfect information. It’s the ability to lead others through the ambiguity, uncertainty, and chaos that so often marks the world in which we work.

    And finally, and most importantly, it’s the ability to successfully carry forth our mission of communicating a timeless and changeless message to people that live in these rapidly changing days, and doing so without compromising this message or the God whose given it to us to share.

    This is part 13 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Leading People at SpringHill

    There’s no other topic more written about, talked about, and blogged about in the entire world than leadership. It’s discussed, dissected, theorized, and analyzed in just about every facet in our society whether it’s government, business, education, church, or home.

    Why? Because we believe that for any organization, from a family to the federal government, to be successful through making a positive difference in the world it needs leadership. Yet it’s also a term that’s used so much and in so many ways that people don’t always agree on exactly what it means, yet we all know it when we see it and know when it’s missing.

    At SpringHill we’ve also identified “Leading People” as an essential personal quality and professional competency necessary for a person to have long-term success in our organization. To that end we’ve defined leadership at SpringHIll, including what it should look like, so we can move leadership out of the ambiguous into a more clarifying, and thus useful, description.

    We see “Leading People” as requiring building and maintaining working relationships with those within and outside SpringHill. “Leading People” also requires excellent communication skills as well as building strong teams. Within this context a person needs to be able to effectively share responsibilities with others, then motivate and inspire them to be successful in those responsibilities by creating an environment where both individuals and teams succeed individually and together.

    You see “Leading People” is so critically important at SpringHill because leadership is at the core of what we do when we create SpringHill Experiences (SHX’s). Because in every SHX we’re leading staff, including 100’s of summer staff, volunteers and, most importantly, our campers.

    This is part 10 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

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